Justin Barrett – Why Would Anyone Believe in God? – Veritas at UC Davis

Justin L. Barrett.is Director of the Thrive Center for Human Development, Thrive Professor of Developmental Science, and Professor of Psychology at Fuller Graduate School of Psychology. He previously held a post as senior researcher of the Centre for Anthropology and Mind and The Institute for Cognitive and Evolutionary Anthropology at Oxford University. Barrett is described in the New York Times as a „prominent member of the byproduct camp” and „an observant Christian who believes in “an all-knowing, all-powerful, perfectly good God who brought the universe into being,” [and] “that the purpose for people is to love God and love each other.” He considers that “Christian theology teaches that people were crafted by God to be in a loving relationship with him and other people, Why wouldn’t God, then, design us in such a way as to find belief in divinity quite natural?” Having a scientific explanation for mental phenomena does not mean we should stop believing in them. “Suppose science produces a convincing account for why I think my wife loves me — should I then stop believing that she does?”

Here is just one quote from his work: „There is actually a growing body of research that suggests that we have this tendency to see design and purpose all over the place from very young ages”.

Contrast this with * Romans 1:20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities–his eternal power and divine nature–have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.

Below you will find the video and extensive notes from this very fascinating lecture from the Veritas Forum,  where you can find more apologetics resources.

Intro: The cognitive science of religion

Justin Barrett: I would like to give a broad brushstrokes introduction to the cognitive science of religion, an area that I’ve ben working in the last 15 years. (Main audience is comprised of students taking UC’s Psychology of Religion course).

Why religion is natural, science is not. „Religion like technology arises in every human culture. Religion is a universal phenomenon among human groups, which may well have existed from very nearly the emergence of our species in prehistory”. (McCauley p.149) WHY?

This year, if you keep your eyes on Amazon and so forth, you’ll see that there have been a number of books in this area. It’s getting hot and not just with psychologists and cognitive scientists and anthropologists and comparative religionists, but, also with philosophers and theologians who are starting to wonder, „What is this stuff all about?”  And, really what these scholars are trying to address is a pretty obvious phenomena once you bring it out. And that is: „Why is it that wherever you go , whatever culture you’re in, maybe even whatever historical epoch you are in, there are religious people. And not just a few.

A 1999 Gallup Survey International suggests that upwards of 90% of the world’s population today believe in some kind of a god or supernatural force, let alone historically. This is a pervasive thing that people believe in gods of one sort or another. Why is too, that  children seem to be especially receptive to religious ideas? They pick it up very easily and very naturally.

Here’s a quote from Paul Bloom, Developmental Psychiatrist at Yale University (from Michael Brooks’ article in the New Scientist in Feb 7, 2009 issue: Would a group of children raised in isolation spontaneously create their own religious beliefs?  „I think the answer is yes”. (p 33) WHY ?

Causes and reasons are important when we are talking about belief.

Reasons vs. Causes of belief

  • All thoughts and beliefs have causes: biological, psychological, evolutionary, social
  • But we can still have good reasons for beliefs: experiences, intuition, scientific evidence, logical arguments, testimony of authority, etc.
  • Focus here will be on causes

All beliefs have causes. All ideas have causes. But, that doesn’t mean we can’t have good reasons or bad reasons for those beliefs and ideas. I want to give you a scientific account as to why it is that people tend to believe in gods. At the end we might  start thinking about how those causes matter to whether or not such beliefs are reasonable. But, I want to be clear that those are two separate issues.

The first hat I want to put on is my scientist hat.

The naturalness of religion thesis

„People are disposed to generate and accept religious ideas because of how their minds naturally work in common human environments.” This is not just my idea. This is a convergent idea that many researchers and myself are coming to.  The claim here is, we all, by virtue of being human beings, living in a common world, all have certain kinds of cognitive equipment that develops. Psychological machinery. That predisposes us toward generating or accepting religious ideas. That’s why religious ideas are so recurrent. At least one of the reasons or causes as to why.

There is a sub variety of this thesis. A different wrinkle that I have been emphasizing lately, which I call:

The born believers thesis 

click „More” to read the notes from the entire lecture.

„The natural dispositions that make people receptive to religious thought and action develop early and are strong in children, making them particularly receptive to religious thought and action.” So, those psychological tendencies that we have, many of these are developing in the first 3, 4, 5 or 6  years of life. So I call children born believers just like children are born talkers. It doesn’t take a lot of environmental input to get them going.

Biological bases for religion

William James, known as the father of American  pragmatism and philosophy, but also known as the father of American psychology : „According to the general postulate of psychology just referred to, there is not a single one of our states of mind, high or low, healthy or morbid, that has not some organic process as its condition. Scientific theories are organically conditioned just as much as religious emotions are; and if we only knew the facts intimately enough, we should doubtless see „the liver” determining the dicta of the sturdy atheist as decisively as it does those of the Methodist that is under conviction anxious about his soul. When it alters in one way the blood that percolates it, we get the Methodist, when in another way, we get the atheist form of mind. (p. 14 Varieties)

It cuts both ways. I can come up with a scientific explanation as to why „you” have the beliefs that you do. Just coming up with a naturalistic explanation doesn’t say anything one way or the other, necessarily.

Causes of Belief : Why believe anything?

How do human minds work? You’ve probably been taught that the human mind is like a sponge by the culture. It used to be part of psychology, philosophy and the Western tradition until about 50 years ago. The sponge model is the idea that we can equally learn any old idea as easily as any other ideas. We just need to be plopped into the environment  and then we just soak it all up. The fact of the matter is that some things (like some classes or subjects) really are hard and they’re not just hard because there’s some defect with you, they’re just hard because they just don’t fit with the way human minds work. We are not just passive absorbers of whatever is out there.

Evolutionary psychologists have pointed to lots of specific ways in which this sponge model is problematic. One example is that it is really easy (natural) for people to become frightened by snakes, but not by flowers. Why would that be? Evolutionary psychologists would say, „Well look, snakes have never been an important food source for us, in our ancestral lineage but they have been a threat. And, so it would be very good for our survival to readily become afraid of snakes.

New Picture of human mind : 2 systems

A new picture is emerging of the human mind. A lot of cognitive psychologists (such as what I do) are suggesting that the mind can be thought of as having two systems. A slow system and a fast system.:

  • Fast System – Automatic, intuitive, „best guess”, evolved dispositions solving common problems. The Fast System: delivers ideas to the Slow System.
  • Slow System – reflective, effortful, „reasoning,” sometimes more accurate but sometime less. Slow System: accepts ideas from Fast System as starting point for forming beliefs; if no reason to revise, Fast System’s ideas become reflective beliefs.

These 2 systems aren’t working in isolation. They communicate to each other. And, the way we often form beliefs is by simply the slow system, by reasoning. Unless we have really good reasons to override our Fast System’s intuitive ideas, they become our beliefs.

Could these mental tools (Fast) predispose people to believe in gods? Probably. Might one or more of these mental tools have evolved „for” believing in gods? Probably not.

Why believe in God/s

One possibility: Religion is an adaptation. The evolutionary idea is that religion has evolved to solve a particular problem in our ancestral environment. That is, that the people who believed n religious out reproduced and survived those who weren’t religious  and that’s why most people are inclined towards religion today. That’s the quick, nutshell version. They argue that religion is adaptive; that it’s good for you on one level or another.

Evidence Religion is Adaptive: Health, wellness, coping. Religious people have more babies than non religious people. Religious communities last longer, are marked with more trust and cooperation. Just because something is adaptive does not mean it’s an adaptation

Another possibility: Religion as cognitively natural

Various features of the mind (mental tools evolved to solve problems unrelated to religion and gods), collaborate to produce a natural receptivity to belief in at least one god. Consider it a god-shaped conceptual space.

Examples of what we mean by god-shaped space: I am just using that jargon „mental tools” to mean cognitive system that seems aimed at solving a particular kind of problem. Here’s one: HADD, the Hypersensitive Agency Detection Device. Stewart Guthrie (an anthropologist) argues that a Hypersensitive ADD would be a good adaptation and that this device leads to the postulation of gods. He means that in our ancestral environment, keeping track of where the agents, the minded beings like us are, being able to detect them rapidly, would be really important because they would have presented the greatest threat to survival, but also greatest promise for survival. If they’re friendly versus enemy. If they are prey versus predators. But, nevertheless, you better know when they are around(other humans or tigers,etc), better than when rocks and trees are around. For that reason, he says, we have this agency detection device that’s tuned in the direction of detecting agents with very little provocation. It doesn’t take a lot of data for us to go, „Who’s there?” A little creak on the stairs might do the job if we’re scared.

Guthrie goess on to say that because it is so hypersensitive that it sometimes postulate „There is someone there” when there isn’t. And that’s where gods come from, or ghosts, spirits, etc. That is Guthrie’s basic story.

We have a tendency to see design & purpose all over the place

Two points about this. It is not a „just so” story. We do have good laboratory evidence that our agency detection system is very jumpy, even from infancy and certainly through adulthood. We’ve all had these kinds of experiences where we saw a rock formation or some personal experience where we knew there was a purpose behind it. There is actually a growing body of research that suggests that we have this tendency to see design and purpose all over the place from very young ages. A lot of this work has been done by Deb Keleman, a developmental psychologist at Boston University.

Deborah Kelemen has shown that preschoolers tend to see the world as

  • purposefully designed
  • an intentional being (agent) as behind this natural design

Predilection persists into adulthood. Children (and adults) know people didn’t make the natural world.

People who will get a formal education in the sciences will tend to stuff it down or tamp it down, however experiments show  that in quick question sessions sometimes this belief system is still there in the background, waiting to sort of pop up. If you don’t get that kind of education, it doesn’t go away. For this reason, even people who forcefully argue against there being design and purpose in the natural world, folks like Richard Dawkins at Oxford,  admits in some of his books that he can’t help but talk as if there is because that’s just the way our minds work. Our minds do naturally gravitate towards that, whether we think that’s good bad or indifferent.

Now imagine this. You’re a 4 year old child. You’re seeing design and purpose all over the place. You’re not stupid. You know that people didn’t build mountains. Well then who did? This is what I’m talking about. That sort of conceptual space. I see design. I see purpose and I don’t know who did it, until someone comes along and offers God as a possibility and then they say, „Oh yeah. It makes sense. I got it”.  It resonates.

It’s probably not just those kinds of design. It’s also events that makes us go, ‘Wow! What’s going on here?” I’ll share one from my life, where you couldn’t help but know that was kind of strange. This was about 6 years ago when my wife and I were doing youth ministry in Lawrence, Kansas. I had been out of academia for almost 5 years. I tired and resigned my post at University of Michigan so my wife could join Young Life staff and I helped her do that and we had a blast. Toward the end of March, on March 28, our boss told us it would be our last day. So we cleaned out our office which was in the basement of our house and we started wondering what we would do next. If you know anything about academic hirings, it’s over by March. It’s too late to get a job.  March 29 I got an email. No one knew that we were unemployed as of the day before. But, I got an email from an old colleague who just a month before had been appointed to a new position as Head of the Anthropology Department at Oxford and he said, „Hey, you want a job? You want to come to Oxford and start a research center?” Well, it just so happens I don’t have any other obligations, Oxford will do. I don’t care who you are. That’s the kind of thing that makes you go, „What in the world is going on?”  Perhaps because we are fundamentally meaning making machines. It’s how we’re wired up. It’s how our minds work. It’s out there looking for meaning.

Theory of Mind (TOM)

Here is one more mental tool that I think is important: Theory of Mind (TOM)- System for helping us understand each other’s actions based upon mental states:

  • Beliefs
  • Desires
  • Emotions

It is my theory of how your mind works and what motivates you. to act. It is tuned to overestimate knowledge and perception to god-like levels. Happy to work without visible bodies.

It turns out (and this is some of the stuff that I have been studying at my lab), that from an early age, children’s default assumption seems to be to over extend (at least by human standards) knowledge and perception.That is, children seem to think that people know more than they do; that they see more than they do and hear more than they do. And then they have to pare that back. I’ll give you one quick example. I present a child with a familiar container like a cardboard box, a Saltine cracker box and I say, „What do you think is inside this box? ” And the child says, „Crackers.” Meanwhile I have opened the box, taken the crackers out, put some rocks in it and closed it back up. Can you see inside the box? If mom looked at the box she would also say that there are crackers inside the box because she can’t see what’s inside the box. Therefore she would have a false belief about the contents of the box. When asking children what God thinks is inside the box, they say „rocks”. There seems to be some kind of a bias that is attuned into the direction of over attributing knowledge and that makes it easier for kids to learn about God(s).

Another possibility… Various features of the mind (mental tools evolved to solve problems unrelated to religion or gods)., collaborate to produce a natural receptivity to belief in at least one god. Consider it a god-shaped conceptual space. Add to that all kinds of other considerations about… we seem to think that there’s a just world, we seem to think that moral improprieties get punished, and so forth, and you have lots of encouragement for full blown religious systems.

And, maybe where my friends are taking the strong adaptation views, the is where they can come back on stage and say, „Once these kinds of ideas about gods bubble up to the surface and once we start forming communities around these ideas, then maybe they actually are beneficial. They’re adaptive and at that point receive encouragement for that reason and these are some of the ideas

Offered evolutionary explanation: Once the god-shaped conceptual space appeared, religions developed leading to adaptive behaviors such as: people fearful of watching gods may have become more cooperative and self-restrained; religious rituals may produce trust and effective communities; god-centered meaning systems may reduce stress and produce well being.

Does an explanation = „explaining away” ?

Suppose my story is right and we’ve got some kind of an explanation as to why people are receptive to God… it’s natural, cognitively natural for people to believe in god(s). Does that explanation constitute an explaining away of God or gods?

Implications of naturalness/Born Believer’s Thesis

Some of my colleagues do seem to think so. Here’s a book written by a buddy of mine: The Belief Instinct by Jesse Bering Ninety percent of what he writes I would agree with.  He writes… „So it would appear that having a theory of mind was so useful for our ancestors in explaining and predicting other people’s behaviors that it has completely flooded our evolved social brains…” He is saying that we „theory of mind” everything. We „theory of mind” each other, we „theory of mind” our computers, we „theory of mind” our speakers, we „theory of mind” all kinds of stuff. And, we „theory of mind” the cosmos.

But, then he goes on, „…What if I were to tell you that God’s mental states, too, were all in your mind? That God… was in fact a psychological illusion, a sort of evolved blemish etched unto the core substrate of your brain? It may feel as if there is something grander out there… knowing, caring. Perhaps even judging. But in fact, that’s just your overactive theory of mind. In reality there’s only the air you breathe.

Consider  analogous cases

To hammer the point home, let me have you consider some analogous cases. Evolutionary psychologists can tell you why (causes) you think it horrible to drown orphans. Does that mean it isn’t? That you shouldn’t believe that it’s horrible? That you don’t have good reasons to think it? They believe: „Oh, you jet think that because of your evolved tendencies that make you receptive to that idea. That’s all.”

Or how about this one? Evolutionary psychologists can tell you why (causes) you think your mother loves you. Does that mean she doesn’t? That you shouldn’t believe your mother loves you? That you don’t have good reasons to think it?

One more. Evolutionary psychologists can tell you why (causes) you think other people have minds (conscious thoughts, desires, emotions, etc). Does that mean they don’t? That you shouldn’t believe that other people have minds? That you don’t have good reasons to think it? (Here he talks facetiously) Remember that your Theory of Mind has flooded everything. It’s tricking us into thinking there are minds out there.

It seems to me that this kind of approach, that’s heavily informed by the cognitive sciences, that’s informed by the evolutionary psychology, evolutionary anthropology as well, is consistent with, at least many forms of theism. Now, consistent with, doesn’t mean that the theisms are true because of it. It doesn’t mean it’s evidence for, but, it is consistent with.

Problem for only some gods? Alvin Plantinga

Alvin Plantinga here comments with: „To show that there are natural processes that produce religious belief does nothing… to discredit it; perhaps God designed us in such a way that it is by virtue of those processes that we come to have knowledge of Him”. However, this reply is not available to all gods. One thing to note here. I think that when we think that scientific explanations of something religious, like religious experience or religious beliefs is a problem for those beliefs it’s because we seem to have this idea that the natural order and whatever God does are entirely distinct. That they’re in competition with each other, somehow. That may be true of some religious systems. I am not an expert on all religions everywhere, at all time. But, I can tell you that that is not orthodox Christianity, it doesn’t fit with most versions of Judaism or Islam either.

Rather something closer to this quote by Richard Swinburne: „Everything that exists, at each moment of time, apart from God Himself, exists because at that moment of time God makes it exist or permits it to exist. That’s the view. And, if that’s the view then naturalistic explanations are not in competition. I do note that his reply is not available to all gods and all theologies. This sort of evidence, this sort of data, these kinds of explanations might turn out to be problems for particular theological ideas or particular gods. That ghost in the graveyard that maybe for head detected erroneously, couldn’t have designed the cosmos such as you might believe in ghosts. That doesn’t seem right. But, that’s not what’s at stake here.

Compatibility with God

I am not a professional philosopher. I can’t solve these problems. Not that I’ve ever known professional philosophers to solve these kinds of problems. They just ask better questions.

  • If there is a God – one that is powerful, knowledgeable, and was involved n the creation, shaping of the world and who also wants us to know Him – how probable that there would be natural dispositions to believe in some kind of god like this?
  • If there is no god of this sort, how probable is that?
  • If there is a God with whom we are meant to be in a personal relationship, then how probable that engagement in such a relationship to be good for us – to be adaptive?
  • If there is no god of this sort – how probable?

Some things to think about. In both cases, the scientific evidence appears to be at least consistent with at least one sort (but perhaps many sorts) of God. At least the one that Christians affirm… But intelligent people can (and do) disagree.

I have been working in the scientific cognizance field for my entire academic career ever since I started my first year at graduate school and I have never had any conflict between doing this work, together, in collaboration with my non believing colleagues and my Christian faith.

Question & Answer Session:

  1. You argue that a belief in the supernatural is natural. But I would argue that simply the desire to understand why things are the way they are is natural. I think this because God has been used to fill in the cracks of our scientific knowledge. Justin Barrett: I can agree with part of that for sure. I think it is natural to wonder, to seek meaning, to figure out and I think it is also true that at various points in history, and still today, people do try to use God to fill in cracks. But I take it that for the questioner that is all there is to the story. The reason I put Swinburne’s quote up there is to show something very important. It’s not the case… I regard it as bad theology to use God as a crack filler. That’s not my view of God. My view of God is not, „We can’t come up with a natural explanation, let’s slip God in there”. Rather it is, „What grounds our „knowing”? What grounds our „morality” ? What grounds our cosmos as a whole? And at every moment, even through these natural processes, that science, very helpfully helps elucidate; God’s hand is there”. This is the thinking that you can’t have explanations at two levels. And you can. And we do all the time. A quick example: Why is it that the water is boiling on my stove ? You could give here a chemist’s explanation or it could be because I wanted to make tea. And the 2 explanations aren’t in competition. They are actually compatible and they help bring out the picture. Followup: Why would you say that your explanation is not filling in the gaps? Barrett: Because there’s a difference between grounds and gaps. For instance: Why in the world do I trust my own mind to give  me true beliefs? Well, that’s not a scientific question. That’s a philosophical question. And it seems to me that that requires a different kind of answer. I happen to think that my trust in my faculties is well grounded in a certain kind of world view: theology, in my case. Non believers might be able to form a philosophy that does that equally well. Frankly, I haven’t been convinced by those. So, that’s a different kind of problem though, than say, „Why is it that certain people are susceptible to advertising. These are „apples and sofas”.
  2. Why do you or other scientists think about the idea that the reason why religion is not as popular in highly educated communities, is because we’re evolving out of our dependency of religion? Barrett: It could be. But, that has nothing to do with whether religious beliefs are true or false. It has to do with whether or not we are evolving and past wanting to have any part in that. That’s a separate issue, but, given that, it’s a problematic claim to go from, very quickly, „It looks like there’s not many religious people in educated communities, to this kind of step. If you look broad based, does education, say in the United States, predict religiosity? The answer is NO.It doesn’t. More educated people are not less likely to believe, if you look at the full sweep of people. If you look at very select subsets of people, then it sure looks that way. Certain kinds of psychologists are the most secular, academic field, but then of course we need to be careful not to fall into that trap of thinking that there’s some kind of a causal relationship just because there’s a correlation. There’s also all kinds of peculiar things about those groups of people. If you read my colleague, professor Dawkins list of famous esteemed atheists, you’ll notice, not only are these really smart people, they’re also 100% white male. Draw your own implications. I’m just pointing out that there are other things that pick out these groups of educated people. That’s interesting from a social-scientific point of view. Why does atheism seem to flourish in places it does?
  3. Does atheism constitute a similar psychological process to theism? Barrett: NO. It is insofar that it can be a meaning making system. But, atheism is, of course deliberately saying, „I am not going to accept this kind of agentive theory of mind rich kind of explanation for stuff. I’m gonna push that aside, so it’s a different strategy in that regard. It also seems to have a different kind of correlates. It’s a more reflective, Slow System, kind of belief system. It’s actually more analogous to theology, than folk religion. It does seem to occur most frequently in places where people have plenty of time to reflect, to think, are relatively affluent, and relatively buffered from natural sorts of  demands. This isn’t news to a lot of people. That’s just the facts of the matter. If you look at the developing world, there are almost no atheists. Full bodied atheists. Lots of people say that they’re atheist but if you start asking questions, you find out they’re not the thorough going atheists that maybe some of you are. They are the kind of atheists that also believe that there are ghosts who live in the clock. Followup: By saying that it develops in places where people have the most time to reflectively think, doesn’t that lead to atheism being a good idea? Barrett: Perhaps. But, it’s independent of whether it’s a good idea. Just because we have time to think about something doesn’t mean we arrive at the right destination. Lots of ingenious people have spent their reflective time coming up with really horrific things as well as really beautiful and good things. Most of the stuff we use to navigate our lives is intuitive, not reflective.
  4. What scientific evidence have you found most baffling or controversial that contradicts Christian beliefs and how would you respond to that? Barrett: That’s a tough question I don’t think I’ve been asked before. I am not as troubled by scientific findings as I am certain philosophical issues, frankly. So, I find the problem of suffering more challenging than anything that science has presented. So maybe if I am going to give one, since you did ask… maybe, putting those 2 together reflecting on the fact of „if we accept an evolutionary view of life, then it looks like animals have suffered, before humans could have been culpable for that suffering.
  5. Would you please explain why you are a Christian? What I mean is, what would you say to a fellow scientist to defend your faith? Barrett: That presumes that I would need to. I am a christian because out of all of the world views that I have considered and all of the kind of explanatory frameworks that I have considered, it makes the best sense for me, out of the evidence available, and the philosophical commitments that I have. Those things that sure seem to me to be right and good, that I have confidence in my mind, that there’s something rather than nothing, and my personal experiences sure looks to me like it jells really nicely for me. Christianity fits.
  6. Drowning orphans is bad” is not a universal truth.Is there really such a thing as universal truth and can you really approach a philosophical question like supernatural existence with science?  Barett: Absolutely true. I used the „drowning orphans” examples thinking that most of you in this room probably think that it is not a good thing. Putting that aside, we seem to think that when it comes to religious systems, that because there is a diversity of opinions out there, that means there isn’t a truth about it. That obviously doesn’t fall well. Moral truths are a good example. Some of you may want to throw moral truths under the bus too. I happen to think that drowning infants is a terrible idea and I know some may thing it is not. That doesn’t make me want to retying my beliefs. It just shatters me. So, I do think that there are universal truths. It just doesn’t seem to me that life, especially our social life, is at all intelligible if we don’t accept the existence of at least some universal truths. It might turn out that there aren’t many. For the second part of the question: I am not studying God here, I am studying why it is that people tend to believe in God. That’s a human phenomenon. That’s a psychological process so I’m not studying God. At best, I think that there are implications for whether or not one is justified in believing in God. But again, being justified in having your beliefs, doesn’t mean they’re true. I do think that if our intuitions tell us something, we should give that the benefit of the doubt. We should trust our natural intuitions as innocent, until proven guilty. And, I suspect in your day to day life, all of you do, too. But innocent until proven guilty means that they could be proven guilty. So, I do think that showing that there’s a natural disposition for religious beliefs, means that religious believers are, at least initially, justified in holding their beliefs. Until there’s good reason not to. But that’s not science. That’s doing philosophy.

5 comentarii (+add yours?)

  1. Michael Barnett
    mart. 15, 2012 @ 17:50:01

    When I read the Bible I see time and time again the term God used as a reference to self. Prayer using the term god to strengthen a belief in self. Rely on others, even a single almighty God. However Moses in my opinion was talking about a belief in self. And this I suspect is the ultimate religion because what more can you ask of life than to grow with a belief in yourself.

  2. Michael Barnett
    mart. 17, 2012 @ 05:36:55

    Dear Rodi, My Proof reading could be better, Relying on others including a single Almighty being may not be as productive, effective, or efficient as believing in yourself.
    King James version Exodus 3: 15 Moses asks god what his name is, God replies my name is I am. This I interpret as believe in yourself before you communicate with others. However the penny dropped for me by the end of reading Genesis. I regularly read the first chapter of Genesis.
    In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. I believe the writer or character expresses a belief in self here, he believes what he thinks. We are part of the result of where ever we came from and our identity has influenced (created) where we came from ( heaven and earth ).

    God created great whales, does a whale have self, does a whale believe in self. Has a whale influenced where it came from. I conclude like us it probably does.

    I interpret the use of god throughout the bible much the same way and I notice the term god is used less in subsequent chapters in the bible: as the writer and character recognises the term god is a reference , extension, and belief in self, and is practicing a basic freedom.

    Jacob changes his name to Israel. From memory God tells him to, again His belief in self, his freedom allowed him to change his name. Someone, possibly Jacob is able to interpret dreams of others: Again someone who believes in himself can be free and believe he can do this. The laws from God to Moses, indeed most if not (as I believe ) all Moses’ communication with God is a belief in self.

    I enjoyed recently reading Samuel, David defeats Goliath, from a belief in self. I interpret Jesus in much the same way: a strong belief in self, Mohammad too. In fact I have yet to come across a prophet that does not express in some way a belief in self. Belief in self can only be done if you are and want to be free. Worshipping even God as a single almighty being ( which may indeed exist) makes you dependant, and you lose your freedom, and diminish a belief in self, that I suspect is a dominant state of mind, that others may not want you to achieve.

    However, believing in yourself while others are dependant in believing in for example one almighty god, may put you in direct conflict ( i.e. you are free they are not: who said that Jesus? ). This includes most religious people including dare I say it the Pope. But if what you believe is more efficient and more productive, your belief will dominate, if not, you may find yourself beating a hasty retreat.

    Excuse my meandering I’m not a professional writer

    • rodi
      mart. 17, 2012 @ 11:10:54

      Michael, as I am traveling right now, I will try to answer you on Monday, as well as try to really grasp what you are saying in the meanwhile. Thanks

  3. Trackback: Darwin’s Doubt: Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism (Kenneth Samples) « agnus dei – english + romanian blog
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