Was religion inevitable in the development of the human race?

I've contended in another post that Primitive Man created belief systems to try to explain the natural world around him. Then, Ancient Man refined, recorded and disseminated these beliefs and it's what we're still stuck with today.

Seeing how so many different cultures, spread out all over the world, created so many different belief systems seemingly independently, was the rise of religion inevitable? Have there been any cultures in recorded history that didn't have unsubstantiated beliefs? Are we wired in such a way that having any made-up answer was better than admitting our ignorance? Were the fairy tales better than nothing?

I would lean yes based on the historical evidence of so many religions that sprung up around the world. Is there another way to look at this or other factors explaining the pervasiveness of different religions over the course of history?

Tags: Human, development

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I think it was inevitable. I don't believe Abrahamic monotheism was.
Abrahamic monotheism was a fundamental piece of the nation states that won the fight for progress starting back in the time of the hunter gatherers and is still being waged now. You may be right that Abrahamic monotheism is not inevitable, but it did provide the moral underpinnings for slavery, tribalism, private property, the subjugation of women and today it still supports the moral superiority that stands behind nationalism, tribalism, sexism, and general intolerance. I think Abrahamic monotheism has been a necessity for the vicious path that humanity has taken to get from peaceful pastoral peoples to today's mess.

If we are to hope to move beyond the mess humanity has made of the world, we will have to move beyond the religion(s) that made it all possible.
Good explanation Nick.
Peaceful pastoral peoples... Ahh...

Those are, until a drought or somesuch comes and either 1. they starve, or 2. they pick up rocks and bash their next-land-over neighbors to death and take their food and/or land for cultivating food.
IMO human beings have an inherent tendency towards superstition based on the pattern recognition capabilities of the brain.

This capability offers certain benefits but it is also prone to error so we invent patterns that aren't actually there which result in superstitious beliefs.

That combined with the need for a social structure as the human race developed and the populations increased, may have laid the groundwork for religion.

My opinion is just based on an argument presented by a person on a news group and so I can't provide a proper source nor would I state it as an absolute based on personal hard research.

All I can really say is that this persons argument made sense to me.
Agreed 100%, very astute.

The human mind does visualise patterns in everything around it in an attempt to categorise input so that it may better memorise and utilise the information.

Unfortunately, pattern recognition in the human mind does not turn off in the absence of a pattern. We make patterns where there are none.

Ever stared at a static "snowy" screen? Your mind will begin finding patterns that aren't there, such as clusters, movement, repetition, etc. The same effect is seen when staring at clouds, or rain on a window.
Completely random events, yet the mind creates imaginary patterns while observing them.

Those of you who have traded in Forex know all too well that the mind makes patterns where there are none. However, in Forex, the realisation that everyone else makes up these patterns plays in your favour... because the majority of people will react to these imaginary patterns. What results is an actual pattern created due to the reactions of people reacting to imaginary patterns. If you know how most people will see it, you know what the rest of the Forex world is about to do! The patterns the average mind creates in Forex is so predictable, there are actual formulas that can show you, most of the time, what the majority of people are about to do.

This effect is not limited to the visual areas of the brain. It is evident in all areas of the mind, even in memory, and conceptual thoughts as well.

Superstition is a result of this. Attempting to find reasoning behind ultimately random events, where there is simply none.
Religion is an organised version of a superstition. It is the attempt to find an overshadowing causality behind events that can only really be analysed independently per event.

Naturally there are some basic "rule" patterns that do exist which religion encompasses that all humans should naturally develop as a "conscience", which is the realisation that your actions have a direct effect on the scenario. Unfortunately, religion removes the personal direct relationship with events and adds a third party, "god", which somehow is supposed to force the reaction to occur.

We Atheists understand that there is no such third party, that actions and reactions are directly linked with no outside interference. We also understand that while our minds may automatically formulate patterns while observing something random, these patterns are nothing more than a mental construct and are not actually part of reality.

This is one of the reasons I often refer to the religious as "deluded".
They believe these false patterns, or superstitions, are actually part of reality, and not just a mental construct.
Extremely well put and elaborated on.

Thanks for that.

You nailed it exactly.
Nah. We all know Mood rings work ;-)

Especially pink ones with unicorns. Hehe.
It does make sense. And a lot of it. This is why religion is so pervasive. This and it feeds the need to be special and of consequence, holds the fear of death and oblivion at bay and (as seen in Western history) provided a ready source for order and authority.

Add to this the lack of knowledge we have at the moment of how consciousness works, and how for centuries we mistook this feature of the brain for something separate from the body. Only in this century have we begun to understand even a little how the brain works and that the mind cannot exist separate of the brain that harbors it. Once we learn more we'll be able to understand that which we have mistaken for a "soul" all these years. Maybe that will finally close the door on religion once and for all.
That's what I'm hoping too. The concept of the "soul" appears to be the last hold-out from a scientific perspective.

That and the Deist type God which we'll likely never be able to falsify.

Studies on the brain in the last 10 years are seriously beginning to close the door on the "soul" concept already and I give it another 10 years and we'll be able to heap that concept with most of the other religious concepts that are being moved onto that mountain of myths.

The historicity of religion itself is quite complex but I agree with you completely and you've summarized it very nicely.

Whether religion itself will go out the door is another question.

It won't go quietly. Of that I'm certain.

But hopefully we'll evolve away from it before it destroys us.
Have you seen the movie 300. That'll do ya proper!
Some form of supernatural belief was certainly inevitable. I agree with Jaume when he sais that Abrahamic monotheism was not, and neither was any one particular belief system.


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