Like sex, food, language and other common activities, those do have participated in these activities often deceptively feel they naturally have well founded opinions about them. Religion is no different. Yet understanding religion is tough. Folk intuitions are largely wrong. Heck, even scholarly ones are just BSing private intuitions. I know, I dabble enough in religion to know how dumb I am.
But it is important to understand religion. Religion can be a deceptive vehicle for all sorts of atrocities and suppressive manipulation. But religion can also serve all sorts of good. It is a mixed bag. But in order to effectively combat those negative issues, it is important to understand just what ‘religion’ is.
A significant subset of atheists (especially many bloggers) mistakenly feel religion is just about ideas or just silly superstitions. Here are some of my sloppy speculations as to why they may falsely overgeneralize about religion:
1. Lack of Experience
They themselves have never had extra-ordinary emotional-cognitive experiences. It was for such a reason that I did my series of posts on “My Supernatural Experiences” to help those atheists see that other atheists have weird experiences they may never have imagined as anything but “irrational”.
2. Thought-Feeling Misunderstanding
Perhaps they don’t really understand the nature of mind-thought. Maybe they don’t understand that thoughts and emotions are inextricable. Thus my post here on the Tibetan Buddhist notion of thoughts. Cris Campbell just wrote something similar today, he has a fantastic blog.
3. Lack of Empathy
Perhaps they just have a defect in their theory-of-mind module and not only can’t imagine others having odd experiences (as in #1), but can barely really imagine others having feelings other than their own. Tom Rees just did an interesting, albeit cheaply journalist post Atheists and Empathy.
4. A Parochial Theory of Religion
Many atheists only think about religion in terms of their limited religious exposure. An even greater number of atheists are limited to a “Western” notion of religion. Chris Campbell writes about how the notion of Religion was invented for Japanese cultures here.
5. A Parochial View of Psychology
And the vast majority of us are limited by our modern world notion of psychology and categories that matter. I can’t remember where I read this, but I will keep looking. I wanted to get this post up today. See Bruce Carlton’s article: What Is the Meaning of Life? Animism, Generalised Anthropomorphism and Social Intelligence (2002) on Cris Campbell’s site for an example of this sort of questioning.
I, myself, have learned about various ways I continue to do many of the above. I am grateful to other bloggers & writers who help me to examine my assumptions.
Question to readers: Any corrections, additions, or suggestions?