Man is the only known animal capable of conceptual thinking. The only known animal with a self-reflecting, adaptive consciousness, which is able to make ethical decisions and to reflect the outcome of their own actions. This is an ability that has taken billions of years of evolution from some lifeless stardust into these somewhat fucntional brains that do some awesome shit in their free time, and trace their own tracks back to the very beginning, when they're not masturbating or inventing new sort of explosive devices, that is.
I've encountered people who think it is a complete mystery of how life that is able to reflect itself could be born out of nothing but rocks and dust. But philosophically thinking it is eventually inevitable. All known life is somewhat carbon-based, it forms most of our can-be-seen-universe anyway. So the essential building bricks of this consciousness we have, have been here as long as there has been matter. Now if I give you the building sets of model airplane, tank and a car, and you start building Optimus Prime, eventually you get bored with all the options, and build them as a airplane, a tank and a car. They are one possible solutions of using all these bricks. The difference is that you are a conscious being, the universe is random winds and interactions and an endless amount of possibilities in an endless timeline. Eventually it will create everything there is to create. By accident.
How consciousness itself came to be and what it is, is a fascinating mystery to us all. All I can tell you is what I suspect it might be, a theory of what may have happened. Most of this all is just philosophical foreplay anyway, just to get you thinking and to react on this somehow. In your brain or in a form of comment below. Italo Calvino wrote in his book Palomar, that the light of the sun invented the eye, so that none of these things there is to see would not go unseen. And since there was light, which helped the first living organisms survive (more plancton on the bright, warm spots, etc), they became sensitive to the light. Slowly they developed eyes, better sensors for receiving light. Evolution of beings made eyes more sensitive, and these senses started building brain mass, for there was more and more information to evaluate and to leave out. Brains started forming new kinds of nervecell connections and slowly they needed more and more connections to handle all the information the highly developed sensors gathered to the center of all this high voltage action.
Paulo Freire, in his book Pedagogy of Freedom, made the claims that the more human beings learned to walk erect, which freed their hands to be used as tools for their brain, the more their life support system became about interacting. It slowly became conceptual form of being, existence. The invention of existence necessarily involves the emergence of language, culture and communication with one another. These became through spiritualization of mankind. We started wondering things, worshipping things and giving them new sort of meanings. Without spiritualization of our ancestors, there would be no conceptual thinking. There would be no highly developed consciousness without "religion". Still this does not mean we should hold on to any religion. They we're there to help us develop something new. Of course religions also have the cultural, social value, that should not be denied by any intelligent being, but now we stand highest peak of our known development, and most religions and their fundamental ideals have started slowing our development down. This has of course gone on for centuries, but now it has burst out as new kinds of inhumane wars and violations of of human rights.
I've written before about christianity, so look that up so that I don't need to repeat myself. Here's a short version of it anyway: My idea is that Jesus was a humanist, loving and caring anarchist, who was profoundly mistaken by stupid people. He was a jew, not a christian, certainly not claiming to be THE ONLY SON OF GOD, and whole christianity is just Roman cult, with idolization of a single person and all that jazz, blown out of proportion. It was lucky to become Rome's state religion through Constantine the Greats spiritual awakening, for it helped it become the European main religion at the becoming of the Dark Ages. Through the crusades it became wide spread, and the medieval philosophy forced everything that had happened before into the christian context. So it's a result of random accidents and their long term consequences, that we are Christian instead of muslim or just plain pagan voodoo.
Of course without religion our thinking would be way more boring. It would not be questioned by ethical codes, if we would just lean onto the cold, hard evident-based thinking of science. I think philosophy alwyas includes a great deal of humor, a great deal of playful attitude towards knowledge and our excistence. It can not be just arguments and proving other people wrong. That's what internet's for, and I've grown so sick of it already. If you want to have warm hearted conversations about all this, I'm your guy. There's enough testifying and preaching in the world. It does not help to solve any mysteries, for it's usually one-sided argumentation, compering your mental dicks.