One of my favorite people of all time is Cornel West. Two of his most well known books are Race Matters and Democracy Matters where his views on society are for the most part, incredibly on the mark. I've heard him live a couple of times and he is wonderful to listen to. He is also a frequent quest on Real Time with Bill Maher where he rails against the right yet at the same time has been known to call out Obama. Anyway as I was listening to him the other day, I started to think, how could a man of such intelligence, hold onto something as unintelligent as religion? He is a man of deep faith. Expanding on this idea, why is it that many people of incredible intelligence are people of religion? What is it about what they get from religion that allows them all to suspend reason on one day a week and give themselves to the land of the make-believe? One of the main doctors who is treating Hitchens is a man of faith. This is a guy who has studied science in depth and has seen cells divide. He knows there is no scientific basis for his beliefs. Yet he believes. Is it because all these people need to religion to deal with death? Is because it is what is expected in our society and to be otherwise is too difficult? I just don't understand.
Faith doesn't trump intellect. Faith trumps reason. This is why smart people can be religious, their faith allows them to turn off the reasonable part of their brain long enough to believe in something they cannot see, hear, touch, or smell. However they can "feel" god's presence, or rather what they "perceive" to be god's presence through euphoria. As a former christian I've "experienced" the holy spirit before, but what I found out later was only that euphoric feeling that comes from a deep religious belief when you let go of everything, all fears, all worry and then throw in the social aspect of a revival atmosphere where hundreds of people are gathered together. It's much like a rock concert. Watch a video of any major rock band, the front rows are stacked with people in a purely euphoric state. I would imagine if you could test their brain activity at that peak moment of euphoria it would be near identical to the feeling that people have in church when they let go of themselves entirely and give themselves over to the moment.
Comfort is another reason. Life is scary. There are many many things to be scared of, to worry about, and to fear. How good it makes one feel to know in their hearts and minds that an all powerful supreme being which knows everything looks over and protects you. It makes one feel wonderful. This is why faith is important, and why it seems to trump intellect. Doubt becomes the weapon of intellect and the enemy of faith. Anytime one's reasonable doubting intellectual mind starts to come to the surface, it's quashed again with faith.
It's because without faith, you can't feel like that. It's a drug, and an addiction and should be treated as such.
@ Eric - I agree with you, though I would like to suggest, this euphoric feeling that is induced by the manner in which you (imo) accurately describe, would be categorized a little differently than a drug addiction.
If a believer can take themselves "out of the moment" and transport mentally into a fantasy of what it would be like to be consistently euphoric in the after-life, and this ability gives them a mental high for a period of time, you are going to have a hard time classifying that as a drug addiction, especially if they are able to function, (hold down a job, etc).
When you consider this "high" helps them to cope with illnesses and struggles they have in their lives, it is a lot to ask them to give it up. I understand there can be negative repercussions for non-believers for indulging people of faith, in some circumstances; but we are talking about asking people to see that their life-line is not what they think it is.
Compare it to someone holding onto a life perserver ring because they have been indoctrinated to believe staying afloat without one is not possible. I can guarantee you, unless you can get them to accept that they can learn to swim, they will never let go of it.
You can compare the fact that people who have hope of surviving a life threatening situtation, do have a higher percentage of survival than those who give up all hope. It is the proverbial golden carrot on a stick concept.
This is not to say, that it would not be possible for society to develop a healthier method of developing and channeling the positive psycholgocial effects of hoping for something better, or focusing on an idea that contains enough positivity to induce euphoria. It can be interesting to think about. One that would not require the expense of a good rock concert.
I did once, experience a few moments of euphoria at a rock concert. It was Van Halen but the one with Sammy Hagar lol.