Religion, as it's generally encountered, is a bunch of silly make-believe. Its practitioners often seem aware of this, but they worry that if they quit their game, life will become unbearable. But was it always intentionally deceptive, or could honest philosophy have once been involved? I wonder this because I was pondering how existence might have begun a few years ago, and I came up with the idea that what initially must have existed could have only two properties: identity and lack of cause. I felt pleased with this idea.
Identity can be thought of as a recursive logical structure. Something is what it is what it is, etc. This idea has a couple things in common with a very basic observation. Our universe is several orders more large and complex than it needs to be in order to make one's head spin, but is nonetheless (really or virtually) contained within a quite tiny three dimensions. Well, if it "emerged from nothing" by virtue of a technically simple self-referential fact, then it makes sense for it to be unimaginably expansive and repetitive at the same time.
A while later, I drove some billboard that I don't remember any more while continuing to ponder this, and it suddenly occurred to me that the trip sequence part of Exodus contains a couple parallels with the ideas that I came up with. I hadn't (and still haven't) read it in probably more than a decade, but I remembered how the bush claimed to be god, and said that he is who he is, and has no name. If you remove all of the cheese, and there's a lot of it there, you end up with the same idea that I thought was pretty clever when I thought of it- that the universe derives from a thing that is what it is and has no cause. I was very upset about this at first, wondering if my Catholic upbringing had imperceptibly tainted me forever, but then I came up with this idea.
Could religions as we now know them have once hosted attempts to legitimately understand things, and then ended up devolving into nonsensical yet somewhat practical (or just addictive) social rituals like those practiced by ancestral tribal cultures, while also being corrupted by charlatans and greed? General stupidity and disinterest, as well pressure from outside, would certainly have made it very difficult for ancient societies to pass along any sort of abstract concept for several generations. The components of the idea would dissolve into childish symbols for the sake of easy transmission, but would then take on lives of their own, with the fractured meanings not approaching the original's in terms of depth or attempted validity.
Successful religions always exhibit mechanisms that deter people from leaving, as well as mechanisms that lead to their own spread. But they also tend to have some blatantly abstract, sometimes horrible bits that have no clear meaning and that do nothing but frighten and/or confuse people without providing any clear benefit to any society, modern or ancient. Could a few of these parts be the remnants of complicated speculations that have been subsequently splintered and rotted?
The way to answer arguments is by claiming the the universe is both stochastic and eternal? I don't think that those ideas are safe, i.e. they could turn out to be dead wrong, from what I can tell. I do like the part about natural laws being misnamed, though.