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76 MIN READ TIME

Persistence of Belief in a Purposeful Universe

OVER THE LAST FEW CENTURIES RELIGION HAS BEEN slowly eroding in Western societies—a process that has accelerated in the last few decades, especially in recent years. Despite this decline, many people still cling to vague notions of some sort of purposeful universe by way of a higher power and higher plan.

I see this in many of my patients, like Liam (the patient’s identifying details have been altered to preserve his anonymity). He was referred to me for psychological support after his wife Angie had been diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer two months earlier. He had taken on the massive responsibility for devising a cure for Angie and this had left him overwrought with anxiety and exhaustion from staying up night after night researching alternative cancer therapies and spiritual healing. This had also left him with no energy to devote to the couple’s two preschool children during the day. Initially fired up with motivation and optimism by taking this on, his feeling of responsibility had rapidly turned into a crushingly heavy burden. He felt that her life depended on his getting it right. Liam was a devotee of Deepak Chopra and Eckhart Tolle, taking to heart Chopra’s claim that 95 percent of our genes can be influenced by our consciousness and Tolle’s exhortation to undergo a transformation of consciousness and spiritual awakening to achieve a life of health and bliss.

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ARTICLES
THE MORE ONE EXPLORES HISTORY, THE MORE YOU can see
Bruce Perkins and Another Terrible Tragedy of the Recovered Memory Movement
The Value of Diversity in Birds, Bees, and People
Reality Need Not Diminish Our Concept of Our Place In the Cosmos
Now That Nuclear War Seems to Be Getting More Likely Again, It’s Time to Turn a Skeptical Eye on Deterrence
SPECULATIONS AND THEORIES ABOUT THE EXISTENCE of other
SPECIAL SECTION THE RISE OF THE NONES
The Rise of the Nones and the Decline of Religion
What Surveys on Belief in God’s Existence Reveal
REVIEWS
A review of The Rise of Victimhood Culture: Microaggressions, Safe Spaces, and the New Culture Wars by Bradley Campbell and Jason Manning.
A review of Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress by Steven Pinker.
A Review of It’s Better Than It Looks: Reasons for Optimism in an Age of Fear by Gregg Easterbrook.
A new Netflix documentary purporting to provide proof of alien visitation fails to deliver: A review of the film Unacknowledged
JUNIOR SKEPTIC
Imagine two impossible, magical machines: the first runs forever, and the second, through some fantastic process, generates more energy than it consumes…