The Invention of Religion

Cults and new religious movements in literatur...

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A new blogger arriving on the scene, badcatholic, imagines himself back in time as a fly on the wall during the invention of religion.

Caveman 1: Bro, these mammoths are frightening, and I don’t know why it rains.
Caveman 2: Yeah, sounds like we need some supernatural explanation for natural phenomena for which we are not yet advanced enough to understand.
Caveman 1: Right. So we’ll need a god…
Caveman 2: Nice.
Caveman 1: And let’s have no adultery with beautiful women…
Caveman 2: Uh-
Caveman 1: And in with the concept of eternal, unimaginable torment-
Caveman 2: Slow down-
Caveman 1: And moral obligations, and no more of this survival of the fittest. We’ll not be able to lie, or steal, or cheat, or mastrubate-
Caveman 2: Are you sure you-
Caveman 1: Or eat too much, or drink too much, or be lazy, or be prideful… (source)

It has always fascinated me that atheists repeatedly assert that religion is a human invention, yet a quick study of religious vices and virtues reveals that we’ve set an impossible standard for ourselves. Religions, not just Christianity, speak of the evils of acquiring and hording material possessions, lust, adultery, pride; and extol an others-centered attitude as well as exhorting adherents to not even think about bad things. Religion asserts that humans are broken and need to be fixed, either through a set of ritual behaviors or by a quickening of the spirit by the hand of God, and those who refuse to comply will face eternal destruction, shame, and humiliation. Who would invent that?

On the other hand, if God is the author of religion, that makes much more sense. A divine being who  stands in judgment of humanity warning us against adultery, lust, and evil thoughts makes more sense than a bunch of primitive humans with no motivation to make monogamy the preferred form of marriage, adultery a grave sin, and forbid masturbation and all forms of lust as the standard of behavior.

If mankind invented religion, I think we’d see a much different picture than we do now.

About Cory Tucholski

I'm a born-again Christian, amateur apologist and philosopher, father of 3. Want to know more? Check the "About" page!

Posted on August 23, 2010, in God, Humor, Religion, Sin, Theology and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. I suppose that’s possible but I don’t think that atheists are claiming that religion came from one single caveman. It would be more likely that religion came from a lot of different places over an exceptionally long period of time and refined over thousands of years. Even the faithful would have to admit to different religions changing and evolving over a lengthy period of time. The bible has God handing down rules gradually and then Jesus gave more good advice in the newer books.

    I’m not trying to build a case for, or against, I’m just thinking aloud. For me, faith can only be taken on by faith and that’s the point. Once you believe in something it immediately becomes real, regardless of what other people think. I think that the ideal and impossible human standards could have been set by anyone or anything.

  2. Uh, no, if humans created religion we would see *exactly* what we see; a top-down power structure, vague answers to impossible questions, praising blind faith over reason and science, old superstition as a platform, rules without explanation, rituals to support them, dogma without questioning, all the traits of what bad people are into everywhere. In some sense, religion is a sin itself, an oxymoron caught in a blind cycle of people wanting or needing to believe rather than not knowing.

    If God created religion, wouldn’t His written words be full of stuff that goat-herders and superstitious power-mongers wouldn’t be able to come up with themselves? Yet it’s full of stories that has nothing in them they couldn’t make up, no information about stuff they couldn’t know. There’s tons of stuff a real God could put in his holy book that would enhance the human condition (including a better definition of sin, what it is, how it works, how atonement works, and so on), yet God’s wisdom seem indistinguishable from his non-existence. Why not put in there something about germ theory? Or gravity? Or the universe? Or biology? Or chemistry? Any medical info would be good. Or basic human rights. Or any other piece of information we these days regard as human progress. Why is all of that absent, and instead we’re told to kill people who collect sticks on a given day of the week?

    Because the people who wrote the Bible, created their religion. It’s fairly obvious when you actually read the darn thing instead of amazing feats of exegesis and cherry-picking your quotes.

  3. What about Buddhism? Hinduism? Islam? The plethora of other religions on the planet? Did their respective gods and deities create their religions, too? If it’s unlikely that humans are, indeed, the authors of religion, then how do you account for the existence of the aforementioned religions that are contradictory to your own?

  4. I think a lot of religious rules came out of bronze age tribes regulating the behaviour of their members. (god wills it! is a good way for the elders to encourage everyone else submit)

    And latinformouse raises a very good point. You must believe yourself that some religions were invented.

  5. Exactly, Christianity is not the only religion with tough commandments…take the Ramadan, for instance…it’s not something someone would want to inflict upon himself (a friend of mine fainted yesterday) but even if you accept that Muslims were drawn away (by error, by God or by Satan or something else) from True Faith while sharing some things with Christianity (divinely inspired), you have to admit that the harsher commands (fasting, frequent prayers, abstinence during certain periods…) couldn’t have come from mere humans, must have come from God, following your line of thought…I think there are harsh requirements on Buddhists (priests, I guess, I’m not expert), on other incompatible faiths…

  6. I don’t know if you watched “The Last Emperor” (1987)…well, I think I read that they had to hire male makeup artists to dress up the monks, because they couldn’t touch women…is that religion from God too? They don’t even have a god, if I understand well…is everything hard people have set out to do divinely inspired? What about not being able to hurt any living thing? Some would consider that hard. What about painful rituals (I think I read about horrible piercings at ripe ages-> I mean when you can remember it for the rest of your life)? What about when a culture imposes horrible ordeals on all its members without forcibly having a religious doctrine to back it up? Was the doctrine God-inspired but the concept of the Supreme Being forgotten?

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