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Chapter Four: Why people believe

Section 12: Summary

The first three chapters showed us that there is no evidence for God - indeed that the evidence that exists rules out the need for a god. Yet billions of people across the world continue to believe in him. Why?

1. Religion played a useful role in the early evolution of human civilisations - it brought communities together, established a primitive moral code and offered explanations for the physical universe.
Section 1

2. There is no evidence that we are genetically programmed to believe in God. Our internal experiences are no proof of external reality.
Section 2

3. Our personal identities are often closely related to the community we grow up in. Religion is often a key element in both our identity and community.
Section 3

4. The attitudes of our peers are important to us - when are more likely to believe if they do too.
Section 4

5. Fear of death and longing for a better world underlie many people's belief.
Section 5

6. Religion offers the idea of natural justice - that all those who harm others will eventually be punished.
Section 6

7. Religion suggests that life has Meaning.
Section 7

8. Religion offers power to the power-hungry and glory to the meek.
Section 8

9. Religion provides certainty in an uncertain world - and can provide a focus of rebellion for those dissatisfied with the society they live in.
Section 9

10. Awe at nature can persuade some people that God exists.
Section 10

11. Individual faith is complex - a mixture of some or all of these points
(3 to 10). When challenged on one point, believers will fall back on another, finally coming to the conclusion that they have faith because "it must be true!"
Section 11

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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