An ancient Near Eastern psalmist wrote, “One thing have I desired of the LORD, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to inquire in his temple” (Psalm 27:4, King James Version). There is an innate desire of supernaturalism. This is why most societies on earth held to kinds of beliefs in deities. In 16th century, John Calvin grounds his religious epistemology in what he calls sensus divinitatis. According to Calvin, all people have a sense, not only of the existence of a Creator-God (Helm, 1998, p. 93), but also of a “positive affective and conative condition towards” Him (Helm, 1998, p. 88).
Calvin does not, by means of modern apologetics; attempt to prove his claims, as he suggests that this sense is simply based on innate, properly functioning capacities (Helm, 1998, p. 93). To clarify what Calvin means, Helm (1998) writes, “Calvin does not say that all men believe in God; he says that all men have the seed of religion, the disposition to believe in God” (p. 105). In 20th century, C. S. Lewis (2001) equally argued that creatures possess innate desires that correspond to their satisfaction. If an innate desire finds no satisfaction in this world, it is probable that there is another world beyond it.
Alvin Plantinga (1981) proposes that the belief in God, in absence of a defeater, needs not to be based on other beliefs or propositions; but one is perfectly rational in accepting it, just as he accepts the reality of past events, actuality of the world around us or existence of other minds.
Not only theology and philosophy has focused on this question; preponderance of scientific evidence emerging from cognitive science suggests that beliefs about the existence of God(s), dualism, afterlife or moral realism are not explicitly cultural indoctrinated ideas. They are intuitive innate implicit beliefs. (Bering, 2006). On the contrary, disbelief in supernatural “requires some hard cognitive work to reject or override the intuitions that nourish religious beliefs” (Norenzayan & Gervais, 2013, p. 20). Bering (2010) goes as far as to say about atheists that, “this self-classification has little – if any – bearing on what actually happens inside their head” (p.167). This does not show that these biases lead to a specific understanding of God(s), it merely points towards a conclusion that humans are wired to be intuitive theists, believing in transcendent beings. Therefore, also children not exposed to socio-cultural influence would naturally come to hold such beliefs. Banerjee and Bloom (2013), dissent from the consensus view, nevertheless they suggest we are prone to hold similar conceptions, as our “cognitive biases make humans ‘receptive’ to religious ideas, but do not themselves generate them” (p. 7). Read the rest of this entry »