Why, do you suppose, people are religious? That’s an interesting question with some very obvious answers. In general, people believe in their God or Gods for various reasons — very much depending on the individual and, in some cases, on the society to which the individual is bonded.
- For some it’s the comforting belief that there is a Supreme Being watching over you, protecting you, listening to your prayers and forgiving you your trespasses.
- For some its fear that keeps them in line with their God’s demands and gets them to the worship service — a fear of the consequences of not believing and not getting into the “paradise” that awaits believers — going instead, for example, to the burning pits of Hell that await Christian sinners. In the case of those who live under theocracies, it is also the fear of the penalties here on earth — the penalties for disobeying the rules of the church.
- For others a belief in a God gives their life a meaning, a direction and a defined end.
- For still others, perhaps the majority, its simply the way they were brought up and not something to be questioned unless they are willing to incur the wrath of their families, peer groups and communities. Besides, why take the chance? If there is a God and you don’t abide by the “rules”, you could wind up in some bad (possibly hot) place. If there isn’t — well nothing lost!
My guess is that the above covers most of the bases but apparently there is now a group of researchers who either suspect there are other, possibly hidden, reasons that people believe in religion; or they may just be out to make a “fast and easy buck” with a no-brainer research project; or perhaps they are actually asking a different question.
According to the Rueters article linked below, the brain trust at the U.S. based John Templeton Foundation is giving $4 million to a group of British researchers to spend the next three years answering the question: “Why do people believe in religion” as well as many other issues surrounding that central question. Think about that for a minute! Is it worth $4 million and three years to determine “why” people believe or even what they believe? I doubt it! Unless the real question is either: ‘what can be done to get more people to believe in religion?’ OR ‘what can be done to get fewer people to believe in religion?’
Why would someone be interested in increasing or decreasing the number of religious people? Justin Barrett, one of the project leaders, provided, perhaps inadvertently, one reason for increasing the religious masses when speculating on the benefits to a society when the majority believe in a loving, nurturing, or in his words “moral” God:
“Groups that have religious sentiment might be more likely to co-operate, giving them a comparative advantage,” Barret said.
You might, if you are so inclined, read some ominous subtext into that statement, i.e., religious people are more easily manipulated because they tend to ‘go along’ with what is expected of them.
As for decreasing the effect of religion on society; there are many people who fear organized religion, especially when witnessing some of the negative effects of religion as they have been recently illustrated in the Middle-East.
I’m not generally one to subscribe to conspiracy theories (and I’m not religious) but in this case I have to say that this entire project has a dishonest, conspiratorial scent about it. More knowledge is almost always good — but when it is gathered using a phoney pretense I tend to be leery.
The Ledger: God Under the Microscope
Street Phrophets: The 4 Million Dollar Question
The Triumph of Conservative Philantropy: The know-nothing conservative philanthropy religionists