It seems to me that religion and a belief in God is merely a cultural artefact inherited from those around us. If no one on Earth was religious, would our children seek out some sort of belief in a deity?

  • 1
    First off welcome to philosophy.SE. Within philosophy, answers could be given from any of a number of perspectives, so this questions isn't really a good fit here. (in other words, if you ask this at say biology.SE or cogsci.SE, then maybe there's a definitive answer in those disciplines, but philosophers have taken very different views on this question).,
    – virmaior
    Oct 27, 2016 at 1:40
  • For the questions as asked, the views of philosophers would be irrelevant as they have no more authority to comment on what would happen in such a world than anyone else, it would be nothing more than idle speculation. The closest you are going to get to an answer will come from "feral child" studies which to my knowledge have not indicated any inherent tendency to religion, and neuroscience where people like Bruce Hood and Andrew Newberg have identified parts of the brain seemingly reserved for religious types of experience, but their work remains controversial.
    – user22791
    Oct 27, 2016 at 7:28
  • @Isaacson - but regarding what subject would the views of philosophers be more relevant than anyone else's? Oct 27, 2016 at 9:41
  • @Luis That's a controversial question in it's wider context. I only intended my comment to refer to the specific context of this question. What would happen is a statement which requires some justification of likelihood at least, which can only be objectively provided by statistical significance tests. At a superficial level, philosophers might get involved in questions of what could happen, questions which scientists could then devise experiments to falsify.
    – user22791
    Oct 27, 2016 at 10:23
  • The key here is that philosophers might be qualified to do this on the grounds of proven skills in critical thinking, but that this would not exclude scientists themselves from formulating the questions as their skills in critical thinking are proven to no lesser extent.
    – user22791
    Oct 27, 2016 at 10:25

3 Answers 3


I wouldn't put too much time into interpreting his aphorisms, but Wittgenstein's perspective might shed some light on the subject for you.

"As long as there continues to be a verb 'to be' that looks as if it functions in the same way as 'to eat' and 'to drink', as long as we have the adjectives 'identical', 'true', 'false', 'possible', as long as we continue to talk of a river of time, of an expanse of space, etc. etc., people will keep stumbling over the same puzzling difficulties and find themselves staring at something which no explanation seems capable of clearing up. And what's more, this satisfies a longing for transcendence, because in so far as people think they see the 'limits of human understanding', they believe of course that they can see beyond these."
- Ludwig Wittgenstein
"Culture and Value", pg. 15e c.1931

  • I appreciate the response, Mr. Kennedy. As much of a fan of Wittgenstein as I am, I feel as though this quote might simply be a not so terse way of saying, "who knows?" Do you really think we can't make any headway on this one? Oct 27, 2016 at 2:25
  • Heh - I certainly have no idea ;) While deity is mostly imponderable and at best redundant, religion is, speaking broadly, just community, ritual and reverence. In this sense, I think as long as there are humans as we know them, there'll be religion. Whether religion is natural or nurtured, I would likely ask isn't nurturing natural and aren't humans a part of nature? I like the LW quote cuz it teases the issue of how language shapes our thinking as well as "bewitches our senses". As for anthropology, if you haven't, check out "Secrets of the Tribe".
    – MmmHmm
    Oct 27, 2016 at 2:42
  • Actually, I think Wittgenstein was not of the notion 'Who knows?" But "We know better, but It is better not to know better because everyone has the wrong notion of 'better' in mind." It is more human to take part in language games that have their own emotional content and perform cultural maintenance as long as you do not treat them as you would science or news. "Make sure your religion is an affair between you and God alone."
    – user9166
    Oct 27, 2016 at 11:21

"religion and a belief in God" , have lot of commonalities in one sense, but they are very different in another sense. There are religions that are atheistic and there are leaders of major theistic religions who have expressed skepticism about God.

Regarding the question of the nature of a 'cultural artifact', you'll find extremely strong opposing views among philosophers. In fact one of the biggest clash points between analytic and pragmatist philosophers is about the nature of 'warrant' or justification. There are many pragmatists who make the extreme claim that even 'warrant is a sociological notion' or 'warrant is a cultural artifact'.

So 21st century philosophy cant give any definite answers to your question (I'm assuming that pragmatism has a significant influence here), if at all it can to anything. Regarding your question on children and deities, you should probably ask a child psychologist.


I believe that Religion in the true sense, i.e., questioning the existence of oneself, nature, order and causations and their methodology of work, which is primarily metaphysical, is inborn in every human being. However, Religion in the sense of rituals, prayers and customs, are, to a large extent, cultural artefacts and requires social nurturing.

  • Do you suggest that philosophy is the true religion? It is philosophy. And religion is religion.
    – rus9384
    Nov 7, 2018 at 8:53
  • @rus9384 the notion you have of religion is of subordination, or, seeking to have a large tyranny, and its associated rituals. However, true religion, in my sense, is really metaphysical. Yes, modern philosophy is highly varied from metaphysics, and, in fact, some portions(like logic) and anti-methaphysical). In that case, philosophy is philosophy and religion is religion
    – vidyarthi
    Nov 8, 2018 at 6:16
  • Metaphysics is a branch of philosophy, while religion was a term to describe practices like worship, faith, etc. There is no point in redefining the term.
    – rus9384
    Nov 8, 2018 at 9:01
  • @rus9384 the term religion is derived from the latin term 're ligare'. The meaning of it, aptly would have some element of metaphysics in it. The common notion of religion is , I hope, not exact, and, would be just like describing Mathematics as Calculation or Computation
    – vidyarthi
    Nov 8, 2018 at 10:25

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