In the latest issue of the Michigan Daily, the campus newspaper of the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, Claire Bryan runs an intriguing article, “Born to Believe?” The basic thrust of the article is that part of the human tendency toward “being religious” stems from the presence of a particular gene in our DNA sequence, viz., VMAT2. Those who have this gene have an elevated sense of “self-transcendence,” or “the interest people have in searching for something greater in this world, beyond their own personal experience,” usually reflected in a “desire for things like compassion, art, creativity, expression, spirituality.”
The author does not deny the influence of cultural background in individual expressions of religion, but affirms that “accepting this environmentally molded spirituality that is taught to you may be affected by the way you were born and the genes you have.” She concludes, “‘Being religious’ may not be in my control entirely. It may be the biological science of my body and beyond some of my own means.”
Of course the person who wrote this little article is theologically challenged (retarded is the word that came immediately to mind, but that word is not political expedient any more). All people, being endowed by their Creator with the imago dei, are born with lively and true religious impulses that we suppress or exchange for lies due to sin (Rom 1:18ff). So Ms. Bryan is flat-out wrong in her assessment.
But what I found particularly intriguing in this article is how it surfaces the great tension of the Aristotelian worldview held by many in the university community. For these, nothing is attributed to chance, much less to God, because everything about me is the product of biological, physical, chemical, and genetic patterns in combination. In such a system, no one can be culpable for who he is, because he can’t help it! And so we must allow left-handed people to be left-handed, allow vegans to be vegans, and allow homosexuals to be homosexuals. To suggest that any of these recessive traits should be “corrected” is the height of arrogance and intolerance: a denial of the liberty of authenticity. “People must be allowed to be themselves,” is the mantra of our day.
But no one can live with the implications of such a worldview. It might work on a limited scale, but surely not on a universal one. We don’t, for instance, appeal to genetic predispositions in allowing murderers to kill, pedophiles to abuse, or kleptomaniacs to steal; instead, we build correctional facilities to remediate such people. Nor do we shrug our shoulders upon meeting alcoholics, chain smokers, and compulsive gamblers and say, “Oh well, it can’t be helped. That’s just the way they are!” Instead, we offer means of correcting destructive behaviors and changing the way people are. And, ironically, it is unlikely that this university newspaper, which has ostensibly discovered that religious people can’t help being religious, will dissuade its own professors from attempting to “correct” the religion of their religious students or even attempting to disabuse them of their religious proclivities entirely.
No worldview save the Christian worldview is demonstrably free of such inconsistencies. And so let us promote it enthusiastically.