Why are religious people so ingratiatingly dogmatic about their silly beliefs when the evidence to the contrary is so obvious? New research shows us why! An article in the Independent summarizes the research of Case Western Reserve University in Ohio. In the study, 900 people from various religious and non-religious backgrounds were interviewed for personality traits as they relate to dogmatism (holding uncritically to a belief). Here’s the skinny: religious people are emotional ignoramuses, while atheists are critical and analytical thinkers. Of course, everyone wants to be a critical thinker with analytical skills, and scrutinizing skills, and skeptical skills, and hunting and nunchuck skills too.
Well, now the psychologists have found us out: our religious beliefs are tied to our moral compasses, even as they are kept afloat by the waters of emotion--that, in spite the face of evidence to the contrary. In other words, religious people will hold to their beliefs, in spite of the evidence; they do so because it would hurt them emotionally if they gave their beliefs up. What’s worse is, religious people—according to the researchers—avoid becoming analytical thinkers, because such critical analysis leads to a seemingly insurmountable challenge to their beliefs, and it’s all rooted in emotional appeal.
With a study as large as 900 whole people coming from the world-encompassing state of Ohio (or was it an online study from all corners of the world? We’re not told), it seems that religion needs to take a back seat to the Age of Reason. Wait, wasn’t that Thomas Paine’s book from way back in 1794? (Paine was a theist, but denied the Trinity, adding that early Christians borrowed from pagan myths to start their new religion. Heard that one lately from atheist quarters?).
But here we are at the dawn of a new paradigm for understanding human belief and action, and it’s all tied to the brain, neuroscience and scientists probing nagging, embarrassing questions, disclosing our ignorance in the light of their expertise. What else are humans but brains in machines, anyway? So, we can all rest assured that religious people, represented by the 900 from Ohio (or something), are nothing but dogmatic dolts dousing the flames of critical analysis and evidence with the tears of their precious moral jewels.
Of course, the study may be on to something: it is true that many Christians in the USA and elsewhere, have dropped the intellectual ball in favor of the sweet emotion of watching the clock tick down to game's ending. If anything, the study at Case Western reveals the state of Christianity in America and is a cultural meter in terms of intellectualism vs. anti-intellectualism.
To the contrary of the study, we should ask, Is it really the case that the non-religous are unbelievers because they are analytical, critical thinkers, who only believe things based upon the deep scrutiny of the evidence? Hardly, allow us to end here with this quote from an honest atheist philosopher, Thomas Nagel:
“In speaking of the fear of religion, I don’t mean to refer to the entirely reasonable hostility toward certain established religions and religious institutions, in virtue of their objectionable moral doctrines, social policies, and political influence. Nor am I referring to the association of many religious beliefs with superstition and the acceptance of evident empirical falsehoods. I am talking about something much deeper–namely, the fear of religion itself. I speak from experience, being strongly subject to this fear myself: I want atheism to be true and am made uneasy by the fact that some of the most intelligent and well-informed people I know are religious believers.
I want atheism to be true and am made uneasy by the fact that some of the most intelligent and well-informed people I know are religious believers. It isn’t just that I don’t believe in God and, naturally, hope that I’m right in my belief. It’s that I hope there is no God! I don’t want there to be a God; I don’t want the universe to be like that.”(”The Last Word” by Thomas Nagel, Oxford University Press: 1997)”
"Stick that in your pipe and smoke it."
~The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, Carson McCullers
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