The Objectivist view on this question can be found in The Ayn Rand Lexicon, in the entries on "instinct" and "religion." I could quote excerpts, but it would be better for those who are interested to read the full excerpts in their entirety in the Lexicon. Some key highlights are that (1) man does not possess an instinct for religion because man does not possess instincts of any kind; (2) a desire or need is not an intinct; (3) religion is a primitive form of philosophy; and (4) man certainly does possess a need for philosophy.
More recently, Leonard Peikoff's DIM Hypothesis notes that man has a compelling need for integration, which will be filled by religion if too few intellectuals understand and uphold a philosophy of reason.
answered Oct 17 '10 at 23:40
Ideas for Life ♦
"Instinct" is the wrong word to apply to any basic human characteristics. An instinct is a complex, biologically inherited behavior, such as hummingbirds' southern migration before winter.
Rationality, as an evolved form of consciousness, must necessarily supersede and quell instinctual behavior. Reason brings with it volition — it is a form of consciousness that is inherently self-directed and self-motivated. Hence there is no such thing as "human instinct." Instinct and volition are incompatible.
It's facile to say "there's an instinct for god-belief," but it's anthropologically scientific to ask why primitive men were inclined to believe in gods. We can ask Ayn Rand's question: "What facts of reality give rise to belief in supernatural beings?" Although it is ultimately a belief that we reject as modern and educated persons, it can be regarded as a belief that somehow answered a question or issue necessary to primitive man. That need, as we can now see, is the need of science and ultimately of philosophy to guide men's actions.
If something is an understandable, or even inevitable mistake, that still doesn't make it an instinct. It's still the product of a volitional consciousness, which was in charge of its own mental processing as it weighed the options.
answered Oct 20 '10 at 08:19
Robert Garmong ♦