(Carted over from this thread
, which has gone off-topic anyway. I posted it there, then realized I'd finally articulated everything I wanted to say here, and said, "Well, crap.")
Now, I have a question for you, or anyone who wants to take on the challenge. I never have met a true Atheist in my entire life. So I will continue to believe that there are none. From my own perspective and experiences, it seems as if all children are born with a "Deist" perspective--innocent and filled with the spirit of wonder. Now can you prove to me that you are not a Deist from birth? Are you not still innocent and filled with the spirit of wonder about the mysteries of life? (To me, it looks like you just have more mind sets and blocks, mainly based on some selfish whims, desires and/or ambitions that distracted you as you sat in a pew.)
There are two main problems with this question:
1: It is impossible to prove a negative
. Demanding negative proof is a logical fallacy. The burden is always on the positive claim.
2: It is nearly impossible, in this case, to determine nature vs. nurture. In order to do so you'd have go to all kinds of trouble and violate all kinds of scientific ethics to raise a child under conditions where he or she could never be exposed to any ideas having to do with the divine (whether pro or con) and see how that child's worldview developed. This would be superlatively difficult due to, among other things, the prevalence of religion of some kind in most if not all cultures. Even in anti-religious communist countries, religion must be actively suppressed, so the idea is still out there. EDIT: And even after all that trouble, you'd only know whether there was a tendency in that direction, all things being equal. The reason why would still be guesswork.
Now, I know what you're thinking: "How could the idea of God become so prevalent if God did not exist?" But I don't think I've argued myself into a hole. The prevalence of belief in the divine is a riddle that has yet to be fully solved, and has some strange implications for human nature. There are some good leads, though: there's the old "religion facilitates social control/teaches morals without having to fully explain them," which probably has some truth. There's another hypothesis in evolutionary psychology, though, that intrigues me even more (I forget where this is from. If someone can point me to the source, I'll be grateful). In general, it is more advantageous, from an evolutionary perspective, to assume agency in a given event than to assume chance. If you're a hunter-gatherer out hunting or gathering, and you see something move in the bushes, you're better off in the long run if you first think it's a tiger than if you first think it's the wind, even though the latter is more likely. This bias snowballs until people keep assuming agency even after they know it's the wind, through logic that's echoed in Pascal's Wager.
Humans also have a faculty called "theory of mind": the ability to understand that other beings have minds and to extrapolate what they know and how they think from what they have seen and how they act. This ability is vital to our survival, from predicting how a bear or a deer will act to coming up with compelling rewards and punishments when disciplining a child. Some autistic people lack this faculty in whole or in part, and are severely disabled because of this. However, people who overuse their theory of mind and imagine minds where there are none seem to remain vastly more functional. Thus, the bias of natural selection will be towards religion and away from solipsism, rather than landing in the middle. (Once again, source please?)
In any case, truth is not democratic. Most people in this world disagree with most other people about most controversial issues. If anyone is right about anything, most people are wrong about most things.
On a more personal note, I grew up in a very secular family in a very secular city (Berkeley, California), and I can honestly say that gods and worship have always seemed like very bizarre and unnecessary ideas to me. This isn't to say that gods were ever beaten out of me in any way; my family still celebrates Christmas. Few of them are true atheists; most are agnostic and a few (including my mother) have vague new age-y leanings. I believed in Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny until a relatively late age, and no one tried to stop me. Same goes for when I started reading Aleister Crowley
as a teenager (oh come on, who didn't?).
On that note, Crowley's theistic ideas never appealed to me, except as metaphors for certain broad social and psychological eras and tendencies. Horus didn't seem necessary with respect to "Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law/Love is the law, love under will" (it's really sad how often Christians will quote the first part of that as Satan's creed, forget the second, and not even cite the source [Jesse Cowell, I'm looking at you]). I half-heartedly believed in magick (sic), although I tended to assume that Aiwass had been an invention or a hallucination, but that that didn't effect the wisdom of Thelema. I liked Crowley as a prophet because I knew I couldn't trust him; without the illusion of having found unquestionable perfection, one never stops thinking critically and is harder to deceive.
I was never confronted by the teleogical argument until a relatively late age. When I was, it briefly baffled me (although even then I found it highly suspicious and counterintuitive), but I eventually rejected it. (If you want to get into that argument here and now, say the word, otherwise I'll leave it at that.)
I don't see what gods have to do with wonder. People find all sorts of wonder in science, art, sports, love, sex, and just being alive without divine help. You may think religious wonder is "better," but religion certainly does not have a monopoly on wonder. Please elaborate on this.
"The salvation you have hoped for these past two thousand years is here. You are being told that in this paragraph. And it is true."
--L. Ron Hubbard, quoted in the Eris-damned spam the Church of Scientology keeps sending me.