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Thread: What is the Most Basic Explanation for Religious Behavior?

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    What is the Most Basic Explanation for Religious Behavior?

    When I was younger I would say one cause for religious behavior was simply that people believed in gods or supernatural, magical things. The other cause for religious behavior was that people simply wished to belong to a community which conferred a survival advantage in some way. Those were the two most basic explanations in my experience.

    Wishing to survive is certainly understandable, and if I were forced to choose between practicing religious behavior or being killed I'd certainly pretend to believe that this stuff was real enough, all things being equal. But that would not make me a believer, only an actor, but would still explain my religious behavior to an otherwise uninformed observer. I would still think this stuff was hokey and irrational, but I'd tow the party line, even fight for the group against other groups to defend the group I believed was best for my survival.

    But if I really believed this stuff was real that would constitute a very different reason for engaging in religious behavior, and to me that difference would have to be internal, something physical, biological. In short, my brain would be different.

    And that's where I am today, I live with the knowledge that I cannot bring myself to believe any religious claims because my brain is different. I've observed enough behavior in humans to feel very strongly about this conclusion. I want to understand how it is different but for now I'm intellectually satisfied with my conclusion.

    Do you think I am correct in coming to this conclusion?

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    I think that, most generally, it comes down to attempts to make sense of the universe. We understand people and how we interact with each other and what motivates us to do the things that we do. It's an easy task to then extend those thought processes to inanimate objects and events and work off of the assumption that they operate the same way.

    When Frank pisses off Bob, Bob hits him over the head with an axe. Therefore, when a deluge of water comes out of the sky and drowns Ed, it's not a huge leap to assume that Ed had pissed off someone up in the sky. If you give Frank some of your surplus food and women, there's a greater chance that he stays happy and doesn't hit you over the head with his axe as well. Therefore, it's not a huge leap to assume that if you make some offerings to the guy up in the sky, he'll stay happy and not drown you as well.

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    Member Rayschism's Avatar
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    People want to feel important, special and part of something that is bigger than them, and religion can capitalize on those feelings.

    Because when you're part of a higher power, then you are a higher power, and being special means you can't do anything wrong.
    “Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent.
    Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent.
    Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil?
    Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?”

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    Fair dinkum thinkum bilby's Avatar
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    Children mimic the adults they trust; And they trust the adults who they encounter the most often - usually their parents, and perhaps some schoolteachers and extended family members.

    If Ma and Pa go to church every Sunday, pray each night before bed (and/or insist that their kids do), then that's how things are done, and doing otherwise is 'wrong'.

    The same thing applies to trivial stuff - whether or not they keep the butter in the fridge; which way they hang the toilet rolls; what condiments (if any) they use with any given food; How they dress; any number of customs, manners, rituals and routines.

    By the time children are old enough to actually reason about these behaviours, the habits are already hard to break, and won't be broken without some effort and some external influence to do so - which might simply be peer pressure leading to a shift from doing what the parents do, to doing what the cool kids do, with no particularly rational basis for the new behavours any more than there was for the old.

    Thinking is hard. Many people simply never bother to do it - after all, someone else will generally do it for you.

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    Fear of death.

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    The lure of Magical thinking

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    The effectiveness of pervasive and subtle conditioning from birth.

    Sent from my SM-T550 using Tapatalk

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    Everybody else does it, so I must too.

    Eldarion Lathria

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    It's a combination of things:

    1) First, people wanted to understand the world they lived in in lieu of real scientific understanding, in a pre-scientific world
    2) Various religions became almost universally accepted throughout history, because to most adherents they're an easy to understand answer, and socially advantageous to follow
    3) Nowadays that religious social pressure causes a bit of stagnancy to religions, it's still passed through generations, and it's still a nice answer for many people

    It's easy to forget that it's only been in the last few hundred years that anyone knew pretty much anything about how the world worked. The Origin of Species wasn't published until 1859, and the theory of evolution even today isn't widely accepted. And so it wasn't until the past little while that there was even much of a mechanism of undermining religion.

    Thing is, though, usually once people realize the truth of something they accept it, and are adamant about passing that truth on, so over time religion should become thinner and thinner, and even those people who would have been willing adherents will be forced to see the truth.

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    Contributor DBT's Avatar
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    ''What is the Most Basic Explanation for Religious Behavior?''

    Fear and Hope. Which builds a foundation for Faith.

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