I believe that to an extent religion is hardwired into our brains through evolution. We have evolved intelligence. Our success is our ability to see patterns and solve problems. There is a purpose to everything. That works great with hunter gathering. It enables us to work with the patterns of seasons and weather, to see the patterns of behaviour in predators and prey, to find water, to seek out fruits, berries and plants, to make tools, invent things and develop knowledge and technology.
This problem solving ability has enabled us to become masters of science and technology to the point where we are actually not only the predominant species but we are actually changing the whole planet. This is now the Anthropocene. Science and technology, stemming from our intelligence, our ability to see patterns and solve problems, has brought us control over our environment and all creatures. It has brought us agriculture and civilisation and enabled us to prosper in huge numbers – now pushing 8 Billion.
It falls down when confronted with the big questions that there are no answers for. Such as what is this immense universe? Where did it come from? What is life? Where did it come from? Am I immortal?
As I said at the beginning – we are hardwired to provide answers. We do not have answers to these and other such questions. They are too immense for our puny brains. Those brains have evolved to solve more mundane, practical problems. But that does not stop us from searching for answers and providing answers.
Early man was subjected to the vagaries of nature. If they could not find food through hunting or their crops failed because of unseasonal weather they starved.
They worshipped things such as the sun which gave life. They thought they could control it, appease the god they had created and performed rituals to please her. They performed rituals to produce rain, to have a good hunt, to harvest crops, for fertility, health and prosperity. They had holy men who could converse with the gods they had created. They invented explanations for the world, the sequence of life and death, creation myths and morality stories. They created reasons for when things went wrong and how they could put them right. They created fascinating tales of the afterlife to remove fear of death – death that was so prevalent.
They held great ceremonies, pageants and developed elaborate sacrifices and costumes. They built pyramids, temples and powerful spectacle.
The bigger and more lavish the greater the ease in believing in the story.
Through time these religions grew in sophistication and adapted as our knowledge of the universe and life grew. We see this with Christianity. In the beginning Hell was under the ground, Heaven was just above the firmament, the heavens were a dome. The stars chinks in that dome letting through the light of god, the sun rotated around the earth. As our knowledge grew these concepts were changed. We no longer look for hell under the ground or burn people for saying the earth goes round the sun.
We still cling on to the supernatural explanations though. Our minds have evolved to require answers. We still need to believe there is a purpose. Even in the face of no evidence we cling to the supernatural answers we find satisfying. They give us the assurance of order, purpose and answer our questions. They are much more psychologically satisfying than to accept there are no reasons, no order and no purpose. The universe just is. Life is an accident. We have a life and that is it. The only reasons we have are the ones we sort out for ourselves.
But I reckon that it is best to face up to the truth and accept it as it is. I see no evidence of god, an afterlife or a purpose for life.
Best to get on with it and enjoy it while we can. All we have is now. Let’s try to make this wonderful experience as good as we can make it, wring as much love, fun, creativity and pleasure out of it as we can and make the planet as good as we can make it for everybody else and all living things. That’s fulfilment enough for me.