Re: Earth to God? - Religion based on instinct?

Alexander 'Sasha' Chislenko (
Tue, 17 Jun 1997 00:10:58 -0400

I think religion may have genetic roots.

Behaving like there is "somebody out there" to watch after you, may
be an instinct among all young animals. Many genetically programmed
emotional expressions - such as crying - are directly based on the
expectation that there is some Benevolent Observer/Caregiver out
there who would notice you and do some "magic" to improve things.

I do not think this instinct is explicitly directed at parents: in
many cases, young animals may have trouble identifying or locating
their parents; also, help may come from other relatives and tribe
members. Rather, the instinct may be simple: assume that there is
Some Big Smart Entity out there to do things for you, express your
concerns - and they will be addressed.

There is such a big evolutionary advantage in having this Reliance
on Big Benevolent Force mechanism that it seems to be the most
important surviving technique for an infant.

There doesn't seem to be that much utility in eradicating this
instinct after the baby grows up. Some parts of it, e.g., public
expression of emotions, may be of use later, as the society is
usually somewhat compassionate. Other expressions - like crying
alone - may be just an exploitation of the old mechanism that
gives a baby some immediate reward (feeling of relief) after
it cries for help.
The same may be true about dreaming of the a Big Superior Helper.
Pray/cry to it, and you will get some relief. The relief is given
just by the babyish neural circuit, and is temporary, while the
call for help is futile and based on an invalid extension of the
childhood's reliance on superior adults - but so what? A wrong
belief in the head of an old animal will do little harm to the
evolutionary process. It may even be helpful - the sickly adult
would occupy itself with crying instead of getting off its butt
and looking for resources, while its offsprings will enjoy the
saved resources, and try to stay closer to those adults who don't
exhibit signs of weakness.

Maybe, it would also be useful for social development if those
weak in the head would spent their time trying to obtain assistance
from God rather than from other people. However, by some perversion,
they often use the idea of God to extract support from their neighbors...

Alexander Chislenko <>