Why does religion exist?

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stuck
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Why does religion exist?

Post by stuck » Tue Nov 09, 2021 10:26 am

I thought of this recently because I realized that it's important to have impulse control. Yet we do have laws against many behaviors that are deemed bad in society. Hamurabi's code was written around 1750 BC before when Moses supposedly lived. Yet there are many striking parallels to the laws in the old testament such as an eye for an eye.

I think religion can help with impulse control right? For example in the BOM it says the natural man is an enemy to God and also we should watch our thoughts, words and deeds. Heck, even Santa Claus is impulse control for kids right? It doesn't mean it's true though right?

So I guess the question is how do we give up religion and still have impulse control? Religion sort of gives us the comfort of raising our kids with more impulse control. But if it's not true are we doing them a disservice? How do we feel good about leaving religion and still giving our kids and ourselves impulse control?

Well we have laws, and religion does give us the golden rule. I don't think Jesus came up with it either right? Isn't it in the OT? Anyway, if we live the golden rule then we are pretty safe in our behavior? But I think it is important for us to educate our kids about what the law is as well or what is punishable by law. Anyway, I would be interested to hear your thoughts on this subject.

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wtfluff
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Re: Why does religion exist?

Post by wtfluff » Tue Nov 09, 2021 10:56 am

stuck wrote:
Tue Nov 09, 2021 10:26 am
Anyway, I would be interested to hear your thoughts on this subject.
Like every business, religion exists to make money.

$$$

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Red Ryder
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Re: Why does religion exist?

Post by Red Ryder » Tue Nov 09, 2021 11:25 am

Why does religion exist?

Here’s my take.

Unintelligence within the human race is the origin of religion. Let’s consider a brief timeline.

The Neanderthal’s looked up into the sky.
The Neanderthal’s saw the sun. Felt it’s warmth. Worshiped it’s resource and importance to their lives. They couldn’t explain it in scientific terms. They just knew it existed. Then one day the weather changed, it became cloudy, and started to rain.

One of the village neanderthals who was either in between jobs or on Neanderthal unemployment decided to grab his soapbox and head to the village square. He stepped up and preached that the heavens were mad, perhaps implying the great sun was a God. Therefore God was mad. God was mad at them? Why? Nobody knew exactly. As the Neanderthal soapbox preacher continued he noticed he had the attention of the other village Neanderthals. Knowing his unemployment benefits were about the run out, he suggested that the Gods were mad for not taking care of the poor, the down trodden, the unemployed! He convinced them to share their crops, their wild game, their resources. He exclaimed that the sun would remain dark, dim, and in hiding until they paid their tithes to him. And just like that a prophet was born. Everyone scurried around the village gathering their tithes and offerings. They donated to this new prophet.

The next day the sun came out and the prophet proclaimed all was well in Zion! This prophet became aware of the subtle changes the weather made. He took advantage of his meteorological awareness. Before the weather would change, he would cry doom and gloom in the village standing tall and yelling from his soapbox… Please sign up for tithing settlement! Don’t make the God of the Sun angry!

The village prophet grew rich and powerful. He continued to prophesy that the world would be destroyed if the people continued to disobey.

Overtime his scheme became more difficult to continue as weather patterns made it obvious that the clouds would roll in and the sun would disappear for a season.

The prophet had to up his game.

He observed specific behaviors of his fellow Neanderthals. Behaviors that were innocent and routine. Behaviors that were impulsive. So what did he do? He formulated a decree. Thou shaky not kill! Though shall not steal. They shall not covet the neighbors Neanderthot wife! He called these behaviors sins. Behaviors that would piss off the almighty sun God! Then he preached against and required a repentance in order to be allowed back within the presence of the prophets along with a small fee.

As technology increased, so did the intelligence of the people.

The ruse adapted and evolved. New prophets sprung from the scam evolving to the point where organized religion was born. A model designed to deliver control and separate people from their god.

Only through them are they able to bridge the gap. Man became the gatekeeper to the heavens. For profits. For ego. For fame!
Those who do not move do not notice their chains. —Rosa Luxemburg

dogbite
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Re: Why does religion exist?

Post by dogbite » Tue Nov 09, 2021 11:56 am

I would suggest reading Big Gods by Ara Norenzayan. And tertiarily, The Righteous Mind by Jonathan Haidt.

Tied into this is the Hyper-Active Agency Detection behavior of humans. It's theorized this is an evolutionarily advantageous behavior that detects threats (agents) from unseen but present signals. A rustling in the bushes, is it wind or a snake or a lion. Thinking's it's a lion or snake has little cost but big benefits for those few times it actually is and it saves you. So high false positive is rewarded. Now couple this with Pareidoelia an over active pattern matching behavior in humans, faces in the clouds or rocks.

Early religion wasn't about morality and rules. It was "science" explaining why things are the way they are. Why the rains come, why the sun shines more or less with the seasons. There are patterns and invisible agents behind the patterns...

Norenzayan says gods transitioned into moral rule making gods to help issues of trust as societies grew beyond one's ability to know everyone in it. How do you trust the merchant? Because he believes in the same threat/reward system as you. How do you know? because he exhibits expensive behaviors/objects that indicate compliance. He pays tithes visibly, he observes holy days, offerings and other disadvantages/costs. It becomes the first government.

As government takes on more social enforcement roles, religion wanes.

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Hagoth
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Re: Why does religion exist?

Post by Hagoth » Wed Nov 10, 2021 7:32 am

I think it has very little to do with impulse control. In fact, modern religions seem more designed to make you think you need impulse control and that they are the only valid governors of it. I think people, with or without religion, can live fine, organized, self-controlled lives, and not run amok with or without organized religion. Penn Gillette's response to the supposition that we need God to make us good said, "I kill and rape exactly as much as I want to, which is not at all."

Why religion started is, I think, a pretty straightforward proposition. Something must be making the sun, moon and stars shine and move. Something must be making the wind blow, the storms come, the lightning flash. Something must be deciding that this will or will not be a good year for hunting, fishing, finding fruit. We seem to go into another world when we dream. Whatever animates our loved ones must go somewhere when their bodies stop moving. Our minds seem to connect with something greater than ourselves when we sit quietly in the desert for a long time, or when we listen to hours of drumming, or stare into the fire, or dance rhythmically, or go too long without food. When we eat that mushroom or that cactus we are transported to another realm where we see and commune with otherworldly beings. Obviously there must be invisible, intelligent things at work just beyond our five senses. Let's figure out how to call upon them to be kind to us and help us understand the meaning of all of this.

Then organized religion gradually took shape to take advantage of our yearning for Something Bigger and started adding layer upon layer of hierarchy, authority, and priesthood. The priest replaced the shaman and usurped the individual's right to connect with God(s) without a middle-man. Big, impressive structures had to be built to validate the power of the men in charge. God(s) needed more and more severe sacrifices. Yadda yadda yadda. And here we are.

I think your comparison to Santa Clause is right on target. Churches obsess about impulse control not so much because we need their approval to be functional and happy, but because they need our humanness as a stick to beat us into submission with. Groups of people, at least in the sizes in which we operated for hundreds of thousands of years, will work out common rules of behavior that work for the good of the community. It takes a religion to make you feel guilty about bare shoulders, two sets of earrings, and using your last mite to feed your family instead of giving it to them.
“The easy confidence with which I know another man's religion is folly teaches me to suspect that my own is also.” -Mark Twain

Jesus: "The Kingdom of God is within you." The Buddha: "Be your own light."

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stealthbishop
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Re: Why does religion exist?

Post by stealthbishop » Wed Nov 10, 2021 12:06 pm

POV:

It has to do with the cognitive revolution as described in Sapiens for primates who achieved consciousness. They began to make meaning. They came to believe that there were higher powers connected with rocks, streams, trees, animals etc. These primates also had wiring that was tribal in nature that helped them to survive and thrive. They also began to dream at night and remember their dreams and this probably fed into their beliefs. A few of them may have heard voices or had visions and they became spiritual leaders or shamans. The supernatural beliefs became intertwined into the functioning and welfare of the tribe. It came to give them meaning and purpose in a harsh world. It gave them a survival advantage. These patterns were passed on into our biology and cultures.

While today human beings are still tribal, and always will be, traditional religions have lost their power and influence. I know of one couple who left Mormonism and are now hardcore QANON conspiracy people. The belief is that the world is controlled by cannibalistic pedophiles who are manipulating and controlling everything and Donald Trump is the new messiah who will overturn this evil globalist order. It's a new political religion!

Why does religion exist? Because it's wired into us. It has survival advantage and it will take on new forms. 99% of human beings need meaning, purpose, tribe and connection in some form or another.

NOM is a tribe. Why are you here? Why did I come back? We always used to call it a "ward". We used talk about who we would want as leaders! Why did we do that?

I actually believe Maslow's hierarchy of needs has a flaw. On the bottom are basic needs such as food, shelter, etc. "Community" is somewhere in the middle of the pyramid. I'm now aware that non human primates die within six days of getting separated from their tribe. For our ancestors, it was the same. I now believe that Tribe should be on the bottom as a basic need because according to our ancient nervous systems, there is no survival without tribe. Can you have tribe without traditional religion? Of course! That's what's happening but religion also had some benefits and research shows that human beings are lonelier than they ever have been and that human loneliness has even more serious consequences than smoking! Religion fulfilled some need. Like a vitamin! And many people now are not getting enough vitamin tribe or not getting it in healthy ways. Religion was a unifying influence that transcended political boundaries and geography. Now watch as we see the "Balkanization" of our country and others. This will accelerate as the unifying power and influence of religion wanes. The trick now is to find less harmful ways to get these important needs met.
Last edited by stealthbishop on Wed Nov 10, 2021 1:20 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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RubinHighlander
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Re: Why does religion exist?

Post by RubinHighlander » Wed Nov 10, 2021 1:08 pm

I think the previous posts here covered it quite well. Just a few brief thoughts:

Tribalism is wired into our DNA. Religion and tribalism likely evolved together. Religion is a highly successful formula to control sapiens in groups larger than 10ish people, to try and ensure trust enough to make a functional thriving tribe. The most successful religions use guilt, fear and confirmation bias as primary drivers. You need invented unseen beings, at least one god and one devil, that can see you when you are sleeping and awake, keeping track if you are naughty or nice all the time. The god being also gives sapiens a sense that something out there cares about them, even if none of their fellow apes do.

Sapiens do not like gaps in their knowledge, so they fill it up with either theories or BS. Much easier than coming up with your own BS: accepting the BS from some influential charismatic ape that seems to have the answers. Get a big enough group to all start nodding and agreeing to the BS and you soon solidify your dogma in the confirmation bias. Keep the dogma in the obscure, obfuscate, gaslight, stay out of the realms of provable scientific observation = less problems with cogdis and doubt.

I think the alternative path to religion can be more difficult; living in the unknown with your own unprovable ideas as to a purpose, with no guarantee of an afterlife. But, if you are willing to trash your own ego a bit, explore the unknowable and be okay with it, much more rewarding IMO.

Some proof of religious formula success, even in our modern times, are the significant numbers of highly educated people who still believe what they were indoctrinated into from their youth. A few of those educated folks maybe joined later in life via some life threatening or changing event that drove them to it, but there was likely a strong tribal influence there as well. Most of us were born into it or had enough of the tribe around us to keep us in for a long time.
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2bizE
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Re: Why does religion exist?

Post by 2bizE » Wed Nov 10, 2021 4:23 pm

I think religion started out as a lack of understanding of science. Particularly, solar and planetary science. Then people figured out it was a way of gaining power, control and wealth and that is what it has primarily become.
It is evident that Mormonism started as a way to make money. This is why JS sent apostles to Canada to sell the BoM copyright. It is still about making money.
~2bizE

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2bizE
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Re: Why does religion exist?

Post by 2bizE » Wed Nov 10, 2021 11:16 pm

Perhaps the purpose of religion is conformity?
~2bizE

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Hagoth
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Re: Why does religion exist?

Post by Hagoth » Thu Nov 11, 2021 7:13 am

2bizE wrote:
Wed Nov 10, 2021 11:16 pm
Perhaps the purpose of religion is conformity?
Perhaps it started as cohesion for survival and evolved into in-group social conformity.
“The easy confidence with which I know another man's religion is folly teaches me to suspect that my own is also.” -Mark Twain

Jesus: "The Kingdom of God is within you." The Buddha: "Be your own light."

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Ghost
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Re: Why does religion exist?

Post by Ghost » Thu Nov 11, 2021 8:03 am

Good discussion. I think it's interesting to think of the question of why people want/need religion separately from the question of why religion exists in the first place, though there is of course some overlap. It can serve different purposes depending on your role in it.

But fundamentally, I think it's pretty compelling to have reason to believe we will survive death, see those we care about again after they die, and hope for the justice missing from this life in another realm. Not to mention the idea of life having some sort of cosmic meaning beyond ourselves. It's easy to overlook some details that don't add up to maintain trust in a package that offers these things (not to mention scary to think of losing it).

And, of course, there's the community piece that others have mentioned. I remember thinking when I was younger that the social aspects of religion don't matter and that its importance to me was strictly in its truth. How interesting to see myself reverse that over time as I lost confidence in the truth part.

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Re: Why does religion exist?

Post by hmb » Fri Nov 12, 2021 7:16 am

wtfluff wrote:
Tue Nov 09, 2021 10:56 am
stuck wrote:
Tue Nov 09, 2021 10:26 am
Anyway, I would be interested to hear your thoughts on this subject.
Like every business, religion exists to make money.

$$$

Cynical? Who, Me???
Maybe it began as away to feel better about the fact that we all die. As I age, it becomes a more unpleasant thought. I look at movies like Cocoon so much differently now. But it has evolved into organizations for making money, money manipulation, and control.

stuck
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Re: Why does religion exist?

Post by stuck » Fri Nov 12, 2021 2:23 pm

I agree with all, thanks for your input. I guess there is some differentiation between what started religion and why it still persists. Why it still persists probably includes some of the same elements as to why it started like the mystery of what happens after we die, community, and the need for the founders/leaders to make money from it. One could argue that maybe impulse control is a factor too (ie law of Moses, 10 commandments)?

Here is a quote from Seneca I found on google: “Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by rulers as useful.”

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