John Loftus, in a sorta response to this article, has posted several reasons why he believes that Atheists lose their arguments to Believers. I doubt that I will take on every one of his arguments, offering a correction or emendation to them, but I might take a point at a time and post on it. For example, John’s view on the evolution of the brain and the role in which it plays in the religious conversation. He writes,
2) Atheism can’t win against the the brain. Our brains evolved from the lower species of animals and so we have a built in agency detector inherited from them. Animals who survived were the ones that saw faces in the leaves and the grass and the trees. Precisely because they saw faces in random objects in the woods they also had the time to escape from any predators lurking in the woods before they struck, even if this meant a lot of false alarms. It’s this same agency detection that caused the ancients to see divine agents behind strange events their world, like lightening, or thunderstorms, or disasters like fires. And this same agency detection was at work when they had a good crop, or the birth of a boy, or when they had a dream. As agency detectors they saw divine beings behind these events and it still lingers on today. Even in today’s world after a plane crash kills everyone on board except one woman, she will see the hand of god in it and believe god has a purpose for her life because she was spared.
The brain’s evolutionary response to religion is not exactly as simple as John would have us believe. I wouldn’t see it as a response at all, nor a mechanism of explanation, but I would posit that religion is an evolutionary design which actually benefits the human race giving it all sorts of benefits, including but not limited to, morality, (yes,) agency, and indeed, the very fabric of society – familyhood. This is nothing new, actually, with several posts on this blog noting breakthroughs in the area of science and the brain’s religious gene. Essentially, many scientists posit that the very reason that humanity was able to form into a society was the fact that religion developed. As religion developed towards ethical monotheism, notably, in Isaiah, society moved to focusing on the corporate good. It is not about mere agency, where we need to attribute something which happens to a higher power, but a evolutionary response which essentially created humanity. While we may posit that it is about ‘being watched over’ or whether or not it is about ‘hearing’ and thus heeding God’s call to become created in His Image, the fact is, is that we have a ‘religious gene’ which causes us to form and has propelled us into a society. We can discuss evolution, etc…, but keep in mind, that this is really not what this post is about. Scientists are recognizing the inherent historical value in religion, and it is not necessarily about agency.
Now, moving beyond that, the idea that religion is a socialized institution has been debunked. More and more, it is becoming a scientific reality that religion is a natural reaction caused by evolution. Evolution’s premise is that a life changes for the better, adapting, etc… to meet the challenges of the natural world. If this is the case, then surely John and others will see that religion is nature’s way of promoting the human race. Further, it may be that it exists because we are called to look higher because something is calling us to do so. It is, quite frankly, the God Gene.
The reason that Atheists will not win the argument over religion is that evolutionary speaking, they are on the losing end.
No offense to a-theists or atheists – some of my best friends are atheists. This is intended to be a friendly dialogue, as I took John’s post with light-heartedness.