There have been repeated studies over recent years that have suggested that humans are hard-wired for religion, including Dean Hamer’s book-length treatment, “The God Gene: How Faith Is Hardwired Into Our Genes.” Scientists have linked structures within the limbic system of the brain with belief in God or other spiritual realities. Charles Darwin himself acknowledged, “… a belief in all-pervading spiritual agencies seems to be universal.”
I don’t think we can make much of such studies. Even if it could be scientifically demonstrated that we are hard-wired for faith, it wouldn’t prove that God was the one who ran the wires. The case could conceivably be made that religious belief serves an evolutionary purpose: that it was not God who wired us for faith but, paradoxically, natural selection.
Yet before we discard these studies, it might be worth asking: If God created and wired us to seek for him (an idea endorsed by St. Paul in Acts 17:27 – “God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him…”), what would that “wiring” look like? How would it express itself in real life?
If God created humans and wired them to seek him, we would expect to find religious belief virtually impossible to eradicate. And of course that is just what we find, and not merely anecdotally. Under communism, the Soviets and the Chinese made continual attempts to eradicate religious belief from their citizens, particularly from their children.
Under Mao, temples, churches and mosques were closed. Religious books were burned, clergy arrested, and children indoctrinated to believe that religion was just superstition – an instrument used by foreign powers to infiltrate and control the Chinese people. Even now, ChinaAid reports that persecution of Christians is ongoing in China and even getting worse.
And yet, after trying to stamp out religious belief for generations, China is now home to more Christians than any other country in the world. That is the kind of thing we might expect to happen, if God created humans and wired them to seek him.
We would also expect to find people praying. According to a report in The Washington Times, “Americans pray. A lot. Ninety percent have a spiritual interlude with God every day, according to a study released … by Brandeis University.”
Surprisingly, even atheists pray. According to a survey conducted by The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, seventeen percent of atheists say they take part in daily, weekly or monthly prayer.
Another thing we would expect to find, if God created humans, is the desire to have a right standing – to be justified, to borrow the theological term – with God or the universe or some transcendent moral standard. And indeed, we find this desire to be almost universal.
We see examples of this desire in literature and the arts (think of Shylock), but also in ourselves and in others. I have sat in jail cells with murderers, rapists, and child molesters, all of whom argued for their righteousness. They did so not on the grounds of their innocence but on the grounds that others were to blame. It was the way they were raised, it was the drugs and alcohol they used, or it was the victim’s fault. But it couldn’t be theirs. They were justified.
Not only is the desire to be righteous universal, so is the idea that an objective standard of right behavior exists, which is just what we would expect if humans were created by God. What’s more, this standard is remarkably consistent across time and cultural boundaries.
In his book “The Abolition of Man,” C. S Lewis identifies a standard of behavior that cuts across times and cultures and is accepted by both ancient and modern societies, religious and secular. From where does this surprisingly uniform code of “justified” behavior derive? A possible answer – certainly a logically consistent one – is that it derives from a just creator.
First published in The Coldwater Daily Reporter, 7/16/14