Do you believe human beings are naturally "hard wired" to seek God or look for some higher being?
Humans created to have relationship
The Rev. Lew Hinshaw, associate pastor, Plymouth Congregational Church, 925 Vt.:
The claim by geneticist Dean Hamer to have found a gene that contributes to the production of certain brain chemicals that affect higher consciousness and spirituality raises the profound and engaging question of whether faith is "hard wired" into our DNA.
Is there a "God gene"? The scientific community, over time, will determine the soundness of the science behind such a claim.
So what can theology say about this?
If it holds up scientifically, there should be little surprise or conflict. A major tenet of Christian theology, the Incarnation, states that God took the form of human flesh in the life of Jesus of Nazareth. So, the realm of matter, generally, and human flesh, including our DNA in particular, is affirmed as intimately connected to the realm of the spiritual.
Christianity sees the religious life as ethical (how we decide to act toward our neighbors) as well as mystical (our sense of connecting to something greater). While proof of a "God gene" would encourage the vertical (mystical) direction of our faith, the question remains: What connection with, or influence, does this have on the horizontal (ethical) direction? The Catholic tradition talks about "contemplation AND action." Others speak of the journey inward and the journey outward.
I believe we human beings are created for relationship with God. That is, frankly, a presupposition. Perhaps the "God gene" is evidence of its truth. Absolutely it has been validated by experience. As I understand it, the real test of my relationship with God is not my brain chemistry, but my relationship with my neighbors.
Send e-mail to the Rev. Lew Hinshaw at email@example.com.
God desires, shares close connection
The Rev. Jonathon Jensen, rector, Trinity Episcopal Church, 1011 Vt.:
Perhaps the best evidence for humans having an innate tendency toward God is simply that virtually every society, in all of recorded history across every known geographic region and climate, has had some belief in God.
Newly emerging scientific fields such as "neurotheology" that link brain activity with spiritual experience, or studies of the genetic origins of religious experience, are interesting to some, but they are more descriptive than prescriptive and rather limited at that.
I believe we seek God because we were created to do so. The fourth-century theologian St. Augustine, who was a restless soul himself, addressed the question. He wrote, "Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in thee."
We were created to be in relationship with one another and with our creator. Adam was created and God declared that it was not good for a human to be alone. Eve was made so they might be partners. This mythic story shows even that thousands of years ago, it was understood that human beings, since our creation, were meant for relationship. The relationships we share on this Earth are a reflection of the relationship God desires or shares with us. From the earliest bonding moments of a mother to her child, in the ties of families, in the intimacy of lovers and friends, we were made to be in relationship with God and with one another.
One's spirituality might be understood to be the individual expression of seeking unity with God, while one's religion might be understood to be a communal means of progression toward that unity or reunion with God. They both help us to become what we were made to be.
Send e-mail to the Rev. Jonathan Jensen at firstname.lastname@example.org.