The reasons why we believe in a religion

Although they had not recognised it, my depressed or psychotic patients were struggling with the questions that theologians and philosophers had struggled with for thousands of years.

The reasons why we believe in a religion

This former bootlegger took to the pulpit in a rural Pentecostalist community in Grasshopper Valley. One Sabbath, while he was preaching a fiery sermon, some of the congregation dumped a large box of rattlesnakes into the pulpit history does not record whether they were angry or just bored.

Without missing a beat, in mid-sentence, Hensley bent down, picked up a 3ft-long specimen of this most venomous of snakes, and held it wriggling high above his head.

Unharmed, he exhorted his congregation to follow suit, quoting the words of Christ: There have since been around deaths from snakebite in these churches, but most of the congregants tend to refuse medical help if they are bitten, preferring to believe that divine intervention will be more efficacious.

Sadly, Hensley himself perished from a snakebite inand shortly afterwards the US government wisely acted to prevent the practice - although it is still legal in parts of the States.

Today, snake-handling continues mostly in small communities in rural areas of Tennessee and Kentucky, as well as pockets in other southern states. Participants feel that "the spirit of God" comes upon them as they open the boxes containing the snakes.

Often lifting three or four of them up simultaneously in one hand, holding them high and allowing the creatures to wind around their arms and bodies, they praise God ecstatically. To many of us, religious or not, this type of activity seems little short of outright lunacy.

And it's certainly the case that religion and mental ill-health have long been linked. The disturbed individual who believes himself to be Christ, or to receive messages from God, is something of a cliche in our society. Ever since Sigmund Freud, many people have associated religiosity with neurosis and mental illness.

The reasons why we believe in a religion

Many years ago, a team of researchers at the department of anthropology at the University of Minnesota decided to put this association to the test. They studied certain fringe religious groups, such as fundamentalist Baptists, Pentecostalists and the snake-handlers of West Virginia, to see if they showed the particular type of psychopathology associated with mental illness.

Members of mainstream Protestant churches from a similar social and financial background provided a good control group for comparison.

The reasons why we believe in a religion

Some of the wilder fundamentalists prayed with what can only be described as great and transcendental ecstasy, but there was no obvious sign of any particular psychopathology among most of the people studied.

After further analysis, however, there appeared a tendency to what can only be described as mental instability in one particular group. The study was blinded, so that most of the research team involved with questionnaires did not have access to the final data.

When they were asked which group they thought would show the most disturbed psychopathology, the whole team identified the snake-handlers.

But when the data were revealed, the reverse was true: A Harvard psychologist named Gordon Allport did some key research in the s on various kinds of human prejudice and came up with a definition of religiosity that is still in use today. He suggested that there were two types of religious commitment - extrinsic and intrinsic.

Extrinsic religiosity he defined as religious self-centredness. Such a person goes to church or synagogue as a means to an end - for what they can get out of it.

They might go to church to be seen, because it is the social norm in their society, conferring respectability or social advancement.

Going to church or synagogue becomes a social convention. Allport thought that intrinsic religiosity was different. He identified a group of people who were intrinsically religious, seeing their religion as an end in itself.

They tended to be more deeply committed; religion became the organising principle of their lives, a central and personal experience. In support of his research, Allport found that prejudice was more common in those individuals who scored highly for extrinsic religion.

The evidence generally is that intrinsic religiosity seems to be associated with lower levels of anxiety and stress, freedom from guilt, better adjustment in society and less depression.Some people describe this in religious terms, some in terms of nature, but, whatever, we do not feel the need to have a religion tell us what we should believe.

The history of the Christian church, the pursuit of personal desire has been frowned upon and at times even fervently discouraged. But a new theory of why people believe in God has claimed that.

7 Reasons Why It’s Easier for Humans to Believe in God Than Evolution and author of the book Why Religion is Natural lot of people don’t . They’re finding that religion may, in fact, be a byproduct of the way our brains work, growing from cognitive tendencies to seek order from chaos, to anthropomorphize our environment and to believe the world around us was created for our use.

Mar 23,  · Religion 10 Reasons for Man to Leave Religion Behind. Mike Floorwalker March 23, Share 5K. Stumble Tweet. Pin +1 for a number of reasons.

Here are ten of them. and it remains relevant regardless of what you believe or don’t believe—indeed, whether God exists or not. It’s why we’re here, and it’s. Jun 13,  · Why do people have the need to “believe fervently in the very unlikely”? The short answer is no-one knows for sure, but there are some aspects of our behavior that provide some clues.

Here are eight reasons that have been given for .

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