A new book, "God is Watching You: How the Fear of God Makes Us Human" is being released by Oxford University Press in November, 2015. Based upon arguments from cognitive science and evolution, this book is written by Oxford scholar, Dominic Johnson. Are his arguments valid? Read a rebuttal to his point of view by Think Atheist member Casey Dorman in the journal Lost Coast Review at go to Is the Fear of God Necessary? at Lost Coast Review.com

I'd be interested in readers' comments.

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Or, again, perhaps some of the dualities produced by language give rise to BOTH (and more) delusions. Speaker vs listener; watcher vs watched; celestial pronouncements vs prayer...

Language is wonderful - almost magical. This is largely because it forces us to live in an unreal world of abstractions and mirror images. When, only an anthropological heartbeat ago, we put language "in charge", we then gave up our lives in the real world (except, for, perhaps, during meditation).

Hmm, this is the first time I've realized that paragraphs with ragged edges are easier to read than paragraphs justified to fit to a perfectly aligned right margin.

Yes, that's been known for a while. I worked doing typography for a while in a high tech company and one day the head of Engineering came in and demanded to know why the manuals we produced for him didn't have justified text given that he knew our IBM system had that capability.

At this point, our own department head explained to him that justified text is easier to read because it's easier to find where you were if you have to figure out what you last read, and that if he wanted she'd show him studies showing as much. 

That shut him up.

Impressive 47 word sentence there, Unseen. Not counting the apostrophes.

Thank you. When you can do 47 words without it being a run-on sentence, that's what it's all about, isn't it? ;)

With such a concept of God and such an inner sense of being watched, societies fare better than without it.

I'd add that "fare better" historically includes how aggressive groups can unite to defeat less aggressive groups. Such unification of purpose in societies produce double-edged swords.

From @Reg:

Could it be that it is only atheists that were once theists that sense “the watcher”. It may be a deep seated imprint or legacy of religious indoctrination. Maybe atheists who have never been subjected to religious thinking never have that sensation?

I'm struck by how little attention is given to indoctrination at young ages. Religion doesn't come up as a choice when one finally is old enough to think more rationally. It starts when we're most sensitive to parental and peer pressures, and most gullible. In fact in humans, the number of childhood years is dramatically higher than in non-humans. (Yes, presumption that there is a prime "watcher" should be more prevalent in kids reared by deists, but the urge to please prime observers/parents remains, as will often the urge to conform to family customs and rituals.)

As an aside, speaking of "someone always watching us", we may be going through yet more cultural evolution in that regard, with cameras and internet everywhere.

Lots of interesting points of view here. The title of Johnson's book, "God is Watching You,"
 probably phrases the idea to forcefully for many. Some people clearly don't ascribe anything going on in their heads to an inner voice, inner judge, inner watcher or even to inner self-talk, so the strength of this sense may be quite varied (from strong to non-existent).

I tend to think that there is a link between this sense and the development of "theory of mind," which, in turn may be related to the selection of humans with so-called "mirror neurons" which are useful in empathy and in imagining other people's reactions to our own behavior, even when the other people aren't present. For some, then this sense may remain simply an ability to imagine others' reactions to our behavior, while for others, it may take the form of a fully anthropomorphized other being who knows what we are thinking and doing. 

Either way, a complete study of this phenomenon would need to examine people whose sense of an inner watchdog (for lack of a better term) traverses the entire spectrum from a deified judge to almost nothing.


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