Religions that exist today prevailed because they solved a lot of challenges that threatened the existence and prosperity of tribes since the end of the Last Ice Age.
Some of these challenges are:
- Population: In early agricultural societies, more hands meant more food because most (~ 50%) people worked in agriculture which was just getting started then. High infant mortality meant, each woman making 2.1 babies wasn’t enough to maintain an increasing/stable population. Women had to spent their entire lives making up to 10 babies, most of which would not live until old age. Women could not work outside because of lifelong child rearing, and men had to financially invest in children, and paternity became relevant. Religions oppressed women to force them to do all this, and enforced monogamy so that men knew their paternity enough to invest in children.
- Meaning: Low life expectancy and lack of purpose made people more reckless, and violent. If you knew you only had 30 years to live, you’d be more reckless and violent too. So people had to be mislead to believe there is a longer afterlife/reincarnation to prepare for and this gave life the pretense of longevity which made people less reckless and violent. e.g. ideas like geo-centrism was fashionable so as to make ourselves feel special.
- Conflict: Since human beings imitate each other, competition and conflict was inevitable for scarce resources. Even minor-resentments (e.g. inequality/injustice) among tribal members could build into full fledged all against all warfare that disintegrated the tribe. To avoid these, religions systematized the scapegoat mechanism, i.e. periodically it selected symbolic/actual scapegoats e.g. animals or innocent tribal members, and accused them for the tribe’s problems and killed/punished them ritualistically. e.g. debts were forgiven after a few years. Also, lending for interest discouraged because money supply couldn’t be artificially increased.
- Phase shifts in development: Various tribes where in various phases of development. e.g. some tribes had made all the way into high life expectancy, low birth rates and women’s rights, while others were still figuring out how to write and not shit in the streets, so mixing them created conflict. This made xenophobia and racism necessary.
The challenges listed above has changed:
- Population: After industrial revolution and green revolution, only 2% of people work in agriculture now to feed the rest of us, and the rest work in industrial jobs which require 20+ years of training in schools. So children became consumers for the first 20 years of their life, and not contributing to making bread in a family during that period. As a result people started having fewer children (contraceptives came later in 1950s and exacerbated this effect). Women started spending most of their lives not making children, and started to force their way to men’s world to work. Paternity became less important, and as a result monogamy was less needed as well. Marriages became based on sentiment/love for the first time, but love was fickle so divorces became prevalent. Since all marriages were based on love, gay marriages seemed to make sense too and public support for such alternate sexual lifestyles became prevalent. e.g. the old saying there is one for everyone became untrue, most women mated with a few top men who practiced polyamory. Some people became adulterous, and started having extra-marital relationships because marriage was not needed anyway.
- Meaning: High life expectancy meant people spent their lives less reckless and violent. Longer lives also meant afterlife/reincarnation lost its appeal, and our species lost the need to delude itself as the center of the universe. People still experience a lack of meaning in life though.
- Conflict: Thanks to rule of law and certain religions like Buddhism and Christianity, the innocence of scapegoats became known, sympathy and protection of scapegoats became possible and widely accepted. Abundance of previously scarce resources also made conflict less prevalent.
- Phase shifts in development: Various tribes are still in various stages of development. But internet and multimedia made xenophobia unfashionable. So controls on immigration seems to be way modern countries deal with phase shifts in developments.
We still need a new type of religion though to guard against:
- Meaning: There is still a lack of meaning giving rise to recklessness and violence. People express this lack of meaning as some sort of existential anxiety which lead to mass shootings and consumerism.
- Conflict: Return of scapegoating (e.g. online shaming, donglegate, cecil the lion’s killer) as a solution for solving buildup of minor resentments. Rule of law cannot resolve minor resentments, so we need a system to let steam off buildup of minor grudges periodically.
- Population: Due to the rise of welfare and lack of families, governments are in a situation of using young people’s taxes to pay for old people’s retirement and healthcare. Governments are now resorting to unbridled immigration to meet these unfunded liabilities.
- Phase shifts in development: Various tribes are still in various stages of development. Unbridled immigration used to solve the above problem, is going to hurt us still. Lack of xenophobia will make the situation worse. e.g. Immigrants will outnumber native Europeans and change the phase of development EU is in.