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Why is the man religious?


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#1 svehav

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Posted 26 March 2012 - 10:50 PM

Does religion (or just believing in anything supernatural) have any advantages for surviving? When you are looking at it from a point of natural selection?
Why is the man religious?
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#2 Phi for All

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Posted 26 March 2012 - 10:59 PM

Believing in things you can't see did provide a level of defense for hunter/gatherer humans. If you always imagined there was a lion in every shadow, you survived longer than those who didn't because sometimes there were lions in the shadows.
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#3 CharonY

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Posted 26 March 2012 - 11:03 PM

This is bound to be speculations and as such headed towards there.
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#4 esbo

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Posted 27 March 2012 - 03:52 AM

Does religion (or just believing in anything supernatural) have any advantages for surviving? When you are looking at it from a point of natural selection?
Why is the man religious?


I would say that without religion there is no society.

If you look back al the earliest evidence of civilisation is religious based stuff, name me a early civilisation that was not religious?

Without religion people turn into savages and that destroys society, I think we see a lot of that.

But having said that religion is not about this world it is about the next.

Having said that rats and cockroaches are not religious an they do pretty well.

For humans the morality inherent in religion makes for a better society, natural selection is often misunderstood
people use it to justify selfish and barbaric and immoral behaviour. People use it to justify their bad behaviour,
it is a dangerous idea in the hands of the stupid, it seems simple but it is actually very complex.
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#5 Phi for All

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Posted 27 March 2012 - 02:34 PM

I would say that without religion there is no society.

If you look back al the earliest evidence of civilisation is religious based stuff, name me a early civilisation that was not religious?

Without religion people turn into savages and that destroys society, I think we see a lot of that.

But having said that religion is not about this world it is about the next.

Having said that rats and cockroaches are not religious an they do pretty well.

For humans the morality inherent in religion makes for a better society, natural selection is often misunderstood
people use it to justify selfish and barbaric and immoral behaviour. People use it to justify their bad behaviour,
it is a dangerous idea in the hands of the stupid, it seems simple but it is actually very complex.

This thread is about how belief in the supernatural (things that are beyond what can be directly observed in nature) affected our survival capabilities through natural selection. I don't think an attempt to discredit natural selection is particularly on topic or appropriate here.

Further, I don't see how morality in society comes into play either. I might be misreading the OP, but it seems as though we're talking about humans at a stage before civilization truly began.

I also consider your statement about natural selection being "a dangerous idea in the hands of the stupid" to be extremely uncivil and uncalled for. I'm reporting your post for this reason.
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#6 Arete

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Posted 27 March 2012 - 03:26 PM

Without religion people turn into savages and that destroys society, I think we see a lot of that.


This argument is and should be offensive to the majority of society. It's suggestive that, rather than any sort of intrinsic humanistic set of moral values the only thing preventing us all from raping and pillaging is fear of reprisal from a higher authority. I don't believe in a deity and I don't steal lollies from babies when left alone with them. It's not because I am scared of reprisal it's because I actually have a set of humanistically determined moral values, independent of any set of societal rules or theistic guidelines:

"A man's ethical behavior should be based effectually on sympathy, education, and social ties and needs; no religious basis is necessary. Man would indeed be in a poor way if he had to be restrained by fear of punishment and hope of reward after death."

- Albert Einstein, "Religion and Science," New York Times Magazine, November 9, 1930



For humans the morality inherent in religion makes for a better society, natural selection is often misunderstood
people use it to justify selfish and barbaric and immoral behaviour. People use it to justify their bad behaviour,
it is a dangerous idea in the hands of the stupid, it seems simple but it is actually very complex.


If you're talking about eugenics, it is indeed a misinterpretation of evolutionary theory used to justify bigotry and worse. I'm sure we can all think of a few examples of religion twisted in a fashion to justify bigotry and worse too...

The power of religion - in the sense of organized religion comes from the power of belonging to an influential and powerful group. As a rather strong example, the Catholic church controls its own autonomous nation state and is arguably the richest organization in the world. Religious organizations are applied tax exemptions in many locations. Iran is controlled by a Theocracy, etc and so on. There's undeniable socio-economic and political advantages to being a member of a religion - more so in the past and in certain societies - in which not belonging to a religious organization reduces your fitness up to and including the point at which non-members are removed from the population altogether. Being a member of a powerful organization that actively supports members and in many cases, rejects and persecutes non-members provides a strong evolutionary advantage.

In an evolutionary sense, being a member of a religion also offers mate choice. Members of religious organizations explicitly show within group mate preference - as such, being a member offers a pool of potential breeding partners which are otherwise excluded. There's a number of ways in which which belonging to a religion provides an fitness advantage to an individual.
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#7 StrontiDog

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Posted 27 March 2012 - 05:23 PM

I would posit that imagination has definite and quantifiable survival value.

As a species, humans are really quite imaginative. We see imagination at work in children from the time they can communicate in any but the most basic ways. It seems intrinsic to the species. It also seems to be a true Gaussian distribution pattern within us. Some have a lot, some not so much. . .and most of us somewhere in the middle.

Imagination works to better anything from hunting tactics to making fire to more efficient tools and weapons.

I am also not sure that we can truly control our ability to imagine. No matter how intelligent you are, I believe you’ll still ‘see’ the elephant in the clouds.

I imagine (pun intended) an internal conversation, long ago: “Sharp stick good. Sharp rock better but have to get too close to use it. Hmmmm. . .Sharp rock on end of stick and my family has dinner, tonight.”

I think we all ‘see’ patterns and shapes in the clouds and the stars. But those things aren’t really there, of course. They’re imaginary.

So to get the imagination to be able to conceptualize what does not yet exist. . .you will also have some imaginary friends.

A.K.A. Religion.
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#8 iNow

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Posted 27 March 2012 - 05:38 PM

It's partly an emergent phenomenon from other evolved features (like our ability to rehearse interactions with unseen others, our search for causes and life where all previous life has some sort of parent), along with the strength it tended to provide packs and tribes through cohesion... Similar stories and legends often led to strong reproductive success and protection of kin (essentially, it becomes an extension of the kin group).

http://www.sciencefo...ieve-in-a-deity
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#9 Klaynos

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Posted 27 March 2012 - 05:45 PM

Pigeons have been observed to be superstitious. It is not surprising that beings who have greater inteligence and through tool development time to develop those superstitions into something that is very complex.

http://psycnet.apa.o...s/xge/38/2/168/
http://www.jstor.org...10.2307/1419345
http://www.ncbi.nlm....v00188-0103.pdf
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#10 John Cuthber

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Posted 27 March 2012 - 06:35 PM

I would say that without religion there is no society.


Having said that rats and cockroaches are not religious an they do pretty well.


I'm glad to see that you noticed your original point didn't make sense, but I'm curious as to why you still posted it.

Incidentally, bees and ants do even better in terms of forming a society but I have yet to see one wearing a purple dress and carrying a cross. (Other religions are also available for criticism)
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#11 StringJunky

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Posted 27 March 2012 - 07:49 PM

Although i hold no religious beliefs, I can conceive of a time, early in our history, when rituals revering and fearing supernatural beings acted as a tempering force for our most primal urges leading to larger and more harmonious social groups. It is easy in the light of our modernity to think moralistically without the aid of supernatural beings because we now have much more knowledge at our disposal but in those days of scientific ignorance fear of divine retribution was possibly the key to our large-scale cohesion. All in my opinion of course.

Edited by StringJunky, 27 March 2012 - 07:52 PM.

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#12 swansont

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Posted 28 March 2012 - 09:35 AM

I would say that without religion there is no society.


Order works better than anarchy, and religion provides a means of establishing order. The ultimate Big Brother(s), always spying on you, making sure you behave.


For humans the morality inherent in religion makes for a better society, natural selection is often misunderstood
people use it to justify selfish and barbaric and immoral behaviour. People use it to justify their bad behaviour,
it is a dangerous idea in the hands of the stupid, it seems simple but it is actually very complex.


Social Darwinism was soundly discredited, and people using natural selection to justify bad behavior is really no different than using religion to justify their bad behavior. One could just as easily say that religion is a dangerous idea in the hands of the stupid, it seems simple but it is actually very complex. The bottom line is that some people will find excuses to justify their bad behavior. That's the fault of the people, not the excuse.
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#13 immortal

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Posted 28 March 2012 - 10:46 AM

Does religion (or just believing in anything supernatural) have any advantages for surviving? When you are looking at it from a point of natural selection?
Why is the man religious?


I personally don't like this reductionist approach towards religion and the way of explaining its origins in evolutionary terms. I take the top down approach.

Religion retaliates and asks why is man scientific and believes so much in the scientific method?
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#14 CaptainPanic

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Posted 28 March 2012 - 11:11 AM

Religion retaliates and asks why is man scientific and believes so much in the scientific method?

Nobody believes in the scientific method, but it's still very useful. It's a tool, not a belief.
It's like any other tool. There is no point in "believing" in hammers as a tool to push nails into wood. You can, if you like, but it's pointless. Hammers exist. And they are useful.

The scientific method allows us to test theories, and use those theories that we tested to predict other phenomena. It is very useful.
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#15 immortal

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Posted 29 March 2012 - 10:45 AM

It is very useful.


Not so useful and handy for investigating the metaphysical and the ontological aspects of nature in order to give an objective account of reality. The urge in theists for believing in God is due to the hope that God gives such an explanation and also an objective account of reality and this is the reason why man is religious.

It becomes a belief if someone tries to falsify religion using the scientific method since religion as such lies in the realm of metaphysics.
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