Pragma Synesi – interesting bits

Compendium of interesting bits I come across, with an occasional IMHO

Why are people losing their religion?

According to the article below, part of the reason is the internet — but that’s not the whole picture. (Also see post Will religion ever disappear?)

How the Internet Is Taking Away America’s Religion

Using the Internet can destroy your faith. That’s the conclusion of a study showing that the dramatic drop in religious affiliation in the U.S. since 1990 is closely mirrored by the increase in Internet use.

April 4, 2014 | MIT Technology Review

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January 2, 2015 Posted by | anthropology, behaviour, religion | , , , | 3 Comments

Will religion ever disappear?

Interesting discussion from BBC.

Will religion ever disappear?

by Rachel Nuwer | 19 December 2014 | BBC Future

Atheism is on the rise around the world, so does that mean spirituality will soon be a thing of the past? Rachel Nuwer discovers that the answer is far from simple.
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December 20, 2014 Posted by | anthropology, behaviour, brain, psychology, religion | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Sense of control and religion

I was reading David Ropeik‘s blog “The perception gap: An explanation for why people maintain irrational fears” and came across this paragraph:

“…When we are uncertain, as are parents with autistic kids, we grab on to anything that answers our questions, because that sense of knowing affords us a reassuring feeling of control. Control is vital to anyone who is afraid, worried, uncertain…”

sense of knowing allows us to predict the future, and thereby giving us control (whether imaginary or real).  Being a better predictor of future is definitely a great help in survival — an evolutionary advantage, so it’s not surprising that humans have a built-in need for control.  The problem is that not everything is predictable, making us feel less in control and therefore unhappy.  Religion fills in that gap beautifully.  The basis for most (all?) religions is that there is a supernatural being (god) that controls all the things we can’t predict.  We can increase our sense of control by appealing to this god (praying, sacrificing, etc.) who will on occasion grant our wishes.  Which explains why religious people are happier than the unbelievers — they believe they have control over the unpredictable when the unbelievers have to accept that there is nothing they can do to affect the unpredictable.  This could also explain why it is so hard to give up faith: you’re asking someone to give up some of their control.

February 10, 2011 Posted by | imho, religion | , , , | Leave a comment

Thought for the day

Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil? Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God? — Epicurus, philosopher (c. 341-270 BCE)

That could serve as a proof that there is no god, but then if you consider the definition of evil and realize that what is considered evil by one may not be so considered by another, there goes your proof.  I still like the saying, despite its flaws.

November 9, 2010 Posted by | philosophy | , , | Leave a comment

Sex and the Bible

Not exactly what I thought it’s going to be.  Just shows how important it is to go to the actual source and try to understand it in the context of the times.  From Time magazine, Sunday, Oct. 31, 2010:

What the Bible Has to Say About Sex

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November 8, 2010 Posted by | Bible, religion | , | Leave a comment

Suffering leads to belief in god

It seems misery loves supernatural explanations…

Excerpt from “Bering in Mind”‘s  God’s in Mississippi, where the gettin’ is good:

…. In an article soon to be published in Personality and Social Psychology Review , Harvard psychologists Kurt Gray and Daniel Wegner argue that human suffering and God go hand-in-hand because our evolved cognitive systems are inherently unsatisfied with “sh*t happens” types of explanations (that is to say, reality). The main gist of their argument is that, since we’re such a deeply social species, when bad things happen to us we immediately launch a search for the responsible human party. In being morally vigilant this way–in seeking to identify the culpable party–we can effectively punish blameworthy, antisocial people, thus preserving our group’s functional cohesion and preserving each individual’s genetic interests. That’s all fine and dandy, say Gray and Wegner, when someone punches us in the face, steals from us or sleeps with our girlfriend; but when our misfortune is more “abstract” (think cancer or a tsunami) and there’s no obvious single human agent to blame, we see the hand of God.

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October 15, 2009 Posted by | psychology, religion, sociology | , , , | Leave a comment

Politics drives religion

How game theory and politics play part in the evolution of religion.  From Time magazine, Monday, Jun. 15, 2009:

Decoding God’s Changing Moods

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June 30, 2009 Posted by | Bible, politics, religion | , , , , , | Leave a comment

The science of religion

The science of religion

Mar 19th 2008
From The Economist print edition

Science and religion have often been at loggerheads. Now the former has decided to resolve the problem by trying to explain the existence of the latter
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April 21, 2008 Posted by | anthropology, behaviour, brain, economics, evolutionary psychology, religion | , , | Leave a comment