Explaining religion:
According to The Good God Guide, ECONOMIST vol. 399 no. 8730 April 23, 2011 page 84 there is a project afoot to explain why there is religion.  Needless to say, this is basically a secular pursuit.  They have their hands full. 

One idea that gets some press is that religion is all about getting people to behave nicely.  That is a pleasant thought, but a little reflection will turn up so many exceptions as to beggar the rule.  They do not point out that religions are particularly exclusive, although they are.  The great proselytizing religions, notably Christianity and Islam seem on the face of it to be anything but exclusive.  But watch them for a bit and they promptly break into factions that are willing to murder each other.  So far as I know Islam has never stooped to burning people at the stake for doctrinal deviation.  And Christianity has seen conflicting sects murdering each other within living memory.  Such killings have not been particularly motivated by the behavior of the victim.  At present it is Islamic sects that are doing awful things to each other. 

So I’m sorry.  The “nice guy” principle just doesn’t wash. 

When I was young we had something they called Union Services, in which the Methodist Church and the Presbyterian Church over the summer would share their services in alternating sanctuaries.  The Presbyterian minister said, “It halves your work and doubles your congregation.”  In all innocence I thought this was the way of the world.

Alas not.  Those two are sort of a special case.  The American colonies were settled by Scotch Irish more than anybody else, and they started out as Presbyterians.  But becoming a Presbyterian minister takes a lot of education, and in the early days the westward expansion was so rapid that it was simply impossible for a sufficient number of ministers to be provided.  Most people were unchurched.  Into this vacuum came John Wesley with very open ideas about doctrine, a brother who was a world class composer and a knack for organization.  The Methodist Church grew so fast that it is essentially undocumented.  People were so busy expanding they neglected to record basic facts of who, where and when.

So between the two there was never a doctrinal dispute.  It was easy to make common cause.  Most sects arise out of conflicts. 

The real explanation, I feel quite sure, is that anything that subdivides a social pool, if it divides into sufficiently small pieces, will have an advantage in fertility. 

Somehow I doubt that is going to come out in the study described.

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