God belief is instinctive, claims study

AN OXFORD study concluded that belief in God is part of human nature. We are naturally predisposed to believe in a divine power and that some vital part of us survives death, according to the wide-ranging three-year international study.

The theory is that human thought processes are “rooted” to religious concepts rather than ideas simply learned from experience because they provide some social benefit.

The co-director of the project, Professor Roger Trigg, said the research showed that religion was “not just something for a peculiar few to do on Sundays instead of playing golf”.

“We have gathered a body of evidence that suggests that religion is a common fact of human nature across different societies,” he said.

“This suggests that attempts to suppress religion are likely to be short-lived as human thought seems to be rooted to religious concepts, such as the existence of supernatural agents or gods, and the possibility of an afterlife or pre-life.”

The project did not set out to prove the existence of God. The study concluded that both theology and atheism were reasoned responses to what is a basic impulse of the human mind. It stated that because we find it easier to think in a particular way does not mean that it is true.

The late Stephen Jay Gould said the “God question” could not be solved by science. He said a purely scientific debate must end in agnosticism.

Gould believed that atheism was as much a matter of faith as is Christianity. He thought that both theists and atheists used circular rationalizations: the theists to support their faith in theism, and the atheists to support their faith in atheism.

Peter Hitchens, journalist and author of the book The Rage Against God, said recently he believed that the default position of any thinking person looking at the universe was agnosticism.

“You can’t know whether there is or is not a god. You can’t know for certain. It is not within the bounds of scientific inquiry or reason to establish that.

“To move beyond that there has to be a desire. I found myself desiring very strongly that the universe should have a purpose ,and believed that purpose should be discoverable and that I would , in the course of discovering it. fit better into it than I otherwise would..

“ Because otherwise there seemed to be no reason for doing any of the things I was doing. Why bother telling the truth, why bother raising children with any care? Why bother doing anything.

“I can see why someone would say ‘I don’t know if there’s a purpose’. That seems to be a reasonable position, although one I don’t take. What I can’t really grasp is why someone would look at the universe and say ‘I don’t want this to have a purpose or a meaning and I don’t want to have any purpose within it’. which is actually the atheist position. The real question is why people don’t want there to be a God.”

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26 thoughts on “God belief is instinctive, claims study

    • Bryan,

      One thing that troubles me about your column above is that the essential terms of reference changes. The fifth paragraph quotes from the research with the words –

      ‘—–human thought seems to be rooted to religious concepts, SUCH AS the existence of supernatural agents or gods,—–‘.

      But this is followed by the conclusion as is suggested in the opening paragraph that ‘- belief in God is part of human nature.’ Now it is actually a bit of a leap of language to move from ‘supernatural agents OR gods’ to just ‘God’.

      I would find no difficulty in suggesting that the tendency or capacity to believe in supernatural beings or forces is rather natural in human beings. But let’s face it, the form of these beings or forces only becomes crystalised into GOD, or ‘a god’ when the child is taught that it is so.

      Rian.

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  1. “The real question is why people don’t want there to be a God.”

    Well, the reason I don’t want there to be any gods is because it goes against all logic. It also goes against reason if you understand the way evolution works, and not just the evolution of species but the evolution of cells from non-living molecules and the formation of molecules from energy; even the formation of positive and negative energy from a more neutral background state.

    If you know enough about the universe and about people, then the world also functions exactly as it would if there were no gods. So if they are illogical, without reason and unnecessary, why on earth should they exist? Why should I want them to exist?

    OK so people have certain feelings and fears and insecurities and are ignorant of the state of things and are stimulated by the idea of magical thinking and miraculous tales, and religion just happens to click into these slots, then so what? Once you realize that, you can see religion for what it is. A furphy and a fraud.

    Just because it can fill a need or be useful , even successfully fool billions doesn’t change that.
    Truth is clearly not a popularity contest.

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    • The problem is that even Dawkins admitted that he was led to consider the existence of God, in one of his debates with fellow scientist John Lennox (the God delusion debate). After making comments how he lost his religiosity by the time he started university, he then tells us that he was tempted to believe in God! So the question is when did he come to the realisation that there might be a god? Not when he entered university because he told us that he lost whatever religiosity he had. Therefore it must have been whilst undertaking scientific studies. This proves that the Bible is correct when it talks about nature testifying of God. We only have to open our eyes and accept the evidence.

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    • What truth Rol? Dawkins even admitted that panspermia is an intriguing possibility, even though there is even less proof than life from non life. And at other times he invoked the idea of multiverses in order to explain the fine tuning of the universe. Again a theory that has no proof whatsoever. Which means that the theory of evolution does not have as strong a footing as one might think. You need just as much if not more faith to believe in it. Hmm! Who else needs faith to believe in something?

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    • Roi, you confuse religion and god. What is I tell you, that the story as told by the religions has nothing to do with god?
      I agree with you that the Universe is designed to function the way it is regardless what we think. It has a law inbuilt and will function the way it suppose to. Evolution is apparent to a logical mind and it is in no way contradicting the creation. What was created was a master plan and it was put in motion though the created Universe. Beginning with Big Bang. This is the greatest controversy ever since religions exist. The Big Bang is the explosion of consciousness, the great AHA!!!!!!!!!! A practical experience of the design. It of course precludes that we step away from the believe been human beings. There is obviously a plan, which we follow taking huge time spans. In religion the being we are is called Soul, but you can call it whatever you like. Name does not change the fact that we are immortal.
      This is the great stumbling block for us, to remember who we are.

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      • Here’s an interesting little thought experiment of mine. Substitute “God” with another unfounded belief and then try the sentence again. eg “UFO’s”

        “Yeah, like that there are no UFO’s and such.”

        Now does that sentence still make sense? If somebody told you they don’t believe in UFO’s or that there are no UFO’s you’d think that they were making stuff up ?

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      • Hi Bryan,

        Dunno if you’ve noticed or not but there are these little buttons on the page in front of you that say “reply”. You use them when you want to reply to somebody else’s comment.

        And when I reply to somebody else’s comment I’m actually replying to somebody else’s comment rather than making a general statement on the topic for discussion.

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      • Oh I dunno about interesting, it’s mostly a process of listening to what the other person is saying and then thinking of a response.

        You should give it a go sometime 😉

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  2. The author has a point I haven’t seen raised before. Given that our default stance would reaonably be agnosticism, is it only desire that makes us investigate likelihood of a real god or no god, and if so, why would anyone desire a position of no god?

    Are they imagining God asa vengeful tyrant, or an inefficient nincompoop, or any other undesrable entity?

    I think it must be because of individual concepts of what God is. In a harsh environment people imagined harsh gods. In fertile lands people imagined easy-going gods. And so on. We can’t correctly imagine God.

    God was called the creator of the universe when the universe was a three storied structure of heaven, (a ceiling of twinkling stars) , Earth (the only physical world) and hell (the underworld). So what if that is all our God has? Isn’t it enough? While I believe the creation of the Universe required THOUGHT and therefor is due to God, surely the personal impact right here, where even a sparrow’s fall matters, is the thing that should influence our beliefs.

    I expect I’m talking rubbish again!

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      • Thanks for your comment Fossall,
        I guess I can say that I’ve been a seeker for spiritual truth all my life, but I have to add that I’ve never had what I would describe best as ‘feedback from the divine’ in the process, – at least in any direct or identifiable form. But I tend to see the divine in the wonders of nature, in the manifestations of love and relationships in humans and animals. And I might add, in the wonders and beauties of human created art, music and indeed in thinking. (I might add that my beloved pussycats hold a special place in my vision.)

        As I’ve said a few times here, the spiritual influences that I have treasured lie in Gnosticism, Pantheism, Humanism and Paganism. I always leave myself wide open for ‘further light’, and inspirational discoveries. The ‘Gods’ have been incredibly good and protective to me, and I look forward with joy and anticipation to the ‘next world’ now that I’m getting rather oldish. (will turn 79 this year.).

        Cheers, Rian. And all the best. Thinking of you.

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      • God is surely manifested in the glorious planet we live on, in the relationship we have with nature. We receive such benefit spending time in natural environment. It might be just fiddling in ones own garden, or watching the night sky with the visible stars. The majesty of early sunrise and sunset. The very fact that each snowflake has different shape. If you in nature out of your mind (not thinking) you will feel oneness with something colossal, something huge, something you part of. The reason you never had “feedback” is that you try to find in in the mental. Pay attention to your heart. I see your heart eager to break the bond your mind is putting on your heart. Let it go Rian, free the heart, release it from the prison you have built over the years. Let it out your cage, it will reward you greatly. Don’t look into religions, neither preaches the truth. They all parrot the same mantra of edited bible. The bible speaks the truth still after all the mods it received over the last 2000 years, but not the way is read. It speaks about the evolving soul, about experiencing what we already know conceptually. Experiencing it in the physical body leads to knowing and eventually to being it. Bible is not focused on human being, but the soul, which is a being composed fro spirit, mind and body. Only if all tree are present, we can experience ourselves.
        Paradise, heavens are not destinations, but states of being We don’t have to go anywhere to get there.This is where religions deceive us, they are skeletonised remnants of understanding we once had. Everything must evolve, even our believes. The best prove of that is religion, most religious people evolved their believe from unbeliever to one that believes. Yet they will go to war to deny it. As you see Rian, we slow to let go of what we think is right and wrong. But with growing understanding we do change, even if it takes many lifetimes to change.
        My wish is that you follow your independent way, you can not fail, it is just a matter of time. And time we have, we are eternal beings, offspring of god.

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      • Fossall, I know Rian personally, and he is the last person to lock himsself in a rigid thought.

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  3. Upon reading my own responses I noticed many spelling mistakes and typos. I am sorry, but due to my body weakness I find typing very difficult. I hope it still makes sense with all the typos.

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