I found it interesting that you have chosen to state these things here, and that perhaps you are too new to this board to relize that we have many times gone over what you are discussing.
Both of the reasons you mention are common and in some cases very accurate if simplistic. Most Christians never had the chance to chooses their religion - in that it was forced on them since they were young. Many object to this idea, but when you ask them when they heard there was a God, or if they have been in the US or any other Xtian country - they will most certainly say they heard it as a child, and have lived their lives in a Christin country. These conditions create a very fertile meme space for this religion. Your brain can be reward you for your beliefs, and cause you pain at the thought of non-god existence. This explains a lot of why most lifelong Christians never have the option of leaving their faith - they are brainwashed in the technical snese of the word.
As for those converting to Christianity - I dont know all of these reasons, but in my experience it has always been fear of one thing or another. Death, death of a relative, fear of the unhappiness, or simply looking for someone else to carry the weight of life for them.
As for the "ahhh - I understand" chemical response. I know that feeling well, regarding religion and a plethora of other things. If I had to put a number to the amount of times I have been wrong about my "ahhhh - I'm enlightened" chemical brain reward, I would say that number is over 50%. It felt right everytime, and I would have bet money (or my eternal soul :)) every time. So for me, I have put my "ahhh - I understand" felling into a couple catagories:
1> Can find more evidence to support my conlusion than refute 2> Can find more evidence to refute my conclusion than support 3> Metaphorical - worthy of serious pursuit and good brain candy 4> Metaphorical - what, am I stupid?
Here is an example for each:
1> Fear and Reproduction are 2 of the main emotional drivers for more complex
2> There is God who willfully created the world, mankind, stars etc... a few thousand years ago and has ordered our eternal servitude on punishment of hell 3> The Truth shall set you free
4> Every song the Beatles ever wrote was actually a threating message from Paul to John
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> I find that few people really understand why a lot of christians hold to their
> faith when there seems to be so much evidence destructive to the biblical
> world-view. Most think it has to do with insecurity (cross is a crutch), or a
> need to make sense of our existence, to derive meaning and context to the
> heartbreak we see all around us (original sin).
> I believe it has more to do with a religious experience than anything else. When
> I realized the logistics of one Santa bringing every boy and girl in the world
> toys, I was able to discard that belief. Why? Because there was no experience to
> cement that belief into place.
> When I became a Christian, it was like that old song we hear, even in secular
> society, "Amazing Grace" -- I once was blind, but now I see --
> I used the analogy of 3 lab rats born in a box. During the night, when they were
> asleep, the lid of the box opened, and a hand reached in and brought one of the
> rats out. It awoke, and marveled at this new place, so big, so much more
> wonderful than the world inside the box. In the morning, when all rats were
> awake, it tried to explain to the two, "I just discovered something marvelous!!
> There's so much more to the world than just the inside of this box!" and went
> on for an hour explaining what it had seen that night. The other two looked at
> each other and then said, "uhh...yeah, right."
On a side note, this is a bastardization of of Plato's wall and his explorations into justice. One thing you forgot to mention is that this argument becoms circular. The point is that the Rat has now just seen the lab - and thinks thats all there is, the first rat that goes outside will tell the rats that didn't that they are misising the whole world. If you actually read the full Plato version, I think you will find that this argument works better against a God than for a God. It revolves around the people in a cave seeing shadows dancing on the wall from a far off fire. Seeing these shadows, they think they are seeing the world as it is - and create a reason to explain the shadows.
> That is an analogy to the christian experience in "meeting Jesus Christ". It's
> like a whole new world opens up, and you want to tell everyone about it. It's so
> real that no amount of evidence seems to be able to destroy faith in it.
Thats what faith is about, and why it is a "human sin" to most of us here. If you have any evidnec to support a conclusion, you dont need faith, yet the best preacher, or the brightest religious scientist has yet to come up with even a single thread of evidence. As time goes on, the stories in the Bible and Torah are being disproven as reality almost daily. Oh sure, there are few historical relevencies that these books help shed light on, but by an overwhelming majority - the stories cannot be considered anything but metaphor.
> I hope this clears up for you what makes a lot of these christians tick.
> I have had that experience, and now am trying to find out if this experience is
> just a trick of the brain.
I have had this experience and as many other brain candy experiences I can get, I seek them out like food and shelter. Just remember - Hindus, Buddists, Pagans, all religions cling to the religious experience as "unique" as their belief is the right one and the others cannot be. What I think is that people have codified brain candy, power, oppression and culture into a single unit and called it religion. It matters not what they believe, it just matters that the believe something. This leads me back to the Metaphorical brain candy i mentioned earlier.
"The truth shall set you free"
I have had the religious tell me that this means that God's truth will set you free, and dozens of others say "I know the truth". But I say it means that "accepting whatever the truth is" no matter how much you like or hate it, is the meaning of this statement. Being free means accepting reality as closely as your senses allow without changing it from lack of knowledge, or distaste. Those who choose to believe what they are told on faith, cannot be free, ever, but are trapped in irrelevant ideas. There is one good thing about it though - Brain candy galore. I suppose you could say that these people are drug addicts of a sort, incapable of helping themselves.