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This is the 6th of nine posts describing "Reasons for Skepticism" derived from scientific discovery, not from wishful speculations about the supernatural. These will be followed by several "Reconciliation Theories" for bridging the growing chasm between science and religion.

6. Wishful thinking. Numerous psychological studies demonstrate that people believe to be true what they wish to be true. The monotheistic god, particularly the Abrahamic god, is usually personified as a powerful, wise, loving, (male) parental figure who cares about us as individuals and is capable of protecting us from harm. Afterlives are depicted as idyllic places, at least for the faithful, in which one need not fear danger, being under the eternal protection of the fatherly deity, and where one is reunited joyfully with departed loved ones.

Such beliefs might indeed be a comfort to people who experience anxiety, fear, loneliness, despair, and loss in their real lives—a common human condition. Relief from such emotional torment certainly would be welcome. Sufferers understandably hope for relief, and eagerly cling to their clergy's sermonic promises that perfect peace and joy await them in heaven.

For reasons understood well by evolutionary psychologists, humans form durable emotional attachments (love) to family members and friends. On the death or loss of love objects, grief is a natural emotional result. It is then also natural for people to yearn for reunification with lost loved ones in an afterlife. Hence, they are susceptible to assurances by religious authorities that rejoining lost loved ones will occur if the griever remains faithful. Trusted clergy assurances, combined with the griever's wishes, perpetuate the faith tradition.

The conflict of interest of those clergy in purporting certainty is obvious. Shall we not question the dubious, self-serving assurances of clergy whose careers depend on gathering and retaining followers to their particular faith?

Is it more probable that loving and protective deities and idyllic afterlives are figments of wish fulfillment, or that they exist despite total lack of evidence of them?

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Tags: faith, thinking, wishful

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