Social scientists...have long considered religion as sui generis, not as a behavioral predisposition that arose because in some way it contributed to the survival and reproduction of its participants. ...Or it could be a nonadaptive byproduct of something adaptive in its own right. For example, children seem hard-wired to accept parental teaching, since such advice is likely to be fitness-enhancing ("This is good to eat," "Don't pet the saber-tooth"). In turn, this makes children vulnerable to whatever else they are taught ("Respect the Sabbath," "Cover your hair") as well as downright needy when it comes to parentlike beings, leading especially to the patriarchal sky god of the Abrahamic faiths.
So, did you eat your vegetables today? Or were you busy praying? Read further to see why God is "the ultimate 747." I find it troubling that some self-described religious people use religion for self-aggrandizement, while insisting that that is in fact what secular types are trying to do. As much as I like that 747 phrase, I'm going to stick with the Zen point of view, which I think is, that no matter whether there is a God or not, it is most important to be ethical, a good person, aware of and concerned for others and the natural world.
Here is the Zen story: An old man asks a Zen master for the secret of life. The master says, "You have to be good." The man says, "That's it? Even a child of four knows that." "But even a man of eighty doesn't do it," the master replies.