Tap here to turn on desktop notifications to get the news sent straight to you. By Rabbi Alan Lurie Few topics are more contentious than religion.
Although they had not recognised it, my depressed or psychotic patients were struggling with the questions that theologians and philosophers had struggled with for thousands of years. My last memories of any contact with God was that particular night when I called Him all the Why people believe in religion language I knew.
Ella was a beautiful year-old who had become withdrawn and isolated. Her parents had taken time to recognise that there was a problem because, to them, she was the perfectly obedient child they wanted. Everyone else is a vision. They just behave like real people.
I believe that everything I see is God. Only by being the only real person who was part of God could Ella seem to become powerful. All of this was of no interest to the psychiatrists and psychologists I worked with.
Psychiatrists were interested in identifying symptoms - "irrational guilt" as a symptom of depression, and hallucinations and delusions as symptoms of schizophrenia.
Psychologists assumed that their patients wanted to be happy, failing to notice that, for many people, being good is more important than being happy. Death loomed large in my conversations with my patients.
All we can ever know for certain about death is that a living person grows strangely still. We each have a fantasy about what happens after death and this fantasy determines how we see the purpose of life.
If we see death as the end of our identity, the purpose of our life becomes making this life satisfactory. There is an infinite number of ways in which we might choose to define "satisfactory", but whichever we choose becomes our purpose.
If we see death as the doorway to another life, we have to decide whether this next life will be better than this one. To give us hope, we decide that the next life will be better.
This raises the question of justice. Do all people go on to this better life, or are there standards that have to be met?
A sense of justice leads us to choose standards, and in doing so we condemn ourselves to living this life in terms of the next. If you set standards which you can easily reach, you limit the amount of self-inflicted pain you will suffer, but if you acquire, say, a Calvinist conscience you set yourself impossible standards, and berate yourself for your constant failure to live up to them.
For all of us, life is full of uncertainties and difficulties, and it ends in death. Every religion claims to overcome death, to provide certainty, and reward us for being good. So great is our fear of life and death that most of us allow hope to override our intellect.
When Peter Stanford interviewed the Rugby League champion, Shawn Edwards, about his Catholic beliefs, Shawn spoke of the death of his younger brother, Billy Joe, which posed for the family the question: They get more and more harsh to try to turn us away from God.
No religion accepts us as the person we know ourselves to be. Rather, we are told that we are inadequate, unsatisfactory and helpless. We fear that this is so, and to give us hope we, like Ella, construct a fantasy about how we are superior to those who do not share our views.
On these grounds we feel entitled to force our views on non-believers, and, if they resist, to kill them. I was taught that we Presbyterians were infinitely superior to Catholics and all the rest, while Aboriginals were not even human.Michael Shermer is the author of The Believing Brain, Why People Believe Weird Things, The Science of Good and Evil, The Mind Of The Market, Why Darwin Matters, Science Friction, How We Believe and other books on the evolution of human beliefs and behavior.
He is the founding publisher of Skeptic magazine, the editor of regardbouddhiste.com, a monthly columnist for Scientific American, and an adjunct.
Last week BreakingBrown published an excerpt from a Liberian news article that accused the West of creating the Ebola virus.
Religion A Strength And Weakness For Both Parties. Public Divided on Origins of Life. Summary of Findings. Both major political parties have a problem with their approach toward religion, in the eyes of many Americans. Why People Believe Other Weird Things Similar questions are asked about people believing in other evidence-sparse phenomena such as alternative medicine, diagnostic auras, flying saucers, Yeti, and so on. People believe in many things not just religion and regardless what faith is put in - religion, science, patriarchic oppression of women, commonly accepted morals - most people will have convictions, that’ll make them feel better.
Now Minister Louis Farrakhan of the Nation of Islam is adding his voice to the discussion, accusing the United States of deploying the virus in order to “depopulate” the world of black people. Religion is dying.
Masses of people are walking out of churches, aren't kneeling in mosques, others are outright denouncing their religious upbringings altogether. That's why I was particularly interested in this paper by the psychologists Dan Kahan and Keith Stanovich, which re-examines some older data on why people do or do not believe in evolution.
First. Notably, those who were raised Catholic are more likely than those raised in any other religion to cite negative religious treatment of gay and lesbian people (39% vs.
29%, respectively) and the clergy sexual-abuse scandal (32% vs. 19%, respectively) as primary reasons they left the Church.
Some people describe this in religious terms, some in terms of nature, but, whatever, we do not feel the need to have a religion tell us what we should believe.