In The God Gene, Dean Hamer argues that we are predisposed to believe in gods or things supernatural because we are genetically programmed to believe in something larger than ourselves. We do appear to be so inclined, but our need to believe in something greater than ourselves does not have to entail religion. The questions Hamer presents often lead to religion of some kind simply because the society in which we live has for so long expected that they must. However, we now live in a more sophisticated and philosophical age. There are other ways to think about “the big questions.”
The gene that makes us want to be part of something greater than ourselves does not have to make us religious. (Image: public domain)
Most folks just buy into the consensus worldview of their time unquestioningly adopting it as they grow to maturity, but this means we have a second-hand worldview made by others. (Image: public domain.)
Human beings have an inborn need to make sense of their lives and the world around them. The drive is stronger in some (such as artists and philosophers) than in others, but generally, we all want to know what things signify. Knowing the meaning of something means knowing how things fit together. To make sense of our lives, to give them meaning, it is essential that we possess a comprehensive, consistent, unified worldview.
Worldview is defined (by COED) as “a particular philosophy of life or conception of the world.” At first glance, this suggests an objective view of things, something you could study in a book and learn, either by rote, or by understanding. Ideologues do just that, adopting viewpoints like the cultural Marxism currently so popular with the left. Religious people do the same, converting to one sect or another’s standard declared creed. Most folks just buy into the consensus worldview of their time unquestioningly adopting it as they grow to maturity.
Artists must develop over time, and they do this by examining and exploring the implications and ramifications of their personal vision of existence. In other words, they explore their philosophy of life. When the artist combines this activity with their view of a particular branch of the arts, what emerges is their artistic vision; the artist’s preferred subject matter and style. The combination is sometimes so unique that the artist’s works, whatever they may be, are instantly recognizable.
Many creators hold their personal artistic vision with religious zeal. (Image: public domain)
Powerful artists infuse their work with a blend of deliberately chosen emotional themes, their own emotionally important ideas, and subtly distinguished shades of meaning. The great work always starts with the individual, yet manages to present universal aspects of life. Artists do this by looking for the universal elements of their own experience. They never lose sight of the simple fact that we are all human beings. What happens to one of us, in some specific way, has undoubtedly happened to others, in somewhat different ways. Artists suggest the underlying commonality and reveal the universal. In this way, they make the specific general, the individual universal.
Lighthouses and stars are examples of those images with a rich array of symbolic meanings favoured by writers, poets, and painters. (Image: public domain.)