I've recently been asking myself why people believe - here are some thoughts. I would appreciate comments and suggestions.

There are many reasons why people ‘have faith’, and these can generally be traced back to some sort of weakness or insecurity. Much faith, for instance, derives from the undeniably appealing idea that there is ‘something more’, contextualising real life (however uncertain or disagreeable it might be) within a greater, more ‘comfortable’ construct; this allows people to dismiss reality in favour of an imagined ‘better world’, whether specifically the afterlife or a world governed by a benign deity more generally.
There is of course also considerable vanity in the idea that we are the creations of a perfect being (and created in his image, no less); no matter how masochistic the specific details of a religion, its view of humanity is fundamentally narcissistic. Related to both of these points is the transmission of responsibility for ones ‘fate’ onto a largely abstract other: if I assume that I was created by a deity, and my moral responsibility is defined by that deity, I am effectively ceding responsibility for my existence and what I make of it. Engaging with the implications of ‘man’ as a natural phenomenon is considerably more complicated and potentially problematic than simply ‘blaming’ everything on a more powerful and intelligent creature. The latter distinction is highly significant, acknowledging the very ‘human weakness’ that causes us to deny responsibility in the first place – we are weak and erring humans, we argue, but God is somehow responsible for us, allowing us to dismiss the implications we would otherwise have to come to terms with.
As noted by Bertrand Russell, ‘terror of the unknown’ is also a significant factor in religious beliefs, reflecting one of the principal reasons humans invent religions in the first place (see http://atheistprinciples.tripod.com/discussions.htm#_The_Invention_of). This is not, however, limited to unknowns such as the origin of the universe and what happens after death, but the many complex, unknown and perhaps unknowable workings of nature that become probable in the absence of religion’s convenient answers. There is thus a fear that things might not be simple and transparent, although there is also sometimes also a fear of simple logic, a prime example being the resistance to accepting that there is no afterlife.

Social factors, whether conditioning or a ‘sense of community’, also hold considerable appeal, but are less fundamental in fostering a sense of fervent belief (which is not strictly necessary to enjoy the social benefits of religion) than direct psychological factors.

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There's a theory that evolution has programmed us to attribute causality to ambiguous events. I read an article on it recently. Here's the example they used that best summed it up. A caveman is walking through the jungle and hears a noise in the bushes. He can to choose to think: a) it's nothing (just a noise) or b) SOMETHING is making that noise! Survival favors those who attribute a cause to the ambiguous noise and take precautions. A million years later, caveman's ancestor sees lightning strike his neighbor dead. He can think: a) it's just a random act or b) maybe SOMETHING deliberately struck him down! Evolutionary theory suggests then, that the propensity to attribute causality to GOD is an evolutionary trait. The article reviewer went even further, pointing out that atheism is an evolutionary adaptation to our new environment. That is, while our neanderthal-deist peers continue to cower in fear of unseen forces, the atheists have realized, "Hey! Look! There is no God!" ...Unfortunately there is no survival benefit to atheism and those deists just keep reproducing. All we can do is support atheist activism!
Yes unfortunately there is no survival benefit to atheism apparently religious people even live longer XD I guess they don't stress about things we stress about, if they don't understand something (eg. the beginning of the universe) they just think god did it. They don't spend all night tossing and turning about it like me.
yes, this is to do with error management theory, there's a summary and link here
"" There is thus a fear that things might not be simple and transparent, although there is also sometimes also a fear of simple logic, a prime example being the resistance to accepting that there is no afterlife. ""

I think this is a major part of it. No one wants to give up their security blanket. Alot of people enjoy large groups, and feel secure, and really don't question it. Girls love to go to football games, not for football, but for the large amounts of people and socializing. It's no fun to not believe. My brother always wants me to watch these paranormal movies, and i told him that i can't enjoy something that i think is silly. It's so much fun to believe in vampires, ghosts, and something being in control of your life:)
I think FEAR is one of the most important motivations for people to believe. And living without hope of something better than what they are experiencing in this lifetime is also not something most people can deal with. And like Damian says "its not fun to not believe" It takes a lot of guts to make the mental decision to reject all religion and god. Having god in control of your life also makes it easier to be a failure and still feel like a winner....i often hear christians say that whatever happens to them, has all been decided by god long ago....so regardless of your poor decisions/bad actions, it all part of gods plan.... Religion also motivates people to do good deeds...."scoring points for the afterlife". So why do people believe? I think it serves as a motivation to people with low self esteem. I have also read somewhere that atheism is linked to higher levels of intelligence....
There was a recent large survey (I think it was from a govt entity) that showed atheists average 6 IQ points higher than believers. Seems like that should be more of a gap, right? I'm sure if you compared "fundies" to "new atheists" the gap would be much larger (i.e. Sarah Palin - 85; Richard Dawkins 150). :)
Kind of like crist the rock church's latest in-your-face billboard off stirling and university in broward county:
"I KNOW. I CARE." - god....
Knows how to get money to keep a billboard running across from a Target? liars.
Be honest, the only thing in the end (not times) that matters is... the...?

aha! tiz the dough of faith inc. for certain!
such a cancerous venture; plopping kids in front of pre-programmed, über corporate, über tradition of a certain diet until their not so sharp in the mind nor body... such a cancerous venture to belittle healthy progress in the modern world for a piece of revenge by the 'truth' (yeah right) of rapture... foolish.
‘sense of community’, ?
that's been smashed to bits for how long now? How long has the über-right wing haters had their reps in the government? fallwell, roberts, televangelical messes... megachurches and sports casters that did not like gays nor black folk... c'mon... social cancer through faith-sploitation. Get the leaders, sheep tenders whatever; slap them around to show the sheep what's up. There was blood shed for The Constitution you know. Fear vs. Constitution, Constitution always wins. Eventually there will a further devaluation of the played out notion in being anti-science. Folks will question the influences that damage society and read up on the science that got those influences so much power etc. etc.. Majority of folks understand corruption, ponzi schemes, lying is bad for economy. It's a long road to find peace is all I'm saying...
Ok: religion as a source of power. Not so much use to the sheep, though (except as a safeguard of the status quo, whyever that might be desirable) - and lots of people all over the world still believe this nonsense. Why? Because it provides psychological comfort at the deepest possible level.
Actually I think power (or lack of it in every day life), is a huge factor in belief of religion or anything else beyond reason. People want special knowledge, they want to be part of a 'winning' movement and they are afraid when they can't understand science and feel threatened when they're told scientists don't have all the answers... right now. I think power is the major backbone of conspiracy theories, new age quackery, religion... the whole works.
I see what you're saying (and agree entirely) - I just define it the other way around. The need for 'power' is then identical to what I describe as 'insecurity'?
Yup, and I think that any hope of getting the majority of people to think rationally and any hope of gaining any measurable ground against the theists has to start with this in mind. It would be interesting and maybe enlightening to know what religious and political figureheads have been non-believers and used this power lust as motivation to manipulate their followers. Then again it could end up being just plain depressing...

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