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The God Gene and Human Belief

In 2005, an eye-opening book hit the shelves called "The God Gene". In it, geneticist Dean Hamer claims he discovered the “God” gene that he labels as VMAT2. Hamer states that although everyone has VMAT2, it presents itself differently in everyone. About half have the variation that makes them more spiritual and about half have the variation of the gene that makes them less spiritual.

Hamer believes that there may be an evolutionary advantage for theistic belief because it appears that spiritual belief reduces stress, prevents disease, extends life, gives us sense of purpose (innately human), and helps us to overcome adversity.

Although we may never be able to prove it beyond a reasonable doubt, it is an interesting question and it does stand to reason that there may very well be a gene, or genes, responsible for spiritualism. How else does one born into a devoutly religious family open their mind to the controversy for religion and become an atheist? How else does one stay devoutly religious when there is a lot of evidence that should convince them otherwise? I must admit that I do not understand why religious people absolutely refuse to consider that they may be wrong.

Of course, this doesn’t provide proof for or against deities. It can only explain why some people seem to be more inclined to believe. Those who do believe can’t make themselves stop believing and those who don’t believe can’t make themselves start believing. Despite my time in church when I was younger, and being around theistic friends and family, I just never bought into the idea of a supreme being. I always thought it must be nice to believe that I would go somewhere as great as this place called Heaven, but I could just not believe it. Could this, perhaps, have been my genes that prevented me from making that ultimate leap?

Of course, if the “god” gene presents itself the way Hamer claims, that doesn’t explain why different parts of the world and different countries are more secular than others. Perhaps it may have something to do with the “nature versus nurture” argument in that having the more spiritual version of the gene coupled with a religious upbringing locks one into a lifetime of belief that cannot be shaken. That it is more of a predisposition such as having a predisposition toward addiction or cancer.

So if anyone asks you why you don’t believe, you might respond that it is in your genes.

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