Is Believing in God a Part of Human Nature?



Theologians have been trying to answer the questions around the origins of faith for thousands of years. A piece by CNN reports that a new study concludes that religious belief is an aspect of human nature. Here are a few clips from it:

Religion comes naturally, even instinctively, to human beings, a massive new study of cultures all around the world suggests.
...
Studies around the world came up with similar findings, including widespread belief in some kind of afterlife and an instinctive tendency to suggest that natural phenomena happen for a purpose.

"Children in particular found it very easy to think in religious ways," such as believing in God's omniscience, said Trigg. But adults also jumped first for explanations that implied an unseen agent at work in the world, the study found.
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"If you've got something so deep-rooted in human nature, thwarting it is in some sense not enabling humans to fulfill their basic interests," Trigg said.

"There is quite a drive to think that religion is private," he said, arguing that such a belief is wrong. "It isn't just a quirky interest of a few, it's basic human nature."

"This shows that it's much more universal, prevalent, and deep-rooted. It's got to be reckoned with. You can't just pretend it isn't there," he said.
I expanded the word 'religion' to 'believing in God' in the title because it is a bit more specific. I think that many disagree with this study and would say that we are not born with the ability to believe in God. To atheists the idea that all have some kind of belief is a bit ludicrous. Yet there are religious people who believe that people are born without the ability to believe and God grants some the ability later in their lives.

I love these kinds of questions. It reminds me how early in my life I believed in God. Yet later in life I became a practical agnostic that embraced a sort of deism where I believed in a God who created the universe but was no longer involved in it. Thankfully, when I was 27, that agnostic belief turned into real faith. And I guess faith is the issue. Whether we are born with the ability to believe in God or not the real issue is what we do with that belief.


... originally posted on May 29, 2011.
... for more Best of Bob click here.

12 comments:

  1. I have my father's and my mother's DNA. Even if I didn't know who they were, that would be true. They would have had a large part in forming me and influencing me.

    So I think it probably is with the one I believe created me--God.

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  2. It's interesting, this is one of those questions that I see some people fervently defending one side or the other. I think we are all prone to a certain amount of magical thinking and irrationality, regardless of what our world view is.

    I know people who have been atheists their whole lives and some who have never known a life without believing in God. What does this mean? I don't know. My feelings can be summed up by the following lyrics from one of my all time favorite songs.

    "There's a song that they sing when they take to the highway - A song that they sing when they take to the sea - A song that they sing of their home in the sky - Maybe you can believe it if it helps you to sleep - But singing works just fine for me"

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  3. @Mike - The article says something similar:

    ""This project does not set out to prove God or gods exist. Just because we find it easier to think in a particular way does not mean that it is true in fact," he said.

    Both atheists and religious people could use the study to argue their sides, Trigg told CNN."


    Early in life I think that the (non) beliefs of parents probably have a huge influence on a person's perspective. Other influences impact the person as they get older and they often change what they believe.

    If I remember your story you stopped believing in God but feel that nothing really influenced you in that direction. But I may be mistaken about that.

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  4. "It was like a switch had been flipped."

    Sounds a bit like divine revelation minus the divine. :)

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  5. I have had some "loving" Christians tell me, basically, that God had given up with me, that he has washed his hands of me, was no longer casting his pearls before swine, etc. It made me sad, but also made me chuckle a little, that I knew their Christ better than they did.

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  6. I'd file them under the "people are weird" category Mike.

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  7. Interesting post Bob. I don't know how a person can live in our world today without believing that there has to be more after death.

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    1. I agree with you Debby. The intricacies and complexities of the world around us leads me to think there has to be a Designer. I cannot accept the idea that the world is just an accident.

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  8. Thanks for linking me to this - good article. To me, human beings as a creation of God has this sense of eternity inbuilt in us, so we naturally would seek for purpose and meaning in life which can be only found in God himself. Those who refute it will be trying to fill their lives with all sorts of stuff but will not be able to find anything big enough (in the eternal sense) to fully occupy that space.

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    1. Thanks for the feedback Pearlie. It does seem to resonate with an Arminian POV.

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