Sunday, April 20, 2008

Are there really innate ideas of God?

Speaking of the April edition of Touchstone, Discovery Institute's Logan Paul Gage argues therein that "Innate Religious Beliefs Are Evidence of God, Not of Evolution":
Those whose education emphasized the diversity of world religions may find it surprising, but many researchers think some religious beliefs are innate. Research is showing that "when forming God concepts, not just in theistic traditions but even in non-theistic traditions ... we have a natural tendency to believe that divine beings have [certain] characteristics," says [Michael J.] Murray. We naturally believe in a super-knowing, super-perceiving, super-powerful, immortal creator.

Various research is cited on the opinions of small children.

I must admit I am skeptical about what this research really amounts to. Small children rarely found religions, and the adults who do found them must convince other adults of their divine origin.

Many religions have featured mortal gods (Norse), limited gods (Greeks), gods that are emanations of a single divine (Hindu), ancestors with limited power that take the place of gods (animists), or gods that are only somewhat relevant to the key issue of salvation (Buddhism).

I think that the diversity of world religions is real, rather than an artifact of biased education. Of course, two factors may leaven the lump: Small children may imbibe their parents' understanding of God in a number of ways other than explicit teaching. Also, globalization of culture means that ideas about God from other cultures will also enter the mix.

Once again, Gage's interesting article is not yet on line.