Psychology of Believing

This is something that I try not to talk about often because of the sensitive nature of the subject, but I came across this article and wanted to write a post about it.


Religion is always a taboo topic to talk about amongst almost everyone. To me it falls in the category of politics and it is near impossible to change someone’s opinion on the subject. That is not my intention here, I simply want to talk about the idea of religion and beliefs. If you think you will be offended then read something else.

The below quote was taken from the BBC article posted above.


Human beings naturally want to believe that they are a part of something bigger, that life isn’t completely futile. Our minds crave purpose and explanation. “With education, exposure to science and critical thinking, people might stop trusting their intuitions,” Norenzayan says. “But the intuitions are there.”

“Humans need comfort in the face of pain and suffering, and many need to think that there’s something more after this life, that they’re loved by an invisible being,” Zuckerman says. “There will always be people who believe, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they remain the majority.”


I want to make it clear that I do not care one way or the other what anyone else believes, those are your beliefs and I would not dare to try and say that they are right or wrong. Because, as I mentioned above despite my best argument I will never be able to change your beliefs and vice verse, and at the end of the day no matter what, your guess is as good as mine on what all this thing we call life means, if anything.

Now let’s look at just the nuts and bolts of religion and beliefs. Mostly I am interested in the psychology behind religion as I think that is the most fascinating. I whole heartedly agree with the quotes above, as I think to understand religion you first need to understand the evolution of society along with how the brain works. Both are important as they have played a major role in the evolution of religious beliefs throughout history.

There is obviously a sense of comfort believing in a god or an afterlife. As the above article states even the most atheist individuals still are to an extent superstitious when it comes to many things in life. Whether sports or when medical tests are performed, what have you there is still some sort of feeling that things are not in our control. Perhaps that is why religion is as powerful as it is, it gives individuals the hope and reassurance about their lives. Something that no other individual can offer. Also maybe that feeling that they are not in control of their lives makes them think that there must be someone or something that is in control. If that person or thing is in control it is best to ask them for help in a situation that we believe they could influence.


Both articles I have posted talk about if in the far future religion will go the way of the Dodo. What I think is interesting is that both say a resounding no. The latter goes even further to say that even if science can prove without a doubt that there is no God, that religion and a deity will still have its purpose among humans. Again the reason is because we as a species need to know we have a purpose and that this life is meaningful, as that is how our brains are programmed. The problem is that we obviously do not know that, and there is no way to know.

In the movie Prometheus toward the end when Dr. Shaw puts her cross necklace back on Dave says something like, “after all this you still believe?” I have watched that movie numerous times since I first saw it and feel I have a better understanding of it. I did find that brief conversation between Shaw and David interesting, because regardless of everything that had happened in the movie and the fact that the movie answered some very important questions about our origins she still wanted to believe in a God. There is nothing wrong with that and it shows that no matter how much proof there is for some things, even then you cannot change someone’s beliefs. That I think to an extent sums up how our brains work. For Shaw the belief in God was so important to her that even when shown proof in the movie that humans were created by the Engineers, she still wanted to believe.

In college I remember reading The Quiet American and in the story the two main characters are having a conversation about God and one says, “well at the end of the day, suppose that there is no way to know if there is a God, isn’t it better to make yourself believe and go to church just in case there is one. Because if there is you can say you did all the proper stuff, whereas if you don’t then you are in trouble.” This is not a direct quote but gets the point across, I hope. It is an interesting thought, and one that if you just look at it logically it makes sense. If there is a God wouldn’t it be better to believe and go to church just to make sure that your soul is saved when you die? I would argue yes, but I think an all powerful omnipotent being would see though the sham if you truly did not believe, I don’t think you could trick God is what I am saying. So then it comes down to if you truly believe or if you are just doing it because.

I remember hearing about this a while back and found some reliable sources so I felt I would share. Most people would agree that Mother Theresa should be a saint and her name is synonyms with one of the most spiritual and selfless humans that has walked the planet in modern times. What if I told you that for most of her life she doubted God’s existence? Her private journals were published a few years back and they are very interesting. Again I am not trying to turn anyone’s beliefs or tarnish the work of a person who has helped so many in her life. All I am trying to say is that I found it very fascinating that she did not believe in God for most of her life. I do not know exactly what cause her to have such a profound change of heart, but for a woman who if you ask most people think she was one of the most devout Catholics on the planet it is very eye opening.

This life is full of anything and everything, and the more time we spend on Earth is it easy to see how much we do not understand and have so many questions and few answers. While some put their faith in the divine, others may put their faith in science to help explain what is unexplainable. Regardless of which you put your faith in I think it is safe to say that neither is able to fully explain what we call life. Whichever God or Dr. you turn to for answers about the universe we all have to take a leap of faith at one point or another.


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