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Study: Analytic thinking can decrease religious belief
An exhibit of Rodin's "The Thinker."
April 27th, 2012
04:01 PM ET

Study: Analytic thinking can decrease religious belief

By Becky Perlow, CNN

(CNN) - When was the last time you sat down and questioned your decision to believe in God?

According to a new study, that simple act could decrease your religious conviction – even if you’re a devout believer.

In the study, published Friday in the journal Science, researchers from Canada’s University of British Columbia used subtle stimuli to encourage analytical thinking. Results from the study found that analytical thinking could decrease religious belief.

“Religious belief is intuitive - and analytical thinking can undermine intuitive thinking,” said Ara Norenzayan, co-author of the study. “So when people are encouraged to think analytically, it can block intuitive thinking.”

CNN’s Belief Blog: The faith angles behind the biggest stories

Some of the more than 650 Canadian and American participants in the study were shown images of artwork that encouraged analytic thinking, while another group was shown images that were not intended to produce such thinking.

One of the images used to trigger analytic thinking was of Rodin’s statue “The Thinker.” A previous study showed that such images improved performance on tests that indicate analytic thinking.

In addition to the artwork images, the religion study used other stimuli to promote analytical thinking.

After exposure to such stimuli, researchers gauged participants’ religious beliefs through a series of questions. Subjects who had performed analytical tasks were more likely to experience a decrease in religious belief than those who were not involved in such tasks. That included devout believers.

“There’s much more instability to religious belief than we recognize,” said Norenzayan, noting that life’s circumstances and experiences, from traumatic events to joyous occasions, can lead people to become more or less religious.

“Religion is such an important part of the world and we have so little understanding of it,” he added. “So regardless of what you think about religion, it’s important to understand it because it’s so important in the world.”

Norenzayan is quick to mention that the experiments did not turn devout believers into total atheists. But he speculated that if people habitually think analytically, like scientists or lawyers do, it would lead to less religious belief in the long run.

Robert McCauley, director of the Center for Mind, Brain and Culture at Emory University, and author of "Why religion is natural and science is not," found the study particularly interesting because he thought it was difficult to make even a minimal change in religious belief.

“It’s not likely you would argue someone out of a religious belief very often because they don’t hold those beliefs on argumentative or reflective grounds in the first place,” said McCauley, who believes religious beliefs rely primarily on intuitive thinking.

Analytical thinking alone does not necessarily lead to a decrease in religious belief, emphasized Norenzayan.

“There’s a combination of factors [as to] why people become believers or nonbelievers - this is only one piece of the puzzle,” Norenzayan said, explaining that his team doesn’t think analytical thinking is superior to intuitive thinking.

“It makes the story we need to tell about religion and religious belief all the more complicated,” said McCauley. “That’s what great scientific research does – ask more interesting questions.”

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Belief • Culture & Science

soundoff (3,468 Responses)
  1. Nii

    CQ
    U r confusing spiritual experience with religious exerience. Religious experience seeks to inspire spiritual experience. The god does not matter. There's only one spirituality but many religions. What Christ came to teach was spirituality not religion and other religious leaders too.

    May 2, 2012 at 5:27 am |
    • No Truth, Just Claims

      "There is only one spirituality"

      Prove it, you make all kinds of claims, how do you know there is only 1? The bottom line is you will make the CLAIM there is only 1 but you will not have a real fact to base it on. If you say it can't be proven don't even reply.

      Jesus is based on the bible and the bible is full of contradictions, killing, misogyny. It is the last place to go if you want to discover truth.

      May 2, 2012 at 9:53 am |
    • Cq

      Nii
      Perhaps there is only one spirituality, but many places in which to find it. Thus Carl Sagan's depth of emotion over the vast cosmos is really the same thing as the young evangelical's adoration of Christ, the Mexican Catholic's idea of the magnificence of the Lady, the wicca's understanding of how everything is connected, the fly fisherman's love of the river, what the quarterback feels as his long pass connects with the receiver's fingers, and so on. Just a feeling, inspired by whatever the individual feels in awe of. No God necessary.

      May 2, 2012 at 4:49 pm |
  2. AtheismIsCrap

    Atheists thought they have anlytical thinking ability. They are wrong!

    The thing at the end their necks is oozing and not working.

    May 2, 2012 at 5:12 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      This study would suggest otherwise. I’d be interested if you can post a link to another study that contradicts this one.

      May 2, 2012 at 8:48 am |
    • No Truth, Just Claims

      It's working, it's not my neck though......

      May 3, 2012 at 1:10 am |
  3. Nii

    CQ
    Its not necessarily true that all gods must be valid for us to have a trinitarian personality. This is psychology not religion. Religion is an application of psychology. God is all gods tho not all gods r him. Every spiritual experience is valid. The god who inspires it is up for grabs.

    May 2, 2012 at 3:44 am |
    • Cq

      Nii
      A trinitarian personality, in a human being, would be akin to split personality disorder, yes? Most other gods just behaved like super humans, still keeping their one personality. Psychologically speaking, they are healthier than God. This is the innate problem with putting all of your gods in one deity basket, so to speak. Good and evil spring from the same well. Of course, Christians have tried to give God what we call "plausible deniability" by inventing Satan as the bad guy, although in a weird, unconvincing way.

      May 2, 2012 at 7:16 pm |
  4. Nii

    Cq
    A devout man is like Blaise Pascal. He analytically considers his faith. There is no way to tell them that will make them lose faith cos they have passed through the religious(ritual only), pious(dogma n ritual only) to reach the spiritual(love, dogma and ritual) phase. They r not close-minded.

    May 2, 2012 at 2:37 am |
    • Cq

      Nii
      When Pascal contemplated what the consequences would be should he be wrong, he failed to see the price of belief should God prove to be a myth. Faith is not free. It's not a simple matter of saying to yourself "I believe in God" and keeping it a secret to yourself, right? A "true" Christian proclaims their belief, and seeks out to convert others. They support the clergy and all it's projects, even the ones they wouldn't otherwise think honest or ethical if it weren't for the belief that God so wishes it. They even condemn the people and things that clergy direct them to based on this belief, right?

      So, should one be actually be wrong, and God does not exist, all of this was a waste, and even hurtful to others. The condemnation of gays, nonbelievers, and other "enemies" of the faith would then be just harm done to others. Do you think that Pascal allowed himself to consider this?

      May 2, 2012 at 5:14 pm |
  5. blackluke8

    Any intellectually honest person who commits themselves to analytic thought will ultimately come full circle to the wisdom in the Bible and belief in something greater than themselves.

    May 1, 2012 at 10:55 pm |
    • Cq

      Why believe in a supernatural being when there are lots of reasonable things to believe in greater than ourselves, like truth, justice, and the American Way. Hey, if it's good enough for Superman... 🙂

      Seriously, though, there are lots of real things greater than the individual to believe in, so arguing that God is the only game in town is just ridiculous.

      May 1, 2012 at 11:46 pm |
    • GodFreeNow

      Really? Riddle me this batman... how intellectually honest is it to accept something to which there is no evidence in the face of evidence to the contrary. How intellectually honest is it to make claims about the afterlife when no man can say what if anything exists beyond death?

      May 1, 2012 at 11:47 pm |
    • fred

      GodFree now
      Bam Pop zap ! Atheists have the same problem: you lack any evidence that nothingness awaits you upon death, no evidence that a bat and a man suffer the same meaningless existence and no evidence whatsoever as to the origin of life.

      May 1, 2012 at 11:51 pm |
    • GodFreeNow

      @fred, The difference is we don't jump to conclusions using reductive logic and pretend like we do know. That's the job of religion. You may see that as a problem. Personally I find the challenge of problems to be more honest than easy answers and solutions.

      May 1, 2012 at 11:55 pm |
    • fred

      GodFreeNow
      Your reductive logic is mainly about mathematics and computation which cannot yield proofs that are predicated upon faith. Consider that God spoke the world into existence according to the Hebrew Bible and the majority of various religions based upon the God of Abraham. Personally I find the Bible remarkable in the maze a non believer finds himself when attempting to approach God by any means other than that specified. It defies logic with Divine Character.

      May 2, 2012 at 12:14 am |
    • GodFreeNow

      @fred, I guess you don't really understand what reductive logic is. It's clear that you've deluded yourself into a convenient perspective that furthers the story you've created in your head. If I point out to you the fact that the universe exists in a balance of maths that if they off by any digits the universe as we know it could not exist—therefore if god did speak the universe into existence then he is confined by those maths. You will probably use that to say, god created the math too and then based the universe on it. To which I would say, why not just choose whole numbers instead of these absurd fractions? If I'm god, why should I make it overly complicated when I have the power to make it simple. So, who is jumping to conclusions here? Who is constantly needing to explain the actions of god, as opposed to accepting the simple reality of what is. This is what is referred to as "circular reasoning" if you're keeping score at home.

      May 2, 2012 at 12:35 am |
    • Cq

      fred
      We have no evidence against reincarnation either. So, does that make it a 33% chance that there will be nothing, an afterlife, or reincarnation after death? There are also dozens of recorded afterlives amongst the world's religions, and likely may more alternative ideas about what happens after death. Maybe we become stars in the universe, or atoms on a dog's back. The sky's the limit on possibilities, so stop presenting this as a choice between atheism and Christian beliefs when it actually isn't.

      May 2, 2012 at 1:03 am |
    • fred

      Cq
      It is a simple choice between accepting God or rejecting God. Probability calculations are little value when it comes to faith. The Bible says to each is given a measure of faith. Should you reach that point where you seek God it will not be a mathematical function.

      May 2, 2012 at 1:33 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      @Fred
      > atheists have the same problem: you lack any evidence

      Its amazing people still buy into that line of thought. Atheist need not provide proof. A LACK of belief does not require evidence. This horse has been beaten into the ground and yet…. Here you are. Lack of proof that god isn’t real is referred to as proving a negative and in of itself is not proof otherwise. Simply put… lack of proof that something isn’t real is NOT proof it is real. UFOs, Big Foot and the Loch Ness Monster all have more physical evidence and eye witness than ‘god’.

      And with that the rest of your argument is moot.

      May 2, 2012 at 8:56 am |
    • fred

      Tom Tom
      I am not suggesting you prove a negative. I am saying that when an atheist claims nothingness awaits after death they have no more scientific poof to back that belief as does a Christian claiming a specific form of heaven awaits. Christians and atheists have the same scientific proof supporting the origin of life – none. If you are aware of some I would be very interested.

      May 2, 2012 at 2:31 pm |
    • Cq

      fred
      Choosing to seek God is wanting to become a Christian, right? So, wouldn't converting to any other religion be as simple a choice as converting to Christianity, if you really wanted to?

      May 2, 2012 at 6:47 pm |
    • fred

      Cq
      The Christian assumption is that no one comes to God unless God gives them a nudge. In my case it was Christian. The rich young ruler wanted to follow Christ and even did all the things Christians do but, he could not let go of something more important to him than Christ.
      Converting to any other religion is too broad a statement as religions often have a stack of requirements. Judaism still requires circu-mcision for example. Islam is the fastest growing by conversion and is as easy as saying there is no God except Allah and Mohammad is his messenger. So, yes many are as simple as a choice for Christ.

      May 2, 2012 at 7:36 pm |
    • Cq

      fred
      Ah, predestination. Yet, if God selects only those who will end up believing in him, giving them special information that he withholds from the rest of us, how fair is it then of him to let nonbelievers go to hell?

      Also, I think you are downplaying how much a commitment being a Muslim actually is. Remember that baptism is also a very easy way to symbolize entry into a faith.

      May 3, 2012 at 12:16 am |
    • fred

      Cq
      Predestination is not quite the right view. God knows those he has called from the beginning of creation that will respond. We do not know that or God until such a time as we elect (believe) to accept this gift from God. Once we choose from our free will to be in Christ is when we see that we were written in the book of life. In the case of Saul of Tarsus he had to be knocked of his high horse. Even that was not predestination yet, because Saul actually had to believe first.
      I would agree that it does not seem fair that some appear to get a little more help than others. On the other hand we are not held accountable for what we do not know and “to him who much is given much is expected”. Keeping you in the dark if God knew you would never bow to begin with is in fact a blessing to you. God typically leans towards blessing the creation. Hell is reserved for Satan and his demons and we really do not know what the outcome is for those that were never given a chance.

      May 3, 2012 at 1:55 am |
    • Cq

      fred
      So, let me guess, it's safer then to choose to believe in God first, just in case you happen to be one of the chosen few who will respond. Maybe best to give it a couple of tries, just in case you weren't ready when you were younger, right?

      This would all appear to be a rather convenient way to get people to take the leap and blindly believe in God, wouldn't you say? Reminds me of buying lottery tickets. You'll never know if you're a winner unless you play and buy a ticket, or two, or twenty... You just have to have faith that you will win the big jackpot, eventually. Nothing wrong with that except, you know, the whole gambling addiction thing, and nothing wrong with trying to be a good Christian except, you know, all the heartbreak if you can't manage to live up to what people expect a "good Christian" to be. Heavy cost of faith; something Pascal never mentions when presenting his wager. Must have slipped his mind, I suppose?

      Regarding Hell there are plenty of Christians on this board who will gleefully inform you that all of us who criticize Christianity will someday burn. They KNOW this, and you can almost imagine them salivating at the thought. Since the implication is that only the very worse people imaginable would deserve such treatment, and some even say outright that we atheists must be horrible people, would you consider such talk "hate speech"?

      May 3, 2012 at 11:22 am |
    • fred

      Cq
      Hate speech it is and Jesus said if you think hateful thoughts in your heart you are guilty of murder. Jesus stepped everything up a notch from the physical outward acts and judgments to the inner soul that makes a man. The Bible is a graphic representation of man as he was and is to this day. It is the chosen ones that God was bringing through this journey to the Promised Land that exhibited the same ugliness as the heathens they detested. Jesus a man was filled with the Spirit of God and a full representation of Gods radiance. When Jesus was mocked, beaten, scourged and nailed to the cross that also was a graphic representation of what man, including the chosen ones, do to others and God. It was a graphic representation of what sin is, what sin looks like on man and how God sees it from above. I do not know how God could be any clearer as to the nature of sin and its consequence.
      As to belief I doubt you could decide today I will believe and start doing this Christian stuff. A lot of Christians go through the motions but, eventually walk away because they never experienced God. To obey is not hard work that man can do apart from Christ imparting the ability to accomplish it. This goes back to the Old Testament law that basically established standards man never could accomplish so there was a constant atonement for failure. I doubt Pascal’s Wager takes into full account it is the grace and mercy of God not the efforts or thoughts of man that gets one through that narrow gate. The Bible appears to make it clear man just cannot get into the Kingdom unless God picks him up and brings him through. This total dependence upon God separates the goats from the sheep.
      Is there hope? Certainly, that criminal on the cross next to Jesus protested to other that mocked Jesus “don’t you even fear God when you are dying? We deserve this for our evil but, this man has not done one thing wrong” then he said to Jesus “remember me when you come into your Kingdom”
      Jesus replied “Today you will be with me in Paradise. This is a solemn promise”

      May 3, 2012 at 1:11 pm |
    • Cq

      fred
      Yet, were the "heathens" truly bad people? Sure there were cults that sacrificed humans, but this was not everyone in the ancient world outside of Judaism. Certainly most Romans citizens did not do this as is evidenced by their reported repulsion of the "eating of the body and blood" during Christian worship. Surely the death by crucifixion was harsh, but what of the Hebrew treatment of the various Canaanite tribes as the ethnic cleansed the Promised Land?

      Balancing against the evil God himself dealt to others the beating death of Jesus serves as a poor analogy for "sin". Yet, Jesus as a sacrifice for sin was a neat way to spin his being hanged from a tree, which made him ritually unclean and thus exempt from being an anointed of God. That, and the fact that Jesus failed to fulfill all of the messianic expectations. There was no world peace, or gathering of all Jews during his lifetime.

      Pascal's Wager implies that faith can be turned on and off like a switch, and we both see this as ridiculous, right? This leaves us with an elite, or at least the folks who feel they are part of an elite, and everyone else. History tells us that an elite, feeling ent.it.ed and amongst "enemies", is a very dangerous combination. Tell me, do you think it possible that such people could be stirred from the pulpits to overthrow the government, or commit violence? Individuals have, and Christians have quickly disowned them, but what of large groups?

      May 3, 2012 at 3:15 pm |
    • fred

      Cq
      Certainly, the treatment of enemies was ruthless in those days and God allowed it just as atrocities are allowed to this day. It is the nature of man to do such things and the nature of God to allow it up to a point. Messianic expectations were diverse at the time of Jesus such that I doubt we could arrive at any better conclusion than Jesus did not fit the expectations of many sects. As to anointing, given that the Sanhedrin did not even follow their own laws regarding the trial of Jesus, why would we think their traditions of who is and is not anointed had any validity? Considering Jesus on the cross a spin to cover up a problem of anointing makes no sense as the entire point of Jesus life was to be sacrificed on the cross by the very chosen ones that had practiced this tradition since Exodus. The entire story of Jesus would need to be deemed a made up story for some purpose 300 years later.
      I agree it only takes a common enemy and fear to unite a large group against another as shown in history.

      May 3, 2012 at 5:28 pm |
    • Cq

      fred
      God not only allowed it, he directed it, or have you forgotten the biblical narrative of Israel conquering the promised land?

      I speak of messianic expectations listed in the same books that Christians cite in favor of Jesus. If we are talking about "sects" then we have mainstream Judaism expecting more from an anointed and Jesus only being mistaken for one by a small, fringe group. This, indeed, may have been the case.

      Who would have witnessed the trial of Jesus before the Sanhedrin? All of Jesus' followers ran away, right? So, were the trials, and they increase in number the later the gospel, the product of second-hand gossip from servants and guards, or were they merely the product of fiction writing? And why would Pontius Pilate or Herod have bothered to try him? From Josephus' account of Pilate he was not one to be cowed by anyone. No, the whole thing stinks of fiction. Jesus was simply rounded up and hung like so many others before, and after him at the first smell of his being a leader with people calling him anointed.

      You see Jesus as Christ and interpret the events by that definition, but I am arguing that perhaps the idea of his being a sacrifice evolved from the need to spin his death in a positive way, see? What was practiced since Exodus is the scape goat passing of sin. Still, they did have plenty of time to embellish the story, making up details to fit prophecy, didn't they?

      May 3, 2012 at 6:32 pm |
    • fred

      Cq
      We have 7 key letters from the Apostle Paul that are considered genuine by ALL reputable scholars. The dates of these letters are agreed to also beginning with Thessalonians in 51AD. With the remaining letters dated 52-58AD. I am not bringing in any letters here which are not extant or conain possible forgery or "additions" after the fact. They are as they were and without doubt.
      Now, exactly what is the conspiracy story you suggest that in 51 AD would have resulted in Paul taking the lead as conspirator and hero? Paul a devout Jew and persecutor of the Christian paid a serious price over an extended period of time yet stuck with the story track onto death. Ah consider it pure joy to be beaten for the sake of Christ.

      May 3, 2012 at 7:45 pm |
    • Cq

      fred
      There were fantastic stories told about Davy Crockett and Elvis during their won lifetimes, so you cannot argue that 20 odd years was too early for legend to creep into the story. Besides, Paul wasn't interested in storytelling about Jesus, was he? He gives no details, not that he would have any to give. He never knew Jesus when he was alive. He has some strange ideas about who Jesus was and what his mission was, ideas that put him at odds with the apostles who actually lived, learned and were commissioned by Jesus. They wanted to keep the movement Jewish. Paul wanted to bring it to gentiles. Maybe this is where the Jewish idea of "son of God" got mixed up with the Greek idea of a god's human son, like Hercules? Maybe he never stopped persecuting those Jewish Christians?

      What I was mostly referring to were the gospel accounts which get ever more elaborate as you pass from Mark, to Matthew and Luke, and then on to John. There is a clear progression of ever more fantastic events and claims surrounding Jesus. His evolution to being seen as divine stands out very clearly.

      May 4, 2012 at 12:22 am |
    • fred

      Cq
      Seems you go to great lengths to justify there must have been some other reason for the greatest story ever told other than what we have been told. One would think the default position would be this is what we have until proven otherwise. We have 25,000 some odd manuscripts and the Dead Sea Scrolls to start with. I am just beginning with what is known extant antiquity from Paul. What Paul says pretty well jells with the other accounts. We have a bunch of guys that died for this Jesus some were with Jesus others heard first hand confirming the basics. Now, if I heard of a good reason why this bunch would bother to start Christianity in a Jewish / pagan environment I may take another look but I have yet to hear any good reason yet alone one that is verifiable.

      May 4, 2012 at 8:48 am |
    • Cq

      fred
      If you want to argue for a "believe until proven otherwise" default position for ancient writings then we should apply this evenly, right? Are you ready to believe in Zeus, Medusa, Horus, Baal, Hercules, or other great stories like the Odyssey and the Aeneid? I'm not going to any "lengths" to see the similarities between these and the Christian scriptures. They are easy to see.

      The world's oldest Bible, the Codex Sinaiticus, has 27,000 "corrections" and includes the Epistle of Apostle Barnabas and the Shepherd of Hermas, two books that didn't make it in the final cut. It's from the 4th century, which only demonstrates how much the Bible evolved since Jesus died. When the canon finally was decided upon it was by church leaders who only accepted books that matched their theology. Are you telling me that you have confidence that a collection of books which was being molded for hundreds of years accurately describes the events and ideas surrounding Jesus?

      May 4, 2012 at 11:30 am |
  6. TheWHO

    "Never let yourself be diverted by what you wish to believe, but look only and solely at what are the facts and what are the truths that the facts bare out." "Love is wise hatred is foolish." – Two wonderful quotes from a wonderful man by the name of Betrand Russell. When a "personal" god becomes a public one by individuals that sling hate filled rhetoric at people with good humanist intentions I'm then inclined to believe that you might not truly believe what you say, you may only wish to believe it. Becoming a student of History and Critical Thinking, then maintaining the education provided will free you of any ideologies that should have been left with our distant past. The story is written to keep you ignorant and submissive – the life of a slave, being then tethered to a character that at once demands you to love him and on another hand demands you to fear him – the essence of sadomasochism.

    May 1, 2012 at 8:06 pm |
  7. Joe Peterson

    Yep and wiothout intuitive leaps science/tech would be years behind.

    May 1, 2012 at 7:34 pm |
    • n8263

      Without analytical thinking we would not even have science.

      May 1, 2012 at 8:58 pm |
    • Cq

      But, the only intuitive leaps that you ever hear about in scientific circles are the ones that end up being proven correct. The ones that weren't were abandoned. Too bad religion doesn't self-correct like this? Way too many unsubstantiated claims being passed off as "truth" in that field.

      May 1, 2012 at 11:53 pm |
    • fred

      Cq
      Saul of Tarsus put all the other gods in their place when he went to the Greeks and compared their gods with the living God. Easy to spot the man made gods.

      May 1, 2012 at 11:56 pm |
    • GodFreeNow

      @fred, ALL gods are man made. That's why all gods are anthropomorphized. In your mind you have an image of what god is. It's a picture you've created. Just like everyone else that believes in god, you have a god box in your brain. In this box, you define what god is, what he isn't. You in your great human capacity still believe you can on some level know what god is or is not. That's why you comment on these posts and correct people's interpretations. This is so silly, I wonder if you can see the truth of it. God is the voice in your head.

      May 2, 2012 at 12:15 am |
    • Cq

      fred
      How is it easy to spot them? And how do you know Paul did this? Because the Bible mentions it in passing? Does it summarize his debate with the pagans so that we can judge for ourselves who was the winner, or do you just accept this on blind faith?

      May 2, 2012 at 12:56 am |
    • fred

      GodFreeNow
      Actually, that is a key reason my God box continues to hold onto the God of Abraham. Right up front it is made clear that man cannot know the mind of God. God is revealed over time through the patterns of the natural world and the patterns of the “chosen people” over their journey as revealed in the Bible. Christ in sharp contrast did not appear as the great King from the line of David expected by these “chosen ones” rather the Lamb of God. Generations of tradition and ceremony surrounding the blood sacrafice yet, they themselves carried out the sacrifice of the perfect lamb without blemish oblivious to what they were doing. “Father forgive them for they know not what they do” was the prayer of Christ. The Bible if nothing else is a true representation of the condition of fallen man in the absence of unity with the only God revealed to them. The patterns remain the same to this day. How is it your reductive reasoning cannot observe simple repet-itive patterns. If an alien from outerspace sent you the same repeti-tive pattern for 6,000 years one would think you would attempt to respond.
      God is a voice in your head, in your Bible and in your Western World View.

      May 2, 2012 at 1:05 am |
    • fred

      Cq
      With respect to Paul and his mission to Athens yes, those parts I accept on blind faith as there is no proof outside the words in Acts. The power was in the delivery of the message for those that followed and continued with the formation of the Church. Not much of a debate for us to judge either just Paul expressing what happened.
      The gods of time were made of gold, silver and carried about by man. Paul’s argument was simple in that God cannot be contained in a temple or formed by minds and hands of man with manmade materials. He then referred to the monument of the unknown god of the Greeks vs. God who was known. The biggest factor would be that we serve a living God.
      In my case I would never have believed without having had a personal experience with God just as Jesus described it. It is that personal experience that changed my perspective so that I now saw the “hand” of God and the truths of the Bible that previously were just foolish stories.

      May 2, 2012 at 1:23 am |
    • GodFreeNow

      @fred, Yes, I too have a voice in my head as I've stated in a previous post. I just don't fall into the trap of believing that it is a deity. This is easily confirmed because the voice in your head has never given you an answer that is outside the scope of what you could possibly learn or know. For example, the voice in your head doesn't offer solutions to complex formulas describing the quantum universe or solve some heretofore unsolved mystery of chemistry or biology. However that voice does to that kind of thing for people who are physicist or chemists.

      Getting free of god is one of the most challenging and courageous things a person can do. Living in a comfortable fantasy is easy. This is why it's sometimes called a waking dream. Reality awaits you. It's not easy, but you'll never regret it once you see the truth.

      May 2, 2012 at 1:35 am |
    • Nii

      It is hard to comprehend atheists thinking that faith is the absence of doubt. That is a dogma cults preach. Christ taught faith in spite of doubt. A person of faith is always ready to be convinced or otherwise. The whole Bible is full of doubtful people who overcame by faith.

      May 2, 2012 at 5:41 am |
    • Nii

      GODFREENOW
      I may call myself religion free but not God free since I hve too many times been told what will happen and it has happened. It is not even possible by the laws of probability that I'm sick as I have told other people to confirm it. My first experience i cried. I didn't believe it myself

      May 2, 2012 at 5:46 am |
    • fred

      GodFreeNow
      How can I know the difference between the “voice” of God and self talk if they are not distinctly different? Jesus says my sheep hear my voice yet, many a time I have confused my own thoughts with that of God and made major blunders. This is where that faith kicks in and says my confusion must have been for a reason which leads to evaluation of my personal relationship with Christ through the Holy Spirit. Lacking the ability to call upon God on command I am always surprised when a voice of clarity breaks through which is distinctly different than self talk which I allowed myself to confuse with the real voice. Even in prayer there is that occasion when something very real, different and powerful is at work resulting in significant answered prayer. As with that real voice I cannot call upon it rather the Spirit of God being sovereign moves according Gods will not mine.
      I hear what you are saying and recall all the years I was free of any god and did not know anything about the things of God though I had heard fools speak of it. It took a great loss in my life but, at a very low point a Bible which came to me through unlikely circu-mstances suddenly came alive. That knowledge you speak of was what I never could have dreamed about or known prior to my sudden conversion. I understand when the atheists on this site mock the Bible complete with talking serpents, floods and big fish as it is nonsense without the key to heavenly wisdom. The same book I once tossed in the trash now reveals a Living God and the Divine Word of God. If I ever would be able to shake free of that knowledge what better place would I find myself in?
      How does one empty the new knowledge out of that God box? This was the problem with the tree of knowledge of good and evil in the Garden. Once man tasted that fruit of desire man could never un-taste it. You cannot un-know what you know. The only solution is death. What Christ offered was to die to self and live as Christ. This does not erase what we know or have tasted (which is why Christians fail like everyone else) it simply allows us the free choice to accept the Gift that is offered or reject the Gift that is offered.

      May 2, 2012 at 2:20 pm |
    • Cq

      Nii
      The question then is how much doubt does a person have to have before their faith gives way to reason? Could a person actually know in their hearts that there was no valid reason to believe in God at all, but still have faith enough to do it? That would be a sign of insanity, wouldn't it?

      May 2, 2012 at 6:35 pm |
    • Cq

      Nii
      I would not agree with you that a person of faith is always ready to be otherwise convinced. If they were then how do you explain all of the believers who post such threatening attacks upon all who dare to find fault in Christianity here? These are not open-minded people willing to hear the other side of things, right? Their minds are decidedly closed. They KNOW that they are right, and no argument whatsoever will ever convince them otherwise.

      May 2, 2012 at 6:40 pm |
  8. Izoto

    Depends on the person.

    I'm a thinker, but I've never doubted God's existence and power.

    May 1, 2012 at 6:57 pm |
    • n8263

      If you have never doubted God's existance you are not very analytical, which explains why you believe.

      May 1, 2012 at 7:55 pm |
    • mandarax

      If you have never been willing to doubt, then you have never been willing to think critically about it.

      May 1, 2012 at 10:39 pm |
    • GodFreeNow

      Then surely you've thought about why god is so hung up on ordering murder of women and children, genocide and issuing eternal sadistic torture for those who don't worship him. As a thinker, do you think you could be more loving than this god? Maybe you could a little more mature? Like turning the other cheek and letting everyone into your treehouse even if they don't do everything you say?

      May 1, 2012 at 11:10 pm |
    • Cq

      I guess you just focused all of your thinking on other subjects.

      May 1, 2012 at 11:54 pm |
  9. Jim

    I am a very analytic thinker and I often think about these kinds of things, they just sort of pop into my head. I grew up in Catholic school and as my worldview expanded I began to doubt the existence of God. But recently I began to think of it in another way. Did people 1000 years ago think flying, cell phones, and television were possible? Obviously no not at all, and my basic thought is that human beings are so arrogant that they believe they know often times way more then we actually do. How do we know that there is not another level of knowledge beyond what we can comprehend. We make new discoveries everyday in science, so whose to say we won't be able to better understand and discover the possibility in the future. And that right there is what makes me open to the possibility that God does exist.

    May 1, 2012 at 5:01 pm |
    • tony

      But they did think of "flying machines" way back. E.g Da Vinci, magic carpets, and of course the crystal balls. So there may well be a god creature outside of our universe. But he/she/it has apparently left no evidence so far in our universe, since the big bang likely occurrence..

      May 1, 2012 at 5:06 pm |
    • George

      Being open to the possibility that God does exist is very different than knowing that he does exist and, moreover,
      claiming to know what he wants. Being open is good, claiming to know, not so much.

      May 1, 2012 at 6:10 pm |
    • Patty

      Flying, cell phones and all the things we take for granted now can be proven. God, any of the thousands out there today, cannot. Changing the way you answer a question in order to skirt around certain ideas is dishonest.

      May 1, 2012 at 6:53 pm |
    • Vivitar

      As we answer one question with science there are usually many new ones created in the process. There will always be an unknown. The question is why are we so uncomfortable with this. Why do we always turn to mysticism and mythology to fill this void?

      May 1, 2012 at 7:21 pm |
    • mandarax

      Never in the history of human discoveries has some unexplained phenomenon that we attributed to magic, actually turned out to be caused by magic or supernatural forces. Never. Not even once. This historical precedence should be telling us something.

      May 1, 2012 at 10:49 pm |
    • Cq

      Face it, when we don't know what something is then we naturally start imagining possible answers, and our anxiety over not knowing usually makes these answers fantastic rather than mundane. Unidentified objects in the sky become alien spacecraft rather than oddly-shaped clouds, or the planet Venus. Weird creaking sounds at night become monsters rather than natural sounds from the house settling, or even cooling down. It's natural. Being put on alert when confronted with the unknown likely saved many of our ancestors in the wild from becoming lunch, but it's time to put away the irrational fear and actually seek out the real answers to the unknown, rather than continue to be frightened by superst.ition.

      May 2, 2012 at 12:04 am |
    • Jim

      Patty,

      My point exactly. All those things are now proven. They weren't a thousand years ago. They had no way to understand the technology that we use today, so why is it impossible that we understand more 1000 years from now and maybe understand that there indeed is a God, and can prove it. Not sure how I was being dishonest.

      May 2, 2012 at 9:22 am |
  10. tony

    Religious "faith" is taught to naturally atheist children by previously indoctrinated adults. If it was any other way, all religions would be one.

    May 1, 2012 at 4:59 pm |
    • No Truth, Just Claims

      Religious "faith" is taught to naturally atheist children by previously indoctrinated adults. If it was any other way, all religions would be Gone.

      *fixed*

      You left off the "G".

      May 1, 2012 at 8:33 pm |
  11. AverageJoe76

    Faith asks you to believe without offering proof. So yeah..... it nullifies critical thinking. BAM. And that's like when Indiana Jones walked over that invisible bridge in the Last Crusade. Critical thinkers would've thrown the stones first to reveal the bridge, whereas the faithful would close their eyes and hope for the best. Bad analogy?

    May 1, 2012 at 4:17 pm |
    • realist

      Faith asks you to believe without offering proof. So yeah..... it nullifies critical thinking.

      I disagree. Who says faith asks you to believe without offering proof? One can have faith in something based on all different kinds of evidences that might give a reasonable underpinning for that faith. I think critical thinking can be employed to reach reasonable conclusions based on reliable evidence that would make that faith a reasonable faith.

      May 1, 2012 at 4:24 pm |
    • tony

      I have faith, based on reasonable evidence of previous occurrences, that the Sun will likely rise again tomorrow. And, based the based on reasonable evidence that my local nuclear power station is real, that the light from the Sun that I am reading with now, was created by internal nuclear physics processes occurring more than a million years or or so ago.

      May 1, 2012 at 4:52 pm |
    • realist

      Tony:
      "Realist. School doesn't secularize students. We are all born as atheists. It takes a village of prior converts to raise a child as religious."

      Interesting perspective Tony.

      May 1, 2012 at 4:57 pm |
    • tony

      Disprove it.

      May 1, 2012 at 5:07 pm |
    • n8263

      Tony, you are confusing faith and belief. You believe the sun will rise based on previous experiences. This does not require faith. To take something on faith means to accept it as true without any rational reason.

      May 1, 2012 at 6:25 pm |
    • Rob

      Tony we can not dispove it any more than you can prove it. So once you get a village of people to raise their children without any regilous teaching or media interaction, never see the Bible or interact wtih anyone one that might speak to them about religion. If they all come up Athiests, then you will have a sample to support your assertion, which you seem to think is currently fact.

      May 1, 2012 at 6:33 pm |
  12. Nemoque

    I can't speak for everyone, but I have used critical thinking in matters of faith. I have studied the writings of the leading atheistic scholars, such as Jean Paul Sartre, Friedrich Nietzsche, and David Hume. After reading and thinking about their arguments against theism, it strengthened my faith, not weakended it. The truth is that very, very few people, atheists and theists alike, actually examine their worldview.

    May 1, 2012 at 2:48 pm |
    • Greyman

      It wasn't analytic thinking that made me turn my back on Christianity forever. It happened when I actually tried to read the Bible from beginning to end. Renouncing God and Christianity – and eventually any and all religions – soon followed.

      May 1, 2012 at 2:52 pm |
    • EnjaySea

      You posted a personal experience, Nemoque about your use of critical thinking, which was fine. But then you followed that by making the stunning proclamation that very few people use critical thinking.

      How does your critical thinking magically preclude the use of critical thinking by others?

      May 1, 2012 at 3:26 pm |
    • realist

      Nonimus:

      "I would have thought that "faith studies" would be studying about faith and could actually be done from a "naturalistic worldview," if such a thing exists, or from a "Biblical worldview," again, if such a thing exists. How are they exclusive?"

      I would argue that the strong move to use the establishment clause in the U.S. school system to all but remove faith based studies in secular schools has had the effect of secularizing students. I'm not saying faith studies can't incorporate certain viewpoints based on a naturalistic worldview, or that certain secular studies can't incorporate certain faith based perspectives. Therefore, I'm not arguing that they are exclusive. My only point was that the U.S. school system is most definitely secular, and any viable graduate study addressing the correlation between education and faith would need to factor that in to be of any use.

      May 1, 2012 at 3:28 pm |
    • hank

      Nemoque,
      This is very true. It's rare that atheists truly understand and embrace what they believe: that life is ultimately meaningless, there are no objective morals, and death is the only truth.

      May 1, 2012 at 3:39 pm |
    • EnjaySea

      You're making the common mistake, Hank of presuming that atheists believe something. I don't believe anything that has not been proven. I don't believe that god exists. And I don't believe that god doesn't exist. If I saw proof one way or the other, then I would believe it.

      As for your dire and sad proclamation "that life is ultimately meaningless, there are no objective morals, and death is the only truth" I would disagree in the strongest possible way with your first assertion. My life if full of meaning, and love, and happiness, and laughter. I make my life meaningful, and it doesn't require the existence of a deity or the false promise of an afterlife to give me meaning.

      As for the other two, morality is built into the human species, and would exist regardless of what dogma someone follows, and "death is the only truth". Come on! Don't be so dreary. Death is the end, that's all. It doesn't define my notion of truth. It's just the end. So what?

      May 1, 2012 at 3:46 pm |
    • EnjaySea

      Oh, and by the way Hank, I really didn't miss you main point. I just had to get all of those other things out of the way. Your main assertion is that if we atheists would just think about how meaningless life is without god, then we would realize how horrifying that is, and start to believe in god to give life meaning.

      I'm sorry, Hank, but "deciding" to believe in god, does not make god suddenly appear out of the clouds. Show me proof and I'll believe. I won't believe just to make things "seem nicer".

      May 1, 2012 at 3:51 pm |
    • jasoncdanforth

      So sad, so true that even atheists often don't question their convictions. In fact, there is a trend towards what I call "rah-rah atheism". It has more to do with waving the flag and demeaning other religious followers than it does living your convictions about life and rationality. To be clear, I'm an atheist and I frequently have to remind my fellow atheists how rational they purport to be when supporting wholly irrational things. For example, Atheism can co-exist with economic conservatism, where many atheists are part of the 99% and Occupy movements because they prefer to be part of the emotional mob rather than think about the way things really work.

      May 1, 2012 at 3:57 pm |
    • realist

      EnjaySea:

      "You're making the common mistake, Hank of presuming that atheists believe something. I don't believe anything that has not been proven. I don't believe that god exists. And I don't believe that god doesn't exist. If I saw proof one way or the other, then I would believe it."

      Is this really true? You really think this way? How is it you actually live this way?

      Do you believe the past is real? What I mean is, if you don't believe anything that isn't proven to you, then how do you believe in the past? The past can't really be proven. Using your proof standard, we really have no reason to believe that there has ever been a past existence of anything, yet most reasonable people take it as a given that the past is real. You also really can't "prove" that you're not just a brain in a vat of liquid in the lab of a scientist somewhere who is feeding you with reality stimuli in which you think you have a real existence now can you?

      I think you should think through your proof standard. I think once you do, you'll see the impracticality of having to have everything "proven" to you for you to believe it. This almost sounds like some sort of science religion.

      May 1, 2012 at 4:10 pm |
    • AverageJoe76

      I discovered I was agnostic, I couldn't even try to be faithful if I tried. Because I did, and I couldn't take it seriously. And saw how most people didn't take it seriously. They aren't devout. So what's the use in being part of the faithful without being devout? They were being hypocrites. And I'd rather be an agnostic than a hypocrite anyday.

      May 1, 2012 at 4:24 pm |
    • realist

      AverageJoe76

      "I discovered I was agnostic, I couldn't even try to be faithful if I tried. Because I did, and I couldn't take it seriously. And saw how most people didn't take it seriously. They aren't devout. So what's the use in being part of the faithful without being devout? They were being hypocrites. And I'd rather be an agnostic than a hypocrite anyday."

      So, you're saying that because you saw others being hypocrites, and others not being "devout", you decided that for you, faith isn't your thing? Do you decide other things this way? For instance, you might see others with no ambition, and not working for a viable career and taking that pursuit seriously because they believe they won't get a good job anyway. This would then cause you to not look for a job on your own because they failed at finding a good job?

      I'm not following your logic.

      May 1, 2012 at 4:30 pm |
    • Tillyosu

      EnjaySea:

      First, Enjay, you're an agnostic, not an atheist.

      Second, and I love this, you said "morality is built into the human species." REALLY? Built by whom? Doesn't "built" imply that there is a builder? And if your answer is "we evolved that way," then please explain to me what is the evolutionary benefit of morality?

      It seems to me Nemoque was right, you've just not thought very hard about what you actually believe in.

      May 1, 2012 at 4:33 pm |
    • tony

      Realist. School doesn't secularize students. We are all born as atheists. It takes a village of prior converts to raise a child as religious.

      May 1, 2012 at 4:55 pm |
    • realist

      Nonimus:

      "First, is there such a thing as "faith based studies"? In other words, is it possible to learn anything based solely on faith?"

      My reference to faith based studies referred to studies that may come from a faith based foundation. For instance, evolutionary theory may not be taught as the only explanation of the origin of man in a Christian university. Intelligent Design theory may also be taught there, where as ID is excluded in nearly every secular university.

      "Second, I'm never certain what is meant by a "secular worldview." Just to clarify, I do understand that it is meant to imply an approach to the world which entails specific exclusion of the spiritual, religious, supernatural, etc. My confusion is generally around idea of, 'Okay, how does one include the spiritual?' If a secular worldview excludes the spiritual then what exactly does a spiritual worldview include?"

      A secular worldview is typically understood as a worldview that is separate and apart from religion, or a view that is not dependent upon or tied to any specific religious teaching. A secular worldview in the context I used would be a worldview that is essentially devoid of religious influence.

      "Back to the posting, however, why would a secular emphasis on subject matter impact personal beliefs?"

      Think of it this way: If I took a child who had never heard of the supernatural, God, or any other spiritual concept, and then put that child in a classroom that never taught anything other than a secular worldview, would it be reasonable to expect that child to come away with a religious worldview? If all teaching of reality, man, the workings of the world, and all other subjects were taught devoid of God, faith, and religion, it's reasonable to assume the students would come out the same. It's and extreme example, but it's in this way that a secular emphasis influences personal beliefs.

      May 1, 2012 at 4:56 pm |
    • Nii

      In my experience it really does not serve anyone to exclude religion from schools. Education is required to transmit culture to the next generation. If the educational system forces people to seek alternatives then de society becomes fragmented in de subsequent generations. Also vital H/R is wasted.

      May 1, 2012 at 5:07 pm |
    • EnjaySea

      realist, I have photographs taken in the past. I have memories of the past.

      I have neither of god.

      May 1, 2012 at 6:03 pm |
    • EnjaySea

      Tillyosu I'm aware of the fact that I'm an agnostic. We in the atheist community often use "atheist" as a catch-all to describe both those who believe there is no god (strong atheist), and those that don't believe there is a god yet (weak atheist). I am the second type of atheist, and yes I know that is sometimes described as agnostic.

      You asked why I used the term built in to describe morality if I don't believe in a designer. The term "built in" is only an expression. But I'm happy to answer your evolution question, because it's rather simple. Cooperating with, and caring for our family, our friends, our neighbors and our community improves the chances that our "group" will survive. If our species killed every person we saw walking down the street, then we wouldn't have lasted long.

      You stated "Nemoque was right, you've just not thought very hard about what you actually believe in", and first of all, I find that a bit insulting, but I forgive you. I've thought about these subjects for 57 years, and I'm quite certain that I fully understand my world view, but thanks for being concerned.

      May 1, 2012 at 6:15 pm |
    • Nonimus

      @realist,
      From a non religious perspective, personally, I've never considered my "worldview" as devoid of religious influence; simply living in the US makes that essentially impossible. Likewise I see no reason why a secular education needs to, or should, exclude religion, spritual, etc. references completely. So the idea of a student making it through a good education without exposure to religion is somewhat hard to imagine. Now if you are referring to a education where a certain faith and/or doctrine is presented as the "Truth," then I would consider that a religious education, religion based education, or education within a religion.

      However, when you place ID and Evolution on the same level, that's where I really get confused, becuase Evoulution, just like the rest of science, is not based on some "worldview" it is based on evidence, which is the same no matter what religion, belief, or spritual background you base it on. ID on the otherhand is not science, so really shouldn't be taught in a science class, "faith-based" or "secular worldview."

      So I guess I still don't get exactly what your definition "worldview" entails.

      May 1, 2012 at 6:46 pm |
    • Cq

      Nemoque
      Can you list some of these atheist's arguments that strengthened your faith, and how they did?

      May 2, 2012 at 12:12 am |
    • hank

      EnjaySea

      "I don't believe anything that has not been proven" That statement is self defeating. If only things that are proven are true, then that statement itself hasn't been proven and therefore isn't true.

      Also, love and laughter might give your life subjective meaning, but ultimately it is still meaningless. You are here by chance in a meaningless universe. After your short life is over and the sun burns out, nothing you did or said or believed nor even the fact that you existed all the will matter...at all.

      "Cooperating with, and caring for our family, our friends, our neighbors and our community improves the chances that our "group" will survive. If our species killed every person we saw walking down the street, then we wouldn't have lasted long. "

      That's exactly the point. Objective morality doesn't exist in the atheist world. Murdering someone isn't "morally" wrong. It lowers the survivability of a social species. There's nothing "evil" about it just as a lion hunting a zebra isn't "evil".

      Pointing out the basics of atheism isn't an attempt to scare you to God. I'm simply restating what countless atheists have stated over the millenia. I do find it amusing that you found these most basic of atheistic principles to be "horrifying" though.

      I think you've helped confirm my point that most atheists don't understand or embrace what they believe.

      May 2, 2012 at 12:42 pm |
  13. Amused

    Back when I was in college graduate school, I did a Sociology research project that asked the question ; Does belief in the supernatural increase or decrease with an increase in education? I conducted a survey of a couple of thousand randomly selected people and correlated their degree of belief in the supernatural with their level of education. The results were no surprise at all. The study CLEARLY showed that belief in ANYTHING supernatural (including religion) sharply DECREASES with an INCREASE in education! DUH...

    May 1, 2012 at 1:37 pm |
    • Nonimus

      So what you're saying is that when you asked a bunch of people the more educated ones believed less, at least according to your own little survey.

      May 1, 2012 at 1:59 pm |
    • realist

      It's been known for sometime that the American educational system has become very secular in its teachings, with faith studies decreasing in favor of a naturalistic worldview. Tell me, did you build into your survey any mechanism that would allow you to discern exactly why the students with advance education had strayed away from belief in the supernatural? In other words, how were you able to come to a valid conclusion as to why you were seeing a movement away from the belief in the supernatural? Was it because the educational system had "secularized" the students, or was it due to some other reason? How did you determine the difference?

      May 1, 2012 at 3:07 pm |
    • Nonimus

      "It's been known for sometime that the American educational system has become very secular in its teachings, with faith studies decreasing in favor of a naturalistic worldview."

      I would have thought that "faith studies" would be studying about faith and could actually be done from a "naturalistic worldview," if such a thing exists, or from a "Biblical worldview," again, if such a thing exists. How are they exclusive?

      May 1, 2012 at 3:19 pm |
    • realist

      ealist

      Nonimus:

      "I would have thought that "faith studies" would be studying about faith and could actually be done from a "naturalistic worldview," if such a thing exists, or from a "Biblical worldview," again, if such a thing exists. How are they exclusive?"

      I would argue that the strong move to use the establishment clause in the U.S. school system to all but remove faith based studies in secular schools has had the effect of secularizing students. I'm not saying faith studies can't incorporate certain viewpoints based on a naturalistic worldview, or that certain secular studies can't incorporate certain faith based perspectives. Therefore, I'm not arguing that they are exclusive. My only point was that the U.S. school system is most definitely secular, and any viable graduate study addressing the correlation between education and faith would need to factor that in to be of any use.

      May 1, 2012 at 3:29 pm |
    • hank

      I'd also be curious to know the outcome of those with a higher level of education in philosophy, theology, etc.

      May 1, 2012 at 3:43 pm |
    • Amused

      I have merely stated the basic parameters and results of one small study that I personally conducted and to which I received good marks. My professors did suggest some potential improvements in my questions and sampling that would have included collection of the type of school and type of education attained as well as factoring those into my sample selection, but I never had the extra time nor motivation to revisit the survey. I received a reasonably good grade for the project which was my primary goal. I invite any of you to conduct your own survey using whatever approach you think would be more appropriate, and I seriously doubt that you will see any significant differences in your results, but feel free to try!

      May 1, 2012 at 4:00 pm |
    • Nonimus

      @Amused,
      I guess what I was getting at is that without any other information we have no way of knowing anything about your "study" or whether it actually occurred.
      Actually, I would not be surprised by such findings, but your statements here carry little more weight than anecdotal evidence.

      May 1, 2012 at 4:07 pm |
    • Nonimus

      @realist,
      I would not argue that the U.S. school have had more and more emphasis on secular subjects. As a matter of fact, I am encouraged by this and hope it continues. Primarily, for the simple reason that secular subjects actually advance knowledge and produce more information about the world we live in, but that's another topic.

      What I was asking about was the distinction I thought you were drawing between "faith studies" and a "naturalistic worldview." Now you have used "faith based studies" as well, so I am somewhat confused.

      First, is there such a thing as "faith based studies"? In other words, is it possible to learn anything based solely on faith? Now studying faith and faith subjects, sure, that is possible and perhaps what you are saying is that the correlation is between the academic study of faith and personal beliefs, i.e. both declining, which may be a valid point. Although, this would, I think, necessarily be a 'secular based' study in the sense of statistics not being based on faith.

      Second, I'm never certain what is meant by a "secular worldview." Just to clarify, I do understand that it is meant to imply an approach to the world which entails specific exclusion of the spiritual, religious, supernatural, etc. My confusion is generally around idea of, 'Okay, how does one include the spiritual?' If a secular worldview excludes the spiritual then what exactly does a spiritual worldview include?
      I wouldn't think that it would exclude the secular world, else what would it be? But what, in addition to secular, would it include?

      Back to the posting, however, why would a secular emphasis on subject matter impact personal beliefs? In the secular world exposure to a subject does matter, but would exposure to a faith-based subject be omnipresent?

      May 1, 2012 at 4:33 pm |
    • Amused

      Nonimus – Well, without any other information we have no way of knowing anything about you nor whether you actually exist!
      I do not have the time nor interest to conduct an acedemic debate regarding your doubts nor your presumptions of my school project from years past. But, as I have already stated, you are welcome to conduct your own study in whatever manner you think will yield YOUR desired results! Good luck with that...

      May 1, 2012 at 4:53 pm |
    • Nonimus

      @Amused,
      "Well, without any other information we have no way of knowing anything about you nor whether you actually exist!"
      Ok....

      ... but whether I exist or not has no effect on the validity of my argument.

      May 1, 2012 at 6:56 pm |
    • Cq

      Amused
      As a general rule, I think you can apply this to lots of things as the difference between experience and ignorance of a thing breeding either comfort or fear of it. Thus ignorance of other cultures, religions, political views, se.xual orientations, and even technologies, sciences and professions can very often lead to fear of those things. hat we don't know plays on our imaginations, and our uncertainty usually causes anxiety.

      May 2, 2012 at 12:34 am |
  14. God's Oldest Dreamer

    Some of you know of one of my unkind Act against my brother when I was 13 and he was but 3! Years before my brother was even born, my parents would take me along to weekend poker games with their adult friends. There would be quite a few children at these poker games. My being at the time, an only child, I looked to the other children as my peers and would do just about anything to "fit in"! One night after dark and at the poker game we children were outside! My cousin and I were talked into doing an Act of indignation while our peers watched! Looking back I am so damned ashamed for my want to just please my peers at any costs! You kids on here should learn that one's peers may well use your wanton desire to please their perspectives of immoralities! It really is not worth it to please other peers' desires that one does deep down inside know to be wrong! Don't fall for your peers' wanton fooleries for your sakes!

    May 1, 2012 at 12:41 pm |
    • Nonimus

      ... grow up already

      May 1, 2012 at 12:53 pm |
    • God's Oldest Dreamer

      Nonimus,,,,,,,,,,,, ,

      Just what is that supposed to mean? 🙁

      May 1, 2012 at 1:03 pm |
    • Which God?

      OK, so go and flagellate yourself, say the 23rd psalm ten times, and don't look back and re-enjoy what you did with your cousin.

      May 4, 2012 at 11:58 am |
  15. Nii

    No! This is not what anti-religious people HAVE been saying. They simply say that critically examining religious dogma in a literalist way will make you an unbeliever. However the article says something different. It says it can decrease but not eliminate it. Those who lose their faith werent devout

    May 1, 2012 at 12:32 pm |
    • CriticalThinker

      I would disagree. Anyone who genuinely studies the bible and the evidence for its accuracy with an open mind would most likely become a believer. Athiest and agnostic always tickle me with their lack of knowledge and their ignorance about the bible, its accuracy and the proofs that exist. The one thing I find most interesting is the judging of Christians – you so don't want to be judged but comments like they're all a bunch of hypocrits – well we are all a bunch of sinners. I always tell people, when I find a perfect church, I'll join it. Then it will cease to be perfect because I'll be sitting there criticizing them all for being so perfect. They think they're all that because they don't do (choose whatever you like). Christians shouldn't be perfect how then would we understand the imperfect persons struggles?

      May 1, 2012 at 6:11 pm |
    • Cq

      By "devout" you mean close-minded, right? It's when you open your mind to the possibility that what you believe may be wrong, an act of critical thinking, that religious beliefs so often falter.

      May 2, 2012 at 12:38 am |
  16. Eddie Fontaigne

    I think what many "believers" call belief is Rudolph Boltman;s "blind leap of faith". This isn't really belief so much as wishful thinking. True faith is worked through analytically. The mind and heart are not divorced from each other. What this study shows to me is that what most people think is religious belief is really just sloppy or lazy religion. It shows that the clergy and other religious instructors have not been doing their job, and to everyone's disadvantage. If the heart is not being informed by the mind, then what has the mind been missing from the heart?

    May 1, 2012 at 11:55 am |
    • God's Oldest Dreamer

      Eddie Fontaigne,,,,,,,,,,,, ,

      Many folks of the elderly persuasions have left their young one's to grow up sometimes guided and sometimes without! Many young do sometimes cross the line of immoralities at ever younger paces wherein their elders know not such things of ill reputes! As once a child of ill-repute, I know full well the parental need for nurturing their young with utmost hindsightiveness! Religion has nothing much to do with moral upbringing of one's young! Ever be aware of a child's fooleries and for their sakes parents, teach your children well their parents' hell! Let them know of your wrongs when the moments declare such to be done!

      May 1, 2012 at 12:13 pm |
    • Cq

      Actual faith would be like the pilot who flies the plane that he himself built, maintains, and checks before very flight only to enjoy 40 odd years of incident-free flight. Yet, even with that level of confidence, any good pilot would tell you that they never feel invincible. They know that there is always a first time when equipment fails, or they make a mistake. Yet their faith is as pure as it can get.

      Religious people think of faith as an absolute guarantee, which is just ridiculous. There is nothing in human experience that is an absolute guarantee, and saying something is just doesn't actually make it so, right?

      May 2, 2012 at 12:45 am |
  17. God's Oldest Dreamer

    Is a man worth more than another? Can a man do his best without a few stumbling moments? How does one's stumblings better one's alignmets to carry on?

    May 1, 2012 at 11:42 am |
  18. PrimeNumber

    Rodin's "The Thinker" looks appropriately like a man sitting on a toilet. The world is full of people saying "I Can Think for Myself", and end up producing a lot of schitt. Apparently, there is a Dogma which atheists embrace unchallenged: I've rejected religion therefore I'm a genious. In other words, his entire belief system is based on an assumption so vast he cannot even see it: Namely, that he is capable of thinking at all.

    May 1, 2012 at 10:42 am |
    • JustPlainJoe

      I envy your ability to simplify complex ideas into a soundbite. To deny the ability and necessity of thought makes all activities a self indulgent intellectual self-pleasuring. Atheists don't use ANY dogma but rather are skeptical of ALL dogma.

      May 1, 2012 at 11:06 am |
    • Jacques Strappe, World Famous French Ball Juggler

      I've done some of my best thinking on the toilet.

      There is no atheist rule that says "If you are atheist, you must be a genius." There are a lot of stupid atheists out there. However, it does seem to me that most smart people are atheist. There's a difference.

      May 1, 2012 at 11:10 am |
    • William Demuth

      Ah Prime, when will you finally get it?

      Religion is acquired, not innate.

      People believe whatever they are taught when they are vulnerable.

      I could take a dozen infants and pick and choose whatever God they were going to believe in.

      When you force feed bulls/it to babies, they rarely can tell the difference.

      Luckily, some of us can. That’s why non-believers continue to flourish long after the God of the moment is dead and buried.

      It seems the big lie does work for a short span of time, but eventually the sheep follow another piper, and we non-believers just keep on keeping on.

      I have no doubt Atheists will be debating about whether God is real in a thousand years, but I am also confident that Christ will no longer be relevant.

      May 1, 2012 at 11:12 am |
    • God's Oldest Dreamer

      William Demuth,,,,,,,,,,,, ,

      Such ways and means of weighty mentioning does ever rile in uncommon ambiguities' anomolies!

      May 1, 2012 at 11:26 am |
    • Nonimus

      "Namely, that he is capable of thinking at all."

      Wasn't that the whole point of Descartes' "I think therefore I am"? If you cannot accept that, then you cannot accept anything as true. At least that is my understanding.

      May 1, 2012 at 11:28 am |
    • God's Oldest Dreamer

      PrimeNumber,,,,,,,,,,,, ,

      All things in proportion does weightiness endure! The measures of weighted subjects sometimes lays waste to one's analagous variants! The truer the test, the more subjectivity!

      May 1, 2012 at 11:36 am |
    • Nii

      PLAINOLJOE
      You do realize that to DECIDE to be skeptical of another religion's dogma is a dogma. Besides what PRIMENUMBER said is very true of most of the atheists on here. They sometimes promote the idea that atheists are smart and theists are not. Which is not a rational proposition in the least.

      May 1, 2012 at 11:47 am |
    • Nii

      NONIMUS
      Glad that you subscribe to Descarte's "I think therfore I am" philosophy which Psychaitrists say is innacurate. They propose I emote therefore I am as the more scientific of the two. In essence therefore emotional maturity is superior to intellectual capacity. God loves learning.

      May 1, 2012 at 11:55 am |
    • Nii

      WILLIAM DEMUTH
      It shud be clear to you that Agnosticism is the natural state of the human spirit. To be an Atheist or anything else is aquired. Even if there was no religion 2day de idea of God will arise naturally as it did @ de beginning of Modern Man. U confuse de term non-believer n Atheist.

      May 1, 2012 at 12:03 pm |
    • ChrisM

      You spelled genius wrong.

      May 1, 2012 at 12:08 pm |
    • Nonimus

      @Nii,
      I don't know that I "subscribe" to Descartes, especially the dualistic aspects, however I do think that, while emotion may be a better indicator of consciousness, in order to express the concept "I emote therefore I am" one would necessarily need to be capable of both thought and reason, therefore the concept "I think therefore I am", while perhaps not necessary, is sufficient for consciousness. Additionally, for anyone other that the one emoting or thinking, communicating, and the requisite thinking that communicating entails, would be required, I think.

      Neither of which, I'm guessing, applies to what PrimeNumber was getting at, but I could be wrong.

      May 1, 2012 at 12:40 pm |
    • Nonimus

      @Nii,
      "In essence therefore emotional maturity is superior to intellectual capacity."

      Sorry, missed this part. I don't think this is anyone's conclusion, but if you have a paper, study, etc. let me know.

      May 1, 2012 at 12:49 pm |
    • Nii

      NONIMUS
      De superiority of emotional maturity over intellectual capacity is well demonstrated in de concept of EQ n IQ. Contrary 2 pop knowledge, EQ has been favoured in de past as wisdom n only recently did people exalt IQ. However EQ is back again. THINK AND GROW RICH can help u understand this.

      May 1, 2012 at 4:09 pm |
    • Nii

      NONIMUS
      The Id, Ego n Alterego functions of the brain are well known. The Ego(intellect) n the Id(Instinct) is said to be subservient to the Alterego(Intuition) in the "I emote therefore I am" concept which is biblical. Descartes thought the Ego was the superior fxn hence "I think therefore I am".

      May 1, 2012 at 4:17 pm |
    • Nii

      This is y de scientists in de article above insist that they r not saying intellectual(analytic) thought is superior to intuitive thought. Religion is in a realm which intuition alone can understand. Intellect may aid/hinder but only so far. De pious n religious lose faith easier than de spiritual.

      May 1, 2012 at 4:26 pm |
    • Cq

      Nii
      The problem with your argument is that one person's religious intuition can tell them that Jesus was divine, while another can tell her that he was just another man. Every pagan who ever lived and prayed to idols did so because their religious intuition led them to do it. So, unless all gods and forms of worship are equally real and valid, religious intuition isn't at all reliable, right?

      May 2, 2012 at 12:50 am |
    • Nonimus

      @Nii,
      Citing "Think and Grow Rich", a motivational self-help book, is not a great argument, as it is not a reliable source of information. That would be like claiming sugar cures cancer based on placebo-effect trials.

      IQ and EQ are tests for "intellegence", correct? They aren't testing for intuition or someone's ability to intuit. IQ stands for Intellegence Quotient test. EQ stands for Emotional Intelligence test. Right?
      So I'm not clear on how that shows that intuition or emotion is "superior" to intellegence. Superior in what way? Sure emotion is a better gauge of how someone is feeling, but it's not likely to help you solve a math problem. Intuition, if it's even a real thing and not just subconscious reasoning, may help you gauge someone else's emotions or estimate where a fly ball will go, but I don't think anyone can intuit the answer to a differtial equation, or invent calculus for that matter, that requires reasoning and thought. Or am I missing something?

      May 2, 2012 at 4:22 pm |
  19. Jacques Strappe, World Famous French Ball Juggler

    Isn't this what anti-religious people have been saying all along? I wish religious zealots could just step out of their bubble and really look at their beliefs with a critical eye.

    May 1, 2012 at 10:15 am |
    • Gus

      Indeed. But of course, if they could,...

      May 1, 2012 at 10:17 am |
    • John

      And if someone analyzes their religion (Christian, Muslim, Jew, Buddhist, Hindu) with a critical eye and decides to they believe in it (or even that they believe that another religion is right) and have determined that this is the "truth" as they see it (since truth is always in the eye of the beholder). Does this justify them being a "zealot"? Does this mean they are OK to believe in ths truth now?

      May 1, 2012 at 1:13 pm |
    • Jacques Strappe, World Famous French Ball Juggler

      Yes that would be fine. It has been my experience (people I know plus my personal experience) that when you start to really analyze (without a pre-conceived bias) your religion as well as others, you realize the truth about religions.

      A lot of people say they analyzed their religion and it strengthened their faith. My suggestion with religion (or any political belief as well) is to try to look at it from an outsider's viewpoint, as if you are being newly acquainted with the religion. Most people who analyze their faith, analyze it with rose-colored glasses.

      I was a diehard believer. Like many Christians on here. Then I started actually reading the Bible. I read it through once. I had little seeds of doubt sprouting, but I put them off. Then I read through it again. Then I started to think, "What if I'm wrong?" That was when I really started to analyze my beliefs without being blinded by my own convictions. Now I don't believe in the Bible or in the Judeo-Christian God.

      May 1, 2012 at 4:04 pm |
  20. n8263

    CNN, this should be a front page story.

    May 1, 2012 at 9:50 am |
    • Nii

      Is CNN a newspaper?

      May 1, 2012 at 11:49 am |
    • n8263

      No it is not a newspaper. This is a website. Websites have front pages. This has never been on it. It should.

      May 1, 2012 at 6:20 pm |
    • Nii

      This study for those who comprehend it satisfies the theist position more so I wonder why atheists are so happy. I sometimes wonder whether most of you are not atheists just cos of contextual reading problems. And no thats not reading comprehension problems.

      May 2, 2012 at 3:54 am |
    • n8263

      I am not surprised you try to rationalize this as supporting the theist position.

      May 2, 2012 at 11:27 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.