Dinesh D’Souza and Michael Shermer debate who we are thanking this Thanksgiving
HH: Special couple of hours ahead as I continue a series of conversations on the great God debate, what I’ve been calling it for the last two years. It began here with a conversation between Christopher Hitchens and Mark D. Roberts, and it has gone through a number of iterations since then. And today, on the eve of the day we give thanks as Americans, I’m asking the question exactly who are we giving thanks to, and I am doing so with two of the great combatants in the public square over the question of God. Dinesh D’souza has been a longtime colleague in the list on the center-right side of the political aisle. I’ll let Dinesh give you his own biography briefly. He is author most recently of the brand new bestseller, Life After Death: The Evidence. Before that, Dinesh wrote What’s So Great About Christianity. Both books are listed right now at Hughhewitt.com. And opposite him, an old friend of mine, Michael Shermer and I go back to PBS days in Los Angeles. He is the editor of Skeptic Magazine, the author of many wonderful books, including most recently Denying History: Who Says The Holocaust Never Happened, And Why Do They Say It, as well as Why People Believe Weird Things: Pseudo-Science, Superstition, And Other Confusions Of Our Time. Dinesh D’souza, Michael Shermer, welcome to the program. I like to start with biography, so Dinesh, tell our audience a little bit about yourself before we dive into Life After Death: The Evidence, and other related matters.
DD: Hugh, I’m a native of Bombay, India. I came to the United States at the age of 17. I went to Dartmouth College, and this was in the early 80s. I became part of the Reagan generation. A bunch of us caught the political bug. I came to Washington to be part of that, worked for Policy Review, joined the Reagan White House and worked there for a couple of years. For the last dozen years or so, I’ve been at two leading think tanks, the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, and then the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. And my books include A Liberal Education, which was one of the first books to talk about political correctness, the end of racism. So I’ve been a secular writer for the last, oh, fifteen years or so. In the last few years, I’ve focused a little bit on Christian apologetics, and that is the defending Christianity, defending the idea of God, but defending God in a secular way, not by appealing to the Bible or revelation, but trying to draw on evidence from history and philosophy and science. And I’ve had the pleasure of debating several leading atheists, Michael Shermer among them. So my latest book, Life After Death: The Evidence, is an attempt to make a secular argument for life after death that reinforces the faith of the believer, but it’s not an argument based on faith.
HH: Michael Shermer, give us the rundown on the Shermer life.
MS: I’m from Southern California here, Hugh, and I went to Pepperdine University out in Malibu. I was a born again Evangelical Christian in the 1970s, and I matriculated at Pepperdine to study theology and C.S. Lewis, and the Old and New Testaments and so forth. And along the way, I switched majors to psychology. Mainly, I wanted to be a college professor, and it seemed like a great gig, and you have to have a PhD. And to get a PhD in theology, you have to master Hebrew, Greek, Aramaic and Latin, and I could barely get through Spanish. So I thought okay, I’d better do something I can actually do here with some skill, and that was psychology and science and experimental methodology, and that kind of led me down the road into a different pathway from theology. And I went to Cal State Fullerton and got a masters degree in experimental psych. And I had about a ten year interlude where I was a bike racer, you know, for something completely different. But I was teaching college at night, and eventually retired from bike racing, and got a PhD in history of science, and taught at Occidental College. But then, I just decided I wanted to do something different. I wanted to be sort of an activist or a public intellectual, and write books and do TV shows and radio, and try to reach more people than I could just in a classroom. So that’s when I founded Skeptic Magazine and started doing a lot of TV shows and radio shows like yours and so on, just the sense that if you want to change the world, you have to reach a lot of people through the media. So that’s primarily what I’m doing now, is writing popular science books. And we really are, Skeptic Magazine really is a science magazine, but because of the huge interest in the whole God question the last, I don’t know, five years or so, it’s like we’ve been kind of pushed toward that public debate, just because that’s what everybody wants. And so it kind of seems like we’re a big atheist magazine or something like that. We’re really not. It’s a science magazine. It’s just that we’re constantly asked what’s our position on this matter, so here we are.
HH: So I want to add to that, that I’ve been involved in this debate since I was a sophomore in college and took the natural selection, NatSci3 course from Stephen J. Gould, in which The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins was taught, and I’ve always found it a great conversation. I’ve loved the series of exchanges we’ve had on this program. They will continue in the future. But I’ll begin the first question, without being specific to Life After Death or your books, Michael, I’ll ask you both, why has this debate erupted now? Really, I trace it to Christopher Hitchens’ God Is Not Great book when it launched. And since then, it’s been two years of fairly non-stop collisions in the public square by interlocutors and defenders on both sides. Dinesh, why now?
DD: Well, actually, you know, the first of the so-called new atheist books was Sam Harris’ The End Of Faith. And Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion, came soon after that. When Harris’ book became a bestseller, I puzzled about why that was the case. And I think the reason it can be summed up in one word – 9/11. In other words, Harris was able to up the ante and basically say look, we atheists have been saying for a long time that religion is irrational, it’s unscientific, there’s no evidence for it, et cetera. But now, we have a more potent accusation. Religion is positively dangerous. I don’t know if it was Harris, but one of the new atheists said of 9/11, this is a faith-based initiative, using George Bush’s famous phrase. So the idea here was to be able to take the activities of the radical Muslims, say that this was characteristic of Christianity and religion in general, and make the argument that our society would not only be more rational, but actually be safer and more decent if it was purely secular. That gave the new atheism a boost, and also gave it a lot of media exposure. Then Hitchens came right on the heels of Dawkins, and then you had a movement.
HH: Michael Shermer?
MS: I think that’s definitely part of it, and Dinesh has the right timeline there. It was Sam Harris’ book first, then Dawkins, then Hitchens. And I do like to think that quality writing also matters, because Dinesh and I are both professional writers, and we like to think that being a good writer does make a difference. And those are well-written books, as opposed to a lot of the atheist books are pretty poorly written and poorly argued. So I think that’s part of it. But going back further, I think the pendulum does swing back and forth between how invasive religion is into public life, and sometimes more, sometimes less. And it just sort of, you know, like the left and the right swings back and forth. And the Evangelical movement that I was part of in the 70s, I think became more vocal in the early 2000s after 9/11. And you know, by definition, an Evangelical, you’re supposed to evangelize. You’re not supposed to keep your candle under the bushel, under the basket. You’re supposed to, you know, go to the top of the hill and tell the world about your religion. And so I think there was, it’s a little bit of a backlash against too much of that.
HH: I don’t think…you’re supposed to go to the top of the hill and tell people about Christ. You’re not supposed to tell them about your religion. But I also want to argue just a little bit with both of you. Sam Harris, very nice guy, fine, it sold a few books, dropped under the waters. Dawkins’ been doing this since 1978. But no Hitchens, no big debate. You guys needed on the atheist side of the aisle, Michael, you needed a provocateur. You needed a big name, and you got it from Hitchens.
MS: Yeah, I don’t know, Hitchens wasn’t, I mean, he’s not that famous. I think that that book has sold more than all of his other books combined by like an order of magnitude or two. So I mean, he’s a well known social commentator for people like you that do these kinds of debates, but I don’t think that’s it by itself. I do think Dinesh is right on the social 9/11 aspects, and the Evangelical stuff I was talking about. There’s something slightly deeper than that. And yes, the polarization effect, when someone like me writes about religion, I’m much more conciliatory, and that really doesn’t inflame the troops to go out and march in the streets. It’s really the extremists that get the most attention.
HH: 30 seconds, Dinesh, to the break.
DD: Well, the thing is I do think that when Hitchens jumped in the debate, it’s true that a debate got going. The thing about Dawkins is he’s a little bit of a coward. And what I mean by that is he writes very well, but he doesn’t like to get up and debate. Shermer and I have done a bunch of debates, and so has Hitchens, so that’s created a widespread interest, particularly among young people, because they can see both sides.
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HH: A little more biography, gentlemen. Michael Shermer, when did you lose your faith in God and in Jesus Christ?
MS: In 1977, ’78. It wasn’t an overnight deconversion. It was sort of a slow, gradual erosion. And that actually hung on for quite a few years. I really did get into science as a methodology. But more than that, I think it was in part social. When I was at Pepperdine, I was surrounded by nothing but Evangelicals, and so you don’t really get a different perspective on things. Or if you do, it’s of course a biased perspective. And when I was at Cal State Fullerton, it wasn’t that people were atheists. In fact, there was really no such thing. I mean, it was just, it didn’t come up. It was almost never discussed. And so it just wasn’t relevant. And so I just kind of slowly gave up on that. I took some courses in comparative world religions and mythology, and cultural anthropology, and I could see clearly that religions are largely determined by history and geography, and people’s beliefs are based largely on where they happen to have been born and who their parents were, and that sort of thing. That chipped away at it. And then, well, I actually don’t really talk about this, but I did kind of have something of a comeback in the late, in 1980, in which I did try to believe again, because my college sweetheart at the time, a woman named Maureen who I met at Pepperdine who was from Alaska, she got in a car accident and was paralyzed. And I remember sitting there in the emergency room at Long Beach Medical Center, where she’s in a hyperbaric chamber, and thinking boy, you know, what can I do? Nothing except pray. So I did. I tried again for a while to believe. And I got down on a knee and said prayers for Maureen to be healed, and she wasn’t. And it’s not that I blame God for that. It was like you know what? I just really don’t think there’s anybody out there listening to my prayers. It just, on top of everything else, that was sort of the final straw for me. And that was 1980.
HH: Now the audience will want to know, how is Maureen today? Where is Maureen today?
MS: She’s still, she’s still paralyzed. She’s a paraplegic. She has a full life as a mom, and she’s got a couple of kids. She played, actually, she played professional wheelchair tennis for a while, so she built a great life.
HH: How’s her faith?
MS: I…actually, I have no idea.
HH: At the time of the accident, did she…
MS: Oh, I don’t think she was a believer or a non-believer. I think…I mean, she was a Christian when she went to Pepperdine. I don’t think she was a strong believe at the time. I don’t think she was an atheist, either.
HH: All right, Dinesh, in your book, Life After Death, you detail, this was surprising to me, that when you met Dixie, your wife, in the Reagan White House, you weren’t really a Christian, and you became one thereafter. Explain to people how that happened.
DD: Well, I think in my case, you know, I was raised Christian. I’m part of a small Christian minority in India. And I sort of appreciated Christianity in a sort of political or social sense, because the Christians did a lot of good in India. They ran a lot of the schools, Mother Teresa, and yet when I came to America, I looked back on it, and I say, wrote that I was kind of, I believed in what you could call crayon Christianity, which was a very simplified form of Christianity. Of course I had learned it when I was very young. But it got battered in college. What happened to me is what happens to a lot of young Christians. They set foot on a secular campus, and people say to them stuff like, you know, this is ridiculous. How can you believe someone was born of a virgin, and walked on the water, and brought dead people back to life. That’s absurd, that’s insane. And I became a little embarrassed about the things I believed. I found them a little difficult to defend. In some senses, Hugh, looking back, I think I flung myself into conservative politics because it struck me as a more hard-headed way to look at the world. And I built a largely secular career. But when I moved to California about ten years ago, my wife Dixie is an Evangelical Christian, I was raised Catholic, we began to attend a Calvary Chapel church here in San Diego. I found myself renewing my interest and the depth of my faith. And yet my work was in a different area. So oddly enough, it was the new atheism that provoked me to think you know, here’s a wonderful opportunity to take your faith, and take your work, and bring them closer together. And so that’s why apologetics, the defense of Christianity, has been so much fun for me. It’s a chance to take my own deepened faith, and my work, and unite them.
HH: And Dinesh, have you had a “born again moment”?
DD: Well, certainly in the sense that it’s dawned on me that all of this that I learned is actually true. You know, it’s one of those things where sometimes, you sit back and say all the things I was told when I was ten are true, but they’re not true in the way they were taught to you, In other words, God doesn’t sit like Santa Claus on a big throne. He doesn’t have a right hand and a left hand. Heaven isn’t the way it’s exactly portrayed in Christian victoriography. So the facts are there, but you have to have a different way to defend them. And so I’m very conscious, because of my own secular career, about how important it is for Christians to be able to articulate our beliefs in secular culture. We can’t get through to seekers, yet alone to atheists, by simply saying look, it says right here in the book of Revelation, or look, it says right here in the Bible. We need different tools. And so my work is, in a sense, attempting to arrive, to defend the ideas of Christianity, but in a sense using secular language and secular reason.
HH: Now tomorrow, when millions of Americans gather around a Thanksgiving table and they join hands or don’t, if they’re Presbyterians, I tell people I’m a Presbyterian in part because it is a church in which I’m least likely to be hugged, and when I’m at Catholic Mass, I try and find a pew in which there’s no one I have to hold hands with. So I’ll ask you both, what is it that people are doing tomorrow when they offer the Thanksgiving prayer, and to whom is it being offered, Michael Shermer?
MS: Oh, well, I’m thankful for family, and the fact that we live in such a great country where we have so much abundance. And I’m grateful for our troops and our rule of law, and our property rights, and all the things that we’ve built in society that make it possible to have a rich and fulfilling life. And whether there’s an afterlife or not, or whether there’s a God or not, I think is really irrelevant to the idea of sitting together, as an excuse to get together and have a family gathering. I can’t think of anything richer than that.
HH: Well yeah, but tomorrow, people are actually doing it, and they’re giving thanks to God, are they not?
MS: Well, I presume some are, whether they’re holding hands or not. I do want to say, I want to add one thing to the previous comment, was that this whole business are you an atheist, a theist, do you believe in God or not, you know, this is constantly asked now. And when you asked me well, what was Maureen’s belief and I sort of stumbled, you know, it’s just something we never asked back then. It just didn’t really come up. And it would be something kind of rude to ask somebody what they believe. I mean, there’s…this is kind of a new phenomenon, culturally, where everybody declares what they believe.
MS: You know, my board of directors on Skeptic Magazine, people ask are they all atheists, and my answer is I haven’t any idea. I’ve never asked them.
HH: I’ll come back to that after the break. I do want to finish focusing, though, on Thanksgiving, because I don’t believe it’s rude, and I don’t believe it’s new, and I think I’ll ask Dinesh to talk about that, because conversations about faith and lives have been around since the beginning of time, have always been sort of part of the public square. And they are not oppressive in any way or shape or form, or offensive, or should be.
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HH: Dinesh, whenever I hear that song, I think of the second inaugural of Ronald Reagan, 1984, when it was moved inside of the Capitol, and had to be sung there. But it was such a beautiful and wonderful moment…let me ask you, when we went to break, I asked Michael Shermer what are people doing tomorrow when they gather around and hold hands and give thanks?
DD: Well, I think they’re really doing two things. The first is they’re putting themselves in a great, historical tradition, namely the tradition of the early settlers, who were running away from something, and wanted to come to a better life. It was obviously going to be initially a much harder life, because they were starting with nothing. They arrive in this new country, and they’re astounded at the possibilities. And they feel this overwhelming sense of gratitude that they made the journey, they’re looking forward to a better life for themselves and their children, and they want to give thanks. And who is there to give thanks to? Well, God. They were devout, they believed that God had a plan for their lives, and a plan for America. And this began a providentialist tradition. Reagan was very much a part of it. So was Abraham Lincoln. And even though Lincoln wasn’t, you know, very devout in the conventional sense, he had a very powerful sense that God had a plan for America. And so the early settlers were giving thanks for God’s providence in the world. And I think that some of that continues. We’re aware of that today, but I think more broadly than that, quite apart from the specific landing on America, people have this sense that life is a gift. You know, here we are, flung into the world, and we’ve got something precious. We hang onto it. Even people who are sick, and even Michael’s friend who’s paralyzed, is still hanging onto life. We’re not, we don’t have a high rate of world suicide. So life is valuable to us, and in a sense, we feel like we owe it. We owe someone. We’ve got to give thanks. Someone did this. Where did this universe come from? Where did we come from? Where are we going? I think that the sense of gratitude, in a sense, points to God. The atheists, I feel a little sorry for in a way, because you have this overwhelming sense that life is a gift, that there is a sense of gratitude, but there’s no one to thank. There’s no one out there.
HH: Michael Shermer?
MS: Yeah, baloney. I mean, if you think about, is it religion that gives us all this abundance of food and security and freedom? No. If you got to Peru, 99.9% of the people believe in Jesus. They’re Catholics. They’re deeply religious, and they’re dirt poor. It has nothing to do with religion. It has to do with property rights, the rule of law, capitalism, free trade, low taxes, all the stuff that we practice here in America. That has nothing to do with religion. God doesn’t give us that. We create that. Most South American countries are way more religious than even America, and yet they’re dirt poor. It has nothing to do with God. It has everything to do with social structure, and what we create here on Earth, not in some afterlife or what God gives us.
DD: Well, Michael, isn’t that a non-sequitur? I mean, I think you’ll admit that capitalism and property rights and rule of law and contracts and modern science, those didn’t develop suddenly like mushrooms all over the world. They developed only in one culture, namely Western culture, a culture that was for many centuries called Christendom. So how can you say it has nothing to do…clearly, Christian institutions have a lot to do with separation of powers. Christian institutions have a lot to do with the idea of property rights, the idea of the individual. All you have to do is to go to other cultures to find that those ideas are much diminished, if they’re there at all.
MS: Then how do you explain Peru?
DD: Well, here we’re talking about…this is a big debate, as you know. Differences of different forms of Christianity, and the way they’ve been interpreted, also the history of South America and North America is radically different. The Spanish, for example, who colonized the Americas never stayed there. They basically set up surrogate plantations, whereas the Americans came and they settled here. So our culture, read Tom Sowell on this, our culture here has evolved very differently than that of South America. It’s more entrepreneurial, and I think that partly explains the success of North versus South America.
MS: Right, so both have the same religion, and yet one develops in a radically, more productive way than the other. So it’s not religion. Using the comparative method, it’s something else. And setting up a system of property rights and rule of law.
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HH: I want to bring us back, gentlemen, I’m trying to get, though, to the nature of whether or not it is rational to give thanks to a specific God with the expectation that God will hear, and somehow expects those thanks. Dinesh, after all these explorations the last few years you’ve been after, and Life After Death, and we’ll get to this, talks in terms of physics and terms of teleology, and term of materiality. But is it rational for people to sit around and expect that God will hear them tomorrow as they give thanksgiving?
DD: Absolutely it is. I think when we look at our lives in the world, we…it’s difficult for us to believe that all of this is purely accidental. I mean, we can search for a material cause of it. But even finding a material cause is not an adequate cause, because all we’ve done is describe what happened. Yeah, there was a big bang, then we got some planets, then we got a universe. Or here I am, my parents conceived me, so here I am, an evolved creature in the world. Yes, but I think in some senses, science never gets at the bigger question. The bigger question is why do we have a universe? Why is there something instead of nothing? Or ever more deeply, where did we, where did life come from, and where is it headed? What is our purpose? What is our destination? Science has been looking at this, but in some senses, these questions, I think, are outside the orbit of science. At the best, science can give a material description, first there was an amoeba, then there were multi-cellular organisms, then we got here. That’s a description of how, but it’s not a description of why. So I think the positing of intelligence in the universe, a God, the positing of a purpose in life, these are not irrational. In fact, they are the essential, they’re essential answers to the deep curiosity that is built into human nature.
HH: And if I can follow up, that takes us to deism. But how do you go from deism to a Christian God, which is by far the majoritarian belief in America, that actually expects and accepts prayer?
DD: I think you can. And I do think it takes a couple of steps, but I’ll just suggest one step. I mean, look, we all say things, we all believe that things are not the way they should be. In other words, we all believe that we live on two levels – the level of, you might say, the way things are, the lower level of humanity, and then the way things ought to be – absolute beauty, absolute perfection, absolute goodness. So you’ve got these two levels, the bottom level and the top level. Let’s call the top level the Divine level. And I think all the religions of the world are attempts to build ladders to go from the lower level to the top level, ladders that you climb through diets and regulations and codes and commandments. This is common, for example, both in Judaism and Islam. I think what Christianity does is it basically says look, this gap is too large. Man cannot climb his way to God. God has to turn around and come down to man’s level. So God has to condescend if this chasm is to be closed. It has to be closed from above. So that’s the radicalism of the Christian message, namely that Christ, if you will, is God’s ambassador or emissary, coming down as a man, and closing this awful gap between the level we live at, and the level we know things ought to be. So this is, you know, you’ll notice I haven’t given an argument from the argument. I’ve given a fairly direct description of the human problem, and the unique Christian solution to it. I’m not proving the Christian solution is right. But I’m saying it’s a different, it’s a unique solution different than that of the other religions, and it seems to make sense to me.
HH: I think the last step is that once you get to Christ as that ambassador, then you read His instruction manual, which suggests that thanksgiving is indeed the appropriate response. Michael Shermer, your response to both my questions and Dinesh’s responses to those?
MS: Well, first of all, I think it’s, what’s rational is to give thanks to the actual source of the abundance of food and freedom that we have. Why is it, if God is the source of these, and we’re thanking God, and praying for more and so on, that all those people in Africa and Rwanda and the poor people in Peru that I mentioned, they believe in God. They’re praying to God. They give thanks to God. How come they’re poor? If God is the source, what’s your answer to the counter explanation that in fact, most people are not abundant?
DD: Well Michael, can I flip that on you and ask you this question? Why do you think they are doing it? Because they know they’re poor. They know they don’t have food. Yet they don’t seem to follow your logic and say they don’t have God to thank. They’re thanking God. Are they nuts?
MS: Yeah, they don’t understand the actual source of food and material goods. It’s not God. It’s productivity, it’s capitalism, it’s property rights. That’s the actual source. You want to know the source of abundance, that’s the only way to get it. But praying, you know, turning to the secret, and asking the universe for money, or asking God for food, that’s not how you get it.
DD: I don’t know about doing that, because people have had scarcity since time immemorial, and there were times when prosperity wasn’t even on the horizon. I think people are giving thanks for something deeper than just hey, I don’t have a big house, I don’t have a big car. They’re giving thanks for existence itself. They’re giving thanks for…
MS: Well, that may be, but that’s a different thing. Hugh asked was it rational to thank God for the food. No, it isn’t rational. It’s irrational. It’s rational to thank the actual source of the food.
DD: Well, but the pilgrims who got here, they knew that they’d have to go out and get the food. They knew they’d have to kill the turkeys themselves, that God wouldn’t just provide it at the Thanksgiving table. They knew all that. But their point was they were thanking God that they were in a place where they could do that.
HH: Michael Shermer, I am much more curious about why people who don’t believe in God thank anyone for anything, other than perhaps, you know, you might have some self-interest involved here, but that doesn’t require the elaborate sense of gratitude.
MS: Well, and what does belief in God give you for that?
HH: I’m not asking…I’m just asking why…
MS: I mean, you’re doing it so you can get a reward?
HH: No, I meant…
MS: I mean, doesn’t it seem…
HH: You’re not…you’re not answering my question, Michael.
MS: I am answering it rhetorically.
HH: My question is why…why do people…okay.
MS: I’m answering it rhetorically. Doesn’t it seem…
HH: But as opposed to rhetorically, really, why do people do it? Just a straight out, why do you think they do it?
MS: Because they actually feel it. We have deep, evolved emotions, because we’re a social primate species. We care deeply about our fellow group members. It’s part of our nature. You have to get away from this. You guys are always citing The Selfish Gene and Dawkins like that’s the only book every written on the evolution of emotions. I mean, have you read Frans de Waal’s works? Or mine…
MS: …in which we show that in fact, we have a deep, evolved, social conscience. We have…I mean, Adam Smith knew this. We have a sense of empathy. We care about other people. It’s part of our nature. God didn’t give that to us. It’s part of who we are. Whether God used evolution, okay, maybe. But it isn’t something that needs a supernatural entity to reach in and plant it in our brain. We have that. It’s natural, normal.
HH: We’ll be right back. I’ll have Dinesh’s response to that. I thought I heard a huge door open. We’ll find out if Dinesh walks through it when we return.
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HH: Dinesh, when we went to break, at the conclusion of this hour, Michael had offered up an explanation as to why people give thanks. It’s evolutionary. Your response?
DD: Well, first of all, that would still not explain why people give thanks to God, because God is not in front of us. You know, if someone gave me an apple, and I say thank you, I feel a direct sense of obligation to the guy who gave it to me. What Michael hasn’t explained is God is not, you can’t look out of the window and see Him. In a sense, all cultures from the beginning of history have posited that despite the fact that we’ve never seen God, He exists, and moreover, despite the fact that we’ve never met a dead guy, that there’s life after death. So in some senses, the interesting and deeper question is why did these beliefs evolve? Why did belief in God and religion, and then the afterlife, evolve if they aren’t true? From an evolutionary point of view, it makes no sense, and here’s why. Why does it make sense to posit another life that doesn’t exist, and invest resources, scarce resources, think of the early Egyptians putting implements in with, when they buried the pharaohs. Or think of the early peasants building cathedrals with money they didn’t really have. So why, from an evolutionary point of view, would you invest in the next life and take away your chances of survival in this one? This is widely understood to be a serious problem for evolution. There are a couple of attempts to try to explain it, but nothing very satisfactory as of yet.