My idea of why so many people believe in invisible supernatural entities is fear of the unknown; death being the major factor. This has been inherited in the mind since mankind existed, in fact, even before that. Spirituality has developed in the evolution of thought along with hate, love, jealousy and all other emotions.

Some of the earliest human burial sites discovered in Europe are those of Neanderthals, from 30,000 to 200,000 years ago. In the graves were found food, clothing, decorative shells, weapons, stone tools, plants, flowers, and bodily remains often covered with a red pigment. The people who buried their loved ones surely thought that they would need nourishment, clothing, tools and weapons to survive in another existence.

Louis Leaky, the noted anthropologist, said that the nature of the graves indicated that the Neanderthals displayed a keen self-awareness and a concern for the human spirit. Another anthropologist F. Clark Howell noted that all the evidence in these discoveries suggests that the Neanderthals believed in a life after death.

Going back even further in the evolution of man some neurologists and other scientists believe primates are capable of having spiritual experiences similar to humans.

Researchers acknowledge that spiritual experiences originate within primitive parts of the human brain, structures shared by animals. Kevin Nelson, a professor of neurology at the University of Kentucky, has analyzed the processes of spiritual sensation for over three decades.

Professor Nelson, author of the book 'The Spiritual Doorway in the Brain,”says: "Since only humans are capable of language that can communicate the richness of spiritual experience, it is unlikely we will ever know with certainty what an animal subjectively experiences. Despite this limitation, it is still reasonable to conclude that since the most primitive areas of our brain happen to be the spiritual, then we can expect that animals are also capable of spiritual experiences,"

This is food for thought and if true is is not unreasonable to accept that the reason that the faithful have no rationale or common sense when it comes to believing in irrational ideas.

What do you think?

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I agree that animals can have what we call a spiritual experience. This is true because we have proven that animals can also dream. One of the problems with humankind is that we cannot accuately distinguish between waking and sleeping states. This has caused what we call "spirituality" and has also conributed widely to man thinking that he "has a soul." His logic in believing is that he traveled somewhere in his sleep, or that he "went somewhere" while under the influence of something. What part of him traveled, he reasons? Also he has special powers while in this other state of being. Maybe he can fly.

In the bible Paul said of his special visions that he could not tell "whether he was in the body or out of the body." Paul appears to have experienced first hand something like I am describing above. Chalk up one more reason not to ever believe Paul.

I used to work with a woman who said she was "spiritual." She actually had the delusion that she was being guided by her dead husband.

Thanks for posting this interesting topic.

From my readings, the emotion or temperament that manifests itself as what we call spirituality, is indeed ancient. Possibly not confined to Homo sapiens, as you comment for our Neanderthal ancestors, and chimp distant cousins.

i think that emotion - or spiritual meme - could have evolved commensually with humans. It could impact study of seasons and weather, for early agriculture, literature / literacy, ceremonies and sports, and certainly play a role in development and organisation of civilization, and warfare. To the extent that temperament, or susceptibility to the spiritual meme might be inherited, societies with religion based leadership weeded out noncompliers, effectively removing the freethinkers or different thinkers, from the gene pool.

For what its worth, the Nexus Group "Getting religion" is there for the purpose of understsnding religions, including their evolution. It is not very active - a critical mass of interest is needed for that - but your thoughts and discussion are most welcome there as well.

Great topic. Without a doubt, some animals have an awareness of life and death. One obvious example is the elephant. Even dogs and monkeys are known to grieve. There is something in the brain that registers those realities and, as you state, humans are the only ones with verbal language to express the feelings of loss and grief. However, there are other languages, i.e. holding and carrying a dead baby, laying on a grave, touching the dead body. It is only recently that humans came to realize that there are more ways of communicating than with words, sentences and paragraphs. 

Certainly, fear of dying, and lack of understanding of death being nothing more than a change in energy. There is no resurrection, heaven, hell, or places or people in the afterlife. Life begins when sperm meets egg and is implanted in the mother, birth was a mystery for untold generations and being able to suckle young. One by one the mysteries has been explained in ways that are easy to understand, even for the uneducated. We don't have to create myths to explain those things we don't understand. We don't have all the answers yet.

The brain continues to mystify us and with neuro-science growing many things will become clearer. We just don't know all the answers yet and have many questions. The plasticity of the brain is something only recently discovered. The role of meditation to calm the savage beast in us is an established fact. We don't need god or christ or scriptures or popes or priests or pastors to explain ancient texts. We have minds that can think and reason and know the difference between superstition and reality. We have all kinds of mental tools to help us debunk all the bunk that infects those unaware. 

Being spiritual, if you mean having a sense of wonder at the time and space of the universe and the processes that made something from nothing and brought forth living matter that evolved into diversity, then yes, I think we are spiritual beings. Not in the sense of religion; but in the sense of consciousness and conscience. 

I saw a video once in which it appeared that even mice can grieve. I agreed that this appeared to be what was happening when the mice found their dead comrade. Then a short time later they went on about their way.

Equally we all know that elephants, dogs, and monkeys grieve. In the part of the world that I live in we find that dogs would be the best example. Almost every hillbilly John has owned a dog.

Some  of what we think of as spirituality is our instinctive social sense. Group cohesion is very important in our evolution (including our earlier ancestors) and this tendency to synchronize thinking into a kind of group norm went a long way to keeping the tribe effective


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