Friday, June 12, 2020

An intellectualist perspective on the origin of religion.

There are many religions in the world. Humans are religious in various ways. More or less, all humans are religious. The origin of religion can be analyzed from different theoretical perspectives. Like evolutionist theory, psychological theory, intellectualist theory, Marxist theory, functional theory, interpretive theory, etc. In this article, I am going to focus only on the intellectualist theory and explore some remarkable points about religion.

What is religion?

According to E.B. Tylor, "Religion is the belief in spiritual beings." James G. Frazer argues, “By religion, then, I understand a propitiation or conciliation of powers superior to man which are believed to direct and control the course of nature and of human life."

From the above definition, we can conclude that religion is the belief in spiritual beings or belief in the world beyond which can control human life. The intellectualist theory states that religion is an answer to the question of human life. It arises from question-asking. This theory insists religion exists in explaining events or circumstances around us.
Ritual for the ancestors.
Humans are inquisitive about what causes what. They want to how did the earth come to be? How did humans originate? Why the day and night are caused? Why does the sky thunder? What causes rain? Why do people get sick? Why do they die? Where do people go after death? etc. 

In the Stone Age, there was no science like now. In this modern age, science gives us the answer to all these questions. In primitive society, religion worked like a science. Religion satisfies people's curiosity. Whatever question comes to a human's mind, he wants an instantaneous answer. Religion answered all these questions related to human's daily life, so it was created. It existed. Although it may seem indefensible in the eyes of modern science, it came out of necessity at that time. There was religion before the birth of science. In the absence of science, religion made it easy for our ancestors to live, so it should not be called trivial without understanding it. Religion had great significance and benefits, and it lasted for thousands of years. Only beneficial things exist in the world. It was very important to human society, so it survived.

For example, the Gurungs, indigenous people of Nepal, have their religious text called Pye-Tah-Lhu-Tah. This text assures, after performing death ritual, one reaches the land of ancestors and meet with them. Humans have searched for causes of illness for a long time. Gurungs, as per their religious views, find the evil spirit, as one of the causes of illness. This is the answer to the question that arises in their mind, as intellectualist theory claims. According to the Hindu religion, Bhrama is the creator of the universe. There are heaven and hell based on deeds while alive. Good deeds lead to heaven while bad deeds lead to hell. 

Why do we need to know the answer?

We are always surrounded by problems. We have lots of need and desire to survive. To fulfil those needs and desires, to solve the problems around us, we need answers. For example, to cure illness we have to know how it is caused. In this modern age, the engineer can bring water from its source into a tape. Because they know why and how water flows. They know the law of water flow. We are now able to drink water without reaching into its source. Due to the solution to this problem, we save time and make life easier. In the same way, we have different problems in life; and to diagnose and solve problems, humans invent a religion. At the present time, even though religion is used as wrong purposes, it was initially for the right purposes.

Religion and science 

Science is based on facts and experiments. It is a cause and effect relationship. Religion is also based on cause and effect relationships in its way. So it can be regarded as traditional science. It is based on faith and belief. Both science and religion provide answers. Both explain events. Both attempt to solve life problems. The answer to the question of how the universe is created, how does an earthquake occur, how humans are evolved, etc, all ultimately helps us to solve life problems and make daily life better.

Some defects

Even though religion explains the event, sometimes it may not work properly. It may magnify the problems rather than solve them. Because it is not based on evidence. There are a more reliable cause and effect relationship in science. So nowadays, religions are replaced by science. Some religions have faith that earth has rested on mighty elephants, some claim earth has rested on a gigantic frog, some on catfish. They considered it as the cause of the occurring earthquake. This is wrong and invalid which multiply the problem in an attempt to subtract problems. 


Intellectualist theory insists religion is originated to explain natural phenomena. It gives the answer to the question in the human mind. Like science, it has cause and effect relationships. It worked as science in primitive society. Since it is based on faith, sometimes it is not as reliable as science. However, it exists as it fulfils those needs and desires of humans. This theory is very helpful to analyze religion. 


Delivered by FeedBurner