Does analytical thinking discourage religious belief?

| 170 Comments

I am not sure how much I want to make of this – indeed, I am not sure I want to make anything of it - but Science Now recently ran a short piece to the effect that analytical thinking may “cause [people’s] religious beliefs to waver, if only a little.” More specifically, the author, Greg Miller, describes a number of studies that show that when people are made to think analytically, they are slightly less likely to express a religious belief than when they think intuitively.

The article cites a recent study by Amitai Shenhav, David G. Rand, and Joshua D. Greene, in which volunteers were asked to answer questions that seem to have an immediately obvious answer, but that answer is flatly wrong. One example:

A bat and ball cost $1.10 in total. The bat costs $1.00 more than the ball. How much does the ball cost?

The way the question is phrased, it cries out for the answer $0.10; that is the intuitive answer. The correct answer, the analytical answer, is $0.05. (Trolls, please try to figure it out for yourselves before asking for help.) People who gave the intuitive (and wrong) answers in general reported stronger religious beliefs, even when the results were controlled for IQ, education, and so on.

If the study by Shenhav and his colleagues suggested that intuitive thinking encourages religious belief, or at least correlates with it, a more-recent study by Will M. Gervais and Ara Norenzayan suggested that analytical thinking might discourage religious belief. Specifically, the authors devised different tactics to put their subjects into an analytical frame of mind. Even as trivial a device as having subjects view photographs of either of two statues, Rodin’s Thinker and a discus thrower, seems to have an effect on the subject’s reported religious beliefs: Those who viewed the Thinker were slightly less likely to report a religious belief than those who viewed the discus thrower.

Science Now quotes the psychologist Daniel Kahneman of Princeton University as distinguishing between what the subjects believed and what they said they believed; some people, says Kahneman, actually hold beliefs which, “if they were thinking more critically, they themselves would not endorse.” The statement may not be as cynical as it sounds; I would like to think that at least some people will change their minds when given new information or presented with compelling new arguments.

Finally, these results potentially cast doubt on a claim I made in another posting on Panda’s Thumb:

Nevertheless, both atheists and creationists (some of them, anyway) want to think that science necessarily leads toward atheism or agnosticism. It is hard to say, but it seems more likely that skeptics or freethinkers, who may be already inclined toward disbelief in God, are more likely to become scientists or, perhaps, science teachers.

The recent studies hint that science (or analytical thinking) may in fact encourage disbelief, though the effect is possibly not strong.

170 Comments

Analytical thinking isn’t kind to “critical analysis,” either. Mostly because it isn’t.

Glen Davidson

Thinking discourages religious belief; not thinking encourages religious belief (just look at our trolls).

Corollaries: Religious belief (“religion”) discourages thinking; not-religious belief (“irreligion”) encourages thinking.

b + (b + 1.00) = 1.10

Solve for b.

Considering the plasticity of the brain, this makes sense. It is possible that reinforcement of neural pathways is the key. If you reinforce analytical pathways, you are automatically less likely to accept the simple answer, more inclined to examine evidence and alternatives and more inclined to question simple answers. If you reinforce the pathways that don’t utilize analytical methods, you are more inclined to accept the simple answers without questioning and never consider alternatives.

If this effect is real, it potentially explains a lot:

1) It explains why creationists are so desperate to stop science from being taught in public schools.

2) It explains why creationist never question their own beliefs and always use double standards when attempting to denigrate science.

3) It explains why some people who post here, (who shall remain nameless), seemingly never learn anything, despite years of posting the same nonsense and being corrected time after time after time.

4) It explains the fear and loathing that some people have towards science, while at the same time enjoying the benefits of science.

5) It explains why some people are so willing to accept “poof” as an answer even in the complete absence of any evidence and in the face of vast amounts of evidence to the contrary.

In the words of Woody Allen: “My brain, that’s my second favorite organ.”

DS said:

Considering the plasticity of the brain, this makes sense. It is possible that reinforcement of neural pathways is the key. If you reinforce analytical pathways, you are automatically less likely to accept the simple answer, more inclined to examine evidence and alternatives and more inclined to question simple answers. If you reinforce the pathways that don’t utilize analytical methods, you are more inclined to accept the simple answers without questioning and never consider alternatives.

If this effect is real, it potentially explains a lot:

1) It explains why creationists are so desperate to stop science from being taught in public schools.

2) It explains why creationist never question their own beliefs and always use double standards when attempting to denigrate science.

3) It explains why some people who post here, (who shall remain nameless), seemingly never learn anything, despite years of posting the same nonsense and being corrected time after time after time.

4) It explains the fear and loathing that some people have towards science, while at the same time enjoying the benefits of science.

5) It explains why some people are so willing to accept “poof” as an answer even in the complete absence of any evidence and in the face of vast amounts of evidence to the contrary.

In the words of Woody Allen: “My brain, that’s my second favorite organ.”

I knew I pitied them. Now I’m of two minds (heh) as to whether to keep ridiculing them or not. Perhaps they just can’t help their very real handicaps!

I think this confirms what many skeptics have suspected but I dont think that relatively minor correlations between religiosity and certain mental skills really matters much for the ongoing cultural debate. What matters more to most is what we are presented with when discussions on this come up: exceptionally intelligent deep analytical thinkers who are ALSO deeply religious.

Dawkins calls that kind of early neurological training “child abuse”. Sometimes uncurable.

Flint said:

Dawkins calls that kind of early neurological training “child abuse”. Sometimes uncurable.

1) I was raised with moderate religious observation, and it didn’t abuse me in any way. I am not religious, never really have been, although some other members of my family are observant, and I was not traumatized by my particular experience with religion. I understand it is extremely different for others, see below.

2) It is obvious that religious beliefs are intuitive rather than analytical. What reasonable person would deny that?

3) As is so often the case, this thread begins to confound the quite distinct entities “religion, broadly defined” and “post-modern fundamentalist/creationist Christianity”.

Although there may be politically active, anti-science creationists out there who are such merely because they absorbed creationist beliefs, I doubt there are many.

I grew up among people who were active in a traditional Baptist church, albeit one with probable past Quaker influence.

People who sincerely wish to hold on to traditional faith, while respecting science, are generally flexible and extremely positive toward examples like Francis Collins or Ken Miller. An example of a religious person who wishes to reconcile tradition with science is the Dalai Lama. He promotes all kinds of supernatural thinking, but he makes a conscious effort not to be in direct conflict with science, while maintaining a consistent interpretation of his particular ancient religious texts. By no means am I “defending” the Dalai Lama here; I am illustrating, by means of an example, what a person whose religion is the agenda, as opposed to a person whose religion is a justification or cover for a would-be hidden social/political agenda.

It is my strong experience that attacks on science in public schools are best understood as being related to an authoritarian social/political ideology.

If there are two children together, and one is more poor, and you give that one a gift, the other child will tend to feel resentful and slighted. We are all like that, but some of us were fortunate enough to be raised in a way that allowed us to have self-awareness about this, and to mature.

Others were not. I hypothesize that they formed a seething resentment that it was “unfair” that formerly discriminated-against groups, such as women, gays, and some ethnic minorities, were “given” more equal status. In the past, you could openly fire a man for being gay even if it had no impact on his work; today, in many settings you cannot. I am a straight man who sees this as an improvement. Some other straight men, though, perceive this as “unfair” because it represents what they perceive as a loss of former privileged status. A political ideology has formed around these immature resentments.

Creationist science denial is part of a social/political movement. It is essentially an invented religious claim. Its tacit function is to provide “moral” justification for policies and ideas that would otherwise clearly be seen as discriminatory or authoritarian. I do not wish to imply fundamentalist creationists are consciously aware of being deceptive. Of course they are probably mainly not, even though they use techniques of deception constantly. They are able, to varying degrees of cognitive dissonance, to deceive themselves.

It is certainly true that reality-denying fundamentalist sects existed prior to the emergence of modern political creationism, and that these judgmental and isolating sects could be traumatizing to children. But the widespread adoption of creationist fundamentalism as “conservative Christianity” represented, in my view, shopping around for religious claims that would fit with the underlying ideological goals, not the other way around.

The reason why I hold to this model, for most creationists, is because it works. It predicts their behavior. They do not try to be consistent in their interpretation of scriptures and so on. The only consistency, on the issue of evolution, is “Our side hates evolution (global warming, HIV, vaccines, etc), so anything and everything that disputes biological evolution is good”.

Maybe analytical thinking discourages creationist religious thinking (Kent Hovind), but encourages mainstream religious thinking (C.S. Lewis), or is at least neutral to it. The Great Divorce was pretty analytical! I wonder if the effect would be larger if the researchers separated out the kind of religious thinking going on? This is what harold has alluded to above.

I don’t know if it’s critical thinking or the mind of the true believer. I just read a mini-book called The Authoritarians. It very accurately describes the mind of people like Republicans, fundamentalist Christians and science deniers.

Basically, the subjects or followers of authoritarians are submissive followers, whatever they are told, they do. And one of the things that they specifically don’t do is question their leader.

ogremk5 said:

I don’t know if it’s critical thinking or the mind of the true believer. I just read a mini-book called The Authoritarians. It very accurately describes the mind of people like Republicans, fundamentalist Christians and science deniers.

Basically, the subjects or followers of authoritarians are submissive followers, whatever they are told, they do. And one of the things that they specifically don’t do is question their leader.

If it’s the one I’m familiar with, it’s a good book.

Religious claims and authoritarianism are a common combination, but you can be one without the other.

This comment has been moved to The Bathroom Wall.

Robert Byers said:

No. Analytical thinking doesn’t hurt a conclusion where enough data is provided. Drawing conclusions only includes analysis. One must have basic data and more then that. Then bring careful analysis to bear on it. The bat and ball thing just shows careless observation especially since the mere mentioning of the question should hint against the first careless reply. In origin issues there is a lack of data for such great conclusions drawn. Creationists can invoke scripture but not nature either. Analysis of nature today about origin subjects is very difficult. This is why evolutionism was too quick to say it figured it out and the bible’s wrong.

So how come there is no evidence of Creationism?

Oh, wait, no, you can’t explain that because you’re an Idiot For Jesus.

Is there no kind of auto-script that can just punt Byers to the Wall, where he belongs, as soon as he posts? Every single post on PT is used by Byers as an excuse to flog the putrid, rotting corpse of creationism, regardless of the relevance it has to the topic. Byers is an incoherent one-trick pony and shouldn’t be tolerated.

“A bat and ball cost $1.10 in total. The bat costs $1.00 more than the ball. How much does the ball cost? The way the question is phrased, it cries out for the answer $0.10; that is the intuitive answer. The correct answer, the analytical answer, is $0.05”. Why is the answer so not what you see is what you get. Troll or no troll how can 0.10 be 0.5. I can’t see the maths in it. All I can think is that analytical reckoning produces short measure and not the full valuation.

If you said the ball costs $0.10, then the bat would have to cost $1.10 to be $1.00 more than the ball. That comes to $1.20. But the total spend was only $1.10. Therefore the ball could not cost $0.10. The intuitive answer must be wrong.

If the ball costs $0.05, and the bat costs a dollar more, then the bat cost $1.05. Total spend, $1.10, as required. The correct answer then, is “The ball cost $0.05”.

See?

mandrellian said:

Is there no kind of auto-script that can just punt Byers to the Wall, where he belongs, as soon as he posts? Every single post on PT is used by Byers as an excuse to flog the putrid, rotting corpse of creationism, regardless of the relevance it has to the topic. Byers is an incoherent one-trick pony and shouldn’t be tolerated.

They’ve tried but the cheap ($1) baseball bats aren’t up to the job. The barbecue sauce tends to splatter, too.

Robert Byers

You’re absolutely correct that creationists can only make a feeble attempt to invoke scripture - for the simple reason that the entirety of scientific endeavour over the past 500 years has conclusively demolished the possibility of reading Genesis as a literal, empirically accurate rendering of the natural world. This was already widely understood before Darwin’s evolutionary synthesis. Here’s a thing, though, you suggest that the amount of data that was used was insufficient, but I don’t think that you’ve ever really grasped the sheer volume of work that has been done gathering, classifying and analysing data, and the ever more sophisticated analytical techniques that have been developed over the past 200 years. It’s over 150 years since Darwin first published - how many work years across the relevant disciplines, including the post-Origin field of genetics, and subsequently, DNA analysis, do you think have been done? 150 years? 150,000 years? 1.5 million years? 15 million years? In all those work years can you actually point to anything that has fatally disconfirmed the basic insights of the evolutionary synthesis?

Seriously, if we were to take Copernicus and Vesalius as reasonable starting points, how many work years - much of it grindingly tedious grunt effort - across the disciplines of biology, geology, paleontology, physics, chemistry, cosmology/astronomy, comparative anatomy, genetics etc do you think have been done? At what point would you consider there to be a sufficient volume of data collection, classification, analysis, re-analysis, discussion and debate amongst scientists about their efforts, etc to climb down off the epistemic window ledge? Do you really think that more data is going to turn anything in your favour, or are you really denying that ANY amount of data can ever be dispositive for you?

I’d go further and point out that the recovery of languages such as Ugaritic, Akkadian, Babylonian, Hittite, Assyrian etc, the recovery of texts written in those languages that are either antecedent to or contemporaneous with the biblical texts, coupled with the demonstration that the Old Testament is in fact a collection of disparate texts that have clear and particular histories of editing, re-interpretation, revision and re-writing over an extensive period of time until a “definitive” Masoretic text was compiled in about the 2nd century BC, that the language that it was written in changed over that period of time, from an unpointed and unvowelled system to the very late version of the script that we currently have, that we can trace translation errors from Hebrew to Aramaic to Greek to Latin to English, have accomplished much the same thing as the scientific endeavours of the naturalists.

When you claim that Genesis says what you say it says, you’re simply repeating a very particular myth about its contents; in a non-trivial sense, Robert, you’ve NEVER ACTUALLY READ Genesis, or ever come to grips with how complicated and awkward the text that we have actually is. Robert, you can’t even claim scripture, you can only claim a hopelessly wrong and error-filled, mythologised understanding of what scripture is and what it says. All you have left is the manifestly nihilistic position that you insist on, although you cannot explain it, which is that no matter how much effort, brains and time we put in, no matter how masterful the demonstrations to the contrary, we can in fact never know anything about anything.

Seeing as you neglected to respond before, could you please answer my question: will the laws of gravity change on Thursday, such that we’ll all be able to fly?

Certainly you realize that Booby is incapable of comprehending even 5% (and I think I’m being extremely generous with that estimate) of the content of your post.

If he responds to it at all, it will be a mostly incomprehensible and totally incoherent babbling of BS. I’ll put $5.00 on it.

And there you have it folks. Two creationists who are the absolute epitome of a complete lack of analytical reasoning ability. Absolute proof of how shutting down the analytical pathways in your brain makes it virtually impossible for you to understand nearly any science, or even math apparently. Maybe there is something to this hypothesis after all.

Dave Luckett said:

If you said the ball costs $0.10, then the bat would have to cost $1.10 to be $1.00 more than the ball. That comes to $1.20. But the total spend was only $1.10. Therefore the ball could not cost $0.10. The intuitive answer must be wrong.

If the ball costs $0.05, and the bat costs a dollar more, then the bat cost $1.05. Total spend, $1.10, as required. The correct answer then, is “The ball cost $0.05”.

See?

Crickey Dave, you might finally have taught a creationist something!

Dave Lovell said:

Dave Luckett said:

If you said the ball costs $0.10, then the bat would have to cost $1.10 to be $1.00 more than the ball. That comes to $1.20. But the total spend was only $1.10. Therefore the ball could not cost $0.10. The intuitive answer must be wrong.

If the ball costs $0.05, and the bat costs a dollar more, then the bat cost $1.05. Total spend, $1.10, as required. The correct answer then, is “The ball cost $0.05”.

See?

Crickey Dave, you might finally have taught a creationist something!

Somehow, I sincerely doubt it.

I thought Marilyn must be Poe-ing this time. Sad, really.

DS said:

Dave Lovell said:

Dave Luckett said:

If you said the ball costs $0.10, then the bat would have to cost $1.10 to be $1.00 more than the ball. That comes to $1.20. But the total spend was only $1.10. Therefore the ball could not cost $0.10. The intuitive answer must be wrong.

If the ball costs $0.05, and the bat costs a dollar more, then the bat cost $1.05. Total spend, $1.10, as required. The correct answer then, is “The ball cost $0.05”.

See?

Crickey Dave, you might finally have taught a creationist something!

Somehow, I sincerely doubt it.

I’m cautiously optimistic, in the very specific context of this thread.

(Note - I’ve seen this problem before; I think it comes from the Wonderlic test or something. The sad fact is that the real BS merchants with doctorates and/or professional degrees have taken a slew of such tests and presumably done adequately well - GRE, LSAT, MCAT, DAT, etc. Those who are adept at compartmentalization, self-deception, and/or running a con need have no fear that slipping into analytical thinking will interfere with their ideology.)

Ha. this one was good for a chuckle.

The greatest scientists in the world held religious beliefs.

Our current crop of self-styled analytical thinking, put-no-credence-in-gods scientists such as…lets se uh, P.Z. Myers, Jerry Coyne, Richaaard Dawkins… hmmm, what revolutionary discoveries have they made? How have they changed the world. I know, I know, step-by-agonizingly small step; so small its imperceptible. Yup. But there it is.…in its gradual glory.

Maybe intuitive thought has its advantages after all. You know, like uhmm, discovering something huge; changing the world.

If its a contest between God and atheism.…

God.. ya dun even need to work up a sweat. Jus’ sit back, relax, and crack open a Bodingers Ale. I know you wanna shake the can Lord, but I’d advise against it.

FYI,

Misreading the question to believe the bat costs a dollar and the ball $0.10 is not an intuitive answer. Its an ignorant one.

Different animals.

I wonder if you(pl) understand the difference.

Submitted for your consideration, example number three.

SteveP. said: Misreading the question to believe the bat costs a dollar and the ball $0.10 is not an intuitive answer. Its an ignorant one.

If intuition has nothing to do with the answer of $0.10, then how do you explain the prevalence of this answer? Why not, say, $0.06, $0.09, or $0.11? These are “ignorant” answers too, are they not?

SteveP. said:

The greatest scientists in the world held religious beliefs. […]

“The word god is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weaknesses, the Bible a collection of honourable, but still primitive legends which are nevertheless pretty childish. No interpretation no matter how subtle can (for me) change this.” –Einstein

Keelyn

Prompting RB into virtuoso displays of ignorance is sort of an end in itself.

Marilyn said:

From what is said in Genesis man was made in His image and that could mean the physical appearance of God is human. They said they heard God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, so I assume something physical.

OK then. I agree, and there are other passages that indicate that God has an actual physical body, and no indication that it is ever anything but human.

Would you answer some questions that naturally follow?

Is God male? Specifically, does he have human-like male genitals? If not, then “he” is not really male, and should perhaps be called “It”.

If he really is physically male, with proper equipment, then why, unless he has a use for said equipment? Has he ever used it for its intended purpose? If so, with whom? Is it possible that that’s how he impregnated that alleged virgin?

Does he(?) have a digestive tract: mouth, stomach, gut, anus? If he does, why, unless he eats? If he eats, does he excrete, and if so, what happens to it?

I’m sorry for all these (and many other) childish questions, but they’re what naturally arise when the Bible is taken literally. And unlike some, I think that those passages were indeed originally meant literally, and taken so for most of the history of Christianity. Think of all the sacred art that depicts God as an elderly MALE human.

Think of all the sacred art that depicts God as an elderly MALE human.

I am sorry, but I can’t resist: Think of all the sacred art that depicts Jesus of Nazareth as a white male European.

Just Bob said:

Marilyn said:

From what is said in Genesis man was made in His image and that could mean the physical appearance of God is human. They said they heard God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, so I assume something physical.

OK then. I agree, and there are other passages that indicate that God has an actual physical body, and no indication that it is ever anything but human.

Would you answer some questions that naturally follow?

Is God male? Specifically, does he have human-like male genitals? If not, then “he” is not really male, and should perhaps be called “It”.

If he really is physically male, with proper equipment, then why, unless he has a use for said equipment? Has he ever used it for its intended purpose? If so, with whom? Is it possible that that’s how he impregnated that alleged virgin?

Luke ch 2 vs 34-35 describes how Mary came to be with child. From Numbers ch 20 vs 21-35 Rather than “It” more like “Angel”

I couldn’t manipulate what the appearance of God is to suit myself or anyone. If God has an occasion that he communicates with anyone he is not short of ways in which to do it, usually not in a way that we would expect possibly indirectly. He did convey not to gratify the desires of the flesh. What can I say Bob. What is your main reason for questioning Gods image to me. God may have had a physical appearance in the Garden of Eden but not outside it. Whatever he looks like as far as I can make out he was portrayed as someone who looks like man. As a child I didn’t think so.

Marilyn said: God may have had a physical appearance in the Garden of Eden but not outside it.

Speaking of the Garden of Eden mythos, where do you stand on the credibility of talking snakes?

My point is that if you take things like “in our image” literally, then you have to expect questions like the above. And just dodging answers indicates that one either doesn’t REALLY believe it, or one hasn’t thought through what HAS to follow from such conclusions.

On the other hand, if one considers the “image” bit figurative (it doesn’t REALLY mean what it plainly says), then it becomes hypocritical to defend other passages (like a 6-day creation or the “Fall”) as absolutely literal.

Just Bob said:

Marilyn said:

God said “let us make man in our image”. Like a modern horse could say let us make horse in our image. To do that there would have to be some genetic engineering, if it was instant. This is if we have progressed from Neanderthal man and not been created an individual kind.

Marilyn, your comment implies, to me at least, that you believe God must have a human-like body or appearance. If a horse made in the image of a horse necessarily looks like a horse (your analogy), then a man made in the image of God must mean that the man LOOKS like God. Is that what you intended?

For the record, I think that’s EXACTLY what the writer(s) of Genesis (and other passages) meant when they wrote things like that. They LITERALLY meant that Man looks like God–and the converse. Not just having an ‘eternal soul’ or some such.

So I’m curious, do you agree that that’s the true meaning of that passage? And do YOU believe that God has a human-like appearance?

It seems most people have a huge problem realizing that religion and mr. God himself are about the spiritual world and not about the material world.

Physically, there is not all that much difference between chimpanzees and humans, the great difference lies in the brain and psyche. We are self-aware to an extent far beyond anything foudn elsewhere in the animal kingdom, we are aware of and know that there is a huge subconscious min lurking beneath our day-consciousness and we know very little about it.’

Analytical thinking is also a showcase for what a human brain can do, chimps fall very short on that. We don’t think they have any thoughts about spiritual matters, do we?

The origins of religion and religions is an interesting study in itself but it takes a lot more than fine reading of scripture to unravel the mysteries hidden in them.

But to shorten the lecture, the point I want to make here is that if we may attempt to translate the ‘image of God’ to something more in line with what we know about man, it is that the image is not of an ape-man appearance, but the “image” of a God-like spirit. The spirit of God is in our psyche, that’s why God can send us dreams - as explained in the book of Job.

God is not out there talking to us, he is present in all of us, he is spirit.

My wife and I have been married for almost sixty years. Religion has never been an issue between us, and I had studied depth psychology even before we met so I knew what my thoughts about the human psyche and religions were.

But on the few occacions where the subject somehow has come up, without prodding her take on the subject simply has been:

I have God inside of me, period. That’s all, the Bible, Jesus and all that means nothing to her, and I haven’t done anything to influence her personality. Wouldn’t have been possible even if I tried.

A little long reply but I think a different opinion based on the results of analytical thinking (Freud, Jung et al, plus the writings of some great, unconventional pioneeers of the analytical method in Norway) needs to be heard too.

Our predicament as a species is that we fall short on listening to and interpreting God’s will and his intentions.

Religions attract people, and wrt Christendom which is the only religon (and the best of them too) that I know anything about, has as its’c core some greti insights into our psyche but the message has been corrupted by literalism, making it into the question of whether Jesus really died on the cross, resurrected and all that in order to ‘save us for life in eternity’.

The Church(es) have gone astray, their message is the literal interpretation of the myths that lead to som much controversy. They have the mysteries but can’t find the key to unlock them.

That’s why there is widespread indifference towards religions, as well as much atheism particularly in the northern regions of Europe.

Paul Burnett said:

Marilyn said: God may have had a physical appearance in the Garden of Eden but not outside it.

Speaking of the Garden of Eden mythos, where do you stand on the credibility of talking snakes?

I don’t know about snakes but I had an African Grey that talked and a Cockatiel, they could repeat what I said but as for forming sentences themselves I don’t think so but knew what to say and when.

Just Bob said:

My point is that if you take things like “in our image” literally, then you have to expect questions like the above. And just dodging answers indicates that one either doesn’t REALLY believe it, or one hasn’t thought through what HAS to follow from such conclusions.

On the other hand, if one considers the “image” bit figurative (it doesn’t REALLY mean what it plainly says), then it becomes hypocritical to defend other passages (like a 6-day creation or the “Fall”) as absolutely literal.

Literally and metaphorically, I do have a bit of an understanding of what you mean.

Just Bob said:

My point is that if you take things like “in our image” literally, then you have to expect questions like the above. And just dodging answers indicates that one either doesn’t REALLY believe it, or one hasn’t thought through what HAS to follow from such conclusions.

On the other hand, if one considers the “image” bit figurative (it doesn’t REALLY mean what it plainly says), then it becomes hypocritical to defend other passages (like a 6-day creation or the “Fall”) as absolutely literal.

Analytical thinking also suggest that the story about a Garden of Eden and the Fall is the story about man’s transition from the innocent life as an animal to becoming self-aware to an extent no animal had ever experience before.

We have to apply or imagination to the possibility of that scenario to fathom how profoundly transforming that experience must have been for early man.

The discovery of a world full of mysteries; he identifies ‘things’ like wind and rain, thunder and lightning and much more. An animal takes all such things for granted, man observe and ponder the questions they raise.

Rolf said: God is not out there talking to us, he is present in all of us, he is spirit.

Can you prove that each of the billions of us have the same god inside us? Or do different people have different gods inside them? Can you propose an experiment to determine which hypothesis is correct?

Rolf said: Analytical thinking also suggest that the story about a Garden of Eden and the Fall is the story about man’s transition from the innocent life as an animal to becoming self-aware to an extent no animal had ever experience before.

So you are saying there was literally no Garden of Eden? Literally no Adam and Eve? Literally no Fall? Literally no Original Sin?

And a trollie recently asserted that different things have different amounts of “god” in them–but when asked to elucidate, refused to comment further (probably having been told by his handlers, “Drop it; that’s stupid and unbiblical.”)

Paul Burnett said:

Rolf said: Analytical thinking also suggest that the story about a Garden of Eden and the Fall is the story about man’s transition from the innocent life as an animal to becoming self-aware to an extent no animal had ever experience before.

So you are saying there was literally no Garden of Eden? Literally no Adam and Eve? Literally no Fall? Literally no Original Sin?

Spot on! No-no to literalism!

What I try to say is rather unusual stuff and I find it impossible to answer question or say more than I already have.

I have some material that I can send to anyone interested in learning what I am attempting to explain about relationships between religion and psychology may email me at [Enable javascript to see this email address.]

So you are saying there was literally no Garden of Eden? Literally no Adam and Eve? Literally no Fall? Literally no Original Sin?

Those concepts are all metaphors.

This premble maybe explains why I can’t drop the stuff here in any suitable format:

This book is primarily an attempt to show why religion is a universal human phenomenon, and to attempt to clarify its nature and function within a framework of biology, psychology and intellectual history. In order to accomplish this one needs to enlist the aid of research results from many fields of science: religions, psychology of religions, philosophy of religions, psychology, history, sociology, history of ideas, intellectual history, linguistics, biology, physiology, adult psychiatry, archaeology, child psychiatry, and last but not least, depth-psychology. No single individual can master all these disciplines. One therefore needs to have as solid and far reaching framework that one may hope to include the most important facets and perspectives with the required cross bearings of which life and existence needs to be seen – enabling us to capture the essential elements. *) The task facing the author then is to attempt to convey some of this collected knowledge related to religion and the nature of religion in a manner making it accessible; that it may engage the reader in order that the message of the book may have practical consequences, both individually and for the collective as well as its institutions engaged in propagation of religion and its purpose.

*) See «Mephistopheles and Androgyne: Studies in Religious Myth and Symbol» (1965) by professor Mircea Eliade, dean of the religions-historical faculty at Chicago University.

Henry J said:

So you are saying there was literally no Garden of Eden? Literally no Adam and Eve? Literally no Fall? Literally no Original Sin?

Those concepts are all metaphors.

They are best understood as that NOW, and as metaphors, they make some profound sense.

But when they were written (or first told around the campfire), I think much was intended as literal–maybe not ‘This is EXACTLY how it happened’, but maybe more like ‘It probably happened something like this.’

Some of the stuff–maybe most of it–was at some point made up by someone, probably a priestly someone, with the motive of ‘I know how this stuff happened because god talks to me–and you’d better believe all of it without question (especially the parts about giving stuff to the priests), or god will getcha.’

Certainly, from the origin of the tales to the present, a great many people have believed them literally. Maybe everybody at certain times.

Think about this: in whose Sunday School are they ever taught FROM THE START as metaphors? Aren’t they always taught as true Bible stories to little kids, who are expected to believe them? At what point, in liberal churches, is it explained to the kids that you don’t have to take them literally, and probably shouldn’t? I grew up attending Methodist Sunday School, and don’t recall that ever happening.

Seems like a Santa Claus situation: Kids are essentially lied to, and at some point they’re expected to be disabused. But unlike the innocuous Santa story, this one involves your whole worldview and ETERNAL SOUL! And, even if some around you reject the literal and accept metaphorical, there are many who ABSOLUTELY INSIST that they must be believed LITERALLY, on pain of eternal damnation.

Just ask FL.

If souls are eternal, why do I have to buy new shoes every so often? ;)

Rolf said: … wrt Christendom which is the only religon (and the best of them too) that I know anything about…

If it’s the only religion you know anything about, how can you possibly know that it is the best of them? For all you know it could be the worst.

tomh said:

Rolf said: … wrt Christendom which is the only religon (and the best of them too) that I know anything about…

If it’s the only religion you know anything about, how can you possibly know that it is the best of them? For all you know it could be the worst.

Replacing ‘anything’ with ‘much’ would make more sense.

Rolf said: Replacing ‘anything’ with ‘much’ would make more sense.

Maybe you should learns something about other religions before you pronounce yours the “best.”

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This page contains a single entry by Matt Young published on May 8, 2012 8:41 AM.

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