The following continues the serialization of Chapter 5 on religion from SIMPLE SOLUTIONS for Humanity:
You either believe in God, or some version of Him, or not, or, like me for most of my life, something in between. If you do, you are in the high majority and can stop reading here for you already “know” how it all began. Unless, of course, you wish to be entertained, then certainly read on. If you are an atheist or a general non-believer, generally like me today, you wonder about the rationality of how religion really got started.
The natural law of the jungle is cruel. Only the fittest survive. An animal does provide for family, and perhaps immediate clan, but it’s a war out there. Homo sapiens eventually formed nuclear families, then colonies of them. Some were more successful than others. The cunning cheater should prevail in a Darwinian culture.
How to minimize those acts could have led to a belief system where there was a supernatural enforcer to maintain control for the common good. A telling experiment occurred at the University of Newcastle where there was an honor system for the coffee pot. When a picture of eyes was placed above the payment box, collection more than doubled from a background of flowers. The eyes provided the enforcement factor.
A workable religion induces cooperation and honesty, which, in turn, would strengthen that clan or society. The notion of an omniscient, all seeing, force to watch over everyone helped maintain the order. What better than a God that was responsible for mankind? Thus, soon after the beginning, Man created God. It was the clever thing to do.
This form of early social justice could well be optimal, resulting in groups that best survived. Religion might have been the simple solution leading to the triumph of our species.
So, where does this leave religion today? Well, it got us this far. But one line of thinking leads to the conclusion that all hell could well break loose someday when people stop believing. A second more dominating wisdom applies to people like me, who don’t believe, yet are law-abiding citizens. It just makes good sense to utilize most of the practiced morality.
In my conclusion, then, religion was a necessary bridge to establish our society. It might not be needed in the future. Is that time today?