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

I think this kind of thing is very difficult to view objectively, but will probably come down to expectations. I agree with what you say below that it’s hard to know what’s in your mind and what isn’t.

Sometimes I resonate very strongly with the 1 Corinthians 13 verse about “seeing through a glass darkly.” But this may also be where we bump up against the limits of science. Maybe hope is so important because any attempt to explain reality is tempered by subjectivity, and by the fact that some things are either outside the bounds of science, or science can provide nothing more than a surface explanation. For example, neuroscience can probably explain a lot about how my synapses fire and hormones work, but any attempt to scientifically explain what “falling in love” is would probably fall flat to me. Discerning the limits of our explanations can be difficult – I know I often lack the “wisdom to know the difference” as the serenity prayer puts it. But I guess this is why, as important as science and logic are, trying to use them to explain religion seems to cross a line for me, but it’s hard to articulate where that line is.

Strong desire to do wrong things??? What things? Are they immoral, unethical? There are a lot of things that we are told are wrong but are not morally wrong.

With the first part I agree, we need to be responsible for our mistakes and learn from life’s circumstances.
But I don’t agree that sin is about evil. Evil is about transgression.
Sin is getting things wrong, missing the mark.
Evil is, as you say, a person looking at their own selfish interests at the expense of others. But it is more than that because evil is also about getting pleasure from hurting others and seeing their pain. It is doing harm for harm’s sake.

I don’t think that judgement /punishment is all bad. It is if there is selfishness involved. But we also need to be able to judge others to discern if they are friend or foe. A lot of inhumane people are masked. They are two faced and if we take them as they appear we can end up with big problems. Much of the foul game play of inhumane people is underhanded.

Punishment for the most part, I agree, is not the way to go, but there are instances where it is of value. I was bullied fairly badly at school. And when one of the bullies tried to attack me I made it quite plain to her that if she did attack me I would would use unrestrained force and knock her lights out without a second thought. She backed off as she saw I was serious. I have known others who were bullied too and the ones that were not afraid to take the initiative and bash the bully to a pulp never got bullied again. Those that didn’t fight some were badly bullied, one committed suicide as there was no escape from the bullying and a few others ended up with mental illness. So there is a place for punishment, but it needs to be in accordance with the circumstances, where it is necessary.

Hi @Christopher_Michael I went through something SUPER SUPER like this recently and I just wanted to check in and see how you’re doing.

I’m really glad you’re asking questions but I also hope you’re taking care of yourself and looking after yourself and just generally being OK.

You have your whole life to ask these questions (and I’d love to talk to you about them) so I just wanted you to know a lot of people are seeking like you and you’re on this road with a lot of really smart people (and some dumb ones but that’s how roads work).


I’m not sure why this matters so much. Systems of government evolve as do conceptions of human rights. Approaches to education evolve both in terms of what to teach and how. Is there a human institution which has not evolved? The question that has you worried is whether there is anything more to religion than the practices evolved by men. So I think you have to ask yourself whether religion emerged in human cultures in a spurious, accidental way or whether there was something substantial in human experience which provoked and sustained it.

That people have evolved some sort of religious practices nearly everywhere for about as far back as we can trace is pretty good evidence that it wasn’t a fluke. You might still ask if it was merely adaptive to human reproductive success in the way colonial living was for many species of ants and bees. At that point we have to speculate.

My guess is that some of our evolution such as language use, the capacity for hypothetical reasoning, what we call our free will and a high degree of self awareness has necessitated compensatory cultural adaptions. All of these new cognitive powers our species have evolved have basically driven us from the garden of unthinking reliance on the instinctual. Now we are aware that we are somebody and we require some answers to who we are and what our role is within the tribe and why any of this is important. Religion has answered those questions for a such a long time, that much of the language in which its answers are encased is not only archaic but addressed to minds much less disposed to see everything as an object than ours are now. We worry that we are just objects being tossed around by impersonal, empirical forces. But we really are more than that.

We straddle two realms, neither of which entirely contains the other. We are bodies in the physical world and we are subjects in our experience of the world. Our senses and science are insufficient to take the measure of our subjectivity just as our sensation and imagination cannot entirely encompass the world of objects. But nowadays the dominant mindset assumes that in fact it is only a matter of time before science allows us to know everything in our experience as objects. I am certain that isn’t true but of course, because it isn’t true, there is no way to show that is so.

Religion has been valuable because it reminds us that our modern minds are incomplete in our over reliance on rational deliberation. It is the place in our culture where stories are told about what has happened to us, who we really are and how we should be in the world. I don’t think we should throw that out unless we understand exactly what it is we would be giving up. Do we have viable alternatives to the answers to the existential questions it has provided? It is one thing to re-examine the language in which its answers have been given, and another thing to dismiss the questions themselves.


Me neither. Though since you are not a Christian, it is hardly surprising that this wouldn’t bother you.

I may have shot down the argument, for it simply does not follow that religion evolved just because we did, and counter-examples where religions were just plain invented are easy. To be sure, there are many aspect of religious behavior which can said to be evolved in some sense. I like to say that we are religious animals (very much implying an evolutionary element to religion) and Jordan Peterson likes to make connections to the evolutionary biological elements of our psychology. I don’t see why any of that reflects negatively on Christianity. At most it just means God had to prepare us before we would be ready for direct communication from Him.

Religion does not represent anti-rational, non-rational, or even alternative to rational. Equating science with rationality doesn’t do justice to either science or religion. Subjective participation as opposed to objective observation is a much better way of characterizing the difference. I very much do think that full rationality requires compatibility with science, but equating them goes too far.

Which is not say that rational deliberation is the be all and end all of our existence. But then a case could be made that science can remind us of this also and that religion is quite capable of getting lost in rationality too.

For some people? Yes. For everyone? No. And we have good evidence that trying to force everyone into one mold where some alternative does work for everyone is not such a great idea. The importance and advantages of variation in the example of evolution should be enough cause for doubt about that.

True enough though I had in mind from the Christian perspective. Evolving human practices doesn’t imply that the focus of religious practice is also evolving. On the other hand, from my irreligious point of view, no conception of what gives rise to God belief will ever be more than putative.

Then possibly we agree. My point is only that science will never have empirical data that answers every question arising from our subjective experience of life. But we do disagree apparently regarding the opposite of rational. For many, it is just nonsense and fantasy. But I think it is intuition which I think is a necessary complement to reason.

Here we agree I think. Everyone needs to be an active participant in the answering of those questions whether they choose something off the rack from an established religion or in their own way. My only point was that ignoring the questions entirely seems misguided to me. I interact with atheists all the time who live in a state of not-that. I’m not saying any totalitarian state is required to enforce it, but I confess it is in my opinion necessary to a good life.


Welcome to the forum, Ryan. Good to have you along for the journey. I was reminded today that some define evolution as being change over time, when reduced to the simplest terms. That is no doubt true of religion as well as genomes. Otherwise, both would find themselves totally unsuited to the changing world, and would become irrelevant and extinct. Certainly, while God doesn’t change, that necessitates that we must.


Nice post and good questions. I have read or listened to Richard Carrier at various times in my own quest for things. He is truly a skeptic, for sure, but skepticism has its own set of creeds and is no more ""objective"than one might say religious belief is. As for your earliest assertion that people evolved and also religion evolved — I do not know that the two can be equated right that way. Humanity may have evolved (whole other discussion) but religion did not necessarily evolve. We know about a variety of modern faiths, a smattering of ancient (but no-longer-practiced) faiths. Ëvolving"assumes inferior to superior, for one thing. How do you or I really know what the earliest humans believed or that their beliefs were inferior? Since I do not know your religion – I assume Christian since you mention church – it is hard to address just one issue. But (to make a long story really short!!) Christianity grew out of Judaism’s belief in a universal Creator God who sent His Son into the world. This is not an evolved faith but one that presumes outside action by an Omnipotent Deity Who is active in His creation. Revelation is not Evolution…it’s a whole different thing. And watch someone besides CArrier from time to time…

Hi Christopher,

Re: The evolution of Religion.

It is a sad fact indeed that many of the most influential thinkers in recent centuries have been unapologetic atheists. These individuals, who lived at the end of the nineteenth century and into the twentieth century—including men such as Sigmund Freud, Karl Marx, Friedrich Nietzsche, and Jean-Paul Sartre—attributed ultimate causation to impersonal forces and not the personal, omniscient, omnipresent, and omnipotent God revealed in the Bible.

Despite their advocacy of atheism, however, one fact persistently confronted them: man is incurably religious. How did they explain this?

Freud theorized that the fear of impersonal forces gave rise to belief in a supreme being. He noted that it is impossible to reason with natural forces such as earthquakes, hurricanes, and tornadoes. On the other hand, human beings can reason with other personal beings. We can beg personal deities for benevolence and favour, including protection from the forces we cannot control.

Freud asserted, humanity made natural events personal in order to avoid them. We invented a god of thunder, a god of tornadoes, and so on in order to reduce our fear of being destroyed by them. By worshipping these gods, we came to expect favour from these deities, and thus our fears of nature were assuaged. In time, said Freud, this polytheism evolved into monotheism, which allows us to focus on placating one supreme being instead of several different gods.

Indeed, we fear the awesome power of nature, but men and women fear something—Someone—far more. Consider this passage.

MARK 4:35–41 “[Jesus] awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, ‘Peace! Be still!’ And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.… And [the disciples] were filled with great fear and said to one another, ‘Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?’ ” (vv. 39–41).

At one point during His earthly ministry, Jesus and the disciples were in a boat on the Sea of Galilee when they ran into a horrible storm. All of the men feared the storm except Jesus, and His followers could find no reason for His willingness to sleep instead of worrying about the weather (Mark 4:35–38).

After the disciples woke our Lord, He silenced the storm. Yet a strange thing happened. We would expect that the disciples would have been afraid no longer, but their fear intensified. They trembled before the One who had saved their lives (vv. 39–41). Why? Because they encountered Jesus who is holy and who is God. There was a reason why the Pharisees wanted to murder Jesus because of his claim of deity.

So, Christopher, Christianity is a revealed faith, which means God revealed himself and not the other way around.

What do we do with all the other religious faith? I could claim I am a god and start my own religion.
What evidence would you look for in either proving or disproving my claim?

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Hi! Sorry if someone else has posted this before but I really recommend Father Robert Spitzer, not as an antidote to Robert Carrier but as a faith-friendly perspective on apologetics and science. He ha a number of talks on YouTube and also a website called the Magis Center where he answers questions about science from a Catholic perspective. He was a big help when I was reading and viewing a lot of Carrier and Michael Schermer stuff https://magiscenter.com/evidence-of-god-from-contemporary-science-philosophy/

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And we believe in a spiritual adversary and accompanying lies and counterfeits.

God has not evolved so therefore faith in Him has not evolved. Throughout history He has revealed Himself to mankind in different ways and to different degrees but He is unchanging. The closer someone is to Him the more He is willing to reveal Himself to them. A man’s understanding of the Father may increase but it is an understanding of a God who’s nature does not change.
Because of mankind’s wicked heart they have created many gods in their own image. Their gods allow them to follow their evil desires and may help lessen the guilt that they may feel but they are still false gods.
It appears that some people have made evolution the all in all and judge everything by that theory. That is bad reasoning and it establishes evolution as a deity that they trust in. If God the Father doesn’t match up to what He should be like because He doesn’t match up with evolution, then they change God into an image that will. This is idolatry and those who do this will not be held guiltless.
There are millions of false gods, but the One True God is Holy and Righteous and is the Judge of all mankind. If a person wants to know Him than seek Him, call out to Him, for as it is written, Acts 17:24 "The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. 25 And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else. 26 From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. 27 God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us. 28 ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’

It is the Almighty Living God we should seek, He alone is Life.

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What’s sad about it? What do they have to be apologetic about? Being rational? None of them rejected theism. As for why is man religious, religion doesn’t explain that. Evolution does.

@Cody_G First of all, I want to affirm the Christian viewpoint you state in this post, but I do want to suggest that it’s OK to look into the deeper meaning of the words ‘unchanging’ and 'need’. Until I did, I had trouble with some of Christian dogma.

My world view is based on the belief that a loving God used evolution to produce a creature capable of knowing and loving Himself. That is in His ‘nature’ and is our Purpose in life. Is He changed whether we love Him (or not love Him)? Does He need us to love Him? Judging from my human experience when I fell in love with my future wife, I soon needed her love and it definitely changed me (for the better, I’m sure). The Greeks needed at least six different words to convey the different aspects of human love, and we probably need as many to differentiate all aspects of the word, 'need’.

Thus both of the following statements can be considered true: 1) God’s nature is unchanging; and 2) God needs our love (to complete His divine purpose).

stay well,
Al Leo

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I don’t think I would phrase it quite that way. He desires our love to increase his joy.

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:2

Dale, how about using BOTH descriptions but keeping mine in the passive voice?

God desires our love because it is needed to complete His purpose.

Al Leo

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I won’t dispute that. :slightly_smiling_face:

I’ve had a look. I’ve heard many stronger stories but of course these are special. I’m not disputing there is a God or some powerful force that responds - in certain situations - to us and leads us. I just think it’s bigger and different to what we think.

I at the moment feel that religion is almost entirely a human construct man has made trying to understand the shadows on the cave wall. That doesn’t mean the divine doesn’t exist - I’m just suggesting we like to think we know how it works and what it is when we pretty well have probably no real idea. And how could we possibly have an idea when books like the Bible - believed to be inspired - are so misleading to suggest God made us lovingly and deliberately for us only to find out later on that we evolved and that death, disease, pain, poison and brutality were in full swing long before man was made. The Bible paints a different picture to the reality we observe. Death was around long before humans. Answers like “but not spiritual death” - I cant even deal with that kind of nonsensical excuse making anymore. The Bible is in many cases a projection of what people wanted to believe but not actual historical events - eg the plagues in Exodus, the Ark (did Polar bears walk from Turkey to Antartica?) and many other examples. There is a great deal of historical reality in there but it’s all twisted up with falsehood. It makes it hard to believe and trust God when all this is discovered - my spiritual compass is basically fritzed right now in response.

I like Tim Keller’s statement, that Christianity is not a religion, it’s a Person.

Regarding the original creation, God said that it was ‘very good’, not perfect. Any creation where sin could enter is certainly not perfect. (And there is a Hebrew word for perfect and it was not used.

I’ve posted this elsewhere…

“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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