Recently a writer struggling with mentality, and needing to pose as if proposing a useful idea, wrote an article claiming that a need to believe in God may be inborn, that is, hard-wired in the human nervous system. I’m much more inclined to suppose cultural evolutionary survival as a basis for metaphysical ideas than genomic evolution. Deific entities and transcendental dimensions are not “hard-wired” into our thought process. Instead, deities are deep wired artifacts of a social culture which projects psychological need in humans for family and attendant structure as part of the general need selves have for others, whereas transcendence denotes escape from entrapping limits of conceptuality often needed by highly self-aware people. Hence, interest in zen, sufism and yoga.
Need for generalized Others, short of transcendence, translates as a tendency of humans to seek “sky parents” and “airy allies.” Such persons stay conceptually entrapped by imagery. It explains the near-universality of such notions as gods, ghosts, sprites and invisible realms in so many of the world’s socio-cultural communities. It does not explain the multiplicity and variousness of such ideas, any more than does the “hard-wiring” premise. What may be hard-wired is our need for sleep and tendencies to dream while awake or asleep. Dream-life is the obvious source of supposing a world exists apart from our wakeful reality. The differing levels and qualities of awareness have fooled humans from the start.
It is clear that however humans are “wired,” they respond to differences among received notions with discomfort which they ease by comparing, criticizing and modifying them. Thus we see, in the history of religions and in other matters of cultural legacy, a recurrence of conflict and schism — of movements that break up, diverge and often turn back upon themselves. These conflicts have marked the spread through time and space of all major religions. We see similar processes at work throughout culture, in language change, dialect development, political process and opinion formation, even in ethnic or national communities and scientific debates within clinical and academic fields which attend the gradual accumulation and evolution of knowledge. Mankind evolved in a dream-state. The most urgent task on all fronts is to awaken.
For to suppose that a need for metaphysical support is inborn in us can only be a cop-out from rationality and an attempted end-run around science. It would give false credit to all manner of religious apologetics, for which I invite proof. Real and proper spirituality is not anti-scientific. That is for self-blind religiosity.