It occurred to me today that any naturalistic argument against supernatural beliefs is inherently flawed from an angle I hadn’t considered before.  I came to this conclusion while listening to some Christmas music and reflecting on the beauty of the seasons and how well they meet the human desire for variety and our appreciation for both cold and warm weather activities.  I was thinking about how awesome it is that God designed the earth’s precessional rotation in this way so that nature could undergo its seasonal changes and so humans could enjoy them.  But as I often do when considering supernatural ideas, I also thought of what other explanations there may be for this wonderful pairing of nature and human pleasure.  As I considered that natural selection could have tuned our minds to appreciate this cyclical pattern much as the plant and animal kingdoms do, I began thinking of other places this line of thinking can lead.

This led me to consider the idea that religion, too, is the product of natural selection.  This isn’t a novel idea, but I thought about what it means for naturalists who like to argue against religion on the grounds that it has caused a great deal of harm to humanity throughout history.  If there is nothing but the natural, as they purport to believe, then religion too must have been naturally selected.  But if religion is as harmful to humanity’s development and progress as naturalists claim, then why hasn’t it been naturally deselected by now?  Certain religions have fallen by the way-side, yes, but humanity’s collective choice to embrace the idea of a supernatural has hardly diminished throughout our short history.  In fact, it is alive and well now as ever, despite the best efforts of naturalists to fight it.

Ultimately, this argument is indecisive without being able to see into the future and determine whether religion will be naturally deselected eventually.  But the mere existence and protracted growth of religious belief shows that nature has decided that belief in God serves at least a temporary purpose that brings benefit to humanity.  This alone debunks the arguments of atheists who cite the wars and violence done in the name of God as decisive arguments against religion as a whole.  To argue against this is to argue against something that was naturally selected, for in a purely natural existence everything that exists is natural.  To argue that a naturally selected thing should be deselected (which is essentially what naturalists who argue against religious belief are saying) is essentially saying that its selection thus far has been unnatural.  But how can anything unnatural exist in a purely natural universe?  Either religion is both natural and beneficial to nature due to the fact of its continued existence and growth, or religion has been erroneously selected by nature and is actually bad.  But if this is true, then natural selection is no longer a trustworthy hypothesis for anything, as it can lead to both naturally beneficial and harmful outcomes.

Note that both statements (religion is naturally good, or religion is unnaturally bad) do not contradict the existence of the supernatural.  In the first case, religion is said to be good for humanity which is an argument of most theists and certainly can still be true if God does indeed exist.  The second case is obviously worse for belief in God, but since it requires the acceptance of something “unnatural,” it actually throws the door wide open to the existence of a supernatural being.  In neither case is God ruled out.

On the other hand, both statements are problems for the arguments of anti-religious naturalists.  In the first case, religion is good, so their arguments against it are non-beneficial and doomed to failure by natural selection.  In the second, they are again accepting the existence of something unnatural, which contradicts their most fundamental presupposition.

This leaves a couple of possibilities.  Either religion has been beneficial to humanity and shows no signs of being deselected by virtue of its continued survival and growth, or religion is unnatural.  Both conclusions pose no threat to the idea that God exists, but do to the idea that religion is a scourge to humanity.

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