I would imagine that in the past, life was pretty harsh. The rule of law had not been established. One ran the risk of getting killed at any time, your property raided, your wife raped. You could also get sick and just die. In such a world, religion was very useful in taming the beast in men, as well as explaining the unpredictable world.
Now the question is: with the gradual "civilizing" of human beings and establishment of law and order, from the local police all the way to the hague, with education too, and health care, is there any further need for religion (christianity, islam and all the rest)? Considering also that they have now become a major source of misunderstanding and hatred between peoples?
Of course not all places have been tamed, and some wild frontiers still exist, but in principle, what say you?
Religions are not there to act as a deterrent for "uncivility", At least that is not their main purpose . The religions are systems or structures, social systems within a community that act like tools to be used by the community and by the individuals in the community for given purposes, structures in that they are built, step by step from bottom to top by a given social circle or society due to a variety of causes.
A community might use its religion to bring together people to raise funds for the sick, to provide food for the homeless, to chase bad influence out of town with peaceful protests or pitchforks and many other uses. The community can begin developmental corporations, youth programs e.t.c.
An individual may use religion in personal or small group settings in many ways. Many Farmers to this day send deacons or religious leaders to their fields to bless them, this is a way for the farmer and his family to seem to gain control over the uncontrollable, Families also use the concept of God or higher being as a tool for many things, to explain etheral concepts like emotional connections(love, hate, good, bad, morality), the universe, higher power e.t.c. to strengthen family structure by relying on religious structure for authority, moral superiority e.t.c. Some individual use religion for economic, political and physical reasons
In all this, the individual or groups of people use religion as a tool for some specific purpose whether these purposes are good or bad is irrelevant. Personally i think all religions are lies purported by terrible people for convoluted purposes, but i cant deny that religion still has a vital role in society.
Man has been able to explain things that were erstwhile mysterious and deemed supernatural, and as this knowledge progresses,so will the role of religion diminish.Religion is not only used as a means of explaining the unexplainable, It has many other uses, one of its main uses in society is as a tool by a group or an individual to try and exert control, this control can be social, pschycological, authoritative or physical. It doesn't have to be good or bad influence but it is obvious religion can increase this influence in many settings.
For example, in the case of a sick child, Even if he or she is in the hands of the best doctors in the world, there is still things that are not under control. The family is unable to help with treatment, the emotions of the family members are in disarray, Panic and confusion might set in, They need to maybe display the emotions of love, affection and caring to the child to set him at ease, they need to voice out concerns even for pragmatic reason e.t.c. In this case, One of the very few tools that can accomplish these goals is maybe if they have a religious belief,they could say a prayer to give a measure of control, to project order, prevent panic and confusion, show love and affection, and voice out concerns at the same time.
Again i am trying to explain a situation where religion can be used positively, I am not claiming that religion is exclusively for people with sick children or something of that nature, I am simply saying that religion can be used to gain some control over that uncontrollable situation, i.e. psycological, emotional, mind(uncontrollable thoughts) e.t.c.
It is not that it is perfect at its role as this tool since all these religious beliefs require a quantity of irrationality and illogicality at their core and You are totally right when you say that the role of religion will continue decreasing, but for many people now these religions act as the only tool to perform some of these functions.
To really understand religious structure we have to change our viewpoint radically. We have to temporarily forget the flaws in these supernatural beliefs and see what they are able to accomplish. Religion for an individual and a group can be seen as a vice to exert influence, maybe it is by invoking supernatural beliefs, maybe it is by relying on the economic, social and organizational structures built by these religion but it is possible to use a religious system to direct the individual, the group or society.
If for example i want to get a child to stop performing an action, I could use religious fear or religious reward to do it. i.e. stop that or you will go to hell, or stop that and god will bless you. I can be a politician to do the same thing to a group like the tea party people. This is the basic religious purpose, another means to try and exert influence or control . You might say that these things could be done without requiring the belief in the supernatural but we still have to view it as an option to accomplish these goals .
But this is precisely what I was saying...that religion evolved as a tool to exert control. By instilling fear of hell, lack of blessings (which is a supernatural phenomenon) etc. The question is: since modern man has outgrown many of these notions, is religion still necessary?I am not trying to argue that religion is righteous,on the contrary there alot of problems and bad things in religion,but if you change your veiwpoint and think of religion maybe as a product, it is able to deliver services that are not easily found elsewhere like the type of influence that people usually like to use individually or in groups and I meant control as in control of ones life or influence over a given group of people to a useful end, .I don't know what type of proof to give in this situation, but if you look at the examples i am giving, you will see what i am talking about.
Hopefully a time comes when the religions our society relies upon are not the bloody, murdering, money hungry , children fucking ,asexual, pedophilic things we have gotten used to in this age.
You are saying that the role of religions is decreasing, well that says nothing about the trends in the religions themselves. The growth rate in majority of the religions is actually on the rise with highest increases being in Islam and Hinduism. I was surprised since in some countries, we find astronomical growth rates for religious belief. In Australia for example, we find Buddhism having a growth rate of over 80%.
Even with the advent of the modern scientific age, It is ultimately impossible to rid humanity completely of its elements of irrationality, as the supernatural beliefs involved in these religions are some of the greatest irrationality in place today.We also have to remember any religion is always changing to suite its environment, evolving to mirror its audience. As such it is not social and scientific progress that will remove religion from society, It might decrease religion's place but it will not completely remove it.
The example of Australia about the growth of Buddhism there is due to migration from the far east. If before there were 10 buddhists in Australia, and 10 more move in, that will be a 100% rise...but there will be a decrement of 10 buddhists from whence those came. This does not reflect an overall rise in religiosity in the world. You must agree that OVERALL, the world is a much more secular place now than it was 100 years ago. And if the trend continues, who can imagine what it will be like in another 100 years? Maybe religions will have become extinct.
Indeed we can see a decrease in some aspects of religion today,already we are seeing religion being sidelined more and more in debates of government, morality and even philosophy as scientific progress continues. However the prevalence of religion is another different trend and it seems to be on the rise.
According to religious tolerance site, we find that even though the biggest religion i.e. christianity is shrinking, we find that other religions like Islam have astounding growth, and there is an increase in new religions like Wiccas,New age, Neopaganism e.t.c. and resurgence of older minor religions like the tribal religions of Shamaisms and Animisms, and others like Confucianism. and even with the shrinking christian faith, we still see a great growth in smaller churches and group meetings.
We see things like the tea party being immensely popular, using things such as moral panic, mob hysteria, and incessant propaganda to build a sort of civil religion with loyal followers and big impacts.
That is why i say that even though all the religions we see might be based on falsehood and mysticim, they do offer services that are in high demand in our irrational society.Certainly as the impact of the modern scientific age continues to sink into humanities thick skull, religion will decrease but religion is unlikely to be eliminated due to progress.
Trends among U.S. Christians
Religions of the world: numbers of adherents; growth rates
It is ultimately impossible to justify religion and its irrationality but it is important to see what is its use in society and individual life.Thankfully I am like Laplace and have no need for such a hypothesis or system.
The article was from exerts from a discussion on Mashada