If we evolved and religion evolved - what’s actually true and how would we know?

Hi everyone,
This post has been brewing for a while but I’ve been putting it off. I pretty well don’t have the energy and focus to craft something to perfectly articulate where I’m at - there are so many layers. Basically though
I’m at my lowest point in not being able to interact with my faith anymore. I’m more in a state of not believing than believing now - and it’s pretty awful. Without sounding too extreme, I feel this post here is something of a last call, for help really. I stand at church numb, I don’t sing most of the words - I cant. I don’t pray anymore … I virtually can’t believe anymore. It’s not something I want.

I’ve posted here before and the core of my thoughts remains the same.

If we follow the standard scientific consensus that humans evolved over a 4 billion + year process, it follows that religion itself evolved also. Therefore the phenomenon of religious belief evolved as a human experience. The available evidence very much seems to line up with this. It is not objective truths but subjective observations. The reality of what actually “is” is not something religion addresses and the competing voices of one religion saying this and another that, to my mind cancel out any claim to ultimate truth. Instead this to me shows the fragile, human and ultimately unreliable nature of religion. To use analogous language - the end of the rainbow is never there - it’s just a pretty rainbow. And the rainbow is caused by light refractions, it’s not magical.

The video I’ve found that best articulates basically everything I’m struggling with is included below. Warning - it’s heavy duty stuff (I’d recommend not to watch it if you’re not feeling strong in your faith and don’t want to deal with confronting questions)


It’s by a guy called Richard Carrier - testing religious claims.

I would be immensely grateful to anyone that can help me out this ditch I’ve fallen in - how can belief be anything more than subjective?? Keep in mind I’ve been reading a bit of Dennis O Lamourex which so far has only confirmed my struggles (at least he is intellectually honest, I respect that) and also have looked into the actual mechanics of human belief itself as a phenomenon through a book called “The Believing Brain” by Michael Shermer.

Ultimately I fear I know the answers already and they’re not what I want to hear. All this said, I still strongly believe there is ‘something out there’ - even indeed God himself. It is this I want to know - the actual substance of whatever outside influence of the divine is impacting on humans and to understand how this force, this God, this reality actually works. It’s my heart’s desire to know and interact with the truth. To borrow from Acts 17:27, I feel I am honestly reaching out … where this is leading me so far however is to basically put aside standard religion and pursue the idea of something much broader, much more universal. It’s also leading me to the opening of rabbit holes around the concept of other intelligences (i.e. what we typically call aliens) and I’m a little hesitant to go too deep into those rabbit holes (and from what I have already - all we can really know it’s definitely something is there but we don’t know what or how that works).

I just want to say to all - I keep a deep respect for the whole idea of faith. Faith still shows the true colour of my heart … but right now I don’t believe in my true colours, if that makes sense. I keep a deep affinity for those who believe and struggle with belief. Any and all efforts to engage will be genuinely appreciated. I’m in a fragile place though and I’m a deep thinker so just know that too.

I’ll leave it there. Thank you for reading.

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I’m sorry that you are in this position of feeling like it’s all crumbling and you’re reaching out just hoping somehow someone will say or do the right thing to help. Hopefully something will. I did not watch the video.

I believe genesis 1-11 and other parts of scripture are wrote in a manner that indicates it’s not literal. Take genesis 1-11. You can read almost any other 11 chapters from any book in the Bible that is considered historical and you’ll see the writing styles are completely different. The closest writing styles we come to would be from psalms which is heavily symbolic and also mentions creation through it hour them with things like God battling a sea monster with multiple heads. All very mythological in nature. So I don’t try to take anything from genesis as facts beyond strictly setting up a theological paradigm. It’s the set up for the rest of scripture. So I don’t think anyone will have any real scientific answers for you. I don’t think the Bible is scientific in nature. I believe that a God of the gaps and improbabilities definitely can serve a purpose but ultimately won’t satisfy a curious mind bent on knowing a solid fact.

People can say pray pray pray and scripture says that too. For me prayer never really does anything. I’ve had 1-3 prayers answered my whole life out of thousands but they were answered strongly enough that I don’t care about the others.

So for me there is really 2 things that help me when I’m feeling crappy and disconnected. I surround myself with my brothers and sisters in Christ. I have some good Christian friends and I’m engaged to a wonderful Christian woman.

For me I believe that evolution is obviously real. I believe we were primates sho evolved into the earliest humans and that as we evolved intellectually and socially it opened us up as a species that God could communicate with on a personal level. He then called forth some to a special paradise and taught them his ways because they were not able to make That choice, or reject it. Previously they simply were not there anymore than a cat or do or even a chimp is not able to hear and accept the faith.

I would suggest to look into your life. Go above and beyond to be active with your brothers and sisters in person, not just online, and have fun with them. Watch movies together and have meals together and so on. Also try to share the gospel with the lost. Don’t even have to worry about the evolutionary creationism aspects. Just loving them and sharing the good news.

You’ll always have to wrestle with faith. But that’s why it’s faith. For better or worse faith is hope in the things we can’t know or see for perfectly without any doubt.

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Hi Christopher,
It’s good to hear from you again, and I’m sorry you’re struggling in this way.

I don’t entirely disagree with these observations – I think even from a conservative Christian standpoint, we can see that world religion has undergone evolutionary changes, like human technology and other aspects of culture. Even in the Bible we see many ideas that appear to be evolving, even though it may be called “progressive revelation.” And I’d agree that human religion is pretty unreliable, in the sense that it mirrors pretty much every other human endeavor.

But I guess this brings up the question, what would it take for human religion to be “reliable” in your mind? What kind of standard are you trying to hold it to? To me this is a big difference between following Jesus vs. adhering to religion, which he always seemed to chafe against. In a sense “ultimate truth” is beyond anything human. I suppose that’s why following a person-deity makes more sense to me than following a religion, even though it would be seen as all the same thing to many people.

I realize Richard Carrier would disagree with me (I don’t have time to watch the video), but he is also a “Jesus mythicist,” so he has his own beliefs about religious figures too – just probably wouldn’t call it “religion.”

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Very insightful question… I agree wholeheartedly that IF religion is merely the final product of a long evolutionary chain, and all religious beliefs are essentially ideas that we humans, due to our evolutionary process and inherited instincts invented, then de facto, all religions are simply imaginary fables and none should be believed. But that is a very big “IF”.

Now if I might humbly observe… the idea that humanity evolved, and the idea that religion evolved, are two entirely separate questions, and linking them as many do is a common, but quite erroneous, non sequitur.

For instance, one could embrace the idea that humans evolved from primates as commonly believed, but then recognize that God revealed himself in some genuinely tangible and comprehensible manner to those first humans; and to certain people throughout the ages.

In other words, regardless of whether or not Moses evolved from primates and from earlier forms of life has nothing whatsoever to do with whether or not God in fact appeared to him in a burning bush. Whether or not Mary and Joseph were descended from primates has no logical impact on whether or not Mary’s firstborn was the result of a miraculous conception, and that Jesus really was the son of God.

Put yet another way, the idea that religion “evolved” is the logical conclusion of people who have already chosen to believe that there is no God, and/or that God, if he existed, has not revealed himself in any recognizable manner. It is a logical consequence of atheism or deism; not of “biological evolution.”

So when you read atheists like Shermer (If I read him rightly) that claim that religion evolved, you must recognize that they are begging the question, to large extent… of course they don’t acknowledge even the possibility that religion was revealed by God, so they must come up with an alternate hypothesis.

The Christian claim, by contrast, is that “at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son.” And this claim is not affected one way or another by whether or not we are descended from lower forms of life or not. If God really exists, he is neither precluded nor hindered from speaking to us by virtue of our evolutionary history.

I hope that may be helpful. If helpful, I will try to watch the video before too long and offer a few more thoughts.

(And, I would add… C.S. Lewis loved to turn the tables… if my theism is simply the end result of a long evolutionary chain of processes, then Shermer’s atheism is also the result of a long evolutionary chain of events. He would have no more basis for believing his particular views on metaphysics or the possibility of the supernatural to be any more wrong or right than mine.)

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So after watching a bit of the video, and looking up Richard Carrier’s work as a staunch and explicit defender of “naturalism,” my strongest encouragement would be to read C. S. Lewis’s great book Miracles. There, he tackles that very question head on and in the most insightful way, and in a way that may well get at the core question you are asking. The very second chapter of the book is entitled, “The Naturalist and the Supernaturalist”, and sounds very much relevant to the questions you’ve suggested.

Hey, Christopher.

The embedded links following are accounts of God’s intervening grace in three people’s lives, one of which is mine. Resolute unbelievers dismiss them as still being within the realm of statistics and just being outliers. I don’t think so. Read Maggie’s story and Rich Stearns’. I hope you find them reassuring of God’s presence in people’s lives, and strengthening to your faith. A fairly recent event in my life is recounted in this.

I’m just shy of 72 and I could regale you with many more accounts of ‘co-instants’ over decades, some of them life path changing, some just fun and some funny, and more than several startling. Some of them are amazingly complex. They are all only really explained by the fact that God is my loving and beloved Father, and that he loves me because of Jesus, my adoptive older Brother and Friend.

Dale, I am so happy my testimony continues to encourage people that God is eager to carry on a one-to-one interactive relationship with us, as long as we extend our heart and voice to converse with him receptively. He continues sending people into my life in intervention in situations, just because I consciously, purposely, look to him for my needs. God like that; that we should look to HIM, and not to ourselves. Here’s an example: my doctor had been treating me through phone visits, after an office visit in July at which I complained of having difficulty breathing. She had sent in respiration therapy meds and treatment which made no improvement after a month. She is a Christian, and prayed for an answer. she had given me an EKG which was normal. One morning she called me at 8 am and told me to go to the E.R.; she was calling ahead and wanted me to be admitted. When I got there, my heart was functioning at 20%, and my oxygen absorption percentage was just 90, (86 can be fatal) and my blood pressure was greatly elevated… I was in congestive heart failure, and neither of us had known it, because my heart showed normal function on the EKG. Now, after two months of treatment with meds, low salt diet, and more exercise, everything is almost normal. Keeping an active, daily, routine of gratitude and conversation going with my Heavenly Father, means he is actively involved in every need that comes up, even when I don’t know the need exists. Looking back, I realize he had been trying to get me to exercise more and and stop using so much salt for months, and I had been ignoring him. God bless you, as he continually blesses me.

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What is so awful about it? Atheism is totally an option for me. Sounds pretty good – too good to be true even. So while I am a theist… 1.5 on the Dawkins scale, a Christian, it is just because I think there is a version of Christianity which fits the facts better than atheism. But there is no force behind it as far as I can see. So all the nonsense I frequently hear from theists and Xtians trying to force some nonsensical version down people’s throat like some kind racketeering scheme looks pretty lame to me. I would choose atheism in a second over that garbage.

I guess… I am wonder whether there is in these ashes you feel over the demise of your Christian viewpoint some substance for a phoenix of some kind to rise from them… a better, more reasonable version of Christianity. You see to some degree, where you are now is pretty much where I started. I was raised by those who had already thrown Christianity on the garbage heap. And I could tell you what was wrong with the Xtian establishment better than most atheists, even when I was a child. And it is not like I have changed my mind about those criticisms. I only found out there there is more to Christianity than the things which are wrong – could these be among your ashes also?

There are many many versions of theism and Christianity which I don’t believe in any more than you do. We are all atheists with respect to most of the theistic religions in the world – every single person on the planet.

Wrong! That is like saying it therefore follows that cars and computers evolved too. But that is a bit silly since these evolved only in a metaphorical sense – every single one of them is a product of design and manufacture. According to modern evolutionary science, evolution is a process by which genomes change and there is no genome for religion any more than there is a genome for cars and computers.

No it does not. Some religions are total inventions and far far more like the inventions of technology than anything which has evolved – religions which people set out to create quite intentionally.

I think you have swallowed an ideological blue pill to live in a totally fabricated fantasy.

Not quite… Science is objective observation. Religion has more to do with the fact that life is not and could never be objective observation. Life requires subjective participation – to believe that you can live your life as an objective observer is totally delusional.

Well I can suggest the work of psychologists such as Scott Peck and Jordan Peterson. Your skepticism is a good thing. But keep it up and you might even learn to be skeptical of skepticism itself as I have… and in that way skepticism becomes just another stepping stone.

Why should belief be anything more than subjective? Why should religion be something you can force on other people? Isn’t it supposed to be about faith?

Where I started was trying to figure out what this word “God” could possibly be talking about. I found my answer in an equivalence between a faith in God and a faith that life was worth living. The question then became… what sort God best suits such a purpose?

I would liken it to Jacob wrestling with God in Genesis 32:22-32.

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We evolved and religion evolved and there’s still reason to have faith.

Keep taking Pascal’s Wager, Christopher, but not in the Biblicists’ God. In a bigger, better minded one in Whom all is well. Seek to serve others as He would want if He were. As in His first sermon whilst human.

Under the pitiless gaze of science and history the second and third and tenth order claims of the Bible all disappear. But the first order claim remains. Incarnation. It created the Church, thriving with a roving foreign correspondent within 20-30 years: Paul. In his first seven consensually valid epistles which actually validate the later gospels; at least they all tell the same story.

And what a story. If it just the product of human genius, then we are geniuses indeed. Nothing surpasses the Pericope Adulterae, despite its late - C4th - bodging on to John from no one knows where. If cultural evolution is the answer, what’s the story? This is Second Temple Messianism transcendent, even though there are glimpses of that transcendence in the Prophets: Isaiah, Ezekiel, Jonah, Micah for four. But no one has given a disinterested, scientific account of that process. Not even Bart Ehrman.

Take the bet. You have nothing to lose. And purpose to gain for being humanitarian.

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Hi, Christopher - I’m glad you’re here. I did listen to the Richard Carrier video you linked, and while he has a lot of interesting stuff to share (I learned a few things about the history of religions in general - assuming his claims hold water - and I have no reason to believe they don’t); he nonetheless shows a tenacious philosophical commitment from the get-go to his own unexamined presuppositions that are easily seen and already dealt with by more astute authors a century ago.

What Dr. Carrier successfully does is knock down a strawman view of religions, debunking the existence of any Zeus-like fairy gods - which does help dispel a lot of false stuff that is still accreted even around some modern day understandings. And in that sense, he performs a valuable service that is needed for those who like to ask these sorts of questions, but whose thoughts around all this may not yet have fully matured as a healthy “faith seeking understanding” (a phrase, it seems, that may not even have occurred to Dr. Carrier as a possibility.)

As far as all the claims he makes that are supposed to be devastating to religions generally and Abrahamic religions in particular - it’s a target-rich environment - where to start? The whole thing goes in predictable (and answerable) directions just based on his own cognitive biases from the get-go. So if you found any of them in particular disturbing, just bring it up and we can discuss it here.

Note - this is not to say that Dr. Carrier’s observations are necessarily wrong, or dangerous - or that religion provides satisfactory answers to all his challenges. Far from it, in fact. Nor is it to say that God hasn’t used simplistic notions of deity to reach people through history. Those of us who are believers see that God has not left us where God found us. There is such a thing as accommodation despite the blinders on so many fundamentalistic mindsets (such as Dr. Carrier’s) that for reasons unknown cannot admit that concept into their perspective.

Why? Why should a myriad of often-contrary voices around some particular subject mean that there can be no truth (yes - mixed with many falsehoods) to be found in their midst? If that were actually true, we would have abandoned every field of human endeavor long ago, including science. There is no arena where arguments and contradictions have been eradicated. But that doesn’t mean that there isn’t valuable truth to be gleaned from some consensus in the midst of these things.

What’s not to like about his celebration of science? And even his criticism of religions including Christianity? --much of which is true. It just need not lead to it all being the “devastating critique” of everything that he takes it to be.

As is true for all of us (including Dr. Carrier) with all our cognitive biases in full play, who you hang out with all the time is going to shape your thoughts and attitudes about faith, science, life, … all of it. So if you are drawn to material like this - yeah; eventually you come to a conclusion that all religious people are wacko. And if you hang out with nobody but the pious sorts similar to you, you come to think anybody rejecting your flavor of religion must be irrationality incarnate. And all of us (including Dr. Carrier as seen here) are prone to imagining we are closer to some ultimate “center of all objectivity” than we probably actually are.

So I’m glad you are here too … yet another group with our own proclivities to yet more sets of biases (and I hope with a bit more variety here that includes many things Dr. Carrier holds dear). You aren’t the only one to be going through that “dark night of the soul”, though almost by definition I think, you are compelled to face those questions for yourself and in some ways by yourself. Or so it feels. But ultimately we aren’t alone, and I hope you can find meaningful fellowship (both here and physically too) to see you through.

-Merv

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Such as, Mervin?

PIck nearly any thinking Christian writers from recently or near recently … Polkinghorne, Newbigin, or from longer ago, Lewis, Chesterton, Macdonald. Anyone of them had already dealt with all of this.

And yes, I know … you’ve “seen through it all” and deconstructed it all in your own quasi-jaded way; or at least so far as I understand you at all through your terse, cryptic comments and poking questions. I don’t have any need to go chasing off into various rabbit holes. Even though there are myriad problems to be found in all the old and recent authors, they yet have much wisdom that remains solid too. And I unashamedly partake of their diet and will continue to do so.

Gotta run for now … so sorry for any terse impatience of my own that peeked through here.

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I am sorry that you have felt this way about God and Christianity. For me the idea that there are hundreds if not thousands of religious ideas out there shows that long ago in the primordial past early humankind came into contact with something and that something was God and that spawned religion. God as we see in the Bible is a relational God so it makes sense for Him to be all over the place making contact with people all over the world. Religion which is man made evolved and changes over time but a true relationship with God never changes. I agree with the statement @Laura said as it puts my idea of it at best.

Jesus came to give us relationship with God our Father, not religion. I hope and pray that you find what you need in this journey you are on and that you come to a living and loving relationship with Jesus Christ.
Peace and Love from God our Heavenly Father and Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

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Sorry Mervin, I s’pose I should watch to see what these are. I find it hard to believe that a first rate mind wouldn’t have done that. I therefore doubt it. We shall see.

I’m sorry for your situation. I think the way to get out your situation is not listening to an atheist that calls God “a Jewish zombie” and ridicules religions.
I am not impressed, I am tired of this weak philosophy that only makes arguments by making ridicule what other people thinks.
The problems we have with faith and theology are always related to the fact that we give God an anthropomorfic form, in order to make the mistery clearly understandable.
Atheists could not have any evidence that this universe is all the possible reality.
Their statement is always “There is no God because I have no proof”.
This statement is weak philosophically.
Have the cells of our body evidence of our existence ?
Has the child in the womb evidence of his mother existence ?
I am not thinking about conscience of cells of fetuses but we are really small in a reality that we do not know how big it is …
We say that God is the Creator, that He is omnipotent and so on but we do not accept that there is no scientific theory, no multiverse, no string theory, no infinite universe, quantum physics, evolution theory… That disproves His presence. We do not know how to define what is God and where is Him we can only infer from Scriptures with our limited rationality.
I also have doubts on some Christian theology issues and also Catholic ones(I am Catholic) but I think that is also the beauty …
To remain in a certain kind of mistery…
We don’t have to understand everything… We must trust the Lord like children as Jesus said…

I don’t think you should feel awful at all. You are questioning and that is good. And the best questions are the ones that are ground-breaking. That leads to greater awakening.
The question that Epicurus brings up is plain ignorant. I hate to say that about a Greek philosopher but it’s true.
God has not created nor wanted a puppet show. That is why God gave free will, but God also gave us a conscience or moral guide/ compass.
This is a testing ground here on the physical plane. A person is free to choose to act either with conscience, which God gave OR without conscience. Thus a person may deaden and hence discard his or her conscience.
If a person acts under conscience, the moral compass, then he or she walks on the Path of Righteousness that leads to immortality. If on the other hand the person has discarded the moral guide and does acts of evil, then he or she walks on the path of darkness that leads to oblivion.
None of this has anything to do with evolution. It is instruction that is given by God, by way of the prophets down through the ages. So the idea that religions evolved is not true.
So why are there so many different religions and Gods? I think the answer here is that there is only One God, but peoples of different times and different understanding have been given teachings in a way that is best for their level of understanding. They have tried to define God in order to try and understand God in many different ways. In Hinduism for instance there are 33 million gods and goddesses but if you look closely you find that these are only an attempt to describe the many attributes of God. They are really no different to the 99 Names of God that we have in Islam. It is the human effort to try and define and understand the Undefinable. We cannot understand God no matter what we do because God cannot be understood intellectually.
People vary in their spiritual development and some are younger souls others are older souls. A person, who has still not enough spiritual maturity will not be able to discern that God exists, whereas a person with great spiritual maturity knows that God exists. This is not knowledge that can be acquired by thinking. For instance you know that you have subjective experiences but that knowing is not something you learnt. It is conscious awareness that you know for yourself alone. There is no scientific evidence that can ever show that it is real or exists.

You believe and you question and that leads you into a deeper and deeper spiritual understanding. It is good. Rejoice. You have God’s Grace in reaching this stage.

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One of the things implied here is that Pascal’s wager is a non-starter. But I think it is even worse than that. Pascal’s wager is like trying to steal and bribe your way into heaven without faith. I see more of God in an honest atheist than in that. The lie you buy into with that garbage is a bastard-Gnostic gospel of salvation by magic password.

Matthew 7:21 “Not every one who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you evildoers.’

It’s not just wasting your time but even worse than nothing.

Revelation 3:16 So, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew you out of my mouth.

Much better to be an honest atheist. I frankly think there is a good chance that atheists are God’s chosen people of the modern age – people who have the law of God written on their hearts because they do what is right for its own sake rather than looking for indulgences and back doors to sneak into heaven with all their sins.

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The conscience can be seared and fail, compasses can be broken.

The conscience can be seared or broken when the person deliberately deadens their conscience.
My late, psychopathic husband, when he came out of the closet described this. He said there are two stages.
First the person sees and/or causes another’s pain and suffering and feels indifference.
Then finally the person sees and/or causes the other’s pain and suffering and feels pleasure.
This deadens the conscience. It is a deliberate act. It is not like an object that can be dropped accidently and broken.

This is true. I know a woman, who claims that she goes to church and voices belief in God, “just in case there is a God”. I might add that she is a psychopath and has done a lot of awful things to other people. She is deluding herself in taking a bet each way because there is no truth in it. The person that does that loses both ways.
And I think that ethical fiber is the deciding factor. An atheist can go to Heaven if they act ethically according to their conscience and do not soil their conscience. This allows them to have love and empathy. These are the qualities that lead to eternal life.

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“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” -Colossians 4:6

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