Lee, if you are interested, there are a number of exciting recent books on the evolutionary origin of religion.
The general theory is that part of the development of our species, that is the origins of speach, included the development of what might be called causal thinking. As we became able to communicate with words, about 60k years back, the theory suggests we also developed (or adapted) parts of our brains that provide complex causal models. When Uragli told Gimcrik about the valley where the good berries were, she did her best to create a logical model of how the valley came to be. Since hard facts were sparse then, Uragli constructed hypotheses. Wheh Gimcrik, acting on the hypotheses, came back with berries, a religion was born.
The arguments for this hypothesis are from many different sides. Genetics suggests that we have a “constriction point” at about that time. This means the numbers of our common ancestors were small, about 2000 at that time. Anthropology and archaelogy suggest that such a group would have been organized into small clans or families and that these would have shared “instruction” through some sort of leader. In many modern cultures, esp semitic, this person is sort of a communally associated judge and he or she is expected to make decisions based on clan/tribal knowledge. MUHAMMUD BEGAN HIS CAREAR IN MEDINA AS A JUDGE and Dever has suggested that The Book of Judges is an accurate record of how the early hebrews lived. The overlap between a judge, a pontifex maximus and a witch doctgor or priest is interesting?
Anyhow, shortly after the constriction point, religous behavior appears in the form of ritualized burials and depictions of animals as art. Not long after this Eden like event, an even smaller number of humans left Africa to breed … us. The concetration of mythilogy caused by that exodus could, I suggest, be reflected in much of the sahgred structure of modern religions.
Back at evolution, what strikes me is that the primitive religions were (and still are) efforts to provide a commicateable logic to a complex world. Of course that is what science now does. Going one step further, I suggest that science is very much like religion in 3 ways:
1. Scientific thought presumes that there is some underlying, discoverable
2. Science claims that by obeying its laws, we can control the universe.
3, Science has one other attribute of religion, the sense of wonder!
4, Science REQUIRES a priesthood. NOONE is smart enough to know all of science. Instead we trust in the priesthood.
Put all together, this suggests that science is not only a religion, it is the underpinning of all religion.