Billions of people believe that God is real, even though there is zero demonstrable evidence of God's existence. So there must be something in the human mind that produces the illusion of God.
In his engrossing book, "Finding Purpose in a Godless World: Why We Care Even if the Universe Doesn't," psychiatrist Ralph Lewis quotes evolutionary psychologist Jesse Bering on why people are so prone to supernatural beliefs.
Theory of mind is mentioned in the quotes below. Heres's how Lewis succinctly describes what this is.
Part of people's belief in a higher power stems from our ability to form a "theory" about the mental state of another person wherein we can imagine or infer what that person might be thinking or feeling. This is referred to as "theory of mind."
As a direct consequence of the evolution of the human social brain, and owing to the weight of selective importance placed on our theory of mind skills in that process, we sometimes can't help but see intentions, desires, and beliefs in things that haven't even a smidgeon of a neural system there to generate the physiological states we perceive.
...In particular, when inanimate objects do unexpected things, we sometimes reason about them just as we do for oddly behaving -- or misbehaving -- people. More than a few of us have kicked our broken-down "untrustworthy" vehicles in the sides and verbally abused our "incompetent" computers.
Most of us stop short of actually believing these objects possess mental states -- indeed, we would likely be hauled away to an asylum if we genuinely believed that they held malicious intentions toward us -- but our emotions and behaviors toward such objects do seem to betray our primitive, unconscious thinking: we act as though they're morally culpable for their actions.
...So it would appear that having a theory of mind was so useful for our ancestors in explaining and predicting other people's behaviors that it has completely flooded our evolved social brains. As a result, today we overshoot our mental-state attributions to things that are, in reality, completely mindless.
And all of this leads us, rather inevitably, to a very important question: What if I were to tell you that God's mental states, too, were all in your mind?
That God, like a tiny speck floating at the edge of your cornea producing the image of a hazy, out-of-reach orb accompanying your every turn, was in fact a psychological illusion, a sort of evolved blemish etched onto the core cognitive substrate of your brain?
It may feel as if there is something grander out there... watching, knowing, caring. Perhaps even judging. But, in fact, that's just your overactive theory of mind. In reality, there is only the air you breathe.