The evidence points to yes (kind of), and ironically, any answer to the contrary (as with a few here so far) is in-fact based solely on the imagination of the author – what they wish to be true, or what they believe is the case etc, rather than taking a look at the available facts (all of them) and coming to a conclusion.
There is a lot more to it than saying we ‘imagined’ god as a way to make sense of the world, our beliefs about god make a huge amount of sense when you look at existing functions of the human brain.
One core aspect of religious belief (at least historically) is the concept of human beings having a sort of ‘essence’ or ‘soul’, our belief in this makes sense when you think about what the alternative is.
Its clearly beneficial in a number of ways for us to see ourselves as a kind of ‘whole’, as opposed to disparate chunks of meat and bone.
In fact we couldn’t see ourselves any other way.. the human brain doesn’t even have access to information about what’s inside of the human body!
Even today when we know exactly what’s inside the human body, how often do we think about the individual internal processes of our body while we’re going about our daily life? We wouldn’t because it would be completely distracting to do so, the brain’s ‘autopilot’ ‘mode keeps us focused on things that matter to our survival.
Not only that, we can see the effects of when the human mind starts to lose the illusion of being a ‘cohesive whole’ – this is known as mental/physical illness and it essentially prevents us from being able to function properly.
If we see ourselves as having an ‘essence’, we will naturally wonder what happens to that essence once we die. Hence tales of afterlife or ghosts or whatever else.
We also have empathy, which allows us to see other living things as having an ‘essence’, again this is advantageous to our survival because we need to be able to sense the motive and intentions of other humans (or animals), both positive and negative.
And again – humans who aren’t able to do this for one reason or another face serious survival difficulties.
Our ability to perceive ‘agency’ even extends to inanimate objects (you might see your washing machine or teddy bear as having a personality), and a good portion of god belief can be explained by this fact.
We’re primed to try and explain events around us as a survival mechanism – if something unusual happens, say a noise in the night, we’re not satisfied until we know what caused it, after all it could be someone intending us harm.
We’ll attend to assume ‘an ‘agent’ is responsible until proven otherwise. In this sense, we will tend to prefer ‘any explanation’ (even if it’s bullshit) over ‘zero explanation’, it makes us feel more secure (note the similarity to religious belief).
We’re so sensitive to this (it makes survival sense to be this way) that again our perception of ‘agency’ may extend beyond the rational.
That volcano keeps exploding – who is causing that? Is it a god? Why are they trying to hurt me? Maybe if I offer them a gift they’ll make it stop.
Same for those violent storms – who caused those. Why didn’t it rain this year? In the days of early humans the number of things that were inexplicable or beyond our control was staggering, and belief that we could control these in some way would have proved beneficial to our mental health I’m sure.
You can see how most other religious belief evolved from here (if I follow this man Jesus’ word, I’ll get a reward from his Dad…).
For more on this topic see:
Theres lots more to it of course – our need to feel ‘special’ is a survival advantage, I need to feel like I’m worth something to somebody, as this is going to help me keep myself alive.
The flip side here is thinking my competitors are ‘evil’ and I am the ‘hero’ – this will help when push comes to shove and there is only one apple left for the entire winter (not only do we have heaven for us, but hell, or at least refusal of god’s reward for our competition).
The point is our ‘invention’ of gods (not that we did it intentionally or consciously), to their evolution from earthly deities that live up the mountain to all powerful beings that exist outside of space and time (when we looked up the mountain we found they weren’t there), have very obvious survival advantages, plus of course are well documented as having been mentioned or written about by humans and humans alone.
I won’t even get into the plot-holes or conflicting religious accounts here, or the use of religion in a kind of competitive power struggle capacity, or the….