Author Topic: Religion belief is not a natural human state  (Read 2285 times)

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Offline Lectus

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Religion belief is not a natural human state
« on: January 26, 2014, 09:28:02 PM »
I was thinking about how people are born with an empty mind, before learning everything.

Religion is not natural. If a person is born in a place completely isolated from other cultures, would he develop a belief in Christianity, for example?

Being a Christian or any other religion type belief requires a person to be inserted inside that kind of culture by some way.

I think this can prove Christianity is made up by men. A God that requires you to read a book or have someone read it for you, so you can learn about Jesus to be saved is just completely crazy.

A real God would find better ways to communicate with men in a clear way and be impossible to be doubted.

Think about the animals. They don't pray or read books and God (if he exists) feeds them. Why would humans be different?
« Last Edit: January 26, 2014, 09:37:44 PM by Lectus »
Religion: The belief that an all powerful God or gods created the entire universe so that we tiny humans can be happy. And we also make war about it.

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Re: Religion belief is not a natural human state
« Reply #1 on: January 26, 2014, 09:53:57 PM »
How are we born with an "empty mind"? Or, are you being figurative? If the latter: who learns "everything"? Or is that figurative, too?

How is religion unnatural? Does this mean everything is unnatural? Example: is Communism unnatural? Is Democracy unnatural?

I think almost anything can be seen as "made up" by people when it concerns such things; like what is moral, and what isn't, no?

How do you know other animals do not pray or read books? Have you asked them?

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Offline junebug72

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Re: Religion belief is not a natural human state
« Reply #2 on: January 27, 2014, 07:13:33 AM »
I would only add that since people leave religion that goes further to prove it's not natural.

Great point Lectus.

Religion is one of the things about life I actually hate.  I don't think that proves God does not exist, I think it only proves that religion sucks.

I don't hate the religious people I feel sorry for them.  They just seem so blind.  To me they are not in God's good favor.  Are there exceptions of course there are.  I like OldChurchGuy.  Now he is open minded and rational.

I think you're right that religion weakens the power of an Almighty God.  Mainly because it is given to us by man not God, IMO.  I believe God is capable of guiding us individually through our spirits.  That has been my experience believing in God w/o religion.
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Offline wheels5894

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Re: Religion belief is not a natural human state
« Reply #3 on: January 27, 2014, 07:24:55 AM »
Yet none of this really covers the way the human mind invokes agency for things. Maybe early men had problems with lions. The rustle in the bushes might be wind... or it might be a lion. Assume the worst and run! (Maybe this is about the quick and the dead!) However, early men would probably applied agency to other things - like bad storms, lightening, crop failures... Maybe they started to personify some of these things.

We know that early societies had god or spirits for most things and even Greece was full of a huge pantheon of god of all sorts of things. Religions like Christianity use the innate concept of agency and use it to project the concept of one god responsible for everything as against a whole pantheon of specialist gods.

Back to the child growing up away from any religion. Well obviously it is not going to discover any of the established religions but I'd bet there would start to be the beginnings of personification of the various elements that make up everyday life and that is the start of religion. 
No testimony is sufficient to establish a miracle, unless the testimony be of such that its falshood would be more miraculous than the facts it endeavours to establish. (David Hume)

Offline junebug72

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Re: Religion belief is not a natural human state
« Reply #4 on: January 27, 2014, 07:56:41 AM »
Keep in mind this child knows not of science either.  Which one will come first, belief in unbelievable things or an instant understanding of physics.

Let's call him Tarzan for fun.
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Re: Religion belief is not a natural human state
« Reply #5 on: January 27, 2014, 09:53:15 AM »
Keep in mind this child knows not of science either.

Actually disagree with this. Watch an infant - they are natural empiricists, upon coming across something new they will look at it, handle it, smell it and finally stick it in their mouth - they use all five sense to learn about the world and (as anyone who has seen a child have tantrum knows) they become proficient at manipulating it with terrifying speed.


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Offline Hatter23

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Re: Religion belief is not a natural human state
« Reply #6 on: January 27, 2014, 10:02:04 AM »

Back to the child growing up away from any religion. Well obviously it is not going to discover any of the established religions but I'd bet there would start to be the beginnings of personification of the various elements that make up everyday life and that is the start of religion.

This is quite evidenced by most children inventing imaginary friends and monsters. It is the natural state to believe in unseen agency. However, civilization can try to train people out of harmful natural instincts; like hurting those that frustrate you, rape, eating as many calories as possible. The last one left is the imaginary friend.
An Omnipowerful God needed to sacrifice himself to himself (but only for a long weekend) in order to avert his own wrath against his own creations who he made in a manner knowing that they weren't going to live up to his standards.

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Offline screwtape

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Re: Religion belief is not a natural human state
« Reply #7 on: January 27, 2014, 12:38:02 PM »
Religion is not natural.

please explain what you mean by "natural"?

If a person is born in a place completely isolated from other cultures, would he develop a belief in Christianity, for example?

I don't think so, but I do think they would develop irrational beliefs that would look like religions.  And I think they would have similar and familiar elements to them, even if they differed in the details.   

This is because the mind is hard wired for hueristic shortcuts and biases.  And we are hard wired to make the same shortcuts and have the same (or similar) biases.  In otherwords, we do not start off with a blank slate.  We start off with hardware (well, wetware, anyway) and software, which often lead us to irrational conclusions, which are the basis of religion.

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Offline jaimehlers

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Re: Religion belief is not a natural human state
« Reply #8 on: January 27, 2014, 01:12:55 PM »
I disagree with the premises of this post.

First, religion is a formalized system of (generally) irrational beliefs, but it comes from human nature - specifically, our tendency to detect patterns in things, and attribute reasons for those patterns existing.  As human beings are natural, and pattern-sensing is natural, and attempting to reason out why a pattern exists is natural, it follows that beliefs which are based on those patterns, whether rational or irrational, are also natural.

Second, humans do not have "empty minds" when we are born.  If nothing else, we have instincts which get us started, and even before birth, our brains are active, so it's not that our minds are empty so much as they're unformed.

Offline junebug72

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Re: Religion belief is not a natural human state
« Reply #9 on: January 27, 2014, 01:14:57 PM »
Keep in mind this child knows not of science either.

Actually disagree with this. Watch an infant - they are natural empiricists, upon coming across something new they will look at it, handle it, smell it and finally stick it in their mouth - they use all five sense to learn about the world and (as anyone who has seen a child have tantrum knows) they become proficient at manipulating it with terrifying speed.

Yes children are curious but not fully intelligent.  They don't know a piece of poop from a piece of chocolate.  They would not be able to know the laws of physics, come on now.  It has taken MANY this long to discover what we know now. 

You're just arguing for the sake of arguing. 

Knowing there are powers beyond your control is the first step of belief in gods.  I'm sure there would not be a situation more humbling than this.  Tarzan might not even discover fire.  He might eat a poisoned berry and die. :'(

What would he think of thunder, lightning, volcanoes out there all by his self.  That's it, I'm adopting Tarzan.  ;)
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Offline junebug72

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Re: Religion belief is not a natural human state
« Reply #10 on: January 27, 2014, 01:24:40 PM »
I disagree with the premises of this post.

First, religion is a formalized system of (generally) irrational beliefs, but it comes from human nature - specifically, our tendency to detect patterns in things, and attribute reasons for those patterns existing.  As human beings are natural, and pattern-sensing is natural, and attempting to reason out why a pattern exists is natural, it follows that beliefs which are based on those patterns, whether rational or irrational, are also natural.

Second, humans do not have "empty minds" when we are born.  If nothing else, we have instincts which get us started, and even before birth, our brains are active, so it's not that our minds are empty so much as they're unformed.

Can a newborn baby survive w/o mom or an adult?  Most newborns I know sleep, eat, pee pee, and shoo shoo.  You have to teach the rest.  babies don't instinctually believe in religion.

I think what Lectus means here is we are not born with religious belief.  That makes it unnatural.
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Offline jaimehlers

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Re: Religion belief is not a natural human state
« Reply #11 on: January 27, 2014, 02:12:28 PM »
Can a newborn baby survive w/o mom or an adult?  Most newborns I know sleep, eat, pee pee, and shoo shoo.  You have to teach the rest.  babies don't instinctually believe in religion.
If a baby did not have the ability to learn, there would be no point in trying to teach them.  If a baby did not have the ability to distinguish between patterns, it could not tell the difference between its parents and other humans.  If it did not have the universal grammar 'wiring', it would not be able to speak in a human language.  My point is that while there is teaching involved, children can learn things on their own even if they're effectively ignored by their parents (aside from providing food and the like).

Quote from: junebug72
I think what Lectus means here is we are not born with religious belief.  That makes it unnatural.
It's no more 'unnatural' than the tendency to venerate things is - which exists in all humans, regardless of whether they're religious or not.  What I think you and Lectus mean is that it isn't instinctive behavior, which might be.

Offline junebug72

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Re: Religion belief is not a natural human state
« Reply #12 on: January 27, 2014, 02:47:29 PM »
Can a newborn baby survive w/o mom or an adult?  Most newborns I know sleep, eat, pee pee, and shoo shoo.  You have to teach the rest.  babies don't instinctually believe in religion.
If a baby did not have the ability to learn, there would be no point in trying to teach them.  If a baby did not have the ability to distinguish between patterns, it could not tell the difference between its parents and other humans.  If it did not have the universal grammar 'wiring', it would not be able to speak in a human language.  My point is that while there is teaching involved, children can learn things on their own even if they're effectively ignored by their parents (aside from providing food and the like).

Quote from: junebug72
I think what Lectus means here is we are not born with religious belief.  That makes it unnatural.
It's no more 'unnatural' than the tendency to venerate things is - which exists in all humans, regardless of whether they're religious or not.  What I think you and Lectus mean is that it isn't instinctive behavior, which might be.

Yes but there is no one to teach this baby anything.  The situation is a child alone w/o parents or any other human to teach it any thing.  Would the child's "natural" response be to believe in religion.  That is the point.  Remember I believe there is a very distinct difference in gods and religion.

Kids ignored by their parents are some of our worst prisoners.  There are not parents around to ignore Tarzan.  His plane has crashed in a remote location and he's the only survivor.  A newborn.  It will be lucky to make it through the night w/o dying.  Maybe apes will raise him as their own.  He will grow up to be King of the Jungle. ;)

I'm not replying anymore until I hear what Lectus has to say.

Have a great day Jaime.

JB
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Re: Religion belief is not a natural human state
« Reply #13 on: January 27, 2014, 03:08:19 PM »
Can a newborn baby survive w/o mom or an adult?  Most newborns I know sleep, eat, pee pee, and shoo shoo.  You have to teach the rest.  babies don't instinctually believe in religion.
If a baby did not have the ability to learn, there would be no point in trying to teach them.  If a baby did not have the ability to distinguish between patterns, it could not tell the difference between its parents and other humans.  If it did not have the universal grammar 'wiring', it would not be able to speak in a human language.  My point is that while there is teaching involved, children can learn things on their own even if they're effectively ignored by their parents (aside from providing food and the like).

So finding patterns is instinctive, but assigning agency to those patterns isn't? I agree with that.

It makes me wonder about other language-using animals: the cetaceans, other primates, birds like parrots and crows. It's established all those have a fair ability to abstract; could it be they also assign agency to events? Have the equivalent of religious belief? Considering how subjective that is for humans I have no idea how you'd determine it for non-humans, even other primates. Just a thought.

As to the OP, religion's great success (even though it's arguably declining, there's still a lot of it) is pretty good evidence humans take to it readily. Any neo-Tarzan / Sheena, if they can survive in isolation, would probably end up ascribing at least some natural phenomena to unseen agents. It might be something like animism, with invisible spirits / elves everywhere.
Live a good life... If there are no gods, then you will be gone, but will have lived a noble life that will live on in the memories of your loved ones. I am not afraid.
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Offline screwtape

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Re: Religion belief is not a natural human state
« Reply #14 on: January 27, 2014, 03:15:35 PM »
Would the child's "natural" response be to believe in religion.

no.  It would be to create a system of irrational beliefs that would look a lot like a religion.
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Offline Wasserbuffel

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Re: Religion belief is not a natural human state
« Reply #15 on: January 27, 2014, 04:26:52 PM »
Quote

Yes children are curious but not fully intelligent.  They don't know a piece of poop from a piece of chocolate. 

There is a vast difference between simple ignorance and lacking intelligence. Ignorance is fairly quickly rectified by a baby given the opportunity to explore both items. It will almost certainly learn that they are not the same substance, even if initially they looked similar.

If I were to lay two pages of writing before you, one in Futhark runes and the other in Cirth, I would not think you unintelligent if you didn't instantly know they were not the same.

If, however,  after examination the baby decided chocolate and poop were the same, and you decided both pages are written in the same alphabet, then that would suggest a lack of intelligence.


Offline nogodsforme

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Re: Religion belief is not a natural human state
« Reply #16 on: January 27, 2014, 04:37:26 PM »
I could say that clouds that look like real things are real things and are communicating meaning to us.  Thus a puffy cloud that looks like a choo choo train is actually a projection of a real train from another dimension. 

If I was convincing (and cynical) enough, I could get people to believe it was true and a new trans-dimensional cloud religion (TDCR) would be born. People would begin to see relationships between cloud shapes and real events: "That train that crashed in India last week was predicted in the clouds!" No proof or evidence needed, confirmation bias would take care of the rest.

Scientists would protest in vain that clouds are only water vapor and that TDCR people only "see" things that are culturally relevant to them. Pacific Islanders would never "see" cars stuck in sandstorms, and Mongolians would never "see" coastal cities demolished by hurricanes but we would just rationalize such discrepancies. Most of you can imagine a religion like that catching on and growing popular, although I just now invented it! [1]

It seems that a strong need to believe in something like a religion is part of our makeup as humans. But that does not mean that any particular religion is correct, even though it feels that way to believers.

You would think that the scientific research on how prayer and meditation affect the brain would demonstrate this. It does not matter what god a person prays to, or whether they just meditate on nothing. The brain waves are the same. If one religion was true and the rest false, you would expect to see a different wave pattern for the true one--the one that was actually connecting to Jehovah or Vishnu or Allah. But you can't tell any difference.

We have a hard time accepting that we don't know something. We follow the instructions of authority figures like parents and teachers. We also have a hard time changing our minds once we have made them up. Add to that our tendency to create patterns and to see connections where none exist, and you get a strong bias in favor of religious belief.

This bias does not mean that religion is good, necessary or true.  In fact, it means that we atheists have an uphill battle convincing people that there is no evidence for any gods, and that therefore most (all?) religions are clearly made up by humans and blatantly false.  And we need the rationality of the scientific method even more than ever. :P
 1. A book and lecture series, a set of instructional videos and sales of cloud jewelry to follow. ;)
« Last Edit: January 27, 2014, 04:46:05 PM by nogodsforme »
Extraordinary claims of the bible don't even have ordinary evidence.

Kids aren't paying attention most of the time in science classes so it seems silly to get worked up over ID being taught in schools.

Offline wheels5894

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Re: Religion belief is not a natural human state
« Reply #17 on: January 27, 2014, 04:44:25 PM »
Actually, nogodsforme, one might have thought that an extension to the research on people might have been extended to see if any signal from outwith the person was arriving indicating the possibility of a god communicating. However, since I expect there would never have been any, I suppose that would be wishful thinking. I suppose the built in bias of religious people would even manage to explain any the lack of signals from a god on the basis that the god doesn't like being tested!

Oh, and I like you new religion but it needs a new snappy name. How about Cirrusanity?
No testimony is sufficient to establish a miracle, unless the testimony be of such that its falshood would be more miraculous than the facts it endeavours to establish. (David Hume)

Offline junebug72

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Re: Religion belief is not a natural human state
« Reply #18 on: January 28, 2014, 08:44:53 AM »
Lectus will join us when he has the time. 

NGFM, 

In our hypothetical story here Tarzan has no other humans around to encourage or discourage what he might believe.  In fact I'd be surprised if he survived long enough w/o adults to even have an opinion. :'(

If religion was all that natural we'd all be doing it. lol  Sex is natural, sex is good, not everybody does it but everybody should.  Religion is not natural, I don't think in the way that the OP intended.

I think what is natural is; some will follow, some will lead.  Leaders will take advantage because they can.  Followers will follow because they don't know how to think for themselves.  Then there are those that neither wish to lead nor follow.  That's where I want to be.  That's where I wish we all were.

JB
Belief in a cruel God makes a cruel man.
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Offline Hatter23

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Re: Religion belief is not a natural human state
« Reply #19 on: January 28, 2014, 09:10:59 AM »

If religion was all that natural we'd all be doing it. lol  Sex is natural, sex is good, not everybody does it but everybody should.  Religion is not natural, I don't think in the way that the OP intended.

Don't fall into the naturalistic fallacy.
An Omnipowerful God needed to sacrifice himself to himself (but only for a long weekend) in order to avert his own wrath against his own creations who he made in a manner knowing that they weren't going to live up to his standards.

And you should feel guilty for this. Give me money.

Offline junebug72

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Re: Religion belief is not a natural human state
« Reply #20 on: January 28, 2014, 09:39:09 AM »

If religion was all that natural we'd all be doing it. lol  Sex is natural, sex is good, not everybody does it but everybody should.  Religion is not natural, I don't think in the way that the OP intended.

Don't fall into the naturalistic fallacy.

I'm afraid I'm not familiar with the term.  Please enlighten me.  Thanks.
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Offline jaimehlers

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Re: Religion belief is not a natural human state
« Reply #21 on: January 28, 2014, 10:35:23 AM »
Yes but there is no one to teach this baby anything.  The situation is a child alone w/o parents or any other human to teach it any thing.  Would the child's "natural" response be to believe in religion.  That is the point.  Remember I believe there is a very distinct difference in gods and religion.
To believe in a particular religion?  Most likely not.  But to come up with a system of beliefs based on trying to explain phenomena that it knows nothing about?  Most certainly.  Indeed, I think all religions started in a similar manner.  And honestly, the difference between a god and a religion is that one is the attempt to explain phenomena, and the other is the system of rituals used to attempt to placate or worship it.

Personally, I would prefer to figure out what actually causes a phenomenon instead of just guessing.

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Have a great day Jaime.
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Offline junebug72

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Re: Religion belief is not a natural human state
« Reply #22 on: January 28, 2014, 12:29:28 PM »
Yes but there is no one to teach this baby anything.  The situation is a child alone w/o parents or any other human to teach it any thing.  Would the child's "natural" response be to believe in religion.  That is the point.  Remember I believe there is a very distinct difference in gods and religion.
To believe in a particular religion?  Most likely not.  But to come up with a system of beliefs based on trying to explain phenomena that it knows nothing about?  Most certainly.  Indeed, I think all religions started in a similar manner.  And honestly, the difference between a god and a religion is that one is the attempt to explain phenomena, and the other is the system of rituals used to attempt to placate or worship it.

Personally, I would prefer to figure out what actually causes a phenomenon instead of just guessing.

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Have a great day Jaime.
You too.

Is it natural to explore?  If it is natural to explore and natural to imagine then maybe we need both to answer our most valued question;  How and Why are we here? How is answered by science and Why is answered by imagination. Of course what do you think?

JB
Belief in a cruel God makes a cruel man.
Thomas Paine

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Offline jaimehlers

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Re: Religion belief is not a natural human state
« Reply #23 on: January 28, 2014, 12:42:17 PM »
Is it natural to explore?  If it is natural to explore and natural to imagine then maybe we need both to answer our most valued question;  How and Why are we here? How is answered by science and Why is answered by imagination. Of course what do you think?
I don't think "why are we here" is answerable, to be honest with you.  At least not once you get past things like, "my parents moved here for a job".

Offline junebug72

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Re: Religion belief is not a natural human state
« Reply #24 on: January 28, 2014, 12:54:44 PM »
Is it natural to explore?  If it is natural to explore and natural to imagine then maybe we need both to answer our most valued question;  How and Why are we here? How is answered by science and Why is answered by imagination. Of course what do you think?
I don't think "why are we here" is answerable, to be honest with you.  At least not once you get past things like, "my parents moved here for a job".

I think it means something different for each of us.  It may very well be unanswerable.  That's some deep input Jaime.  Deep and impressive. ;)

JB
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Offline One Above All

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Re: Religion belief is not a natural human state
« Reply #25 on: January 28, 2014, 12:58:27 PM »
I believe we each set our own purposes in life. Nobody can do it for us. Therefore, the question "Why are we here?" is answerable; just not objectively so.
The truth is absolute. Life forms are specks of specks (...) of specks of dust in the universe.
Why settle for normal, when you can be so much more? Why settle for something, when you can have everything?
We choose our own gods.

A.K.A.: Blaziken_rjcf/Lucifer/All In One.

Offline Lectus

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Re: Religion belief is not a natural human state
« Reply #26 on: January 31, 2014, 10:36:24 PM »
I think I got misunderstood.

I didn't mean the "will to believe in imaginary gods". Of course some people are born with that.

I meant that no one can really deduce any existing religion by himself. They're always indocrinated by the people around. So these religions can never be true. If you have to learn them to be saved for heaven, there's something wrong with this God.
Religion: The belief that an all powerful God or gods created the entire universe so that we tiny humans can be happy. And we also make war about it.

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Re: Religion belief is not a natural human state
« Reply #27 on: January 31, 2014, 10:43:42 PM »
Actually, atheism would be the unnatural state. Everyone usually grows up believing in God. It's once they are taught NOT to believe that they stop believing.

In fact, one could argue that atheism takes more indoctrination than theism does.
Matthew 10:22 "and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved." - Jesus (said 2,000 years ago and still true today.)

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Re: Religion belief is not a natural human state
« Reply #28 on: January 31, 2014, 10:48:29 PM »
Actually, atheism would be the unnatural state. Everyone usually grows up believing in God. It's once they are taught NOT to believe that they stop believing.

In fact, one could argue that atheism takes more indoctrination than theism does.

I'm living proof that this is false. I went to church as kid and always thought those were weird things the adults were doing.

Never really understood they talking to themselves (praying) as some sane thing.
Religion: The belief that an all powerful God or gods created the entire universe so that we tiny humans can be happy. And we also make war about it.