There has been a lot of research in recent years as to why we like to believe in religion, and where it came from in the first place. A lot of theories have been suggested, and there’s probably an element of truth to all of them. Plus of course, there’s our deep-seated fear of the unknown, especially death. We are so afraid of death that we desperately want to believe that we don’t actually die, a desire that religion fulfils in our minds. And before we had science to explain the true nature of reality, religion provided us with an explanation for the way the world is, however fanciful it may have been. The discussion we had after my last post, however, leads to another possible idea as to the origin of religion—surely not the only reason religion came about, but quite possibly a very important one.
As social animals, human beings are biologically programmed to co-operate with and care for each other, as it enhances our chances of survival, both as individuals and as a species. This is actually the origin of the moral sense that religious people have such a hard time understanding without God, but which is in reality a very simple and logical consequence of our evolutionary history. But like all animals, however, we also have a selfish survival instinct, particularly when resources are limited. This naturally leads to tribalism—we tend to form groups that are large enough to give us what we need to survive, but not so large that we run out of resources. Of course, just how big that group can be depends on how efficiently we are able to use the resources available to us, hence technology has led to an increasingly globalised society. But at the time the holy books of most of the world’s major religions were written, tribalism was rife, as our ability to utilise resources was indeed limited. Read the rest of this entry »