Why so religious?

If people are universally and naturally religious, why is this the case? Generally speaking, there are two primary explanations for this.

The first explanation is provided by researchers Glazier and Ember, the commonly cited and often repeated mainstay view of secularists: “A common explanation for religion is that it helps humans deal with stress, anxiety and uncertainty” (Glazier and Ember, “Religion”, p. 4). The authors go on to elaborate further and include various opinions held by researchers indicating that religion provides shared comfort to people groups and acts as a type of societal glue that bonds people together. Interestingly, the writers cite research that strongly indicates such groups exhibit greater longevity, greater cohesion, in-group loyalty, and cooperation. If this is the case, as research suggests, a void of religious motivation may cause an opposite effect. Almost as if people failing to participate in religious activities experience the opposite of these benefits. Could we go so far as to suggest that a void of religious activity, against the natural disposition of human design, may have a negative effect on people much the same as missing micro-nutrients have on physiological health?

Yet many secularists discount the point and benefit of religion. At this point, maybe we should define the word secularism. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines secularism as, “Indifference to or rejection or exclusion of religion and religious considerations.” That seems clear enough. What does not seem clear is why anyone would wish to prefer a secularist’s explanation of religion. After all, does it seem informative to ask those who are indifferent to, reject, and wish to exclude religious considerations as someone in a position to explain the subject of religion? Often those who formally study religion are themselves nonreligious, and consider religion per se to be little more than the invention of mankind for the benefit of human need. We might go as far as to suggest that asking someone who views religion in such a negative manner to explain religion is tantamount to asking a blind person to describe the sunset or someone who is deaf to describe a symphony.

Designed to be religious?
This leads to a second position on the natural predisposition of humans to religion—that people are designed with an inherent need for God and religion.

It is no secret that numerous aspects of the human biological condition appears to be pre-programmed (as science clearly tells us). Many of the functions of the physiological body are simply designed to work without human conscious thought. The human body has what science refers to as the “autonomic nervous system.” A programmed biological system that controls certain functions of the body without conscious human thought such as heart functions, digestive system, respiratory system, and much more. This is simply a built-in aspect of human existence. Human beings require sleep—science is not sure why, but humans need sleep. These and many more aspects of human daily living work in such a way as to require no thought or effort on the part of people.

There are also inherently non-physiological needs or functions of humans. People inherently need love and companionship and many more intangibles that occur naturally, without effort. There seems little reason to elaborate on the extent of human interpersonal activity and the severe consequences when those natural needs are not met. Could it not be safe to assume the same may be the case regarding the inward drive for and the need for God? It certainly would explain the universal existence of religion.

The Bible makes numerous claims about the design and pre-disposition of humans towards God. Contrary to human speculation that evolutionary adaptations produced these incredible biological functions and abilities, coupled with the psychological needs and dispositions, God created and programmed humanity. Consider the following (italics added):

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:27 ESV).

“He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man's heart…” (Ecclesiastes 3:11 ESV).

“...and the dust [referring to human beings] returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it” (Ecclesiastes 12:7 ESV).

For thus says the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: “I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly, and to revive the heart of the contrite. For I will not contend forever, nor will I always be angry; for the spirit would grow faint before me, and the breath of life that I made (Isaiah 57:15-16 ESV).

“Who has put wisdom in the inward parts or given understanding to the mind?” (Job 38:36 ESV).

The predisposition of human beings towards God and religion is better explained when viewing the overwhelming evidence that people, all people, have within them a natural need and desire for God which unavoidably leads to religious activity.

What is religion anyway? Click below to continue with our discussion.

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