Why religion still makes sense in the 21st century human experience

Now obviously religion does not make much sense when examined through the lenses of science, logic, or, in the absence of childhood indoctrination and with basic understanding of the previous two, common sense.

But let's just think about basic life and everyday reasons that could lead one to suspect that other worldly powers haven taken interest in worldly affairs. I'm not talking about a primitive human's fear of a thunderstorm leading him to believe in a thunder god, I mean shit we deal with today that just seems weird or fateful. 

For instance, my life was changed in more ways than I can think of by as a simple choice as where to have lunch. When I was travelling abroad I asked a passerby where I could find a good place to eat. He pointed me to a small restaurant at the end of the street and then as an after thought, mentioned one in the opposite direction. With no information about pricing or menu, I mentally flipped a coin. I'm acquainted with both establishments now and know that, had I chosen differently, absolutely nothing would have happened at restaurant A. But since I chose restaurant B I am now engaged, overcame my depression and fear of bees, have broken half the bones in my body, and had 4 of my teeth knocked out and replanted.

In my book and in yours, this by no means constitutes proof of a deity. But I can tell you that looking back on that moment, it feels like destiny. As though it were meant to happen that way. Were I religious, I would think that I was guided to make the decision I made because I seemingly had no control in what was truly a random though process.

I bring this up because I don't think we pay enough attention to little things like this that convince people that there is some grand plan and an omnipotent plan maker. We've all had weird feelings about fortunate or unfortunate coincidences and strings of circumstance. It's basic paranoia. But because we are atheists we simply dismiss this feelings of situations which seem to bear some ominous significance. But to the religious (at least those who believe God to be an interventionist), these little things fit the narrative and reinforce stone age understandings of the universe. But if tomorrow I choose to eat at Subway instead of cooking and get hit by a bus, that's not God. It's life. It doesn't seem like much of a point but I think it's worth discussing. Humans are naturally egotistical and I think that for many of the religious, their own life experiences (close calls with death, lucky days, etc.) offer enough proof and it's a factor that I think is underestimated.

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Interesting. My mindset is such that I think there are patterns to things; patterns to the unfolding of reality itself. I am fairly science literate and I respect science on the whole and find it interesting, but I think there are factors that may be beyond our comprehension, and that our inability to reduce and label them does not mean that they do not exist. In my younger days, circumstances led me to be an extreme skeptic. I have since decided that this attitude is closed minded, even as I continue to value reductionism and a healthy measure of skepticism, just not to a severe degree. One of the first things that crept past my defenses was an awareness of "meaningful coincidence.," commonly referred to as synchronicity. I do not believe that a divine being lines up particular events for individuals, but that there are unseen connections and relationships between seemingly disparate aspects of reality, and this does not require that I carry a lucky rabbit's foot or refuse to open an umbrella inside the house. (The trouble there is getting the open umbrella out the door.) I can give one example, of which I have many, and I quite understand if it makes you roll your eyes. Years ago when I was married I mentioned to my then wife synchronicities I'd had that rather amusingly involved the old Twilight Zone TV show. I mentioned a particular episode and how the show would often come on in a synchronistic way even when it was not scheduled or listed in the TV Guide. I went outside to have a smoke and my wife yelled at me to come inside the house. The episode I had just mentioned--I believe it was one in which a man was to be executed in a small town at sunrise and the sun never rises, putting off his execution--was on the TV. She showed me the TV Guide, and that it was not listed to be on at that time or on that channel. Personally I believe that reason and faith can complement each other, and maybe even that they are meant to. In any case, I think it is good to keep an open mind.

Michael Shermer has a lot to say about patternicity.  Even before that, Klaus Conrad called it apophenia.  People fabricate non-existent patterns out of meaningless noise all the time.  Nothing new.

You might want to be careful about that Twilight Zone thing.  Believing things on TV (or radio, movies, newspapers, etc.) are directed toward you is called a Delusion of Reference.  It may be a symptom of psychosis.

Right. I know there are always labels and disorders for perspectives that fall outside of a simple cause and effect view. I think there is a tendency to accept the explanation that feels most comfortable whether or not it is absolutely accurate. I am not obsessed with The Twilight Zone or hurtful to people. I hold down a job and do not bite the heads off of chickens or anything. Well, I ALMOST never bite the heads off of chickens.

And to put a finer point on it, I do not imagine that The Twilight Zone episode came on at my beck and call. It could of course simply have been a somewhat surprisingly exact  coincidence. If it was to be thought of as anything other than a coincidence, I think more that there could be patterns to events; not that the universe is reaching out to me, personally, but more that in the patterning of events I happened to mention the particular odd occurrence and a specific episode, right before both then occurred again. As for pattern recognition as a delusion, understanding chaos and fractal designs could put a different spin on at least some primarily visual aspects of that. There are types of design forms that repeat in nature so that you could say someone is reading a pattern into a visual structure where it does not exist, but there could also be a case that types of design recur in nature, from, for one example, a walnut in its shell and its similarity to the design of a brain in the skull. (Even brain surgeons use this similarity when discussing a procedure with patients.)

I meant the psychosis thing kinda tongue-in-cheek.  Not really calling you nuts.  Sorry it didn't come across that way.

Gotchya. I appreciate it. :) Thought you might be making my case that some people could lighten up a little. Lol.


I think there is a tendency to accept the explanation that feels most comfortable whether or not it is absolutely accurate.

That is true of people who "lie for Jesus". Google David Barton, who is well known to evangelicals. He makes his living publishing and lecturing to xians who want to believe that America was founded on xian principles.

If you have time, check Stuart Firestein's book Ignorance: How It Drives Science, or Chris Rodda's several volumes titled Liars for Jesus.

I wouldn't say religion makes sense. I think the attraction is the magical aspect. In other words that it's contrary to sense.

By "the magical aspect" I mean that some cosmic sorcerer has fixed things, through an act of magic, that we survive our death.

What I meant was it still makes sense to some people and therefore its persistent existence should come as no surprise. People want both simplicity, convenience, and truth. They find two out of three (and the illusion of the third) of these in religion.

What sort of "sense" can something illogical and unsupported by facts make to anyone?

As I said, it's the absence of sense that's the source of the appeal.

Okay rarely do I meet religious people who say "Oh yeah my religion doesn't make sense and that's what I like about it". It makes sense to them and when confronted by the logical inconsistencies, many try to rationalize it, while others mention something about faith. I never said religion actually makes sense. In fact the first thing I said was that it really doesn't

They don't use words like "I like that religion makes no sense," but they like the idea of believing despite the absence of facts and are proud that their belief is based on faith and not facts.

Indeed, one of the revelations of Kierkegaard is that what faith is, basically, is believing something despite the fact that it's intellectually unsupportable or factually false. The more absurd what one believes, the more faith one is exhibiting.


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