The older I get the more I think that people are hardwired in their propensity to believe in a religion. For instance, I have seen many, many people here - and in the nonreligious community in general - who say that they either found it very hard to believe when younger (and eventually quit trying), or they have never believed at all despite growing up in a religious family. I know when I was younger I tried so, so hard to believe, and I went through the motions - but I eventually admitted to myself that not only did I not believe, but I would find it impossible TO believe. My rational mind simply prevents me from accepting anything on "blind faith", and I have always questioned EVERYTHING I am told.
I've also encountered people who are just as "wired" to believe in a deity. They simply cannot imagine a world where there was no god, and they find it as easy to believe in a deity as they do in gravity. As a side note, I also find that many of the people who are "predisposed" to easily believe in a deity are also predisposed to addictions (I also find that many people are predisposed to addiction - of any time, physical and/or psychological - as well). However, that can be a separate discussion (i.e. are people who are predisposed to religious belief are also addictive personality types). I just think that most - obviously not all, but most - people who are fervent in their religious beliefs are simply "hardwired" to accept and believe without question. It's like their minds are simply able to disassociate their rational mind from their belief structure; and people like (most of) us atheists are just as hardwired to apply our rational mind to anything and everything in which we "believe".
Am I making a false causal relationship between belief and hardwiring of the mind, or is there an actual relationship between the two?
OK, that answers part of the puzzle I am contemplating. But, anecdotally, don't you and other atheists find it impossible - in the most literal sense - to even contemplate believing in a religion? Also, as far as your statement that it must largely be based on upbringing - most atheists I know were brought up in a religious household. So, it would be a logical presupposition that, if you were raised and indoctrinated in a particular religion, it would be a logical assumption that you would stay in that religion; however the large majority of atheists raised in a religious household would prove this assumption dead-wrong, IMHO.
So, while I understand your statement that humans have evolved to be predisposed to belief in a religion; but typically if it is found that some, if not most, humans are "hardwired" to believe in a religion, then there would be a minority of humans who are not hardwired towards religion. I would consider this the same as the genetic predisposition towards heterosexuality, and a minority are"hardwired" to be homosexual. And maybe the fact that atheists/nonreligious are about 16% of the population backs this up.
But, like I said, this is my own analysis of this; I do not have any studies to back it up.
OK, I definitely see where your coming from - and I concede the point. I guess if we're not hardwired for atheism, then I guess the personality of some (not all) atheists tend to be "more resistant" to belief in supernatural entities. For instance, in my own informal talks with other atheists I find that many (most?) of them stopped believing in Santa (or questioned it) on their own, and usually at a young age (5-6). So maybe those people's personalities are more predisposed (not hardwired) to question supernatural entities.
You make some great points. I especially liked the chimpanzee threat display information. We know that humans are "wired" for face recognition, and this is why we often see faces in the pattern on some curtains, or in natural formations. Combine this with a tendency to look for agency, since this allows us to react to or anticipate threats to our safety, and I think you have some of the ingredients which might be construed as being hardwired for belief in deities.
I am particularly interested in the hardwired/learned aspect of our mind, because being trans I read masses about whether this is due to a brain difference casued by some combination of in-utero hormones and genetics, or some other factor. Evidence seems to be mounting that it is because the gender-dimorphc brain areas really do match those of the gender we innately feel ourselves to be. Given recent research findings about "spiritual regions" in the brain such as the parietal cortices, I wouldn't be surprised if this was not innate too, wproducing a spectrum from little or no belief, to strong belief.