I’m an atheist who finds the study of religion fascinating. I’m not talking about theology but the scientific and historical approach to religion helped me realize that religion are just a bunch of stories. Stories that like human nature change in response to the changing times. From what I gathered, religion is just a way to explain everything before we had the means to study the world.
Which is why I find it irritating that so many people take these stories way too seriously. To me, the actual story shown by science on how each religion came to be, is more fascinating than believing in a divine origins. Cause the true story is a great insight on how human culture developed and made up these stories to begin with to explain their surroundings.
You write: "From what I gathered, religion is just a way to explain everything before we had the means to study the world. "
If that were correct, then religion would have withered away in the last 200 years as science was able to reliably explain more and more aspects of the world. Religion has important functions that go beyond the cognitive, namely functions in the sphere of the emotions and the social.
I also find the study of religion fascinating and mythology is a passion. All religions have the same types of myths and many of the myths have the same elements. J. Campbell delineated the functions of myth and one is that they were a way to explain the unexplainable. People still cling to the myths for various reasons even though science has debunked them. In part, those people might do that because if one myth is not factual, does that mean other myths are not factual? If the Garden of Eden did not exist, does that mean that Jesus didn't die and resurrect?
Religion has helped shape every culture and the shaping began before writing was invented. To study humans and how we culturally evolved, we have to study religion, as well because it has been a constant element in the history of humans.
There's a lot more to it than that. Religion is a way to control people and procreate tribalism. Religion is political. Notice how strict the hiearchy is from the pope on down to the alter boy. It's about control. Do you think there would have been so many wars in history if religion was just a collection of stories? Notice the body language of churchgoers: on their knees with hand extended in prayer like a slave waiting to be shackled.
Religion ... pure and faultless is this: to help widows and orphans in need and avoiding worldly corruption. James 1:27
What religion are you talking about?
What scientific approach have you that shows your definition of "religion " is just about some collection of stories?