Someone was talking about why the Christians believe their bible or some such nonsense someplace? Why do they believe in a God or gods and I, being the demure, polite, individual I am, did not join in. I realized that what I wanted to say would just take up too much space and require too many citations to give everyone a valid foundation.
This is an interest of mine and I think there is something about the human condition that conditions us to think magically. (I started with causes but shifted to conditions. At the same time, I am not sure ‘conditions’ is the proper word because this may be a talent we are born with.) That is what makes it a good topic for discussion.
Why do people believe in Gods or their Bible? I honestly believe that our brains are somehow conditioned, or we are born with the ability to “Think Magically.” What’s little known is that Piaget agrees with me.
“In explaining how the child conceives of the world, Piaget borrows Lévy-Bruhl’s theory of mystic participation which is, in fact, a magical way of relating to the universe. He distinguishes (Piaget 1929, pp. 133-34) between four types of causal connections: 1) magic by participation between actions and things; 2) magic by participation between thought and things; 3) magic by participation between objects; and 4) magic by participation of purpose. In essence, his theory advances the position that, at a certain stage in their development, children connect phenomena, objects, people, and ideas that cannot be linked at all, unless recourse is had to magical notions.”
“Underlying Piaget’s thought is the assumption that the mental development of the individual and of the human race go through certain parallel stages. Piaget drew no conclusions on the state of mind of primitive people. He did have, however, some definite opinions on the child’s magical thinking that is animistic in character. «Magic and autism,» he writes, «are therefore two different sides of one and the same phenomenon that confusion between the self and the world which destroys both logical truth and objective existence» (Piaget 1930, p. 303). Magical thinking in children is thus a weakness that stems from the fact that their maturity has not yet reached its full potential.”
Le Défi magique, volume 1 - Magical thinking in contemporary western societies a psychological view - Presses universitaires de Lyon(Piaget%201929%2C%20pp,magic%20by%20participation%20of%20purpose.
In Piaget’s own paradigm, it seems to follow that magical thinking is the result of a “lack of maturity.” Not maturity of physical age but of cognitive functioning.
Maturity? I don’t like the word and have no idea how to quantify it. If I quantify it as a lack of magical thinking, I am creating a circular fallacy.
So, I must disagree with Piaget and the conclusion he didn’t actually make. But there is something about the human condition in which we all go through a phase, a life stage, of magical thinking. We have all done it. (Have we not? Does anyone not recall thinking magically in their life for some period of time?)
So, I have this idea that Magical Thinking an innate tendency of the human mind is at the core of religion and religious thinking. Our brains are made to think magically, at least for some portion of our life.
Why is this? I suspect this magical thinking has been essential to our evolution. It is magical thinking that has allowed us to form belief systems that held our clans together. Our imaginary gods helped us through the hard times and as long as everyone believed in the same thing, we were a group. There is something very profound and evolutionarily significant in our ability to use imagination and create gods through magical thinking.
So why do people believe in gods and believe in Bibles? It could honestly be that we are simply hard-wired to be that way. So, why do some of us break free of magical thinking? “We don’t need it anymore.”
Previously, magical thinking was essential to survival. It held our groups, clans, families, societies, and even countries together. But now, in the age of information, all of our myths are being destroyed and our cultures are beginning to merge. Our gods are becoming old stories, and the magical thinking that was once so important to us is under attack.
The question is, can we really eliminate magical thinking? Is the idea, “I am an American,” any different from the idea, “I am a Christian.” Both ideas set arbitrary cognitive boundaries. Is this not magical thinking as well? If I put 10 people in front of you, could you spot the American? Isn’t it just another delusion? (Yes, I understand it is useful. But isn’t it linked directly to magical thinking?)
Okay, back to the beginning before I get too far out on the limb. Magical thinking has been used to keep people together. This is how we survive and how we continue to survive today. One of my sociology professors once pointed out that it was more honest to have a war over territory than it was to have a war over ideology. At least when you have taken the territory you know the war is over.
So why do people believe in the bible and God? Perhaps they just can’t help it. Their brains have been conditioned that way. Their brains were conditioned, not only by natural inclinations but also by natural selection. If a person did not agree with the group, he or she would have been killed, shunned, or banished from the group.
A person who did not believe as the group believed, would not procreate. Evolutionarily we have cultivated others like us with the ability to think magically. We have done this throughout history, eliminated anyone unable or unwilling to go along with our illusions.
Not much has changed; however, things are beginning to change. Magical thinking is under attack all over the globe. People are looking to facts and reason. Whether or not this continues will be interesting. And what of the next magical thoughts humanity grabs onto? What do you imagine that will be. As I said above, “I’m an American,” is a magical thought. What magical thoughts will the future hold and can we free ourselves.
That’s my take on why people believe in their bibles and believe in Gods.