Do organized religious beliefs fade if not regularly "reinforced"?

Okay, let me get this out of the way first, I’m an atheist, so obviously my views on the whole “organized religion” thing are going to be biased…

That said, I’ve noticed a fascinating occurrence in my family, and I’m simply wondering how commonplace it is

I’ve always had non-believer tendencies, even as a young child, my parents would take me to church every Sunday, and I hated it, the uncomfortable clothing, the infuriating sitting still part, the boring and logically flawed stories, I found it tedious, boring, and thoroughly pointless, I didn’t need some “religious authority” figure to tell me what and how to think, I know it’s important to be nice to people, and that didn’t require one man to get nailed to a tree to get the point (heh, no pun intended) across.

I think when I was around 7 or so is when I first started doubting the whole “god” thing, that’s when I really started to get into science in high school, loved the analytical part of it, the mindset of constant testing and picking apart things to figure out how they worked, the first cracks in the whole organized religion (hereinafter abbreviated as “O.R.)” thing came when I figured out that Santa and the Easter Bunny were not only not real, but were LIES designed to control impressionable little minds, it didn’t take a huge leap of “faith” to see the same patterns emerging from O.R.

It was also about that time when I read a book series that would change the way I looked at Life, the Universe, and Everything… (yes, you can see where I’m going here, right? :wink: )

I picked up a copy of Douglas Adams’ “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”, and devoured every page, I loved it, it was the first book I read multiple times, and still do, every time I read it, i find something different, I’ve read the 5 book Trilogy so many times I’ve lost count, and I still re-read it regularly even today, DNA had a way of describing the World and our relation to it in a simple, amusing, and logical way, not bad for a light comedy novel, I know the whole “Forty-Two” thing was purely a joke, but I can’t be the only one to find some deeper meaning in it, can I, if I had to choose one book that changed my life, that opened my eyes, that changed the way I looked at the world and interacted with it, my “Bible” as it were, it’d be HHGTTG

The fact that it had such a subversive, Athiest tone throughout was something I found refreshing, I wasn’t alone in finding “O.R.” wanting, that it was nothing but an empty shell, a facade, a falsehood, I for one, thank DNA for opening my eyes to a larger, more logical, and funnier world

Bouyed in part by HHGTTG, I started actively resisting the whole church thing, it was a pointless waste of time, eventually, once I was in my teens, my parents stopped bringing me to church, and simply went themselves

My Father became a church deacon, and Mom went with him to church every sunday, while I slept in, ahh, the sheer bliss of sleeping late, no uncomfortable clothing, no thinly disguised mind-control stories, I had ESCAPED!

Fast forward a few years, and an interesting pattern began to emerge, Mom and Dad started missing church more often than not, I think it coincided with my Grandmother’s (on my Mother’s side) stroke that left her paralyzed on her right hand side, followed very closely with my other Grandmother’s (on my Father’s side) suffering from Alzheimer’s

My parents simply stopped going to church, and even though we never really discussed it, I could feel that they had simply stopped believing, I have no idea if my Grandmothers diseases had anything to do with it, after all, how could a Just and Loving God afflict two wonderful, loving women with such horrible diseases, women who did nothing to offend “god”, and in fact, were very religious themselves and still Believed until their dying days…

My guess is that once Mom and Dad stopped going to church, the lack of weekly “reinforcements” caused the mind-control belief systems associated with their Protestant upbringing simply fade away

I sort of mentioned in passing a few months ago how I saw no scientific evidence of the existence of “god” to Mom, and she didn’t object or debate me on the matter, she just sort of reiterated some half hearted comments based on the years of religious indoctrination, but it sounded to me like she didn’t believe what she was saying anyway

I don’t believe my parents have become Atheists per se, but it’s clear they both lean more towards the Agnostic side now than the Protestant religious belief side

I’m simply curious here, if religious belief is not regularly reinforced by associating with other Believers and Authority Figures, does it simply fade away? it has in the case of my parents, and it has long ago been excised from my mindset

Has this happened to anyone else?

O.R. is a social entity. Profession of shared beliefs is part of group membership and desire to maintain that group mebership, that identity, reinforces the belief system. This is, of course true for any social entity, not just O.R.

So sure, the lack of the people that made group membership in a particular O.R. something desirable, a lack of desire to identify with the group, would lead to a diminishment in the belief system.

But that can occur to someone who attends regularly and not to someone who never attends, so I somewhat discount the mind-control aspect of it …

I was out driving around this evening, thinking about the whole O.R. thing, and one of the problems i see with it is the reliance on implied “threats” to get people to believe, to wit…

Mafia Racketteer;
"Boy, this sure is a nice store, be a pity if “something” were to happen to it, tell you what, pay us a small monthly fee and we can “guarantee” nothing happens to it…

Organized Religion;
"boy, you sure are a nice person, pity if “something” happened to your “Immortal Soul”, tell you what, believe in my Deity (and make a small weekly monetary donation) and we can “guarantee” nothing will happen to it, and you’ll end up in a happy place when you die

The Borg;
“We are the Borg, you will be assimilated, your biological and technological distinctiveness will be added to our own, your culture will adapt to service us, resistance is futile”

Organized Religion;
“We are O.R., you will be assimilated, your cultural distinctiveness will be added to our own, your culture will adapt to service us, resistance is futile”

what kind of entity needs to resort to threats to gain followers? certainly not one I’d choose to believe in…

Are you suggesting that “organized religion” requires a weekly monetary payment in order to secure the safety of one’s soul? How did you arrive at that conclusion? Can you offer any authoritative cites to this effect?

Please remember, I’m asking about organized religion in general, not just a few churches here and there.

Yes, organized religious beliefs fade if not regularly reinforced. So do pretty much all other beliefs—and value systems, and emotions, and cultures; and organized religion comprises all of these.

Would a racist’s beliefs fade if he didn’t hang out with other racists, tell racist jokes, complain about other races, treat members of other races as inferior?

Would an environmentalist’s beliefs fade if he didn’t hang out with other environmentalists, continue to learn about environmentalism, conserve and recycle, go outside and enjoy nature?

Would a couple in love and/or married see their love fade if not reinforced—if they didn’t spend time together and say and do things to express their love for one another?

And if your love does fade away and your marriage does break up, there are several things it could mean. It could mean that you let a good thing slip away by failing to reinforce what you had. It could mean the other person was a bad person to be married to, either in general, or to you in particular (i.e. the two of you weren’t well matched). It could mean that you’re better off not being married. But as long as there are other people in the world who have found true love or are in long, successful marriages, you can’t extrapolate from your own experience and say that all love and/or marriage is a bunch of hooey. Which is what the OP seems to be doing with respect to organized religion.

Yes, absolutely. There are numerous deities that could attest to this. We just can’t seem to remember their names.

People believe as they do.

It takes a little bit of faith to get started, but once you agree and come to think intellectually that any given direction si the way to go, you must continue to act and build in yourself a concrete ethic to continue. In short, people need a little ritual and a little practice to continue in any direction or any belief. Thsi includes every aspect of social, intellectual, and even physical development.

Perhaps you shouldn’t read everything as literally as you read the Bible. :slight_smile:

Sure it fades away. Why should it be any different than use of trig functions or memorized histories of the Tsars? After a while being apart you can’t recall your own cousins’s names and relative ages, nor all the names of your childhood goldfish. Memory fades.