The Religious A priori
Rational Warrant for Belief
Argument From Innate Religious Instinct.
D. Anticipating Atheist Objections
1) "It's just Placebo"
Some ahteists have resonded, on the boards, "they just feel better because they think some big powerful person is watching out for them." Dah! Of course, but why would that be? Moreover, the effects are not realized if the person doesn't actually believe. This is how we know it is not merely the benifit of social participation. Studies show that religious social participation outwieighs all other forms, even when smoking and other health factors are controled for, and the effects are not relaized if the person believes it is merely a placebo. (Konenig, see prayer pages).
In a sense the placebo argument is right. Obviously it is a placebo. But that should work for anything that people believe increases their well being, but it doesn't. Nothing else provides the benifits of religious belief. This tells us not only that these people feel better because they believe some power is caring for them, but that humans are universally made to feel this way. If religion is merely a social construct invented to keep order or gain power for a preistly elite, how could this be the case? Apparently our physiology is constructed in such a way as to obey our psychology, but our psychology is constructed in such a way as to be responsive to our metaphysical beliefs. If these beliefs have no validity one would expect this to either not function, or to function just as well in the case of other strongly held beliefs. Therefore we are made to be religious.
[link; no placebos]
2) It's an appeal to Popularity
This is by far the most common objection to this argument. Critics think that it is merely an appeal to popularity because the artuments about the all pervastivness, histirical persistence, and universality of religious belief seems to them to be an appeal to popularity.Obvioulsy it's not an apppeal to popularity! I'm not saying that religin is right because so many people believe it! I'm saying so many believe it because it is innate, inborn in our speicies! The argument is not an appeal to popularity, but rather, turns on an appeal to human nature.
The argument actually says that the fact of a religious speicies is far too coincidental to be merely the product of random chance. Why why would it be that we are fit to be reigious, that it is our isitinct and our way of life? That would indicate that an object of religious devotion desinged religocity into humans. In summation the following factors indicate that religiocity is part of human nature:
a) Historiical Tendency:
The vast Majority of Humans have been religious as far back as we have evidence of humanity (50,000 years) [see above A. 3]
b) Believers have always been vast numerical majority
That is not appeal to popularity, it's an argument about behavior which indicates an innate condition. Almost 90% currently of world population are rleigious believers in some sense.
When anthropologists see a behavior that transcends culture they assume it is innate. There has never been a culture tha was atheistic. Every culture we have ever seen or found traces of on earth going back as far as we can has been religiious in some way.
d) Even in clutures such as China where the government attempted irradication of religious belief there are still 51% religious and many more undecided but not "anti-"religious
e) Physical fitness for religion
Our bodies work better when we are religious, it is the major factor in health and far more of a motivater than any other trigger of the Placibo effect [see above C.3]
f) Archetypes Universal
Archetypes are natural part of the human psyche (see the next argument). Also see Jesus Chrsit and Mythology page II. Archetypes are psycholoigcal symbols which point to transcendent ideal beyond the material realm. Studies show that they are natural to all people and emerge under a broad varitiy of psychologal techniques.Maslow says that they are found among all people using ever technqiue of psychoanalsys. [above B.3]
g) Psychologically fit for religion
Psychological factors, relgious believers have far less depression and incidence of mental illness so the human mind works best when religious. [above C]
h) Transformative power
IF the appeal of the argument were merely popularity, it would not turn on things other than popularity. Obviously these reasons I'm giving here are not popularity. But, the transformative power of religious expeirnce is another aspect of the argument which proves that it' not merely an appeal to popularity. Religious expernce trasnforms lives, it gives people life affirming experinces which makes them better as people and makes life worth living. Not all psychological factors are capable of doing that. We are so contituted as a speices that we respond to these experiences in such a way that they do transform our lives. That proves that we are fit to be religious, and that is not an appeal to popularity.[see also point C above on psychological normality and self actualization]
i) brain wave patterns
Brain wave patterns are changed by religious experience. We go from Alpha waves to Beta and to other levels of Brain wave patterns when we have these experinces.
j) "God pod" (God moduel in the brain)
Scientists have identified a cluster of neurons in the brian which, when stemulated, produce feelings of extacy and thoughts about God and the trasncendent. This is too great a coincidence that nature would just produce this by random chance, expecially when taken together with all the other ways in which we are fit to be religious. It's an evidence of design, we are made to be a religious sepcies.
NATION © 1997 The Seattle Times Company
Wednesday, Oct. 29, 1997 Brain region may be linked to religion,
Robert Lee Hotz
Los Angeles Times
"It is not clear why such dedicated neural machinery . . . for religion may have evolved," the team reported yesterday at a meeting of the Society for Neuroscience in New Orleans. One possibility, the scientists said, was to encourage tribe loyalty or reinforce kinship ties or the stability of a closely knit clan.
The scientists emphasized that their findings in no way suggest that religion is simply a matter of brain chemistry. "These studies do not in any way negate the validity of religious experience or God," the team said. "They merely provide an explanation in terms of brain regions that may be involved."
Until recently, most neuroscientists confined their inquiries to research aimed at alleviating the medical problems that affect the brain's health, and to attempts to fathom its fundamental neural mechanisms. Emboldened by their growing understanding of how the brain works, however, scientists are now investigating the relationship between the brain, human consciousness and a range of intangible mental experiences.
Craig Kinsely, an expert in psychology and neuroscience at the University of Richmond in Virginia, called the new study "intriguing."
"People have been tickling around the edges of consciousness, and this sort of research plunges in," Kinsely said. "There is the quandary of whether the mind created God or God created the mind. This is going to shake people up, but (any conclusion) is very premature."
New Scientist Planet Science
[Archive: 8 November1997]
Touched by the word of God
a specific part of the brain handles religious experience, claim scientists in California.
People with temporal lobe epilepsy (TLE) often become obsessively religious. It could be because seizures strengthen neural connections between the inferior temporal cortex and the amygdala, the emotional arbiter of the brain, so that everything takes on special meaning. Alternatively, seizures might alter neural circuits that deal with religious experience.
To test these ideas, Vilayanur Ramachandran and his colleagues from the University of California at San Diego studied people with TLE, highly religious volunteers and people whose religious status was unknown. They showed them 40 words including neutral ones, such as "wheel", sexual and violent words, and religious words. As they read, the team measured the conductance of skin on their left hands--a gauge for arousal and an indirect measure of the amount of communication between the inferior temporal lobe and the amygdala.
Only sexual words gave the apparently non-religious subjects sweaty palms. Sexual and religious words excited religious controls. But the TLE patients were disproportionately aroused by religious words, says Ramachandran. "The surprise was that there's selective enhancement to some categories and not others." He speculates that the seat of religious experience is in the temporal lobe.
God Module" found in human brains.
Sunday Times, 11/02/97
by Steve Connor
SCIENTISTS believe they have discovered a "God module" in the brain which could be responsible for man's evolutionary instinct to believe in religion.
A study of epileptics who are known to have profoundly spiritual experiences has located a circuit of nerves in the front of the brain which appears to become electrically active when they think about God.
The scientists said that although the research and its conclusions are preliminary, initial results suggest that the phenomenon of religious belief is "hard-wired" into the brain.
Epileptic patients who suffer from seizures of the brain's frontal lobe said they frequently experience intense mystical episodes and often become obsessed with religious spirituality.
A team of neuroscientists from the University of California at San Diego said the most intriguing explanation is that the seizure causes an overstimulation of the nerves in a part of the brain dubbed the "God module".
"There may be dedicated neural machinery in the temporal lobes concerned with religion. This may have evolved to impose order and stability on society," the team reported at a conference last week.
The results indicate that whether a person believes in a religion or even in God may depend on how enhanced is this part of the brain's electrical circuitry, the scientists said.
Dr Vilayanur Ramachandran, head of the research team, said the study involved comparing epileptic patients with normal people and a group who said they were intensely religious.
Electrical monitors on their skin – a standard test for activity in the brain's temporal lobes – showed that the epileptics and the deeply religious displayed a similar response when shown words invoking spiritual belief.
Evolutionary scientists have suggested that belief in God, which is a common trait found in human societies around the world and throughout history, may be built into the brain's complex electrical circuitry as a Darwinian adaptation to encourage co-operation between individuals.
k) Sense of the Numenous universal
[see above point B]
E. The Skeptic Must Justify Unbelief
The skeptic must justify his/her skepticism. Of course if a person does not believe, he or she simpley doens't believe and no one can compell them to. Nevertheless, in terms of argumentation, it is not the skeptic who has the right to label religious belief as irrational and groundless and to demand absolute empirical proof of the believer. On the contrary, the skeptic must first demonstrate rational grounds for skepticism before trying to take a skeptical attitude accorss community bounderies and inflict it upon the believer.
It is just as though 10% of the world population found it obnoxious to live in houses or any kid of shelter. That's fine for those who like it, but when they start insisting that there is something wrong wtih those of us who enjoy being protected from the elements, that we are weak minded because we don't like being cold, that we need a crutch for life because we don't enjoy sitting the rain, it is the skeptic who must first demonstrate why his/her rebellion against the eons old practice of taking shelter form the elements is right a priori and our human normality to be protected form the wind and rain is somehow silly, illogical, and unjustified.
Some skeptics who have seen me argue this way think it is soooo stupid because they have heard the atheistic slogan spouted that the believer has the burden of proof. Not understanding the rules of evidence, they think this slogan makes for a true dictim of logic. But it largely an ideological slogan, not a true principle. The one who asserts an argument has the burden to prove that argument. But, when a case has been establsihed as prime facie it is the burden of the other party to overturn that status of the case. I have met my evidental burden in establishing the narmative nature of bleief. This is not to say that religion is "normal" and thus popular so it's not an appeal to popularity either. Normative does not mean normal, it means that it sets the standard. The sketpic must overturn the normative nature of belief by indicating why we should be skeptical of something that the vast majority of people recognogize as true. Now this can be done perhaps but the atheist has to do it.
Next => Argument VI. The Religious a priori