The God Conundrum (3)©

Today, we complete our review of the 1998 Shermer-Sulloway of religious beliefs by studying the reasons that individuals believe are the drivers in other people in general. The specific question asked was, “Why do you think other persons believe in God?” Specifically, we are interested in what is called, the theory of mind or human folk psychology. In other words, I believe in God for the following personal reasons A, B, and C, but, I think you believe in God for the following reasons, D, E, and F.

In the general population survey, respondents gave the following reasons why other people believe in God:

A. Cognitive answers:
[1] Raised to believe in God: 22.4%
[2] Intelligent design, complexity, natural beauty: 6.0[3] The Bible says so: 5.0
[4] To account for good and evil, morality: 5.0
[5] God has a plan for the world: 3.8
[6] God answers prayers: 1.0
Total: 43.2

B. Emotive answers:
[2] Consoling, comforting, gives meaning: 26.3
[2] Experience of God in everyday life: 16.2
[3] Need to believe in God: 13.0
[4] Fear of death/unknown 9.1
Total: 64.6

In the skeptics population survey, respondent gave the following reasons why other people believe in God;

A. Cognitive answers:
[1] Lack of scientific exposure: 13.5%
[2] Raised to believe in God: 11.5
[3] Intelligent Design: 8.8
[4] Culture follows religion: 7.2
[5] Social needs/ other: 5.0
[6] Brainwashed: 4.5
Total: 50.5

B. Emotive answers:
[1] Consoling, comforting, gives meaning: 21.5
[2] Need to believe in Afterlife/God: 17.8
[3] Social needs/culture: 8.1
[4] Just need faith: 2.1

Total: 49.5

When asked why other persons believe in God, we find that both the general population and the skeptics are again split equally between cognitive and emotive explanations. Clearly, both groups display similar folk psychology as to the question of whether or not a Creator-God exists, which as I related is an overly restrictive position considering the range of spiritual beliefs in our world.

Personally, I am not surprised with the result seen as to the reasons given to support ones belief in the existence of God. Over the years, I have noticed that amongst a group of people, if I ask a question as to the value of an object or behavior, approximately half will answer saying, “I feel that X is OK or Wrong” and the remainder will say, “I think that X is OK or Wrong.”

I cannot say that I believe in an objective God who created the material universe, but, my investigations in both physics and psychology convince me, my heart and mind, that there is something Divine and special herein. Ta-ta for now.

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