Given the sense of security that religious faith brings to people -such as quelling the fear of death, answering many of life's important questions, and in addition, the protection of these things through community, is it likely that religion was a necessary component of the evolving human? Perhaps, the first humans who were able to ask "who am I, and why am I here?" used religious belief to protect themselves from those who lacked this cognitive ability.
If this is true, then doesn't that mean that some or most people cannot help how religious ideas overpower their sense of reason. Science and reason then becomes the scalpal for removing this sense of security.
I'm in the middle of Robert Wright's The Evolution of God, which deals with this very issue. And yes, I think that's largely how religion evolved in the first place - to explain the "Why?" questions. Where did we come from? How did we get here? When do the crops start growing again? Why are we here? What happens when we die? And of course the most dangerous question of all: Who made all this?
Religion became intellectual shorthand for dealing with all those abstract questions that ancient humanity wasn't quite ready to deal with yet, as Douglas Adams described in his speech, Is there an artificial god? "Early man thinks, 'Well, because there's only one sort of being I know about who makes things, whoever made all this must therefore be a much bigger, much more powerful and necessarily invisible, one of me and because I tend to be the strong one who does all the stuff, he's probably male'. And so we have the idea of a god."
However, what we as atheists are failing to take into account is emotion. People generally don't believe in things for solely intellectual reasons, although they can be convinced by a rational argument. People believe things for the emotional impact, and religion has perfected this approach down to a literal science. The problem is not so much convincing people with science and reason, because they may know intellectually that what they believe is absolute nonsense; but if they're emotionally connected to a belief it will be nearly impossible to sever them from it, because neither the belief nor the feeling are rational.
The trouble is that religion offers that sense of security and comfort that most people crave, while atheism only offers insight, rationality and freedom. But if comfortable slavery looks better than rational freedom, what impetus do people have to leave it?
Those are my thoughts as of late. Glad someone else is thinking about this too.
Thank you. I will take a look at Wright's book. Looking back at my experience, my faith was deeply emotionally satisfying. I can see that security of belief has a large emotional component.
Since humans are first emotional beings and second rational, then the idea that the world will somehow wake up and be transformed by as you say, insight, rationality and freedom, seems unlikely-at least in the short term.
Community is deeply entwined in this too. As a Christian, I didn't have so much of an emotional connection to the beliefs or to god as I did to the people in my faith community. That sense of belonging was always much more important. To admit that I didn't believe in god was to turn my back on that community, which included my entire family. That's a powerful thing, and for many people their entire world is comprised that way.
Jill Mytton in The God Delusion: "The process of leaving behind a whole social network, a whole system that you've practically been brought up in . . . Very often you leave families and friends . . . You don't exist any more for them."
I'm reminded of some things I've read recently about people who have "blown" from Scientology, and the reason that they often decide to "route out properly" (even after enduring horrific abuses) is so that they don't lose contact with their family.
There is nothing wrong with
People believe things for the emotional impact, ... if they're emotionally connected to a belief it will be nearly impossible to sever them from it, because neither the belief nor the feeling are rational.
The problems appears when believing people think they have the right to impose their beliefs on others, or more importantly, impose their rules on others. Faced with a long history of violent acts committed by religious in the name of their god (you define which god and which people) to continue choosing bombs and bullets to determine the winner is a very dangerous thing to allow happen. We are at a time when one person can pull down cities and populations even as our fancy and expensive bombers, war ships, smart bombs, and guided missiles can pinpoint a doorway or a car. What use is all this knowhow, if one person can be the carrier of diseases?
The KKK and other organizations use religion as a cohesive glue for their little bands of nonsense. It is time to call them on their fairy tales and wicked devil. The devil is in the human spirit.
Personally I could perhaps convince myself to partake of some silly myth with scant (or zero) evidence, if said myth had a soothing and supportive impact on me, but without deleterious or malign consequences, and without internal contradictions. Religion, as an innocent self-delusion for comfort and guidance, isn't necessarily such a bad thing, if it's strictly a sort of personal anti-depressive. I grudgingly respect it. The problem comes when the touchy-feeling turns into menacing and violent, into a sort of intellectual extortion. All religions of which I'm aware degenerate into vindictive and hateful perversions, once theory becomes practice. Perhaps, then, no idea that lacks essential truth can have a redeeming value, since any such idea is liable to degeneration into becoming an abusive tool. An innocent falsehood is never innocent for long.
Nevertheless, there is something tremendously appealing about religion. Why is the overwhelming majority of humanity, at present and throughout history, at least nominally religious? Why is it that even today, non-religious people have to carefully excuse themselves and justify their viewpoint, whereas for a religious person, it is sufficient to just exclaim "I believe!", and that's it? The answer, I think, follows along the lines of our discussion here... partaking of religion offers some sort of evolutionary survival value.
I wish I could remember where I read it, but I recall an idea which looked at religion as a societal tool (social anthropological tool?). The idea is that in any group or community, certain rules must be adhered to in order for the group to function properly. Inevitably, most or all of the members will eventually break some of the rules and therefore need reprimand and punishment. If the task of being the enforcer is left to a member or members of the group, eventually the enforcer will have had to punish everyone, and therefore be a target for ouster from the group. Replacing the enforcer with another member just continues the problem until everyone has been kicked out. Enter the idea of god. He can be the "bad guy" and the enforcers become just the messenger. Thus, the invention of god was needed to help prevent early groups from destroying themselves by attrition. Thoughts?
Right: Because you can't argue with a god. And if the guy who understands all the signs and talks to the gods tells you you're doing wrong and how you need to be punished, who are you to argue? It's like my parents always said: "Don't argue with me! I didn't say ____ - God did. You'll have to take it up with Him."
That makes sense to me. Then those who are in power create the rules which have the largest benefit for survival for the community-one would hope. Sure, then the first rule of belonging eventually evolves into "you cant believe in any other God but me..."
Good point. Perhaps you've seen the same behavior in corporate management? The manager is in the act of pushing some dog's-body-work (which I take to be British for soul sucking, miserable) on you and he says, "What can I do... Management is saying I've got to have 2 people on it tomorrow or I'm fired."
Blame someone not in the room for your decisions, especially those decisions that ask another to do something you would not.
Another form is when you take a request to said manager and he replies, "I'd love to give that to you, but I've got to talk with the V.P." Defer decision, make the decision out of sight of the requester, return with an answer from the mountain that can not be questioned.
pretty neat trick of manipulation. Would have loved to witness the first time someone tried this, thus inventing the first "proto-god"?
I think that your premise is reasonable, but probably some others are as well. I think man invented religion as you stated above, but also for a way to explain things going on around them in the natural world. Premise: 25,000 yrs ago a man observes a lightening storm that causes a fire on the plains. Now this man is just as intellegent as we are, maybe even a genius by todays standards. How does he explain this. Still just getting his feet on the path to civilization, as it were. He notices that the lightening causes the fire, but not every time. And if he was, say hunting deer when it happened, but never when he hunted boar, he could make an inference out of that. A wrong one, but he was thinking, applying as much logic as he could. So we hunt deer when the sky seems clear, boar whenever. Now the deeper meaning, who or what caused the fire from lightening? Since he lived in a naturalistic surrounding, must be something natural. After much thought, a higher power? It becomes codified by his fellow tribesmen, and possibly other tribes in the region. My man is a great orator, by the way. This explains many things, and a sense of security for them all. It informs their everyday lives. I'm just trying to think like that man of 25,000 yrs ago, and I might be totally wrong, but basic human emotions are still the same, I think. In my mind this makes religion a failed science, since many different peoples had many different ideas, none of which were demonstratable or could be repeated from one place to another. Like a science experiment can be repeated in Norway, Canada, Chad, Togo, anywhere and come up the same everytime. I think all humans have this cognitive ability to make a leap out of minimal facts, and be right quite often. But also wrong. I know science and reason gives me a better sense of security than religion. But it is hard to give up that feeling of being with others of like mind, that "warm blanket" feeling. Just my thoughts, my friend. Peace.
Sure, your idea makes sense as I think is closely related. I was thinking of the modern day tribe that's been cut-off from civilization as an example. Perhaps someone who knows much more than I do about this subject can help.
Yes, I agree with the descriptions of how religion may have evolved throughout history, creating bonds and protocols for primitive peoples. Clans became tribes became nations, each with their own story of creation and meaning. Over time, verbal stories turned into scriptures and dogma, then along came councils to decide the canon. Just picture it, Bronze age oral history transforming into written and then into political and economic history. They are all bound up in each other.
Some smart aleck came along and said man (human) was not the top of the pyramid, the sun did not go around the earth, evolving into recognizing gravity and all the other little tidbits began to pile up and before you know it, there were more galaxies, perhaps more planets with life, and humans moved from stone weapons to arrows (not because they ran out of stones but because they found a better way to bring down animals and fowl.) Then along came steel weapons, dynamite made it onto the battle zone (some thinking that would be the end of war because it was so deadly), and bullets, bombs, atomic energy.
We are still stuck with that old book based on Bronze Age thinking, the one with the biggest bomb is the WINNER. Might makes right. We are so right we now have the capacity to destroy life on earth as we know it. People can use their god/s and beliefs of dominion to overwhelm all others and poison our waters, soils, and air.
We are no longer smart primates, we are destroyers of earth's life.