Why the Majority of People on Earth Still Believe in Gods and the Supernatural
From the studies I've done over the last four or five years, I think the following information is the likely explanation as to why most people still believe in gods and the supernatural even today.
If asked, any scientist will tell you that the findings of science, while true, are counterintuitive, they go against the natural expectations of how humans think the world works or should work. All human beings share very similar brain structure, due to our shared evolutionary ancestry. Because of this, humans share similar natural ways of thinking, based on quickly activated mental intuitions. The human brain did its evolving to its modern form at a time in history when life was much more difficult than it is now, and every threat was more immediate, and the chances of human extinction greater.
According to evolutionary psychologists, due to the dangers in the early history of humanity, the mind developed an assortment of mental modules, such as a folk physics, a folk psychology, a folk biology, and a module acting as some kind of mental pattern detection system, to enable us to make fast, usually successful judgments in navigating the early environment. To mistake a snake for a fallen tree branch is more dangerous than mistaking a fallen tree branch for a snake, so it paid to initially pattern the stick into a snake in the human mind, so people would likely automatically and quickly hesitate or freeze at the sight of a serpent-like branch, and take another look before taking another step. This human tendency to see patterns, even where none exist, also makes us especially prone to the experience of pareidolia, seeing faces in clouds or in arrangements of tree foliage, or in other random arrangements.
Another thing early humans likely noticed was that they, as conscious beings, had an effect on events, they acted as causes to other things through the instrumentality of their bodies, and probably assumed some other, unseen, consciousnesses were the cause of events they had no direct influence over. It is also easy for the human mind, unaided by science, to assume that correlation implies causation. Humans naturally see existence as a series of cause and effect phenomena, and some have tried to trace down these causal chains to the very beginning of existence and a First Cause.
Intuitive ways of seeing the world lead to the idea that the sun revolved around the earth, because that is how it appears from the vantage point of earth. They lead to the belief in a flat earth, to the idea that the mind is other than the brain, and separable from the body, and therefore that it lives on long past the death of the body. All the natural and untaught ways of thinking, unaided by science, lead to all manner of paranormal modes of thinking, including beliefs in the existence of ghosts, gods, goblins, fairies, and witches.
When scientific ways of thinking and reasoning were developed, humans gained an understanding of how phenomena really happen. Scientists explain how a great many phenomena really work, without recourse to gods, as having explanatory functions. Because science does not require gods in order to explain how the world works, it is highly likely that there are no gods, and yet most humans still believe in them in this age of science. Why is that ?
Most people on earth are science illiterate. They have either never really studied science, or having studied it, they could not grasp it, and so laid it aside. They grew from childhood to adulthood relying on their untaught, natural ways of thinking, and never incorporated a critical approach into their reasoning processes. They are unfamiliar with the slow, meticulous, and deliberate way of scientific investigation.
Because of all the foregoing, the majority of humans still have a stone age way of thinking about how the world works, and so they find it easy to believe in gods and the supernatural, despite the fact that, in reality, gods and the supernatural likely do not exist.
Michael Shermer, The Believing Brain
Taner Edis, Science and Non-belief
Pascal Boyer, Religion Explained