Does God live in Your Brain?

From Jon

There’s an interesting post up over at Slate. The author, Jesse Bering, makes the now trending suggestion that God is some sort of psychological phenomenon, an evolutionary side effect. I’ve got a couple of comments here.

First, if it is the case that belief in God is an illusion generated as a side effect of evolution, then what other beliefs do we hold that might be illusory? How can we trust any of our beliefs at all to be formed correctly? Evolution, after all, is certainly not a process aimed at helping us humans form true beliefs.  It seems if you’re able to dismiss belief in God this way, you’ve dismissed much more than you’ve bargained for. Like a workable epistemology.

Secondly, this article does not even approach the evidences for God’s existence (for example, even if beleifs formed by perception are unreliable, this does nothing to a priori arguments for God’s existence) . Instead, Bering dismisses God as illusion with some frighteningly bad argumentation which turns on this assertation:

After all, once we scrub away all the theological bric-a-brac and pluck the exotic cross-cultural plumage of religious beliefs from all over the world, once we get under God’s skin, isn’t He really just another mind—one with emotions, beliefs, knowledge, understanding, and, perhaps above all else, intentions?

Perhaps our tendency to beg the question is a by-product of evolution as well? You can read the post here.

  1. your mama said:

    Son, please break this down so “normal” brains can understand…think second grade level…

    • Jon said:

      1. If naturalistic evolution is true, then we can’t know anything about anything. Evolution doesn’t make “truth detectors,” it makes “gene carriers.” So if we evolved, we have no way of knowing whether we can know anything! We just have to hope that evolution has given us a way to reliably form beliefs.

      2. Even if it’s true that our initial belief in God is formed by faulty psychology, then this fact does nothing to most arguments in favor of God’s existence.

      It’s like if you read in a fiction book in the 1850’s that America would have a Civil War in the 1860’s. The fact that there was a fictional book about the Civil War doesn’t mean the Civil War didn’t happen. It just means there was a strange coincidence. If for some people, initial belief in God is produced by a psychological defect, then so what? That has no bearing on whether God actually exists or not.

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