Religion is apart of evolution?

Posts: 20
Joined: 2007-09-23
User is offlineOffline
Religion is apart of evolution?

I am a theist; yet, I am simply trying to understand the views on this board.

I have a question about religion and evolution. It seems that most atheists proclaim that theism served some purpose in our evolutionary past. This explains why the majority of humans believe in a god or in a plurality of gods.

Why is this is this the only argument brought forth? Why can’t it be the religion was a defect, something that did not enhance the continuation of our species? Why does everything have to be "useful" to keep being past down the evolutionarily line?

I admit I am a layman on evolution. Yet, based on what I have studied, I am perplexed that many seem to conclude that any present trait must be a useful trait or it would not be present. Thus, religious beliefs are present and must have served a purpose in the past. Why can’t it be that humans simply had a vast majority of "useful" traits and religion was in fact a defect that was passed along with these useful traits? Thus, religious beliefs did not manifest as a an evolutionary gain; rather, religious beliefs were defects surrounded by actual useful traits.

Is this a likely scenario according to atheistic evolution? I am just asking because many on here argue religious beliefs were a "benefit" yet, if atheism is true, isn’t it also likely that religious beliefs could have also been a defect protected by truly beneficial traits?

SuperfanGold Member
thingy's picture
Posts: 1022
Joined: 2007-02-07
User is offlineOffline
There are many people who do

There are many people who do think that religion was a defect as you suggest it may be.  Many defects do get passed down as well, just look at male pattern baldness.  That was the first example that popped in to my head.  It's a genetic trait, it doesn't serve any beneficial purpose, if anything it's a defect.

In regards to religion itself, just look at the purpose it served: 

* Knowledge.  Humans are curious creatures.  We like to know what is going on around us and how.  We fear the unknown.  Religion answered a lot of questions we couldn't solve at the time.  Sure most of these answers were laughably incorrect, but they were still answers and hence shrunk the unknown to a managable level. 

* Peace.  It also provided a method of order, assisted in keeping the peace where rules and laws failed.  This was done through fear of ultimate punishment for the rest of eternity, the fear that no matter where you were and what you did this almighty sugar daddy in the sky saw all.  There was nowhere to run, nowhere to hide. 

* Comfort.  Putting aside the eternal punishment if you do wrong, sugar daddy in the sky also loved you and was always there for you.  Helping you out in all your tasks.  All you needed to do was pray and this all powerful being could do anything, no task was too big.


So those were the purposes of religion.  Do we need them anymore?

* Knowledge.  We get this through science now, studying the way things work.  We've since learned that most if not all that we were taught by religion was wrong.  Lightning is not thor striking his hammer, hurricanes are not god being angry at those who suffered.  They're both just natural phenomena that occur in nature.  We now know how they and many other things work and as time goes on this understanding will just improve.  We don't need religion for knowledge at all.  Today religion just gets in the way of knowledge.

* Peace.  In the democratic societies we live in there's working police and other security forces to keep the peace.  There's a (mostly) fair system of laws for dealing with those who do not stay peaceful.  We've moved a LONG way away from the peace that religion once taught.  No longer do we stone people to death at all.  Slavery is abolished.  Race is a bad reason to treat someone differently.  Sex is a bad reason to treat someone differently.  Sexuality is a bad reason to treat someone differently.  There's tens if not hundreds more things that religion once supported "peacefully" that in todays society we would find horrifying and anything but peaceful.  In many cases (sexuality and sometimes sex as two examples) religion still preaches hate.  We don't need religion for peace at all.  Today religion just gets in the way of peace.

* Comfort.  There's a fear of the unknown.  We don't know everything.  Therefore in my mind certain people (but not all) still require comfort, a security blanket of sorts.  Sugar daddy in the sky is watching over and will keep you safe at night.  That's about the only thing religion still provides to members of our society.  A thumb to suck and a blanky to hide under.

Organised religion is the ultimate form of blasphemy.
Censored and blacked out for internet access in ANZ!
AU: | NZ:

High Level DonorRational VIP!ScientistWebsite Admin
BobSpence's picture
Posts: 5939
Joined: 2006-02-14
User is offlineOffline
Not precisely on topic, but

Not precisely on topic, but religion is a great example of evolution in the cultural or memetic sense. This was one of the thoughts that lead Dawkins to propose the idea of 'memes' as an independently evolving class of identifiable entities, ie concepts which our minds tend to grasp as unified things. They will tend to evolve, ie those variations of the ideas which most appeal to some part of our mind and encourage us to pass them on will persist and become more widespread. This will be independent of their effect on our individual genetic 'fitness', as long as they don't encourage us to kill ourselves immediately.

 This is an attempt to explain why ideas which not be positive for our long term survival can still spread, as long as they can be passed on directly, ie, non-genetically.

Favorite oxymorons: Gospel Truth, Rational Supernaturalist, Business Ethics, Christian Morality

"Theology is now little more than a branch of human ignorance. Indeed, it is ignorance with wings." - Sam Harris

The path to Truth lies via careful study of reality, not the dreams of our fallible minds - me

From the sublime to the ridiculous: Science -> Philosophy -> Theology