Here’s a question prompted by the sudden surge of articles in the UK press trying to recycle the idea that it’s only natural to believe in the supernatural and humans are innately born with a belief in a deity. If faith is such a basic part of life, why do we need organized groups which exist solely to indoctrinate their faithful? Why do religious denominations begin indoctrinating new members while they’re still in diapers? And why is it that a Christian group invests a great deal of time, money and effort in spreading their beliefs on college campuses rather than simply trusting nature to take its course and allow humans’ innate beliefs to win over education?
As pointed out by Dr. Bruce Hood, one of the scientists who’s work is being mangled to stir up an instant controversy, people do have a predisposition to accept the religious indoctrinations to which they have the most exposure and it’s thought to be an evolutionary trait to help us work together in large groups and maintain social order. But it’s not the mythical God gene sought by theologists. Rather, it’s the result of our brains looking for causality and logical patterns even if the system we’re trying to logically examine is totally chaotic.
As much as the defenders of the “God is in our nature” idea hate to admit it, the purpose of religious indoctrination is to take advantage of that susceptibility to accepting supernatural causality and frame it in the way the organization says is correct. We could explain why we have so many faiths by the variation in how our “God genes” would work, but if they really affect us enough to shape our worldview and give us so many different answers to the same questions, it seems that the entire construct is useless because it doesn’t achieve any particular goal other than a feeling of something being there. What deity would benefit from crafting a the desire to believe and give us all different instructions as to what to believe and how?
So what really happens is that religious orders propagate by getting to new members as soon as possible, trying to convince anyone in earshot that they’re right. After its members and priests dedicate an entire lifetime to their beliefs, they have a very deep-seeded need to keep new generations adhering to theirs. Otherwise, if they’re wrong and the future generations reject all their teachings in favor of another way to explain complex, existential causality, to what did they devote their whole lives? We’re locked into theistic faiths not just because we need to explain the why’s and how’s we don’t know yet, but because of our need to validate our ideas.
Need proof? Take this example of a religious acolyte saying to Richard Dawkins that he can’t afford to live a lie and demanding that his beliefs are at least given some compassion by the professor. And how about all those constant appeals to the popularity of religion and mentions of how our perfectly sane ancestors were all believers too, summoned by religious writers and bloggers? The longer religious movements exist, the more power they gain, the more they need to remain in charge and the more they need to indoctrinate as soon as possible and for as long as possible. If they’re rejected, all that work and all that effort seems wasted and the believers become angry that they based their lives on something that wasn’t real in the end.