Sunday, January 4, 2009

The Roots of Non-religion

Lack of indoctrination: A large part of how religion functions is by introducing you to religious ideas when you are young and using social pressure (positive for acceptance and negative for rejection) to facilitate belief and adherence. Obviously, this only works in a society that is predominantly one religion. It is incredibly less effective otherwise, due to the social pressure involved being dependent on many people around you expecting you to believe, and holding you with esteem for complying. Without people with those expectations, indoctrination is weaker. The exception is when religion is offered by authority figures, especially at a young age. This can be especially strong, and can carry on even in the absence of that authority figure if they were sufficiently respected.
Being nonreligious due to lack of indoctrination is only a temporary condition if not supported by other "roots". If there is not something else backing it up, it is just nonreligion via ignorance of religious teachings.Bold
This is a more entertaining influence that acts as an immediate counter to indoctrination by authority or by peers. It is effectively a desire to be a rebel, and oppose both social pressure and authority, which will manifest as a rejection of their lessons by default.

Exposure to multiple religions:
Indoctrination is most effective when you are being given an excessive amount of information about one religion in contrast to what you know about others (and the positive spin doesn't help). When, however, you are actually aware of what other religions are, what they believe, and how they affected the societies they existed in, it is suddenly harder to introduce any single religion as obviously superior, and undeniably true. This is far from surefire, however, and may actually be a recipe for someone delving into New Age belief systems, or minority religions that have none of the social pressure that helps to facilitate conversions.

Passionate reprisal: This is what happens when indoctrination does occur, but it is by authority figures that you despise, or cause you to enter a religious social group filled with people you dislike. This leads to distancing yourself from those hated people, by either outright rejecting the relevant religion, religion as an institution, or religion in of itself. This is a very simple form of nonreligion, and if it causes them to adopt actual atheism (rather than just simply refraining from the social interactions that religious institutions entail), a very fragile one.

Reasonable doubt/Critical thinking: The most commonly cited cause for atheism, though far from perfect and rarely the sole influence. Criticizing religious beliefs, and having doubts about them as a result is incredibly helpful in facilitating a nonreligious attitude. The more doubts, and the stronger your critical thinking abilities (and the arguments you are familar with against religious ideology), the more stable you will be in your nonreligious position. The exception is when passionate reprisal is also a factor. When that is the case, the emotional and interpersonal factors that are involved can help to push you in either direction, regardless of the rational strength of either position.

Irreverence: Similar to contrarianism, but not quite. It is a willingness to defy authority and convention. In particular, it is a willingness to disregard traditions and rules that have no rational purpose and to be disrespectful to people or things that do not earn respect. This quality can lead to being nonreligious in of itself. It can also be a product of being nonreligious. But, since it is not as based in stubbornness as contrarianism, a person who becomes nonreligious just because they do not feel the desire to be loyal and respectful by default is not in that position firmly.

Scientific literacy: Basic familiarity with science helps a lot. It not only introduces you to the scientific method, a reliable philosophical process of learning the most that we can about reality under the mild assumption that physical reality actually exists, and the obvious one that we cannot say anything reliable about anything else. In addition, our ever increasing base of scientific knowledge is increasingly coming up with explanations for things that were formerly unexplained, and is even beginning to contradict literal readings of religious texts, to the extent that the incidence of reasonable doubts in even the generally uncritical are increased.

Common sense: This is why one is nonreligious prior to indoctrination and when one is exposed to more than one religion with equal intensity: because we are intuitively nonreligious and nonreligious by default. We are intuitvely aware that there aren't any invisible entities controlling us that we can actually know about, and that it would be nearly impossible to verify the existence of such creatures. But, that is what indoctriation is for: telling us that fairies exist, are serious business, have a laundry list of exploits and demands, and must exist because, if controlling invisible entities didn't exist, there would be no control. And look around you. The world doesn't look like unbridled chaos. Common sense is what makes us hear that and realize that they haven't proved anything, but are just talking in circles. Intuitive logic, as compared to formal logical abilities, are incredibly helpful in fending off the clutch of religious idiocy. (It might not fair so well against claims that are not obviously illogical or pointless, however, and thus is usually only a potential lubricant for reaching other roots, and need not even do that).

[Addendum: the terms here, and the ideas they describe, are by no means exhaustive, and are all, in certainty, speculative bullshit. Just thought it needed mention]


mac said...

Good job Seeker !

Looking at your list I realized I had a few traits from several of the ideas, with common sense being my most prevailant reason being non-religious.
Contrarianism: You're right, it's quite entertaing . I find a curmodgeonly atheist to be funnier than shit :-)
Exposure to multiple religions: I kind of did that one myself, seeking out what I liked and taking bits of goodness as I went along.
Passionate reprisal: Yes, I hates me some religious Bullshit...and the Bulls that shit it !
Reasonable Doubt/critical thinking: Well, I'm not so reasonable at times, but I concur with you here !
Irreverance: YES ! Fuck what I'm supposed to believe just because I'm supposed to ;-)
Scientific litteracy: I'm not terribly knowledgeable in science, but one needn't be to see the preposterousness of religion....that's how weak the whole religious idea is .
Common sense: ? I don't use THAT as much as I should ;-) BUT yes, anyone with a modicum of common sense can see religion as a crock of shit meant to control.
AND control it does, that's why it has all the rules and regulations.

Anonymous said...

"Addendum: the terms here, and the ideas they describe, are by no means exhaustive, and are all, in certainty, speculative bullshit."


It is not speculative. It is well done.

The only contention I have would be the definition of non-religious when you say people are this by default. Could you say the same about superstition?

To me saying humanity is superstitious by default is different than saying humanity is religious by default, and more plausible.

Asylum Seeker said...

"The only contention I have would be the definition of non-religious when you say people are this by default. Could you say the same about superstition?"

Interesting thought. Hmmm...honestly, no. And I overshot myself by saying that. I think I could only say that people are not any specific religion by default (how profound!). They are non-religious in that very particular sense, even if they have natural inclinations towards any form religion that is articulated to them. It is really hard to say whether people are or are not predisposed towards believing in religion, possessing a "spirituality", religion without the religious add-ons (texts, rituals, organizations, etc.). In the respect of being spiritual in contrast to following a religious code, they are nonreligious. But, I guess saying that without clarification is misleading.

I honestly don't know whether we are inclined towards superstition or not. It seems like it pops up frequently and consistently, so it is possible. But, I just haven't explored that thoroughly enough to give my hunch!

"To me saying humanity is superstitious by default is different than saying humanity is religious by default, and more plausible."

Agreed on that one. Mostly because superstition is so pervasive. The ones that come closest to superstition that I see almost daily are firm belief in the existence of ghosts and UFO's (which can only be alien space crafts, of course). Even the nonreligious (in this case, I just mean those who do not actively practice a faith or affiliate with any given religion) seem to fall into this. It may even be more popular among them (haven't checked around enough).

Stacy said...

As I was reading this, I kept wondering what wars would have been fought over if nobody ever came up with the idea of religion.

Obviously there would have been land battles - but why?

I don't expect an answer. Just wanted to let you know that I'm gonna be up all night now - thanks a lot!

Asylum Seeker said...

Well, wars are just glorified versions of intergroup conflict. Anything that could cause that, could cause wars. Desire for more land, ethnic hatred, competition for resources (aside from land), fear of other groups/paranoia, revenge for perceived slights, belief that their practices or views make them worse than you, or just plain communication meltdowns could all lead to such collective violence. I'm sure there are more things, too. If there is something that a human being has never been short of an excuse for, it is killing.

Richelle said...

how nice to come back from my little vacation away from the internet to read something that rings so true.

i love your brain, it makes me all warm and fuzzy inside.

Asylum Seeker said...

Thanks. Glad to see you back. My brain has never been said to have that effect before. Perhaps it has just been warmed and fuzzified due to having been run through a holiday rinse cycle beforehand. Always nice to have a few weeks of being more restful than usual, right?

And, I assume since there have been few objections so far, that this post isn't too far off then?

Richelle said...

yes it was great to take a break for awhile. i tend to get really wrapped up in shit i read on the internet then become outraged at various injustices i believe to be taking place, like the prop 8 thing and any retarded comment that leaves bill o'reilly's hate-spewing mouth.

speaking of prop 8 and gay rights, did anyone here see milk? danny and i saw it last week and i thought i was awesome! love it, love it, love it!

anywho, your post was spot on seeker :)

Asylum Seeker said...

You still get worked up by Bill O'Reilly? I still did a year or two ago. But after briefly watching his show once every week or so for a few months, it becomes clear that Bill is just two parts asshole, one part blowhard, one part savior (in his own mind), and one part pathetic little puppy dog who only wants to be loved, and cannot understand why everyone is so mean to him. You actually find that he is relatively irrelevant and pitiful to some degree. As worked up as he can get, and as much attention as he is given, he really isn't anything special, in terms of insight or douchebaggery. He is just...human. A human with a giant ego and a popular show, but human nontheless. Sean there is someone to get worked up about. He is a massive tool, wrong to degrees that Bill couldn't even fathom, and is more loud and obnoxious about it than Bill could ever manage to pull off on a regular basis.

Anyway, I have yet to see Milk, and probably won't, though I did want to. Maybe I'll see when it comes out on DVD. It's sounding like it is receiving some critical acclaim, so all the more reason to see it eventually.

Stacy S. said...

Speaking of Billo - Did u know that Sen.Fred Thompson (sp) is taking his place?

(or is that old news to you?)

Asylum Seeker said...

No...that is news to me. I wonder how that Fred Thompson show will go. I think I remember him being hotheaded and buying into typical GOP crock, but that might have been someone else (and was just one sound byte anyway). And, less noise from Big O is a good thing.