An investigation of multiple natural origins of religion
This study attempts to trace how religion could have originated in prehistory and antiquity, out of natural human and prehuman behaviour, without requiring the reality of the supernatural.Religion is here defined as beliefs, conceptions, practices and roles concerned with the putative supernatural. A variety of manifestations or elements of religious belief and practice can be identified. It is proposed that they have separate origins. Examples of religious elements are: life after death, ghosts, sacrifice, priests, shamans, gods, demons, .... It is argued that to try to reduce religion to one original element is a mistake. There may be no single origin. But the individual elements have origins, and plausible theories can account for each.Using theories and insights of previous workers, elaborated as necessary with information from a range of sciences, arguments are presented to account for five major foundational religious elements, thereby illustrating and partly fulfilling what is potentially a much wider programme. The elements covered are: (1) Animatism: numina, daemons; (2) Animism: ghosts, souls; (3) Another world: life after death; (4) Another world: heaven; (5) Religious specialists: shamans.Chapter 1 introduces the programme. Chapter 2 sets out definitions, philosophical principles and methodologyChapter 3 explores the specifically numinous quality which characterizes the supernatural in subjective experience. Chapter 4 describes brain structures and the neural substrate of experience. Chapter 5 proposes specific neurological hypotheses to account for certain types of numinous or `supernatural' experience.Chapter 6 deals with ape mentality, which may be presumed to characterize that of our remote ancestors, and identifies precursors of religious elements.Chapters 7 - 11 deal with the possibly separate origin of five major religious elements, as listed above.Chapter 12 summarizes the investigation, attempts to place the elements covered in sequence of their development in prehistory and antiquity, and expresses the limitations of the theory constructed.