What might have caused people to follow a religion?
Since the moment we diverged to a different path in evolution leaving our ancestors — chimpanzees — to evolve on their own, about 8 million years ago, the humans, Homo species, have evolved in almost every aspect of life, starting from birth to death. However, before the advent of science and all sorts of sci-fi jargon such as carbon dating, there’s no doubt the people didn’t have any clue from where they came from. Then to address this, the religions might have played a role. To explain this more clearly, let me adopt a character who is from 10,000 B.C — Argo.
For Argo, science, economy, politics, and even religion is not in his day-to-day vocabulary. His life was simple. Not much different from other animals like deer and tiger. He might only have had few goals in life — survive and reproduce. However, social interactions in his kin grew when population size increases and Argo had to fight for food, girls, and space. That is, in other words, to reproduce and survive. To fulfil his fundamental needs, he would have had to murder, engage in violence, and rape.
From Argo’s life, it is clear that living with people in those days might have been super hard. It should have felt as if he was living with a troop of monkeys. No law, no control, just savage, but on the good side, their actions might have been genuine.
Soon the intellectually advanced or capable humans back then knew this behaviour has to be stopped. With such violence, their kin was going nowhere. The hunting was delayed or abandoned, they were losing people, and births dropped. They quickly got convinced if they continue this further, humans will never be the species that will dominate the planet in another few millennia!
Notwithstanding this brutality, an intellectually primitive individual like Argo couldn't make understand what they were doing is morally unacceptable. Therefore the ‘smart guys’ came up with a brilliant plan — the all mighty god.
They created tales over generations to formulate a set of rules to reinstate moral behaviour among humankind, and to ensure their survival as species. These rules, together with the mighty creator of it, the so-called “god” might have put forward a “law” to people of those eras called a “religion”. To make people of that time follow this set of rules, the leaders had to make people fear their wrong actions. Therefore, they will not commit brutal acts like they used to.
To understand this more, let’s go back in time to Argo and hear the conversation between Argo and the kin-leader — the smart guy:
Another man has stolen Argo’s girls, food and space making Argo boil in anger. At this instance, The kin leader came to Argo and said, “young man, I know you hate that man over there for stealing your food and girls but do not think of killing him”.
Argo, who might have been fuming with vengeance might have not listened to him and started proceeding with his plan involving murder and violence.
But if the kin-leader spoke to Argo in another manner; “young man, do not kill that man, the all mighty God who created all of us, the land, the sky and all the things we have is watching over us. If you do this brutal action, he will punish you very soon and having your girls and food back will be of no value then.
He might then continued to bolster his story with so-called ‘evidence’,
Remember, the tough guy who killed five men of the kin yesterday? The god made his wrath fall upon him by striking him with light. He died a few hours ago. So make sure you don’t piss off the god, or you’ll be the next”.
For these words, Argo can get frightened to proceed with his intentions. He might have felt he should not be involved in these immoral doings that would piss off God. This might have made Argo control his anger and his emotions.
Thus, to control people, the early individuals might have come up with the concept of ‘religion’. In today’s view, this can be quite political, however, during ancient times, people were not that critical or cynical. Therefore, this would have been an easy way to discipline society.
The creation of religions in such a manner might have subjected to additions, modifications, manipulations and interpretations along the way and had got embedding it to the core human culture. Thus, it seems more innate than an acquired concept to the modern man.
Disclaimer: This is solely a personal opinion. No religion is criticised or challenged in this article.