The Biological Basis For Religion?

As I’ve mentioned before on this blog, Douglas Groothuis’ Christian Apologetics has many strong points.  One part I appreciated was his section on neurotheology, which is the study of the biological basis for religious beliefs.  Some scientists today believe that religious beliefs (e.g. belief in God) can be explained “on the basis of certain functions in the brain.”  In other words, the only reason people have religious beliefs is because of the way our brains work – there is no external or objective basis for religion and faith.  Religion is a figment of our biological and neuro makeup – so they say.

The first thing Groothuis mentions about this is that it is begging the question since these scientists start with a materialistic presupposition: “Since we know there is no God and no sacred realm (all is material), we need to explain (and explain away) why so many have religious experiences.”  This presupposition seriously flaws their thesis.

Another thing Groothuis says is that this is no threat to the faith since we are material as well as spiritual beings.  The mind interacts with the body – Scripture confirms that.  We shouldn’t be surprised to find that brain states correlate with religious beliefs and experiences.

Groothuis continues:

“There is another problem for this reductive view: it works as a boomerang against itself.  If religious beliefs can be explained away as illusory simply because their neurological components (physical states) are identified, we must, by the force of the same argument, explain away as illusory the belief that religious beliefs are illusory (there is no God) because they too are merely neurological states.  This kind of reduction and refutation would extend to all beliefs that can be identified with brain activity.  But this conclusion results in an epistemological nihilism that is unsupportable logically and existentially.”

“It speaks volumes to note that while millions of dollars in grant money goes to explaining the neurological basis of religion, nothing goes to explain the neurological basis of atheism or skepticism.  Apparently, atheism and skepticism are innocent until proven guilty, whereas religious beliefs are just plain guilty.”

Well said!  These are great things to remember the next time you run across an article or person who says religion is a figment of the mind.  It may at first glance sound like a decent thesis, but there are huge flaws in this reasoning, and it comes not from bias free scientific studies, but a materialistic and anti-Christian point of view.

Scripture’s teaching makes much more sense – that because there is a God, and because he created us in his image, we have a “sense of the divine,” as Calvin called it.  Sadly, many people suppress this truth in unrighteousness.

The above quote was taken from Douglas Groothuis, Christian Apologetics, p.384.

shane lems

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4 comments on “The Biological Basis For Religion?

  1. Ruben Cardenas says:

    I was considering picking this up the last time I saw it. I think I will now. Great stuff.

  2. Truth2Freedom says:

    Reblogged this on Truth2Freedom's Blog.

  3. Lon Hetrick says:

    Thanks for this. One could wish our highly paid researchers would do a bit of study in logic. Even if the firm evidence is that “certain functions in the brain” are associated with religious beliefs, association does not prove cause and effect. It doesn’t prove the existence (or non-existence) of God. It should drive the researches to ask why is this physical phenomenon this way? A christian world-view has no problem admitting the observable evidence and suggesting that maybe it was designed this way. it might be the effect, not the cause.

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