AN OXFORD study concluded that belief in God is part of human nature. We are naturally predisposed to believe in a divine power and that some vital part of us survives death, according to the wide-ranging three-year international study.
The theory is that human thought processes are “rooted” to religious concepts rather than ideas simply learned from experience because they provide some social benefit.
The co-director of the project, Professor Roger Trigg, said the research showed that religion was “not just something for a peculiar few to do on Sundays instead of playing golf”.
“We have gathered a body of evidence that suggests that religion is a common fact of human nature across different societies,” he said.
“This suggests that attempts to suppress religion are likely to be short-lived as human thought seems to be rooted to religious concepts, such as the existence of supernatural agents or gods, and the possibility of an afterlife or pre-life.”
The project did not set out to prove the existence of God. The study concluded that both theology and atheism were reasoned responses to what is a basic impulse of the human mind. It stated that because we find it easier to think in a particular way does not mean that it is true.
The late Stephen Jay Gould said the “God question” could not be solved by science. He said a purely scientific debate must end in agnosticism.
Gould believed that atheism was as much a matter of faith as is Christianity. He thought that both theists and atheists used circular rationalizations: the theists to support their faith in theism, and the atheists to support their faith in atheism.
Peter Hitchens, journalist and author of the book The Rage Against God, said recently he believed that the default position of any thinking person looking at the universe was agnosticism.
“You can’t know whether there is or is not a god. You can’t know for certain. It is not within the bounds of scientific inquiry or reason to establish that.
“To move beyond that there has to be a desire. I found myself desiring very strongly that the universe should have a purpose ,and believed that purpose should be discoverable and that I would , in the course of discovering it. fit better into it than I otherwise would..
“ Because otherwise there seemed to be no reason for doing any of the things I was doing. Why bother telling the truth, why bother raising children with any care? Why bother doing anything.
“I can see why someone would say ‘I don’t know if there’s a purpose’. That seems to be a reasonable position, although one I don’t take. What I can’t really grasp is why someone would look at the universe and say ‘I don’t want this to have a purpose or a meaning and I don’t want to have any purpose within it’. which is actually the atheist position. The real question is why people don’t want there to be a God.”