Can Society Exist Without Religion?

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If one were to ask whether early human societies could have existed without religion, the answer would be a resounding no. Their collective knowledge was simply not considerable enough to explain the pertinent questions about life that faced them everyday. It’s human nature to seek answers to the unknown, and with each generation the human race is becoming exponentially more intelligent; able to explain more about our world with each new discovery. Although religion was an essential institution in early societies, a greater universal understanding, and acceptance of new ideas has devalued its importance in modern times.

The vitality of religion to early societies is undeniable. Because, unlike other animals, humans are born with very few natural instincts, they need guidance through the process of socialization. They internalize the societal norms, and act according to how their society says they should act. This comforts them, because not only are they united with other people under a common set of principles, they are explicitly told how to act under those principles. Without the establishment of these unifying principles, society would fall into chaos, what Berger defines as a state of anomy. For early societies, a state of anomy would be disastrous because humans lacked the knowledge to explain the world scientifically; people would lose their sense of purpose in life. This is where religion comes in. By insisting that the predisposed objective reality proposed by religion was the only reality, limits were placed on human speculation and a sense of order was established in the society. Buying into this reality promised answers to then unanswerable questions (in the form of legitimations), a code of behavior to follow (and with that comes order), and a sense of one’s place and purpose in life. However, in many early societies it provided even more than that. A closer look at the ban on eating beef in the Hindu religion exemplifies the potential power and...
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