Indeed, when asked such a question from a believer in an afterlife, respond by asking
"tell me what do you propose doing in the first thousand years of your afterlife, and then the next million, then the next billion . . . Some people do not even know what to do now on a single wet Sunday afternoon."
hi Scott -
what you say is true - except that way back in pre-history, mankind did make up spirituality as reasons for events - no rain, too much rain, floods, hurricanes, volcanoes, death - just look at any 'tribal' religion. has there ever been a tribe found anywhere that does not have some sort of 'religion'? As a child i made up my own, as we were areligious - it involved a very strong connection with the earth and its spirits. as an adult, i have studied Judaism, paganism, Buddha, and, of course, atheism. But, i still have that connection to earth which i will never lose and i don't want to. there's a group on this site called Naturalism - it has a lot of followers. when i look at stars at night, i see astronomy and the wonder and beauty of it.
there is a dragon hidden in this nebula in Orion - (from an astronomy site):
This is pretty much what we already know. Religion served a purpose during the founding of society, when it was more tribal. Its a function that plays off of our psychological development, and certainly would work well if you are looking to stabilize a small population among many~ but the most important part of that story is the last paragraph, and how that ties in with the rest. Yes, it has served a purpose~ but that is within a context which is no longer valid, and the evidence suggests that it is only needed for less developed communities. I would view it as the starter kit; gives a group of people the basic needs to retain and enforce social order. As that order develops and progresses, it's no longer necessary. That would seem to be why the most (socially) advanced countries are also the least religious. It has served its purpose, and now needs to be discarded.
It'll be interesting to see how the religious take this study, and infer their own results. I would put its message into a perspective such as this~ Throughout the entire natal development of a human, we do not breathe air. Our lungs are developed for birth, but until that point our bodies get oxygen through the umbilical cord. Religion is our umbilical cord, and it is high time that people see we have already been birthed~ its time to start breathing on our own, and to stop holding onto the comfortable memories of the womb.
So, are those who perpetuate their religious views, are they not at some arrested stage of development? We as humans still have the reptilian cerebellum, necessary also for humans that presently exist. I wonder how many non-theists were actually hardcore Xian fundamentalists, before they evolved? For me, when there are scientists who claim to believe in the Xian god, I have to question what the implications are for that kind of thing. For example, where scientific knowledge is concerned these folks have to suspend their rationality to believe in something, as in an invisible god, other than the feedback of their senses, which is what science is based on.
So, would it be like this for a scientist who believes in God?
1)All things are knowable.
2)The world is based on cause and effect relationships.
3)Senses are reality.
4)The principles of nature are consistent and have a logical pattern.
5)God exists, trumping 1-4 above.
I guess I have misgivings about that notion of a scientist who is a believer in god.
I could see this as an advantageous evolutionary trait for young children. When the world is a complete mystery, adults are the equivalent of gods. This type of trust and reliance would keep the child from wondering off and reduce its stress. I wonder if our predisposition to believe in gods is in any way, a remnant of an evolved trait meant to help us bond with our parents?
J. Anderson (Andy) Thomson Jr., M.D., is a psychiatrist who wrote the book “Why We Believe In God(s)” His current research interest is evolutionary psychology and using its principles to understand depression, suicide terrorism, and religious belief. He will be speaking at an event that I'm hosting on Sunday, so maybe I'll have more insight on the subject afterwards. You can find a video of one of his presentations here.
A similar possible evolutionary trait was described in "The God delusion." However, it was proposed that children have evolved a natural propensity to believe whatever their parents or adults tell them. This would be useful for avoiding danger. "Don't play with that big scary lion." But as a side-effect, children will also believe, "God will punish you if you're bad."
I'm not sure about this but it does seem a plausible reason as to why we still have religion when it is no longer needed.