An essential feature of religious experience across many cultures is the intuitive feeling of God's presence. More than any rituals or doctrines, it is this experience that anchors religious faith, yet it has been largely ignored in the scientific literature on religion.
"... [Dr. Wathey's] book delves into the biological origins of this compelling feeling, attributing it to innate neural circuitry that evolved to promote the mother-child bond...[He] argues that evolution has programmed the infant brain to expect the presence of a loving being who responds to the child's needs. As the infant grows into adulthood, this innate feeling is eventually transferred to the realm of religion, where it is reactivated through the symbols, imagery, and rituals of worship. The author interprets our various conceptions of God in biological terms as illusory supernormal stimuli that fill an emotional and cognitive vacuum left over from infancy.
These insights shed new light on some of the most vexing puzzles of religion, like:
Much of contemporary western perceptions of children and childhood still stems from the idea of the “Nuclear family’, which gained significance in the 1950s. In western culture and society it is important for children to be socialized into acceptable adults, and this means passing on social values that cater to a national narrative. One of the main ways that children are socialized is by gender. Children are expected to behave in particular ways and hold particular values based on their gender- male or female. Gender is assigned at birth based on sex, which is determined by genitalia. And with that, children are expected to take on gender roles in society, and the associated characteristics based on this determined sex. Today the gender roles are divided into two spaces, referred to as the ‘separation of spheres’; the reproductive sphere is reserved for women and the productive sphere is reserved for men: This began in the 1950s with the rise and normalizing of the ‘nuclear family’. Kimmel and Hollar (2011) claim that “family life was wrenched apart from the world of work…men[’s] work shifted from home to farm to mill and factory, shop and office… [which] became…paid labour…gradually [becoming] industrialized and eliminated as such tasks…shifted to the external world…libererat[ing] men to exit their homes and leave the rearing of their sons and daughters to their wives” (p. 144). While family life has changed today the expectations of men and women, and thus boys and girls, remains and mimics that of the idealized nuclear family. And so girls are still socialized by society to enter the private sphere of home and family, while boys are still socialized to enter the public sphere of work.
Of course, some people have more memories from early childhood than others do. It appears that remembering is partly influenced by the culture of family engagement. A 2009 study conducted by Peterson together with Qi Wang of Cornell and Yubo Hou of Peking University found that children in China have fewer of these memories than children in Canada. The finding, they suggest, might be explained by culture: Chinese people prize individuality less than North Americans and thus may be less likely to spend as much time drawing attention to the moments of an individual’s life. Canadians, by contrast, reinforce recollection and keep the synapses that underlie early personal memories vibrant. Another study, by the psychologist Federica Artioli and colleagues at the University of Otago in New Zealand in 2012, found that young adults from Italian extended families had earlier and denser memories than those from Italian nuclear families, presumably as a result of more intense family reminiscence.