There was an interesting Oxford study that got a lot of publicity recently, claiming that human beings are predisposed to believe in god. First off, I totally believe the study—but more importantly—it doesn’t change my feelings about religion one bit.
The study does not support many of the logical leaps that some religious people have taken from it (for example see Monsignor Robert Servatius of Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church). It doesn’t prove the existence of god, just like the creepy feeling you get in the middle of the night doesn’t prove that the boogeyman is real. It certainly doesn’t justify any particular sect, such as Christianity for example.
What’s really interesting is when you examine people who don’t affiliate with any religion—the 20% of people in American known as “nones.” Aside from the atheist and stern agnostic slices of that group, many claim to hold some sort of fuzzy “god belief.” I have never found this nondescript “feeling” to be worthy of debating or dissecting in any way. I don’t support or object to it—I just don’t care. I only start to vehemently oppose religion when it is put into a book, forced on others and used to discriminate against inevitable “out” groups (such as gays, atheists, unpopular religions and witches—take your pick). The god belief only becomes dangerous and damaging when put into dogma and treated as fact.
But even if people are predisposed to this fuzzy feeling, human beings in general are predisposed to a shitload of useless or bad behavior—infidelity, violence and deceit just to name a few. Have you ever watched young children play? They are all unrepentant sociopaths until age six or so. I am personally predisposed to eating an entire extra large pizza, all by myself. It’s my nature. However, I’ve lost ten pounds recently with exercise and eating right as I forever battle my less enlightened tendencies. I am a logical being, and I can work to resist those things that are harmful to me and to those I care about.
Religion is the same. It may be human nature, but it’s often bad for us. I believe in the inherent goodness of humanity and society that human beings can overcome our base instincts. I would even argue that only religion can motivate much of the evil that human beings visit upon each other. Flying airplanes into buildings? That takes a god belief of some kind, and it also reminds me of a favorite quote:
“Religion is an insult to human dignity. With or without it you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion,” Steven Weinberg.
So I accept the premise that a fuzzy god belief is inherent in humanity, but then I say so what? We should be able to resist this base instinct for the betterment of our species.