i don't have much to add other than it's an excellent (but long) read, which should prompt plenty of discussion from anyone who reads it.  it touches on many topics i think you'll enjoy, such as indoctrination, the history of religious beliefs, the effect of IQ and education on beliefs, and spirituality in general.  

i particularly enjoyed his anecdote towards the end when he posited how people would recognize Jesus should he decide to come back to Earth.  the whole thing is filled with juicy nuggets like that, so enjoy.

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A fine piece of writing which I, like Matthew, recommend everyone to read.

But of course the ones who should really read this are the religious---and they won't. 


“Emotional excitement reaches men through tea, tobacco, opium, whisky, and religion.” — George Bernard Shaw (1856 – 1950)

i enjoyed that quote myself, and had not heard it prior.  i feel bad i don't know who George Bernard Shaw was.  

Matthew, do look him up via google or wikipedia---one of the great literary giants of the 20th century.

I have been collecting quotes relevant to atheism for 15 years and I have a book ready; but this quote was new to me. 

This article is excellent.  It addresses religion as a topic for scientific investigation.  Neuroscience, archeology, sociology, psychology, biology, evolution.

Understanding that gives me a little more compassion for the religious.  One could say most people are pretty much hard wired for religion.  Atheists are the anomaly, ever if we are correct about there being no gods.

Understanding the root causes and development of religion, takes us a step closer to dealing with religion's consequences.  And helps us deal with it.

this article reminds me of a post i made a couple of years ago about atheists and intelligence, and how and why it's so hard to break free from indoctrination.  as the article states, most atheists were once involved in a religion.  it's possible that it requires a higher level of intelligence to see through the junk and un-wire our brains.  

it also reminds me that we humans are in our infancy as a species.  i can see that belief has been an important step in creating a society, but we've reached the point where it's outlived it's usefullness.  it will take many more generations for this evolution to be complete, but i can see a society in a couple hundred years where belief in a higher power will be on par with witchcraft today.

Matthew Greenberg said: "It will take many more generations for this evolution to be complete, but i can see a society in a couple hundred years where belief in a higher power will be on par with witchcraft today."  I got carried away below with a stream of consciousness type post.. apologies for my wordiness, but Matthew's withcraft (or magical thinking) reference set me off!


In another topic I posted about the woman I know of through extended family who was badly brain injured by a drunk driver in a head on collision.  Her extended family and friends throughout, apparently, the entire country (thousands of people) are praying for her unceasingly.  The family member who posts daily about her progress (actually, sadly, pretty much her LACK of progress) always ends his report by asking for prayers, good vibes, good karma: "Whatever you believe in". 


I keep expecting the Christians (who are so sure that Jesus is cradling her in his arms and will wake her up soon) to object to this inclusive wording (karma, good vibes, etc.), but so far they have not complained.  In fact, to their credit, the daily encouraging words posted by others are very loving, if misguided.  It would be entirely unkind and inappropriate for me to question them.  In addition, friends and friend networks have organized numerous fundraisers to help with this woman's long term care-- which I applaud, tho there must be many other unfortunate families who don't have this sort of support.


However the latest "magical thinking" endeavor is a request that on the hour in multiples of three (6AM, 9 AM, Noon, 3PM, 6PM, and so on)... everyone stop what they are doing and pray for this woman... or, as some suggest, call for her to "wake up".


.....Helpless people doing what they can, but in this case the superstition and magical, wishful thinking is so blatant that I find it embarrassing. 


One woman posted that her ten year old son forgot to pray for this woman because he was busy at school, but said an extra bedtime prayer for her.  WHAT are people teaching their children about how reality works? 


WHAT will they do down the road IF nothing changes, if the woman remains indefinitely in a vegetative state? 


WHY must their god be begged by thousands of people to help their friend? 


Why must they use magical formulas like praying at certain hours en masse?   


These crazies seem to be the rule, not the exception.  My "clear headed" thinking is what seems to be the exception.


One thing is for sure-- their imaginary freind wins no matter what happens:  If there is some improvement, god did it.  If there is none, god is mysterious and is holding this woman in his "loving arms", and whatever happens will be OK. 


NOBODY wonders why their imaginary friend didn't swerve the car so it didn't hit this woman head on back on December 20 as she drove innocently to work.

Fully studying religion requires also the study of deceit.

Indeed, and include along with that, the study of obfuscation, misdirection and mendacity.  Throw in the shell game and Three Card Monty, while you're at it.  A side-course on P. T. Barnum would not be inappropriate, nor would one on Machiavelli.

A true comprehensive study of religion, one which cut to its core, without conditions or modifications, would be an intriguing pursuit.

Thanks it was an interesting read.

From now on, how I'll be seeing the ring of Saturn has been jolted.

Have to agree with, 'The Evolutionary Advantage of Religion', the later part of point #2 as suggested the following isn't actually true.

....various studies suggest that religious belief is associated with better mental health, as indicated by satisfaction with life, better mood, greater happiness, less depression, fewer suicidal inclinations, and less addiction.”

I'm seeing religion creating serious mental health problems in minds, the unhappiness with life, depression and suicides. 

I've seen discussions going both ways about religion and mental health / mental illness.  

I suppose one could think about, is mental health something that necessarily improves evolutionary fitness.  Maybe, for a psychotic king or pope, or more minor potentate, mental illness would make them more aggressive, or more likely to have their enemies brutally killed, or more likely to think god is on their side, etc.  Maybe happy people don''t foment revolutions, overthrow the current king or government.

Maybe a search on  the topic of mental health in general and religiosity vs. irreligiosity would be revealing.

What I found particularly interesting was the early evolutionary 'advantages' of religion and how it assists with group cohesion and protection. The problem, as the author correctly notes is, "These evolutionary traits of aggression and tribalism can’t be wiped out by a few generations of centrally heated life."  The problem we, as a society face, is that those primitive portions of our brain that still functions on the level of a hunter-gatherer on an arid plain are in competition with that part which understand theoretical physics.

An interesting question might be, IF those traits associated with religiosity COULD be wiped out overnight, what might be the result?  I see religion as doing far more harm than good in modern society, and sure wouldn't mind seeing THAT wiped out.  But what of the tendency to ascribe agency without evidence (wind or tiger in the grass)?  Or how about pareidolia, imaging patterns that don't exist?  We have been modifying these tendencies forever, but we surely haven't eliminated them.  They probably still have a winning selective role, else their harms would have selected them out of the population, or at least made them much less common.

What might our lives be like without these and other tendencies that have resulted in religion?  We simply don't have time to rationally analyze every situation or even very many of them.  If I had to do the math on a baseball pitch I'd never get a hit.  Hell, I couldn't walk if I had to calculate each footfall, or breathe or keep my heart beating.

Our intuitive and autonomic responses play much larger roles in our lives than does reason.  We don't get a choice in whether or not they happen; we get a choice, if we're paying attention, in what to do with them -- sometimes.




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