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Why do religious people accept their religion the way they do?

  1. Dec 26, 2006 #1
    Why do religious people accept their religion the way they do? They base their entire lives around something that they know nothing at all about. They have so much fear of going to hell for example, they do nothing bad at all for their whole life, some havent even touched a beer, havent experienced sex, weed, they get so worked up over something that may not even happen. We know very little if all about what happens after death. For all we know its probably just nonexistence, stopping, end, nothingness, no experience whatsoever. Why do they do that? Whats the point? Nothing personal to any religious person here just want to here the views of any and all religions. Me, I say Im agnostic but my view basically is like this, we know nothing about god or death but I could accept the fact that someone may, kind of a weak agnostic. Again, not looking to get banned or flamed or anything, just very curious.
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  3. Dec 27, 2006 #2


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    Well, an appropriate place for this discussion is a forum on religion -


    One can certainly invite scientific persons to provide their insights.
  4. Dec 27, 2006 #3


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    You're asking a bit of a psychological question that I doubt has a very general answer. I'd imagine the motivation behind a person's particular level of religious belief depends very heavily on that individual person.

    The closest thing I can remember reading once is that an individual's personal conception of god is heavily tied in to one's experience with one's own father. If a person believes in a very restrictive and punitive god, that person's father was probably very restrictive and punitive. Assuming I'm even right about this (lord knows what kind of pop psychology I'm spouting from hearsay here), this still doesn't seem like much of an answer.
  5. Dec 27, 2006 #4
    see what your talking about and have mentioned in the first post is somewhich cannot be argued about

    there are millions who are bound by the so called "religion"

    but i believe that isnt religion
    its more of dictatorship where you surrender blindly
    thats not religion

    in sanskrit or i should say religions with vedic roots
    there is no word ever know as religion
    its known as DHARMA
    which cannot be defined in english or any other language as it is a very complex word have thousands of interpretations and each interpretation gives the same out put

    but just for the Q
    DHARMA mean the way of life lead by doing work
    now the word work means something totally different from what we understand work to be

    well anyways
    what i want to prove is that
    we should for ourselves debate on the scriptures and make up our own interpretations and then follow norms and not blindly
    then that isnt religion anymore is it?
  6. Jan 2, 2007 #5
    You ask, "Why do religious people accept their religion the way they do?", and then describe a number of situations which YOU "believe" to be THEIR beliefs. To say "they do nothing bad at all for their whole life, some haven't even touched a beer, haven't experienced sex, weed...", it suggests that YOU believe religious people see, or ought to see, these things as bad. It even suggests the possibility that you, yourself, see these things as bad things for religious people to do.

    Don't get me wrong! You have every right to ask the question you did, and to ask it in the that way you did. But in asking your question, you cannot help but reveal some of the beliefs which YOU have accepted as fact; beliefs which YOU hold about religious people, and perhaps even beliefs which YOU hold about issues like alcohol, sex, and drugs.

    My point is this. "Religious people" accept (i.e., find intellectual and emotional satisfaction in) their religion (i.e., their beliefs), as transparently, as seemlessly, and as confidently as "non-religious people" accept their own. I'm afraid you and I (a religious person) will probably never fully understand why someone ELSE believes the way they do. Perhaps the best thing we can do is to try to understand our own beliefs, and the motivation for those beliefs, better.
  7. Jan 2, 2007 #6
    Some people say that once we can create artificial intelligence systems to behave like humans, then this is a good model of how humans think. With this in mind, I asked myself how I would create an AI to realistically adopt "beliefs" in a virtual world. I would ask:

    1) How likely is an idea to be correct, logically speaking?
    2) If we assume the idea is correct, how much value would the AI gain from it's persuit?

    If I was going to program an artificial intelligence program in a virtual world, I would make my AI rate 1) as a number based on input data and rate 2) as a different number, say out of 100. Then, if 1) x 2) was larger than a random number (representing an unpredictable complexity), I'd let my AI adopt it as a "belief". This is a lot more complicated than any AI that I have ever programmed, but this is how I would model belief-forming.

    Now here is my point:

    If this is a valid model, some people miss out the importance of 2). They think that because 1) is low, a belief will not be adopted. However, if the possible rewards are high enough (eg. heaven) or consequences of not adopting the belief are high enough (eg. hell) then this is a high value of 2) and makes the belief attractive in the face of a lower likelihood score.

    Just a theory, but my best answer.

    For example, the thought might cross my mind that I left my front door unlocked when I left for work. Logically, I very rarely do this and the odds are low but I percieve the consequences of leaving my front door open to be high and the investment to take a look very low. The end result is I often check my front door is closed in the mornings. 1) is low but 2) is high enough for me to adopt the open front door as an idea. As I recall, this is similar to an approach used in business for rating risks:

    total risk = potential damge x likelihood

    Unlikely risks can still be large if the potential damage is very high. If the potential damage is the bankrupcy of the company then good businessmen won't usually accept it even if it should only happen once in many years of risking it. And back to religion, who would want to risk going to hell?
    Last edited: Jan 2, 2007
  8. Jan 2, 2007 #7


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    They choose religion because they want to be part of a team. Being religious is a very social experience. It's only gurus who go their own way (just my opinion, take it or leave it).

    It feels nice to have people who are doing what you are doing, so if it turns out to be wrong, it isn't you on your own that was wrong. If you're on your own, the blame can only fall on you. You also don't have to explain yourself that way. If so many people are doing it, it must be right, huh?

    Religious people also change their religion when it becomes unpopular, although a few do resist changing. And of course, religions change over time as certain elements become unpopular and threaten to split the group.
  9. Jan 3, 2007 #8
    On religious conviction

    What does it mean to be a "religious" person? Three candidates: to do something religiously; to behave according to some code or view of the world; or to seek to align one's behaviour with one's view of the world?

    From the initial post above, I might hazard that, for fedorfan, Christianity is the matter. Or is it rather that the behaviour of one or more particular people has led to the question? I do not know who, or what, exactly has prompted the post. Put as it is, however, I think some things can be said.

    First, it may seem odd that the candidates given above for what it might mean to be religious make no reference to God. Clearly, if someone questions whether there is a God, the only productive conclusions are Yes and No (I say "productive" because we are to discuss the notion of an affirmed pattern of behaviour, as shaped by an informed opinion on the existence of God. The conclusion I don't know has no rational entailment, and hence is irrelevant to the discussion.) So long as we assume that one's worldview encompasses that question, we have that her worldview would encourage her towards certain actions, and discourage her from others.

    Note that this would be so only if the existence of God would impact on our "world". But of course this is a given, for implicit in our any relevant notion of "God" is that we are subject to God. For the present discussion, the God of the Bible lays claim to our very existence, our continual sustenance, and our entire future. Assuming, then, that one's worldview encompasses the question Is there a God, it follows that one's actions are liable to being informed by her answer to that question. In other words, for each of those candidates for "religious", Belief or Unbelief is presupposed. That is, no explicit reference to God is necessary to their invoking the concept of "God" (the first one aside).

    Now to the issue of them basing "their entire lives around something they no nothing at all about". It would be instructive once again to consider who they are. The practicing muslim, that is to say, one who follows the teachings of the Koran, has a very different basis for action to the christian, who has "been forgiven much". Consequently the behaviours at the core of their systems of belief are fundamentally different. Again, behaviour that is informed by a Buddhist or Pantheistic worldview would be markedly different to what the Bible considers "true religion".

    On the assumption that we are talking here about Christianity, I am led to consider the question of what we can know about the teachings of the Bible. Someone might claim that we can know enough to make an informed decision to accept or to reject Jesus as Lord. The claim which, I hazard, fedorfan is making, is that we "know nothing at all" (i.e. cannot know anything) about such teachings. This is a bold move. For it not only claims to know what we can know, but reveals no less the presumptuous stance of basing one's entire life upon the negation of such claims. The question must then be asked What can be said for the affirmation of its denial?. That is, what is the evidence that Jesus Christ did not rise from the dead, that it might be taken as the basis for an entire lifetime lived?

    I am thoroughly convinced of the credibility of the Bible as a reliable document, and that Jesus Christ was and is who he said he was. My credentials for affirming this are irrelevant -- there are intelligent men and women on both sides of the argument. But do not mistake the fact that, to one side or other, the argument is already won. And there is little point in me here attempting to state evidence for the view that we do know enough about "what happens after death" to make a choice. For if Christianity is true, then those that seek shall find; and if not, then we need not concern ourselves any longer. But do not, any more, mistake the fact that each day a choice IS made, either to "take up your cross and follow me", or to reinforce a mindset that has no room for him.
  10. Jan 3, 2007 #9


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    Well then let us judge you on that. The choice isn't Christianity or bust.
  11. Jan 3, 2007 #10


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    I suspect that your views of people with religious beliefs are based on preconceptions you have of them.

    "...They base their entire lives..."
    "...they know nothing at all about..."
    "...fear of going to hell..."
    "...they get so worked up over something..."

    Are these their words, or your words?

    If you are interestred in understanding people with religious views, you should go to the source - make an effort to listen to what they have to say (and BTW, that doesn't mean you ask them leading questions which they then are supposed to defend, it means, they talk, in their words.)
  12. Jan 3, 2007 #11
    I used to be a christian. Me and my family and friends is where I got those words from. I was talking to one of my friends the other day and the exact words out of his mouth were "I dont wanna go to hell so I go to church". My friends and some of my family have had sex, never touched a beer, nothing.
    Also, how could we even know about afterlife and death? We have no knowledge whatsoever of an afterlife at all. You cant say itll be like before being born because we have no memory of what happened before we were born, we dont know about anything like that. The closest thing to nothingness would probably be deep sleep with no dreams, thats the closest I can think of to nothing atleast, no experience at all. The `religious` person I was talking about would be a diehard christian like some of the people I grew up with. I just think we dont have enough proof of anything to know too much.
  13. Jan 4, 2007 #12


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    I always wonder why people single out religion with these questions. People have all sorts of beliefs about all sorts of different things.
  14. Jan 4, 2007 #13
    I ask this because I dont really get why people would not do very joyful experiences in life because of a punishment that no human on this planet really knows will even happen.
  15. Jan 4, 2007 #14


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    If you think you have to be schtoinking your brains out while high on drugs and alcohol to be joyful, I feel very, very sorry for you.
  16. Jan 4, 2007 #15
    As a response to OP,

    First it must be recognized how hard it really can be to come in terms with your own mortality. If you spend enough time thinking about what it means to "not exist", you can become so conscious of your mortality that it becomes impossible to function as a human being. You can become too depressed of the fact that you'll never witness more than a very brief glimpse of reality.

    When people live in poor conditions where they see death everywhere, they will become more conscious of their own mortality, and you will see a sharp rise in religious thinking. Especially if the general education level is low, since then there is no good knowledge of the ideas that compete with religious ideas (like darwinism). Also many people become religious when they witness a death of a loved one, for the same reason; they cannot bear the idea that the other person is really gone.

    So it is not only appealing to believe in afterlife/reincarnation/whatever, but to some people it is absolutely necessary before they can overcome their depressions. This is basically why there exists religious ideas and philosophies at all. (i.e. "faith", as in "believing something without any evidence")

    Afterwards in the religious society the children obviously become indoctrinated to such worldviews also. When you learn at a certain age (around 6-7) that reality is such and such place, you will interpret many things around you accordingly, and it can become very difficult to see the world in different ways (See "Jesus Camp"). Apparently it is difficult to even see that had they been born to a family of different religion, surely they would have different beliefs. Seldomly does a muslim family get a christian son :) Also it shouldn't be that hard to see that such rules like the ten commandments are obviously man-made. In the grand scheme of things, why would an almighty god care if you fool around with your neighbour's wife? It is man who wishes to see these rules obeyed, not god.

    Yet another reason to the popularity of religious philosophies can be understood from an evolutionary perspective of memes; ideas. Every religion sees itself as good, and other ideas as corrupted and false ideas. Christianity includes the command to spread christianity itself to the world, on the basis that it will make world a better place. Whoever first wrote that surely believed this to be the case with the naive black & white worldview he had. But now we have bunch of religions that have this spread command in them one way or another, and they work like a virus.

    To reveal my angle on this, I'm an atheist. Or maybe not just an atheist but an anti-theist, meaning I think it is dangerous when people believe that the morality of god is over and beyond the morality of people.

    A religious person tends to believe there is such thing as universal good and universal evil, and since they themself always represent the good, they think it is a good deed to destroy the evil. Sure the bible says "Don't kill", but to them the end always justifies the means. Children tend to see the world in such black & white ways, but usually when you get older you start to see the world in shades of gray. Strong religious beliefs are based on the supposed existence of universal good & evil and thus a black & white worldview tends to persist to adulthood.

    An anti-theist like me believes there is no such thing as good and evil, there are only people with black & white views - thinking their end justifies any means - bashing each others. The only case of evil could be said to be wildly undue disrespect towards others, including running around killing each others in the name of "god's will".

    Related to this, it seems to me that many people who say they believe in god do not necessarily believe in god so much as they believe it is good for the world if everybody believed in god. You know, because they think the only reason for anyone to behave well is that they believe otherwise they go to hell. Because they don't believe people have their own morality apart from god's. Of course what actually happens is that many people become to put "god's morality" ahead that of their own... ...and again end up killing each others.

    Another bad thing is that while believing in afterlife can make a person happier, it also takes a way the sting from death. It also makes it more okay to kill and to be killed for your beliefs (suicide bombing etc). I think we definitely need that unbearable sting in death.

    Yet another related issue is this debate about creationism. One of the main reasons why some people push creationism so hard is that they believe it is good for the world if people believe they are responsible to "god the creator", and thus if people don't believe in creator, they will be free to behave "immorally". They are genuinely afraid of this, and you will hear many creationists make this assertion themselves.

    So in the end it all boils down to philosophy about morals of man.

    To hear more anti-theist views, google "Atheism tapes". You can find a transcript and probably even downloadable versions (There is no DVD on sale, these have only been broadcasted on TV AFAIK).

    Also you might enjoy William Blake's The Marriage of Heaven And Hell;

    The ancient Poets animated all sensible objects with Gods or Geniuses, calling them by the names and adorning them with the properties of woods, rivers, mountains, lakes, cities, nations, and whatever their enlarged & numerous senses could percieve.
    And particularly they studied the genius of each city & country, placing it under its mental deity;
    Till a system was formed, which some took advantage of & enslav'd the vulgar by attempting to realize or abstract the mental deities from their objects: thus began Priesthood;
    Choosing forms of worship from poetic tales.
    And at length they pronounc'd that the Gods had order'd such things.
    Thus men forgot that All deities reside in the human breast.
  17. Jan 4, 2007 #16
    The terms "religious" and "religion" appear to mean different things in past posts depending on the context of each. In certain cases, those terms have referred to a specific religious sect (i.e., the religion of Christianity or Islam, and "religious people" as Christians or Muslims). In other cases, the terms appear to refer to general ideas and beliefs, not necessarily those organized into a worldwide system. I have to confess that in a previous post I used the terms in both ways. That is to say, I defined the word religion to mean general convictions or beliefs, and then referred to myself as a "religious person" by which I meant, Christian. I realize now that I probably added more confusion than insight. I hope this post doesn't do the same.

    I've already mentioned that I'm a Christian, yet that term doesn't really explain much about my specific personal beliefs. For example, among those who fought the Crusades were people calling themselves "Christians". However, these same "Christians" acted in a way that violated many of the fundamental priciples which I build my "Christian" beliefs upon. The problem is that terms like "Christian", "Muslim", "Atheist", and "Anti-theist", simply do not explain an individual's specific beliefs. Instead, those terms become catch phrases whose meaning, I believe, can and have become blurred and indistinct.

    With that said, here is my point. Each of us must grapple with our own thoughts, ideas, convictions and beliefs. We cannot rely on what others believe, or on what we believe others believe, to convince us.

    Therefore, I am a Christian because I have, in a deeply personal way, become convinced of my need for Christ. I did not come to this conviction out of a fear of hell, or because of the faith of my parents, or because I couldn't face my own mortality. Those things, quite honestly, did not matter to me in the least. I was more concerned with the fact that my convictions and beliefs, many of which played out in my actions toward others, were hurting, in a very real and tangible way, both myself and those around me. AnssiH asked, "why would an almighty god care if you fool around with your neighbour's wife?" I can relate to the question. Yet, given the reality of the human suffering that oftentimes accompanies infidelity and sexual promiscuity, I have to wonder why an almighty God WOULD NOT care about such things. I was then, and am still, convinced that there is a right and a wrong side of certain issues, and at a very deep level, I want to know the right way and have the strength to do it.

    I do not believe that the religion called "Christianity" is necessarily good, but I can only describe the results of my faith in Christ as good. I attempt to live my life according to certain Biblical priciples, not because I think I have to in order to get to heaven, but because I sincerely believe that those principles describe the best way to live.

    So back to the original question with the hope of tying this all together. In my opinion, all people, be they Christian, Muslim, Atheist, Anti-atheist, Agnostics, Hindu, or anything else, accept their beliefs and convictions (I'll lump those into the catch-phrase 'religion') because of an internal satisfaction that those are the right beliefs and convictions to hold. When a person encounters a situation where their beliefs are stretched beyond the breaking point they may modify, or even abandon, their original beliefs until they, once again, are satisfied that they NOW hold the right and proper view.

    Finally, in those cases where someone attempts to prove their point by explaining the belief of someone else; saying, in essence, I believe in "name your own ism", but I knew a guy who thought this, or thinks that, or had/has these motives, I realize that it is pure speculation, and probably not worth getting worked up over.
  18. Jan 4, 2007 #17


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    But isn't it true that it has nothing to do with God then? This best way that you are living, wouldn't it still be the best way even if there was actually no God? If you contend that God is necessary to justify your best way then all pragmatism should go out the window. If it is pragmatically justifiable, surely God is irrelevant to the matter entirely.
  19. Jan 4, 2007 #18
    I did not try to go very far into the question of God's existence for a number of reasons. The main one being that the original question really centered on a person's acceptance of their religion. Beside that, I honestly don't know how, or when, or why, and even if circumstances in my life have anything to do with God. I BELIEVE that they do, but I cannot use that as an argument, or in an effort to satisfy the question.

    As you point out in your post, the question of God's involvement is closely related to the question of God's existance. And that is not something that can be answered or proven with logic, philosophy, science, or in this forum.

    I will say this much, that while I suppose there is a sense in which you could think of it as, "it has nothing to do with God...", that is not necessarily the ONLY conclusion you could draw, nor do I believe it to be the best one.
  20. Jan 4, 2007 #19
    I agree, religion was basically made to keep control of people and to scare them into not doing things that are bad in their eyes. I just have a hard time believing god created this universe. I mean, humans cant even begin to comprehend the size of this place. Now I surely dont know how big god is or if he even exists but why he would care about insignificant little chemical scum like us I would never know. With what we have right now there is no possible way to know if god or any higher life form even truly exists at all in this universe. I dont know about other dimensions and if theyre even real but with the new particle accelerator theres talk of seeing new dimensions or something like that.
  21. Jan 4, 2007 #20
    Yeah, all religions are basically attempts to give people some principles that describe a best way to live, kind of guide people to be unselfish for the good of everyone. It is simple to way to govern people by telling them "this and this is what God wants".

    However, judging from your post, I'm sure you are actually also capable of thinking in more complex terms, and you don't really need to suppose there is a God who wants you to act this or that way, and will punish you for not doing so. But many people suppose God's will is really true, and this is the worrying part.

    For example, since we already mentioned "fooling around with your neighbour's wife", what if you, she, and he are all perfectly okay with it, and thus by fooling around you are just making people, yourself included, happier in their lives. Then fooling around wouldn't be selfish act anymore, and in your philosophy you probably would consider this as something desirable, but someone who truly believes in universal morality or "god's will", would consider this to be bad without any excuses.

    This is why I asked "why would god care?". It is one thing to act selfishly and another to act against God's will. There are plenty of real-world examples. Why would God care if someone is gay? Hey, if it makes some people happy, and doesn't actually cause any harm to anyone else, why not? Yet we have guys like Ted Haggard trying to bash homosexuality while being tormented by their own homosexual desires. This asks for some serious conviction towards some supposed "God's will".

    Check out "God who wasn't there" for more comments from people who were tormented by their own (unharmful) desires because they were taught to believe certain will of God.

    You are right of course in that atheism and anti-theism is also basically a set of beliefs. The actual distinction between what I call "religious philosophy" and "atheistic philosophy" is that in the latter the morality of man is king. In atheism everything aims to make people happy (in this life), nothing aims to make God happy. At the extreme forms of religious fanaticism this distinction becomes clearer, but also oftentimes antitheists like me see all forms of institutionalized religion as fertile ground for religious fanaticism; for beliefs that God's will must be met even if it means real people will become unhappy or even killed. Although I admit this is largely because of fear of what religious fanaticism can do. (And also depression about having to live in a world where people still subject themselves to nutty rituals out of blind faith)

    What is interesting in Blake's Marriage of Heaven and Hell is that it is basically describing an atheistic philosophy, in the sense that he questions the sensibility of seizing your own desires and playing down man's own morality (this of course entails more complex philosophy than just following a set of "God's rules" blindly, and as such actually requires the follower to understand philosophy and probably be somewhat educated, which is not to say religious persons cannot be educated and smart)

    Without Contraries is no progression. Attraction and Repulsion, Reason and Energy, Love and Hate, are necessary to Human existence.
    From these contraries spring what the religious call Good & Evil. Good is the passive that obeys Reason. Evil is the active springing from Energy.
    Good is Heaven. Evil is Hell.

    All Bibles or sacred codes have been the causes of the following Errors.
    1. That Man has two real existing principles Viz: a Body & a Soul.
    2. That Energy, call'd Evil, is alone from the Body, & that Reason, call'd Good, is alone from the Soul.
    3. That God will torment Man in Eternity for following his Energies.

    But the following Contraries to these are True

    1. Man has no Body distinct from his Soul for that call'd Body is a portion of Soul discern'd by the five Senses, the chief inlets of Soul in this age
    2. Energy is the only life and is from the Body and Reason is the bound or outward circumference of Energy.
    3 Energy is Eternal Delight

    This is basically relevant literature to the OP :)
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