Self: Currently reading God is not Great by Christopher Hitchens. In reading, I recall an idea I had a little while ago, about the need for religion and salvation, and the somewhat common theme that the purpose of religion is to ultimately leave this suffering Earth behind us. There is a common theme on the suffering that one must endure in this world, and the lack of suffering in the next (nirvana, heaven or a place with grapes and lots of virgins) or if you are a "bad" person, a go to hell or return here to try again. (Respawn!)
In the modern western 21st century world it seems an anachronism to describe life as a continuous stream of suffering until our eventual, inevitable demise. This is most likely why the rise of secularism and rationalism, with its concordant fall in religiosity, is happening now. However this is only a very recent and modern event, that would require picturing what life was like 200 years ago to appreciate why religion has held on for so long. Looking at the previous post which shows life expectancy vs income over time, at the beginning of the 19th century life expectancy was only on average 40 years. This is a good indicator that life was harsh for most people all over the world, so the teaching of religion that "all of life is suffering" was evidenced all around you. There was no escaping that concept to be a truism, and the only offered salvation or release from this suffering was faith and progress after death.
Q: when was germ theory accepted? Standards of hygine and so on?