Monday, January 25, 2010

What do the gods believe? Exactly what I do, of course!!

Below is part of a commentary from this blog (the commentary on this post is also worth reading):

For many religious people, the popular question "What would Jesus do?" is essentially the same as "What would I do?" That's the message from an intriguing and controversial new study by Nicholas Epley from the University of Chicago.[1] Through a combination of surveys, psychological manipulation and brain-scanning, he has found that when religious Americans try to infer the will of God, they mainly draw on their own personal beliefs.

Psychological studies have found that people are always a tad egocentric when considering other people's mindsets. They use their own beliefs as a starting point, which colours their final conclusions. Epley found that the same process happens, and then some, when people try and divine the mind of God. Their opinions on God's attitudes on important social issues closely mirror their own beliefs. If their own attitudes change, so do their perceptions of what God thinks. They even use the same parts of their brain when considering God's will and their own opinions.

Religion provides a moral compass for many people around the world, colouring their views on everything from martyrdom to abortion to homosexuality. But Epley's research calls the worth of this counsel into question, for it suggests that inferring the will of God sets the moral compass to whatever direction we ourselves are facing. He says, "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."

[1] Nicholas Epley, et al., "Believers' estimates of God's beliefs are more egocentric than estimates of other people's beliefs," Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 106, 21533-21538.



  1. Hmm. Amazing how much trouble people are going to to try to discredit the belief in a higher power. Of course no one on Earth can now actually have a conversation with God in which both sides can be heard, so it's easy to assume that one cannot proceed in life in a way that is based on a belief in what is right and honorable based on what Jesus taught and what is taught in the New Testament. "What would Jesus do?" is actually more than a pop saying, it's a legitimate question for any of us who wish to proceed in life in an honorable and courteous manner. Believe it or not, there is more to real Christianity than opinions on martyrdom, abortion and homosexuality...the final two of which you seem to mention each time you question Christianity. Granted, what has been done in this world in the NAME of Christianity and Christians is atrocious, but that doesn't mean that Christianity is not important nor that following Jesus as He taught in his time is not worthwhile and important to the world. Perhaps the money spent on this study would have been better used to help combat the diseases of the brain or how to repair injuries to the brain, instead of wasting it on something that warranted only a brief discussion?

  2. By the way, I'm HAPPY that you believe as God does! :-)

  3. I don't know how, precisely, life transpired such that I missed replying to this comment for nearly a year. I do know how this happened, in general terms, however: the email notice slipped past the first page in my inbox, and then, like poop from a goose, out of my mind!


    Anyway, what I found fascinating about the research I cited above is that it found that everyone who claims to know something definitive about the mind of God(s), or what God(s) wants, etc., believes that God(s) believes precisely what they, themselves, believe. Therefore -- and this is the mind-bending part -- what you believe God believes is precisely what you believe.

    Take this example: Protestant Christians don't believe in the Pope, by definition; Protestant Christians also assert that God doesn't need mediation through the Pope. They believe this by definition, or else they're not Protestant Christians.

    However, Catholic Christians do believe in the Pope, and assert that God does need mediation through the Pope. They believe this by definition, or else they wouldn't be Catholic Christians.

    Additionally, Catholics don't believe Protestants are true Christians, and vice-versa.

    So, the conclusion the study makes, and that I want to make here, is that God(s) believes whatever it is that the person asserting what God(s) believes believes. "WWGD?" Precisely what the questioner asserts God would do.