The Origins Of Religion

Whether God exists or not, theology does. Why should religion exist, and do all animals experience religious feelings or just humans?

To maintain an orderly society it's necessary for an individual to sacrifice their life sometimes. If this were not the case society would become overcrowded, which would deplete resources, then violent as individuals fight for any remaining resources. War is less efficient than occasional self-sacrifice and in evolution the most efficient option thrives. As such a society will evolve to incorporate occasional self-sacrifice into it.

Ants do this with apparent ease, but humans are more complex, having a strong sense of their own mortality and the importance of their own life, so a special feeling is needed, a feeling of something larger or more important than ones own life; a belief one is prepared to die for. In effect this is the feeling of social cohesion, love for a species or a stable society. If a species is more important than an individual then a reflection of that importance must be present in each individual.

This feeling is in everybody at some level, and religion is the manifestation of it. Creative people try to explain or understand it, inventing fantastical reasons to rationalise the seemingly unexplainable feeling of why death is sometimes good. Those who aren't religious might say they are "spiritual", or believe in science passionately, or humanity, or something else, but essentially the same feeling is present in all members of society and it is used for the same reason.

Occasional self-sacrifice is necessary for a stable society to exist. The feeling of something more important that ones life is necessary to rationalise self-sacrifice. Religion is the mythology attached to that feeling.

As such all religions have a lot in common, as they all seek to explain the same feeling.

Each will focus on social cohesion so that the need for self-sacrifice can be detected, emphasising the need to care for others and maintain peaceful order. Each will focus upon death, making it palatable or positive. Each will try to explain the mysterious and inexplicable positive emotion of social cohesion.

It is probable that all species that form societies demand this feeling because all societies will occasionally demand self-sacrifice to efficiently maintain order. As such, animals, including ants, probably do experience feelings we call religious.

Mark Sheeky, 17 July 2011