[ExI] Why religion at all?

Mike Dougherty msd001 at gmail.com
Fri Jun 4 04:11:22 UTC 2010

On Thu, Jun 3, 2010 at 10:43 PM, Keith Henson <hkeithhenson at gmail.com> wrote:
> The capacity to be sucked into a religion is a widespread human
> behavioral trait.
> Evolutionary theory states that behavior traits as well as physical
> traits are subject to evolutionary selection.
> Some of these (like capture-bonding) have an obvious evolutionary
> selection path.  Religion is a little more complex to account for.  I
> make the case in an article I have quoted here before that the human
> capacity for religions is a side effect of millions of conflict
> events.
> In this context I make a case that the ability to hold a religion
> comes from the ability to be infected with a xenophobic meme where the
> function of the infection is to sync a tribe's warriors up for a do or
> die attempt to kill neighbors in times of ecological stress.

Even without neighboring enemies, individuals are commonly afraid of
the unknown.  Safety-in-numbers suggests that groups of like-minded
individuals might be able to reinforce their commonly held beliefs
despite individual wavering.  Given the choice between the cruel world
on your own and a welcoming community, it seems easier to belong.
After all the identified enemies have been killed, the unidentified
threats could still pose considerable danger.  I agree with the
xenophobic driver; i wonder if the unknown is a bigger bugaboo than
large men wielding sticks and rocks.

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