In my recent post called “Rewriting our Religious History” I described how religious folks join their faith for fairly simple reasons, but later report their reasons for joining in lofty, complex theological terms. Like the boy in this picture, after lots of reading or teaching by religious professionals, a person has a hard time remembering their actual past.
Below I offer an extensive list of those more basic needs for joining a religion and divide them into three groups of needs: Physical, Psychological and Social. Of course these groups and reasons overlap, but I think this is a pretty good list. Can you think of other motivations?
British science blogger Tom Reese, at Ephiphenom, published a post today called “Recollections of Childhood Religion” where he describes a study which shows how we may change our religious histories in order to build a more consistent view of self. A basic foundation in correct thinking needs to be informed by this understanding of the foibles of memory and one of the adaptive benefits of inaccurate memory: building a stable image of self.
Religion can offer many benefits — that is why it persists. We can not minimize these needs nor their solutions. To solve the down side of religion, we must therefore offer other ways to meet these needs or encourage modifications of the religion itself that neutralize the downsides. Do you agree?
Basic Motivations for Embracing a Religion
1. Physical Needs
- desire healing, improved health
- need shelter, clothing, food, education, health care …
for yourself or your loved ones
- hope for better finances
- to feel safe
2. Social Needs
- preserve family tradition
- to pursue/ secure/ preserve a lover or friend
- need for supportive community: desperate times
- need for sense of belonging
- to offer children moral training and social belonging
- to improve or preserve social status
- to supply moral framework
3. Psychological Needs
- to follow childhood tradition
- to model an admired person
- to follow a leader, a guide: secure guidance
- to obtain order: a comprehensive worldview or answers
- to avoid harassment from other children or adults
- to resolve confusion – to find meaning, purpose, hope
- to rebel against former alliances – leave old tradition;
- to secure a sense of identity: personal, national …
- to ease fear: of death, of hell, of social loss
- to secure a niché: given their temperament, skills, and conditions: a place where they can prosper psychologically, socially and physically.
- to help leave old undesired behavior or social circles