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?
Cognitive science and anthropology have established that everyone has the evolved neurocognitive features of mind that predispose us to religious thinking. But that means EVERYONE. There isn't any reason whatsoever to think that atheists are without that predisposition while people who are religious have it. What seems to be the case is that the people without it have a personality and/or an upbringing that means that they don't fall victim to the predisposition.
So if you insist on sticking to a believer/nonbeliever dichotomy when it comes to the question, you're wrong, but if you accept that evolution has predisposed all of us to be susceptible to religious thinking, then you might say that we're "hardwired" towards religious thinking.
We're certainly not hardwired toward nonbelief in any sense.
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.
I certainly agree that many, if not most atheists would say they find it hard to even contemplate believing in a religion. And I would agree with your conclusion if it wasn't for the fact that I said people "without [religion] have a personality and/or an upbringing...", not just an upbringing.
You're missing the distinction between religion and religious thought. We didn't evolve to be predisposed to believe in religions, only to find supernatural entities an attractive proposition cognitively, to be predisposed to religious thought. Every single person is that way. Our close cousins are too. (Chimpanzees make threat displays at brush fires and rising flood waters, seeing agency where none exists) Unfortunately, to explain further would require a massive post calling on anthropology (what people actually believe in the world), cognitive science (how people think), evolution (why thinking that way would have been adaptive in an ancestral environment), and psychology (why thinking this way predisposes us all to religious thought). It isn't the case that people that don't believe in religion don't believe because they weren't hardwired to believe. They were just born with a personality and then raised in such a way that they were never in an environment where the predisposition was able to be expressed or that they were able to overcome the predisposition at some point.
Try leaving behind the notion that we're "hardwired to believe in religion". We're not. We've evolved certain cognitive modes (patternicity, hyperactive agency detection, theory of mind) that predispose us to believe in supernatural entities. Every single one of us (well, at least the neurotypicals; autistics either don't have, or have a reduced capacity for, a theory of mind and this makes them less predisposed, or not at all predisposed to believing in supernatural entities) evolved these cognitive features and it is these features of our cognition that predispose us ALL to religious thinking. Since it is the evolved cognitive modes that we all have that predisposes us to religious thinking, there simply isn't a way that a certain percentage of human beings are hardwired to be atheists, unless you count as "hardwired" the people with the personality or the upbringing to have never had the predisposition be expressed or who have overcome it. But I don't think this is what we would mean when someone would refer to atheism as hardwired.
Some reading suggestions:
Pascal Boyer- Religion Explained
Scott Atran- In Gods We Trust
Justin Barrett- Why Would Anyone Believe in God?
J. Anderson Thomson- Why We Believe in God(s)
Michael Shermer- Why People Believe Weird Things
E. Thomas Lawson & Robert McCauley- Rethinking Religion
Robert McCauley- Why Religion is Natural and Science is Not
Todd Tremlin- Minds and Gods
Harvey Whitehouse & Robert McCauley (eds.)- Mind and Religion
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.