Tuesday, March 03, 2009

The God Gene?

I have been reconsidering something I have been telling people for a few years now. I have stated before that I used to be a Christian. That somewhere around the age of 47 I had a series of life-events that allowed me to reassess my beliefs. I am coming to terms with perhaps the truth that I was never a Christian to begin with. Rather I was a “Christian of Convenience” that merely went through the motions because it was the path of least resistance.

I am saying this because I am coming more and more convinced that there is a “god gene”, a genetic characteristic that allows, no forces, an individual to believe in a higher power. I simply don’t have it.

This concept makes more sense to me all of the time. Look at people like Banana Man Ray Comfort. He just won’t let go, no matter how silly his arguments are or how convincing the arguments against his positions are. He just glazes over and continues his mission.

I think if it is proven to be true, this “god gene” concept may go a long way towards religious peace and more tolerance of people like Ray Comfort. I will try to explain.

The more I have gotten into the ex-Christian thing, the more convinced I am of the absolute truth that there is no need for a biblical god to exist and there is absolutely no proof that he does. In fact, the Christian concept has become absurd to me, making no sense at all in a scientific, spiritual, ethical, or moral sense. But people I love all around me would literally die for it. Why is that? They aren’t stupid. They aren’t insane. What is going on?

The best analogy I can think of is homosexuality, It has been determined that this is also part of our genetic code. I have never tried to convince a homosexual that my role as a heterosexual is “better” or “makes more sense” than theirs, but I suspect if I did I’d have about as much chance of converting them to “go straight” as I would converting a Christian to an ex-Christian. It would be impossible to convert them, as their beliefs are the only one that makes sense to them.

I believe that “belief” is not a choice. I didn’t “choose” to be an ex-Christian, it just happened after I took a good look at it. I soaked up the evidence and my beliefs are what they are. I could never just choose to be a Christian. It would be fake. Just as it was my fist 47 years. But the fakeness was no big deal, in fact it helped me to get along with my social peers.

So, if this god gene thing is true, wouldn’t we ex-Christians be more tolerant of Christians knowing that they are not that way by choice? Sure, the fake ones like me could be convinced, but the ones that have gone through a religious upheaval and still emerged a Christian have no choice. No amount of convincing, whether it be logic, science, morals, whatever, would convince them otherwise because it is genetically impossible.

Or am I being too simplistic? I mean, it’s not a “Christian gene”, it’s a “god gene”. There are many alternatives to Christianity that still believe in a higher power. Could someone that possesses this gene be talked into any type of god-based religion? Thoughts?

26 comments:

dannydamagichobo said...

I think it has to do more with how one thinks, regardless of a gene being their to influence it.

Am I correct in stating that you believed that the concept of an all-powerful god can exist? DO you still believe in that possibility?

Dave said...

Hi Danny!

Yes, that would be correct. I do not believe there is an all-powerful god, but I believe in the possibility of one existing. I also believe that it is possible that the Flying Spaghetti Monster or Santa Clause could actually exists as well. The handy thing about such imaginings is that there is no way to prove that they DON”T exist.

Whateverman said...

Hi Dave,

This is off-topic, and I apologize for that. I would email it to you, but I couldn't find a suitable address:

In regards to your response to me over at Ray Comfort's blog, I refuse to post there any more. After 8 months, I came to the conclusion that Ray and his supporters really don't care about what's being said.

Now, I copy & paste my form letter there because it's the most effective way of protesting the ignorance. It requires no intelligence from me, it gets the point across quickly, and it seems to provoke more reaction than carefully crafted responses do.

I hold no ill will towards anyone who disagrees with my tactic; some of the SMRT group disagree with it as well. Consider the amount of energy Ray invests in posting there, all the while talking AT people (not TO them); the most efficient of keeping the stupid to a minimum is to talk right back.

In any case, although I may be annoying, I'll freely talk over at SMRT. Please feel free to join or lurk and just say Hi (if you haven't already).

Cheers

Dave said...

Whateverman, thank you very much for taking the time to respond to me here! I will see you over at SMRT!

Kerri Love said...

I don't think it's genetic. Have you heard of the Pirahas tribe? They have no religion what so ever :)

I think it's all about the mind. People trick themselves without knowing it. Faith has a very strong pull for people who can't understand life around them as being order made from chaos. They need a simple way to understand it and help keep the fear of death and being insignificant away they feel they need a purpose and they need to set themselves apart from being just another animal, no more "important" then any other mammal :) that's my idea.

Dave B said...

Hi Kerri!

I dunno, I think you may be right, except that more and more I am convinced that Christianity is a cult, and that it's most conservative members are brainwashed, plain and simple. I think my next post will be about that. Thanks for stopping by!

Kerri Love said...

No Prob...

My latest epiphany is that Christians worship the Bible as an idol, which means they break their own commandment ;)

I would agree.. it's a book cult.

Dave B said...

Hi Terry!!

Kerri Love said...

Ok, are you seeing something I'm not seeing or are you saying Hi to Terry because he is lurking?

Kerri Love said...

LOL Nevermind... I saw it.

Tyler Roiko said...

Dave,

I agree with you. The idea of the 'God gene' is a compelling one. Using Ray Comfort as an example, there is probably no amount of evidence that could change his mind. He is lost in an intellectual coma.

I have heard the phrase 'neurological disorder' thrown around and think there may be something to it. Concerning developmental psychology and sociology, I think emphasis should be placed on the 'nurture' aspect of the age old ‘nature vs. nurture’ debate.

Although there may in fact be a biological foundation for an unflinching belief in God, environmental conditions play an equally important role.

If Ray were to abandon his beliefs he would be isolated from his friends and family and have to seek employment elsewhere. His seminary degrees would be worthless in any other field. Ray would be forced to start from square one in his career. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if Ray secretly has doubts about Christianity. He simply can’t speak about them publicly because he is a role model for so many fundamentalists.

Tyler

Kerri Love said...

I think Ray believes, but I don't think he's as hard set in the Bible being literal as other Fundamentalists. I think he secretly believes that evolution has some role in life, he just can't believe in a ape common ancestor, that would be asking to much.

I think if you were to talk to him in a quite room and ask him very softly, if he thinks God could have created the universe in a way closer to scientific theories you might get a really good "maybe" from him ;)

stranger.strange.land said...

Dave,
I think there may be a germ of truth to your "god gene" idea, though not in the same way you intended. It may be in the same category as original sin being "inherited" from our ancestors.

Being spiritually born again (regenerated) would be it's counterpart, but still in that same category. In John's first epistle (3:9) he says, "Whosoever is born of God does not commit sin; for his seed [Gk: sperma] remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God." Genetic terminology is certainly used there.

Paul Billheimer writes in Destined For The Throne about redeemed humanity being "both created and generated, begotten of God, bearing His 'genes,' His heredity."

I know, Dave, that this wasn't where you were going with your theory, but you got me thinking along these lines and I thought I'd share it with you.

Craig Boyd

dannydamagichobo said...

Hey Dave, sorry for the LATEEEE reply

I personally do not believe in a God gene, simply because that people don't need one ;D

People are sorely tempted to believe in fantasy, if it means that there is a possibility that their conception of reality is false. Death no longer stings, people are simplified to good and evil, and can rely on a power outisde of themselves to do the work that they ought to do. It's much easier to ask God to give you something than to go out and get it yourself. Is it laziness? Or is it acceptance that the things people ask for cannot be attained? I think it is a bit of both, depeding on the circumstance and the object desired.

I belive it is man who does these things to himself, not a gene (unless if it is the gene that ENABLES the person to do such things)

Many people love fantasy for one reason: Because it is not reality.

Dave B said...

Hi Danny! Great to hear from you again. How goes your search?

You said “People are sorely tempted to believe in fantasy, if it means that there is a possibility that their conception of reality is false.” I think this is an excellent point. Christians in general seem to think that their miserable earthly existence is some sort of bridge to a glorious afterlife. They think the world sucks, and Christianity gives them hope.

Non-believers, on the other hand, seem in general to be quite comfortable with their lives. They love the perception that they are made from “star stuff” and are the result of billions of years of evolution. That’s how I feel anyway.

I am still trying to get a handle on this God Gene idea though. At this point, there is no way I could believe in the supernatural unless I was handed absolute proof. Jesus popping up in front of me, hearing a booming voice from the sky, The Amazing Randi awarding his million dollar prize, ANYTHING that would violate our understanding of science… but it just doesn’t happen. All 4 of my siblings, on the other hand, eat the Jesus stuff up. They are all on-fire for Christ, and when any good thing happens, it’s a testament to God and the power of prayer, and when bad things happen, it’s of course all according to God’s plan.

Since I am the odd man out, as it were, I am, well, the odd man out. They put up with me, but it is very clear that my opinions on the matter are not wanted. I used to discuss religion with them, now I do it here and on other blogs. I find that kind of sad, to be honest, but am coming to terms with it. As they say, you can choose your friends, but not your family.

Thanks Danny for dropping by. I always enjoy your perspective on life.

Dave B said...

I forgot, I was going to mention something about your saying “It's much easier to ask God to give you something than to go out and get it yourself. Is it laziness?”

Often very true, and I hate it when people offer nothing but prayer when someone is in need.

I have several nieces and nephews whom are in bad shape financially, due to large part that they “trusted the Lord” in making life decisions that were not otherwise wise. Instead of going to college, they pursued things such as modeling (for Christ of course) or missionary work, and now find themselves getting older without long term careers. Ah, but it’s God’s plan.

dannydamagichobo said...

Hey Dave

I'm very glad that you appreciate my thoughts on this, as many others ("Christians") have not appreciated them, underestandably so (I don't think many people would appreciate being told that they live in a fantasy).

As for the search, I believe I have found what it is I am looking for, in theory. However, I have yet to put into action what I have found to be the best way I can live my life. It is hard, as it requires a total upheaval of almost everything around me. It goes back to the roots of my heart, the core beliefs of myself, and total contradiction of what others have chosen to live their lives.


I see your point of a possibility of a "gene" being responsible for what we believe in, but I find it to be a little ludicrous, only because genes do not tell us what to think, but rather give us the ability to think. Everything else, unless if one's brain is lacking fluids or minerals or is biochemically damaged or underdeveloped, is from our outside experience, our environment. I do not know how you and your siblings were brought up, or even if it was the same upbringing, and if it was, how they percieved their upbringing to be, but, given any circumstance, if our brains are similar in most, if not all aspects, can be wired to think in any given path.

However, there is also the issue on whether or not someone is homosexual because their brain is larger in one area, or because they were guided in that direction psychologically, or because they have experienced different things, now think differently, and the brain changes shape to accomodate that type of thinking. I bleive their is no one answer for that, and perhaps it is the same for those who "believe" things such as religion is simply for the sake of being ignorant and happy or because their brain truly cannot fathom reality. I believe that if it is the latter, that it is a mental deficiency and should be labled as mentally retarted, or have ben smoking too much hashish. However, there are truly intelligent people who claim to believe in these things, which makes me believe that they chose that path for the former reason, simply because it makes life easier.

One of the things I found funny is how it required Jesus and Elijah to fast for forty days and nights without food OR water in order to see God's will, or to change his mind, etc., etc. How long must I fast before God deems me worthy to see him? ;]

dannydamagichobo said...

P.S.

I forgot to mention that I understand things like instincts and such others come form genes, generally speaking, however, I do not believe that believing in something that does not exist is benefieciary to the gene pool, unless the case is that we are so smart we see things that inevitably hurt us (i.e. death) and such beliefs give us relief of stress, and enable us to continue to populate the Earth :]

Dave B said...

Hi Danny! I have more to say, but wanted to ask you upfront if you would be willing to share at least some information about your new-found way to live your life. I have a lot of respect for your opinions on such matters.

regards,
Dave

dannydamagichobo said...

Well, essential, it is back to before we became a state. You probably know about the theories of how the state came around. I believe in the widely believed theory of how we started up the concept of a state for our own prtection, thinking that if we worked together, we would be able to protect ourselves during times of danger.

However, we also gave up many of our freedoms in order to do so, for example, having to show self-control around others in terms of anger, sex, etc. We have turned ourselves into little brats who cannot fathom of how to live on our own, growing more and more dependent on things that our bodies are perfectly capable of doig, whether or not its driving a car a few blocks down the road to hit up a liquor store, watching T.V. in broad daylight, staying awake during the night in order to satisfy our craving for distraction from our problems, from reality. I also believe that this is where religion became most powerful, during the concceptoin of the state.

Now, I will not deny the good parts of having people work together, obviously, the theoretical peace between each other, the advances in technology, in medicine especially, and so on. But many of these things are constantly being abused, and the original purpose of many creations are changed for a less-suitable purpose. We create sewage systems when the Earth is perfectly happy with our waste being dumped onto its soil instead of its oceans, where we are constantly taking resouce after resouce from the Earth, barely giving anything back.

I believe it is ironic that we humans, the planet's most intelligent species by far, ends up doing the most stupid things, even destroying our own environment. It's like we have progressed backwards, the eolutionary theory being broken the moment we stepped foot onto this planet. Instead of helping the Earth, we are destroying it. We do so many unnatural things, often doind them simply for pleasure and not for necessity of life.

I myself am tired of forcing back my natural instincts simply so that the state may survive. I sorely desire to go back as a truly independent being, without being under the control of others, even if it means that I have to live like a wild animal in the process. I'm tired of going against my own physiology in orfer to impress and sustain the love of my peers and friends. Simply put, I want to be free.

However, what has kept me from going down that path are several factors:

1. My fellow humans. Unles if I can convince them otherwise, they will continue to this in this lifestyle, and thanks to my desire to be with them, this is the hardest thing to do. I cannot bear to just leave everything behind in order to do this, not unless if I emotionally cut myself off from people, in which case the whole plan of me being my own man becomes useless. BEing myself includes me NOT emotionally blocking myself.

2. Fear. How would the U.S., or any state in that matter, favor an anarchy, that their power would be lost the moment people would agree with me? They want the power, and unless if I go around "preaching," or simply become man enough to go out and do what I really want to do, I cannot see many people supporting me, let alone joinging me.

3. Defenses. We as a people originally gave up our freedoms in order to be safer. I'm afraid that if we were to go back to the way we were, another generation will pass, until soon after someone, or many someones, will stand up and say they want safety. I fear it will go around in a big circle, perhaps even an endless loop. Why wouold I sacrifice everyone's "safety" for more freedom, if that's what they DO NOT want?

So there's my dilemma, and I hope you understand that I am not going to try and overthrow the government violently, or even at all, if everyone is (as I fear) satisfied with this lifestyle.

Dave B said...

Hi Danny! Thanks for the explanation! So, you want to be an anarchist? I am way too politically ignorant to have an intelligent discussion about it, but I can understand why that would be appealing to you. I do feel, however, that given the political and religious beliefs of the world’s societies, I just don’t know how it could work. Seems to me that any society without a strong government would soon be assimilated by The Borg. Maybe I am just justifying in my mind, as I happen to be employed by a defense contractor. Not always though, and I feel I have always believed in a strong defensive military.

If your roadblocks were removed, how would you go about satisfying your desire for independent living in today’s environment? Would you go live in the sticks somewhere and live off the land? I have known people in my travels that had separated themselves from society in the sense that the government did not know they existed (or was looking for them for tax evasion or non-payment of child support) and lived purely by barter and being paid “under the table”. Their lives were not what I would consider high quality. I just don’t see how you could do it, which is I guess what you are trying to say.

Seems to be, as in most things in life, you simply have to compromise in a way that makes you and your loved ones the happiest.

I have this theory on how to judge whether one’s life is successful or not. Simply, if you cause one net lifetime of happiness, whether it be yours or someone else’s, you life is a success. I feel rather borderline based on this theory. I consider myself a happy person, but what pain I have caused others gets subtracted from that. And the happiness I give to others gets added. My sphere of influence is rather small, so racking up points, as it were. is difficult.

Take someone with a big sphere of influence, such as a politician or entertainer, and the points can go way up or down to the degree of millions of net lifetimes. I don’t know how I got on this subject, and I am rambling, sorry. But hey, it’s my blog! :-)

Zedge said...

A general lack of impulse control in teenagers may very well be a survival instinct. It has been discovered that risk taking behaviors in teenagers is somehow hard wired into the adolescent brain Even though they have the cognitive and intellectual development that makes them aware that they are taking risks; they just can’t help but do crazy shit! As a result they exhibit a tendency to believe that they will die young. They are also, much more susceptible to peer pressure! During the early stages of mankind it would pay off great rewards to be brave. Times were harsh and risk had to be taken on a daily basis to put food in their bellies and protect the young and weak. New areas fraught with danger had to be explored when food became scarce. Given an average life span of about forty years I’d say that; 16 -20 would be (and I’m just guessing) your mental and physical peak; “The prime of your life”, so to speak. Adulthood and responsibility came at a time when you were a teenaged risk taker! Combining the belief that they will die young with the fact that Imagining nonexistence is quite impossible (Try it), your next obvious question would be; were do I go when I die? We needed some sort of hypothesis to fill in the gaps. What better than an unseen realm of dead ancestor who watch over the living? Then (this is where the shit hits the fan) someone wondered; were did we come from? We knew that we came from our ancestors but, were did they come from? God was created to fill in that gap. An overall susceptibility to peer pressure did not help in this scenario.

Zedge
http://madcowone.blogspot.com/

dannydamagichobo said...

Hey Dave!

Yes, I am, in essence, and anarchist, but I do realize that we went from being simple individuals, to being in tribes, to states and nations. It is for survival. In the end, most people gave up many of their freedoms in order to survive. I understand that there is a rational reason of why we choose this weak, shallow lifestyle.

And yet, I also understand that it has transformed. People no longer just want to survivev, but sensing their eventual doom, they seek distraction, happiness in fiction, fantasy. I'm SURE that this comes form not doing what we are biologically and instinctively supposed to be doing: reproduce at first sight. In this, there are so many other things we as humans want to do, but repress in order to live in a conformed lifestyle, one with order and some unity, at the very least. No nation can survive with freedom of the individual, and no individual can be happy without their freedom. Our forefathers tried to make a balance, and, as time went by, has proven to not be very effective. We as a nation are not doing well economically because it requires us to let go of our sympathy and compassion as human beings and manipulating others into making money for us. Then there is our more human side, which has the ability to understand and to love others, yet at the cost of becoming an individual once again, a survivor, and not grouped together, forcing ourselves to work together. Maybe I'm saying this because we are not in the middle of a war, of an enemy that requires us to unite in order to defeat it. However, I do agree with you: If we are to survive as a nation, we must have a strong military to back it up.

Thanks for sharing your way of living, and for your rambling. They both are important to me :D

Abbie said...

I also was a never "real christian" either- telling that to my family confirms (to them) why my "faith" is lost- because it was "wavering" to begin. I never, ever bought into the "holy ghost" taking control of my body and had me "speaking in tongues" or flinging myself all over the place (southern baptist, and that particular aspect is more prevalent in churches heavily populated by African Americans). I never reconciled myself to the god of the old testament, ever. What I did was convince myself god "changed" to the god in the new testament- even that, I had a problem accepting because the bible specifically says that "god was the same yesterday, today and forever, he does not change". I could not rationalize that part at all. I also convinced myself that we were under a new covenant in the new testament but again, god does not change. Or if he did change, why were some things like stoning homosexual to death under the old covenant not unaccepted under the new but paying tithes and offerings under the old conveniently carried over to the new as there is not a word about paying tithes and offerings in the new testament. Well then again- people were being stoned in the new testament too.
Even when I acknowledge the "new covenant" I've always understood that the god of the old was a tough one to to be around- I would have been terrified worshiping a god who could kill me merely for blinking wrong under the old covenant. The story of the priest who got killed simply for trying to prevent the ark of the covenant from falling was horrifying to me. In fact, my "faith" was so wavering that I actually left the church (or back slided) twice only to be pulled back when I was going through emotional issues- and I walked right back out because I believed some of the members of the church had truly lost their minds. The lovely twists the pastors put on those horrifying stories didn't help much. I maintain to this day, most christians have not read the bible cover to cover as it is but allow themselves to be brainwashed by pastors who explain to them "what god meant" or "you have to understand the history" or "in the original text" and so on.
Now, it astonishes me, every. single. time. a christian justifies senseless killings in the old testament. Every. Single. Time. I don't get it. The idea of a gene is definitely something to think about.

Dave B said...

Hi Abbie! Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting!

It astonishes me too. Since writing the original post I have become more convinced it is more of a “brainwash gene” than a “god gene”. In order to justify the Old Testament killings, I think a True Christian™ has got to be brainwashed to the point that they have literally lost touch of their natural moral compass. What seems so absurdly immoral about so many of the Old Testament stories (like your priest/ark example) to us is somehow justified in their brainwashed minds. This “brainwash gene” is not limited to religion either, as those that possess it are the ones that buy into lesser fantasies, such as naturopathic medicine or those stupid balance bracelets.

Dave B said...

I meant to say "such as homeopathic medicine or those stupid balance bracelets."

Big difference, sorry!