Dissecting Religion..

If you look at religion, prima-facie it provides two benefits - hope to carry on, and a moral fabric for the society. Hope has always been the trump card for its success; an eternal life after death or paradise or a reward or whatever - something for the have-nots to cheer about. A perfectly plausible reason for the deprived to be happy about their depravity, the oppressed to be happy about their oppression and their oppressors. Religion even teaches that God gives more challenges and problems to the people he loves more. So what if you have nothing in this world - which is a fleeting moment compared to the eternal life with HIM - you will have everything once you are dead while those with all luxuries in this world will rot in hell. You even got a place called 'limbo' where you are kept for a while if you are a moderate sinner, for your redemption, and then promoted to heaven in due course. Nobody thinks of an equal possibility - this life on earth is all we got.... nothing less. What if this is not some preparatory class and is the real deal?

Religion is not the source of our moral values, they were NOT put in place by some decree from heaven. Are we stupid to think that people on earth used to 'kill' and 'loot' at will, at every chance they get, before God gave his ten commandments through Moses, which says 'Thou shall not steal' and 'Thou shall not kill'? I am not discounting the fact that people do refrain from doing bad things fearing the wrath of god. But that is a situation we created over a period of time through careful education of the 'punishment and reward policies' of heaven incorporated. We had a past when we used to be nice to each other and did nice things without thinking about god or heaven, just because it served us and those around us well. Being nice and helpful was the best thing to do for common good and survival. It is religion that made us believe that we are inherently sinners and can't take care of ourselves in the absence of religion and its moral code!!

Why don't we look at the history of religion side by side with that of the human race and see that religious stories and conventions are nothing but a reflection of our life itself? Why do we allow something that we created to take control of our lives? According to evolutionary theories, religion has some survival advantages as a meme, or it is the byproduct of something else which had a definite evolutionary advantage for the species. Lets look at a few things thats common between our history and the history of religions and see whether we can figure out something.

Primitive man feared all that he could not understand or control. The options in front of him were to either fight and conquer the natural forces or please them and be at peace with them. So he attributed divinity to all that is fearful - fire, rain, wind, lightning and so on. If you look at any of the ancient religions you find that the deities are all shaped after such natural forces.

We had a matriarchal society in place initially where the females used to control the tribe, a practice you still find in many other animal species. But gradually the society got converted to a patriarchal one due to practical reasons. The primary reason for this transition was her inability to protect and be in control of the group at times, due to her other duties like childbirth and raising children. We see a similar change in the personality of God over ages - most of the ancient religions had a Goddess, in place of the male God portrayed by most modern religions.

Sacrifices - human and animal alike - were an integral part of religious worship once upon a time. As we grew in consciousness and started appreciating the value of others and life in general, we moved away from the sacrifices and bloodshed. The metamorphosis of God's personality from a fearful, blood loving, warlord to that of a loving and caring 'father figure' also mimicks the transformation of human race from a primitive hunting community to a sensitive and emotional race of social animals. The angry, biased, egoistic and jealous God of Abraham mellowing down to 'gentle Jesus meek and mild' is probably the best example.

Ancient religious acts were more expressive in nature with dance, role play, masks, elaborate clothing etc, something which matched the life in the pre-language era. As we developed the language, rituals become less expressive and more vocal with symbolism replacing many of the actual artifacts and actions.

So if we look at the characteristics of religion, the most impressive of all is its adaptability. It was able to transform itself with mankind, never looming large or threatening, but always walking side by side, adjusting to all the changes we ourselves were going through. It was this adaptability that made it a highly successful meme, which gradually and unknowingly took control of our psyche, transforming us all into irrational toys in its hands.

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