“But most importantly, religion is merely an identifiable set of ideas and behaviors—it’s not a Thing Unto Itself (see reification). It exists neither separately nor distinctly from us. To credit religion for our values is just a category selection, since religion is merely part of who and what we are.”
I think you would have to say that all codes of law, ethics, morals, all philosophy, metaphysics, mythology and political systems—as well as religions—are human inventions that serve to keep human society civilized. All of these are memetic and serve as an externalized genetic code. By storing our social programming outside the body in the form of a Bible or The Vedas or Facebook, we become immensely flexible and therefore most fit for evolutionary developments in the making. All memetic codes, including science, begin with an alphabet, a number system, and specific agreed upon sounds and symbols.
I think that all humans need a memetic base program - a world view, a way of seeing the world. They need a way to sort the outside reality into what matters and why.
Religion serves as the common operating system, like “what version of windows are you running on your computer?” But like I posted elsewhere, I swear my son uploaded baseball into his brain module for religion/world view/belief system. I can’t point to where this brain module exists exactly, but it is speculated to be in the amygdala. For sure it is in the limbic system.The key point is most of the stuff that goes into the amygdala’s social program happens in the first few years of life. And this part of the brain is impossible to “reason” with. You can’t really reason a person’s religion out of them.
There isn’t enough good research available on what “taboos” are, but these little suckers are what drives religion. All religions define what is taboo. And its a pretty established fact that the incest taboo nearly singlehandedly created civilized human society. Otherwise we could be very similar to Bonobo’s sexually. Really, without religion,(or mythology) we humans would have no sexual taboos at all.
My bottom line, after 35 years of studying world religions, I have to say that the one function they continue to serve is the instillation of sexual and eating taboos. Without those, we would not have civilized human society.
Man-made laws are proven to be “iffy.” Only something with the strength of a taboo has the power to curb impulsive human behaviors. The laws that are usually obeyed are only those that are backed up by powerful taboos - which were inset into the psyche prior to the age of four or five years old.
Right and wrong cannot be left to “deciding in the moment” because if right and wrong are not deeply ingrained at infancy, they won’t become taboo. As Christian taboos break down, the new generations are not absorbing the sexual taboos of their forefathers, and without those taboos, we are very likely to revert back to our Bonobo-like human sexuality.
Bonobos punctuate everything they do with sex. They are all pedophiles, rapists, compulsive masturbators and many of them engage in what we call prostitution. This is our closet great ape cousin still living today.
If we wake up tomorrow and humanity has no more taboos, will it matter?