Seriously, you can cut that shit out. Hipsters rag on religion to be IRONIC. I think we’ve reached the critical point of “hur dur religion broke society,” and it’s high time we ceased the witch hunt and used our reason (the very same reason we profess transcends religion, while diluting its…
To be honest, I think your logic is off in some ways. It is not merely that science asks how and religion asks why. In fact, a lot of science’s supposed “how” can replace religions explanation of “why.” Additionally, the basis for religion’s why is irrational. Considering the origin and evolution of religion, it comes from a rather primitive human frame of mind. Mythical beings which explain the chaos of things like rain, sun, and other aspects of their lives significant to their survival. They used these explanations in place of HOW the sun, rain, and seasons, operated. The reason they used these explanations is because they did not have the ability to figure out the how, which would have been much more useful to them, for it has more truth to it than their why explanations. And in this truth, they can utilize it for their own survival. Instead of chaotic whims of the gods, there is an order. And in this order, they can then use this information to garauntee survival. Figuring out the how helps humanity develop more so then religion’s sense of why. And honestly, they’re both a why question if you actually think about it. Science explains why things work through the means of how.
I had an interesting discussion with a classmate of mine on this very topic. He had wanted to know, if we were to wave our magic wands and eliminate religion from society, would we see that humans continued on as atheists forever after, or would we see an emergence of new, idiosyncratic religions? In other words, is religiousness intrinsic to human nature, or merely a phenomenon that caught on, a fad in the way humans think about the world?
I propose that religiousness is, to a certain extent, intrinsic to human nature. That is, I could see the vast, jumbled, messy construct that we call religion arising from various leftover mechanisms of the human mind and the way we process information.
Take, for example, the component of religion or proto-religion which we might call superstition. Superstition, I believe, arises out of our predilection to associate stimuli. The human brain devotes a lot of processing power to making connections between stimuli, to simulating cause and effect. We learn by inferring cause and effect. Moreover, we tend to infer cause and effect even when it’s not there. Superstition, in it’s most basic form, is simply classical conditioning at work. Two stimuli are associated often enough that you come to believe one predicts the other. Have a rabbit’s foot on hand when good things happen, and pretty soon you’re carrying that rabbit’s foot around everywhere.
Ritual may be a side-effect of our desire to be right. There was some interesting research done on pop music, on of all things—researchers found that participants would make predictions about the way the music would go. When their predictions were confirmed, the participants’ brains produced nice little bursts of dopamine, the chemical which drives the reward circuit. And, let’s face it, the third time you go to Mass on Sunday, it’s almost impossible to not know what’s going to happen next.
Our desire to personify forces may be a result of our hypersensitivity to the states of other humans. Humans are predisposed to see faces in everything, from coffee to chairs to the clouds in the sky. This works for emotions and actions, too. We are so attuned to our social environment that we see a social environment in the absence of anything to suggest a real social environment. We anticipate that things will be done to us, that we evoke responses from our environment. It does not seem to be a great stretch to to me to go from seeing faces in toast to seeing gods in clouds.
And so, this grab bag of mechanisms which we all posses goes to make the individual parts, the ingredients of religion. The idiosyncrasies arise from the unique experiences in the formation and shaping of each religion. The exact nature of the rituals and superstitions, of the gods and the personified forces and the supposed personalities, that will vary, but the portions which are due to human nature will not.
I do not disagree with you. It is within human’s brain to connect patterns. Often these patterns are false. The false result of the patterns we connect is a consequence of the imperfections of the human mind. We cannot always accurately connect the dots of our reality to get the true reality; our perception is limited. So whether religion ever existed or not in our history, I am sure some kind of false pattern connecting would have come about. This does not mean however, that once it is realized or replaced by more accurate measures for connecting patterns and seeing reality, that then we should still continue believing in a primitive lie. The connections we made that led to religion were an ego-centric understanding of the Universe. It suspected that the forces of the Universe were human-like, because humans best understand their own selves, so an attempt to connect them selves with an understanding of the Universe only makes sense. This was a direct pattern; knowing myself, then connecting it with the Universe unknown to me. But it’s been discovered as false as we have advanced and can now more complexly understand patterns.
In summation; yes some form of false pattern making would have come about, but why continue to believe what we now know as false?