He begins the chapter by stating:
It is a curious thing that most of us ardently believe that we solved the ultimate question of the universe before we even learned how to tie our shoelaces. If philosophers, theologians, and scientists have struggled with the concept of existence for millennia without arriving at a definite solution, our naïve assessment from childhood that a divine entity simply wished it were so certainly requires a reevaluation (p. 65).
He points out that most people adopt the religion of their parents. He writes:
Why are so many people unwilling to seriously question their religious beliefs? Long answers: As humans, we simply are not comfortable considering the notion that we might be wrong. We enjoy being right. Rather than entertaining the possibility that we might be wrong, we strive to convince ourselves that we have followed proper avenues of thought (p. 68). Psychologists refer to this as Intellectual Attribution Bias.
It should not be a shocking discovery that parents pass on their religious beliefs through their children. Muslim parents tend to have Muslim children; Christian parents tend to have Christian children; Hindu parents tend to have Hindu children. . . . Likewise, the parents are probably members of their religion because their parents were also members. How far back does this blind tradition continue? . . . people simply bury their heads in the sand and continue to believe whatever religion their ancestors thought they needed, or were perhaps conquered with, centuries ago. They were instilled with the beliefs as children, and they will maintain them as adults (pp. 66-67).
Furthermore, as Long argues, skepticism is not attractive.
The realization that rational skepticism is not as interesting, promising, or comforting as optimistic romanticism is perhaps more formidable than any other obstacle. It’s only human to believe in things that make us happier. . . .Skepticism does not appeal to most people because humans have an innate tendency to search for patterns and simple explanations in order to make sense of the world. Such a practice results in an incorporation of elements that fit into an understandable answer and a neglect of elements that do not. Psychologists often use this phenomenon to explain the reason people believe in clairvoyance, horoscopes, prayer, and other such foolishness. Individuals remember when these methods “work” and forget when they do not (p. 70).
Another psychological defense employed against changing one's beliefs is Cognitive Dissonance , the unpleasantness of holding contradictory beliefs. Long explains:
People simply become increasingly sure of their decisions after they have made them by rationalizing their choice of alternatives, which serves to reduce the cognitive dissonance produced by foregoing the good features of the unchosen alternative and accepting the bad features of the chosen alternative. When it comes to religion, a believer will defend his faith and attack the alternatives in part simply because he has already rendered a decision on the matter (p. 71).Finally, people continue to believe because of the emotional involvement and entanglement they have with their belief system. Long explains:
The Christian is interested in feeling comfortable with his beliefs, not in dispassionately evaluating them. People want to feel reassured that they are correct in their beliefs, especially when there is a lot of emotion, personality, history, and identity at stake. If the Christian were genuinely interested in the truth, he would analyze the argument critically and thoroughly to see if it adequately addressed the points of the skeptical objection. But he is not questioning; he is defending (p. 72).Long continues:
People with a high involvement are more resistant to contrary persuasion than less involved persons because any given message has a greater probability of falling into the rejection region. Psychologist Drew Westen was among those who empirically demonstrated, using MRI scanning, that people who were strongly loyal to one candidate in presidential elections did not use areas of the brain associated with reasoning to resolve contradictory statements made by their candidate. The supporters instead relied upon regions of the brain associated with emotion to justify their personal allegiances (p. 74).
If a questioning believer should want to investigate his beliefs, he will probably be directed to the writings of a professional apologist for answers. The apologists, however, have an agenda and that is to prove the credibility of their religion no matter what. As Long asks:
Should we honestly believe that a biblical apologist who began with the notion of an inspired Bible would readily consider the possibility that his holy book is fundamentally flawed? Many of the top Christian apologists even admit that when the data conflicts with the text, we should trust the text. . . . What’s the point in listening to people like this? Such is the problem with all religious apologists, regardless of the specific belief. They will begin by presuming certain premises are true and mold explanations to patch the apparent problems, no matter how insulting the explanations are to common sense. This is how religions thrive in the age of scrutiny and reason (p. 75).
So, as Long argues in this chapter, it is actually quite easy to understand how religion thrives in our culture. People are indoctrinated into their religion, they have psychological defenses that keep them from seriously questioning their beliefs, and the emotional involvement with the belief system prevents them from contemplating a change.