If you trapse around this blog any, you may notice terms like spiritual atheism, authentic spirituality, ennoblement of the human spirit. These same concepts are explored at some length in Religion is God’s Way of showing Us it’s a lot Earlier in Human Evolution than We Thought. (Abbott Press will bring this book out for me in a month or two.) And so, the book Spiritual Atheism had been on my radar for some time.
After a few preliminaries from various writers and philosophers discussing the implications of God’s death, Antinoff introduces us to the Zen concept of a koan, a paradox stated as a terse dilemma. Antinoff offers us a great one, “[T]he koan burning within the West, in western culture as a whole and in its individuals, has been given its most fundamental expression by Dostoyevsky, in the mouth of his great character Kirilov in the novel The Devils. ‘God,’ says Kirilov, ‘is necessary, and so must exist… Yet I know that he doesn’t exist, and can’t exist.’
“These lines first spoken in 1873 will plague us for the next thousand years. They form the koan that cannot be walked away from.” Antinoff goes on to point out that this state of affairs leaves us dissatisfied and restless.
“The nonexistence of God does not diminish human beings’ spritual need, mortal, finite human beings, unable to be satisfied in what is mortal and finite, long for the infinite. The most important question for the spritual atheist, therefore, is whether it is possible to acheive the infinite, to transcend our finite, mortal condition in a world without God.” Or so Antinoff says.
“Nonetheless,” he says, “the death of God constitues a pivotal moment for the West. For Neitzsche” [who pronounced God dead for western civilization], ”God was the subconscious projection originating in the depths of the human need for spiritual preservation, the ‘antidote to practical and theoretical nihilism.’ The untenability of God forces the insufficiency of the finite, the insufficiency of the human, to center stage.”
Spiritual atheism seems to come out of a much darker place for Antinoff than it does for me. He quotes quite a few observations on the inevitability of death from many religious traditions and points out our basic existential anxiety (the anxiety that because we exist, because we are alive, we will die).
OK. We’ll grant him his historical perspective on the loss of God as a touchstone of sprituality. BUT if we take a much longer perspective, say over evolutionarily deep time, we can see greater cause for celebration. Humankind’s rising. Yes, we’re out there, exposed. We always were. We took a detour into religion. It may have been necessary; we may never know. Now we are humankind emerging. We are becoming. It’s a continual process of improvement with no upper limit.
Antinoff then explores through other thinkers how our consciousness was foisted upon us and not of our choosing. He says this gives us a spiritual loneliness that can’t be overcome by love or sex as evidenced, he says, by the divorce rate. Neither, Antinoff says, can artistic or creative accomplishment overcome this loneliness even when transcendence is the goal of such art.
As a prelude to Part 2 of Spritual Atheism, Antinoff sums up that the individual is his own obstacle when he paraphrases twelfth century Zen master, Wu-men, “to attain the ‘wonderous awakening’ the barrier without a gate must be passed through. The barrier is not an object. The barrier is he or she who seeks to pass through the barrier–the ’I.’”
At this point, Antinoff takes up in Part 2 his painfully slow development of his thesis that Buddhist enlightenment is the answer to the impasse and our eternal (or not) stuckedness as beings who can go nowhere. Among his ideas for a way forward is this: with no God we must have an atheistic religion.
Antinoff considers meditation as a path at some depth and how it deals with our intractable spiritual delimmas. He talks about the mystical peak experiences that he says are possible despite widespread belief to the contrary, but warns that having that ecstatic peak isn’t a true obtainment of enlightenment even if exciting and entertaining.
Obviously any writer can take his book anywhere he wants to go, but I was disappointed in where this one went. I was hoping it would be all that spiritual atheism could be, all that it might encompass. It does develop an origin of spiritual atheism, and follows a line of reasoning that leads to a narrow path. That path is the authors earnest prescription for way forward and a destination, and although, it leaves me ambivalent, it might serve others well.
Consider a man, an early man, maybe 100,000 years ago or a little more. Just like his animal counterpart of 4 to 5 million ybp, he thinks there’s someone out there in the dark. He can hear this someone in the wind. It may be the same someone who brought the fire. They remember a lightning bolt that appeared to be thrown to the clan but then struck a tree. Was it the gift of fire? Or was this force evil? Did he try to strike the clan? Or was it just a warning? They tried to keep the fire, but didn’t know how.
“Uuhhh. Uhhhh.” They asked the fire to come back. Nothing happened.
The next time they thought this powerful One was coming (they thought he hid in the storm clouds), they repeated their plea. “Uuhhh. Uuhhh.” Nothing. All the men came into the tribe’s clearing. They all began, “Uuhhh. Uuhhh.” It was a distressing noise. The strong man rammed his staff on the ground. It startled the others. He tamped a spot softly with his staff. He tapped the spot harder and harder, then he spoke the word on the beat. “Uuhhh! Uuhhh!” He leaned toward the others emphasizing the sound and the beat. “Uuhhh! Uuhhh!” Slowly they joined in. And as one, they raised their voices, Uuhhh!! Uuhhh!!” Nothing happened.
The next time storm clouds gathered, the clan assembled on their common ground. The strong man pounded the ground. They all chanted, “Uuhhh! Uuhhh!!” After a while, they became tired. As they were about to give up, lightning struck in the distance.
Renewed, they began chanting again. “Uuhhh!! Uuhhh!!” The strong man continued pounding the beat. The leader of the hunt stepped before the men and spread his fingers wide. He made his hands quiver as if it was a prelude to some coming event. The men, continuing the chant, spread out into the open meadow beyond the clan’s compound. They kept their voices strong. It was hard to hear them over the gathering storm so they stood their ground. One of them motioned to the man farthest out to stop. He was into a creek up to his shins. A blinding bolt of light burst out of the man’s chest and he fell dead into the stream. The crackle of thunder reached the others. Son of a bitch! the strong man said, though, in the words of their day, “UH uh uh UUUUHHH!!”
When the next storm gathered the men again met on the pounded ground of the clan’s common. The strong man tamped the beat, the others chanted. The leader of the hunt palmed the air in front of him with both hands indicating the men should stay put. There were a few lightning strikes visible, but no fire appeared. This went on for a few months. The men started stamping their feet to the beat of the chant. It seemed to ease the monotony of the monotonal chant.
At the next storm and chant session, a weird little guy, who’d yet to hit the first animal on a hunt, had his spear with him! He started tapping it to the beat of the strong man’s staff and the tribal chant. Every so often, after a downbeat, he’d raise his spear toward the storm and it caused the men’s emotions to swell until they let out a yell. The tribesmen looked at each other. One by one, they slipped away and returned with their spears. Before long, the tribe was tapping their spears, chanting, and pointing toward the storm and shouting in unison, “UUUHHHH.”
Soon enough, the lightning struck a tree on the meadow. The hunt leader motioned for a couple of men to fetch the fire. As they got to the tree, lightning struck again. They both fell dead. “UH uh uh UUUUHH!” said the strong man.
My Personal Deconversion Experience
My questions about God became more probing, deeper, broader. It was gradual—the build up—stimulated by public Fundamentalist statements in my world (in the absence of any rational statements). The more of these necessarily literally true statements of faith or about the Bible you considered, the more they seemed untrue.
A shadow of an idea formed—barely an inkling. Then a slow realization—if I simply negated the truth of all these unlikely statements, the world made sense. I examined the more miraculous (or in reality lower probability) events in light of my raised awareness that the whole belief structure may be faulty.
Still I equivocated as the lack of truth of the Bible came home to roost. The full implications for God begin to loom. Still, that BIG question was barely on my radar. The bricks were starting to crumbling, but I hadn’t questioned the structure.
Fundamentalist bigotry and fear hold your beliefs intact… But yet their errors shoved you on.
All the believers in my world, and that included everyone I knew, gave me such a false sense of my own intelligence. I thought I must mave been a mental giant among these people who couldn’t reason their way out of religion and its bogus beliefs. What a genius I had to be.
I read of the Enlightenment, the loosening of the grip of religious dogma on the minds of men, a freeing of the human spirit and the rising spirit of humanism. I felt liberated …the truth did set me free, at least occasionally, a little.
NOW IT’S YOUR TURN
Tell us how you came out of your religion. Then tell us if we can put your story in the next book: Confessions of A Christian Atheist. Actually deconversion from any belief counts. It’s your chance to bear witness to your path through religion to the light of enlightenment.
If we use your story in Confessions of a Christian Atheist you’ll get a free hard copy of that book which we hope will go to press and come out in 2014. But we’re waiting on your story… so hurry. Bare your soul, er, …um, yourself, your lofty, but grounded human spirit. (My story, above, was a little sketchy. It lacks details you may want in yours.) Length? Half a page to ten pages?
It’s cathartic. Liberating. Shout it to the world. You’ll show them–those @#* believers behaing badly that you made it out of their bogus religion. Tell them off. You’re FREE!
But don’t forget to actually post it here.
The sojourn of humanity
…so we are all spiritual…
Have you experienced that sense of awe that buoys the spirit at those peak moments when in the presence of being and the world? Some have wondered from the earliest, Am I generating this sense of spirit or is there really something out there?
For eons humans mistook mind for spirit, especially this expansive, ennobling aspect of it, this temporal spirit enthralled by its own imagination and yearning and, no less, the very improbability of being. Is there really something in here, an essence that’s me?
If we can be lonely in a crowd, perhaps, the most trying loneliness is that of a crowded world that may not care, one that is about something else altogether, or seemingly about nothing at all. This is the loneliness of being face to face with a society which is alien to us and to which we are equally alien.
Religion at its best urges the individual to turn a loving face to society, to embrace it, love it, love all mankind, for in that love which seems to manifest our spirit outward to the world we see our love reflected back again.
Religion remakes that indifferent world into one in which we are made ultra-relevant by its solace, its brotherhood, or by its promise of an afterworld that’s a caring paradise in which all will be made right, whole, just—an afterworld that makes the trials and tribulations of this world more bearable, more beautiful, more like the best of all possible worlds—a world worthy of being internalized into the fabric of our reality, our worldview.
The mind of man (and woman) wishes to rise above the everyday world. This wish is an old one. Remember those cave drawings tens of thousands of years old in France and Spain? That art, and a lot of art, is a special activity in which an aspect of our world is re-examined or re-presented through a varying array of mediums. This act of art is one way the human mind handles its world spiritually. It’s a way of handling the world by which we may fleetingly gain transcendence over it.
The world, in the sense of all that exists, is an imposing reality. It is everything to us. Through it our needs are met. Within it our triumphs and defeats play out. Its story is largely our story. Our communal origin myths connect our story to its place in the world’s narrative—another artful connection that ties us to our world.
Most of us have that sense of being that seems to very much suggest a self and, does it perhaps, hint at a soul?
Figurative speech can capture that sense of the human spirit, that soul-like thing. There are important things to say about the human spirit that are not necessarily true—things that have a certain resonance that seem to ring true at a deep level within us—the metaphorical corollaries of life, let’s say. That’s one of the better functions of religion. It gives us permission, if not enabling us, to consider our spirituality.
Religion seems to dwell more on the supernatural realm and less on us as individuals, perhaps because we don’t know how to talk directly about our spirituality. Religion has come forward with the metaphors, the poetry and the myth that gives us a way to express our spirituality where in its absence we don’t know what can be said literally.
Some say without God there is no spirituality. All evidence seems to the contrary. From the individual perspective the core spiritual experience seems to form as emotions peak and a spiritual eruption happens. We’re programmed not only to believe, but to be rewarded psychologically for it. It may be as simple as our forming a spiritual question—contemplating a spiritual possibility—and being internally rewarded for it.
On some level we know the spiritual nature of every human being is temporal, mortal—that’s the experience of the everyday world we live in. On the other hand, it seems as if we have souls. Hasn’t everything we’ve felt, hoped, or dreamed under God, every inspired work of art, every musical note performed, been achieved as if there were souls, spirits, and gods? As far as anyone knows, though, all art, all inspired works, were also achieved in the absence of the same. It belittles humankind none to say we did it all on our own without any supernatural help.
The true believer says we hold an indwelling piece of the divine. The truthseeker, rather, says we have nothing more than an inner-self (some say not that either). Whatever it is, it is a self-like thing that responds to inspiration—and soars aloft when properly nurtured.
Recent insights have shown not religion but religiosity to be a likely evolutionary adaptation. By that is meant an inborn propensity for religiousness. Along with our bellicosity, that may have been what carried our narrow band of humankind through turbulent times in the past.
Religion evolved with humanity and because of that there is a certain “spiritual” nature hard-wired within us. This gives rise to a spiritual need which is felt as an urge that must be satisfied. That spiritual satisfaction comes in the form of a psychochemical reward that approaches joy or ecstasy.
In this amazing age of digital communication the interconnections between people form a vast array of communities across borders and around the world—interest groups and causes are joined that would be possible no other way. Where we were scattered statistically, we are gathered digitally. We belong to a growing global village.
Beliefs of the religious kind have a deep source within us. In the deep core of our human selves, that source may be hidden from us. Perhaps because of it, we have a need to know what it is that we are a part of. Perhaps only then can we define who we are and in the early days this identity may have been the beginning of knowing oneself.
What is spirituality?
The neurochemical reality of belief
Consider the believer and her spiritual sense—her spirituality—and the underlying reality of it. SPIRITUALITY is an experience of certain internal mental states. One example from the nascent science of neurotheology is the increase in activity in some brain regions while other areas shut down producing a sense of oneness with everything. Similarly, a release of neurochemicals, serotonin, oxytocin, dopamine and others, reward us by producing a pleasurable state when stimulated by spiritual thoughts, beliefs, or experiences. (This is not to say that we didn’t have to learn to make this association before rewards would come. It’s certain that we did.)
Consider this thought experiment. A young believer feels like she’s experiencing the divine. The right neural pathways fire. The right neurochemicals flow into the right brain regions so that she has a convincing experience validated by her feelings. The believer senses she’s had a brush with the spiritual realm, perhaps her god or her savior. She senses it, physically and emotionally and infers that she’s experienced it spiritually. (The nonbeliever has a somewhat different experience as he doesn’t attribute his buoyant mood or intellectual epiphany to the supernatural.)
Consider this. I have a rewarding experience, let’s say, while writing aspirational thoughts on the ennoblement of the human spirit. Consequently, the same neural circuits fire within me, the right brain regions become active or inactive, and the same neurochemicals reward my brain just as they did the believer.
Is the believer’s experience spiritual while mine is not? Obviously not.
If the thought or activity elicits the same neurochemical response that produces the same feeling or excited experience that happens within a religious setting, then it is a “spiritual experience” though of a truly secular nature.
Natural selection programmed us to experience an extra tweak from the religious experience—a little nudge to make believers out of us. It would have had tremendous survival value for each individual (as well as the entire troupe) to be devoted participants in the vital tribal religion. Religion bonds the individuals and undergirds the social structure strengthening all to a greater degree than would be possible without it.
Religiosity/spirituality has an organic source within us. It grew up with humanity. It is in our DNA, not a single God gene, possibly a suite of genes or even some aggregation of genes and epigenes which support our innate propensity for religiosity and spirituality. At least that’s the hypothesis that seems to have the most explanatory power and best fits the reality we’re experiencing. It remains for genomic research to sort out.
Believers who reject organized religion say they are “spiritual, but not religious.” The New Age people have given us an example how we too can wrest our spirituality back from organized religion. The New Agers just aren’t noisy about it and their pronouncements, platitudinous as they are, don’t sound so threatening to other believers.
People want the spiritual experience—to transcend the world, to be above and outside the mundane. Life seems unvalidated without it. They want to have faith, to believe so badly that they simply do it. That’s the reality they want so they accept it, adopt it, and live it.
Why would the nonbelieving community care about spirituality? We’re not blank slates. We’re all hardwired for belief so nonbelievers too have spiritual needs (certainly some less than others). The nonbeliever, too, endures some discomfort in foregoing the meeting of that need.
Most of us want to achieve a level of fulfillment and wholeness in our lives. We wish for something significant to satiate that need inside, to quell our angst, our drive for spiritual satisfaction. We seem to suffer when we deny or suppress our spirituality while those engaged in the most farfetched belief practices seem to benefit from it.
In spite of the recent growth of evangelical Christians there is also growing skepticism of the existence of a spiritual realm. That doubt in the face of an ever-present spiritual need—that may be the dilemma of the Postmodern Age—we are spiritual beings in a completely secular universe. Maybe that will be, for the long haul, humankind’s dilemma. As meaning seekers we will have to seek it elsewhere. It remains to be seen if this spiritual need must be met in order to have a healthy and viable society.
It’s been the rising human spirit that’s brought forth everything good in the world and some of it has been inspired by the idea of a transcendent god. Our collective human spirit can’t remain devoted only to a god, though, and expect that to be the responsive, viable vehicle needed to meet humanity’s spiritual needs.
Many believers want to act upon their compassion for their fellow man. If we can all exercise mutual compassion, we could bring to an end that old mindset that one faith is pitted against another and that nonbelievers are embattled by believers. We may still be challenged by extreme fundamentalism, but that’s not all of Christianity—or any other religion. We should emulate the wish of the young evangelist who said that he wanted his neighbor’s world to be better because a Christian was in it. We should all be worthy of expressing that sentiment.
We should make a new beginning, welcoming all religions into the larger fold of universal human values. Can we agree to rise above our divisive beliefs and ideologies to embrace the humanity that is everywhere in the world? If we are to reach humanity’s next plateau we must. We should all reach over the belief divide and offer common cause in our hopes and dreams and good works projects.
We must no longer allow religious belief to divide us. We must openly invite theists and nontheists of good will to come together in tolerance and understanding. We have some things in common. Goodwill toward humanity. A future to share.
The most spiritual of the religious persuasions have nothing more than the nonbelievers have. We are all in a material world. Spiritual doesn’t have to mean supernatural like ghosts, gods, demons, angels, or devils, if spiritual experiences are the same mental phenomenon that nonbelievers have. On this side of a divide between the real world and some hypothetical spiritual realm, we, believers and nonbelievers, have neurochemically generated our peak experiences, epiphanies, and the sort. “Spiritual” for believers and for nonbelievers ultimately is the same thing. It’s a sense, a feeling. How we interpret it is what’s different.
If we do bring upon the world whatever we dwell on, can’t we choose human unity? Is it incompatible with human nature? Humanity does mature over time. We can set goals for our future and rise to meet them.
While the United Nations brings the world’s governments together, the aspiration of worldwide human union could bring humanity together. If social media could enable the Arab Spring, imagine the strength of persuasion the Earth’s population could bring to bear.
The better religions already had grand aspirations for humanity within them. That’s why their better parts have universal appeal while their dogmatic content does not. We do seek the noblest forms of humanity—and we always will. It is for each of us to seek that within ourselves.
Affirm the humanity that unites us not the beliefs that divide us.
Humanity is our only hope. It’s who we are and it’s all we have. When the world wants to badly enough we can all come together, then slowly we will be healed and become whole. The highest aspirations of humankind will be realized, the oneness of humanity and the equitable treatment of all.
The fourteenth Dalai Lama has called for a true kinship of the faiths. We must do more than have the religious leaders meet occasionally. If humanity’s spirituality is the common source among religions, and even nonbelievers can feel the need, let it be the uniting force.
The noblest aspirations of religion distill down to love and compassion for humanity. Though our figurative human spirits may not be the immortal variety, when we share our visions for humanity, if we truly have humankind’s best interest at heart, those spirits will unite in a common bond and divisive beliefs in the supernatural, erroneous cosmology, flawed morality, and humanity-negating dogma will fall away.
Aspire! Speak of our one humanity. Suggest human unity. If we continue to try with goodwill toward all, we can ultimately make our oneness real by a confluence of the people.
How will nonbelievers fare in a confluence of faith and humanity? We’ll have faith in humankind that when they’ve blunted the barbs of each religion, we’ll all fare well.
On the National Mall, Washington, D.C. Saturday, March 24th.
It was a spirited time even in the rain. A lot of people delivered their A-game. Tim Minchin was most often cited as a favorite. His was certainly the most energetic performance. (Anybody know how I can get his song out of my head? …But a lovely ballad, that.)
Speakers, entertainers and the whole bill of faire moved along with about 15 minutes each to do their thing. Dawkins was sharp and none of the speakers seemed dampened by the weather.
It was also interesting to see the promotions for various up coming secular meets. Everyone I spoke to thought there are a lot more than there used to be. We all concurred that that’s a good thing. I hope there’s never a burn out factor with more meets than there’s interest in. For now, these things do seem to give us a sense of community, energize us, and help to raise our profile. That was the theme and urging of the Reason Rally–Come OUT. Be visible. Run for office. Get involved. We can stop hiding. Do it not only for those who will come after, but for us, here and now.
Thanks to Dayton Freethought for organizing the jaunt for us. I got to know a few more of their friendly faces and hope to know more and more as time goes by.(I sent my 20 bucks in.) The Rally bus we were on broke down about 2:30 am Sunday morning–which ended the sleep period because it stimulated a lot of punchy wit from the bus-lagged crowd. Fortunately, nobody thought to sing Tim Minchin’s song while we waited. (I think I heard that on Youtube a while back. Maybe that’s why it’s sticking with me so much.) A short five hours later, we were on the road again.
Anyway, it was all fun and for a good cause–OURS.
Our larger community is perking. It’s exciting. We have a future. Let’s make it happen.
- The following is my response to a discussion on the wesite: Evolution: The View of Life, but I thought it was of broad enough interest to be posted here. It is also someting of a synopsis of my book Post Script to a Christian Nation. My focus group didn’t like that title (C’mon, focus, Group!), so I trying this out: Religion is Gods Way of Showing Us it’s Earlier in Human Evolution than We Thought.
- The thread of that blog starts under the Religion heading on “Evolution The view of Life” blog.
- Fool into the fray, I can sympathize with both points of view. (Background: my wife reads my stuff and says I’m an angry atheist) I also railed against the US congress’ reaffirming In God We Trust as the national motto titling my comments: that it was “…the religious equivalent of marking territory.” (couple of blogs ago).
Where I zag spiritual is based on the fact that many/most people do have that Faith Instinct that Nicholas Wade explains in his book.
Look, we know there is no spiritual realm or supernatural beings. BUT something we inherited has us looking for those things nevertheless. Further, our psychology/anatomy rewards us with neurochemicals (seratonin, dopamine, etc.) for “spiritual” thoughts and behavior.
People have attributed much historically to things done “under the influence” of spiritual epiphanies. Since there are no spiritual beings or spiritual realm, those folks don’t have much on us.
I think we express our “human spirit” through similar avenues. Writing, art, academics and many more.
As an aspiring humanist, I like the life-affirming accomplishments, especially those of a secular nature, not so much of those of a religious nature (also, an angry atheist, remember?).
Our need for fulfillment may come from that same neural complex, same neurochemical rewards.
Inspite of Rick Warren’s warning that humanism isn’t about to take over religion’s turf, I think, eventually, that it will still come to pass–as a cooperative effort.
Like your favorite ball team, we’ll all have our different teams–we’ll wear our decal–Born-agains, Catholics, Buddhism, Jewish traditions, Humanist, Freethought, Atheists, and others, but we’ll value the game, the family of man, that’s what will pull us together.
It’s a big table. Let’s set it for the guests we want and establish the etiquette that should be observed.
This is an eclectic traipsing through the conference in several parts.
Andrew Newburg, the first scheduled presenter on Saturday was ill and couldn’t make it. Neurotheology is his specialized area of investigation. He’s PET or SPECT scanned the brains of Buddhists in meditation and Carmelite nuns in prayer. He was high on my list of want-to-sees. I wanted to see what he thought of how evolution might have put together the neurochemicals and their receptor cells with some propensity toward religiosity or religiousness or spirituality.
Most of the presenters, I think, are opposed to anything like religion as a package deal being selected for as an evolutionary adaptation. For others, it’s a matter of onion skin layers –and the thesis and proponents of what might have evolved that can be found at that layer. Nobody thinks you could inherit, let’s say, Catholicism (or any fullblown religion). Not many think you’d inherit the worship of a supernatural being, per se. But as you keep peeling off layers, you’ll come to a level we might call a “religious impulse.” That idea has followers. See Nicholas Wade, The Faith Instinct. I believe, also, that you can consider E.O. Wilson, Sociobiology, Consilience & David Sloan Wilson, Darwin’s Cathedral, in on that one (and me).
Daniel Dennett & Pascal Boyer don’t think (and please correct me if I get this wrong: I’ve read both their books & took copious notes, but my memory is almost nonexistent) there’s continuity between the early religious behavior of hunter-gatherers and today’s religions. Boyer says they have only Religious Thought and Belief and nothing like capital R Religions. Richard Dawkins & Steven Pinker (not at the conference, but icons in the pantheon of the New Atheism) whom I admire, as well, give reasons unworthy of their intellects as to why they reject the likelihood that natural selection could have put together anything supportive of religion.
I’m not saying that evolution created a whole new brain center, large neural structure, and maybe not even anything unique or specially dedicated to support something like a religious impulse. Selection would have had the easiest time (and selection operates without any intent or purpose–results happen and they live or die –or thrive–or have a slight reproductive advantage) selecting, slowly accumulating, accreting, minor changes in what allowed the human brain to trigger neurochemicals or neurotransmitters and thereby reward itself for thinking lofty, especially pious, thoughts. Some religious behaviors would accrete over time that would coax out, in a supportive way, more of this mutually supportive neurochemical rewards and voila` you’ve got a mystical experience or, more likely, a subliminal perk when someone whispered in your ear that Jesus loves you.
That’s what I wanted to ask Andrew Newburg about. J. Anderson Thompson, MD gave the first presentation instead, The Song of Serotonin and the Dance of Dopamine and may have come closer than Dr. Newburg might have to affirming the likelihood of a heritable religious impulse–if it can largely be based in neurochemistry. Along with selection stringing together some religious behavior be it chant, dance, and/or trance, I think it might just be. When he acknowledged the contribution of Nicholas Wade to the field and work, I believe that might have been the affirmation.