Nothing sparks dumpster fire conversations quite like religion, so you might think that this Reddit thread had burned down the internet by now:

[serious] Atheists of reddit, why do you think religion was created? from AskReddit

But the discussion was surprisingly civil, with even religion’s most ardent detractors attempting to give good-faith (so to speak) explanations for why they think these things have come to be.

Here are a few examples:

1. “Trying to make sense of the world around them.”

People were just trying to make sense of the world around them. It also had social and political utility.

A group of people with shared religious beliefs generally view themselves as being on a team or in a group with shared goals.

So religion was used as a common ground for uniting people, a way of easing the sense of uncertainty about life, and a method of control.

– Bardockthescientist

2. “Everything came to be before science.”

I’m an agnostic atheist. I think religion was created as a means of figuring out how everything came to be before science was evolved far enough to determine that ourselves.

Now its more of a coping mechanism for a lot of people or a reason for people to live their lives. It gives people meaning and I think that’s a good thing, just not my thing.

– TheIcedMochaReddit

3. “How?”

The question is not “why” but “how”.

Probably there was no goal, only it happened due to unknown amount of factors, and as a bi-product of evolution of cultures.

– droneowner

4. “Stop nasty things.”

Ironically, to stop people from doing nasty things which create disturbance to the collective development of a society.

Imo, religious texts were the first book of laws when the concept of nation state wasn’t there.

About the Spiritual/artistic part of religion, that was the recreation for ancient people when tv or internet wasn’t there.

– sayantanMtr

5. “Government.”

It’s a primitive form of government, maybe not so bad given current state of world.

– alcoholocaust_666

6. “No real way of testing.”

There was no real way of testing out why things happen back In those days, so people had to wonder what science phenomena was all about, so just thought it was magic. They had no way of knowing any better.

For example, Romans wouldn’t have known about gravity and wouldn’t have had any way of understanding why everything didn’t fly off the earth’s surface, so they Just thought it was magic.

– Youareloved4eva

7. “People were scared.”

In the beginning people were scared. Predators hunted them, the weather tried to kill them and everything was beyond their control. Whether it was a hallucination or a moment during a storm pleading it to stop, something happen and they thought it was something beyond them.

A being of power had cause the storm to stop or had appeared in the sky looking angelic. And so the stories began. It brought hope and a form of control. Pray and be saved is all you had to do.

Think of it like the boogeyman in the closet. Small children are afraid of the dark so they create creatures in the shadows. But when the light is on, nothing exists.

– rettaelin

8. “Shared myths.”

because shared myths are the only things that keep societies together.

A good example of this is we all pretend paper money has value, in reality it only has value because we all pretend it does. Another good example is borders, they’re not real in the sense that if everybody that believed in them died they would cease to exist.

– hdhdhjsbxhxh

9. “God was the only explanation.”

Back in ancient times, god was the only explanation that made sense for a lot of things, even small stuff like why flies are attracted to organic waste, the idea back then was that god(s) had it set up that flies were just spontaneously created by rotting food or animal poop.

Of course, the main point of religion was to answer the big questions, like what happens after death. As societies grew and became more organized, religious institutions grew in power and became a tool that could be used by governments, leading to their worldwide cementation.

– SFC_kerbaldude

10. “Evolutionary psychology.”

I think it was an evolutionary psychological need which came about to preserve communities as a result of increased sentient mental capacity.

More and more our sense of community is dwindling, which may largely be as a result of reduced religious practices.

But it may be largely a natural result of mental progression.

– OmbreOgre

11. “Reason to everything.”

Human are desperate to put a purpose or reason to everything.

The worse of the people used that fear to make a man that if you don’t agree with you suffer forever.

Its just power hungry people making up stories to push their own agenda.

– Skr3em

12. “Something to hope, something to fear.”

2 reasons. To give people hope, and something to fear. People think there’s someone looking out for them so they’re not so lonely, and they believe in something good after death.

But they also believe that by doing bad things, bad things will happen to them too.

The Church used the latter more as a way to control people. Because what’s a better way to control people than making them fear an all-mighty God who will punish those who break his rules?

– WolfRex5

13. “To create tribes.”

I think what it boils down to is that humans have a natural tendency to create tribes. People feel safer in a group. A ‘tribe’ in this context is a number of people who share Dogma, Ritual and Community.

What religion does is create a ‘tribe’ of people by giving them Dogma (We all believe in Jesus), Rituals (communion, for example), and community (a church).

The thing is, I think we really need that feeling of belonging. We need to be a part of a tribe, more than we really need the rest of it. It doesn’t matter if you kind of doubt that Jesus exists, as long as you take part in the rituals, and everyone treats you like a part of the communities. It doesn’t really matter if you believe in what the community is accomplishing, as long as you feel like a part of the community by working with others to achieve a goal.

Religion isn’t that different from being in a gang, or being on a sports team. Those organizations often form their own rituals, and do their own ‘community work’.

Ultimately, being a part of a biker gang, for instance, isn’t very different from being a member of a church.

We have these social needs, and we express them by building communities.

Religion was just another one of those communities.

– User1539

14. “A very impressive conman.”

I thinks it’s very possible that Jesus was just a very impressive conman. Bit of slight of hand and you could make water into wine, get a friend in the audience to play a blind man then say some magic words and boom, he’s cured.

It’s quite likely that Jesus was an actual person because of all the records from the time but all the supposed miracles were written down after a decade or two and it doesn’t take long for the stories to become embellished.

Out of all the possibilities, the son of God seems one of the most unlikely.


15. “Snake-oil.”

Because snake-oil salesmen have always been around.

– Membob

Whatever the reason, it doesn’t seem like religion will be leaving us any time soon.

What do you think about all this?

Try to be civil in the comments.