I apologize in advance for the lengthy response, but I do have several comments and observations to make:
First, this argument commits a form of the genetic fallacy, which claims that just because you explain how something may have began, that definitively explains how it did begin. But this is a non-quantifiable assertion, and so we must label it as such. This is speculation built upon presupposition, with little extant evidence. And whatever evidence is available hardly presents a slam dunk case. Academic consensus on the rituals and reasons for many of this early information is not uniform. The strongest assertions, again, are built upon the strongest presuppositions. Not that this is bad, but it must be taken into consideration.
Also, the arguments in this post are bordering on ad hominem and poisoned well arguments, to say that contemporary superstitious people give any credence or understanding to the actual formation. In a sense, the argument sometimes poses this philosophical proof: “Hey, doesn’t this paranoid event look silly? Therefore, you don’t want to be associated with religion, and all religions started from paranoia.”
Before going any further, we must realize that you and I have two different worldviews and, therefore, different presuppositions. You presuppose that a god does not exist, and therefore you read all data through that lens and arrive at satisfying results. I, however, presuppose that God (from a Judeo-Christian worldview) does exist, and so I arrive at different results from the same data. Now, at this point, we could go back and forth giving philosophical proofs, which might take a lot of energy and ultimately be fruitless. Of course, I am willing to do this for fun, but we are all too busy I’m sure. I did want to post this, though, because people of faith might find this blog post and, in my opinion, be lead astray by arguments that I think are anything but airtight, which is how you have described them (this is not an attack on your intellect or the argument itself, more just a comment on the claims made about the argument). I think that a more open and humble approach could serve the post well. Some of your comments definitely show your humility, which I do appreciate. We are all faced with the same mysteries and uncertainties, after all.
And now, a quick case study:
My own conversion wasn’t one of superstition, paranoia, or any other fear-based thought system. I was, one might say, a content atheist enjoying recreational drug use (well, more abusive than that probably) and loose sexual morals. I am NOT saying that those things are equivalent with atheism at all, friends. Just being transparent to show that paranoia isn’t a necessary precursor, and I am exhibit A. Now we can perhaps say that I was under the cloud of a cultural, or evolutionarily ingrained paranoia that led to my conversion, but I wouldn’t agree with that either, at least not in any deterministic way. I unintentionally picked up a book in a friend’s office that I assumed, from the cover, would be a good atheist read. When I opened it up, I saw that it was actually a Christian apologetics book. I decided to read it anyway, since I had only really read from one side of the debate. Well, needless to say, this book sent me on a larger quest, and through this intellectual pursuit I came to strong belief in the person of Christ. That was not the end of the journey, and it still goes on today. I think both sides to a disservice to the other when we assume that ignorance is the basis for their beliefs. After this conversion, I received my B.S. in biology from Purdue and was also able to take several religion and philosophy classes, along with the regular biology, chemistry, physics, astronomy, and calculus classes. I found my appreciation for God and belief in God strengthened. Surprisingly (considering some of the disinformation about “secular” education), several of my science professors were Christians. Not all of them, but many of them.
And quickly, while I don’t disagree with an idea of fight or flight (which, again, we would arrive at through different presuppositions), I would question that every thread of paranoia is built into our genetic code. How much if this is taught behavior? For instance, some people do jump at the possibility of a mouse. Had you not grown up in a culture afraid of rodents, would you have the same reaction? So which reaction is taught – the one that is afraid of the mouse, or the one that isn’t? Or is it neither, are we neutral toward the unknown at first? We can use this example for any fear. It is advantageous for lions to hate hyenas, and yet when lions are raised with hyenas, they live as one family (which has been demonstrated in captivity). I believe the leap for insights you’ve gained in this realm to theism is quite a leap, indeed. And your claim that theism is unnatural is more in agreement with mine. If a Creator did create, then that Creator would be outside of nature, existing before it, and be unnatural. The only option for atheists would then be to say that theism must be entirely natural, not divine, not existing without but only within. And although it is a little off-topic (but definitely related), I believe that Alvin Plantinga’s “Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism” would be helpful here, although I do realize that you have self-identified as an atheist, and not necessarily a naturalist.
I do thank you for your post, though. You do have a gift for writing, and I thought you were incredibly funny as well! My post could potentially be a chance for back and forth dialogue, but I was hoping more to just post it as a counterpoint. At this point, I don’t know if either one of us could be convinced by arguments to change opinion, considering we may have heard all of the arguments before. I know that there would be no arguments that could change my mind, but this should not be confused with close-mindedness. Holding convictions for good reasons is hardly close-minded. And I would say the same for you, that you seem utterly convinced, but are not close-minded. And at this point, any plea made toward you (at least, any non-divine plea) would probably be ineffectual. I guess stranger things have happened, though.
If I do post on more blogs posts here, I promise to keep them shorter 🙂