"What is the most resilient parasite? Bacteria? A virus? An intestinal worm? An idea. Resilient... highly contagious. Once an idea has taken hold of the brain it's almost impossible to eradicate. An idea that is fully formed - fully understood - that sticks; right in there somewhere." - Leonardo Dicaprio ( in the movie Inception )
Ideas, or as Prof. Dawkins refers to as memes, are pretty powerful things.
Don't you think this theist - atheist confrontation is a kind of ideological war? Where ideas are being targeted and only the fittest one survive, the other ones dying out. This process has been repeated with all the civilization and the most resilient ideas survived.
Why is religion such a resilient idea?
If you refer to a smaller scale, like an individual timespan, you can say that it is very hard to take such a resilient idea 'out' in somebody's own lifetime.
I think it's a resilient idea because it grabs individuals by their emotions. Edward Bernays (Freuds nephew, grand daddy of P.R) was very aware of this and used it as a means for mass mind manipulation.
Have you ever watched the documentary titled, "The Century Of The Self"? I think he was a little more than an "Ad Man".
Here's a link, in case you're interested.http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=6718420906413643126#
"The story of the relationship between Sigmund Freud and his American nephew, Edward Bernays. Bernays invented the public relations profession in the 1920s and was the first person to take Freud's ideas to manipulate the masses. He showed American corporations how they could make people want things they didn't need by systematically linking mass-produced goods to their unconscious desires. Bernays was one of the main architects of the modern techniques of mass-consumer persuasion, using every trick in the book, from celebrity endorsement and outrageous PR stunts, to eroticising the motorcar. His most notorious coup was breaking the taboo on women smoking by persuading them that cigarettes were a symbol of independence and freedom. But Bernays was convinced that this was more than just a way of selling consumer goods. It was a new political idea of how to control the masses. By satisfying the inner irrational desires that his uncle had identified, people could be made happy and thus docile. It was the start of the all-consuming self which has come to dominate today's world. (Excerpt from BBC Site)"
Religion is resilient because we're nerds (or most of us at least) and we suck at subversion. Except Bill Gates and that Jobs guy.
What religion has that we don't?
An endless supply of downtrodden individuals who are given the promise that their worries can be vanquished by belief in sky fairies, that, and communities organized around religion. Let's face it, how often do we here atheists setting up orphanages, soup kitchens, ways for individuals to find employment, etc... Unless we can ditch going against the grain and avoid hitting religious pundits head-on, we're always going to be 'doing all the running we can do to only to keep in the same place.'
one (pretty convincing) theory of the origin of religious thought and its resilience is that religious thought is a by product of our evolved minds. it has to do with modern theory of mind. we've evolved a cognitive template system that misfires and results in religious thought.
another byproduct theory is that religious thinking piggy-backs on our evolved hyper-active agency detection. it's better to conclude that the shadow in the trees is a tiger and be wrong than it is to conclude that it's just a shadow and be dead and so natural selection would favor hyper-active agency detection. but that means that sometimes we jump to the conclusion of agency where there isn't any. once we do that it's not hard to see how culture would reinforce this mistake and then you're off and running.another theory has it that religion is itself favored by natural selection. on this view, rather than being a byproduct, religion would have helped our ancestors by providing a social glue and/or codifying and enforcing morality. and while it may be objected to by saying that that doesn't explain religion's resilience remember that while our sex drives evolved when opportunities for sex were few and infant mortality was high such that natural selection would favor a high sex drive to take advantage of opportunities for sex and increase chances to pass on our genes, these conditions no longer persist but that doesn't mean that we don't still have high sex drives millions of years later.