When an adult turns to religion, what are the unmet needs that propel them toward faith and belief?
1) Community is one; lonely people turn to a church community for comfort and feelings of belonging to something bigger than themselves.
2) Easy answers to complex questions in one's life, with certainty of provided answers.
3) Feelings of powerless when confronted by conflict, whether with a spouse, children, personally or professionally.
4) Seeking power and control that religious dogma bestows on some while not on others. Strength, domination, control, and use of power over others are all enabled and justified by religious beliefs.
5) Justification for feeling weak, submissive, controlled, powerless, self-sacrificed.
Atheism becomes attractive to some when they experience faith and belief as insufficient to meet life's challenge.
Theists may experience a sense of:
being requires a sense of agency without supernatural influences guiding or comforting;
doing what needs to be done and developing the skills needed to make things happen;
belonging involves being part of something bigger than oneself, of belonging to a community in response to our nature as social animals;
thinking provides cognitive tools to recognize problems, explore options, make decisions, gather resources, build teams, and evaluate outcomes;
participating means joining with others in a sense of "we" to accomplish bigger things than one can do alone, providing strong leadership if needed, and knowing the skills of being an effective follower if needed.
Atheists live knowing there is no superhuman power that can answer prayers, or that protects us when we are in danger. We have all we need to make it possible to anticipate danger, to be alert of mind/body, seek self-sufficiency for ourselves and participate with others.
There is pride, self-respect and dignity in knowing one exists as part of this grand universe, that there is plenty of work to be done and one has some qualities to offer, that one loves and is loved as part of family, neighborhood, nation, and world, and one can think and reason in very special ways because of one's experience and training.
I wish I were as articulate on this topic as you Joan. Very well said.
I think my positions on this topic are a very private matter unless I am around like-minded people. I am offended by religious people who are out to "convert" everyone in the world to their view. I would think that in like manner they would be offended by me going around getting in everyone's face and telling them that I see no evidence of a god but would be open if they showed me some facts and therefore they should believe what I believe. I don't take pride in what I believe. I am just going through an analytical process that has led me to where I am.
Robert, You are wiser than I by keeping your thought private. I would agree to that ... but ... there are some situations that need to be revealed and that for centuries, probably eons, people have been instructed and coerced to remain silent. Silencers use the tactics of shame and guilt upon the ones exploited, or use of religious dogma to scare those who would speak with fears of eternal damnation. There are other devices and the end result is SILENCE DOES NOT HELP! It contributes to domination's success.
I speak, not because it is easy, but because it is hard, and necessary to awaken those who are afraid there are other options, those who are uninformed things happen that harm victims, there are those who don't care and even with accurate information have no interest in changes.
The value of a place like Atheist Nexus is it's relative safety and it's daring to go into those forbidden thoughts of "I see no evidence of god/s."
I agree Joan. It seems more often than not I feel a need to speak up when religious discussions occur, because often the discussion promotes an underlying bigotry (we = heaven bound, them= hell bound) and it promotes a community division based on non-members being less worthy and less dignified.
Also, as a minority view, I think it is very important to speak up. Have you seen the Solomon Asch studies on group conformity? They demonstrate (and have been replicated many, many times) that a person will ignore obvious facts (unconsciously even) in order to conform with the group, UNLESS one other person is willing to go against group opinion. Speaking up opens the way for others to evaluate facts and truly make up their own mind. Here are a couple 2 minute videos that demonstrate the results, and frankly, convinced me that speaking up is worth it. Enjoy!
Oh yes! The Asch studies reveal very important group dynamics and an individual's need to be aware of the phenomena.
If one links Asch's work with Stanley Milgram's studies on human obedience, and Phillip Zimbardo's prison studies on human authority and obedience, and Martin Seligman's work on learned helplessness, then one has a formula for how to make an individual obedient, submissive, and helpless.
These studies also give an individual clues about when one is falling into the traps of obedience to authority, submissiveness and helpless. Furthermore, they provide clues about how to prevent such behaviors in oneself.
That's fine Linda. Indeed I hope that most of us feel proud at being the freethinking atheists that we are---and happy at being so far removed from the caged mentality of most theists.
Your story evokes strong feelings in me, especially stress created by dogmatic beliefs and not being able to pull myself loose for far too long. Anyway, I feel as you describe, free, stable, secure and safe from imposed expectations. But the biggest thing for me is not having to be perfect; I make some incredibly bad judgments from time to time, but that has nothing to do with my character. My redeeming quality is the ability to learn better ways of thinking and taking better actions. Thanks for sharing.
I agree that there is no reason to be ashamed. But after years of thinking about this, I have concluded that we need to take it a step further. I would argue that we even have a duty to speak up. Here's why (there are two reasons, really).
Free thinking requires freedom of expression. History tells us that societies which do not guard a precious space for questioning authority and debating conventional views will eventually end up with authoritarian regimes.
Everytime I feel that urge to just be the polite person at a cocktail party, when that "God thing" is discussed, I think of all those dissenting Germans who kept quiet in the early 1930s because they didnt want to create an awkward social moment. And I find a way, even mildly, to raise my view.
I am not trying to be an alarmist, but cultural and political movements often grow and spread around dinner and coffee tables. Why not play our part in a new enlightenment age?
Though, it does seem that religious conflict is peeking recently. Where I live, for example, more women than before are wearing the Hijab, and this, without an increased number of Muslims. It just appears they have more need to make a religious statement. And in America the Religious right's outspoken nature is simply frightening. Ahtiests need to speak up against this silly nonsense.
Obviously, we dont need to brag or fight. Afterall, the goal is to be heard. My personal approach, when God is discussed or when religious based assumptions are made (as if there is only one immutable view in the world), is to simply raise a couple of questions which demonstrate the hypocracy or bigotry created by religion. Generally, people dont want to be hypocritical bigots and it opens the door for inquiry later.
All the more important (and this is my second reason) is to speak up if we are a minority among our peers and family.
I came to this conclusion after studying the Solomon Ashton experiments on group conformity (you can watch them on youtube). Based on these experiments, the number of persons who will see the facts ( see reality when the group view is different) rises dramatically when ONE other person is willing to stick out their neck and speak up against conventional views. For this reason alone, it is important for us to speak up.
Okay, I will get off my soap box now. Cheers! :)
Linda -- The Solomon Ash experiments I was referring to are linked below. They are funny! I have sent them to some religious friends who recognized the relationship between Religious group think and the experiments right away.
Funny you should mention kids, I have noticed the same tendancies to be natural rebels or followers. There is something inherent. Critical thinking does have to be learned sometimes. It will be interesting to see what neurology and genetics say about this. Especially in light of the new claims about free will.
I encounter anger sometimes as well, people seem to think you are attacking THEM if you attack their religion. Often though I hear "pity"--for me. As in, "If you cant see the beauty and love that God brings to the world, well then, I feel sorry for you." I love that one! And I call it like it is--a passive agressive attempt to dismiss my point. Not very humble to think only your religion has love!
Anger is tougher. And I think the reasons vary depending on the person. I reply by trying to understand where the anger is coming from. Sometimes it seems like it is from a personal fear of losing control of their world view (and by extension their life). And other times, it seems it is to protect "the life of the group". As if my questions will dissolve the whole existence of the group. This is why the religious "meme" theory makes some sense to me. Its as if the Religion itself is struggling to live by controlling the minds of people. Very odd to think of it that way.
@Mahatma Coat Please do not get off your "soap box"! We need your words now more than ever. It is hard for me to believe people do not know about these human behaviors and cultural influences and seem either bewildered when learning about them, or rejecting the principles out of hand. Just for convenience, I am listing a few other references here in addition to your citations on Solomon Asch's conformity experiments, if anyone wants to learn more.
Dr. Stanley Milgram’s Studies on Obedience (1963)
Studies looked at pigeons, mice, fish, octopus, prisoners of war and found each could learn to be helpless, "a condition of a human person or an animal in which it has learned to behave helplessly, even when the opportunity is restored for it to help itself by avoiding an unpleasant or harmful circumstance to which it has been subjected. Learned helplessness theory is the view that clinical depression and related mental illnesses may result from a perceived absence of control over the outcome of a situation. Organisms which have been ineffective and less sensitive in determining the consequences of their behavior are defined as having acquired learned helplessness."
(2) ^ Carlson, Neil R. (2010). Psychology the science of behaviour. Pearson Canada. pp. 409. ISBN 9780205699186.
Learned Helplessness Audiovisual Chapter Review
Dr. Philip G. Zimbardo's Stanford Prison Experiments (1971)
The importance of questioning athority
Obedience to authority
Max Weber, (1904-05). The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism.
Weber argued that Protestantism was one of the major “elective affinities” associated with the rise of capitalism, bureaucracy and the rational-legal nation-state.
Karl Popper, (1960). On the Sources of Knowledge and of Ignorance.
Milgram's Obedience to Authority Experiment of 1961. 2009 1/3