The Evolution of Religion
It’s likely you’ve heard some version of the following statement in recent history, “Religion is a result of evolution.” I understand why skeptics would make this claim, and why they would feel a corresponding need to provide a natural explanation for the universal reality that humans are religious beings. But what might this imply?
I thought about this recently in an exchange with a skeptic friend and I thought, for the sake of mental exercise, that I would concede that this proposition is true. So let’s concede that religion is a product of evolution. What might that prove? It seems it would have at least two implications that appear, at least to me, to be inescapable:
A.) If religion is a product of evolution, then religion is false (that much seems rather obvious).
B.) If religion is a product of evolution, then evolution isn’t concerned with leading us to truth (this seems unavoidable).
If the vast majority of humans, in both the past and present, have evolved to hold false beliefs (ie. religion) then it is clear that evolution isn’t a reliable process for attaining truth. It may be concerned with adaptability and survival, but it seems impossible to claim both that it led to such widespread false views of reality, such as universal religious beliefs, and at the same time produced the reliable mental equipment necessary to otherwise give us confidence that we know truth. Fool me once, shame on you; Fool me twice, shame on me.
Perhaps I’ve not thought about this enough, but it seems to me, at this stage of my thinking, that there is a third implication that follows:
C.) If religion is a product of evolution, then evolution isn’t concerned with leading us to truth, then we don’t have good reason to say with confidence that it is true that religion is a product of evolution because evolution isn’t concerned with leading us to truth.
Maybe I’m overstepping the third point, but I’m finding it difficult to see how you can accept A without accepting B, and if B follows, then C seems to be the roundabout that calls into question our ability to confidently assert A.
But, on the other hand, perhaps there is another way of looking at this. Maybe the universal religious longing of humanity is pointing to something real. What if we have good reason to trust our mental faculties, in that our brains are designed and directed at truth? And what if, just thinking out loud here, our universal yearning for the divine is more than an illusion passed down for some survival benefit?
What if our mental faculties our directed at truth, and what if this gaping hole that men and women seek to fill with religion is a sign that we were created to know our Creator?