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Chapter Four: Why people believe

Section 11: Pick n mix

Belief is difficult to overcome because it has so many roots.

pic: origin to be confirmed

Faith is complex. it has no single source. No-one can say "I believe in God for this reason and this reason alone". Consciously or subconsciously believers pick and mix their motives - from family tradition to fear of death, from the longing to give life meaning to the sense of wonder from nature.

It is because belief is so complex that it is so difficult to combat. It is based on emotion but it uses the weapons of reason to defend itself. When reason turns against them - "it's absurd to follow this religion simply because your parents did" - believers slip out of its grasp and mount another defence - "but there must be a meaning to life" - and another and another, never conceding the basic point that their faith is false.

And at the end of day, when every explanation falls short and every rationale is exhausted, believers fall back on to the defence that "it must be true!" - which is only another way of saying "I want it to be true."

The internet is flooded with religious websites. Across the world war and terrorism are driven by faith. It's easy to be pessimistic and to believe that religion will always be with us.

But the good news is that belief is gradually dying. Two hundred years ago, perhaps no more than one in fifty of the world's population were atheist. Today, one in ten, perhaps as many as one in five accept the reality of no god and no afterlife.

Belief is difficult to overcome because it has so many roots, but those roots are weak and gradually dying. It is good to know that reality is winning.

Chapter Four: Summary

Chapter Five: Faith in Action

The deep roots of belief

Despite reason and evidence indicating that God does not and cannot exist, billions of people across the world continue to worship him in one of his many forms.

Belief in God draws its strength from a wide range of sources and provides a sense of security and wellbeing for many. Transforming that belief into an understanding and respect for rationality takes time and much effort.

4.1: The origins of religion
Where did faith come from?

4.2: In the genes?
Are we programmed to believe?

4.3: Community and identity
Defining ourselves through faith

4.4: Peer pressure
Faith as fashion

4.5: Death and despair
There must be a better world

4.6: A sense of justice
Evildoers must be punished

4.7: God and meaning
Religion gives us a purpose

4.8: The power and the glory
They reflect on us too

4.9: Against the tide
Converts and natural-born rebels

4.10: Nature calling
A glimpse of God?

4.11: Pick 'n' mix
What are your reasons?

4.12: Summary

Finished this chapter? Move on to

Chapter 5
Faith in action

People create God in their own image. What happens when they not only believe in God but put their faith into action?

The results are predictable: good people do good things in the name of religion and bad people do bad things. They act in God's name but God is irrelevant.

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If God existed, he would...

admire the beauty of a universe that he did not create

recognize that eternity is meaningless

deny both heaven and hell

disown all men and women who speak in his name

denounce the harm caused by religious "morality"

help the human race to thrive without him

If God existed, he would be an atheist.

What is the difference between science and faith?

science is certain of nothing and requires proof of everything

faith is certain of everything and requires proof of nothing

Which do you trust?

"I know there is no God"
"I believe there is no God"

Check the answer

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