Just joined and it's "interesting" being aboard! I say that because I've not openly proclaimed a "non-theist" position and it feels a bit odd but also somewhat exhilirating (as much as it can be for somone whose sister-in-law nicknamed him Mr. Spock). Personally I don't think I'm that bad but I do try to look at things logically and that was what finally brought me to the point I'm at; here.
Actually, I did have an argument with my identical twin brother about it which definitely suggested my anti-theist position (he now tries to politely avoid me; we were in the same church our whole lives).
Be that as it may, I've come to some conclusions that I would love to share with all of you.
I have not yet had a drawn-out intellectual discussion with anyone on this so i will attempt to do this here. I'm not looking for anyone to 'rubber-stamp' what I say or simply trash it; please, if you agree, tell me why, if not, again, tell me why.
I don't claim 'second sight' on all of this; this is my perception based on my personal experiences and education. I would appreciate a well thought-out answer; I have three degrees; one from a college and two from universities (one American, one Canadian; of which the Canadian was the far more difficult one). I don't say this to boast, but to explain that I need a well-reasoned out and supported answer; otherwise, what is the point?
Anyway, here it goes.
As a student of history, I have seen that every society that has written records has had some form of worship; even if the records were pictographs (ie, cave paintings). Uneducated early man, who had no time to reason out existence, felt that there was something out there more powerful and intelligent than he/she. There were many elements that they had no control over and so somebody else must have that control; i.e. some all-powerful god/goddess or gods/goddesses.
As early man sought to explain (once they were capable of understanding more abstract thought), what they were experiencing, they reasoned that there must be something greater and more powerful than they were.
This simple, abstract thought was then built on and extrapolated to encompass the ancient multi-theist world, and then the mono-theist world.
I'm conjecturing that mono-theism came about because someone felt that polytheism was becoming or had become, too complicated and that monotheism was more simple and satisfying; at least for the less intellctual (i.e. Marx's the 'masses').
Regardless of that, man/woman knew that people needed a structuring agent. At first it was undoubtadly the husband/wife; grandfather/grandmother. This would simply be due to their being around longer than those that were born later. This is natural; we always look for guidance from older people because they are more experienced in life.
Again, the need was for structure. For a long time we have understood that structure helps build bigger and better things,as well as helping with aggression and competition, especially when societies became larger. In order to supervise society and help it work with itself, it needed to be structured and this is what I believe happened. Someone saw society being ineffective and decided that something needed to be done. I believe it was because of the primitive idea of something smarter and more powerful then early man/woman. I don't know how much it was due to some concious act to exploit. I think eventually this is what happened in certain instances but I don't think it began that way.
MOVING ON (sorry), I dont' think that any of us can contradict this. A huge part of religion is concerned with the structuring of society to help it work better with itself. This I think it accomplished to a great deal. Except when it came into contact with different beliefs. This is largely where we're at now, and have been for hundreds of years (islam. as regards christianity and judaism)