Thursday, September 5, 2019

Religion for dummies

Long ago when people were tribal and lived off the land, they didn't know much about the world around them. They had no education and knew nothing of the discoveries that science would later bring. So when they were sitting around the campfire at night they would talk, and eventually someone would ask some difficult questions like "What are the stars?" or "Where did the world come from?" or "What are rainbows?" and so on. Of course human nature being what it is, the answer to these questions was rarely "No one knows", and so people would make up stories to explain the unexplainable. All the different groups of people around the world made up different stories to explain the world, and these stories were told by one generation to the next, gradually becoming a standardized set of tales, a mythology, which answered many of the difficult questions that people might ask about the world around them.

One of the big unanswerable questions that was asked around those ancient campfires was "What happens after you die?". It seems this question was always answered with some sort of story about an afterlife, in which some supernatural beings or forces applied their divine judgement to people's earthly lives based on how they had lived them. Depending on the judgement, there was either a good or a bad outcome, usually a good or a bad place where people would be sent. This led to the various mythologies all developing a set of guidelines, which if followed, would ensure people were judged favorably after they died. Due to common characteristics of human nature and interaction, these guidelines were always something like, "live a good life and be nice to people".

The fact that no religion has ever appeared twice in two different parts of the world tells us that religion arose independently each time. Also, the common characteristics of religions tell us much about human nature - that no one wants to believe that death is the end, and that people want to believe there is some sort of higher justice for how they live their lives.

Every now and then a charismatic person would come along who fired up the imaginations of people and provided a more meaningful answer to their problems than was provided by their mythology. If this person gained enough supporters, his values and the stories of his life would become included in the mythology, and a new mythology would develop. That person's values and life would then become a role model for following the guidelines of the new mythology.

Over time these various mythologies evolved - the stories were altered to meet the changing needs of people, new role models were added, and outdated stories were removed. The mythologies provided a common cultural experience that connected people with each other and with their ancestors. They provided justification for a culture's activities, customs, and  holidays. The mythologies also gave greater meaning to life and a hope for something better in the afterlife. Some of the mythologies remained popular only with small groups of people, others disappeared altogether, and some of the mythologies grew larger and eventually developed into the religions of today.

The End (for now)

-Dave Bad Person

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