March 17th, 2011
12:55 PM ET

TIME: How our brains predispose us to believe

Psychologist Jesse Bering is best known for his often risqué (and sometimes NSFW) Bering in Mind blog for Scientific American, which examines human behavior — frequently of the sexual sort.

But he's also the director of the Institute for Cognition and Culture at Queen's University in Belfast and his new book, The Belief Instinct, examines an entirely different subject: why our brains may be adapted to believe in gods, souls and ghosts.

Read the full story about our brains and belief on TIME.com
- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Belief • Culture & Science

soundoff (188 Responses)
  1. Seamus McDermott

    Religion appears to have brought us wall-to-wall kookiness.
    Dr. Berring is reaching far, far too far in making his assertions without any real clinical evidence to support his idea and a lot of evidence to the contrary.

    March 27, 2011 at 7:28 pm |
  2. Muneef

    Al-Ikhlas (Faith) sura 112:
    In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful
    Say: He is Allah, the One! (1) Allah, the eternally Besought of all! (2) He begetteth not nor was begotten. (3) And there is none comparable unto Him. (4).

    Al-Baqara (The Cow) sura 02:
    Allah! There is no God save Him, the Alive, the Eternal. Neither slumber nor sleep overtaketh Him. Unto Him belongeth whatsoever is in the heavens and whatsoever is in the earth. Who is he that intercedeth with Him save by His leave? He knoweth that which is in front of them and that which is behind them, while they encompass nothing of His knowledge save what He will. His throne includeth the heavens and the earth, and He is never weary of preserving them. He is the Sublime, the Tremendous. (255) There is no compulsion in religion. The right direction is henceforth distinct from error. And he who rejecteth false deities and believeth in Allah hath grasped a firm handhold which will never break. Allah is Hearer, Knower. (256) Allah is the Protecting Guardian of those who believe. He bringeth them out of darkness into light. As for those who disbelieve, their patrons are false deities. They bring them out of light into darkness. Such are rightful owners of the Fire. They will abide therein. (257).

    Al-Baqara sura 02:
    "Alif. Lam. Mim. (1) This is the Scripture whereof there is no doubt, a guidance unto those who ward off (evil). (2) Who believe in the Unseen, and establish worship, and spend of that We have bestowed upon them; (3) And who believe in that which is revealed unto thee (Muhammad) and that which was revealed before thee, and are certain of the Hereafter. (4) These depend on guidance from their Lord. These are the successful. (5)". 

    Al-Baqara sura 02:
    "The messenger believeth in that which hath been revealed unto him from his Lord and (so do) believers. Each one believeth in Allah and His angels and His scriptures and His messengers – We make no distinction between any of His messengers – and they say: We hear, and we obey. (Grant us) Thy forgiveness, our Lord. Unto Thee is the journeying. (285) Allah tasketh not a soul beyond its scope. For it (is only) that which it hath earned, and against it (only) that which it hath deserved. Our Lord! Condemn us not if we forget, or miss the mark! Our Lord! Lay not on us such a burden as thou didst lay on those before us! Our Lord! Impose not on us that which we have not the strength to bear! Pardon us, absolve us and have mercy on us, Thou, our Protector, and give us victory over the disbelieving folk. (286)".


    March 23, 2011 at 8:30 pm |
    • Jason

      Allah can't be God, he contradicts himself in the quran, one part endorses, the other condemnts Jesus, how can it be right if it violates the law of noncontradiction. Or worse that the quaran can change. The Bible, is the word of God that changes not. Sorry it doesn't comport with the origin of Logic, IE the biblical God

      March 24, 2011 at 11:33 am |
  3. Muneef

    Al-Anaam sura 06:
    In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful
    Yet they ascribe as partners unto Him the jinn, although He did create them, and impute falsely, without knowledge, sons and daughters unto Him. Glorified be He and high exalted above (all) that they ascribe (unto Him). (100) The Originator of the heavens and the earth! How can He have a child, when there is for Him no consort, when He created all things and is Aware of all things? (101) Such is Allah, your Lord. There is no God save Him, the Creator of all things, so worship Him. And He taketh care of all things. (102) Vision comprehendeth Him not, but He comprehendeth (all) vision. He is the Subtile, the Aware. (103) Proofs have come unto you from your Lord, so whoso seeth, it is for his own good, and whoso is blind is blind to his own hurt. And I am not a keeper over you. (104) Thus do We display Our revelations that they may say (unto thee, Muhammad): "Thou hast studied," and that We may make (it) clear for people who have knowledge. (105) Follow that which is inspired in thee from thy Lord; there is no God save Him; and turn away from the idolaters. (106).

    Hud sura 11:
    In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful
    And he said: Embark therein! In the name of Allah be its course and its mooring. Lo! my Lord is Forgiving, Merciful. (41) And it sailed with them amid waves like mountains, and Noah cried unto his son – and he was standing aloof – O my son! Come ride with us, and be not with the disbelievers. (42) He said: I shall betake me to some mountain that will save me from the water. (Noah) said: This day there is none that saveth from the commandment of Allah save him on whom He hath had mercy. And the wave came in between them, so he was among the drowned. (43) And it was said: O earth! Swallow thy water and, O sky! be cleared of clouds! And the water was made to subside. And the commandment was fulfilled. And it (the ship) came to rest upon (the mount) Al-Judi and it was said: A far removal for wrongdoing folk! (44).  

    March 21, 2011 at 7:22 pm |
  4. Reality

    Using our brains:

    The Apostles' Creed 2011: (updated based on the studies of historians and theologians during the past 200 years-)

    I might believe in a god whose existence cannot be proven
    and said god if he/she/it exists resides in an unproven,
    human-created, spirit state of bliss called heaven.

    I believe there was a 1st century CE, Jewish, simple,
    preacher-man who was conceived by a Jewish carpenter
    named Joseph living in Nazareth and born of a young Jewish
    girl named Mary. (Some say he was a mamzer.)

    Jesus was summarily crucified for being a temple rabble-rouser by
    the Roman troops in Jerusalem serving under Pontius Pilate,

    He was buried in an unmarked grave and still lies
    a-mouldering in the ground somewhere outside of

    Said Jesus' story was embellished and "mythicized" by
    many semi-fiction writers. A bodily resurrection and
    ascension stories were promulgated to compete with the
    Caesar myths. Said stories were so popular that they
    grew into a religion known today as Catholicism/Christianity
    and featuring dark-age, daily wine to blood and bread to body rituals
    called the eucharistic sacrifice of the non-atoning Jesus.


    March 21, 2011 at 7:56 am |
    • Muneef

      Our brains have been abused;

      What is happening today among Muslims is above Islam which is being blamed for,for example take the wars Muslims against Muslims all through history when were kingdoms and empires.

      Recent history the hot and cold wars between sunnies and shiaa's (Iraq vs Iran)(Iraq vs Kuwait)(Yemen civil wars) and so on a list can be made ! Although we were told that the Muslim has a right against Muslims;


      What ever is happening is nothing of Islam. A Muslim calling a Muslim as infidel for having difference of opinions in between, is not of Islam...!!! What is happening is evil teachings that are non of Quran of Islam...

      Those who allowed them self to spill blood of a Muslim for any reason religious or non religious, will not mind spilling bloods of any people Muslims or non for any reason they will invent because they became as addicted as those playing it video games on play stations...
      What is happening to the world? The whole world was brainwashed with video games and play stations of making a kill by wars from street wars to army wars? Sad to see most have it as Arabs and Muslims being the enemy calling Allah Akbar with each terror move? Allah Akbar and kill the infidel was a recorded message in an imported children toy guns and pistols,the recording plays sound of shooting and back ground voice shouting these things ! Aren't such games considered as brain washing kids,teaching them violence. 
      Toy companies has marketed for violence and wars more than any other games,same was for the film industry that had added to that violence education...
      Read once about an Indian immigrant family living in America,who's young boy of theirs was addicted to a game that has a man using hooky stick to kill people...as learnt from the game he prepared the hooky stick killing his father,mother,young sister and run away back to collage pretending not to know until the neighbors smelled the rotting corpuses called the police to find rooms filled with flys....
      What generations we prepared for are the ones who we are to meet sooner or later.                     

      March 22, 2011 at 6:12 pm |
  5. AlltheProofYouNeed


    March 20, 2011 at 10:09 pm |
    • Jason

      Ah! finally, as Karl Popper would write, we have inborn expectations! I would say that's the knowledge of God, and the image of God imprinted on every man, woman, and child. That's why the Scientific Method is a logical fallacy but works so well... hmmmm

      March 24, 2011 at 11:31 am |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.