Religion 101: DNA as a Crown of Thorns—God Genes, Gay Genes, Devils in Blue Jeans

crown of thorns

crown of thorns

There has long been scuttlebutt about some so-called ‘God Gene’… but none has ever been found. And there has long been scuttlebutt about some so-called ‘Gay Gene’… but none has ever been found. Now there is even talk of a ‘travel gene’ predisposing us travelers to lengthy peregrinations and various unnamed (unmentionable?) and unrequited desires. So what? Why does it matter? Why bother even asking the question? Thus the debate rages, long after Calvin, long after Hobbes (no, not the cartoon characters; where do you think they came from BTW?).

Free will vs. determinism is one of the major debates of the post-classical pre-modern Christian religio-philosophic phase, long after St. Augustine incorporated Plato into the mix, and St. Thomas added Aristotle. This is closely contemporaneous with the Western philosophical tradition’s division into two opposing camps: the British Empiricists and the Continental Rationalists. For those of you unschooled in that history, that was a preference for either experience or rationality as the basis of knowledge.

And it was no passive intellectual preference, the roots of it likely going back to Gothic pragmatic feudalism in the decentralized European countryside after the downfall of Roman hierarchical imperial cities, and continuing in the sprawling US/UK suburban piecemeal planning vs. centralized European cities to this day.

We Americans (and all English-speakers, to some extent) are bloody bonkers for free will, of course, while the Continentals tend to prefer more structure to their pathetic existences (I’m exaggerating, of course). Carry that thought to its logical conclusions and geographical extents and you’ve got the systematic totalitarianism of a Communist USSR on one hand and free-for-all runaway American capitalism on the other.

Thus the Gothic sack of Rome in 476 A.D. was only truly complete with the Industrial Revolution engineered (pun) by the hybrid culture consisting of creative countryside genius Celts and their finicky mechanical and mathematically precise German overlords in Great Britain. Not even the Germanic Franks, Lombards, Normans and Alemanni put together, much less the semi-Semitic Mediterranean aboriginals, could compete with that one-two punch. So the notion of free will—and democracy—has proven indispensable to the spread of free enterprise, and, when mixed with advanced Jewish banking skills: voila! Capitalism rules.

But still: why is free will important for religion? Simple: because without it, there is no morality. If all our actions are predetermined, then we are not responsible for them. Perhaps that is why LGBT’s insist that they are ‘born that way’, despite any clear evidence of a ‘gay gene’ and despite all evidence to the contrary (bisexuality, for instance: is there a gene for that, too?).

For my own part, I distinctly remember questioning my own sexuality, quite vigorously and quite thoroughly, though stopping well short of any actual experimentation. But if it’s all predetermined, then why bother? Once again, simple: women are whack-jobs (I’m exaggerating again)!

The LGBT insistence on that unproven fact of genetic predisposition seems to indicate some guilt about it, if not on the part of the actor, then on the part of the judge. Ah, guilt! That’s the problem! It shouldn’t be. Humans are an imperfect species, but still better than most. Guilt is proof of that, and proof of a moral compass, regardless of our inabilities to fulfill all of its unpredictable dictates. ‘Gay gene’? Maybe, maybe not.

But there is no need to feel guilty about sexual experimentation, homo or hetero (fifty shades of what?), any more than there is a reason to feel guilty for LGBT inclinations. Chill. Get over it. It’s all good: everything in moderation, absolutely everything. A person must decide for himself what is normal and what is unhealthy perversion, and how far to stop short of it. A society should only get involved when it affects innocent bystanders, mostly children. Darwinism almost precludes the possibility of a ‘gay gene’ anyway: how would it propagate itself? Reluctantly…

The ‘God gene’ is just as silly, or even more so, the idea that we are somehow predisposed for spiritual or mystic experiences and that nature somehow selects for it. Again: maybe, maybe not. It doesn’t matter. But if we’ve learned nothing from all the genomic forays of the last decade and the relative paucity of them (genes), it’s that: “it ain’t that simple.” Again, how does a ‘God gene’ propagate itself? Faithfully…

But genetic displays are much more subtle and nuanced than any strict one-to-one relationship between DNA and character traits. That’s where cultural DNA kicks in, mostly transmitted by language, and that’s something totally different, something totally unproven, and unprovable, but the aptest of metaphors. So here we sit, responsible for our actions, more or less, most of the time. But if we do something bad, and then admit to it, then it is ameliorated, to some extent IMHO.

That’s the good thing about Christianity. You can start over with a clean slate. That is every bit as good as Buddhism’s ‘letting go’. Making it right is even better, of course, and that’s what a religion of action demands. You take care of yourself first. Then you take care of your family. You take care of widows and orphans next, then you take care of the poor. All religions–Buddhism, Christianity, Islam–demand that: nothing to discuss—period.

(p.s.: I love women, BTW, but that only really came to full fruition when I realized that they can be best friends, not just sex objects. Score one for feminism—and femininity. Don’t let it go to your heads, sista’s.)