People who share the bonds of religion--i.e., are similarly dependent on an authority figure--might indeed be more likely to cooperate.
In experiences that began about 15 years after I broke with religion, I found that people who are putting efforts into achieving a common goal, but are not in a competition that one will win and the others will all lose, do cooperate as societies. A Toastmasters club, and an employee-owned-and-operated business, are two such places.
Your teasing anecdote pushed me into googling 'P G Wodehouse' and 'golf'. I found that he wrote many stories involving golf.
Can you remember or relocate a title so that I can more easily pursue my search for the one that you are tempting me with?
War is a common fact across nearly all societies. The subjugation of women is a common fact across all societies. Capital punishment was once nearly ubiquitous. I suspect that the first religions began when a small number of people figured out that they could control other people by pretending to be in touch with gods, and enjoy a privileged position into the bargain. The idea caught on among fools, who, as Mark Twain pointed out, are "a big enough majority in any" group. Since everybody was ignorant, the priests and fools had little trouble imposing their will on the handful of people capable of critical thinking.
They haven't given up.
Craig, while you might suspect correctly, I have long suspected that religion grew slowly from belief in someone's explanations. For instance, a lightning bolt that frightened, or harmed, a group of people.
Someone explained it in a way that reduced the fear felt by those affected. Those people sought more explanations from the same person and rewarded him for his success in reducing their fear.
That person, seeing advantage for his family or his allies, then might well have shared his reward with them, which supports what you suspect. They then gained both religious and political rule.
Now, you and I have two explanations. Shall we offer them to the world and see which wins the most support? Suppose someone conjures up a third explanation?
Since I was a child I have never understood the herd mentality. I can remember vividly at 4 years old going sports events with my parents and not understanding why so many people were connected in some way and I wasn't. I think there is something inherent in the average persons brain chemistry that makes them connect in this way. Like sports, religion is just something people developed to fulfill that need. It's not an inherent need to have religion, religion fulfills an inherent need.
I never understood it either. It was an equal puzzle to me.
Then, late in my 50's, I discovered that I am an Asperger's Syndrome patient, and that I am congenitally inacapable of understanding the herd mentality. Never understood sports fanaticism, nationalism/patriotism, religious group loyalty, any of that. It all seemed so... silly.
So now, I just kick back and marvel at all the irrationality it produces. And enjoying the weather here in Costa Rica, after my attitude towards patriotism promptly got me chased out of the U.S. shortly after 9/11. Pura Vida!
I relate. My ex-wife is a physical therapist who worked for a school system. For years she told me how I acted like her Autistic-Asperger's kids. She finally had me go through a psychological evaluation because my behavior was so irritating. Found something else. You should get an IQ test. Now I am a lurker in this world. Can't really connect cause no one is interested in my perspective. It's a little different than what they see on TV. It's a spectrum, and as it goes, this medical world is still using leeches. We are just more evolved Scott.