Why have human minds not adapted to a state in which they do not have to feel the overwhelming thirst of most likely non-existent immaterial beings?

Why, since evolution leads to the greatest possible progress, has not adapted in the minds of people the lack of need of most people into a desire for the existence of non-material beings to this day?

Welcome to Atheist Republic Redlight82

Unfortunately, evolution does not drive towards any progress, it just basically eliminates any mutations/offspring not suited to survive in the environment they were placed in.

One evolutionary trait almost all species share is fear, of being killed. Thus humans possessing fear and anxiety serves the species well.

There is no goal in evolution.

In my opinion, our inquisitive nature and desire for self-preservation contributes to religion. We want to know why, and for some, a fabricated story about gods serves as a comfort blanket for those fears.

The act of sacrifice is to please the gods, to placate them or to bribe them into helping or protecting us.


not “progress”, survival traits. Our ancestors developed a survival trait of visualising a tiger (of if you are Ken Ham a T Rex) in that ripple of grass, or movement of bush. The more threats perceived and avoided, the greater the chances of procreation.

From there the visualizations of gods is but a short step. The god of snow on the plains, the gods of thunder, the evil spirits wailing as they ride the wind.

As more and more people are educated the less and less does this ancient behavioral remnant influence society.


Hi, Redlight82. I see others have pretty much addressed the some of the evolution, cultural and psychological parts of your question.
I’ll mention another cultural aspect that I see is quite strong in the U.S.: The religious beliefs are passed on by parents and society. And In most of the christian dogma around here, the concept of ‘man is fallen and is inherently evil and needs a savior’ is “ingrained” or “programmed” into people shortly after children learn to talk and understand the language (usually English around here.)
This is one reason why some people won’t allow rationality or reason to be directed at their beliefs. They often don’t question their culture, family traditions or religion. The term ‘cognitive dissonance’ is often applied to this situation. I had originally called it ‘mental compartmentalization’ before I had read more about how people can be quite intelligent and still be superstitious.
Since I had been indoctrinated or ‘programmed’ to believe such things, I couldn’t let go of my nonsense beliefs until I was about 49. So I can understand why in U.S. religions still have a strong grip on our culture.


Where did you ever get the idea that evolution leads anyplace? That is one of the weirdest ideas I have heard in a long time. Do you know what “evolution” is? Evolution has no goal. Evolution has no direction. Evolution ‘leads’ noplace. What makes you think a human mind should be adapted to anything specific at all?

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Straw man fallacy, evolution doesn’t lead anywhere, or progress, it is an insentient process driven by natural selection. Survival of the fittest means those species and individuals best suited to their environment.

I’ve read that three times, and I’m sorry but I still don’t understand what you’re asking. Maybe remove some of the double negatives?

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Why hasn’t evolution adjusted the human mind to not feel the desire to believe in non-material beings?

Our brains :brain: are amazing. It’s not “evolution” that is responsible for social conditioning (society as well as languages etc “evolve” as well) in the way you are using the term.

Early humans discovered that co-operation and tribes worked for their survival. The “imaginative” side of the brain :brain: also aided survival. Linking the idea of cause and effect or co-relationships. Observing the natural world and then coming up with answers to “why” or repeating behaviours hoping for the desired outcome.

Pigeons can exhibit superstitious behaviours.

Humans are superstitious.

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  1. evolution is slow compared to the human lifespan. If it did happen, it may take 100,000 or a million years.
  2. maybe such a change in desires may not be beneficial for survival.
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It has! You are on an atheist site. Do you have any idea at all how evolution works? Do you not understand the mechanism of change is “Natural Selection.”

Okay Students Biology 101 is now in session:

" Natural Selection leads to an evolutionary change when some individuals with certain traits in a population (ATHEISTS) have a higher survival and reproductive rate than others (TO BE DETERMINED) and pass on these inheritable genetic features to their offspring. Mechanisms of Evolutionary Change | Nectunt

Atheist Brains are Different? How so? Is there a genetic difference that can be passed on? If not, it is probably not an evolutionary trait at all. Perhaps it is more … social or moral evolution than biological.

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I don’t understand why you think evolution works in this way? Individual ideas and desires are derivations of our evolved brains, those brains gave humans an advantage in surviving long enough to reproduce, hence they were reproduced. That is the very definition of natural selection, and what we as individuals perceive as bad ideas or beliefs don’t change that.

Evolution isn’t driving towards an end goal, nor is it looking to achieve something. That simply isn’t how evolution works.

There you go, natural selection doesn’t remove bad ideas, and these are subjective anyway. Natural selection means our environment pressures living things to survive, and any advantages in surviving and reproducing, survive and reproduce. I know it’s a tautology but that is my understanding of natural selection.

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It’s partly due to the fact that belief in the supernatural is a trait that is due to evolution but which is not evolved. It’s an evolutionary spandrel - God is basically an accident. In the last thirty or so years, a new academic discipline has arisen and flourished. This multidisciplinary science, known as Cognitive Science of Religion, examines belief and religion as the psychological and sociological phenomena that they are.

Cognitive Science of Religion holds that a number of ordinary cognitive functions and biases coming together results in a tendency to believe that a mind can exist without a body (damn you Rene Descartes!) and that such entities have agency in the natural world. Evolution has given us a remarkable tendency to mistakenly interpret our sensations of the natural world. (This is a crucial point that many if not most atheists get entirely wrong - theists aren’t stupid, they’re just wrong is all. People believe in gods - and ghosts, angels, djinn, demons, banshees, fairies, et frigging cetera) because gods and ghosts make intuitive sense to them. The answers provided by religion just feel right.

I should note that the above is the consensus view, but some scientists and philosophers argue that religion is an adaptation.

Recommended reading:

Scott Atran, In Gods We Trust: The Evolutionarily Landscape Of Religion
Pascal Boyer, Religion Explained
Justin Barrett, Why Would Anyone Believe In God
Ilkka Pyysiäinen, How Religion Works: Towards a New Cognitive Science of Religion (Might be hard to find but worth seeking out)


You’re both right and wrong. Belief in gods and religion are not evolved traits but they are due to evolved traits. There is no difference in the brains of atheists and theists. There is no difference between religious thoughts and ordinary cognition. If I may (improperly) anthropomorphize natural selection, belief in the supernatural is unintentional, an accident. It’s an evolutionary spandrel, a byproduct of several cognitive traits that were selected for. Look into Cognitive Science of Religion.

  1. Why call it 'unintentional." You are asserting evolution has some sort of intent. Evolution itself is unintentional. This is like looking at a bile of broken class and asserting, “Okay, we will call all the chards with right angles 'broken.” In a world of ‘accidents’ you are calling one accident an “accident.” That really does little to move the conversation anyplace.

It is … probably not much of anything at all to do with evolution and more to do with the fact that we make up stories about the world around us. We evolved to see lions in the bush.

Assuming there was a lion in the bush and running from the rustling sound, even thought it may have been caused by the wind, insured our survival. Imagining demons at the edge of the world, where one might fall off, insured the safety of sailors, who learned to keep the land in sight. Stories of dark demons and monsters were common explanations for the things we did not know. White just posted an excellent video on the Victorian Era and all the bizarre beliefs human beings had at that time.

Pulling Religion out of the pot and pretending it is in some way special, just seems weird. Like all the other silly beliefs, it is a chard. One among many. Hell, it is a billion chards, all stuffed into a pile, for one man’s religion looks nothing at all like the next man’s.

Another possibility:

Based on the notion that human behaviour tends to serve a function. That the more common amongst great numbers of human beings, the more likely it is that a behaviour or group of behaviours serves a function.

Human beings seem to have an urge to the divine, with around 85% of us having some form of religious or spiritual belief. This suggests to me that religious beliefs [and practices] have a function. Perhaps it’s that they help meet some important human needs. Such as:

Helping to deal with fears and feelings surrounding death and dying.

To help provide feelings of control and meaning in life.

To help provide feelings of communitas. Belonging to a social/ family/ extended family/ community has been important in survival for human beings pretty much into Industrial and Post Industrial societies. It has been a matter of survival in some societies and still is in some of which I’m aware.

Religious beliefs have in fact been the glue which bound peoples together and to even develop as cultures. Off hand I’m thinking of ancient Egypt, The Jews as a people, with their reliance in and on the Law of Moses***. Also Pre Columbian Central and South America.

I’m also fairly confident the existence of religious beliefs has or at least had, an evolutionary advantage. Right now, this simply an hypothesis , I haven’t done the research needed to support this idea. However, I’m sure some one has. I’m willing to spend a bit of time looking is anyone feels strongly the idea is unlikely.

I don’t claim this is necessarily the answer, or that there even is a single truth. I only assert that it makes sense to me and that I think that it may be at least a partial explanation for human beings’ urge to the divine.

Thought for today; “Religion: Man’s attempt to communicate with the weather” (Graffito, Cambridge England, 2000)


***The Law of Moses consists of 613 commandments (mitzvah) known collectively as ‘The Mitzvot’. They cover every aspect of life. Have a glance through the full list linked below.
It’s only fair to point out that only ultraorthodox Jews even try to keep the Mitzvot today. Many they simply cannot keep. They can no longer kill people for not keeping the Sabbath, for committing adultery or for being caught committing a homosexual act. A father may no longer sell his daughter into slavery nor many he kill a recalcitrant child.



I’m no expert, but I’m pretty sure there are no accidents in evolution. Nor intent, either. So I Googled “Define evolution” and this was the top result:


ĕv″ə-loo͞′shən, ē″və-


  1. A gradual process in which something changes into a different and usually more complex or better form.
  2. A result of this process; a development.
  3. Change in the genetic composition of a population during successive generations, often resulting in the development of new species. The mechanisms of evolution include natural selection acting on the genetic variation among individuals, mutation, migration, and genetic drift. "


Complete agreement with that.

Through nature or nurture?

First nature: Humans have a pattern recognition brain that is biologically hardwired to discovering faces, and to discover other patterns around us. It is an advantage to be able to recognize one’s own species from early on, and to have a certain hardwired set of reactions to other patterns, to aid on discovering e.g. dangers. This pattern recognition can sometimes be too “hyperactive”, and thus we discover patterns where there are none (ref. pareidolia). This can give rise to superstitious behaviour and rituals, even in animals. Can this over time, aided by verbal communication between individuals in a group, develop into a religion-like belief system?

Then we have nurture: Humans (especially babies and young children) learn through imitating their parents and other individuals of their own species, and even other animals. Humans precisely copy even impractical and unecessary steps in performing a task, which is different from the ways e.g. chimps learn. Thus, superstitious and religious rituals and beliefs exhibited by their parents and peers would be learned behaviour, through the way we are hardwired to learn.

Therefore, my conclusion is that it is both nature and nurture; we are hardwired to be pattern recognition machines and to learn through imitation, even impractical and useless stuff.

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Adding that our superstitions are imaginatively explained via “supernatural” as the roots of observation explanations.

Put water on fire :fire:. It goes out.
Raining hard. Fire in sky! Lightening … no explanation that is observed and counter intuitive therefore god/s (invisible super humans). Whether the rains are nourishing or destructive depends on how “happy or please” the gods are via: dance, rituals, sacrifice…

I’d like to make a point that seems relevant to this discussion . . . namely that chimpanzees engage in behavior that approximates worship and religion.

Religion is hardwired into our ape brains.

The research team, which included zoologists, animal psychologists and evolutionary anthropologists, are unable to explain why the chimps were throwing stones at trees and building piles at their bases.

Ritualistic or superstitious behavior perhaps :thinking:

OR the tree is their “rock closet” OR their target practice OR marking territory OR…