Sunday, July 31, 2011

Why Do We Believe In Supernatural Things?

By Reza Varjavand,, July 30, 2011

Recent public opinion polls show that an overwhelming majority of Americans still believe in God and a universal spirit, almost nine out of ten people according to the latest Gallop poll published in 2011. The same polls show that a great percentage of people surveyed also believed in miracles, heaven, afterlife, hell, and the devil. Although these percentages have diminished since 1994, the numbers are perplexing in the wake of modern scientific discoveries.

Human beings have always believed in supernatural things, even those that may defy conventional wisdom or are considered scientifically refutable. Scientists and theologians have offered different answers to the question of why people believe in general, especially why they believe in strange things. In his newly published book The Believing Brain, author Dr. Michael Shermer, who is the founder of the Skeptic Society, tries to provide answers to this and similar questions by relying on scientific analyses.

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Rupen Savoulian said...

Hello. Thank you for posting this informative article by Michael Shermer. I think it is absolutely vital to explore the reasons why people believe in the supernatural.

I think that whatever our wiring in our brains, it is the culture around us that predisposes most people to seek answers in an afterlife, and posit a supernatural designer to explain the seeming complexity of the animate world. Scientific explanations are difficult and require intensive effort to understand. Going over the metabolic pathways that enabled life to survive and reproduce requires an understanding of chemistry, biology and so on. It is much easier to resort to the default explanation - god did it.

Scepticism and rational inquiry need to be actively cultivated and nurtured. In our current, consumerist culture of instant gratification, rational explanations have to compete with the overwhelming stimulation of advertising, marketing and popular media.

Hope I was able to explain what I mean clearly.

Rupen Savoulian

Nasir Khan said...

Thank you Rupen for your comment.I agree with what you have said.

'When the homo sapiens developed improved linguistic abilities and a capacity to use mental symbols they began to wonder about the overwhelming forces of nature that confronted them in their early form of life and primitive living conditions, they formed some sort of ideas about spirits or gods. That was partly a bold step for the early humans to find the main source that had control over them and the rest of the nature. Thus were gods born. They were the figment of human imagination and fantasy; they were the creatures of human beings. And they have been with us ever since, not as the creatures of human ingenuity but as the 'creators' of mankind and the universe.

'What started as speculation about the mighty forces that the early humans used to understand and explain what to them was mysterious and awe-inspiring phenomena, the creative spirits and gods became more and more powerful and also complicated in human imagination. That old tradition of our distant forefathers has shaped our attitude to gods/ god. These imaginary creatures acquired more power and prestige in various cultural traditions and civilisations. Hymns were sung and prayers offered to them with a view to appease them. It was believed that they would use their power for the betterment of human lot. Another big leap in reaching the gods was made when some people wrote such books and mythical stories and ascribed them to gods and told others that they were literal words of gods themselves. This process in, what we call, the monotheistic tradition had its special twists; the number of gods was reduced to only One God and the rest were discarded as 'false gods'. Now that 'God' started to speak or inspire some chosen ones, who said they were from the true God. That's how we got the 'holy scriptures'. There are very many people who sincerely believe that such books are from God, because there is an Almighty God 'out there'. But no one thus far been able to point to where that 'out there' is!'

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