Can you take a pill that will kill your soul? In the novel, The Giver, people take a government mandated pill to kill their emotions and desires. The pill also makes them color blind and interferes with their memory. In the classic sci fi novel Brave New World, authorities keep the population enslaved through a happiness-inducing pill called Soma. Published in 1886, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, tells the tale of a chemical serum that transforms the mild-mannered Dr. Jekyll into a murderous villain with no conscience and a thirst for blood. In the postmodernist novel Thus Spoke Zarathustra, the main character transcends the limited nature of man to become the ubermensch, the Overman. He says, “You must be ready to burn yourself in your own flame. How could you rise anew if you have not first become ashes?” According to Nietzsche, the author, the overman makes himself into his own god by willing himself to become the standard of all value and meaning. He then declares: God is dead.
In all of these works, there is a fine line between cultivating human nature and destroying human nature. Human nature is an obstacle to be either buried or transformed or transcended, often with horrific consequences. But what is human nature?
Humans are born with a heart, a brain, two eyes, two hands. But we are also born with certain in-built emotions, instincts, behaviors, desires, and intuitions. Why do you salivate when looking at a delicious meal? Why do you feel cleansed with water? Why are you repulsed by rotting flesh? Why do you want to hug and embrace loved ones? Are these things you learn from your culture? Not at all. These are natural reactions that all humans have.
But beyond reactions and feelings, we also have natural intuitions. An intuition is a belief that you don’t necessarily know you have. But how is that possible? How can you have beliefs that you are not consciously aware of? Imagine a little girl playing on a swing and a boy roughly pushes her off. What do you think about such an action? We all have a strong intuitive belief that the boy did something wrong. But where did that intuition come from? Did you have strong beliefs in your mind specifically about little boys pushing little girls off of swings? Probably not. Imagine looking at a table. On top of the table are many loose objects. Someone comes and violently moves the table. What do expect to happen to all the loose objects? We all have a strong intuitive belief that they will fly off. But where did that intuition come from? Did you have strong beliefs in your mind about how objects on a table behave when the table is moved? You might think that your expectation about the table is based on a lifetime of experiences with gravity, but psychologists have done this experiment with infants. They show infants a table with objects and then the table is suddenly removed, but the researchers have rigged the objects so they remain stationary, suspended in the air. The infants watching this react nonverbally with surprise and shock. Why? In another experiment they show young children a boy stealing an apple. Then the boy walks on a bridge that collapses. They ask the children, why did the bridge collapse, and the children overwhelmingly agree that it was because the boy stole the apple. These children come from a variety of religious and non-religious backgrounds and none of them would even be able to articulate the belief that somehow morality can affect physical events like the collapse of a bridge. Nonetheless, they all share this intuition.
It is said that there are no atheists in a foxhole. This is because, in the heat of war, the atheist relies on his intuitions that God exists and can help him. So he calls out reflexively. Similarly for the atheist at sea. When the dark storm blows, tall waves batter his ship, and the watery grave beckons, the sailor cries out, O God save me! This is not because the atheist sailor consciously believed in God all along but kept it secret. Rather, the belief in God is a deep human intuition that is not always conscious but can nonetheless manifest itself in extreme situations.
People have hundreds and thousands of unconscious intuitions about everything. But is it true that all people are born with this intuition about the existence of God?
Despite the oppressive power of secularism, a surprising 80 to 90 percent of all human beings on the planet today still believe in God even if many don’t believe in organized religion. Not only that, but people across all developed cultures historically have a virtually identical concept of God. Yes, most religions are polytheistic, but except for a minority of small hunter and gatherer tribes, all civilizations, even the polytheistic ones, believed in a singular all-powerful God. Beyond the so-called Abrahamic faiths, even religions like Hinduism, Daoism, Confucianism, ancient Greco-Roman religion, despite all their differences, nonetheless share this universal notion of one Supreme Being who has created and maintained the universe.
Justin Barrett, American psychologist, lists the primary characteristics of this universal notion of God. He is the all-knowing, all-powerful Supreme Being responsible for the creation of the universe. He has a mind, has a will, is immortal. He controls the past, present, and future. He created the universe for a purpose and has set a moral order. He communicates with people and rewards or punishes them. But He doesn’t have a body and is invisible.
How is it possible that so many people from so many different parts of the globe and at different times in history not only independently came to the same conclusion about the existence of God but also agree on the primary attributes of God? It would be impossible for such alignment to arise purely by chance.
The answer is: human nature. Humans naturally are born with an intuitive God Concept. Belief in God is ingrained in us as a species. It is a part of what makes us human. And this is the consensus in psychology and cognitive science. Paul Bloom, professor at Yale, writes that the concept of a Supreme Being is natural. Deborah Kelemen, professor of psychology, even goes so far as to say that children are born “intuitive theists.”
What makes the God Concept so naturally compelling to the human mind is that it is interconnected with other deep human intuitions about the world. Causation is one example. From early childhood, we intuitively believe that nothing occurs without reason. Everything has a cause. And causes have their own causes and so on, in a causal chain. Anyone who’s talked to children has experienced this first hand. Your child asks you: Why does it rain? You reply: Because the clouds release stored water. But why does that happen? Because the sun heats up water that turns it into steam that forms clouds. But why? Unless it’s stopped, this questioning would continue indefinitely. We are born with this natural intuition to seek out ultimate causal ends.
This intuition about causation supports the notion of a Supreme Being, which is why many religions independently produced “cosmological arguments” as proof for the existence of God. One ultimate cause is necessary to explain the existence of the universe.
Humans also have innate intuitions about order and design. From childhood, we innately believe objects around us are purposefully created. When children in studies are asked about the origins of natural things like plants, animals, mountains, they recognize that these things are not man-made but WERE made for a purpose. For example, flowers were made to make the world beautiful, puppies were made to play with children, etc. How can something both be made for a purpose but not be man-made? For children, the answer is obvious: God made it.
Olivera Petrovich, Oxford researcher, tested Japanese and British children from ages 4 to 7 by showing them photos of natural objects and man-made objects. When the children were then asked questions about the origins of natural objects like mountains and animals, regardless of cultural or religious background, the children predominantly chose “God” as the answer. They did not give an agnostic answer like “nobody knows” or an incorrect answer like “by people.” Petrovich called this result “absolutely extraordinary” because the Japanese Shinto religion doesn’t include this idea of God creating anything. So how do Japanese children get the idea that creation is in God’s hands when their religion and culture has no such teaching?
The researchers also asked the children to describe God. We might expect that the children would give different descriptions of God based on their religious upbringing, but surprisingly that wasn’t the case. Children predominantly conceive of God as a person without a body similar to notions of gas and air. Petrovich claims that children get the idea of God-as-man through their religious education, but no child naturally thinks of the Creator of the world as a person with a body.
It would be an astonishing vindication of Hinduism if children in Mexico, raised by non-Hindu parents, thought of God as a blue-skinned deity with an elephant head. It would be an astonishing vindication of Christianity if children in China, raised by non-Christian parents, thought of God as a trinitarian deity. What children do think — regardless of cultural and religious background — is that the universe was created purposefully by one God without partners; One God who is ever-living, all-powerful, all-knowing, but does not have a bodily form. Where does this intuition come from?
Atheists claim that belief in God is ridiculous. Famous atheists like Richard Dawkins claim that believing in God is like believing in a Flying Spaghetti Monster. Dawkins explains that, if religious people want to know why atheists don’t believe in God, they should just reflect on why they themselves don’t believe in something as silly as the Flying Spaghetti Monster or Zeus.
But these atheists have simply committed the strawman fallacy. No one naturally believes or is inclined to believe in the Flying Spaghetti Monster, or Zeus, a bearded man living on Mount Olympus. But, as study after study proves, people do have a strong natural tendency to believe in God. Why aren’t atheists able to acknowledge this established fact? Why do they have to resort to strawman? Are they… scared?
Atheists might be dismissive and say, so what if we have natural intuitions about God? Such intuitions are merely the byproducts of evolution and, therefore, have no basis in reality. But the atheists making this argument should quickly realize their mistake. According to them, all our intuitions must be the products of evolution. So applying their same logic, none of our intuitions have a basis in reality.
But to put it bluntly, that’s insane. Because, in addition to intuitions about God, we are born with intuitions about logic, math, counting, ethics, and even intuitions about the nature of space and time. So according to atheists, all of these intuitions are just a product of blind evolution, which would mean none of them have a basis in reality, which would mean none of them can be trusted, which would mean the human mind itself can’t be trusted.
The atheist might respond to this by saying that, unlike intuitions about God, those other intuitions like.. logical, empirical, and ethical intuitions are established… on solid rational grounds.
Well, let’s just test that.
A basic ethical intuition that all humans share is: Harming others for no reason is wrong. Atheists endorse this belief, but why? Imagine someone who questions this. Imagine someone who says, “There is no scientific or rational evidence proving that harming others is wrong. Only brainwashed nuts would believe that harming others is wrong. Such myths are nothing more than the byproducts of evolution.” Or imagine someone else denying logical intuitions like the Law of Noncontradiction, the logical principle that two contradictory statements cannot simultaneously be true. Imagine someone saying: “There is no empirical basis to this so-called Law of Non-contradiction. Can you see it with a microscope? Can you detect it in a laboratory? Such a law can only be accepted on blind faith!”
What could the atheist.. say to such skeptics? What empirical facts would prove that harming others.. is wrong or that the Law.. of Non-contradiction is true? All the atheist could say is that these fundamental beliefs just are, or we have to accept them axiomatically, or the beliefs are valid because they.. agree with our intuitions, or these.. are things.. we all just.. know. But all of these things.. could also be said about the natural intuitiveness of God. So, by trashing intuitions about God, the atheist also has to trash intuitions about everything else, including logical, empirical, and ethical intuitions, which are at the foundation of science, math, and secular ethics. Atheism thus becomes a self-defeating proposition.
Can you be a good person without believing in God?
Atheists often claim that their atheism is not a set of beliefs. Rather atheism is a mode of thinking, namely scientific and analytic thinking. The analytic mind realizes that there is no scientific evidence for God, therefore belief in God is irrational. Atheists say that such reasoning about God has nothing to do with morality.
In reality, however, this analytic thinking promoted by atheism has everything to do with morality. To understand this, we need to define two contrasting modes of thought: Analytic Thinking vs. Intuitive Thinking. Our default mode of cognition is intuitive. Intuitive thinking is automatic and is driven by deep psychological mechanisms we are born with. When a person feels that he should help his ill mother, that is an intuitive mode of thinking. When a sailor lost at sea calls to God to save him, that is also intuitive thinking, grounded in the universal intuition that God exists.
Analytic thinking, in contrast, is not automatic and easy. Analytic thinking requires concentration. It is used to solve complex problems and analyze situations. Analytic thinking is used not only in science and academia, but it is also the mode of thought used for criticism and argumentation.
Numerous studies show that when you disrupt people’s concentration with loud noises, time constraints, or other distractions, they fall back to intuitive thinking. This is why there are no atheists in a foxhole. When distracted by the horrors of war and the imminence of death, analytic thinking shuts off and the intuitive mind takes over.
Normally, our thinking is a blend of both intuitive and analytic modes, but sometimes the two modes can conflict. In those conflicts, analytic thought can be used to gut intuitions. This is what we see with atheism. The atheist tells us that analytic thought is the only way to understand the world and the only way to arrive at truths, whereas intuitions are nothing but bias.
But recent cognitive science and psychological studies have shown that overdeveloping the analytic parts of our cognitive faculties can greatly diminish not only our religious intuitions but also moral intuitions. World renowned psychologists and researchers like Jonathan Haidt (pronounced “Height”) and Joseph Heinrich explain that high analytical thought is correlated with less of what’s called “Deontological Morality.” Morality generally falls under two categories: Consequentialist vs. Deontological. Consequentialist morality focuses on consequences and calculating how to maximize pleasure and reduce harm for the most number of people. This makes consequentialist morality very analytic in nature.
Deontological morality, however, is much more intuitive and relies on gut feelings and innate ethical tendencies, such as care for family, feelings of disgust or reverence, respect for authority, and loyalty to one’s tribe.
To better understand the contrast between Consequentialist and Deontological morality, consider this scenario. A man goes to the supermarket once a week and buys a dead chicken. But before cooking the chicken, he has sexual intercourse with it. Then he thoroughly cooks it and eats it. Is there anything morally wrong with his actions? Purely on the basis of consequentialist morality, there would be nothing wrong with this since there is no harm and, in fact, the man increases his overall pleasure, so it might even be an ethically good action. But deontological intuitions tell us that such an act is perverse, it is disrespectful, it violates decency, and therefore is highly immoral. The surprising thing is that when people are asked about this chicken scenario, those who have a Western secular education are far more likely to find nothing objectionable to it.
This overemphasis on analytic thinking is exactly what atheist psychology is all about. And if you asked, you might be surprised that many atheists would find nothing wrong with copulating with a dead chicken and then eating it. It is not a coincidence that many popular atheists have openly stated that they have no moral objections to incest, beastiality, necrophilia, and other “victim-less crimes” that most people of the world consider unspeakably evil. Even Richard Dawkins recently claimed that there is nothing morally problematic about eating human flesh so long as the meat has been cultivated using human clones in a laboratory.
What we must realize is that healthy human relations are fundamentally deontological. For example, a woman could greatly increase her physical pleasure if she cheated on her husband without him ever finding out. But she doesn’t do that because that would be unfaithful and infidelity is morally wrong regardless of any positive consequences. A son might have a lot to gain by frequently lying to his father. But he doesn’t do that because lying especially when directed to one’s parents is morally wrong regardless of the upside. A mother could greatly enjoy life if she gave up her baby to a foster family, but she doesn’t do that because her strong maternal intuitions tell her not to abandon her child regardless of the massive increase in freedom she could enjoy.
All relationships require a healthy sense of deontological intuition, but this is precisely what a hyperactive analytic psychology destroys. The analytic mind favors consequentialism and consequentialism says the only thing that matters is maximizing pleasure and personal happiness, basically pumping dopamine into the brain. But sometimes maximizing that dopamine requires lying, cheating, cutting off family, betraying your community, violating sanctity, engaging in the taboo.
So when atheists promote analytic thought as the end all, be all of human cognition, they are not only burying natural human intuitions about God. They are also sabotaging all organic human relationships. Psychologist Jonathan Haidt, who is a committed atheist himself, as well as others have published numerous studies on how atheists are less charitable, less generous to family, less loyal to community, more willing to justify lying and cheating for material gain, more willing to engage in infidelity, and much more.
Atheists might claim that atheism is solely about the nonexistence of God, but that’s not true. Atheism is an integrated psychology that is strongly correlated with an ultra consequentialist, ends justify the means, Machivellian morality that is hostile to all human relationships. It is no accident that atheists have been at the helm of the past century’s most expansive and brutal social engineering projects aimed at dismantling and radically reshaping the traditional family all in the name of the “greater good.” Secularism institutionalizes this analytic mode of thought, indoctrinating children and adults to overcome their natural intuitions and become cold, calculating machines. It is precisely the atheistic mindset, drunken with an unhinged analytic fervor, that has been fueling the modernist project of hyper consumerism and atomization that is destroying the human species by transforming us into a race of dopamine-addicted automatons. This is the pill that destroys our nature and kills the soul. But we can become human once again.