The Godly Myth – A Stark Reality
Ever since we are born, we feel and are taught to feel the presence of a deity; the essence of god. As a child, it is never difficult for us to take to such beliefs since infants tend to have their own surreal world – a world where they talk to their toys and converse with the invisible (and non-extant) entities. They have a predisposition to see almost everything vis-à-vis superstition. Thus the thought that some supernatural power is looking after and over them seems plausible. Over time they develop such a strong proclivity toward such products and elements of essentialism that they could even put existentialism on the back seat. The surreality overpowers the reality.
Scientific researches have shown that the brain of a human is wired to believe in superstitions. The more advanced and intelligent species get, the wider their scope of imagination nurtures and grows. Animals do not have such advanced brains and hence are enormously unlikely and improbable to have Gods. A human being, however, has a very superior and a complex brain; consequently we are more likely (and probably, solely likely) to believe in a God.
Psychologist Jesse Berry has shown using numerous experiments with children that they have a lower propensity to cheat in games when they are told that they are being watched by an invisible invigilator. One of his key experiments was in a room where a group of children had to throw sticky balls on a circular target with their back turned toward it. They would be substantially rewarded if they managed to get a ball on the target. All children would take their turns alone in the room and were being watched by a hidden camera. Berry discovered that almost everyone cheated in the game (they either threw balls facing straight toward the walls or walked all the way up to the target to make the ball stick). A different group of children was then brought into the room. Along with the instructions that the previous group was given, they however were provided with an additional instruction – that they would be watched by an invisible invigilator named Princess Alice. None of the children was found cheating.
As a child, humans have a strong proclivity to believe in the unseen. They like the notion that they are being taken care of by God. Thus, if children are constantly told to shun a certain activity lest the god would be annoyed (and inflict negative repercussions), they actually do. It is the fear of some supernatural entity getting angry that many a times makes them believe in God.
To understand this, let us focus on something almost all of us have gone through. When we are kids, we are often told by our parents, our teachers or our friends (or maybe their parents) that we need to be ethical and moral and avoid committing mischievous acts or we would be punished by God. Despite all the efforts on their parts, we (kids after all) sometimes do commit such acts we were advised against (under God’s threat). We keep from telling our parents that we have committed that very act and in case our parents inquire about it, we sometimes even swear to god that we did not do it. Now, as a child we all believe in superstition and supernatural phenomena. The regret that we lied (or committed the forbidden act) and the ensuing fear of being punished by god, grows so intense that we associate anything negative that happens to us (following our lie) with the God’s punishment. Moreover, sometimes it is the placebo effect that plays and we tend to do everything wrong following our bout of defiance, and we develop this notion that God penalizes for our misbehaviors.
A devout theist many a times would argue that if there is no God, how come the life originate; how come the universe came into existence; why doesn’t science have any fool-proof answers to it. Humans, thus, also have a tendency to relate the things that we currently have no answers to, to God. Thousands of years ago, the same theist could have cited the unfathomed mysteries behind the ‘flatness of the earth’ or ’sun orbiting around the earth’ or the tranquil green vegetation (and not bright red or orange) around us, as the reasons to believe in God. Now that we know the answers for these mysteries, people also have found other unsolved mysteries. Maybe in due course of time science also has answers to them, or maybe it never does; but the notion that if science cannot answer something (yet), then God exists (or if science cannot refute the existence of something, then it is extant), sounds risible.
Often does it happen that if a person loses one of his loved ones, he finds it too hard to believe that such a woe has betided him/her. The person then tries to pacify oneself that the deceased is with God and that God would take utmost care of the deceased. No other arguments sound mollifying at such instances. After such an incident, if something seemingly strange happens, the person tends to associate it with the deceased trying to communicate. Humans, thus, have an advanced brain that provides us with real/surreal reasons to pacify ourselves.
When people are in control of their lives, everything goes as per their plans, and life is good, they are less likely to believe in God. On the contrary, the people who are unhappy with their lives, their plans and attempts have been foiled and life seems weary to them, they are very likely to believe in God.
Experiments by Jennifer Whitson, a psychologist at the University of Texas at Austin, have corroborated the aforementioned idea. She conducted an experiment where a group of people was brought into an examination room. They were made to sit in front of the computers and were required to answer the questions that computer would put forth. The first series of questions (objective in nature) asked them to identify the relationship between two objects that flashed on the screens. Although none of the shown options were correct (in-fact the objects shown were random and without any tangible relations in the first place), the examinees were deliberately shown as ‘CORRECT’ after most of the questions. This gave them the feeling that they were in control of the process and their lives. Then the last few questions were subjective where the examinees were asked to identify something (animals or material stuffs) from a single chaotic pattern. Most of the examinees said they did not see anything. Then a different group was brought in and was examined on similar lines, except most of the times during the first series of questions they were shown as ‘INCORRECT’. The examinees thus developed a notion that they were not in control; and when the next series of the questions flashed where they had to identify something from the same chaotic pattern as used with the first group, most of them answered with some creatures or stuffs.
Those who feel unstable, hence, are more likely to believe in supernatural, superstitions, the unseen, and God than those who feel stable.
Another research in Harvard psychology department by doctoral fellow Amitai Shenhav, postdoctoral fellow David Rand and Professor Joshua Greene has shown that those who believe and act more on their intuitions (rather than reflective reasoning) are more likely to believe in God. A study conducted by them subjected people to 3 questions like: ‘Bill and Sally’s age totals 28 years. Bill is 20 years older than Sally. How old is Sally? Now the first intuitive answer that is bound to hit almost everybody would be ‘8’. However, if we use our reflective reasoning to cross-check our answer, arrive at the correct answer of ‘4’. Those who answered all the 3 questions on their intuition reported more belief in God than those who answered all the questions correctly. The researchers, however, clarified using IQ scores that the effect was not about general intelligence but instead was specific to cognitive style.
Humankind’s belief in God, hence, is attributable to the advanced brain they have, which is wired to make them believe in fantasies and superstitions that help them assuage their regrets and troubles and provide divine reasons for untoward events and unjustifiable phenomena. But can there be instances where God is real? If yes, would it still be apt to acknowledge its identity? Keep checking this space.
Author: S.S Niks
‘Freethinker’, ‘an agnostic’, ‘an atheist’!
Want constructive evolution!!
Tackle and combat the vagaries of life in whatever form I can!!!