Why Do We Believe or Not Believe in God

What I find fascinating about God and religion doesn't have anything to do with belief or proving that belief. What I find fascinating is the sociology and psychology of religion. What I truly fascinates me, is why people and societies are drawn to religion. I don't see the inclination to believe in God or a certain theology as a weakness or a strength; simply a mystery.

The point of this post is not to discover truth or unravel mystery or prove my point; it's simply my way of exploring the mystery of the human need to believe. I am not trying to explain my beliefs or to understand your beliefs. I want to explore why do we, or don't we, believe in God(s) or religion.

Maybe, as pointed out in some scientific articles I've read, it boils down to what kind of 'thinker' you are. An interesting idea, but it falls short of explaining why I have come to where I am in my thinking and my beliefs. I want to sum up one article I read this morning on cognitive thinking and how the type of thinker you are leads to a belief, or disbelief, in God.

A reflective thinker is someone who analyzes and is logical by nature; while an intuitive thinker is less reflective. The level of cognitive thinking can be partially determined by answering these three questions:

  1. A bat and a ball cost $1.10 in total. The bat costs $1.00 more than the ball. How much does the ball cost? 
  2. If it takes five machines five minutes to make five widgets, how long does it take 100 machines to make 100 widgets? 
  3. In a lake, there is a patch of lily pads. Every day, the patch doubles in size. If it takes 48 days for the patch to cover the entire lake, how long would it take for the patch to cover half of the lake? 
The more correct answers you get indicates you are a reflective, or analytic, thinker and the less likely you are to believe in God or other spiritual phenomena. The fewer correct answers you get indicates you are an intuitive thinker and the more likely your are to believe in God. It's not a measure of intelligence but a measure of logic and analytic abilities. Of course if you are a science or math whiz you might easily come to more correct answers. Are there scientists and math genius' that believe in God? Yes there are; are there intuitive thinkers who don't believe in God; yes obviously. These are just indicators and inclinations. I'm definitely an intuitive thinker. I got every question wrong; however, once I saw the answers they made total sense and I was able to puzzle through the questions and come to the correct answers.

Here are the answers: Five cents, five minutes, and forty-seven days.

I also want to introduce Helen Fisher. Helen Fisher is a sociologist who through her studies has come up with four personality types. Her work is focused on 'who we love and why' but I think it applies to belief or non-belief in God as well. I love her work and I am fascinated by it's accuracy. I also know you can't put everyone into little boxes and know 100 percent every outcome.

Here are the four types:

Explorer: Explorers are looking for adventure and change. That adventure is likely risky or thrilling but can also be more intellectual or cultural like taking classes or attending plays and symphonies.
An explorer is likely to be well liked and charming. Someone who has a lot of friends.
An explorer is less likely to be tied down by commitment. They work so they can play, they enjoy going out and being with people.
An explorer can be a good person to have on your team if you need new ideas and the fire of creativity and excitement.
When it comes to rules an explorer is likely to say "this doesn't really apply to me." or "oh yeah right…"

Builder: Builders are looking for stability and are very responsible individuals. They are willing to settle down and take care of business.
A builder is someone who will put work or religious responsibility first; sometimes before family and friends.
A builder is often times involved with a religious or political group. Someone who is a change maker.
As a leader a builder will get things done with no nonsense. It is important to get things done correctly and with honesty.
Builders have a commitment to moral standards. And for a builder morals can be very black and white.
When it comes to rules a builder will follow it because he/she knows there is a good reason for the rule or it wouldn't be there.

Director: Directors are very logical and analytical minded people who can make sense out of any situation in short order.
Directors are decisive and make up their minds quickly based on facts and logic.
Directors are straight-line thinkers and can cut through the 'nonsense' quickly.
Directors have a commitment to things that make good common sense and to things they can understand in their logical minds.
When it comes to rules a director will want to understand why the rule is put in place and will follow the rule if it makes sense and works for them.

Negotiator: Negotiators are web thinkers they explore ideas and love to engage in discussion or contemplation.
A Negotiator will take a long time to make a decision and prefers to have time to think about a situation and doesn't enjoy pressure to decide
Negotiators think outside the box constantly. They are multi-taskers and have a difficult time compartmentalizing.
A Negotiator is a good person to have on a team because they see the big picture, they can see the consequences and they make plotted decisions that have been thought out.
Negotiators are committed to finding the best situation in every area of their life.
When it comes to rules a negotiator wants to know the 'higher' reason. And they will commit to the principal but not the rules. Rules only apply if they work for the greater good.

Over the years I have put these personality types to the test and I continue to be impressed by their accuracy. You can take the personality test here. I am a negotiator/explorer. Let's interpret the four types as they relate to religiosity I presume that Explorers and Directors are less likely to believe in God and Builders and Negotiators are more likely to believe in God. Simply broken down this is how I draw my conclusions; Explorers don't like rules. Builders love rules and see things black and white. Directors are highly analytical. Negotiators are emotional and intuitive thinking.

Both the type of thinker we are and the personality type we lean towards are indicators of our inclinations towards God. However; life happens and many of us go beyond our inclinations to come to other conclusions. I'm an intuitive thinker and I test strongly as a negotiator. But through my life and my experiences I have come to a place in my life where I don't believe in God. Or at least I don't think it's important if there is a God or not. Even though I don't believe in God my intuitive nature still leans towards spiritual phenomena. I believe strongly in my intuitive nature which leads me towards all manner of woo woo. This could be my 'negotiator/explorer' as well. I think the factor leading me away from church/God/religion is that I score VERY low on builder qualities. I despise rules and see the world in technicolor not black and white.

My theory is far from scientific and it is not going to prove correct in every instance; however, I am pretty confident in my conclusions. It would be fun to do a facebook experiment and test all of my facebook friends, put them into four different lists for the personality types and two different lists for the type of thinker they are; then watch the status lines and the things people tend to post.

What do you think...


  1. It is pretty interesting to see how people think and how it relates to their religiosity - I was always a questioner myself, hence the lack of religiosity even in spite of the religious up-bringing.

    1. Thanks for the thoughts PMG. So you were one of those girls? I don't think I asked too many questions in my younger days. I was true blue through and through. Questions bored me; to me, they were a sign of weakness and lack of faith.

      Now I shutter to think of how I coasted through life. Leaving everything up to some invisible power. Never taking responsibility for my beliefs. I would say I don't come by the analytical/logical thought processes naturally; I have become much more so with time. Now I question everything and find a great deal of fun and satisfaction in questions and research and wonder. I started questioning my Mormon beliefs at age 26. I've not stopped questioning since.

  2. You can be religious and still question everything, it is actually advised to do so if you are a true Christian. To be honest, I don't think people can be categorized as such and I have come to believe throughout my life, despite of still being drawn into personality tests and enjoying the conclusions, that personality tests DO NOT reflect who you truly are. Not to mention that you can change so much throughout your life. Or maybe not..Therefore, I don't believe there is a link between personality types and religiosity. This is again confirmed to me by your own conclusions. If one believes in personality types, I might agree that there could be some connection between personality types and blind faith. For ex. a Builder is less likely to enquire, while a Negotiator would enquire so much that he might even get dizzy from time to time. Still, both might hold the same belief in God if the answers to the Negotiator's interrogations are satisfying enough so he can still keep his faith. If not, than yes, the later will be less of a believer. Unless, he holds on to his religious practice.

    1. Hi Anonymous, Sorry I'm so long in replying. I lost track of my comments. I don't know if I would say I "believe" in personality tests. I, like you, do enjoy them (maybe I enjoy them a bit too much). I find them fascinating to say the least. For me, Helen Fisher's personality types have been very consistent and applicable.

      Perhaps a church or a congregation would be filled with all personality types; however, the way in which one approaches belief and testimony likely correlates with one's personality type. As you pointed out a Builder would accept things simply because it is 'the right thing to do' while a Negotiator would question until crazy; coming to any number of conclusions ranging from belief to non-belief. A negotiator would be more likely to pick and choose the tenants they believe in. A Director would be a leader in a congregation and as long as things work for them and the rules, or doctrines, make good sense they will be faithful. An Explorer may be less likely to stick around if a church or belief system has too many rules or too many belief constraints unless they find the friendships and social activities are satisfying.

      That all being said; I still think you would be more likely to find builders in conservative religious groups than you would be to find explorers. It would be a fun poll don't you think?