Are We Hard-Wired for Religion?

The brain - no matter how it got there - does have this profound ability to engage in religious and spiritual experiences.

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.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

LinkedIn meets Tinder in this mindful networking app

Swipe right to make the connections that could change your career.

Getty Images
Sponsored
Swipe right. Match. Meet over coffee or set up a call.

No, we aren't talking about Tinder. Introducing Shapr, a free app that helps people with synergistic professional goals and skill sets easily meet and collaborate.

Keep reading Show less

In a first for humankind, China successfully sprouts a seed on the Moon

China's Chang'e 4 biosphere experiment marks a first for humankind.

Image source: CNSA
Surprising Science
  • China's Chang'e 4 lunar lander touched down on the far side of the moon on January 3.
  • In addition to a lunar rover, the lander carried a biosphere experiment that contains five sets of plants and some insects.
  • The experiment is designed to test how astronauts might someday grow plants in space to sustain long-term settlements.
Keep reading Show less

A world map of Virgin Mary apparitions

She met mere mortals with and without the Vatican's approval.

Strange Maps
  • For centuries, the Virgin Mary has appeared to the faithful, requesting devotion and promising comfort.
  • These maps show the geography of Marian apparitions – the handful approved by the Vatican, and many others.
  • Historically, Europe is where most apparitions have been reported, but the U.S. is pretty fertile ground too.
Keep reading Show less

Love in a time of migrants: on rethinking arranged marriages

Arranged marriages and Western romantic practices have more in common than we might think.

Culture & Religion

In his book In Praise of Love (2009), the French communist philosopher Alain Badiou attacks the notion of 'risk-free love', which he sees written in the commercial language of dating services that promise their customers 'love, without falling in love'.

Keep reading Show less