Could a civilization grow or develop to advanced levels if they don't hold religious beliefs?
I have just watched Star Trek: The Next Generation, "Who watch the watchers" (season 3, episode 4). It tells the story of the Mintakan people, a proto-Vulcan race near a Bronze Age of cultural development. It is clearly said at some point, that millennia ago members of this civilization has dropped believing in any kind of gods, supernatural beings or any other kind of faith-based mythology. And yet, they're still remains in a Bronze Age.
Is this possible and believable? We're far more developed than Mintakans and yet we have many gods, supernatural beings and other faith-based believing. As we look through our history, even (or especially) this after Bronze Age, we can clearly see many examples that this believes were actually a stimulating factor to many discoveries, achievements etc. From Christopher Columbus, who found America mostly to prove, that Church was wrong. To Stephen Hawking, whos many works were meant to prove that everything is explainable without the need of God existing, led to many new discoveries in physics. But, these are only two of large number of examples, that searching to disobey some believing, to disprove existence of some gods or other religious of faith-based myths, was one of fundamental elements of our civilization development.
As you can see from above, I'm personally believing, that thesis shown in mentioned Star Trek episode is unreliable and impossible. In my opinion, it is impossible to advance any civilization to our level of development or further, when denying all believing, faith and religions. I'd like to challenge this in worldbuilding terms. Is it possible to have modern, advanced civilization without faith? If yes, would that kind of civilization need some replacement for faith and religion to stimulate its development, and what kind of replacement would that be?