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Twogaa Sunday Post – 8.25.2019 (The Benefits of Religion)

Submitted by Diana Roberts on August 25, 2019

If you observe religion as focusing on belonging, with a multilevel selection, you get the picture that religious practices have been binding our ancestors into groups for tens of thousands of years. While the binding involves blinding, and by that is meant, once any person, book, or principle is declared sacred, then the devotees can no longer question the sacred person, book or principle or think clearly about it.

Humans developed a unique ability to believe in supernatural agents for understanding unexplainable events and unanswerable questions. Once they began believing in such agents, the groups that used them to construct moral communities were the ones that lasted and prospered. Like the nineteenth-century religious communes, they used their gods to elicit sacrifice and commitment from members. Their gods helped group leaders to suppress cheating and increase trustworthiness. Only those groups that could elicit commitment and suppress exceptionalism could grow.

Most likely, this is why human civilization grew so rapidly after the first plants and animals were domesticated. Religions and righteous minds had been coevolving, culturally and genetically, for tens of thousands of years before the Holocene era. The Holocene is the current geological epoch, which began approximately 11,650 calendar years before the present. It is a warm period, known as MIS 1. It came with warmth and rapid proliferation, growth and impact upon the human species world-wide. Culture and genetic evolution sped up when agriculture presented new challenges and opportunities. Only groups whose gods promoted cooperation, and whose individual minds responded to those gods, were ready to rise to the challenges presented and reap the rewards.

Humans have an extraordinary ability to care about things or people beyond self, although some sense of self is always present. This creates a group ability for individuals to bind in teams so that large projects can be pursed. The protective glue regardless of it being tribal, throughout this Holocene epoch was and is religion.

 

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