The Real Problem
I Love this site and the clarity of thinking exhibited, even love chasing down the trolls, lol!
However, I see a pervasive myth that if we just show the religious the Truth, they will quickly see the light as we have.
I believe this is completely false thinking, because Most of what people get from religion, on a day to day basis, is the Community of it, which goes deep into our genetics...a tribe member had a much better chance of surviving, procreating, having a good quality of life, than a loner.
If we wish to truly reach the average person, we need to have a replacement for that sense of belonging....you even see people on here who have "seen the light of reason", asking about where & when they can find "community" (usual answer, UU or similar).
The feeling of being "tended" by an all-seeing mystical parent, I think most people could be weaned from, but replacing the feeling of BELONGING is a huge obstacle!
I love everything about this post. I say this all the time! To your first point, I think confronting someone on their illogical beliefs only makes them cling more tightly to those beliefs and makes them less trusting of atheists in the future. Arguing with people will never get you anywhere. Accepting people, inspiring people to be better and earning their respect is the only thing I've ever seen that changes minds. To your second point, we absolutely lack that sense of community and also the ability to get together once a week and discuss ideas, particualrly pertaining to morality. Sometimes navigating life is difficult and having people to bounce ideas off of and having that support system makes a big difference. I would love to see atheist gatherings; complete with discussion, debate, guest speakers, etc.
We are all individuals. To belong you need a group. Groups form doctrine which identifies the group.
So if you want to be accepted by the group, the group expects you to accept their doctrine.
So you are 100% correct in saying belonging to a group is a driving factor. We all want to be accepted by others.
I think you are correct when it comes to the majority, but there are those of us who are quite comfortable not belonging to anything. I have a feeling, and it is just a feeling, that the percentage of us who have no need to belong may be growing. We shall see.
I think you're right. People need to feel community and religion is one way of doing this, as is a common feeling of atheism or agnosticism. There's safety in numbers. Trouble is it can also lead to tribalism and a common desire to defeat the opposite view. The most peaceful society is one where all are able to be themselves. That's the only way a society can be free.
I believe organised worship was incredibly important in our societal evolution. It was one of the major reasons we evolved the ability to cooperate beyond the scale of communities and tribes. It allowed disparate peoples and cultures to mesh together into the first cities and kingdoms. Yet, in our modern world, I define it as a social appendix. It was useful once, but is archaic now. The only solution to this, is knowledge. We exist in a point where nearly all observable experiences can be defined and labeled from the macro to the micro. Philosophy covers the rest. We need to continue to enlighten those who can be, and hope that those who cant, won't inculculate superstition on the next generation.
An interesting post but it leaves me wondering who is the "average person, " the proverbial John or Jane Doe? Perhaps many people experience a sense of belonging akin to what they formerly experienced when they belonged to some religious organization?
"In most people the desire to belong is greater than the desire to understand. Hence the popularity of cults and religious organizations and the lack of the role of reason in human affairs." Thomas Szasz
I agree, for most people belief isn't about truth. If it was the vast majority would already be atheists. To "unconvert", a person may need to break from family, friends, church and even spouse. This rigs the system heavily in favor of religion.
When I present evidence, I am supporting a truth. When they see the evidence I present, they "feel" like I am attacking the world view they thrive in. They connect to this false information through years of echo chamber logic.
Giving people a alternative support system is every bit as important as convincing them of the false claims of religion.
Yes indeed, and this is a point that the atheist activists like Dawkins and others have made, despite attacks from religionists and even sadly some non believers. What a lot of people get from religion is often not so much the beliefs, which they may not really believe at all, but the other stuff: community activities, the theatre and entertainment of religion, and that feeling of "belonging". It's a serious challenge in pursuing a non religious world. How to replace and substitute these things. Religions are cultural organisms as much as belief systems. There are those who will say that religion is good because of that. I don't agree. The fundamentals of religion are appalling: bad history, awful theology, terrible practise, corrupt activities, harm to people, directly and indirectly due to all those things. What you have raised is one of the most important questions. I do think that with religion in decline in the west, and religious attendance in particular, this aspect of the ongoing momentum of religion is declining.
That is exactly one of my standard arguments I have been putting forward on this site...
That religion is much more than just a set of beliefs and pseudo-explanations, and that believers are just stupid...
What is it that makes religion so attractive to many people? According to Tim Crane in his book "The Meaning of belief" (that every educated atheist should read), there are basically two motivations:
(A.) the "religious impulse". That is a sense of the transcendent, of there being “more to it all than just this.” It is the desire to transcend the own little, fragile and evanescent life towards something that is "bigger", more stable, more meaningful, and to live one’s life in harmony with the transcendent (whether it is called god or the "divine order" or whatever.)
(B.) "identification": To be religious is more than subscribing to a set of propositions, tenets, dogmas; it is an integral part of one's identity. "Identification" refers to the the fact that religions are inherently social institutions; that, as the famous French sociologist Durkheim said, one does not just believe in a religion, one belongs to it.
I completely agree. I absolutely don't care what others believe, as long as they don't try to convert me to their beliefs of govern based on it. I never, ever try to convert religious people to my beliefs. Of course there is an evangelical radical fringe who want to make America a theocracy, and they are enabled by Trump and his minions, so I will fight them with every fiber of my being.
There is a lot of truth to this. I clearly remember a conversation with one of my daughters, many of whose friends during middle and high school were from practicing religious families. We were discussing atheistic beliefs and she mentioned that she felt a missing sense of community that she knew her friends enjoyed. She was solid in her beliefs, but felt that absence of community.
As time would go on, both of my daughters found their own communities, and lo, they were largely populated with very like minded people - my oldest found hers in Academia, and my youngest within the theater/performing arts crowd. The point with which I agree is that some sense of community is desirable in most humans, and it is understandable if religion provides that sense in the absence of any other alternatives.
Obviously you can not change another person—only they can change themselves. What might not be obvious is that the other person’s opinions might just be superior to our own, and that perhaps it is we who need to learn and change.
IMO, more important than to express opinions is to respect each other.
It has been my experience that people feel that identifying with Christianity is synonymous with being a "good person". No matter how little, if ever, one practices ANY aspect of an individual's religion they are good people for simply identifying with a religion. That connection is iron clad in the minds of a large portion of the Christian population to the point that they cannot conceive that an openly atheist person is not a complete amoral psychopath. In their minds one who does not practice religion is OK but one who does not identify with a religion is evil. That is based on the old, albeit elementary, concept that Christians are responsible for all that is good and non-Christians are responsible for all that is evil. They cannot even CONSIDER not identifying with being a Christian even if they disagreed with every single tenant of Christianity. To say that it is an uphill battle to convince one who identifies as a Christan that being an atheist is OK can be a major understatement. Those folks are not coming around any time soon.
People like to feel accepted..acknowledged..respected..understood. Few like being outcasts...but who wants to fit in to a community obsessed about something you don't believe in...
Right now you are labelled as strange or odd because you declare yourself to be an unbeliever..
Some day people will be labelled weird for believing.....
Even if there was only one other Athiest on the planet...it would still be a preferable community to be a part of..than living a lie and hiding in the longrass...which I believe many millions quietly do.
Yes, it is false thinking, but not "completely", as there are soem peopel otu there who simply never havethought of or considered alternatives to the beliefs they were raised with.
However, the vast majority of religious persons so prefer their fantasies over facts and realities.
Personally, I am more inclined to try to get school to once again teach "logical fallacies" as a part of their curriculum. If people to learn to spot flaw in arguments (religious or political), then they are less likely to cling so strongly to religious views. This would not be a "cure all", but it woudl be a step in the right direction.
I absolutely agree. My father and I used to argue about a lot of things (religion not being one of them) and he would always say, 'you just don't understand' to which I would reply, 'No, I just think you're wrong.' Understanding doesn't have a lot to do with religious differences. What's going on is that organisms, human or otherwise animal, will stop doing things that don't provide reinforcement and will continue to do things that give them some sort of reward.
The fact that religious thought is so ubiquitous shows that people do got a lot out of it. Otherwise it would have disappeared. Also, when people make choices and then are challenged, their belief becomes stronger (it's called reactance). Since religion is so basic to some people's entire value system, and they chose that value system, disagreeing or arguing with them is only likely to deepen that belief.