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Are We Hard-Wired for Religion?

When we look at how the brain works it looks like the brain is able to very easily engage in religious and spiritual practices, ideas and experiences.  All the brain scan studies that we've done show that there are multiple parts of the brain that seem to get involved. 

So it really does look like the brain is easily capable of having these experiences.  Now exactly how that ability got into the brain is of course much more complex and both a philosophical and scientific question.  The scientists would say maybe it was through millions of years of evolution that because being religious or spiritual was an adaptive process it got incorporated into the biological mechanisms of the brain and there are certainly a lot of reasons to support that.

Of course if you're a religious individual it also makes sense that if there is a God up there and we're down here that we would have a brain that's capable of communicating to God, praying to God, doing the things that God needs us to do. Otherwise there would be this kind of fundamentally silly disconnect. 

We wouldn't be able to have any kind of interaction with God.  So it does look like the brain no matter how it got there does have this profound ability to engage in religious and spiritual experiences and that's part of why we've seen religion and spirituality be a part of human history since the very dawn of civilization.

In Their Own Words is recorded in Big Think's studio.

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