A short but densely packed attempt to construct a sort of unified theory of God.
“A number of biologists and psychologists have proposed that we have a God module in our brains,” writes Shirvington (God in the Time of the Internet, 2014) in his latest nonfiction work, which seeks to lay out the cases for and against this idea. More specifically, he seeks to arrive at a universal understanding of the emotional and psychological commonalities of the world’s major religions. He cites recent statistics that indicate that an overwhelming majority of people believe in some kind of God, and he wonders about the meaning of such numbers—is it because young people are indoctrinated into religion early or because humans are “hard-wired” for religious belief in a way that no other animal is? In a literate, multifaceted overview, Shirvington takes readers through the basic psychological allure of religion and the ways that humans have responded to it over millennia. But his goal is ultimately investigative, not historical: he wishes to uncover the root cause of religiosity—why so many humans throughout history have been interested in “blurring the boundaries of the limited self” in order to seek a higher power. He locates this urge in human DNA and in the human brain. The book contends that subjective experiences of God must be real because they provoke people to go out and change the world and because they provoke electrochemical responses in the brains of the people experiencing them. This is an unconvincing argument, however, which doesn’t adequately explain away the fact that violent delusions can do the very same thing. Also, the author’s biological explanation for the religious impulse fails to take atheists into account; indeed, the book’s chapter about atheists is its weakest, by far. This is unfortunate, as they will likely object most strongly to any theory that hard-wires God into biology.
A thought-provoking, if ultimately
unconvincing, analysis of the human impulse toward religion.