This archived article was written by: Renato Magalhsaes
The first signs of religion are thought to date as early as 300,000 BCE in the primitive Paleolithic societies. There was nothing similar or comparable to modern religion; however, during the Neolithic period, religious symbols were revolutionized, bolstered by the development of language and group living. Apparently, faith is intrinsically related to human evolution, but in which extent does it relate to morality?
With the invention of writing about 5,200 years ago, religious views could be multiplied and shared much more easily, boosting them exponentially. It is believed that these were the foundations for societies and extremely influential on philosophical traditions, independently where they came from or which god they followed.
Some say morals are inherently based on the belief in divinities; some say that a specific belief leads to full morality; others, however, may not be able to see that this way. Atheists and agnostics, for example, may disagree on a dependable relationship between both elements.
It is true that civilization used religion as a guide and explored many features in it, including multiple principles and fundamentals necessary for common welfare. Couldn’t this assumption, though, be found in the absence of any deity?
A god’s omniscience, omnipotence and omnipresence are probably factors that led humans to follow rules implied to their religion. It seems, however, that followers are split in three categories: those who fear, those who are after a reward and those who acknowledge the extremes of heaven and hell, but choose to follow moral principles independently of any outcomes.
Those worried about after-life live in a moral scale, balancing despair and comfort. It seems they are more afraid of suffering consequences than willing to do what is valuable. It seems that they praise the promised land much more than the results of their actions on themselves and others.
What if there was no god, no peaceful paradise and no blazing abyss? What would they do or follow? Are they moral only because they adore an almighty figure and blindly adopt certain behaviors? Individuals are capable of amazing things, even to enslave themselves.
It is easy to understand why people claim religion means purpose. The numerous perspectives offered by countless beliefs give a path for every person in this world; they grant individuals teachings and directions; they give life meaning, a reason to embrace challenges and live appropriately. However, it is not the only source and many are not able to attain that.
Religion may have given society the power to evolve in those terms as the polar star has pointed north for travelers over a millennium. However, just like Polaris, it is not the only feature that helped humanity develop. Religion will be there for generations to come, shaping morals and culturally affecting people, but it is impossible to say that moral is totally dependable on it.
Individuals are capable of thinking and making decisions. Reasoning, they find morals to follow and a purpose to achieve. Individuals are capable of amazing things, even to free themselves.