Sam Harris: The Boundaries of Belief

Sam Harris (author of  End of Faith and Letter to A Christian Nation) has conducted a survey of belief from Atheists and Christians – 36,781 people took part:

The primary purpose of this poll was not opinion research, in fact. Rather, we were designing stimuli for an experiment that we are now running on atheists and Christians using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). The goal of survey was to produce stimuli of two categories – factual and religious – which would behave appropriately once we put members of each group inside our MRI scanner. We needed factual statements that both atheists and Christians would accept with the same order of confidence and religious statements that would divide them more or less diametrically.

In addition to vetting our experimental stimuli, however, we took the opportunity to solicit the opinions of believers and nonbelievers on many psychological and social topics that are not strictly relevant to our neuroimaging work. Many of these results are now available for viewing on my website.

Some highlights of the research:

The idea of secularism being supported by people of faith and none shows some promise here.

Pluralism as to ideas that lead to a good life seems to be rejected at the faithful end with Christianity as the real thing.

The idea of a Christian God that can be called on to interfere with the problems in the world is strong with 80% of believers agreeing.

If you really believe this about the after life, then a fear of death is a powerful incentive for faith.

90% proclaim the second coming of Jesus. Not sure whether on a horse is optional – but believers profess it as a real future event – to be prepared for.

Majority of believers disregard the poetry notion of Virginity that the Archbishop of Canterbury told Dawkins. 95% of respondents that were Christian think it actually happened.

In many ways the point being drawn out is that there are a lot of believers that literally think Jesus rose from the dead and literally was born of a Virgin, that Armageddon is literally going to happen, that literally Christianity is the only truth that will save you.

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Filed under Iraq, Religion, Sam Harris

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