What’s Driving The God Impulse?

Billions of people around the globe go about their daily business of living, working, loving and yes even killing without ever bumping into even the slightest hint of the existence of God, or at least those of a sound mind do. Sure, events may unfold in ways that some will conjure up a rational for why it must have been a God inspired miracle (we humans are awesome at baseless rationales) when in fact it was nothing more than a random event on the positive side of random events.

Fact is, however, that folks question just as much about why something bad happens as they do when something good happens — as if there are reasons for why either red or black come up, or don’t come up for that matter because there are two green digits, zero and double zero, on a roulette table — when in fact it’s nothing more than random luck that’s dependent on mathematical probability.

And yet billions of folks around the globe are convinced of the existence of Gods or a kind of super God, usually their version of the one and only true God (as if verification of that were possible) as expressed in elaborate formal religions of immense doctrinal and ritual complexity, all the way across the God/religion spectrum to those who express their God impulse in only the vaguest sense of spirituality. What gives here? What’s driving this need to believe in some higher, unverifiable power? I mean, as some claim, is there a God gene?

Perhaps not so much a single God gene as much as a cluster of genes adding up to a God/religious impulse, a feeling that seems very real, and in fact impulse wise it is very real. But, still, I would argue that this God/religious impulse is of a secondary nature to that which drives human nature — an offshoot of our survival impulse to want to live forever at all costs.

To explain this, let’s just suppose for a minute that you are God whipping up a bunch of living creatures, how would you best protect them — keep them alive. First you might want to give them what is commonly referred to as an ego mentality, a sense of being just about the most important thing in the universe. Of course you inherently would want them to keep such a feeling hidden from others for obvious reasons, at least until it came to being a matter of life and death — when the survival instinct kicked into high gear.

So where does the God impulse come into play in all of this? Well, if you are going to need to live forever beyond the flesh by the mandate of your ego, you are going to have to concoct some system of believe that takes you beyond your daily experience of reality — God, religion, or superstition, whatever one decides to call it. Thus the survival impulse leads directly to a secondary God-religious-spiritual impulse. We all have this impulse, and only by a well enhanced intellect can we more or less see it for what it really is — an out of control hope for survival. And because religion and God are so tightly entwined with survival they are also desperately mixed up in politics with often-deadly outcomes. Beware the God impulse.

Jim Ridgway, Jr. military writer — author of the American Civil War classic, “Apprentice Killers: The War of Lincoln and Davis.” Christmas gift, yes!

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store