One of the things that made my atheism feel "right" was that, although I found much to read about it, and there were some organizations and meetings, etc., there was no "creed" or set of beliefs that one must agree to, as you might expect if you were going from one religion to another. Another was that much emphasis was placed on science as the best tool humans have for finding correct information about the world. All the answers were not already written down long ago by ancient people. There was a niggling here... if there is no god and that is so obvious and reasonable and rational, how can so many people in the world continue to think there is? And how could I have gone so long thinking there was? I had to do a lot more reading... especially in science, and especially on the workings of the brain.
I gave a speech at Lake Hypatia some 13 years ago on the general idea of beliefs being a matter of choice. For some odd reason it is still preserved here. I was VERY unprepared and rambled unmercifully, but I did have the basic idea right.... that beliefs are NOT choices. Nor is a weird belief a sign of low intelligence. I was not really convinced of that at the time, but I have since become convinced. It's not that intelligence and education have no bearing on beliefs. Obviously they do. But there are factors at work which are far more powerful than the relatively new-fangled (in evolutionary terms) notions of intelligence.
Both the religious and the irreligious view the other is perhaps a bit dim for not recognizing what they themselves see as obvious truths. Since this comes from a much deeper and more primitive place than intelligence and education, it is a fact that strange beliefs will be a hallmark of humans as long as that term means something close to the current meaning. I am not aware of any people now who sincerely believe that the ancient Greek and Roman gods and goddesses are literal beings, though I would not be surprised to hear there are a few. But the belief in gods are still there. Jesus, Yahweh, Allah, and thousands of others are taken sincerely by some people to be literally existing beings. Some readily acknowledge there is not a shred of empirical evidence to support such a belief... but that is irrelevant to them having the belief. Others attempt to offer justifications and proofs.
Though in general terms the more intelligent and educated one is the less likely one is to believe the most common superstitions about gods and demons and ghosts, etc. such beliefs ARE held by some of the most brilliant and educated people. Conversely, someone with no religious or superstitious beliefs may be dumb as a sack of hammers. Zetetic Astronomy, otherwise known as
Flat Earthers still exists. The reason is not stupidity. So... what then? When we find that some people hold beliefs that are not rational and sometimes those beliefs can be quit harmful, yet it is not possible to "educate it out of them", what do we do?
I have long called myself an atheist evangelist. I will not change that. But I am more cognizant of the liklihood of "changing minds". It ain't promising. What are the chances that Pat Robertson or Rick Warren would have been invited speakers at the atheist convention? What are the chances that Christopher Hitchens or Richard Dawkins would be invited to deliver a sermon at the Crystal Cathedral or at Saddleback?
There are some scientific theories or ideas that I have serious doubts about, but not the ones that have been repeatedly empirically and experimentally proven to be true. But some folks can come to reject even those and claim another idea is really true, as with the Thunderbolts of the Gods believers, some of whom are atheists. How is this possible? What is the cause? What is the cure? Can we, as a species, ever get beyond our primitive genetic programming? Can we ever "educate" homosexuals to give it up and become heterosexual? Why should we think that we can ever "educate" religion out of ourselves? Will there not always be a percentage - probably majority - who have religious beliefs?
Beliefs & Choices by Austin Kline.
Why People Believe Weird Things excerpt.
Scientists See God on the Brain from LiveScience.
Looking at Stress - and God - in the Human Brain from Discover Magazine.
Oh, yeah.... one other thing. Some (smart) folks think the universe and everything in it exists only because life - especially consciousness - exists and continually manufactures it from one instant to the next. It's called the Biocentric Universe Theory. What y'all say 'bout that?