The primary reason we each believe what we do

I couldn't be an atheist

Benjamin Corey’s Formerly Fundie blog is one I read regularly. Benjamin mostly writes, from a slightly radical perspective, about christianity and church in America.

But his latest blog (Why I Just Couldn’t Be An Atheist, Even If I Wanted To) discussed how he and an atheist friend sometimes discuss their respective beliefs.

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Does religious belief make you more moral: a case study in misusing data?

Salvation Army helping

Initial note

This is unfortunately a sometimes negative post, and slightly longer than usual. I’m sorry about that. I have tried to be fair and positive, but I think it was important to address this issue.

Both christians and non-believers seem to want to prove that their belief makes for a better society and the opposing viewpoint is harmful. And so both sides look to research to bolster their conclusions. Trouble is, the research isn’t always unanimous, and sometimes it can be downright misleading.

As a case in point, Gregory Paul has published several papers in academic journals that claim to show religious belief leads to low prosociality. But the often-quoted claims are not backed up by rigorous analysis (as we shall see).

So what is the current academic consensus?

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Ways we can try to find happiness, but in the end they don’t seem to work

Party

I’ve long been interested in the science of what makes people happy, and what doesn’t, and have written about it often on this blog and website. It’s a subject of important research, and new studies and reports are appearing all the time.

Here’s the results of some significant studies that have been reported in the last few years. This post: what doesn’t deliver lasting happiness as much as we’d like. Next post: what works.

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How do people ‘find God’?

People wondering

The christian religion has lost numbers in most western countries over the past half century, but there are still people becoming christians too. But what leads them to believe in Jesus?

Do they just believe what they were brought up to believe? Do they sift the evidence? Or do they experience God in some way?

Sceptics sometimes say that christians believe without evidence, or even against the evidence. Does this claim measure up?

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An atheist’s thoughts on Jesus and history

Jesus

When considering a contentious question, it can be helpful to see how much thoughtful protagonists concede to the other side, for this is an indicator of the range of reasonable views.

For example, if a thoughtful and knowledgable christian concedes an area of doubt about Jesus, there is a fair chance that doubt has some reasonable basis. Likewise if a thoughtful and knowledgable atheist concedes certain historical statements about Jesus are true, that too is likely to be a reasonable assessment.

So here is a recent example.

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