Since I read an article on the God gene, in other words, the concept that there is gene in humans that predisposes them towards religious belief, I have been more tolerant and understanding of theists. After all, they can't all be idiots can they?
Today I found an interesting scientific article about how electrical stimulation of the brain can cause a religious experience. Here is the link

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While I agree this is an interesting and enlightening field of research, theists and the media have jumped from the early speculations into announcing that we are hardwired to experience god.

That's not the contention of the researchers. Portions of our brain may be responsible for mystical and "spiritual" experiences, but that does not imply that we evolved into an appreciation for any particular god. It does not suggest that gods exist nor does it suggest that our brains can communicate with gods.

Obviously humans have experiences they interpret as mystical. It only makes sense that some part of our mental process is able to create these experiences. I don't like the naming of this research as "neurotheology", though. I think that suggests a god connection to the research which isn't there. But it is a field in which little is known and much awaits discovery.

For further reading:
People who also experience heavy seizures can feel religious experiences like talking to god etc. This is hardly anything new but certainly good research as to disapprove the superstition you can be born religious.
God gene? WTF?! Does the article provide any support for the suggestion?

As far as I understand genetics and cognition, speculation of a single gene which governs a belief in God is ludicrous at best.
"As far as I understand genetics and cognition, speculation of a single gene which governs a belief in God is ludicrous at best."

Agreed completely.

The link you posted, Tony, is to someone's livejournal. Um...scientific article? Where? That lj isn't even readable, so I'm not going to go link hunting in that jungle. ;)

I've read a bit about the "God Gene" and it seems that there is an extremely premature, incomplete, and tenuous association between a gene that regulates mood enhancers and a gene that regulates god.

It's a huge, and in my opinion erroneous, leap to go from saying that there is a gene which can help to regulate monoamines to this gene proves a genetic predisposition toward theism.

I assume we are talking about the same thing. Dr. Dean Hamer, a molecular geneticist discovered "the god gene" and wrote a book about it.

What Hamer said in this article, essentially, is that he started with the hypothesis, and then began collecting the data. Proving the link between genetics and spirituality even by his own admission is tenuous at best and he had to really reach to make the case.
Skylar, thanks for clearing up this matter.
Sorry Tony, to be a killjoy. On a side note, I've heard that it is possible to stimulate someone's brain in a certain area to produce a "mystical experience". Apparently the experiences are vastly different dependent on the person's knowledge, experience, and culture, etc.

I myself feel "spiritual" when I observe the night sky. It's immeasurably beautiful and also gives me a sense of being a tiny speck, less than a speck in the scheme of things.
From the hideously informal studying I've done in the area, it would make more sense to me that several genes partially responsible for the development of the brain could set it up in a way to promote the acceptance of authority in people and certain kinds of experience. This would help explain not only the development of worldviews dependent upon authoritative figures and dogmatic texts, but learning in general. Religion could be, in the language of Dawkins, a misfiring of this dependency. Pleasure found in understanding grand patterns would come through both good and bad information, as long as the right "believe this" buttons are pushed. The acceptance of authority in good or bad outlets would likewise have the same basic effect. It wouldn't be religion or the idea of divinity that is hardwired, therefore, but the tendency to seek out authoritative knowledge and then trust it as an explanation of further experience.
i got one, its your upbringing take a kid and put in with satanists, on a deserted island and that kid will be a satanist.... duhhhh
I suppose this would work if the deserted island is named Satanista. Then, of course, the inhabitants would be Satanists, just like we from Texas are Texans.
As I recall, there was some pretty serious debunking going on at Amazon by some of the reviewers of Hamer's work (not that the book reviews on Amazon are authoritative sources of scientific criticism, but...). My final consensus was pretty much in agreement with Skylar's assessment. Also, I do remember reading about the specious nature of Hamer's conclusions concerning the gay gene (which is what makes Bill Maher look so foolish in Religulous, when it cuts away to him talking with Dean Hamer and he asks, "You also discovered the gay gene, too, is that right?" And Hamer says yes.) Something about his sample being biased or too limited in such a way as to not be a valid or reliable sample from which to draw conclusions. So, there's that.

I recently finished reading "Why God Won't Go Away" by Andrew Newberg (who also appears in Religulous) and Eugene D'Aquili. Newberg makes much of what he calls Absolute Unitary Being. The book is worth a read, for sure, but ultimately I wasn't convinced. I still think that this Absolute Unitary Being which few mystics have experienced can somehow be explained in purely materialistic terms.

He says, on page 143, that all spirituality and any experience of the reality of God be reduced to a fleeting rush of electrochemical blips and flashes, racing along the neural pathways of the brain. THEN he says that God is NOT just an idea, with no more absolute substance than a fantasy or dream.

He goes to (unconvincingly) make the case for reality of Absolute Unitary Being. He says that the mystics who have experienced it are adamant that it is a real and achievable state, that it is more than a brain state, but it is the essence of what is most fundamentally real, a reality that transcends the material plane. He says these mystics are certain beyond a shadow of a doubt that their experiences are real. The part where he loses me is right here:

Since no empirical method can objectively test that realness, we have to turn instead to the more
subjective approach of the philosophers....Philosophers have come to suggest that true reality
possesses an unmistakable quality: that what's real simply feels more real than what's not. This
may seem an unsatisfyingly soft standard [that's an understatement , Andrew] but it is the best
guidance that the greatest minds and experts have produced.

He goes on to talk about how we contrast dreams with the "baseline" reality (that is, reality when we're awake), which is how we know that even the realest dreams were only dreams, and not real. Then:

Those who have experienced advanced states of mystical unity claim that these states do feel like a
higher reality. Passionately and consistently, with a preponderance that stretches across history and
embraces all faiths, they insist that when compared to our baseline sense of reality, AUB is more
vividly, more convincingly real.

Then he goes on to talk about how these claims are supported by some of the greatest scientists of the century [Einstein, Oppenheimer, Jung, Schrodinger]. It seems to me that he does this in an attempt to lend credibility to his current line of thought (the claims of the mystics).
I'm with the rest of you calling BS on a single gene creating something like this, but if we pretend there is for a second, does that mean religion can be cured with gene therapy?

Interesting question and, oddly enough, it puts them in the same position as homosexuals when someone suggests that there's a 'gay gene' that can be cured.
I was waiting for you to reply to this Adriana. Would I be correct in saying that we have genes that influence the various chemicals/hormones that effect our behavior? Like we might be X% likely to be nice or be an asshole? Please forgive me if I'm off- half of my knowledge of genetics comes from the movie Gattaca.


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