Is religious belief innate to our brains?

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Plot Device

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Ruv Draba

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That there is a language centre in the brain doesn't mean that we're all speaking English. It only says that - whenever we speak - a certain area in brain is "active" (= flooded with blood). This is part of the old debate: Is atheism a belief?
There is potentially useful science in a question that asks whether belief in the immaterial (or the ability to think about the immaterial) might be genetically predisposed and even beneficial to species survival. Bear in mind that all humans have to deal with questions of materiality and immateriality -- questions that extend far beyond religious concerns. What do we think happened to the thing we called a tadpole when it became a frog? What do we think happened to the object we called a sandwich when we ate it? Which objects do we think persist when we look away and what makes us continue to believe in them when we can no longer see them?

Unfortunately, the moment we frame the question using the word 'religion', we've made it a matter of tribe rather than brain-function and it ceases to be ethical science, or indeed much science at all. We've also skewed the question to support political positions, not to find legitimate answers. I think that the number and quality of responses in this thread rather proves that point.

I believe that the question as it's currently framed and most of the responses belong more in the P&CE forum than here.
 
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You don't know that. Maybe God came down and gave somebody a swift kick in the pants and said, "Hi, I exist. Have a piece of fairy cake. Would you like fries with that?"

They would not be able to proove that they met God but they'd know. And they'd have some really awesome fries...but of course they would have already eaten them so they couldn't proove that the fries existed either.

All clear minded people would admit that they BELIEVE they saw god, but do not KNOW for a fact that it was him.

Right, maybe they were hallucinating.
 

Lyv

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Understandable.

I was speaking in terms of how some atheists use the phrase "God of the gaps" to DISMISS religion.

It's a logical fallacy to use "God of the gaps" as a dismissive reason as to why God doesn't exist.
I don't think you're saying I am doing that, but just in case: I've simply said that I do not believe in God. I've also stated that I believe the idea of god(s) came from man's need to understand and cope with the unknown. But my lack of belief in God is not based on any one thing. I used to believe. I no longer do (and not because anything bad happened to me or I had some crisis of faith or someone was mean to be in church, which people often assume).

Personally, I've discovered that atheists are extremely dismissive.
That may be saying more about you than atheists. But at least you're stopping short of making a negative generalization and instead speaking only of your experiences.
I'd much rather debate the existence of a God with an agnostic than an atheist, because, in my experience, atheists are as close-minded as they claim the people they dismiss are.
Now we're not just dismissing God; we're also dismissing people who believe in him?

I say that tongue-in-cheek, but you're perpetuating some myths here. You have issues with atheists. I get it. Perhaps you need to meet more atheists. I think I'm being pretty reasonable, though I've had some negative comments lobbed my way. I'll continue to be, too.
 

Higgins

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It only says that - whenever we speak - a certain area in brain is "active" (= flooded with blood).

As I write this I'm verbally dangling over the gap between two merged threads on how the brain (the brain mind you, not its problems getting up in the morning) is "wired" (neuronally?...but the language area shows up in the plumbing or scaffolding) for some abstact god thing to happen to it.
I of course think the divine strikes in man just like fear or lust or any other limbic (a general term for some emotional parts of the brain) event. But apparently if you "believe" (a rather abstract idea) you don't want to think your belief is mixed in with primordial horror and if you don't "believe" (a rather vacuous term) then you don't want to think anyone's beliefs might be grounded in their primordial experiences (and they don't either)...so one thing believers and unbelievers agree on is that there's nothing limbic (primordial and terrifying)about religious experience even though all the hard evidence and adaptive uses suggest otherwise.
Yours....from the limbic void: Higgins
 

Magdalen

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Damn! That's a fine post, Higgins! All through this thread (well, I skipped pages 3-5) I kept wondering when someone would bring up the goosebumps on my arms and the tiny little hairs on the back of my neck stood straight up as I read your entry.
Yours . . . from the core of the limbic node!!
 

Ruv Draba

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Moving this from Lit/Crit to our shiny new comparative religion forum.
...where it's a non-issue I think. If someone were to claim that religious belief were innate to our brains then they'd be saying that the irreligious are somehow defective or deluded, which isn't allowed.

But I've long conjectured that superstitions (or tendencies thereof) are very common, even among fairly rationalistic folk like myself. Speaking personally there's a part of my brain that makes all manner of symbolic associations between cause and effect. For instance part of my mind holds that if you boast about something before doing it, you're likely to fail.

There's another part of my mind that says 'There's no analysis behind this; it's pure conjecture', but still I grow uncomfortable in groups that self-congratulate before a task is commenced.

Of course, our mythic lore is full of examples of 'pride cometh before a fall', and I'm not sure that my subconscious differentiates fictional examples from factual examples in developing its intuitions. It's also true that if you set high expectations early, you can be more disappointed later, and you may be less alert during the task -- so it's not bad advice even if it's not true in general.

Anyway, I thought that might be vaguely relevant.
 

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...where it's a non-issue I think. If someone were to claim that religious belief were innate to our brains then they'd be saying that the irreligious are somehow defective or deluded, which isn't allowed.

Haskins is broken. I knew it.

#

Is it odd that I don't really have a running dialogue in my head, the way you've just described? I think of everything in pictures and symbols; I can't even imagine having a word in my head.

Good lord, now I'm broken too. Thanks, Mac. Your forum broke two of us.
 

Guffy

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I kind of hate to join a discussion that has been going on this long. I didn't read all of the pages but there seems to be some great points being shared.
 

MarkR

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...so one thing believers and unbelievers agree on is that there's nothing limbic (primordial and terrifying)about religious experience even though all the hard evidence and adaptive uses suggest otherwise.
Yours....from the limbic void: Higgins

I found an interesting article about altered activity in the frontal lobes (more highly evolved section of the brain) during religious experience.

http://www.uphs.upenn.edu/news/News_Releases/oct06/glossolalia.htm
 

Guffy

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One of the things that seem to separate humans from animals, (when I was in middle school they used to teach us the difference was the use of tools, which they had to change) is burial and reverence for the dead. The earliest civilizations discovered all seem to have this, no mater how poor their circumstances seemed to be. IMO this points to some sense of eternity in spite of all the evidence that everything is temporal.
 

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There are records of both elephants and chimpanzees showing bereavement behavior around a body.
 

Guffy

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I'm talking about the entombment and veneration of the dead for many generations.
 

Higgins

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One of the things that seem to separate humans from animals, (when I was in middle school they used to teach us the difference was the use of tools, which they had to change) is burial and reverence for the dead. The earliest civilizations discovered all seem to have this, no mater how poor their circumstances seemed to be. IMO this points to some sense of eternity in spite of all the evidence that everything is temporal.

There are a lot of ways that people have ritually removed the dead from the living. Zoroastrians have towers where the dead are eaten by birds and other forms of defleshing the bones are pretty common.
Its true that some sort of ritual surrounds the deaths and funereal events of high status people in societies with status markers. Elaborate burials (and even in the case of cremations, some kind of burial occurred) seem to be associated with social heirarchies.
 
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