Are religious people less logical?

April 23rd, 2017

Most people like to think they are logical, and have good reasons for their choices – including their choice of believing in God, or not. But modern atheists often accuse christians (and believers in other religions) of not basing their beliefs on evidence and reason.

And it’s a plausible argument, for psychological studies have suggested that analytic thinking tends to lead to religious disbelief, whereas intuitive thinking tends to support belief. For example, in 2012 well known psychologists Will Gervais & Asa Norenzayan published the results of studies that apparently showed that Analytic Thinking Promotes Religious Disbelief. Many other studies have produced similar results.

But more work has been done on this, with interesting results.

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Do we need God for life to have real meaning?

March 22nd, 2017

I’ve been reading a little about meaning in life. Psychologists tell us we need to have meaning and purpose in life for our psychological wellbeing. With a sense of meaning, we are more likely to be happy, have a positive sense of our own identity and be more resilient under stress

But what gives our lives meaning? What part does God play in this? And how do non-believers find meaning?

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Atheists and religious traditions

November 24th, 2016

Today is Thanksgiving in the US. Thanksgiving can have different meanings for different people, but probably the two main emphases are a day for family to get together, and a day to thank God for his many blessings to us.

So what does a conscientious atheist do? Should she just shut up and join in? Might he spoil the family occasion if he refuses to join in a prayer of thanks? How can they be honest yet not disrupt the family occasion? (Christmas and Easter may present similar difficulties.)

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Hugh Mackay on why people stop going to church

September 29th, 2016

I am currently reading Hugh Mackay’s book, Beyond Belief, which addresses the question of how people find meaning in life with or without religion.

Hugh is probably Australia’s leading social researcher and commentator, regularly appearing on talk shows and in newspaper article. He is neither a christian nor an atheist, probably best described as having an interest in a vague and positive spirituality, which he sees as the way of the future.

I don’t agree with everything he says, and I think sometimes his own opinions and beliefs may be speaking more than his social research, but the book has lots of good research behind it and lots of interesting things to say.

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That nagging feeling that you’ve been wrong all your life

July 19th, 2016

Mark Bauerlein is Professor of English at Emory College. He has written books on modern culture, and written articles for several popular American magazines. He has been called one of the Independent Women’s Forum’s “favorite intellectuals”.

And five years ago, after more than three decades as a comfortable atheist, Mark converted to christianity. What happened?

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Light at the end of the tunnel for some of the world’s poorest people

May 2nd, 2016

Bithi started work in a Bangladeshi clothing factory when she was 12. Abject poverty and a sick father forced Bithi’s family to send the two oldest daughters to the garment factories to sew designer clothes sold mainly in North America. It was either that, or watch the girls slowly starve.

Now 15, Bithi helps create a minimum of 480 pair of designer jeans every day, sewing 60 pockets an hour. For this, she earns about $1 US a day.

If that shocks you, makes you angry, or even makes you cry, that is an appropriate response. But at last there is a glimmer of hope for girls like Bithi.

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7 facts about religion and terrorism

December 6th, 2015

Terrorism is on many people’s minds at the moment, and many connect it with religion.

Several years ago I wrote a page on this website about religion and terrorism, and it is one of the pages I have had to update most often, because of new understandings.

I have just updated it again, with new material from researchers and commentators. It leads me to 7 facts about terrorism and religion.

I believe killing is ugly and wrong in almost every case, and so I believe that terrorism is evil. But it is committed by people who have similar DNA to ours, and it is best we understand them as well as we can.

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I remember when the world was very different

November 17th, 2015

The world in 1945

I’m not sure if I was a normal boy, but I always loved maps. So one of my favourite books was the Oxford University World Atlas. I loved it because of the diversity of its maps – it even included details on the solar system (I loved astronomy too!) and the exploration of Australia by Europeans (the unexplored parts of the country were shown black, as if the first Australians weren’t even there). As you can see, I still have it, much the worse for wear – sort of like me and the world it portrays! 🙂

I was born in 1945, right at the end of the Pacific war in which my dad fought. The atlas was from about the same period – it doesn’t show Israel as a separate country (which occurred in 1948). And it shows, as you can see in the above world map, the British Empire, on which the sun never set, proudly marked red.

The might and grandeur of the Empire was a wonderful fact of life in those days – we even celebrated Empire Day with a half day school holiday in May, and fireworks in the evening.

They were innocent days. But they didn’t last.

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Recovering from cancer

October 7th, 2015

Hospital patient

Sick people generally want to get better, and doctors work for that result. If there’s any way to improve the odds of recovery, then both doctors and patients want to know.

Modern medicine can do amazing things, and the human body has amazing recuperative powers. But sometimes more is needed. Sometimes people ask God for a healing miracle, and sometimes it seems as if he does indeed heal.

But not all doctors and patients believe in divine healing, even if they believe in God, so not all pray for healing. But the evidence points to belief in God increasing the chances of recovering from some major illnesses. Cancer is the big one.

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Christianity – the good and the bad?

July 10th, 2015

CATHEDRAL

The good and harm done by christianity is a topic of much discussion and argument, and I have written on it many times (e.g. Does religion poison everything? and Do religious believers have better health and wellbeing, like, really?).

Keith Parsons is a US philosopher and atheist who writes about the philosophy of religion, and actively engages with christian belief via The Internet Infidels website and the Secular Outpost blog. Keith has made his assessments of christianity in two posts on Secular Outpost, and they are worth checking out.

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