Suppose a fundamentalist society that constantly execute or sterilize people for any sign of disbelief. In such society religiosity will become an evolutionary advantage.

Over time, will people evolve the ability to hear or see gods as if they were speaking to them so that this would make them true believers and improve genetic continuation chances?

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    $\begingroup$ So in your setting psychosis becomes an evolutionary advantage. This is going to be interesting. $\endgroup$ Jun 6 '16 at 18:55
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    $\begingroup$ As it stands, , your question is not answerable. Do(es) God(s) exist? Which form do they take? Etc. You could also look at this question about a world influenced by the beliefs of the inhabitants: worldbuilding.stackexchange.com/q/18709/9685 $\endgroup$ Jun 6 '16 at 19:37
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    $\begingroup$ No amount of retelling a lie will make it true; no amount of belief will make something that is false true. Reality is not a matter of opinion. The only thing that removing overt dissent does is make people [more] comfortable in their belief, and make the actual dissenters better liars. $\endgroup$
    – Seeds
    Jun 6 '16 at 20:56
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    $\begingroup$ You can't evolve an ability to see/hear something that doesn't exist. However, people will, and can get better at lying conforming. When a society starts killing off people who don't conform, the people who don't want to die will conform by themselves, whether they believe the lies they are fed or not. Alternatively, you might end up with a society full of Schizophrenic people - and that only gets worse from there, especially since having a first degree relative with Schizo puts you at 6.5% risk of having the disease. $\endgroup$
    – Aify
    Jun 6 '16 at 22:57
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    $\begingroup$ Before you can evolutionarily select for a trait in any meaningful way, that trait must, at the very least, be inheritable to a large degree. Without turning this into some sort of political discussion, in the world you are describing, is religiosity an inheritable trait? Also, what constitutes "any sign of disbelief"? It's not all that unusual for people to question their own beliefs only to come out stronger in those beliefs; the interim stage of questioning their beliefs could certainly be "a sign of disbelief" according to a reasonable definition, but those are people you want. $\endgroup$
    – user
    Jun 7 '16 at 5:45

As it stands this question's title ("Will artificial selection for religiosity make the gods real?") does not match its content ("Over time, will people evolve the ability to hear or see gods as if they were speaking to them so that this would make them true believers and improve genetic continuation chances?"), so I shall discuss the title and question separately.

In the real world, the title comes into the general category of "Questions To Which The Answer Is No". My answer is independent of one's opinion as to whether any deity or deities existed beforehand. The title assumes a starting point in which the gods do not exist. Current and past erroneous beliefs have shown no sign of becoming real by becoming widespread.

The idea put forward in the text of the question, that the execution or sterilization of unbelievers could evolutionarily favour sincere religiosity and a perception of being able to perceive divine communications, is much more plausible. (Again, my answer is independent of whether God or gods really exist. If the gods existed and could only be heard by believers, then cutting nonbelievers out of the gene pool would make people in general better at hearing the gods.) However bear in mind that evolution takes time, lots of time. Long before a detectable genetic change in propensity to believe in religion took place we would see everyone get awfully good at pretending, as Pavel Janicek's answer already described.

Note that if people are good at pretending to hold a belief then it reduces the evolutionary pressure in favour of inheritable propensity towards sincere belief.

Humans are very good at pretending and lying. Humans are also fairly good at convincing themselves to really believe what they are forced to publicly avow. These two factors are already part of our evolutionary history, and of recorded human history which includes many ideological tyrannies of all descriptions.

Both these tendencies of the human brain are known to be heritable to some degree, and would presumably be exacerbated if such a programme as you describe were to take place for long enough.

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    $\begingroup$ I've thought of an exception to my own statement "Current and past erroneous beliefs have shown no sign of becoming real by becoming widespread." An erroneous belief that a bank is about to fail can become true by virtue of becoming widespread. I know this isn't really germane to the topic of the question but I thought I'd put it in to <strike>show off</strike> contribute to the debate. $\endgroup$ Jun 7 '16 at 19:54
  • $\begingroup$ But the authorities can utilize a lie detector, encephalograms and whatever. $\endgroup$
    – Anixx
    Jan 4 '20 at 19:09

Use The Egregore principle

Let me introduce you to the Egregore principle: If everyone believes it being true, then it is true.

I will give you one real world example: In our world, thousands of people believe that The Force from Star Wars franchise is real. So you can enjoy it and Use The ForceTM in this world. All you need to do is to believe.

I was googling hard for a guy who uses The Force for healing purposes, but came empty handed.

In your world, you will have lots of people believing the Gods are real. They will also believe that you can talk to Gods. Using this principle we may safely assume that the people will actually talk to the Gods

But beware of the Mickey Mouse

I will explain this term by real life story: A gay friend of mine told me that his father was actually gay too. But because his father grew up in different times, he did force himself to get married and have heterosexual intercourse.

My friend called this "The Mickey Mouse": You go to the church (because everyone else does), you say the prayers, you offer the offerings... but deep down you actually do not believe of God(s) being true.

Doing "Mickey Mouse" will ensure you the same priviledges as to the people who actually believe. And if there is no punishement for just going to the church but not actully believe, you might end up with bunch of Atheists who say the prayers just to survive.

And I can tell you, that as someone from former communist block, this option is very true. Czech Republic was full of people who were going to Red marches, wawing communist flags ... but they stopped imediatelly after they knew there is no punishment for not attending

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    $\begingroup$ "Using this principle we may safely assume that the people will actually talk to the Gods" I refer you to Shakespeare: GLENDOWER: I can call spirits from the vasty deep. HOTSPUR: Why, so can I, or so can any man; But will they come when you do call for them? - shakespeare.mit.edu/1henryiv/1henryiv.3.1.html $\endgroup$ Jun 7 '16 at 10:03


Either the gods are real and have always been and faith is just acknologes this or they are false, have always been and will always be and belief is just delusion.

You can't make something real by beliving on it.


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