Do you believe in God? Is it because your brain or genes tells you to? Is it natural to do so? Did it serve an important part in our evolution as a species? Do we need to evolve past it? Is religious belief a by-product of the structures of our brain? Would it bother you to find out that it naturally evolved from the structures of the mind ?
Nancey Murphy argues that Cognitive Science of Religion (CSR) has overtaken Freud, Feuerbach, Neitzsche, and Marx as the most articulate and viable opponent of a realist affirmation of God’s existence. David Sloan Wilson states the evolutionary account forcefully when he said that, “evolution is fundamentally about the relationship between organisms and their environments. In the case of religion, it is about the relationship between religious groups and their environments, conceived broadly to include physical, economic, and social factors.”
Pascal Boyer has said, ‘all versions of religion are based on very similar tacit assumption, and that all it takes to imagine supernatural agents are normal human minds processing information in the most natural ways.’ If you don’t get the feel there check out Paul Bloom’s article ‘Is God an Accident?’ where he says, ‘Religious teachings certainly shape many of the specific beliefs we hold; nobody is born with the idea that the birthplace of humanity was the Garden of Eden, or that the soul enters the body at the moment of conception, or that martyrs will be rewarded with sexual access to scores of virgins. These ideas are learned. But the universal themes of religion are not learned. They emerge as accidental by-products of our mental systems. They are part of human nature.”
I have been spending time asking these questions, reading some pages, listening to lectures, and just thinking (check the links). I also read ‘believing primate’ and in the book you get a variety of scientific, philosophical, and theological engagements with these issues. Below is a conversation between Paul Bloom and Michael Murray (one of the editors) where the basic distinctions of the book appear. The video is well worth watching if you are interested in CSR and religion. If it’s interesting the book is well worth reading. The Believing Primate: Scientific, Philosophical, and Theological Reflections on the Origin of ReligionHere is Nancey Murphey & Jeffrey Schloss (both in the book) in conversation. It takes 12 minutes for them to get into it but it is enjoyable afterward. They composed an article together title, ‘Biology and Religion’ which you can find here. You can find the introduction to the book here.