Belief in afterlife as instinct? (Introduction)

by David Turell @, Saturday, May 28, 2016, 21:16 (599 days ago)
edited by David Turell, Saturday, May 28, 2016, 21:22

This essay states just that. Since a belief in afterlife is universal around the world among all religions, this scientist studied indigenous children in Equador and concludes it is an instinctual event:

https://aeon.co/essays/why-does-everyone-of-every-faith-and-none-feel-immortal?utm_sour...

"This widespread, uniquely human way of thinking - observed across cultures and religions - has recently caught the attention of cognitive developmental psychologists, including myself. What I have discovered by looking at children's untaught intuitions is that, rather than intelligence, the part of the self that is most central to our ideas about eternal life is our capacity for feeling and desiring.

"This recent discovery is noteworthy in light of findings from paleontology and archeology telling us that belief in eternal life goes back tens of thousands of years. Some of the oldest documented evidence shows that modern humans were intentionally burying their dead with animal bones and shell beads in the caves of ancient Israel 100,000 years ago, long before the dawn of civilisation.

***

"Remarkably, the study showed that they did. Namely, children from both cultures had a persistent bias to judge that their emotions and desires - but not their intelligence or bodily states - remained intact during the time before pregnancy. What's more, the intuition that one's emotions and desires were eternal endured even as the children grew older, although older children judged they had fewer prelife capacities overall.

***

"children struggle to imagine a time when they did not feel or desire. Finding this pattern from early in development and among both indigenous and urban children strongly supports the notion that our deep-seated intuitions about what constitutes the core of a person - the capacity for experiencing emotions and desires - underlies the belief in eternal life. While exposure to religion can elaborate these intuitions, as they certainly do in the case of afterlife beliefs, belief in eternal existence does not depend on being exposed to religious teachings that support these ideas.

***

"While children's prelife intuitions tell us that believing in eternal life is probably a largely unlearned part of our human psychology, engaging in religious practices can certainly strengthen and elaborate these beliefs. This is most obvious when looking at afterlife beliefs, which are pancultural.

***

"Religion is an intricate human phenomenon, and we are just starting to understand how and why it occurs. New findings on eternalist beliefs shed light on the dynamic interaction between basic human psychology and culture in the formation of religious beliefs. It seems that while our intuitions provide the fodder for an underlying belief in eternal life, it is culture that shapes and maintains that belief in myriad forms, giving rise to the diversity of religious cosmologies observed worldwide."

Comment: A different approach. As I grew out of childhood, I recognized that Heaven was a reward for good behaviour, a childish way of making folks stay moral, and rather immature, which is partly why I spent some time as an agnostic.


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