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Is Rationality the Enemy of Religion?

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Old Friday, April 27th, 2012   #1
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Is Rationality the Enemy of Religion?

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A provocative study linking religious disbelief to analytical thinking requires some careful analysis itself, says Philip Ball.

Psychologists Will Gervais and Ara Norenzayan aren’t trying to make mischief, but their latest work on the psychology of religious belief is sure to fan the flames of debate.

Their study, published in this week's issue of Science1, offers evidence that when people engage in analytical thinking, they are less likely to express strong religious beliefs. In other words, the more you’re inclined to think a problem through rather than to rely on gut instinct, the less likely you are to capitulate to belief in supernatural agencies.

The authors, who are based at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, are clear that they aren’t pronouncing on the value of religious belief, nor suggesting that such beliefs are inherently irrational (let alone that they’re untrue). 'We’re just saying', they seem to insist.

But such honest disclaimers won’t prevent some atheists from asserting that the study shows that religion is the result of bad reasoning, if not downright stupidity, for which the only cure is a hefty dose of analytical sobriety. (My experience is that it seems to be extreme views of any sort, whether religious or the opposite, that are the real enemy of analytical thinking.)

What this valuable and stimulating study reveals, however, is the difficulty of subjecting religious belief to scientific scrutiny. It is important that we make the effort to do so — not least to understand how and why religion may promote ignorance, bigotry and conflict. The problem is that it is nearly impossible to devise any investigation of ‘religious belief’ per se, because it takes so many forms and rarely consists of a coherent and consistent set of principles, even in a particular individual. It is like trying to study what makes people ‘artistic’ or ‘nice’.
Primed and ready

That is why the objections and caveats to this study are so obvious, albeit no less pertinent. The researchers’ general approach was to test volunteers — in some cases, Canadian undergraduates, in others, as the paper explains, a “nationwide (though nonrepresentative) sample of American adults recruited online”. Both sets of volunteers constitute only a limited sample, as Gervais and Norenzayan acknowledge.

During the tests, volunteers were either engaged in a task that surreptitiously elicited analytical thinking, or were given a control task. They were then asked if they concurred with a series of statements about religion, such as “I believe in God” or “I don’t really spend much time thinking about my religious beliefs”

These 'priming' tests were of varying degrees of subtlety. One involved looking at Rodin’s famous sculpture The Thinker, or for the control group, a visually similar but conceptually dissimilar image of a classical Greek athlete. Another involved a word-sorting test, in which the words might or might not be associated with analytical thinking (‘reason’, ‘ponder’ and so on). It is well established that such priming can elicit specific modes of thought; for example, improving performance in analytical tests2.

One of the attractions of this approach is that it can say something about causation. One isn’t simply examining whether atheists have a greater tendency to think analytically, but trying to detect whether fostering analytical thought increases disbelief. Apparently it does, and to that extent, it supports the view that scientific training might reduce religiosity.

But what kind of religiosity? The authors state that they “focused primarily on belief in and commitment to religiously endorsed supernatural agents” — they examined beliefs in God, the devil and angels. That, of course, already assumes a Judaeo-Christian context, but there are plenty of devout believers who have no need of angels or the devil, and some who perhaps have no need of a belief in God in a traditional or Christian sense (Max Planck was one such example).

This hints at the key problem, which is (or ought to be) as much a quandary for religion itself as for scientific studies of it. Almost all of the questions in Gervais and Norenzayan's study related to religion as a literalist folk tradition — an aspect of lifestyle. This is how it manifests in most cultures, but that barely touches on religion as articulated by its leading intellectuals: for Christianity, say, philosophers such as Thomas Aquinas, David Hume, Immanuel Kant and George Berkeley. The idea that the beliefs of those individuals would have vanished had they been more analytical is, if nothing else, amusing. Gervais and Norenzayan’s findings should help to combat religion as an indolent obstacle to better explanations of the natural world. But it can’t really engage with the rich tradition of religious thought.
Source http://www.nature.com/news/is-ration...ligion-1.10539
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Old Friday, April 27th, 2012   #2
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I think the problem atheist will have is the fact that their fold is full of people like Madeline Murray O'Hare, or Michel Moor. Nether of which are the picture of "Rationality".

What makes the situation worse is their "Atheism" is really more based on Marxist Politically Correct-ism than anything else. Meaning it is hard to propose a God Like system when there are a bunch of other "Gods" hanging around in the way.

As far as those in the Church I doubt they will give any notice to this or any other report, they have been ignoring these people for years any way.

As far as rationality goes in a scientific perspective, which is they only thing any of us should be concerned with, is that we live in a big universe, and science at this point is only really a few hundred years old. It is really premature to think that humans setting on one planet in the universe could know Who or What created the universe beyond the very basics of what we see around us.

I find this comment particularity amusing to tell you the truth.

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What this valuable and stimulating study reveals, however, is the difficulty of subjecting religious belief to scientific scrutiny. It is important that we make the effort to do so — not least to understand how and why religion may promote ignorance, bigotry and conflict.
I would say if one wants to be rational one must at least be looking at objective facts.

One of those facts would be that major promoter of bigotry, ignorance, and conflict have been governments, and a very high percentage of them based on Marxist Thought.

It is equally hilarious as to how the Nazis are promoted as the ultimate evil, but are not even one tenth of the problem of Modern Marxism in the form of the USSR, Communist China, various aspects of Islam and there introduction to Marxist thought. North Korea, and the New Obama Global Liberalism and his contributions.


Combine all the Religions in World History and they will be lucky to match the bigotry, ignorance, and Intolerance of even this one century of Globalist Governmental Stupidity.

Now try that one on, for bigotry, ignorance, and Intolerance.
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Old Friday, April 27th, 2012   #3
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I have found that too much rationality is irrational. Rationality is a tool used alot of the time so that people 'self dupe', when things are constructed in such a manner that 'rational' thought processes lead them astray.

People who rely too heavily or exclusively on this method of thinking are as mad as a box of frogs.

I wouldn't call hardcore Atheists rational either, some of them practically foam at the mouth!
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Old Friday, April 27th, 2012   #4
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Originally Posted by Hersir View Post
That, of course, already assumes a Judaeo-Christian context
Could anybody who has knowledge of this topic please explain exactly what is meant by this term?

Is it a vague term which has mostly been popularised in a US / Christian Right / Evangelical type context or is there a more established definition?
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Old Friday, April 27th, 2012   #5
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Originally Posted by RoyBatty View Post
Could anybody who has knowledge of this topic please explain exactly what is meant by this term?

Is it a vague term which has mostly been popularised in a US / Christian Right / Evangelical type context or is there a more established definition?
http://forums.skadi.net/showthread.php?t=147605
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Old Friday, April 27th, 2012   #6
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It's all very subjective. You have the "God Helmet people," who promote the idea that, if you can find the mechanism, the effect is somehow untrue... yeah. So because I can tell you how my lightbulb in my lamp here on my desk works, clearly, it's not really giving off light. That's the thing. Some people are just TOO rational. You need abstract thought, too. You need to be able to see patterns, not just religiously speaking, but in day-to-day life: The right brain is as important as the left brain.

There are plenty of good reasons to believe in a god, none of which I really care to get into here, but I do think this study is misleading: "Rationality" is being portrayed as a good thing, which it generally is, but when you are just so rational that you become atheistic as a direct result of that rationality, you are just thinking about facts too hard and not looking at how they connect. Again, I'm not even making the argument about whether religion is true or isn't here - I'm just saying, extremist rationalism is as bad as extremist "faith in god."

-Gugnir
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