In this article I attempt to explore The Merits Of Faith, this is however not to be confused with the concept of organized religion beyond the age of enlightenment. It attempts to deal with the emergence of religion, why it possibly came to exists and what that might have meant for us as a species.
In the beginning, between some 200,000 years ago when the earliest anatomically modern humans begin to appear and 40,000 years ago where the earliest evidence of culture begins to represent itself in the form of complex art, marks an era of one of the many significant turns in the evolution of consciousness. Many of these paintings; stencils of hands and depictions of animals, can have to a degree largely speculative purposes and meanings. However it might be reasonable to assert that this represents a time when human beings where able to consider aspects of their existence that extended beyond basic survival. They certainly had the ability to identify with themselves and their surroundings. I would imagine that, to be able to express self-awareness in such a dramatic way requires a fair amount of reasoning ability.
Early humans did not have plush living conditions like we have today. The world at the time was an incredibly hostile environment with humanity itself being subject to a series of cataclysms that almost brought it to extinction. This presents a particularly interesting perspective when considering how all forms of complex life perpetuate their existence through ever more creative survival mechanisms. A critical component of making the succession is the ability to pass skills on to young. Gaining the evolutionary advantage of reason, it’s not hard to imagine that this would form a critical part of their survival strategy. This might explain the vast catalog they created describing natural phenomena, possibly to better negotiate them there by increasing chances of survival. I would certainly like to think that their art and stories, given the amount of creativity it took, extended beyond basic survival. Never the less, one could almost argue that early humans subscribed to a very rudimentary form of deductive reasoning or science, in which they made observations and subsequently drew conclusions from it. With no advance form of documenting or testing hypotheses these ideas would likely have been passed from generation to generation with little resistance, embedding its self into what we now understand as culture. Further rock art depictions and much later other artifacts are suggestive that our species did make such a shift in reasoning.
The Merits Of Faith
I would go as far as to present the conclusion, that religion at its roots is in fact the earliest form of science, and of paramount importance to our success as a species. For this reason I would say that the merits of faith are far reaching, and would not wish it removed off the face of the earth not to be spoken of or considered. However, this does not give modern religion a free pass. The construct of religion itself, much like evolution has undergone extreme changes over the millennia. With each iteration it almost immediately obliterates any previous notions of what it used to be. This is why we now have the misplaced distinction between mythology and modern faith. The same mechanism that gave birth to religion, the need to describe the world around us, is what ultimately evolved it into modern Science. Although science its self is not complete in describing the world around us, it is miles beyond contention that it is by far more superior and effective in achieving this. Given this superiority it is almost senseless spending the energy on contesting religion, as its death is inevitable. However, in its current context for a number of reasons it serves as huge hindrance to progress and even the general well being of society. With the sheer amount of freedom and volume of information we have today it is quite frankly unacceptable that such vast selection of the populous chooses to perpetuate obsolete notions of reality, particularly when they’re so damaging and oppressive as religion has come to be. In this case the merits of faith and religion from and historical context are undeniable, but we stand to gain far more as species by shedding our past yoke of mysticism in pursuit of actual knowledge and understanding.