Dear God, Please Confirm What I Already Believe

Andy Coghlan writes in New Scientist:

God may have created man in his image, but it seems we return the favour. Believers subconsciously endow God with their own beliefs on controversial issues.

“Intuiting God’s beliefs on important issues may not produce an independent guide, but may instead serve as an echo chamber to validate and justify one’s own beliefs,” writes a team led by Nicholas Epley of the University of Chicago in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The researchers started by asking volunteers who said they believe in God to give their own views on controversial topics, such as abortion and the death penalty. They also asked what the volunteers thought were the views of God, average Americans and public figures such as Bill Gates. Volunteers’ own beliefs corresponded most strongly with those they attributed to God.

Next, the team asked another group of volunteers to undertake tasks designed to soften their existing views, such as preparing speeches on the death penalty in which they had to take the opposite view to their own. They found that this led to shifts in the beliefs attributed to God, but not in those attributed to other people.

“People may use religious agents as a moral compass, forming impressions and making decisions based on what they presume God as the ultimate moral authority would believe or want,” the team write. “The central feature of a compass, however, is that it points north no matter what direction a person is facing. This research suggests that, unlike an actual compass, inferences about God’s beliefs may instead point people further in whatever direction they are already facing.” …

[continues in in New Scientist]

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  • tonyviner

    If God created man in his, sorry His, image then he must be a bit of a retard. And probably a little gay as well. You don't see many Christians flocking to this system of belief, it doesn't seem like it would be very beneficial to their agenda. And so no one is offended, God is also probably at least part filthy minority.

  • Word Eater

    It makes sense really. If God is really The Creator God from Outside The Universe, then God would be totally incomprehensible to human beings.

    A being who by its nature would defy simple labels means we can either apply none of them or struggle to interpret what we do know through the filter of our own philosophies and, by necessity, assign values that relate positively.

    Let’s look at the Bible. Even if it is the unerring word of God, it was written down by human beings, sometimes after the fact of what inspired it. Human beings will color what they write, even if they don’t mean to. Which word do you choose to convey a specific emotion or action? Connotations have *always* been an issue. Take a local meaning to a particular turn of phrase and translate it through 2,000 years and three languages and it loses something. The words may be the same, but the meaning that is supposed to be behind them has changed.

    We put our own biases on top of something as concrete as the written word.

    It is impossible for someone to put all of that aside when considering abstract ideas.

    I believe that the Bible, and other religious texts, tell the exact message someone expects to find.

    This does not mean there is no God, it just means that you can’t write a book about God or Godly stuff and have it be properly understood by anyone else, or perhaps even yourself after a few years or a few drinks.

  • Word Eater

    It makes sense really. If God is really The Creator God from Outside The Universe, then God would be totally incomprehensible to human beings.

    A being who by its nature would defy simple labels means we can either apply none of them or struggle to interpret what we do know through the filter of our own philosophies and, by necessity, assign values that relate positively.

    Let's look at the Bible. Even if it is the unerring word of God, it was written down by human beings, sometimes after the fact of what inspired it. Human beings will color what they write, even if they don't mean to. Which word do you choose to convey a specific emotion or action? Connotations have *always* been an issue. Take a local meaning to a particular turn of phrase and translate it through 2,000 years and three languages and it loses something. The words may be the same, but the meaning that is supposed to be behind them has changed.

    We put our own biases on top of something as concrete as the written word.

    It is impossible for someone to put all of that aside when considering abstract ideas.

    I believe that the Bible, and other religious texts, tell the exact message someone expects to find.

    This does not mean there is no God, it just means that you can't write a book about God or Godly stuff and have it be properly understood by anyone else, or perhaps even yourself after a few years or a few drinks.

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