Why We Believe in Gods

Religious belief is virtually ubiquitous. This is obviously very annoying to nonbelievers, but it does raise an important question: why do so many people believe in the existence of some transcendent personal god they've never experienced directly? Some have gone as far as to argue that we are created to believe, that it is a fundamental characteristic of what it means to be a human being, and that this ability distinguishes us from brute animals.

In this fascinating lecture, and drawing insights from state-of-the-art neuroscience, cognitive psychology and evolutionary psychology, Andy Thomson argues quite convincingly that spiritual/religious belief is the result of a brain whose evolutionary roots have been hijacked and whose cognitive weaknesses have been exploited. Just like your mind can be tricked by optical illusions because of the way your brain is wired, he argues, your mind can be easily tricked to believe in spooks and invisible agencies. Atheism, on this view, represents the brain's ability to overcome its natural ability to deceive itself.

Wait, so what about the monster hiding in my closet at night, smart guy?
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