Do the religously faithful start with a preconception of how their god behaves and mold the available dogma to fit this view? Example: Christians believe that God is love, despite various atrocities attributed to Him in the Old Testament. If there are such preconceptions are they determined by society, or by biological factors? How has its adoption in the New World affected Catholicism?
Surely there are volumes dedicated to these questions.
Has anyone ever honestly argued that God is a mean old bugger, as evidenced by the Old Testament, but we're stuck with him so we should make the best of it? Inspired by a post[Pharyngula, Yoko has an opponent, Dennis N #77]
(8 May 2008): One of the journal articles I casually acquired lately deals with transmission of religion and attitudes! How serendipitous. I haven't taken the time to digest it properly yet, but this looks promising:
Religious affiliation appears to be purely cultural , whereas religious attitudes and behavior, including church attendance, show varying degrees of genetic inheritance in addition to the influence of the shared environment and assortative mating.
-- Transmission of religion and attitudes, Lindon Eaves, Brian D’Onofrio and Robert Russel, Twin Research (1999) 2, 59–61
(27 May 2008): I'm going to close this question; I'm still interested in it in abstract, but I'm definitely not going to be deliberately researching it. The main reason for this is that any research would involve reading about and considering the horrible, inhuman acts committed in the name of religion and then considering whether said horrible, inhuman acts were attributable directly to religion, or merely to horrible, inhuman people looking for justification. Call me cowardly, but there are many things I want to do with my life and reading about the details of crimes committed by one person against another is not close to the top of the list. No, I haven't seen The Passion of the Christ.