Saturday, January 22, 2011

Personal experience or confirmation bias.

Today I want to get to the heart of why people believe in personal gods. This will not apply to everyone but i think it fits a large number of believers. As humans we are naturally afraid of the unknown, some of the more popular ones religion prays on is fear of death. There are definitely other fears that religions pray on but this one is a popular one. People don't want death to be the end so religion sells them a solution. These people want to believe. Once they are in a position where people want to believe, obviously it does not mean people will continue to believe. This is where the actual topic of this blog comes in. People are taught to confirm their god with certain unknowns and confirmation bias. So, in this blog I am going to cut throw the red herring type arguments for their belief such as the argument from design and take a look at the actual factors that lead to religious belief to begin with.

A person is taught to see the good in the world and attribute it to god. They look at the world and their lives and attribute the good things that happen them to god. Many christians will ignore the bad or attribute it to satan. There is no evidence that this is the reason any of this happens they are just trained this way. People have a psychological tendency to fall for these types of things. For instance people will go to a psychic like John Edward and he through some tricky help(spies) and the use of statistical guesses will make a claim about someone in the group. Once the person decides this is about them they find a way to confirm the belief that he really is talking to a dead relative or friend. When actually analyzed we find many errors he has made and many misses but the person did not hear these because they want to believe. The same can be said about religion, it makes you want to believe and you confirm the ideas with your own confirmation bias.

Another example would be prayer, prayer works is a common claim among christians. They ignore the failed prayers and are taught to attribute it to gods will. Then they confirm their beliefs with the prayers that actually come true. Even though prayers are usually something you want so you increase the odds of them coming true by working towards them. Other times you may know somebody who was cured of a disease that kills most, they take that person surviving the disease as a sign of god, but fail to see that many people who were prayed for die.

People will confirm miracles or what they call miracles as well. I had one christian tell me it was a miracle he didn't wreck his motorcycle one day. This person was well trained to attribute this to god, without ever considering the number of people who do crash. Another great example is a miracle that was attributed to Mother Theresa had to do with a new film actually working the way it was suppose to. The camera man made a comment about it being a miracle even though it was the film and he knew this, the rumor spread and out of nowhere even the camera man correcting the situation and saying it was the film not really a miracle could not stop this belief.

Another thing they use are what we call spiritual experiences. It can be through the use of music or the community effect or meditative brain states. . Music is often used in a way to get people to think they are experiencing god. The people are trained to actually think that the feeling they are getting through the church music is god. This is ironic as contradictory gods are given credit for this feeling. The same can be said about the use of the community. Being a part of a community can make a person feel better, even improve themselves, this is then attributed to the god of that community. Also, people all throughout religions have what are called as spiritual experiences, if you are in deep prayer in the usa you will attribute this brain experience to jesus, where as if you are in iran you may attribute it to Allah, or a Buddhist may give credit to reaching nirvana.

Speaking of Geographically, I also talk to a lot of Christians who claim to not have been indoctrinated with their belief by their parents. This may be true but chances are these people are American. A place where 80% of the population is Christian. They probably pass several churches on their way to work. They watch tv filled with TV messages that are associated with the christian world view. One of the biggest ironies many Christians will oppose things such as horror movies or heavy metal music that uses the imagery of Satan, which stays within the christian worldview. This makes the person who wants to be good, go against Satan, further ingraining the idea of Jesus is the right decision.

The person desperately wants to believe in religion so they accept the explanation they are given for these experiences on unfounded evidence, the religion self supports itself without actually having to prove these things are actually related to religion. If there is one thing we can say about religion is the design is brilliant from a psychological side.

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