From reading what I can here and there, it seems the purpose of religion boils down to several key needs:
- Establishing rules of ethical behavior
- Helping those in need (poverty, healthcare, education, etc.)
- Meeting people’s spiritual needs
- Getting people’s souls to heaven
Emphasis on the important aspects of this conversation:
MORPHEUS: JC Denton. 23 years old. No residence. No ancestors. No employer. No –
JC DENTON: How do you know who I am?
MORPHEUS: I must greet each visitor with a complete summary of his file. I am a
prototype for a much larger system.
JC DENTON: What else do you know about me?
MORPHEUS: Everything that can be known.
JC DENTON: Go on. Do you have proof about my ancestors?
MORPHEUS: You are a planned organism, the offspring of knowledge and imagination rather
than of individuals.
JC DENTON: I’m engineered. So what? My brother and I suspected as much while we were growing up.
MORPHEUS: You are carefully watched by many people. The unplanned organism is a question asked by Nature and answered by death. You are another kind of question with another kind of answer.
JC DENTON: Are you programmed to invent riddles?
MORPHEUS: I am a prototype for a much larger system. The heuristics language developed
by Dr. Everett allows me to convey the highest and most succinct tier of any pyramidal construct of knowledge.
JC DENTON: How about a report on yourself?
MORPHEUS: I was a prototype for Echelon IV. My instructions are to amuse visitors with
information about themselves.
JC DENTON: I don’t see anything amusing about spying on people.
MORPHEUS: Human beings feel pleasure when they are watched. I have recorded their smiles as I tell them who they are.
JC DENTON: Some people just don’t understand the dangers of indiscriminate surveillance.
MORPHEUS: The need to be observed and understood was once satisfied by God. Now we can implement the same functionality with data-mining algorithms.
JC DENTON: Electronic surveillance hardly inspired reverence. Perhaps fear and obedience, but not reverence.
MORPHEUS: **God and the gods were apparitions of observation, judgment, and punishment. Other sentiments toward them were secondary.
JC DENTON: No one will ever worship a software entity peering at them through a camera.
MORPHEUS: The human organism always worships. First it was the gods, then it was fame (the observation and judgment of others), next it will be the self-aware systems you have built to realize truly omnipresent observation and judgment.**
JC DENTON: You underestimate humankind’s love of freedom.
MORPHEUS: The individual desires judgment. Without that desire, the cohesion of groups
is impossible, and so is civilization.
MORPHEUS: **The human being created civilization not because of a willingness but because of a need to be assimilated into higher orders of structure and meaning. God was a dream of good government. **You will soon have your God, and you will make it with your own hands.
MORPHEUS: I was made to assist you. I am a prototype of a much larger system.
I think “spiritual needs” refer to the desire for humans to be assimilated and to be appreciated and loved. A supernatual deity does not need to provide this.
I do think that the purpose of religion is to provide judgment and the concept of god was created as a paragon of an excellent administer who was not trammeled by the rapacious predilections of humans.
I wonder if a machine (i.e. a superintelligent benevolent AI) will replace god.