Okay, the F-man's 2 cents: (Sorry I haven't got to this until today, Jeff) Obligatory wiseass remark: A mind is a terrible thing.
God and the whole religion thing is what separates us from the lower orders because we don't have one thing they do. Strong instincts. Oh yeah, we have fighting and fucking, but we don't have the things that count, at least not as strongly ingrained. We don't have the sense of heirarchy and community as the wolfpack does. Look at your family dog. He loves your ass, wants to be with your ass. Why? The pack instinct. Yes, we gather in communities and have a 'tribal' society, but we don't have that 'alpha-male' pecking order. We don't have that ingrained programming that the lower orders do. We have free will.
Some smart guys figured out, long before the Chinese, or the Egyptians, or the Greeks and Romans, that to keep order with all these folks exercising their free will, that there had to be consequences for one's actions. While the anarchists get attention every election season, a society can't survive if anarchy reigns.
Ever notice how almost every religion has a Hell of some sort? Hey, fuck up in life and that's where you're going. The ultimate form of control. Control over the Mortal Soul. Kill somebody, go to Hell. Fuck your neighbor's wife, go to Hell. Eat pork, go to Hell. Homosexuality, go to Hell. Know why? Anarchy prophylaxis and disease prevention.
That's the basis of religion. Ancient man needed a force to scare the shit out of the masses enough so most of 'em would toe the line, and live according to society's rules. Hey, if folks believe they're only on this Earth for a relatively fleeting moment and then dwell in the afterlife for eternity, they're gonna want to make that stay as cushy as possible. If they believe the Almighty is watching them every minute, keeping score, they'll behave well enough for society to function. I mean, if people believed their entire existence was only the time betwen birth and death, what incentive would they have to conform? Who cares what 'sins' I commit if I have no soul to be damned, right? If I am not to be judged and sentenced to damnation's fires, what the fuck if me and the neighbor lady bump uglies when our spouses aren't looking, right?
Now, I lean more toward the 'Great Engineer' theory. That some great, incomprehensible being set Life, the Universe, and Everything in motion and left off. Whatever happened, happened. The natural world just works so well. If the Ol' 'GE' did do something after the initial spark, it was to give humans the gift (or the potential to develop) their sentience. That's just my deal, and I'm not down on religion at all. I have an aunt (Roman Catholic) who should be nominated for sainthood because she lives by the Book. She does good, charitable works and goes to church every Sunday. She doesn't curse either. My problems with religion comes when it's used to subjugate and control.
We are now hopefully, though the jury's still out, more evolved. We are a world that is based on the Rule of Law. We have justice and punishment, a duly sanctioned constabulary, and governments to set guidelines for society's behavior. Religion is not required to keep order (I'm talking the Western World) anymore. It is why it's such a 600lb gorilla. Organized religion is losing its grip steadily as we learn more about our natural world. As we all know, change comes slowly when it comes time to redistibute power.
We're at a time in our history (I'm talking Human history) where we are beginning to see Star Trek becoming a reality. We are going through incredible growing pains at this point, evident in the Western-Muslim conflicts. For all intents and purposes, the Muslim world is just entering the 20th Century and is coming squarely up against the Techno-Porno world of the West. I'm sure that's what our world looks like to them. Think Bladerunner. The conflict between the Religious Right and the Liberal Left in this country is the same thing. Humanity is growing into its new skin. It's known as Evolution. Unfortunately, human evolution ususally entails violent, cataclysmic events.
Thanks a lot, Jeff. Now, once again I have a headache from getting my two brain cells fighting. I think I'm gonna twist a spliff and let the ol' cranium settle down.