I've decided that I'm going to rewrite one of my early books, Religilution - The Evolution of Religion. Here's an example of some of the thinking in this book.
The ancient ones existed in a hostile world full of events that were far beyond their comprehension. Earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, drought, blizzards, all the forces of nature that could and often did prove deadly to their clan, plagued them constantly. Add to that wild animals, and yes, even other humans who had no compunction about bopping a fellow human on the head to abscond with their food, furs, or women. It is not much of a stretch to imagine that a degree of chaos must have been part of everyday life back then.
The thinkers of the time must have seen, or sensed, a need to create order in society, one perhaps that had not been achieved through the rule of law alone, the threat of physical punishment, or simple common sense. Something more compelling was called for to get all these people in line, and that something was religion.
To use the rule of religious law to reign in those who failed to conform, combined with the need to explain the mysteries and miseries of life, must have seemed like the perfect potion for society. This desire to have everyone embrace a philosophy of behavior must have been one of the ingredients and perhaps the main ingredient in the cauldron of ideas that would develop into what became the recipe for what we know as religion today.
That seems to be another human instinct or trait. We want everyone to march in a straight line. We get very nervous when it seems that no one is in control. We don't like people who run out of bounds or color outside the lines. We want a plan, someone calling the shots, and then we are happy, at least until they screw up, then we want them out of our lives.
I saw an example of that when I was a manager at Boeing. We were going through what most companies had dubbed a cultural change.
American industry was moving away from a model based on the autocratic rule of the 19th and a good part of the 20th centuries. Initially, threats and intimidation were considered motivators (fire one person each month, whether they deserved it or not, to keep the attention of all the others). Now we looked to a participative, more democratic approach to running a business.
The idea behind the new thinking was that the people doing the work, some of whom would one day be managers, could participate in decisions that previously had been the exclusive domain of management.
I was heavily involved and committed to the revolution. Upon becoming a manager, I met with my group and offered an organization chart that broke from the typical hierarchical chart, the kind with me at the top of the pyramid. I presented one that looked more like the Knights of the Round Table. I was trying very hard to be participative and get away from the idea that I was "above" them. I wanted to emphasize the team over the king.
Within each circle around the center were a person's name and job title. It was apparent I was the manager because the label said so. But my name didn't set god-like at the top of some pyramid. I asked the group to consider this approach, and we would get together in a couple of days and make a decision.
The result was that people didn't like the new approach. In our discussions, there was talk of wanting to know who the decision-maker was. They wanted a hierarchy, possibly so they didn't have to worry about making and being responsible for decisions or perhaps so the blame for failure could be accurately applied to the person at the top.
Or maybe this was just too much, too fast, and was moving them out of their comfort zone. We kept the old model of the organization chart.
If the rules of society were set by a deity, or by several gods who were declared to be without flaws, then unlike the leaders behind man-made laws who were breaking their own rules right and left, there was at least a chance that followers would abide by the rules set by these all-powerful, if occasionally vengeful gods, thus saving society from itself.
That makes me want to talk about an angry god and where that notion must have originated. Again, we will jump in our time machine and zip back to when we began to form into tribes.
We learned, through some long-forgotten process, but one that most likely was little different from what we see today in any group of clan-dwelling animals, that we needed leaders. Being a leader involved being big, strong, and angry enough to take on all comers and whip some ass. That anger not only got you to the top seat, but it kept you there. Some meeker leaders most likely were dethroned by a prominent angry member of the tribe.
As we evolved the idea of gods, they were, as I've stated, man-like, extremely large, talked really loud (Thor – god of thunder), and were said to be really pissed when they dropped a mountain on a village of people.
As we evolved to the single god, and after tens of thousands of years dealing with angry gods, it would seem natural that our new, single god would have anger issues as part of their tools to keeps us in line. The threat of retribution works for most of us.
As discussed earlier, there had to have been free thinkers, people who sought answers for the events that visited humans, and who evolved the notion that powerful forces of nature had to be the work of powerful entities, unseen forces at work. They couldn't just happen by magic or circumstance; someone or something had to be behind these events and bringing them to pass for a reason.
This desire to know or at least have a plausible explanation for the unknown continues today as we seek to overcome disease, venture further into the cosmos, and pursue science and technology on every front to push back the frontiers of ignorance. The human thirst for knowledge and understanding is one of the single most potent forces that has driven our species forward, faster, and further than any other animal we know of.
Our concept of the world and universe is much different from how our ancestors lived and died back then. Their knowledge at the time limited them to those events they could witness without the aid of science and documented fact, and it frightened the hell out of them. Powerful men like the warriors and hunters in our clan represented our best defense against the physical threats presented by animals and other humans. Still, they appeared helpless against things like earthquakes.
It was natural that we would imagine that the deities behind the tremendous forces of nature should take the form of humans. Our imaginative pallet was limited to only what we could see and experience in the small world we traveled ― our sphere of knowledge was limited to our physical world, which was limited to the area we could cover on foot.
Gods had to take human form because we were incapable of visualizing anything else. The possibility of other planets, let alone ones like the one we inhabited, was not on our radar screen. The idea of planets populated by little green men with bulging eyes was millennia away, as were the science fiction writers who would eventually stimulate our imaginations and bring other planets and aliens to life, albeit mostly imagined.
The god's voices were the thunder, their anger, the earthquakes and lightning, the blizzards, forest fires, and hurricanes their petulance. And their benevolence was the rain and sun that insured our food supply, as well as their ability to make us fertile to bear children or to take them away if they so choose.
Imagine the fear that must have ruled our existence back then. These gods were seen as men, and with few exceptions, were almost always men who used their extraordinary powers to punish humans for unimaginable transgressions. They would hold court over the transgressions that mortal men, specifically the burgeoning leaders of religion, would conjure up as part of their dogma based on their moral standards.
All this contributed to their grab for power, using fear of the unknown and retribution to gain influence over their followers and bring them into line with their predesignated set of values.