Excerpt from Religion is God’s Way of showing Us it’s a lot earlier in Human Evolution than We Thought
The heritability of religiosity holds the greatest implications for religion of any science since Darwin published Origin of the Species.
Perhaps one of the most enlightening aspects of modern times will be considered in these pages. That is, how religion evolved with humanity and because of that how a certain “spiritual” nature may have become “hard-wired” within us. In turn, whether from the same or a different source, something gives rise to a spiritual need which is felt like an urge that must be satisfied… or suffer the consequences.
Natural selection built some rewards into the makeup of our minds to validate our religious actions, beliefs, and experiences. Why would it do this? Natural selection isn’t speculative. It is blind, but it’s also cumulative. Minor variations that prove beneficial to an organism are passed on.
The religious drive comes from the same organic source within us all.
Every step of the way, religious activity and religiosity were adaptations that proved beneficial or they wouldn’t have been supported by our genes nor would they have made religion the nearly universal aspect that it is across our societies.
Without religion the ultimate questions go unsettled. That unsettledness leaves an unsatisfied or anxious insecurity. Religion is the price we pay to settle the ultimate questions.
Why do people think that through their religions they reach out and communicate with their god? Why do they accept that they have obtained a necessary, if minimal, spiritual level through their religion? We are going to delve deeply into these and greater questions.
If it’s not already obvious, in the interest of full disclosure, I am a nonbeliever who’s spent a lifetime of study, writing and thought in the field—Why do we have religion? Post-modern thought, science, and philosophy have gained significant insights if not breakthroughs in this query.
I certainly do welcome believers as readers as well. A significant portion of this work focuses on them. In the long run I wish to include them in our ongoing dialogue. I have continuously doused the flames of inflammatory rhetoric directed at them. There are, however, points at which I must choose who this writing is to serve, and its issues, my issues, are the issues of nonbelievers in a believer’s world and, thus, they necessarily have much more meaning for nonbelievers and that is the master I choose to serve. That is my cause.
There are numerous issues that the religious create unnecessarily for us in our society. As believers continue to demonstrate religiously incorrect behavior it is our duty to point it out. Re-affirming In God We Trust as the national motto by the U.S. Congress and similar religious acts are easy to point to as instances of believers behaving badly. The fact that our legislative leaders can vote to disenfranchise us with zeal, trounce our rights, and crush our feelings demonstrates an inexcusable level of disregard (and supports the main thesis of this writing). Until they get that and until they choose to care anything about us, our protests will continue and may become more strident still.
Believers are “religiously affected” if not afflicted. (Due to the drive and reward for religio-spiritual activities as explored later.) This seriously affects their judgment to the point of clouding it in at least two ways. One: believers believe they can rationally defend the reasons for their belief while they continue to prove they cannot. Two: their anti-atheist (and anti-other faiths) actions would hardly be tolerated by smaller majorities against other groups. (At the time of this writing, there is a proposal before the Arizona legislature that would bar atheists from graduating from high school in the state and one before the Indiana legislature to teach “creation science” in their high schools.)
Once believers are religiously affected, can they ever be objective, again? Fortunately, we know that new knowledge can soften the stance of, at least, some believers—and there have been deconversions, if rarely, including a number of Christian clergymen.
American Christianity may be less tolerant because it has enjoyed a largely homogeneous Christian culture throughout the continent and even the hemisphere. There were other faiths and nonbelievers, but back in the day, they may have been happy to avoid detection rather than face the repercussions of being outed. In fairness, that’s a risk more or less serious in any culture.
This is an ongoing journey of mind and spirit, the path of the Doubtful Sojourner
Wherever the truth may lead…
This book may have some aspects of popularizing science and thought as it takes a look at the evolutionary roots of faith. At the same time, that line of inquiry is “liberation theology” for nonbelievers. The New Atheists and others however, don’t think religiosity is heritable (they don’t think we have “religion in our genes”) largely because they aren’t open to the idea that religion has ever had significant benefits for believers.
If they could move past that, there’s a rich harvest to be had in those fertile fields. It’s worthwhile to note that the “hardwired hardware” of religion wasn’t recently incorporated into our evolution. What we’re saddled with is an ancient mode of religion, that of hunter-gatherers, nomads, scavengers, isolated tribes, and xenophobic clans.
A balanced approach to the hidden aspects of religion can still be made—but, as pointed out above, this field as focused on by this writing has more meaning for nonbelievers yet perhaps, at the same time, more implications for believers. Few writers delve into the rich meaning of religion’s place in our evolution—and even fewer religious writers. And so, it falls on us as nonbelievers to determine this meaning for the future of all of us. Ultimately, the implications are significant and extreme.
In light of this new knowledge, the social dynamics will change. Justice can be demanded. A just world can, again, be contemplated. Greater insight into religious bigotry and discrimination can be obtained. For nonbelievers, less of their human spirit will be sapped. Believers can create a world where they have reduced the amount of insult and effrontery they’ve put on their fellow man. By ending bigotry and prejudice against one more group (us) society becomes healthier, better able to meet everyone’s needs and ultimately rewards those who’ve let go of their bigotry and hatred.
Above all else, this is for the nurturance of the human spirit of nonbelievers.
Other nonbelievers may be put off by my thesis that we are all spiritual. I ask them to reserve judgment until they see what the reality of this radically different spirituality is all about. Our spirituality—in effect, the feeling of spiritual fulfillment—can be channeled in a good way. It can improve the believer-dominated world that so often has left the nonbeliever unsatisfied.
Believers and unbelievers alike respond to the instinctual propensity toward spirituality.
This book is multi-thematic. So is life. There is spirituality in this view of life, but an authentic, secular, human spirituality. Too, there is a witnessing of where religion has been, where it came from, and where it will take us—if we let it. And, perhaps, we can consider (for the first time?) where we should take it.
Yes there’s religious criticism. How could there not be in such a worldwide cornucopia of faith? But there’s an olive branch to the religious and in fact, more than that—an earnest invitation to a path forward.
It is the central proposition of this book that religion requires both the human capacity for it (the genetically transmitted component)—as well as the content of faith and belief (the culturally transmitted aspects).
This writing is intended to bring increased liberation to the nonbeliever. It is hoped that it paves the way toward greater spiritual and psychological fulfillment. Advances in understanding always help or at the very least seem to console. Some of these advances are in the science alluded to in this work.
The scientific study of religion as proposed by Daniel Dennett is a young endeavor that has footnotes as old as the universe. This should be a path to spiritual fulfillment for many nonbelievers much like cosmology or philosophy or anthropology might be. (These “intellectual rituals” fall far short of the authentic spirituality that will be identified shortly.)
Where I have the science wrong, or if I’ve quoted scientists or others who have the science wrong, I ask your forgiveness. Where I might have it wrong due to my bias or agenda, it would be inexcusable as it would for anyone, be she scientist, philosopher, theologian.
What makes it copasetic for this book, containing a discussion of the evolutionary origins of religion, to also contain thoughts on atheist spirituality as well as religious criticism? It is because of the implications of those evolutionary origins of humanity and religion—the meaning they hold—for all humankind now and in the future.
This is my witnessing. It’s what I bring back to the world after what it has given me. There is rich ore in this vein. I hope to share as much of it as I’ve found.
In the long run, we are all spiritual seekers. It is the way we were made. Many respond to a false positive that makes them think there is a supernatural realm and perhaps beings of pure spirit. We did not respond to that. Do we lack something that believers have—or are we better equipped than they? Either way, we have not lost anything nor failed in some way. We still have the pursuit, the spiritual quest, the authenticity of truth, and the rich meaning that sentient beings can find as well as create in such an incredible universe.