The audio book version of "Imagine No Superstition
" by Dr. Stephen F. Uhl
, a former Roman Catholic Priest, points out the main reasons why people choose to believe in a deity. He first gives a bit of background on his life as he entered the priesthood for ~17 years and then deconverted and became a psychologist for the remainder of his career.
Dr. Uhl lists the main reasons for believe in a god as follows:
- Humans are prone to be wishful thinkers. Whether they are blowing out birthday candles or throwing a penny into a wishing well, we would all like to believe that our wishes come true. The same is true with prayer. People genuinely want to believe it works, so they work towards the positive results to achieve the desired answer. Sometimes prayers come true, and sometimes they do not. But on the off chance that they do come true, people take that positive reinforcement as the believe that their prayers worked. When in reality, there is no connection between the prayer and the outcome. It only makes sense that if you pray for something long enough, and it comes true, then you assume you had some influence over it.
What people don't understand is that there is no supernatural influence over prayer, it is actually self-reinforcing. If you believe hard enough that something will come true, you will consciously or subconsciously take the steps to make it true. After awhile of feeling good about prayer, it becomes a sort of self-hypnosis that enforces positive behavior. When spread over a crowd of people, prayer and power of suggestion can make them all feel empowered as a sort of mass hypnosis. Dr. Uhl was taught this in the seminary, how to win over and control the crowd by using this type of mass hypnosis. Other users of this method include certain charity groups and even those trying to sway their political agenda such as Hitler, Churchill, Roosevelt, and even Obama. It's a certain charisma that will make people follow something even if it is a logical fallacy because they are wishful thinkers and want the message to be true.
Fear And Greed
- These are the two biggest motivators to get people to believe in a religion. These powerful motivators can even override logical thought and reason. Parishioners are taught about the hellfire and brimstone teachings of the Bible and it is a great motivator to get them to obey and believe. They don't want to miss out on this great reward of eternal life offered if they just believe and obey. It's too great of a reward to pass up so they jump at the chance - even if it goes against rational thought and logic.
Greed teaches us that when someone really believes in the message of their religion, they themselves may want to begin preaching the gospel to others and "join the team of salesmen" as it empowers them. It gives them a sense of stature and if they can help convert others to their religion, then it only reinforces their beliefs. It raises them up so high that their greed just wants more and more cheap power and elevation from their beliefs.
Those Lacking In Self-Confidence
- Anyone who is lacking in self-confidence can be easily swayed by anyone. Whether it's by a religion or political views or any other cause, the strong prey on the meek. In the case of religion, those who have low self-confidence are looking for the support of the authoritative figures of the church. These figures offer them the reward of eternal life and forgiveness for their mortal sins and it helps them feel less inadequate with the support of the clergy. They have such low self-confidence and self-worth that they even question their own judgment and seek empowerment from the church and this supernatural force that is all powerful and greater than them.
The first step in brainwashing someone is to shake their self-confidence. This is taught to the military for prisoners of war and Dr. Uhl discovered it in his teachings at the seminary. You have to make them humble and feel inadequate to believe in logical fallacies and sell them the hard story.
Women are more likely to believe in a deity than men. This is because of the inferior treatment of women in the early 20th century and prior. Women were not empowered like men and they lacked self-confidence. The next time you are in church, count the women to men. Modern women of today have become empowered, but women are still perceived as a minority. Thus it leads to less self-confidence than the chauvinist male. Scripture also enforces the beliefs that women are inferior, and as the matriarchs of the family, they want to pass their spiritual beliefs down to their offspring.
No One Wants To Buck The Norm
- Who would want to take on the daunting task of challenging the norm of society? No one wants to be an outsider, so they tend to follow the flock of sheep to blend in. But following the herd isn't always the most scientific way. Imagine if Copernicus or Galileo followed the herd when they said the earth revolved around the sun and not the other way around? Imagine if Christopher Columbus followed the herd when he said the earth was not flat? If science points the other direction, then majority opinion shouldn't sway the facts. But logical proof and reasoning are threatening to the church. This is why they cry blasphemy to anyone who challenges them.
Repeated Fallacies Become Believable
- Have you ever been told that you are terrible at math and then come to find out you're not so bad afterall? If a teacher or a parent have drilled it into your head that you are bad at something, you're going to start to believe it whether it's true or not. This is the same with the religious teachings. They have been believed all of these years and repeated, therefore they must be true! Repetition is another method of brainwashing. If you hear something enough, you tend to believe it, even if it seems completely wrong.
Just as an added bonus, I thought I would throw in the seven strongest predictors of belief in God by Michael Shermer
1. being raised in a religious manner
2. parents’ religiosity
3. lower levels of education
4. being female
5. a large family
6. lack of conflict with parents
7. being younger
Mr. Shermer used to be a fundamentalist Christian, but deconverted after exploring other options.
And these are the most common reasons people believe in God. When rational-thinking, free thought, and reason are thrown into the mixture, they begin to gain self-confidence to question what they've been spoon-fed and make a decision for themselves, not what someone else wants them to believe.