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I’ve noticed that readers who respond to my blog posts commonly write things far more shareable than I do.

god hole
Orbitting black hole (left) absorbs a sun-sized star in a 2009 NASA illustration. (ESO/L. Calçada, Flikr, CC BY 2.0)

Like this comment below by a person self-named “Anthrotheist” (@athrotheist), a tag that by itself is intriguing. Is he/she (commenters’ names and avatars usually don’t reveal gender) a believer in gods from a scientific or a human-like-divinity vantage — which is to say anthropological or anthropormorhic — or a nonbeliever from that angle? Or something else?

By any name, what Anthrotheist recently submitted was as sweet, a very rational, clear-eyed and thought-provoking comment to my September 6 post “Food for Thought: Making Fun — and Sense — of ‘God-Shaped Holes.’”

Coincidentally, it just happened to correspond to my own views on how religion came into being originally in the dawn of prehistory and why it perpetuates still.

The “god-shaped hole” referenced in my post is the idea that all humans have an innate but apparently wholly speculative sense that we are endowed with longing for a universal divinity.

More than just being exposed to whatever it is I might choose to blog about, I’d like my readers who don’t check out the comment pages to also be exposed to valuable things others have written there. Here, in full, is how Anthrotheist responded to my “god-shaped hole” piece:

“I have always liked the explanation for religion that I learned in an Anthropology of Religion class. Basically it boils down to: people have always known how to solve problems with other people, that is necessary for a successful community. Religion is the practice of using those social problem-solving techniques to try to address problems of nature such as weather, famine, illness, etc. It started with very direct attempts, such that each problem was interpersonal (thus everything was a ‘spirit’ of some kind, and they were everywhere). Eventually it became more generalized, leading to pantheons of spirits and gods. Finally it evolved into a single ultimate all-encompassing entity (not coincidentally after the social development of monarchic governments), though not everywhere of course.

“As for why religion is still popular in modernity, I have to wonder if the question overestimates how much different modern society is in terms of how secure, empowered, and fulfilled people are compared to earlier times. While modernity certainly offers better health care (if you can afford it; my understanding is that there is a significant correlation between non-universal health care and religiosity in societies), more free time (which ends up being filled by other tasks of course; modernity is no friend to leisure), longer life span (statistically anyway, mostly from lower child mortality), and more food and shelter (though only better version of those if you can afford it, which most cannot do consistently), all the parentheticals that I threw in above indicate that I don’t believe that people feel a whole lot more secure or fulfilled than they ever have. Insofar as religion offers a balm to those insecurities, it remains popular.

“And of course, it would be remiss to overlook childhood indoctrination. I have often wondered how long it would take for religion to become a tiny minority if it couldn’t be hammered into immature brains. In a lot of ways, I feel like if there is a God-shaped hole in people it is rarely in their hearts and more often a space gouged out of their minds during their childhood.”

I love ideas like this one that are clearly and simply put, that common sense seems to effortlessly ratify. I simply wanted to share it.

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Rick Snedeker

Rick Snedeker is a retired American journalist/editor who now writes in various media and pens nonfiction books. He has received nine past top South Dakota state awards for newspaper column, editorial,...