Short idea (22): Imagine that every single religious architectural structure in the world was destroyed. And that it became illegal to be a teacher of religion and even to talk about religion. And that there was a way of implementing these laws, so there was never again a religious structure, a religious custom, or even a religious idea that ever appeared in public. Some people would say this would make the world a better place; others would say it would be a disaster for the world. The question for the psychologist is, "Is there a religious instinct in us that can not be eradicated no matter what we might do to try?"
Short idea (83): Without feeling disrespectful in any way, it is useful for a psychologist to think of the impulse to spiritual beliefs as an instinct. If it is, it is as deep rooted as the impulse to eat and the impulse to sex. Some ascetics have tried to cut their eating down to a bare minimum. Other ascetics have tried to eradicate all traces of their sexuality. Ascetics of a different kind try to eradicate all spiritual impulses in themselves. On the other extreme, some dissolute people brag they give into all impulses to eat or to engage in sex. Others, of a different type, are proud they believe in the reality of every visionary experience of every person who reports them ("If a person feels there's a ghost in their house, sure, there must be one"). — Extreme positions with respect to spiritual realities are similar to extreme positions with respect to the other instincts. They have their places in the history of the world and in the history of each individual's life, but, for most people, in the end, they are impossible or near impossible to sustain. It usually doesn't work to give into them all or to try to get rid of them all.
Towards a Psychological Understanding of the Temple of Jerusalem
Short idea (166): Do animals have religious experiences (that is, numinous experiences, experiences of the sacred)? Do they have a sense of sacred space, sacred objects, and so on? — This is another way of asking if there is a religious instinct.
Short idea (185): Hypothesis: Believing in a life after death is as instinctual as eating or breathing. No matter how silly the idea seems to our thinking, no matter how irrational, no matter how vague or self-contradictory, deep down we it is still there. It's as impossible to hold off the opposite belief too long as it is to hold your breath too long. You can hold it at bay for a while with your rational mind, but, as soon as you relax, the belief in a life after death, for yourself and others, grabs hold again.
(Psychological Paradoxes & Puzzles — 11)
A Paradox: The gods are real and they are not real
If Freud and others are right, it is as if we have two minds, that is two ways of thinking. Typically, one is active at night when we are asleep, while the other is dominant during the day when we are awake and alert. The two ways of thinking are as different as night and day. The purest example of the night-time mind would be a dream, and the purest example of day-time thinking would be a rational, logical, scientific chain of thought. In sleep we relax away from the strict rules of rational thought and reality testing only to shoulder them again when we begin to awaken. Being rational and logical requires work, whereas, in the night-time mind, whatever is is real, and no evaluating is required. It is possible for the night-time mind to emerge and even take over in the day, and it is also possible for a person to think logically within a dream. For most people this may happen sometimes, and for some it may happen quite often. For some people, the rational, reality testing mind may be all but absent, even in the day, and waking consciousness then takes on a dream-like feeling where impressions and intuitions and feelings and inclinations rule without challenge and without control.
Short idea (193): If you believe that there is a religious instinct, then atheism will be viewed as a form of neurosis. It can be seen as a form of hysteria (possibly conversion hysteria) in which one whole chunk of reality is denied.