I'm working on an essay which, lacking a better place, I will probably publish here some time soon. It's basically going to be a brief treatment of the historical functions of religion and how they're met more effectively by different groups or institutions in modern society. These are the functions I have so far, can any of you think of something religion would have done in the bronze age that I'm leaving out?
- Political: Religion provides an embedded system of government to fall back on. I can't think of a religion that has nothing to say about governance.
- Social: Religion offers methods for redistributing wealth (tithing) and focusing public service towards members of the community.
- Scientific (applied and theoretical): Religion proposes hypotheses about the way the world works, and attempts to draw conclusions from those hypotheses and provide insight into good life choices based on them. Restrictions on diet are common, as well as sociological suggestions on conflict resolution and a psychiatric function.
- Spiritual/passionate: Religion provides an avenue for the geekier of the civilization to be disproportionately excited about.
I also intend to discuss some extraneous qualities, defining features of religion that aren't strictly necessary functions in a surviving group of humans.