It is our evolutionary adaptation that leads us to question the world around us. We have an innate curiosity to know more. Completion makes us want to always know why and our selfishness leads us to believe that most things behave like us.

Let’s go into that further by empathizing with one of our ancestors. She is sitting with her brothers by a river after fishing for food. She is especially curious and takes notice of things her companions ignore. She watches her brother throw a stone into the river and reasons that he chose to throw the rock just like she chose to watch him.

She looks at a few fish still in the water and reasons that they choose to swim around. If both her and fish make choices before they act, surely the trees choose to grow upward and the sun chooses to rise and travel across the sky before choosing to fall down and disappear. Our ancestor has made a mistake, but an understandable one. She reasoned that an action is caused by a conscious decision but she mistook her consciousness for common trait within her world.

She tells her brother this thought and it seems to make sense to him; it is logical, after all. A new thought arises in her mind: if she and her brother could communicate, perhaps all conscious minds could communicate. And since she believed the fish, trees, and sun have a conscious mind, perhaps she could communicate with them too.

Depictions of sun worship
Depictions of sun worship


Our ancestors began to tell stories of how the fish and the trees and the sun came to be the way they are. The stories gave the characters a conscious brain meaning they could make decisions for themselves and would behave much like us. Usually the subject of the story would make some conscious decision and the repercussions caused it to become what it is today. For example, a common story explains the snake losing its arms and legs as punishment for tricking a pair of humans.

Humans from all parts of the world independently came up with their own stories to explain the world around them. Every culture that we have ever discovered has a story to explain the creation of the universe.

Because the stories were told about long-lasting entities, like the sun, the characters were seen as more powerful than even the humans telling the stories. Over time, the powerful characters representing the natural world merged into one almighty being in most cultures.

Gods in greek culture were given human form
Gods in greek culture were given human-like form


The one almighty character assumes all the responsibility for creating the universe and seemed to the humans as all-powerful. Creating the universe means creating humans so the stories tended to give a relationship between the humans and the almighty. They were usually somehow part of the same family. The humans could then reason that if this character made them, it chose to do so and they could try to communicate with it to learn why.

Here’s where we have to break from your empathetic journey but hold onto that perspective because we’ll come back to it. The consciousness is made up of your perceiving and decision making neurons that can access multiple parts of the brain, often simultaneously. However, the consciousness is limited.

If a neural path outside the consciousness gets stimulated, it may seem as though the idea is foreign because your consciousness wasn’t present for the stimulation. I’m sure you’ve experienced this if you’ve ever had a completely random thought, which all of us have! If you have an automated language center, the thought might even present itself to you in the form of words. Okay let’s jump back into the mind of our ancestors.

Let’s say you’re a young human listening to the stories about how the almighty character created you. The storyteller tells the audience that the character is so powerful that it can enter your own thoughts. Now you have a story that explains everything you have ever questioned and you’re told you have a direct line of communication with this character. You are told to pray to the character and to be truthful because it knows when you’re lying. You are told that the key to true happiness comes when you trust the character.

That almighty character is often called god and you are led to believe, because of stories passed down through generations, that a conscious entity is responsible for all you know and think. You “hear” voices from outside your consciousness and they seem separate from you so you believe god is responsible for the voice because that makes sense from the story.

In reality, those “voices” are coming from your automated language center synapsing to neural paths that are activated outside your consciousness. In other words, you are the voices offering guidance, you created the story that you live in, you discover your own deeper meaning, you forgive yourself, you show mercy to those around you; it’s all you.

You are told to pray because it gives you an opportunity to focus on communicating with yourself. You can replace the word “pray” with “meditate,” “reflect,” or “unpack” if you’d prefer but it’s all just communicating with yourself. Your only goal is to feel comfortable sharing your concerns and, more importantly, listening to them.

People who are religious claim to have a personal connection with their god, that they have access to converse with him/her at any point during the day. They are absolutely right, however, they have just decided to call themselves “god” rather than “me.”

Please don’t misinterpret me, I’m not telling you to abandon your god if you already have a positive relationship. Rather, understand that the compassionate and wise being that you know so well is you and only you. God’s love is your love. We may come from different cultures and may call that character different names, but we are all human and we can share in that human love.

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