"There is always a philosophy for lack of courage."—Albert Camus

Monday, October 25, 2004

Religion as a Neurological Disorder?

Bill Maher recently told Canadian Broadcasting that he believes religion is a neurological disorder, something you would tell a psychiatrist about and he would give you a pill to make it go away. His remarks got my attention, not because I have a thin skin about such things, but because I've often had the same thought in a different direction. I've considered the notion that some people are "wired" for religious belief and others are not and concluded that being incapable of believing in God would be a lot like being an animal, a clever, calculating, rationalizing animal, but an animal nonetheless.

1 comment:

Steve T said...

That's curious. Has Maher considered the possibility that his believing religion to be a neurological disorder is itself a neurological disorder?

Furthermore, the term 'disorder' tends to require a standard of proper function from which to deviate, but that's difficult to come by for naturalists like Maher, since teleology is out of the picture for them. But perhaps Maher would respond by saying that religion is a neurological disorder because it relies upon falsehoods about the existence of God, His nature, and so on.

But again, (neo)Darwinian evolution - which is likely to be our origin if there is no God - cares only about getting reproductive parts in the right place, at the right time, as often as possible. Otherwise, organisms are treated as black boxes, and mental life - in particular, mental processes aimed at getting to the truth of such issues as the existence of God or the neurophysiology of the brain - is not likely to be very reliable, much less equipped for truth-discernment. As Phillip Johnson likes to point out, cockroaches are better suited for evolution's reproductive concerns than we are.

As a result, Maher's arguments are shaky at best. Ironically, the presuppositions required to make the argument work at all seem to be more reasonable from a theistic, rather than naturalistic, worldview.