Religions provided answers to questions where material evidence was either lacking or inconclusive because early civilizations did not yet understand the scientific basis for natural events. It made more sense to attribute the sound of thunder to an angry god than to leave the phenomenon as an unanswerable mystery.
Religion helped to codify social norms as well. The idea that a particular belief — sacrificing animals to achieve success on the battlefield, for instance — was ordained by powerful deities ensured social approval of actions which might have been opposed or resented by individuals or groups.
Social cohesion. Humans like to tell myths and stories, it’s just a matter of how literal one takes them. These stories can be used to keep people in line, or to have people do what the leaders want them to do
I see a lot of answers and they aren’t wrong. Truth is that we don’t really know. There are good guesses though. The one i like is education. Religion made it possible to educate people without explaining why. I don’t think it was created by some guy as a way to trick people into being educated. But consider this. Most major religions have or once had animal sacrifice. But not any animal from the herd. A very special animal that met some requirement. Those shepards and farmers that made the sacrifice had better more stock survive winter and overall did better. God must have looked favorably on the sacrifice. Compare that sacrifice with culling, the act of eliminating part of a herd so as to free up food and resources for the rest. It’s a common, necessary practice when dealing with livestock. The way you go about it is very similar to the animal sacrifices of old religions but without the ceremony.
The idea of culling seems counter intuitive, especially when you have no education or understanding of the world. But religion is easy to understand. Some higher being wants this done. If you dont do it, bad things happen.
Superstition is a natural part of any creature with high mental capacity. the higher the more superstitious. once you’ve got superstition, it’s not far off from mysticism then religion. once you got a lot of people living in a set of supernatural rules, some charismatic guy is going to pop out and take charge of it. he might truly believe it or he’s just lying, regardless, he’ll take charge and unify everyone and that’s what a religion is. cults and religions diff in that a lot of people believe a religion is benevolent while cults are not. people who are in cults certainly don’t think they’re in cults, they think it’s a religion. so new religion are being created all the time, we just call them cults.
The stricter the rules and the better their brainwashing techniques, the stronger the religion is. what do you think going to church every weekend and confessing your sins do? it basically puts you under the power of the priest. each week you go and get reminded of your allegiance. you perform rituals that remind of you that allegiance.
Look at how fervent muslims are. they have to pray every day and restrict everything they do on a daily basis. islam is always on their mind all day every day. if they break the rules they are shamed or beaten. how much of a mindfuck do you think it does to muslims?
edit: also i want to add that religion provides comfort in a very uncertain and dangerous world, so it’s very attractive for people. children have parents who tell them it’ll be ok but who do adults have? god.
Humans are very good at seeing patterns, actually most animals are, look up BF Skinner’s experiments with superstitious pigeon, our brains are so wired to see patterns that we make them up when they aren’t there.
From superstition it’s really just a matter of a bit of imagination to come up with the concepts of spirits and deities.
Because our society has had religion in so central a role, we broadened the meaning of the term “religion” to encompass certain aspects of culture that are somewhat inherent in any culture.
If by “religion” you mean something similar to Christianity, Islam, Judaism, then no – not every civilization has created something like that. Not even close.
But if you start with the assumption that something in every civilization is their parallel to what we think of as religion, then you start using the word “religion” to refer to any system of rituals + beliefs that’s widely shared or accepted in a culture, and you start thinking of them all as different kinds of the thing you call “religion”. Which makes it misleading to ask why they all have religions.
Jordan Peterson really interestingly explained his religiousity on the Joe Rogan podcast. Here’s the link to that part of the video. I’d strongly recommend watching the entire podcast too. https://youtu.be/P5_-pfqFGJI
As long as people believe their lives are at stake and worse they’ll do what they are told even if the rules are made up on the spot.
A religion is a group of beliefs about divinity shared by multiple people. The simple answer is that most people believe in the divine (E.g. a god or gods) and people in communities discussed their beliefs, started believing in similar things, and began teaching other people their beliefs.
The underlying question is, why to people believe in the divine to being with? The answer really boils down to three points:
There’s a whole lot humans don’t have answers to. Humans are able to contemplate. Humans are born very premature, relative to other species.
The first two points are fairly self-explanatory, so I’ll start with the third. If you’ve ever seen footage of a horse being born, you’ll notice that within a few minutes they are up on their feet walking around. Grazing animals need to be mobile from the time they are born to keep up with the group and to avoid predators.
There’s a problem in human anatomy. To accommodate our big brains we’ve got large heads. At the same time, walking upright has caused our hips to narrow. We have to give birth when the baby can still pass through the pelvis, so our babies are born not long after their internal organs are developed enough to survive outside the womb.
When human babies are born, they are completely helpless and totally dependent on a caregiver or caregivers. The baby’s brain is hard wired to bond with the caregivers, feel secure in their presence, and terror in their absence. The care giver is perceived as all-powerful, literally the difference between life and death.
As the child gets older, this notion persists. The parental figure is viewed with awe and adoration. Only when the child gets older (like 8-10) do they begin to realize that the parent is a fallible and limited being. This creates significant insecurity. If the parent isn’t responsible for the world being what it is, and they aren’t totally able to protect you from all the bad things that could happen, then who is?
Take that instinctive drive to trust in an all powerful caregiver, the fear of the unknown, and the human capacity for imagination; and people in every society are going to form the idea that there most be some other intelligence at work making sure that the wheels don’t fall off the bus and it’s safe to go outside.
Then, with each passing generation, family structures offer their beliefs to the next generation as factual, just as the kids reach the point of uncertainty. The people you trust most, who you believe were literal gods, are telling you it’s all going to be OK because there is a next level being, even more powerful than me, who will take care of you.
Those with money and power needed justification. Those with silly hats needed backing. Together they were always stronger than when apart.
-Jesus why does the sun exist, said Michael. -I think it is just a big fireball, said Jesus. -Michael why does the sun exist, said Mbongo. -Dad told me it is a great fireball, said Michael. -Mbongo why does the sun exist, said Charlie. – It is a great fireball that only Jesus knows about, said Mbongo.
Repeat this times 10000 and the story changes to the sun being a great fireball wielded by the god/prophet Jesus.