I wanted to note these points here following the reading posts by Ibrahim and Sam on the following blogs:
The charge that atheists suffer from Aspect Blindness regarding religion can be just as easily, if not more so, directed at the religious.
I think part the absolute commitment to the religious view is part of one’s personal makeup, but put more generally it is a consequence of certain personalities.
I have had experience of religion. I was raised a Christian, I had doubts in my teens but wasn’t fully aware of the strength of the atheistic alternative (I was agnostic), and eventually came to realise the flaws in the religious view. But, I’ve been around enough religious people to recognise several types. Some are religious by default, as JustBrowsing describes. Some really are strong unquestioning believers that simply reject any alternative, with some element of fear, either of the spiritual consequences, or simply of the unknown. Many are what I’d class as ‘troubled’, in that they desperately want to find something spiritual as a source of comfort and guidance because they have some sort of difficulty with the basic physical world and what they see as all its nastiness – such as crime and ‘evil’, or natural disasters, things that from my point of view I can classify simply and naturalistically as “some people aren’t nice to each other” and “shit happens”. I’m not troubled by the world and its problems and the fact that I can’t fix them all. I’m not saying I’m heartless or fearless – I feel deeply disturbed to witness human and animal suffering, and I’d be as scared as the next person if I were mugged; but I can put these things into context so that I’m not fretting every minute of the day. I don’t become depressed with the state of the world or my personal life. I do have a driving need to learn new stuff, but I’m not disturbed by the lack of answers.
In some cases the religious view is one of ‘blind faith’, the outright unquestioned denial of the possibility of an atheistic view. But in many case I’d describe faith more as ‘tunnel vision’ or ‘aspect blindness’, rather than simply ‘blind’, as a consequence of personality, where critical reasoning is accepted and used, but sufficiently distorted and abused to affirm the religious view.
Maybe I have personality issues that drive me towards a critical questioning and a general scepticism that results in my atheism, and maybe it’s difficult for me recognise it in myself. I’m open to analysis, by professionals or amateurs.
It might be said that I’m this way because I haven’t had a religious experience, and that if I had I’d know. I can’t refute this categorically, but by the same token how am I supposed to know? And how would anyone else know what I have and haven’t experienced? Maybe I have similar ‘spiritual’ experiences, but just as people have different thresholds of pain I have a low threshold of the ‘spiritual’ experience. Maybe that’s all it boils down to, different strengths of ‘zap’ in the brain, and that the brains of those that perceive a stronger ‘zap’ interpret it all anthropomorphically as some superior presence. How would you tell the difference between that and a real religious God invoked revalatory event?