Religion is the result of evolution according to research conducted by Gopikrishna Deshpande, an assistant professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering in Auburn University’s Samuel Ginn College of Engineering, and colleague that was published in the Jan. 17, 2014, edition of the journal Brain Connectivity.
The researchers equate the gradual development of theory of mind with the gradual evolution of the physical structures in the brain that produced the capabilities for humans to develop religious beliefs. Theory of mind involves the brain networks that allow people to relate the effects of their behavior on others as well as to interpret the behavior of other people.
The researchers found that people that were religious or considered themselves to be religious had a higher development of theory of mind than people who were not religious.
The researchers proposed that there is a biological and evolutionary basis for religion because religion has been a part of every human culture since the earliest of known human existence.
The researchers analyzed the brain activity of religious and non-religious people while the test subjects thought of three specific aspects of religious belief using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI).
Different brain networks were involved in the contemplation of different aspects of religion but there was no detectable difference in the amount of brain activity between self-declared religious people and non-religious people.
One needs to consider the distinction between religion and God before any decision is made about the evolution of theory of mind as a development in man that produced the development of religion.