A common belief is that man created religion as he began to question the world around.
Without evidence, of course.
I first encountered the idea from Christians, especially Christians from technically advanced nations that sent "missions" to the less developed areas
of the world to convert heathens. Of course, the heathens already had a religion.
Christians needed a story about why their religion was remarkably different from the beliefs they sought to extinguish and replace with their own. Why
do the missionaries expect to teach the heathens, rather than to learn from them?
So, the apologists seized upon another difference between themselves and the heathens: technology. This gives a nicely compact theory: heathens live
nasty, brutal and short lives because they have confused religion and science, and therefore screwed up both. By an amazing coincidence, the
missionary's culture has excelled at both, and so it is just and rightful that the missionary should "minister to" the heathen, and not vice
Later on, I encountered the same argument from atheists. From their perspective, Christians have mixed up, and so screwed up, religion (by having
piety at all) and science (because some Christians still do not believe in evolution by natural selection). So, some atheists look at Christians the
way some Christians look at heathens.
Similar problems often give rise to similar solutions. In this case, activists of one system of beliefs about religious subjects concoct a fantasy
about the origins of another system.
Is it possible that religion is not completely the product of human imagination?
Depends on what you mean by "human imagination." Also depends on what you mean by "completely."
Products of the human imagination, like art, music, mathematics, and scientific generalization involve cognitive operations on apprehensible raw
material. Many of those operations are unconscious, and feature mixing contents of the unconscious with waking experience. Why would religion be
different? How could religion be different?
I think it is ironic that mathematicians have parallel discussions. They ask, Are the objects of mathematical contemplation discovered or invented? It
is fairly obvious that they are revealed by the human imagination, but do they have some existence apart from that?
That's a very hard question. Assuming the question of gods is not simpler than that, then maybe you can see how some people end up as agnostics.
edit on 25-1-2011 by eight bits because: sinister dexterity.