Why do humans need religion, or, indeed, why do they need a god, or multiple gods? There are almost no groupings of humans that have not developed a god, or gods, as far as I know.
The world has almost as many religions and gods as it does groups. Even those who subscribe to a particular “church” seem to have many differences of beliefs within that church. The “Clergy”, for want of a better description, within each group always seem to want to expand their human coverage, preferably at the expense of another clergy’s ambitions. It is a war of continuous conflict that has engulfed mankind, probably since humans have existed.
Most scholars would agree that wars over religion – God is always on our side, not theirs – have killed more people and created more human conflicts than all the other types of wars (economic, greed, ego, etc) put together. It may seem like a contradiction in terms, but in the sense of positive contributions to the development of humanity, religion is THE fundamental curse.
Now, I should distinguish between “god” and religion. “God” could be an external entity of some sort, whereas religion is definitely a man-made creation – that’s why there are so many religions that worship so many gods – no outside entity that actually was a god would permit such sacrilege of permitting rivals to exist
The renowned physicist, Stephen Hawking, was asked many times if he believed in god. His reply has reverberated with me ever since I first read about it. He said, “In all my years of studying the universe I have seen no evidence that there is a god. However, I have also seen no evidence that there isn’t.” I have absolutely no problem with that statement. So, for the purposes of this blog, I want to separate the discussion of god from that of religion. The jury is out on whether an entity/force called “God” exists, but the human race’s need for religion certainly isn’t out – apparently, humanity definitely needs religion. Now, whether that man-made entity called religion has anything to do with “god” is another debate for another time.
In a cynical sense, having something other than yourself to blame when things that go wrong, can be comforting – being able to deny responsibility always is. Having something that can offer an explanation for things you don’t understand is also comforting for many people. Being able to create a power-base out of thin air, is also a tried-and-true method of controlling the populace – man-made religion is all about control, which is why most secular leaders in history have tried to separate “church” and “state” – religion, and faith in particular, is always more powerful than secular laws.
I realise that I am not addressing the fundamental question here, by just being cynical. On the other hand, that maybe exactly, and solely, what religion was developed for in the first place. I often wonder who dreamed up the phenomenally powerful concept of “faith”. It is the only concept in human consciousness that is immune from any argument to change opinions. Normal human thought processes, like logic, common sense, experience, even empathy, roll off faith like water off a duck’s back.
Is it simply that the “basic human condition” tries to reject responsibility and therefore, looks for someone/something else to assume responsibility? That inevitably throws up the few who want responsibility, and that character trait, also somewhat inevitably, includes a propensity to dominate and control.
If you follow that argument to its logical conclusion, if we could somehow change the human condition of irresponsibility by instilling in our children the ability to accept individual and collective responsibility (we, adults, are a lost cause in this sense), we wouldn’t need religion. Wouldn’t that be a novel idea?