Thursday, December 02, 2004

Is religion in our genes?

Notre Dame Magazine has asked me to write an article on geneticist Dean Hamer's fine little book The God Gene: How Faith Is Hardwired into Our Genes.

Hamer claims to have identified a gene, rather prosaically called VMAT2, that appears to be related to spirituality.

It is not faith in God that the gene correlates with, but a trait called self-transcendence, a feeling of connectedness to the universe and everything in it. Self-transcendent people may or may not believe in God.

I look forward to the assignment. For the moment, in preparation, I am reading again a book I first read almost half-a-century ago, as an intensely religious undergraduate, William James's The Varieties of Religious Experience, a work that stands at the root of all attempts to trace the natural origins of religion.