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Post BBCode URL - Right click and save to clipboard to use later in post Post 1: Tue Aug 20, 2019 5:42 pm
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Origin of religion

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I'm going to put this out there for all you people who are a lot smarter than me to either shoot down or perhaps build upon.

I've often wondered how and why the phenomenon of religion embedded itself in the psyche of mankind. An idea came to me awhile back as I was reading about evolution and how many of our responses to various situations actually had their genesis in prehistoric man (fight or flight response comes to mind).

Early man was primarily concerned with one overwhelming purpose: survival. He didn't live to further a career or build a legacy for himself. He lived to survive. He wasn't the strongest or fastest animal on the plateau so he had to out think other carnivores to get his share of food and keep from being eaten. The smartest folk in the clan tended to live longer and produce more offspring - natural selection at work. In the course of evolution man developed larger brains, got smarter, and came to dominate all the other species.

In the course of the overriding drive to survive, evolution provided a means for man to seemingly survive beyond the grave. It was the next logical step toward ultimate survival. Evolution gave some of our ancestors the desire for a supreme being as a pseudo answer for their need to live beyond the grave. The supreme being, of course, offered eternal life. Those who embraced the idea tended to band together, forming stronger units to fight off their enemies. Those who could not or would not believe became outcasts and ultimately food for wild beasts. So religion arose in much the same way as brainpower and the ability to walk upright - from a need and desire to survive.

Of course, there were other benefits to embracing religion whether real or imagined. Things like unity, safety, hope, health, and more food on the table. But survival was paramount, both for the here and the hereafter.

Furthermore, I wonder if all our emotions - anger, hate, love, compassion, and fear, etc. are all tied to the need and desire to survive.

Think about it.

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Post BBCode URL - Right click and save to clipboard to use later in post Post 2: Wed Aug 21, 2019 1:54 am
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I don't think it's that complicated.

Just recently we've been having some extreme lightening and thunderstorms here. Far more powerful than what we've normally experienced. I believe there is a natural superstitious instinct in all humans to imagine that some higher being is simply angry and lashing out. Because even though I'm not a religious person that's the first thought that runs through my mind. "The Gods are angry, I sure how they don't strike my house down".

I think this kind of superstitious thinking it just natural. Very possibly having to do with an instinct to survive. The storm is threatening. And so we instantly imagine an entity associated with it that we might somehow appease. And thus religion is born. Especially religions that focus on a need to appease a potentially angry God who is about to take his wrath out on us.

Just in front of my house very large oak tree was struck with lightening and broke off at the stump. It fell directly toward my house and would have totally demolished the roof of my small wooden home. Fortunately there was another huge oak tree in its path and that oak tree conveniently had a "Y" in it where it branched out. That "Y" caught the falling tree just in the nick of time and prevented it from falling on my house.

So what am I to think now?

Was an angry God trying to smash my house with an oak tree?

Or should I thank God for the second oak tree that caught the falling oak?

I think the bottom line is that it's just pure luck. Period. It could have gone either way and I just lucked out. But trying to somehow assign these events to an imaginary God is very easy to do.

Many religious people would claim that God saved their house by having the second oak tree catch the falling oak. But how silly is that? If a God were going to intervene why not just prevent the first tree from being struck by lightening in the first place?

But yeah, it's easy to imagine all sorts of supernatural explanations for perfectly natural events.

In fact, living in the woods surrounded by large oak trees I should actually expect a tree to fall over from time to time. And indeed they do! No Gods or Demons required.

Trees naturally fall over on occasion. Especially when they are struck by very powerful lightening bolts.

So as far as I see it, religions have as much to do with just plain being superstitious as it has with a desire to live forever. Of course the promise of the latter is a strong attraction for many people.

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Post BBCode URL - Right click and save to clipboard to use later in post Post 3: Wed Aug 21, 2019 8:30 am
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[Replying to post 2 by Divine Insight]

That's a plausible explanation, DI. But I think the instinct to survive is also. Maybe they both played a part.

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Post BBCode URL - Right click and save to clipboard to use later in post Post 4: Wed Aug 21, 2019 9:42 am
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Re: Origin of religion

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[Replying to post 1 by amortalman]

Personally, I think it came about by the development of what makes us smart to begin with: pattern matching. By seeing patterns, we learned to predict far sooner than we were able to analyze or rationalize. Survival similarly plays a large part in that our brains are more capable of seeing, recognizing, fearing, and remembering adverse events over positive ones. If you feel guilty about something wrong you did or you recognize some harm someone else did (very easy and common) and then a terrible thing occurs (also very common in primitive humans before technology), it is easy to rationalize and conclude that some angry... thing... is paying you or them or us back for the evil that was committed. This will naturally create some form of superstitious pattern-matching: bad makes bad by some unknown force!

As for eternal life ideas, I would imagine this comes from generic brain trickery from loss of loved-ones. I remember one night my wife was out on some trip and yet I saw and heard her standing in the doorway of the room only to find out it was some strange half-asleep hallucination. Certainly not a common thing for me so it must be a spirit! Well, except she wasn't dead. Imagine all those who have lost loved ones having similar episodes and it's easy to imagine that perhaps there is life after death since enough people have mentioned seeing or hearing them. And since some being punishes us for our evil ways, it's easy to conceive one must be good to have a decent afterlife or to revisit the living, etc, etc. Pattern matching, brain tricks, and wishful thinking creates superstition. Intelligence and desire to control a populace via superstition, however, is what creates religion (or organized religion at least).

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Post BBCode URL - Right click and save to clipboard to use later in post Post 5: Thu Aug 22, 2019 11:52 am
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amortalman wrote:

[Replying to post 2 by Divine Insight]

That's a plausible explanation, DI. But I think the instinct to survive is also. Maybe they both played a part.


Suspecting that dangerous things might be caused by an intelligent agent could be associated with an instinct to survive. After all, if you imagine getting struck by lightening you can easily imagine that it would instantly kill you. Therefore by imagining that there is an invisible intelligent agent associated with it that you might be able to appease via offerings or prayers (i.e. simply promising to the entity that you'll do whatever it tells you to do) Then by taking those actions you are indeed attempting to insure your survival.

However, I'm personally with the school of thought that all human behavior does not need to be explained by evolution. For example, drug addiction or the overuse of alcohol, even even smoking plant leaves can hardly be explained by an instinct to survive. It's probably far better explained by pure stupidity.

After all, why can it not be that some human behaviors are indeed born out of ignorance and/or stupidity? There's certainly nothing in evolution that suggests that every human should be a genius and always act in the most intelligent way possible.

Also, would you attribute a belief in fairies to evolution? Of what value is a belief in fairies to our survival? How is a belief in Gods much different? The original primal humans probably won't thinking in terms of receiving eternal life from a God who was apparently out to strike them down with lightening. So if even if they created the concept of a God in the beginning it wouldn't have been to obtain eternal life. It would have simply been to survive in the immediate storm or volcanic eruption or whatever other natural disaster they were experiencing at the time.

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Post BBCode URL - Right click and save to clipboard to use later in post Post 6: Wed Oct 23, 2019 3:18 pm
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Re: Origin of religion

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amortalman wrote:

I'm going to put this out there for all you people who are a lot smarter than me to either shoot down or perhaps build upon.

I've often wondered how and why the phenomenon of religion embedded itself in the psyche of mankind. An idea came to me awhile back as I was reading about evolution and how many of our responses to various situations actually had their genesis in prehistoric man (fight or flight response comes to mind).

Early man was primarily concerned with one overwhelming purpose: survival. He didn't live to further a career or build a legacy for himself. He lived to survive. He wasn't the strongest or fastest animal on the plateau so he had to out think other carnivores to get his share of food and keep from being eaten. The smartest folk in the clan tended to live longer and produce more offspring - natural selection at work. In the course of evolution man developed larger brains, got smarter, and came to dominate all the other species.

In the course of the overriding drive to survive, evolution provided a means for man to seemingly survive beyond the grave. It was the next logical step toward ultimate survival. Evolution gave some of our ancestors the desire for a supreme being as a pseudo answer for their need to live beyond the grave. The supreme being, of course, offered eternal life. Those who embraced the idea tended to band together, forming stronger units to fight off their enemies. Those who could not or would not believe became outcasts and ultimately food for wild beasts. So religion arose in much the same way as brainpower and the ability to walk upright - from a need and desire to survive.

Of course, there were other benefits to embracing religion whether real or imagined. Things like unity, safety, hope, health, and more food on the table. But survival was paramount, both for the here and the hereafter.

Furthermore, I wonder if all our emotions - anger, hate, love, compassion, and fear, etc. are all tied to the need and desire to survive.

Think about it.


I owe you an apology for an apparent usurpation of your OP, here. I posted my 'Which came first: Religion or Philosophy' just recently, which very much parallels your OP -- but it was my original thinking and not meant to take anything away from you; I was just guilty of not searching down through the stack to see if anyone posted anything similar.

Well, it seems that DI shot holes in my premise, and rightfully so -- to the point that I had to defer to him on just about every point he made. This whole debacle has been embarrassing to me, but I learned a lot from his extensive input. You may find it enlightening also, if you haven't already read it.

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