In response to the assertion that since all religions contradict one another, all are necessarily false and solely the result of natural evolutionary processes such as our need to deal with fear of the unknown and the human tendency to seek patterns and meaning in everything, I wrote this to an atheist friend…….
In your comments you have mentioned fear of the unknown and our human tendency of categorizing/ recognizing patterns to explain why religion exists. I have agreed and added love and wonder and conscience to that. We are both in perfect agreement that these are reasons the vast majority of humans are religious creatures.
Belief in God as Creator and the sense of right and wrong are primary basic truths that are built in to us as a species. They are intuitively true even apart from conscious reason for most of us. Just like it is a primary basic truth that we recognize everything around us as being real and that history is real, too. For example, only a madman would believe that the universe came into existence five minutes ago and we were implanted with the false memories of everything that had happened before that moment and we never ate the half digested food in our stomachs. There is no way to PROVE that this has not happened but we know better intuitively. In the same way, the essence of religion, that there is a God, He made everything, and we should live a certain way is also a primary basic truth for about 98% of homo sapiens. It cannot be ABSOLUTELY proven but we know it to be intuitively so.
However to assert that because we know how religion has developed it is therefore false is the genetic fallacy. Knowing the natural reasons religion has developed tells us nothing about the veracity of the concept.
As a theist my answer is that these natural causes evolved within us as what scientists call the “God center” to be tools by which we are able to recognize the truths that can be apprehended through the natural revelation which I mentioned before. It is the result of a God-driven teleological evolution to implant in us “the image and likeness of God” which distinguishes us from the lower animals.
Put in Aristotelian terms: fear, love, wonder, the ability to recognize design, conscience, etc. are material causes through which the Efficient Cause (God) operates to teach us something of Himself. In other words, these things are proximate causes, God is still the Ultimate Cause.
Since we do not wish to commit the genetic fallacy of declaring all religions wrong simply because we recognize its material or proximate cause or because there is more than one religion to choose from three choices remain TO BE REASONED THROUGH:
1. All religions are wrong as Hitchens, Dawkins, et al assert but have not shown.
2. All religions are basically right or speak to the human condition in an important way as religious pluralists and men like Joseph Campbell teach.
3. All religions are the result of man seeking to make sense of the truths of the natural revelation and thus are broadly true in their essence while disagreeing on those details which could not be known without special revelation. God has, however, given us that special revelation in one religion which we should be able to identify through our God-given reason and intuition as more likely true/ reasonable than the others (I do not mean to ignore the Christian teaching concerning faith in this special revelation as also being a result of the gift of faith and God’s grace to those open to Him- this is also very important). Why one religion? Because of the Law of Non-Contradiction and the nature of special revelation. Otherwise we are brought back to position number 2 in our reasoning.
Number three is my reasoned position, as a Christian, based on my fear, love, wonder, ability to recognize design/ patterns, conscience, intellect, God center, and/ or intuition.