As a result of reading David Eller's chapters in The Christian Delusion, I decided to read a book that was on my shelf by him entitled, Atheism Advanced. I have read about 1/3 of it this morning and I am extremely impressed. I have some new insights into what the real problem is. It's not Christianity, it's not theism, it's not even religion, it's superstition. What is superstition? According to Webster, it is: a belief or practice resulting from ignorance, fear of the unknown, trust in magic or chance, or a false conception of causation. All religions are manifestations of superstition. Why are people incurably religious? I think it is because we are hard-wired by evolution to look for meaning and explanation in our world. What man cannot explain with his current empirical knowledge, he explains using superstition. The lack of certainty, as shown in a previous post, creates anxiety and fear. In order to avoid these negative feelings and in order to be able to function well in the world, man seeks explanations for what he doesn't understand. Superstitions fulfill a real psychological need. That is why religions are so attractive. They offer simple and definitive answers for the unexplained or unknown. Religions are based on the stories (superstitions) that various cultures have developed to explain what they don't understand. Historically, each culture has invented their own stories and myths. Most are never written down but the ones that are get incorporated into holy books and become the basis for the religion. Religions then evolve over the course of time as unexplained phenomena becomes understood and the influence of other culture's superstitions are incorporated.
Of course, most people will never admit their religion is based on supersitition. They will freely admit that others are but not their's. How do you combat this ethnocentrism? Not very easily, but I think as Loftus has argued, the key is something like his Outsider Test of Faith. How is the best way to get someone to do this? I think from reading Eller that it is to require in our educational system, courses in history of religions, comparative religions, and the pscyhology of religion. Perhaps this is where we should be focusing our attention rather than on just critiquing evangelical Christianity? I am very interested in my reader's comments on this point.