If there is one quality of the human race I truly admire, it is our relentless need to know things. We as a species are exponentially increasing our capacity to ask difficult questions, conceptual or otherwise. Coupled with this is our capacity to answer them, to provide evidence, to implement logic and reasoning to what we have discovered so far, in the hope of deducing what knowledge there is yet to come.
Yet, as we pursue our endless scientific and philosophical endeavours we must remember something. We are still very much afraid of the unknown. And this, ladies and gents, is what I believe to be the first ingredient when brewing a religion. Fear.
When human kind was roaming the surface of the planet, between 100,000 – 250,000 years ago in it’s tribal and primitive fashion, we had much to be fearful of. Alongside the everyday struggle of hunger, fighting neighbouring tribes, being killed by other beasts and inclement weather, we had to deal with these powerful but terrifying events that simply could not be explained. The ground shook violently, mountains exploded with fire and rock, the sea lurched forward and consumed the coast. Back at home children would grow weak and die without explanation, some women couldn’t produce children when others could, crops would seem to succeed on some occasions and fail on others, without any apparent difference in environment.
Humanity did not have the means or intelligence to investigate these phenomenon, there was no way that it would have discovered and understood ideas such as tectonic shift, germ theory and the influence the moon has over the tide. Naturally it did not know this at the time. Instead it concluded that these mysterious and (often) terrifying events must be due to a mysterious and powerful force.
But falling back to superstitious ideas isn’t really alien to us now is it?
You can find examples of the same sort of mentality when you visit a casino, sooner or later (should you frequent roulette as I like to do) you will meet someone who has a lucky number, or is wearing lucky socks, or has has a lucky technique…etc. Why are things considered lucky for a particular person? Well, because by chance that particular number, or item of clothing (supposedly) aided in winning some money for them, at some point. We all know deep down that number 9 on the roulette table isn’t going to win any more than 26 just because someone considers it their lucky number, but they will cling onto this superstition regardless. It worked one time, surely there must be something in it?
Now, if you will, take this mentality back 100,000 years. A primitive human male doesn’t want his primitive female companion to go on being weak and sickly (lets say retrospectively she has the flu), in his ignorance he tries to barter with the mysterious forces that are making his companion ill, he offers a goat. He kills said goat and waits. Now let’s say that the woman recovers sometime later, what do you think will go through the mind of the man, “Well, that was a coincidence!” or “It is clear that when people are sick, killing goats makes them well again”.
These superstitions were our first attempt at healthcare. Although we may laugh at the idea of healing ailments with animal sacrifices in the world of today, it is this type of thinking that has allowed us to progress through the ages. A long slow game of trial and error
Is it hard to imagine then, that the culmination of these superstitions over a period of time is what forms a religion? Before long these mysterious forces have names, there are certain people who seem to know more about these forces who become shamans. People are ordered to sacrifice on a regular basis to appease these named forces.
It is here that I assert that we have had many different religions, in many different places, across time, for this reason. This slow, coincidence heavy development has occurred for different groups all over the world. They reached different conclusions in regards to how many forces (or Gods) there were, what the names of these Gods were, and how these Gods were to be appeased. But it came about due to the same primitive version of what is now known as scientific enquiry.
It will come as no surprise to you at this point that I believe that this is the foundation of all religions, even the ones of today. There is nothing to suggest that the origins of Christianity or Islam are in any way divine. There is nothing that can be said by either group that would convince a thinking person that they are the true revelation.
Now, I shall finish with why I think religion is here to stay. Simply put, we will always be ignorant in some way. We will never know what happens after death and whilst we can philosophise on this indefinitely it will never be factually answered. It is because of questions like this that religion will always have room to exist, it needs ignorance and fear in order to survive.
So, if you want to start a religion you need three things. Ignorance, Fear and touch of Coincidence.
If you have read me all the way through, you are extremely kind. This is an open forum, I welcome any comments from non believers, believers and those who have not yet decided, but please…keep it as civil as you are able.