its human nature
Just to expand on this idea further: how would you explain why many humans don't have faith?
Faith is complete trust or confidence.
Faith is strong belief in a religion, based on spiritual conviction rather than proof.
This denies rational thought.
I agree with Tom Sarbeck that this is very dangerous and destructive in many instances. I went to catholic school too.
its human nature
Should be mentioned, the destitute i.e. drug addicts or those that are otherwise "down on there luck" have a tendancy to be susceptible to influence, substituting the void they feel for the god concept and/or a group to belong to that helps them thus associating god with otherwise negativity. Not eveyone is brainwashed at birth..thus the convict that "turns to god" etc...
Appealing to a person's weak mental state is a good tactic for indoctrination. Alchohalics Anonymous is a good example, on the surface it helps millions yet it teaches a need for a "higher power" taking self disciplin away allbeit in a kind hearted way.
Realigeon does the same thing..it (on the surface) offers peace and hope, then denies self confidence.
Just my opinion...
People have faith only because trained to have faith. People sustain their faith only because of the fear of god. Mny persons may give many different reasons for their faith but the truth is this that faith is sustained by fear of the supernatural.
I wish i had a good answer for you. I think it is an important and fascinating question you ask.
Somewhat humorously: I think part of the reason people have faith is being exhibited by the answers here to your question!
Most people don't seem to like uncertainty ...so they try to just believe in the first answer that "feels right" even if they don't have any evidence to support that. To many, having a possibly wrong answer is better than simply saying "I'm not sure, let me get back to you on that when i find out more"
I suspect it's not even the biggest reason, but it does seem to be a contributing factor.
Undoubtedly the most important source of religion is fear; this can be seen in the present day, since anything that causes alarm is apt to turn people's thoughts to God.
With all due respect to Bertrand Russel, i have to disagree. I suspect his opinion on the matter is being influenced by the time and place he grew up in. In todays modern world i see a lot of counter examples...
1. People with minimal fears turning a great deal of their thoughts and energy to studying, ritualizing, and "observing" gods. (Usually as a means to answer "big questions" and give a clam/clarity to their lives.)
2. People who grew up in religious surroundings in a climate of extreme fearfulness, but yet felt absolutely no inclination to embrace religion.
Honorable mention 3. People who are religious and grappling with fear who use much the same coping mechanisms as atheists, and who seem to lean on their belief in gods very little in problem solving ways to tackle their fears
I don't deny fear CAN be a strong motivator in religion, or other beliefs as well. But to claim it's the MOST IMPORTANT source of religion seems a bit of a stretch.
OK Joe, I think you are on to something especially with that last line. I think we do need to look at the evolutionary strength of religion. Yes there is something to be said for the fear factor and certainly the ignorance point.
I would have to say that a lot comes from the need to be part of something bigger than ones self. A lot comes from dependency relationships. The dependent is afraid of being the one in charge. (too damned much responsibility in that.) We (except for charismatic Nazi cultists) are rarely so dependent that we can totally subordinate ourselves mentally and physically to another human being. Though, stemming from childhood, we might all have a touch of this.
I do think all these factors and more enter in to the totality of the religious tendency in human society. Most big upsurges in religiosity occur during times of social movement and dislocation. Our society has become more and more atomized for variety of reasons and people have often responded by attaching themselves to charismatic religious phenomena. This gives some faux security to replace what should be there from overall socialization and social norms, but alas is not.
Then there is control of arbitrary surroundings. We sometimes have little control so in the attempt to feel in control we like to say a rosary or, if governor of Texas, call a big prayer meeting for rain.
My contention is that all these factors and more are important and that we need a comprehensive theory of the attraction of religion.
Everything you say is a truth, but a part of the truth. The kind of people you describe are only a small part of a faithful population. The common man acquires his faith in god as a personal god who observes all that he does, punishes him if he does not do good, rewards him if he does good etc. Thus effort is made to make him a good person by fearing the god. He he then is taught the importance of prayer and in this mannner is made so much dependent on god that he needs the crutches of faith for all his life. he remains a believer because he needs to be a believer.
Madhukar, your use of the term dependent is critical here. It seems that a good deal of religion stems from dependency. You describe it well and indeed I think it permeates most aspects of what we are describing here.