Religious beliefs and religious needs

Why do people adopt religious beliefs?

We believe that all young people should make a free and informed choice about what to believe.

People adopt religious beliefs because:

  • their parents are religious. (There is no gene for religion - there are no religious children, only religious parents.)
  • they attended a faith school which failed to teach about the alternatives in a balanced way.
  • they are taught RE in an unchallenging way at school.
  • their friends are religious.
  • their community is religious.
  • they have taken part in the rituals of religion almost since they were born and they know no different.
  • they don't investigate too much, they go with the flow, they have no wish to rock the family/community boat.

Most religious adults claim to have made a free and informed decision about their beliefs so it is reasonable to ask:

  • Did you simply accept the first religion that came along?
  • Did you investigate religious and non-religious alternatives?
  • Have you ever sat down for a serious discussion with an informed and articulate atheist? If not, please see "Challenge the atheist".
  • What specific aspect of Zoroastrianism (or any other of the 4,200+ religions and sects in the world today) made you decide that it was not for you?

What needs are met by religion?

As animals we have certain basic needs: water, food, shelter, warmth. As humans we also need the social companionship of others along with secure, loving relationships throughout life.

Some people need god and religion, others don't.

To some people the word "spiritual" means something - an indefinable mystic something. To others it means nothing beyond our emotions, our personalities and our awe and wonder at the Universe and our place within it. Most atheists avoid the word "spiritual" and many claim that, even after 6+ decades of life and study, they have no idea what it means.

We feel that religion is best explained psychologically (personal need), socially (social need) and politically (an instrument of power) - not mystically.

The needs met by religion include:

  • simple answers to complex questions: creation, death and the meaning of life. (Our answers are very simple.)
  • a desire to overcome the fear of death. (We have no fear of death, though we may fear the process of dying and therefore favour death with dignity.)
  • a social life - the feeling of being part of a community.
  • social support in times of need.
  • doing good in the company of others.
  • the regularity of unchanging ritual to provide an anchor in life.
  • an external authority to lay down the rules: god, holy books, churches, holy men.
  • a father figure - "someone out there cares for me."
  • an external morality.

Many religious people cannot understand how millions of people lead moral and responsible lives without god and religion - the idea of personally-derived moral values seems impossible to them.


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Occam's Razor

Walking on eggshells

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Religious beliefs and needs

Classic arguments about god

The psychology, sociology and psychopathology of religion

Historicity of Jesus

Religions and evolution

Challenge the Atheist

The Pink Hippo

Humanist speakers for schools

Advice for parents

Briefing paper on education

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