Here is a new theory on the evolution of religion. This is the short reader's digest version: 1. Sin produces Guilt. 2. Guilt produces Religion. 3. Religion brings absolution from Sin. Lather, Rinse, Repeat. The short version is meant to be a bit provocative. The use of the word sin tends to be somewhat controversial. Here is my working definition of sin used here: Sin - An act which stimulates and produces a response from the moral instinct of an individual. But if the word sin is still a problem for anyone, and even if it is not, please disregard that part and consider the rest: Here is the more elaborate version of my theory: 1. The scapegoat mechanism and violence within the group triggers a response from the moral instinct* of individual members of the group. The individual will see the behavior as either right or wrong, just or unjust. This may then trigger several complex emotional reactions. If the violence (physical or emotional) is seen as just, the individual may feel a sense of satisfaction and "oneness" with the group. If, on the other hand, it is seen as unjust, then shame, guilt, and outrage might be the result. 2. The emotions resulting from an individual sense of injustice could spread socially throughout the group, and could, if unchecked, potentially lead to widespread social breakdown. 3. Religion (and morality generally) evolved to help control and direct the individual emotions, triggered by the moral intuition, to the perceived overall good of the group, leading to the group cohesion and social stability necessary for civilization to evolve. Religion helps control individual emotions, both within the individual, and with respect to the group, by attempting to suppress certain tendencies and reward others. *Moral Instinct---The individual innate sense of right and wrong. Scientists now believe that many social animals, including humans, posses this basic moral sense. We are born with it. It is part of the wiring of our brains. The evolution of religion is a direct result of this hardwired sense. Here is another way to look at my theory: 1. Mimetic desire is an expression of the mirror neuron system that drives all social behavior in animals. 2. Through mimetics, a moral instinct begins to develop, as animals become more complex in their socialization. 3. The scapegoat mechanism, which functions to help maintain social stability, develops side by side with the moral instinct. 4. The moral instinct produces a sense of basic unfairness, especially with respect to group on individual violence. 5. The sense of basic unfairness produces fear and outrage in animals that form complex social groups (primates). 6. Fear and outrage produce social instability. 7. Religion evolves to mediate the expression of the moral instinct within the group, enforce social stability, and overide the moral instinct when necessary. 8. Humans are able, through religion, to evolve ever higher levels of complexity leading to the advent of civilization. Religion is an expression of man, the tool maker. And religion has proven to be a highly effective tool, much more important to our species than the wheel. It functions to help us feel that we have dealt with something important, so that we can actually avoid dealing with it, and just carry on as before. It simply validates behaviors that are distasteful, yet unavoidable to all social animals. It helps us relieve the extreme cognitive dissonance necessarily produced by everyday life. The big problem for humans is sin and how to rationalize it. The reason that we must work so hard to rationalize sin is that, in order for our species to develop complex socialization in the first place, we had to have an individual sense of basic fairness to drive reciprocal relationships. That individual sense of fairplay is what neuroscientists and social psychologists call the "moral instinct". Check out this cool article by Seven Pinker: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/13/magaz ... d=all&_r=0 We are all born with a basic moral instinct. But what we call "morality" is a very different thing, separate and distinct from the "moral instinct". Morality grows out of the moral instinct, but it is really just another social tool, with a very specific function. Here is how I like to say it: Morality makes indignation righteous. Righteous indignation justifies violence. Thus morality simply creates a prophylactic pre-absolution from sin. And that brings us back to the Scapegoat Mechanism, and all of our inescapable participation in it, and collective guilt because of it. It is the "original" sin in my model. If the moral instinct is the root of morality, what is the root of the moral instinct? The elegantly simple answer is fear. Properly speaking, mimetic fear. The roughing up of something that looks like me, produces the real and justifiable fear that it could be me next time around. The strength of our moral instinct determines what kind of society humans can structure. This is the "Goldy Locks and the porage" principle in evolution: 1. Eewww. This moral instinct is too sweet (i.e. sees bad treatment of brothers and sisters as a bad thing). Another group will evolve a moral instinct that is less moral to take advantage. Though the overly sweet (more moral than Jesus) first group is my personal favorite of the three, they will, nonetheless, die out, along with their goody two shoes attitude. 2. Yuck. This moral instinct is too sour (i.e. sees bad treatment of brothers and sisters as a personal benefit). This disgusting animal will not develop a civilization. The society would self destruct each time the complexity could not rise. If it could avoid self destruction and reach a high enough state of complexity, depending on resources, it could become fascistic enough to resemble a bee hive or an ant hill, with the individual completely subsumed by the group. 3. Mmmmm. This moral instinct is just right (i.e. invents religion to white wash and justify violence). This is the perfect balance that has made the human species so successful that we have bled the planet of it's resources and set in motion our own near term extinction. Yipeee. The human species lost it's innocence with the invention of religion. But it bestowed the benefits of increased complexity that lead to the rise of civilization itself. The Scapegoat Mechanism is the chief means of social control of the individual by the group. It operates all around us all the time. But our brains are actually wired not to notice! Anyway, just some food for thought. What do you guys think? ---FutilitistPlease Register or Log in to view the hidden image!