Why we believe what we believe2008 March 15more by Science Reason & Rationality
By Science, Reason & Rationality
Article ID: 1211
Let’s go back through time. Remember when you were a child, when your parents or guardians introduced you to a certain belief system. Do you remember your reaction? Was there no reaction at all? It probably seemed like another daily lesson or some kind of extra education from the adults.
Children are information absorbing machines. Their minds are fresh and ready to download new information: good, bad, reality, fantasy, you name it. How children are programmed depends on what their parents think is best for them. Science, reason and rationality may not be the most important thing. The child’s morals, ethics, beliefs, values and everything else are those of their parents. They’re like a brand new computer, eager and waiting to download new programs. This brand new computer – this young innocent child – was every one of us.
Today, we as adults have many beliefs. They’re based on what we think is right as defined by our parents. Some of us grew out of this unquestioned trust in authority. Many more of us have not. My focus is more on religious beliefs and the supernatural because these have caused more problems and differences in the world than any other kinds of beliefs.
Imagine your parents had a different belief system than they do now. What religion or belief system do you think you would have today, defending it to the death? It’s quite obvious: your parents’ belief system came from their parents, who got their beliefs from their parents, who got their beliefs from their parents, who got their beliefs from their parents and so on, going backwards in time to the originator of the belief.
How do we know the originator (the god, holy prophet, holy book or creation legend) of a belief system is real? If it is real, how do you know the facts surrounding it are true? Is something true because a scripture or a book says so? Is something true because my mom and dad say so? Is something true because my minister, priest or rabbi says so? Is this enough for you to accept a belief without the need to further inquire or investigate?
If your answer to any of the above questions is “yes”, then you should understand why people believe what they believe, why you believe what you believe, and why people don’t believe your beliefs and why you don’t believe their beliefs. Make sense?
How many of you have ever questioned your parents and the belief system they’ve uploaded into your brain? How many of you questioned, but were instead threatened with punishment? How many of you wanted to question, but since you got bribed with additional rewards for obeying, you just let it go?
Children grow up in their parents’ belief system, and repeat the same cycle with their own children, claiming that their own belief system is the right one. This is the only “Universal Truth”: all religion and belief systems proclaim, “WE’RE RIGHT! EVERYONE ELSE IS WRONG! WE’RE BETTER THAN YOU!”
You also have problems and differences within a same religion because of this kind of thinking. Thus, several denominations pop up everywhere like mushrooms, each claiming their way is the “right way” and the one and only “true way”. For example, the Catholic Church may say they are the one true church guided by the Holy Spirit, while the Protestant Church are guided by an Evil Spirit. The Protestant Church may say the same thing about the Catholic Church. Currently there are 38,000 Protestant Christian denominations and growing, each claiming their church is the one “true church” guided by the Holy Spirit, and the others are simply lost because they are under the influence of Evil Spirits.
Poor critical thinking skill leads to pre-determined answers
Some people haven’t developed healthy critical thinking skills: after they grow up, they are still as credulous as children. Though children start life as information absorbers, they shouldn’t remain as one. They should receive lessons from adults on how to grow up as inquirers. Only then can they become a new generation of adults who will enlighten their children to become inquirers as well, instead of being absorbers forever.
“What is wanted is not the will to believe, but the wish to find out, which is the exact opposite.” ~ Bertrand Russell
Most people think they already have the answer to something. That’s how their parents taught them to think during early childhood. This is the wrong approach to find the truth. You can’t start with an answer or a conclusion, and work backwards to find facts and evidence to support it. By doing so, you put yourself in a deluded position: you’ll only be interested in evidence confirming your pre-determined belief. So, you start picking and choosing what supports your position while rejecting the rest that goes against your position. If something supports your position, you’ll be quick to accept it, though it could be wrong, misinformed or misinterpreted. And if something doesn’t support your position, you reject it, ignore it, or even go to the point of attacking it further. There is no interest to inquire, or to have a healthy and honest debate.
“Do you believe in God?” is not a simple question
There is a funny thing about religious practitioners. They may ask, “Do you believe in God?” If your answer is no, they condemn you! If your answer is yes, the next question from them may be, “Which God do you believe in?” If your answer is any other God but theirs, they will still condemn you! It’s not just a matter of whether you believe in a God, but it’s a matter of whether you believe in MY God.
“I contend we are both Atheists, I just believe in one fewer God than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible Gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.” ~ Stephen F. Roberts
I have been a participant in numerous debates in the past with believers of religion and the supernatural. When there are no more excuses to give, my opponent then says they simply don’t care no matter how much evidence I have given them, they still want to believe. They still keep their faith even though I just spent the week providing evidence that their religious scriptures have too many contradictions and errors in order to be taken seriously. Some say, “So what if the scripture is faulty, that doesn’t mean God, angels and demons don’t exist!” I get similar responses from those who believe in ghosts and the supernatural.
Other than their childhood brainwashing, what keeps people believing in such things? Why else are people so credulous?
I leave you with videos of neuroscientist Dr. Andrew Newberg, the author of “Why we believe what we believe”. He explains why people could so easily believe in God(s) and the supernatural. This gives a better understanding why people can believe in God and the supernatural with limited or no evidence.
Andrew Newberg, MD., on God, reality and everything in-between:
God of the Gaps 1 of 2:
God of the Gaps 2 of 2:
This video was created by a YouTube member who explains what “God of the gaps” means:
“Truth does not demand belief. Scientists do not join hands every Sunday, singing, yes, gravity is real! I will have faith! I will be strong! I believe in my heart that what goes up, up, up must come down, down, down. Amen! If they did, we would think they were pretty insecure about it.” ~ Dan Barker
Finally, see the videos below – from the original author, they are the video version of this same article:
Part 1 of 4:
Part 2 of 4:
Part 3 of 4:
Part 4 of 4:
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Study Nichael Shermeer's "How We Believe: The Search for God in an Age of Science" and ' Why People Believe Weird Things.'