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Fri Apr 27, 2012, 11:24 PM

 

Los Angeles Times: Thinking can undermine religious faith, study finds



Thinking can undermine religious faith, study finds
Those who think more analytically are less inclined to be religious believers than are those who tend to follow a gut instinct, researchers conclude.
By Amina Khan, Los Angeles Times
April 26, 2012


Scientists have revealed one of the reasons why some folks are less religious than others: They think more analytically, rather than going with their gut. And thinking analytically can cause religious belief to wane for skeptics and true believers alike.

The study, published in Friday's edition of the journal Science, indicates that belief may be a more malleable feature of the human psyche than those of strong faith may think.

The cognitive origins of belief and disbelief traditionally haven't been explored with academic rigor, said lead author Will Gervais, a social psychologist at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada.

According to one theory of human thinking, the brain processes information using two systems. The first relies on mental shortcuts by using intuitive responses a gut instinct, if you will to quickly arrive at a conclusion. The other employs deliberative analysis, which uses reason to arrive at a conclusion.

Read the full article at:

http://www.latimes.com/news/science/la-sci-religion-analytical-thinking-20120427,0,5374010.story

51 replies, 4019 views

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Reply Los Angeles Times: Thinking can undermine religious faith, study finds (Original post)
Better Believe It Apr 2012 OP
Atman Apr 2012 #1
a la izquierda Apr 2012 #28
Rhiannon12866 Apr 2012 #2
johnd83 Apr 2012 #3
penndragon69 Apr 2012 #4
AnnieBW Apr 2012 #5
brewens Apr 2012 #6
opihimoimoi Apr 2012 #7
ProSense Apr 2012 #8
RainDog Apr 2012 #9
allan01 Apr 2012 #10
Union Scribe Apr 2012 #11
chknltl Apr 2012 #12
U4ikLefty Apr 2012 #13
Better Believe It Apr 2012 #20
U4ikLefty Apr 2012 #39
Better Believe It Apr 2012 #40
U4ikLefty Apr 2012 #41
Better Believe It Apr 2012 #43
U4ikLefty Apr 2012 #44
Better Believe It Apr 2012 #45
obxhead Apr 2012 #36
U4ikLefty Apr 2012 #38
AdHocSolver Apr 2012 #14
Bolo Boffin Apr 2012 #17
AdHocSolver Apr 2012 #31
Bolo Boffin Apr 2012 #37
BootinUp Apr 2012 #15
Bolo Boffin Apr 2012 #16
Initech Apr 2012 #18
Bolo Boffin Apr 2012 #19
Logical Apr 2012 #21
Better Believe It Apr 2012 #23
MineralMan Apr 2012 #24
siligut Apr 2012 #25
Taitertots Apr 2012 #26
Zalatix Apr 2012 #46
Taitertots Apr 2012 #49
woo me with science Apr 2012 #22
vanlassie Apr 2012 #27
Egalitarian Thug Apr 2012 #29
vanlassie Apr 2012 #30
BadGimp Apr 2012 #32
Liberal_in_LA Apr 2012 #34
Liberal_in_LA Apr 2012 #33
Quantess Apr 2012 #42
Liberal_in_LA Apr 2012 #50
Quantess Apr 2012 #51
hobbit709 Apr 2012 #35
Better Believe It Apr 2012 #47
Bolo Boffin Apr 2012 #48

Response to Better Believe It (Original post)

Fri Apr 27, 2012, 11:36 PM

1. I'd post this on Facebook...

...but I'd lose half my friends. Then again, probably not, because they'd have to think about it.

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Response to Atman (Reply #1)

Sat Apr 28, 2012, 11:25 AM

28. Bwahaha...

I'd have the same problem, only with my family members.

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Response to Better Believe It (Original post)

Fri Apr 27, 2012, 11:40 PM

2. K&R! Interesting article. Great minds, LOL.

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Response to Better Believe It (Original post)

Fri Apr 27, 2012, 11:50 PM

3. The right has the same problem in politics

They have to ignore reality to keep extremists religious beliefs in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary. They use the same "faith" in the conservative politicians rather than basing their decision on practical experience and evidence.

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Response to Better Believe It (Original post)

Fri Apr 27, 2012, 11:51 PM

4. It's a NO BRAINER.

If you CAN think, then you will probably
consider religion as myth and nothing more.

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Response to penndragon69 (Reply #4)

Fri Apr 27, 2012, 11:58 PM

5. Or, You Are More Likely To Be a Pagan

I appreciate that you're an atheist, but don't tar all "believers" with the same brush. Some of us worship multiple Deities, and are extremely analytical thinkers.

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Response to Better Believe It (Original post)

Sat Apr 28, 2012, 12:05 AM

6. I remember some time back a class that taught kids the difference between

a fact and a belief causing a stink. Trying to teach them to think analytically actually. You couldn't get very far with that and not make religious zealots uncomfortable. Even if you completely avoided examples dealing with religion. Kids learning that would apply it to religion on their own. I'm thinking it was some Florida school board at least ten years ago.

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Response to Better Believe It (Original post)

Sat Apr 28, 2012, 12:25 AM

7. analytical thinking requires freedom from restraints....nothing can limit the levels of Humanity

once achieved...

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Response to Better Believe It (Original post)

Sat Apr 28, 2012, 12:49 AM

8. That is unless

you're MLK or Jimmy Carter.

The two, analytically thinking and religious faith, can co-exist.

So does this mean that religious faith can be undermined with just a little extra mental effort? Not really, said Nicholas Epley, a social psychologist at the University of Chicago who was not involved in the study. But it does show that belief isn't set in stone, but can respond to a person's context.

"There's an illusion that our brains are more static than they actually are," he said. "We have fundamental beliefs and values that we hold, and those things seem sticky, constant. But it's easier to get movement on something fundamental."


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Response to Better Believe It (Original post)

Sat Apr 28, 2012, 01:04 AM

9. kick n/t

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Response to Better Believe It (Original post)

Sat Apr 28, 2012, 01:04 AM

10. re: Los Angeles Times: Thinking can undermine religious faith, study finds

I am episcopalian. I have a shirt with sayings by Robin Williams on 10 reasons to be an episcppalian : one of them is , no snake handling required, free wine on sundays , and you dont have to check your brain at the door

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Response to allan01 (Reply #10)

Sat Apr 28, 2012, 01:17 AM

11. ...

I assure you, the people who are trumpeting this nonsense article think you're as dumb as the other religious people they hate. Ingratiating yourself isn't going to change that.

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Response to Union Scribe (Reply #11)

Sat Apr 28, 2012, 01:58 AM

12. i do not hate you my fellow DUer.

I do not hate those who choose to have religion or those such as myself who choose to have no religion. I find this article fascinating and illuminating. I find myself drawn to studies which delve into the contrasts between the minds of those who are conservative and those who are progressive. This study appears to be moving along similar lines and imo deserves further researching. Hate is a very strong word, and arguably a very very sad word.

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Response to Better Believe It (Original post)

Sat Apr 28, 2012, 02:30 AM

13. The L.A.Times has sucked for years.

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Response to U4ikLefty (Reply #13)

Sat Apr 28, 2012, 09:33 AM

20. So which corporate owned newspapers don't "suck" and do you read, if any?

 


So .... should I stop reading any and all articles that appear in "capitalist owned" newspapers and if not, which ones have your seal of approval?

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Response to Better Believe It (Reply #20)

Sun Apr 29, 2012, 01:49 AM

39. So you agree that they suck?

I'm not getting your point.

I live in L.A. and the Times has been shit since the first Gulf War.

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Response to U4ikLefty (Reply #39)

Sun Apr 29, 2012, 10:14 AM

40. Define "suck" and do all of the articles that appear in the L.A. Times "suck"?

 

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Response to Better Believe It (Reply #40)

Sun Apr 29, 2012, 02:45 PM

41. If I wanted the corporate slant on current events in L.A. I'll read the Times.

If I want to ignore important things going on in L.A. I'll read the Times.

Do you live in LA?

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Response to U4ikLefty (Reply #41)

Sun Apr 29, 2012, 09:30 PM

43. I could stop reading any and all articles that appear in capitalist owned mass media.

 


That would certainly innoculate me from corporate propaganda that would turn me into a raving right-wing lunatic!

Is that what you have done?



I don't live in Los Angeles but we do have capitalist owned newspapers, TV and radio stations, etc., where I live. We can even buy capitalist magazines like the Rolling Stone! It's absolutely horrible!

Again, to avoid any "corporate slant" I could refuse to watch any TV programs or read any articles that appear in capitalist owned media!

But, I have strong political convictions so I think I can identify and reject any pro-Wall Street and big business propaganda that appears in the mass media.

Have you had a problem doing that?

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Response to Better Believe It (Reply #43)

Sun Apr 29, 2012, 10:53 PM

44. So you are arguing for the hell of it?

I'm not interested.

BTW, if you want aren't from L.A. then you know nothing of the stories they AVOID locally.

They were on their knees for Villaraigosa & the cops during the Occupy raids. Hell, they ignored Occupy LA for the first two weeks and we were right outside their window.

Maybe you should stick to the Rolling Stone...you'll probably find more real news there.

I'm busy organizing M1GS right now so I'm done with this useless exercise. I'm out helping create the news that the L.A. Times are sure to ignore/misrepresent.

Peace
-U4ikLefty

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Response to U4ikLefty (Reply #44)

Sun Apr 29, 2012, 11:03 PM

45. No. I'm just wondering if one can avoid capitalist indoctrination while reading the mass media.

 


I think I can and in fact have!

Do you ever watch MSNBC and other capitalist TV networks and their news coverage?

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Response to U4ikLefty (Reply #13)

Sat Apr 28, 2012, 04:36 PM

36. I guess that article struck a nerve.

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Response to obxhead (Reply #36)

Sun Apr 29, 2012, 01:46 AM

38. Nope, just dislike the L.A. Times,

They aren't worth lining a bird cage.

sorry to disappoint your smiley.

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Response to Better Believe It (Original post)

Sat Apr 28, 2012, 03:23 AM

14. This study is nonsensical on so many levels.

It is difficult to decide where to begin. So I will comment on one paragraph that exemplifies the problem.

(snip)
**********
According to one theory of human thinking, the brain processes information using two systems. The first relies on mental shortcuts by using intuitive responses a gut instinct, if you will to quickly arrive at a conclusion. The other employs deliberative analysis, which uses reason to arrive at a conclusion.
**********

The "professors" are totally wrong on this point. The brain does not process information in two distinct ways. The so-called intuitive thinking processes, or "gut instinct", is merely the brain processing information at a subconscious level. This type of thinking can be superior to conscious reasoning when a person's conscious reasoning starts from false premises.

A person who comes to erroneous conclusions based on false premises will believe his conclusions are correct because his logic is flawless, but will not understand the error of his ways because of an inability to question his basic premises.

A perfect example of what I mean can be found in all the erroneous babble about the economy in the mainstream media and on the web.

My gut instinct reading this article tells me that these "scientists" are full of bovine manure. Having worked behind the scenes in academia, my rational thinking processes lead me to the same conclusion.

The biggest danger of this article is that dolts who develop elaborate logical arguments based on false premises will think themselves superior, and a further danger is that others will take them seriously.

A better study would be examine the relationship between religious faith and "personality" (NOT reasoning ability) with consideration, for example, to where a person is situated on a scale of authoritarianism.


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Response to AdHocSolver (Reply #14)

Sat Apr 28, 2012, 04:00 AM

17. Actually there's been a lot of study done on the two systems of processing information

And, indeed, you acknowledge the two even in the paragraph that you denied two systems.

The brain does not process information in two distinct ways. The so-called intuitive thinking processes, or "gut instinct", is merely the brain processing information at a subconscious level. This type of thinking can be superior to conscious reasoning when a person's conscious reasoning starts from false premises.


The subconcious level is exactly what this system of processing information is. It's knowing someone is angry by seeing their face or experiencing an optical illusion. The second system is more conscious reasoning, as you put it, reasoning that takes a certain amount of cognative strain. They are distinct.

I'm reading a good book that gets more in-depth than this oversimplifying article in the L.A. Times. It's called "Thinking, Fast and Slow."

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Response to Bolo Boffin (Reply #17)

Sat Apr 28, 2012, 03:18 PM

31. Did your gut reaction or conscious reasoning lead you to misunderstand what I said?

The point of my post was that it is false to conclude that "conscious" reasoning is "superior" to gut reaction.

If the "conscious reasoning" starts from false premises, then the conclusion will be wrong.

It may be that a "gut reaction" processes the information "subconsciously" the same exact way, but starts from "correct" premises.

Gut reaction thinking can come from previous studies or experience that was retained subconsciously.

If the other two of the three questions were as simplistic as the one cited in the article, then the entire study is meaningless.

(snip)
**********
To find out, his research team had college students perform three thinking tasks, each with an intuitive (incorrect) answer and an analytic (correct) answer.

For example, students were asked this question: "A bat and a ball cost $1.10 in total. The bat costs $1.00 more than the ball. How much does the ball cost?" The intuitive answer 10 cents would be wrong. A little math on the fly reveals that the correct answer would be 5 cents.

After answering three of these questions, the students were asked to rate a series of statements on belief, including, "In my life I feel the presence of the Divine," and "I just don't understand religion." Students who answered the three questions correctly and presumably did a better job of engaging their analytical skills were more likely to score lower on the belief scales.
**********

I started to calculate what the "correct" answer would be, but then "intuitively" came up with the correct response because I remembered seeing this question several times before in books and articles about puzzles.

It isn't merely the L.A. Times article that is oversimplified. The entire study is oversimplified.

Having worked behind the scenes in academia, I am not immediately impressed with "scientific research".

My opinions about a lot of "scientific" research were formed both from analytical observation AND gut instinct.





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Response to AdHocSolver (Reply #31)

Sat Apr 28, 2012, 05:14 PM

37. I didn't misunderstand what you said.

I fully accept the point of your post, as you call it. But the paragraph of it I quoted contains a contradiction, which I pointed out:

The "professors" are totally wrong on this point. The brain does not process information in two distinct ways. The so-called intuitive thinking processes, or "gut instinct", is merely the brain processing information at a subconscious level. This type of thinking can be superior to conscious reasoning when a person's conscious reasoning starts from false premises.


The brain does process information in two distinct ways. You describe them even as you deny them in that paragraph. Recognizing the solution to a puzzle based on past experience is a distinctly different way of processing information that calculating the solution.

Both ways have their faults and both ways have their strengths.

I'm suspecting oversimplification in the study, too, but I'm not going to pass judgment on it without reading it first. And it's not the simple questions or other tests used in the study that's the flaw. Those questions and experiments have been used in other research and have already demonstrated a documentable blow to confidence in self-reporting in any belief or statement, not just religious ones. I just don't understand how this study has broken any new ground, and the LA Times article appears to be a poor source of information on the study.

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Response to Better Believe It (Original post)

Sat Apr 28, 2012, 03:28 AM

15. Its kind of a funny headline, no?

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Response to Better Believe It (Original post)

Sat Apr 28, 2012, 03:45 AM

16. Reading a great book that talks a lot about this.

It's called "Thinking, Fast and Slow," and it uses an example almost exactly like the baseball cost problem.

That said, it seems to me that the article really has simplified a lot. I'm still digesting the book, which itself goes to great pains to emphasize how much the author is speaking impresicely, but I'm sure that the description of the two systems of information processing is way oversimplified, and both systems have distinct strengths and weaknesses.

And there have been and continue to be plenty of analytical people of faith.

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Response to Better Believe It (Original post)

Sat Apr 28, 2012, 04:08 AM

18. I'm calling BS on this.

I know some *INSANELY* intelligent people - like my dad's friend who has two PH.D's - who are deeply religious. I don't think it's limited to how smart one person is to determine whether or not they're religious.

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Response to Initech (Reply #18)

Sat Apr 28, 2012, 04:19 AM

19. As much as I understand this, the LA Times article is overstating what the study shows.

I want to go find a copy of the Science article to be sure, but it could also be the study itself.

http://www.sciencemag.org/content/336/6080/493

The present studies apply a dual-process model of cognitive processing to this problem, testing the hypothesis that analytic processing promotes religious disbelief. Individual differences in the tendency to analytically override initially flawed intuitions in reasoning were associated with increased religious disbelief. Four additional experiments provided evidence of causation, as subtle manipulations known to trigger analytic processing also encouraged religious disbelief. Combined, these studies indicate that analytic processing is one factor (presumably among several) that promotes religious disbelief. Although these findings do not speak directly to conversations about the inherent rationality, value, or truth of religious beliefs, they illuminate one cognitive factor that may influence such discussions.


Basically, when you engage people's analytical processing in a way that causes cognitive strain, they will score belief statements lower than they would without this strain or priming. And that's any belief statement. People will be less sure of any belief following a round of analytical thinking. If that's all this study showed, then I don't understand why it was published. That's something we already knew.

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Response to Initech (Reply #18)

Sat Apr 28, 2012, 09:35 AM

21. Book smart is not logic sMart. Many PhDs fall for scams!

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Response to Initech (Reply #18)

Sat Apr 28, 2012, 09:41 AM

23. Well, if two PH.D's believe God built the Earth that proves I must be wrong!

 


I want to see the light.

So which brand of Christian religion should I adopt as the true one endorsed by the King of Kings or is it some other flavor entirely?

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Response to Initech (Reply #18)

Sat Apr 28, 2012, 10:17 AM

24. All PhDs are not equal.

The article does not have to do with how smart one is. Instead, it has to do with analytical thinking. Not all PhDs are analytical thinkers, sad to say.

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Response to Initech (Reply #18)

Sat Apr 28, 2012, 10:31 AM

25. I am in complete agreement

It takes something other than what is considered intelligence to analyze religion.

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Response to Initech (Reply #18)

Sat Apr 28, 2012, 10:41 AM

26. I'm calling BS on your BS call

"I don't think it's limited to how smart one person is to determine whether or not they're religious."
Good, because the study NEVER made that claim.

Maybe you should work on analytic thinking. Your post comes to an incorrect conclusion based on lack of analytic thinking.

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Response to Taitertots (Reply #26)

Sun Apr 29, 2012, 11:04 PM

46. "Smart" and "being able to think" are pretty damned synonymous, don't ya think?

 

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Response to Zalatix (Reply #46)

Mon Apr 30, 2012, 07:28 AM

49. Who ever said "being able to think"?

The study compares different ways people think to solve problems. No one said anything about "being able to think".

The reason for the BS call out is that the existence of several smart analytic thinkers that are deeply religious doesn't disprove their analysis.

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Response to Better Believe It (Original post)

Sat Apr 28, 2012, 09:37 AM

22. When I have spoken to both fundamentalist Christians and fundamentalist Muslims,

the conversations invariably have come down to my being told that I was "thinking too much."

That about summed it up for me.

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Response to Better Believe It (Original post)

Sat Apr 28, 2012, 11:23 AM

27. This does not seem to be that complicated

Things happen. We make meaning from them. We are often wrong, especially as young children.
Beliefs get planted and never questioned.

Same with teaching religion. You are required to believe, right? No one ever says..."don't take MY word for it." They say -all you have to do is "believe."

But the minute you learn how to verify what you believe, in order to see if long held thoughts are true, you realize that there is a simple method- If it's true, I will be able to confirm it with data.

I know religious institutions do not want this test applied to their teachings- because to follow them you must be willing to "believe." It's always struck me as particularly sad...because over and above the willingness to be a follower of any religion- which I have NO problem with, by the way, people suffer needlessly never being taught that they can learn an easy way to check their beliefs THAT ARE WRONG!

The woman who believed for over 50 years that it was something she did or said that caused her father to shoot her mother in front of her. The man who believed, since he was four, that it was his fault the baby died because he was jealous of it. On, and on, and on. Failure to teach the difference between beliefs and thoughts is at the root of our deepest troubles, I believe. I think even true believers would have dramatically happier lives if they were taught to check what they believe for truth. Then, after clearing away the actual LIES they have been telling themselves were true, they can choose to believe whatever makes them happy. Religion has a positive role to play, to be sure.

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Response to Better Believe It (Original post)

Sat Apr 28, 2012, 11:36 AM

29. Fascinating, but how to explain the Jesuits?

 

Two of the greatest minds I've ever met were Jesuits. Neither of them believed any of the fantastic tales in The Bible, yet both remain devout. I have no answer, I've never been able to grasp how they can believe in something they know is built on a foundation of lies. But there it is, anyway.

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Response to Egalitarian Thug (Reply #29)

Sat Apr 28, 2012, 11:59 AM

30. It was Jesuits who taught me not to believe everything I think.

Nothing wrong with choosing to believe that which is not verifiable. But you can't believe blindly, which is what most fundamentalists insist on.

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Response to Better Believe It (Original post)

Sat Apr 28, 2012, 03:37 PM

32. Thank you Professor Obvious!

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Response to BadGimp (Reply #32)

Sat Apr 28, 2012, 04:02 PM

34. lol

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Response to Better Believe It (Original post)

Sat Apr 28, 2012, 04:01 PM

33. yep. most western religions require a belief that a god is listening

to humans beg for stuff. I understand the emotional need for this but intellectually - it's a lot of hooey

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Response to Liberal_in_LA (Reply #33)

Sun Apr 29, 2012, 02:53 PM

42. "Most western religions"? How about ALL major religions?

All established religions are invented by humans and are all "a lot of hooey".

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Response to Quantess (Reply #42)

Mon Apr 30, 2012, 08:18 PM

50. There are some nature/earth based ones that don't seem to involve begging a god for stuff

seem to be more about respecting mother earth and such.

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Response to Liberal_in_LA (Reply #50)

Mon Apr 30, 2012, 09:50 PM

51. I appreciate those!

Pagan religions, and such. Unfortunately, religion needs to be harnessed to political power in order for it to gain traction. This is the main reason why spirituality has absolutely nothing to do with religion.

Another thing: can we change "western religions" to something like "major religions" in a way that includes Islam, and probably Hinduism also? Attributing these negative traits to western culture lets Islam off the hook.

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Response to Better Believe It (Original post)

Sat Apr 28, 2012, 04:11 PM

35. Belief gets in the way of thinking.

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Response to hobbit709 (Reply #35)

Sun Apr 29, 2012, 11:05 PM

47. Belief based on "faith" rather than facts does get in the way of reality.

 

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Response to Better Believe It (Reply #47)

Mon Apr 30, 2012, 04:56 AM

48. So this is why you keep showering us with Obama-bashing articles

and little puff Romney pieces? To give us "facts" to counter our "faith"?

Nice to know.

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