My opinion on why we still have religions around the world is simple. I think it is equivalent to belonging to a club. You belong to a group, you fit in, you stand for what others stand for and this allows you to look down your nose at others. Other organizations serve similar pruposes. The Masonic lodges, the Knights of Columbus, the Elks... even the street gangs in the big cities. All serve basically the same purpose. They allow a person to feel he is a part of something.

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I tend to agree on one level (if you take out fear of dying). Almost the same net sense of belonging in the UK is found with the U.K. Soccer club fan base. Perhaps this is the substitute in the UK for organized religion and may explain why our soccer club fanatics are so emotional about their clubs, and thus why organized religion is fading there.

Those lodges also used to be mutual aid societies, before government provided welfare stepped in.  The Oddfellows were one of the least expensive as far as dues went, for two dollars a year, you'd probably get some help if you fell on hard times.  Two major differences of course:  the lodge might decide you weren't doing enough to help yourself and withhold funds, and you had to go through some bizarre initiation.  Anthropologically, an initiation (and/or hazing) was probably a way to test new members, to be sure they'd stick to the group even if something tough was demanded of them.  Hazings tend to be worse the more hazardous the work in the group is (e.g., firemen); if you won't withstand the hazing, the logic appears to go, you'll probably fold when the going gets rough.

As for British soccer...yes.  Sports fandom here isn't quite so extreme though occasionally riots do happen after games.  But the worst sports rioting I ever heard of was in Constantinople in the 500s, the Blue chariot team versus the Green.  Justinian was almost toppled from his throne, and 20 to 30 thousand people died.

Its party to be part of something...which is why most are the same religion and political affiliation as their families, etc....but its also that the part provides "answers".

Humans seem to generally be terrified of not existing anymore.  Anything that allows them to believe that, somehow, they will still exist, after they die...seems to be a rope they grab.

Some people can't accept "not knowing" things...so, "goddidit" takes care of that for them...as they consider a ludicrous answer to be better than none.

So, combine a club/gang, etc...with one that satisfies the above, and, well, its popular.

Imagine giant ferocious babies who will kill anyone who threatens to take their security blanket...and there you have it.

:D

Positive, cultural feedback loop: Yes, it brought people together and in a controllable hierarchy, but then the increased pressure to put faith in specified higher powers gave their myth increasing credibility... repeat, repeat... viola, resistance is futile.

It was called "The Big Lie Policy" when practiced in Germany before WWII.

They developed it based upon the Catholic Church's success with the concept, and, worked with church officials on it.

Its too easy to look back at times in history when people, en masse, seemed to do things we think WE would never do.

I think, in retrospect, that it is arrogant of the present to claim a past morality that was never tested.

When everyone ELSE seems to feel that a certain opinion or viewpoint is "normal"....most people, historically, simply have felt that way too...its akin to mob mentality, but more subtle.

People say THEY would not have had slaves, or they would not have been a Tory regarding American independence, would not have stoned a sinner to death, would not have sacrificed their virgin daughter to a god, and so forth....yet, historically, people DO.

They do because those actions are "normal", to them. Having slaves was normal...why wouldn't you? Stoning a sinner was normal, and NOT stoning them was asking to BE stoned next. Being Tory, in the 1700's, was being Loyal to the Crown...and wanting to stay part of Britain.

And so forth.

Our hindsight is through rose colored glasses.

Hence, religious rituals, acts, views, etc...that we view as being normal, now, we, in the future, will assuredly look back through rose colored hindsight, and view it as something to scoff at as ludicrous.

So, people in the 2000's laugh at the ludicrous beliefs of those who made sacrifices in the early millennia, but consider a nipple to be obscene and homosexual acts to be unlawful/same sex marriage to be immoral.

In a while, same sex marriage won't be a phrase, anymore than different sex marriage was a phrase 100 years ago...etc...and a modern person will laugh at the old fashioned notions we used to have.

Religion will evolve as it always has...morphing to maintain relevance or dying.

I don't know how long it will take to be an old fashioned concept altogether...but, if it follows the patterns it has historically, the gap left for god will continue to shrink...and holidays will morph further and further into generic days off/celebrations.

The sense of belonging mentioned at the top will be a long term survival reason, but, the description of the "club" each thinks they belong to, will morph as needed to reflect what they think they believe...as it has historically.

IE: "I am a Catholic" = "This is George Washington's axe...we changed the head twice and the handle three times so far"

:D

"Everyone knows that..."

"Well, I don't.  Explain."

*crickets*

Belonging is very important, we are a social creature. Yes they are just partizan gangs.

We still have religions because people are born to believe in strange things, threaten those who don't with paying a big price (banishment, ridicule, physical suffering, death) which is something even the strongest people cannot easily fight. Even with the soundest reason...it will take almost forever to get rid of these "strange things".

I really don't believe that people believe in strange things because that's their way to feel part of something. You can feel part of something by joinging a humanist group, or charity, or sports team. You can share similar ideas and feel stronger about them with peers around you...yet not be about believing in strange things.

People continue with religion because we are prone to believing in straaaaange things and insist on believing in strange things despite near perfect arguments to the contrary, fear of paying a social price for not believing in it and religions deep tenticles which weave it's way into political, social and cultural identity.

In 100 years of secularism we've pulled off the incredible in a few countries...but have not even scratched the surface in most. Overcoming our inherant drive to create meaning out of nothing and solidifying the strange things that come from it...is like fighting a house on fire one bottle of water at a time. Endless more work to be done.

Ancient burial mounds would indicate that some form of religiosity and ritual practice are among some of the earliest of human behaviors.  It is my personal theory that this psycho-behavioral characteristic developed early in our species as an evolutionary response to the need to create a means by which humans from one hunter-gatherer tribe could be assimilated into other hunter-gatherer tribes, despite geographical differences or very different physical characteristics.  This allowed for disparate bands of humans to merge, broadening the gene pool and allowing our species to survive disasters or diseases at a time when our species was not so numerous as it is today.   Other posters have made reference to this, so I won't belabor the point, but the importance of being able to form cooperative relationships with other humans to the survival of our species cannot be overstated.  It is absolutely essential, and it may be that religiosity, or the tendency for it, will never be eliminated from our species until or unless we evolve a brain that works differently than the one we currently have.   

In addition, religion and religious practice is perhaps the single most efficient and effective way of transmitting cultural information over great distances and long periods of time ever invented.  It often survives even the most systematic and horrific oppression.  The survival of Jewish culture, even after centuries of persistent attempts by numerous other cultures over long periods of time to eliminate them, attests to this.  The survival of Native American culture here in the US  is deeply rooted in the spiritual ideas and practices of Native American tribes.   Religious faith played a vital role in the development of African American culture and the ability of enslaved African people to survive that brutality.  It is no accident that one of the first things a conquering or colonizing culture often does is to outlaw, eliminate, or usurp the religious practices of the culture they are invading, and replace it with their own.

In short, I think your idea that religion is analogous to being a member of a club is probably accurate on a lot of levels, but I also think that religion is not as simple as that, and that one of the mistakes that we atheists and secularists sometimes make is in looking down our noses at those who profess religious faith, and dismissing that belief as being nothing more than weakness, or delusion, or ignorance.  I have certainly known religious people who were all of those things, but I have known many more who were not.

Well, if the "knowledge" passed down was useful, and not BS, perhaps it would garner more respect.

Perhaps if dividing humans into warring factions was a good idea religion would be useful.

Separating factions into us vs them has lead to family feuds, to tribal warfare up to world wars.

Chimpanzees have been found practicing what appears to be rituals involving stones placed in tree forks prior to attacking other monkey tribes, and other odd ritual behaviors with no other known interpretation.

We, in general, are pattern recognition-biased.  We can see a face in a random patterns of light/dark smears, ascribe significance to what socks we wore when we did well at or watching a sporting event, and so forth.

Animals, even rats, have been found to have the same behavior.  If something they did was followed by a bad, or good, event...they avoid repeating that if it were bad, and repeated it for a very long time if good.

If, say, a Mets fan sat in a particular chair wearing a particular baseball cap...and his team on TV won....he might insist that that's why they won...especially if they won a second game under those conditions.

If they lose the third game, despite the conditions, the fan will then look for why...and perhaps conclude that a buddy who came over to watch too, had jinxed the outcome, and, will never be allowed to come over to watch a game again...and so forth.

Animals act in an analogous manner...so, it seems to be how we are hard wired.

Some people think well/better than others, and decide that it would be highly improbable if a team on TV playing a thousand miles away could be influenced by what someone watching on TV was wearing/doing.

Some think a little better, but not well enough, and are unsure if it matters, and go with the "just in case" philosophy...so they wear what is "good luck" just in case.

Others will not be able to consider that they can't influence a remote game on TV, and will kill you if you don't cooperate in their ritual, etc.

And so forth.

Some people are hard wired such that they NEED there to be a control on things...things that are random and not predictable are frightening...and, to cope, they are therefore imbued with order.

If there's an order to things, they are under control, whew.

So religion is part of that very very early need to feel that things will be OK.  If you might be able to influence your environment, you might have a chance.

This is why, for humans, the earliest known religious rituals concerned burials, as death is the big D...if you die, all that fear is realized, and the fear of death has been a driving force to stay alive, and, its hard to function if too afraid.

A bowler will wildly gesticulate and even possibly yell at the ball to coerce it to head back over to the desired pins...with no known way for that to WORK.

We simply need to feel that we can influence things like that.

In prehistoric times...we might think "Please Mr Bear, don't see me, don't see me, don't see me..." and, when you get right down to it, that's a prayer to the bear.

If he DOESN'T see you...well, it WORKED, right?  :)

You will pray to the bear every time after that.

Pray to the tree to hide you, or to have fruit when you climb it.

Pray to the sky for rain.

Pray to the herd to give you meat.

and so forth.

Religion is simply an extension of that behavior.

:D

Thanks, TJ, enjoyable read :)

Hi, TJ!

Well, if the "knowledge" passed down was useful, and not BS, perhaps it would garner more respect.

Leaving aside the fact that I never described the information being transmitted as "knowledge," that's a completely subjective assessment.  Did someone die and name you arbiter of All Things Useful? 

Perhaps if dividing humans into warring factions was a good idea religion would be useful.

Separating factions into us vs them has lead to family feuds, to tribal warfare up to world wars.

Right.  Because if only there was no such thing as religion, we would all be living together in harmony without wars or conflicts.  You don't really believe that, do you?  That religion is the reason human beings fight each other?  I am not so naïve as to think that religion is not a factor, but surely you are not so naïve as to think that conflicts between peoples can simply be ascribed to religion and religious practice. 

Chimpanzees have been found practicing what appears to be rituals involving stones placed in tree forks prior to attacking other monkey tribes, and other odd ritual behaviors with no other known interpretation.

We, in general, are pattern recognition-biased.  We can see a face in a random patterns of light/dark smears, ascribe significance to what socks we wore when we did well at or watching a sporting event, and so forth.

Animals, even rats, have been found to have the same behavior.  If something they did was followed by a bad, or good, event...they avoid repeating that if it were bad, and repeated it for a very long time if good.

If, say, a Mets fan sat in a particular chair wearing a particular baseball cap...and his team on TV won....he might insist that that's why they won...especially if they won a second game under those conditions.

If they lose the third game, despite the conditions, the fan will then look for why...and perhaps conclude that a buddy who came over to watch too, had jinxed the outcome, and, will never be allowed to come over to watch a game again...and so forth.

Animals act in an analogous manner...so, it seems to be how we are hard wired.

Agreed.  We are very smart animals, but we are animals nonetheless.  As such we share characteristics with other mammals.

Some people think well/better than others, and decide that it would be highly improbable if a team on TV playing a thousand miles away could be influenced by what someone watching on TV was wearing/doing.

Some think a little better, but not well enough, and are unsure if it matters, and go with the "just in case" philosophy...so they wear what is "good luck" just in case.

Others will not be able to consider that they can't influence a remote game on TV, and will kill you if you don't cooperate in their ritual, etc.

And so forth.

So, some people just "think better" than other people.  And how is dividing people into categories based on your perception of how well they think NOT just another means of "dividing humans into...factions?" 

Some people are hard wired such that they NEED there to be a control on things...things that are random and not predictable are frightening...and, to cope, they are therefore imbued with order.

If there's an order to things, they are under control, whew.

So religion is part of that very very early need to feel that things will be OK.  If you might be able to influence your environment, you might have a chance.

This is why, for humans, the earliest known religious rituals concerned burials, as death is the big D...if you die, all that fear is realized, and the fear of death has been a driving force to stay alive, and, its hard to function if too afraid.

A bowler will wildly gesticulate and even possibly yell at the ball to coerce it to head back over to the desired pins...with no known way for that to WORK.

We simply need to feel that we can influence things like that.

No argument here, either.  Although I think you underestimate the issue of power and control and its role in human psychology.  Thirty years of working in the fields of education and psychology have led me to the conclusion that it is not "some" people who are hardwired to need to feel they have some control over their environment.  Believing that we have some control over ourselves and our environment appears to be necessary to healthy human psychological development in pretty much all people.  Let's just say I have never worked with a client or a family in crisis, regardless of the nature or severity of the crisis, or the psychological condition I was dealing with, in which issues of power and control were not a factor.  I don't think this is just an "early early need."  It is still very much a part of the psychology of modern humans.

In prehistoric times...we might think "Please Mr Bear, don't see me, don't see me, don't see me..." and, when you get right down to it, that's a prayer to the bear.

If he DOESN'T see you...well, it WORKED, right?  :)

You will pray to the bear every time after that.

Pray to the tree to hide you, or to have fruit when you climb it.

Pray to the sky for rain.

Pray to the herd to give you meat.

and so forth.

Religion is simply an extension of that behavior.

Again, I agree with you.  I just think it's cute how you apparently think we are SO far removed from that prehistoric man and his psychology.  We're not.  And being condescending to other people because you think you are so far advanced of them in your ability to think is not particularly...what did you call it?...Useful. 

I do hope I haven't put you off.  I tend to be sort of playful and a little sarcastic in my approach, and I write very much the way I talk.  I suspect, should I continue to participate on this site, that you and I will find ourselves on the same side of many debates/discussions, and I look forward to the engagement.  I was a moderator on an atheist debate forum for several years, but my site is now defunct and I have missed having discussions like these.  I live in Texas, am a native Texan, in fact.  You can imagine how little opportunity I generally get for meaningful intellectual interaction around issues related to my atheism! 

Cheers!  ;)

  

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