While nobody has identified any gene for religion, there are certainly some candidate genes that may influence human personality and confer a tendency to religious feelings. Some of the genes likely to be involved are those which control levels of different chemicals called neurotransmitters in the brain.
The human brain cannot release enough neurotransmitters to feel emotion a thousand times as strong as the grief of one funeral. A prospective risk going from 10,000,000 deaths to 100,000,000 deaths does not multiply by ten the strength of our determination to stop it. It adds one more zero on paper for our eyes to glaze over.
Emergencies send sparks to the darkest corner of us. They wake up our hormones and neurotransmitters, they remove the rust from our body and mind, and they show us we can still handle crisis with poise. Emergencies push us to our limits. At those limits, the best inside us comes out. The eyes of our mind open, exceptional vision occurs to us, and we have a chance to become extraordinary.
Freud elevated unconscious processes to the throne of the mind, imbuing them with the power to guide our every thought and deed, and to a significant extent writing free will out of the picture. Decades later, neuroscience has linked genetic mechanisms to neuronal circuits coursing with a multiplicity of neurotransmitters to argue that the brain is a machine whose behavior is predestined, or at least determined, in such a way as seemingly to leave no room for the will. It is not merely that will is not free, in the modern scientific view; not merely that it is constrained, a captive of material forces. It is, more radically, that the will, a manifestation of the mind, does not even exist, because a mind independent of brain does not exist.
Jeffrey M. Schwartz
Depression, we are told over and over again, is a brain disease, a chemical imbalance that can be adjusted by antidepressant medication. In an informational brochure issued to inform the public about depression, the US National Institute for Mental Health tells people that 'depressive illnesses are disorders of the brain' and adds that 'important neurotransmitters - chemicals that brain cells use to communicate - appear to be out of balance'. This view is so widespread that it was even proffered by the editors of PLoS [Public Library of Science] Medicine in their summary that accompanied our article. 'Depression, ' they wrote, 'is a serious medical illness caused by imbalances in the brain chemicals that regulate mood', and they went on to say that antidepressants are supposed to work by correcting these imbalances. The editors wrote their comment on chemical imbalances as if it were an established fact, and this is also how it is presented by drug companies. Actually, it is not. Instead, even its proponents have to admit that it is a controversial hypothesis that has not yet been proven. Not only is the chemical-imbalance hypothesis unproven, but I will argue that it is about as close as a theory gets in science to being dis-proven by the evidence.