What is it like to be religious?

There have been several documentaries lately about bible codes, the real Jesus, who wrote the bible etc. I was brought up athiest, with a whole alternative set of values and explanations. I can’t imagine what it’s like to believe in God.

  • Do you feel a presence of some huge being looking over your shoulder as you go about your every day life?
  • When you pray, does it feel like you’re talking to something outside yourself?
  • When you meet people like me, do you think they are missing a whole dimension of life, like living in 2D instead of 3D?

I see religion as a remnant of our stone age brain. In the excellently titled Origins of Concsiousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind (ooh! leave that one lying about on the coffee table!) Julian Jaynes suggested that human’s early experiences of self-awareness may have felt so different from everyday sentience that it seemed to some from somewhere else. For example, seeing all the reasons to attack another human yet feeling that it would be "wrong", led humans to feel there was another presence in their minds. the presence of gods.

Very few people in western culture claim to directly experience the voice of god these days, (does he speak French?), whereas 1000 years ago many more did seem to experience god that way. I doubt our brains changed much in that time. but I like to think that it’s our understanding that’s developed.

I don’t know if I believe that things inevitably progress, or that there’s anything we’re particularly heading for. But the drive of individuals to get to grips with their environment and with each other does take us somewhere better than this. Clinging to a worldview that includes an omniscient omnipresent omnieverything allows people to abdicate responsbility for the bigger picture.


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