Origins of religious belief systems.

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Discussion by: capetownian

I am sure that most, if not all the members of this site have experienced how it is virtually impossible to argue with friends and family when ot comes to "belief" and "faith" in the religion vs atheism debate. I have listened to so many prominent advocates of rationallity and reason locked in debate with the proponents of the various monotheistic religions – and find the frustration of hearing the same repetitive arguments used to support their particular prophet's pronounciations on "God" and the afterlife such, that I must ask the question: "when and why did humanity become so obsessed with the possibility of life after death?"

Is it that at some stage in the gradual transistion from ape to homo erectus, we must have become aware of our mortality – and was it perhaps during this period that the explanation for so many extreme and violent natural events had to do with supernatural creatures who controlled our destiny? Was this the the beginning of "good" and "evil" and and of the idea that we could achieve immortality thru following the path elucidated by the first "priests" who claimed special dispensation to teach this process? The fear of impending death has always been a powerful motivator in the promotion of religion….

I would really like to hear from other members for further comment…..

 

 

39 COMMENTS

  1. another discussion

    I suppose what you (and I) need are recommended anthropology books. It seems logical that we would have had a desire to plug super-naturalism to things that seemed unnatural, magical, uncomfortable and outside the realm of our common understanding, instead of going “I don’t know!”. We don’t like to not know. A question which also leaves the door open to all sorts of irrational beliefs and mind tricks.

  2. things to consider are:

    Theory of Mind. Homo Sapiens sees intent in a lot of things, sees himself as the centre of the universe so the idea of random chance is not considered.

    Recently dead HS often look like live sleeping ones, indeed humans haven’t evolved to tell the difference between a dead face and a live one hence burnt toast looks like proof of jesus being alive. I think the extreme bias in recognising faces in humans is important, it means you see them all the time in nature and more often than not, they suddenly vanish when you look close up. very magical.

    good and evil as concepts have evolved a great deal, nowadays they suggest intent but if you were a member of a small nomadic tribe good and evil are just ways of deciding if to eat/fight/run from/take home for decoration/wrap yourself up/use as a tool/have sex with or not. nowadays religious minded people are taught to see evil in someone who may tick all the boxes “good” used to (good looking, funny, open minded, nice whiskers..).

    My belief is belief in life after death is as old as humanity and most likely older. it may even exist in other species (elephants, who seem to revere elders often seen carrying their bones about like a bunch of flappy-eared catholics). what is notable about religion though is the way it found a niche in the societies created by farming. when you invest so much time and effort into crops the will of the gods suddenly becomes a bigger issue, prior to that gods may have been no different to any large animal, capable of making your life a misery or providing you with food, that you could try and hide from.

    monotheism and civilization grew up in the middle-east. lands where african and eurasian tectonic plates colide so there are minerals (good) but earthquakes (evil) and volcanoes (read exodus, moses’ god made himself known by columns of black smoke by day and lightening by night, moses climbed a mountain and saw a burning bush..) that suddenly make good things (big golden calf, what’s not to like?) evil and evil things (nearly dying of heat stroke) good.

    one thing is worth noting is the point where yahweh gets all needy and gives the 10 commandments. 5 of which are all about worshipping him and no other gods. monotheism is the assumption there is only one god but it rose from a “don’t mention the other god’s!” mentality which led to tyranny that still exists today. compare that with societies that kept multiple gods like Rome and Greece and they have much more complex societies based on how gods interacted

    Priests, I suspect were just any nut-job who rants about something enough to convince people they know what their talking about (not so much evolution here). superstition would dictate if a prophet got one hit, leaders would try to keep the prophet on-side. There are still non-religious people making a tidy living out of cold-reading and lucky hits. humans evolved to exploit one another and there are many ways to do that even if you’re not a great farmer or warrior

    also it’s worth considering superstition is a modern term. until we know something doesn’t work (e.g. rain dance) we assume it works. nowadays science gives us tools to test but in days when you had to make a decision on almost no evidence, anything would do. Superstition is a bit like alternative medicine, if a superstition turns out to be true, it’s no longer superstition.

    what went wrong is religion became politics. even up to the last few hundred years laws based on religion were in place in order to prevent god causing a natural disaster. we still live under many of these laws. with religion entrenched in law it became hard to get rid of, even after science killed it. modern religion is worshipping the ghosts of old religion.

  3. Check out Andy Thompson’s video from the archive.
    There’s no real hard evidence for how religions first came about; but most likely like music and art they are byproducts of our curious and inventive brains which had become specialised in its ability to understand and manipulate the environment.

    Humans are fairly unique in their ability to plan and imagine things that haven’t happened. If you think about it we do this all the time: we imagine conversations with people who aren’t there and we imagine what they will say to us in return.

    When somebody dies this doesn’t stop. We experience cognitive dissonance because we continue to imagine the person in our lives although on one level we know they are dead. The universal idea of spirits or souls is the consequence of this internal struggle.

    I remember at the funeral of a good friend the priest informed us that he was not dead, but in the next room and only a thin veil separated us.

    This is a good example of human imagination at work; somebodies words resurrecting a presence through collective memory.
    Once you have the idea of spirits surviving death, religion quickly follows: whether it is the tribal shaman or minister at a mega church, somebody is on hand to flesh out the idea and offer a mythology that explains it.

  4. I’m quite fascinated by the origins of religious belief because I feel that more than anything else holds the key to its demise. And I think it persists today more at an emotional rather than a rational/irrational level yet began as both. And I don’t think we’re anywhere near to explaining it.

    I would say 6000 years ago the most rational people would have to be believers in the absence of anything else. Without any knowledge at all I suspect some kind of creating deity was the most logical of the explanations for a species whose very survival would have relied on seeing cause and effect and patterns. I would also suspect in a world where death was early, starvation close and pain and illness untreatable it served human needs and kept us from despair.

    The former reasons have gone. We understand science and deities are no longer the most logical or even a remotely logical explanation. But the latter reasons, tho far better, still exist. We still lose people we love and tho hopefullly far later in life it is still painful for most of us.

    I think that in part is now the main reasons for the persistence of relious belief in modern societies. The reason it is so difficult and pointless arguing with people about superstitious beliefs in their holy books is because they don’t really buy them either. We now have the rise of the personal God in all major religions, who doesn’t think like he’s supposed to. How many times I’ve asked catholics, muslims, christians or whatever about something their God has supposedly said and heard the reply ‘not my god’

    So I guess the trick now is not rationalism, that has already been accepted by most believers. But tackling whatever emotional needs Gods serve. After all religion has evolved hugely from obviously pregnant female deities thru to elderly misogynists. I guess its just evolving again into ‘my personal God’. Far more elusive and far harder to argue against or for.

  5. Sagen the cat comment 2

    Priests, I suspect were just any nut-job who rants about something enough to convince people they know what their talking about (not so much evolution here). superstition would dictate if a prophet got one hit, leaders would try to keep the prophet on-side. There are still non-religious people making a tidy living out of cold-reading and lucky hits. humans evolved to exploit one another and there are many ways to do that even if you’re not a great farmer or warrior

    Or power brokers who exploited a niche? A need to relief from grief? Provide it as long as you are the gatekeeper and can get people to do as you chose. And your bizarre needs and ideas then get passed on thru generations.

    All religious traditions at the end of the day are just ideas that someone once had in a older scarier world. That appealed to people for some reason or other at that time and then persisted thru into modern times. And so many of them read in context are sensible in that time but only in that time. Most ideas move with the times, what distinguishes religious ones is that they don’t. For example not eating pigs or cows? Is that really that stupid in a pre refrigeration or understanding of bacteria society for example? No. Is it stupid now? Yes.

    • In reply to #6 by Degsy:

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0M3Nw1D_jp0

      Should cut and paste ok. Christopher Hitchens talks about this in the Q+A session. Nobody put it better. We are hard-wired to see pattern and intent in the world. This is good. Gives us the itch of curiosity. The downside being that we will tend to accept…

      Yes, I suspect that alongside societal factors the way our brains work predisposes us to attribute pattern, meaning, intent to our experiences and generally to anthropomorphise phenomena. Intuitive leaps are of undoubted value – shadows in the woods might be the predator, or indeed prey, to which our survival and that of our children is crucially linked. Indeed, as well as intuition in our perceptual systems, we still have ancient and powerful emotional overrides eg around fear or sexual urges, that prioritise vital actions based upon intuition. Since human brains have not, so far as we know, evolved massively in the last few tens of thousands of years, we still carry paleolithic genes and so (probably) basically still have paleolithic brains.

      This analogy probably over simplifying and exaggerating the case, but in a way life beyond hunter-gathering (ie agriculture and later societies) is a bit like using an early 2000′s PC to run Windows 8 – there are bound to be major glitches. Religion would thus be a kind of work around to keep some sort of emotional balance, even at the cost of reason.

      • In reply to #13 by steve_hopker:

        In reply to #6 by Degsy:

        There are significant flaws in that analogy: processing power is pretty much constant, it’s the software that varies and adapts to the hardware and its flaws (or not). More later, possibly.

        • In reply to #27 by PERSON:

          In reply to #13 by steve_hopker:

          In reply to #6 by Degsy:

          There are significant flaws in that analogy: processing power is pretty much constant, it’s the software that varies and adapts to the hardware and its flaws (or not). More later, possibly.

          I’m not very au fait with IT so the analogy may be wrong technically (though I though processing power had increased dramatically – Moore’s ‘Law’ and all that?)
          But I think my post had other faults anyway – maybe religion in part came around, or perhaps rather increased and changed to cope with the worries and the demands around agricultural events (sowing, harvest etc) that had initially enabled population growth and thence was essential to sustain it.
          However, there is little evidence that religiosity markedly increased with the immense psychosocial strains of industrialisation, so my suggestion that religion arose from the disparity between paleolithic brains and social development seems weak at best. Furthermore, there is good evidence for religious ideation in Stone Age cultures now and arguably in the past.

          However, from the ashes of my post I would like to retrieve the idea that ancient, if you like pre-Homo sapiens, brain structures and function may play a part in religiosity (as of course they do in pretty much all aspects of mental life). So, temporal lobe phenomena may be involved in voices / visions and altered states of consciousness. Religion may also be a way for the rational / language parts of our brains (ie largely hominid developments) to manage the emotive / instinctual (more primitive, pre-human ie vertebrate structures such as the thalamus and limbic systems that are literally buried deeper in our brains).

          Maybe my point should have been that one source of religion is the discord between our ‘modern’ and ‘ancient’ brain functions.

  6. Dear capetownian,
    “when and why did humanity become so obsessed with the possibility of life after death?”
    99% of the 5 millions of time ous species is on its way from an insignificant apemen-bend unto your and my times, our ancestors were hunter-gatherers. My study of hunter-gatherers, today a rapidly extincting way of life, tells me that our early ancestors must have had an accepting and resigned attitude to death.
    It were the farming societies, domesticating plants and animals, deriving a sense of power over nature and developing an animistic worldview, characterized by fear and distrust, sorcery and superstition. Farmer societies became obsessed with the possibility if life after death. This is my answer on “why”. For my answer on “when” , I look to the first evidence of this obsession and then come the plaster covered skulls of Nahal Hemar, Tell Aswad, and other excavation sites from around 7.500 BC in my mind.

    • In reply to #8 by couw:

      My study of hunter-gatherers, today a rapidly extincting way of life, tells me that our early ancestors must have had an accepting and resigned attitude to death. It were the farming societies, domesticating plants and animals, deriving a sense of power over nature and developing an animistic worldview, characterized by fear and distrust, sorcery and superstition. Farmer societies became obsessed with the possibility if life after death. This is my answer on “why”. For my answer on “when” , I look to the first evidence of this obsession and then come the plaster covered skulls of Nahal Hemar, Tell Aswad, and other excavation sites from around 7.500 BC in my mind.

      It seems that there are older sites, but some of the religious claims in this 2 page article seem a bit speculative.

      http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2011/06/gobekli-tepe/mann-text/1

      Before them are dozens of massive stone pillars arranged into a set of rings, one mashed up against the next. Known as Göbekli Tepe (pronounced Guh-behk-LEE TEH-peh), the site is vaguely reminiscent of Stonehenge, except that Göbekli Tepe was built much earlier and is made not from roughly hewn blocks but from cleanly carved limestone pillars splashed with bas-reliefs of animals—a cavalcade of gazelles, snakes, foxes, scorpions, and ferocious wild boars. The assemblage was built some 11,600 years ago, seven millennia before the Great Pyramid of Giza. It contains the oldest known temple. Indeed, Göbekli Tepe is the oldest known example of monumental architecture—the first structure human beings put together that was bigger and more complicated than a hut. When these pillars were erected, so far as we know, nothing of comparable scale existed in the world.

      At the time of Göbekli Tepe’s construction much of the human race lived in small nomadic bands that survived by foraging for plants and hunting wild animals. Construction of the site would have required more people coming together in one place than had likely occurred before. Amazingly, the temple’s builders were able to cut, shape, and transport 16-ton stones hundreds of feet despite having no wheels or beasts of burden. The pilgrims who came to Göbekli Tepe lived in a world without writing, metal, or pottery; to those approaching the temple from below, its pillars must have loomed overhead like rigid giants, the animals on the stones shivering in the firelight—emissaries from a spiritual world that the human mind may have only begun to envision.

      Bewilderingly, the people at Göbekli Tepe got steadily worse at temple building. The earliest rings are the biggest and most sophisticated, technically and artistically. As time went by, the pillars became smaller, simpler, and were mounted with less and less care. Finally the effort seems to have petered out altogether by 8200 B.C. Göbekli Tepe was all fall and no rise.

      http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2011/06/gobekli-tepe/musi-photography

  7. I’ve been informed that Mr. Richard Dawkins was invited to “DEBATE” with Ray Comfort, who recently, as a strong believer of God produced the recent film entitled “Evolution vs. God” seen here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U0u3-2CGOMQ .
    However, Mr. Dawkins, as I read, would NOT DEBATE Mr. Comfort, unless Mr. Comfort donated a large sum of money to Mr. Dawkin’s organization-something that will “obviously” never happen. So, essentially, Mr. Dawkins is completely shying away from debating a Mr. Comfort about God…go figure!?!?

  8. Take a look at my explanation of how religiosity got into the human genome. http://www.scilogs.eu/en/blog/biology-of-religion/2011-03-24/the-genetic-priming-of-religiosity-guest-post-by-john-jacob-lyons?sms_ss=twitter&at_xt=4d8bc83ede65d24d,1 Of course, there have been many cultural factors that have promoted religiosity; fear of death, ‘opium of the people’, encouraged by rulers for its positive effect on social cohesion, etc etc.

  9. It seems to me more than coincidental that all religions have arisen and developed in the ‘post-agricultural’ era when people have had the time to think and speculate on the nature of their environment, lives and deaths. Particularly the latter. For me, the key causative element in all religion is the fear of death and the attempt to find (or create) an alternative to the unimaginable end of our individual existences and a world without us in it. Our egos seem to not allow us to contemplate this end to our conscious selves – which is probably part of an important primal survival mechanism – thus the concoction of alternatives.
    In making a comparison with animals one can imagine that without our developed powers of reason, they effectively ‘live forever’ as death is very unlikely to be anticipated – we alone understand that for every one of us, life will end. Because of this power to consciously reason we all live with a death sentence. No doubt this thought could be better expressed but the point will be understood I’m sure. The rest of religious structure seems to fall into the category of Entry and Benefit Qualifications.
    The fact that seemingly intelligent people are swayed by these tenuous fantasies and the degree to which disbelief is suspended, is a measure of their fear.
    And to close, something that I have pondered upon is the similarity of religious ritual to hypnotic techniques. The commanding voice, smack on the forehead, repetious ‘trigger words’ and so on. In a hypnotised state one can be made to accept an alternative reality. Could church goers be hypnotised???

  10. Azorian comment 11

    The rest of religious structure seems to fall into the category of Entry and Benefit Qualifications. The fact that seemingly intelligent people are swayed by these tenuous fantasies and the degree to which disbelief is suspended, is a measure of their fear.

    I think that one sentence has nailed the very reason for the persistence of religious beliefs in actually very intelligent people. It is the fear of not believing.

    I think it is time to reassess the strategies for tackling religion as well. It is naive to continue to see it as stupid beliefs in superstitious nonsense by people with low IQs. More often than not it is deliberate suspension of disbelief in otherwise rational beings, including many scientists, to serve an emotional need. I cannot understand how people far cleverer than me can do it, but I can see why they think it worth it.

  11. I have my own ideas as to how religion came to be and still persists.

    First I have to agree with the theory of mind concept as that’s a given. It makes perfect sense.

    Where as the OP suggests the idea of becoming ‘aware’ of our own mortality I personally think that most sentient animals have some concept of their own mortality. Where we differ as a species is the concept of time. Once we understood that there was ‘time’ involved I think this is when ideas of ‘spirits’ started to come about. Knowing that we are limited creatures on this planet and having an idea of how long we live is I think a driving factor behind all the fear ingrained into religion.

    Is it really at all surprising that it is older generations that are keeping the churches open these days? Especially in countries where religion is on the wane? As one gets older the idea of death starts to loom. You start thinking of how much longer you’re going to be around. You start to see an ending. That is the difference between us and other animals. It’s hard not to want to feel that there is ‘something more’ as you get older.

    So to me I believe time is an important concept and thought when thinking about why people may feel the way the do when it comes to religion. When you’re told it will only be a matter of time before you’re together with your loved ones again, it’s a comforting thought for anyone.

    That’s my thought on the persistence of religious ideas. Time is a scary thing when you think about it from a life perspective.

    • In reply to #21 by rockdoom:

      But there have been others, William Lane Craig, etc.? In the eyes of most, certainly of mine, it makes you appear WEAK-sir !

      You need to be very ignorant of science to take Craig’s lame arguments seriously. To scientists and serious historians, he is a joke in poor taste!

      Once the transcripts of his Gish-Galloping claims are written down, their comically nonsensical nature, becomes obvious to anyone educated in the subject matter.

      http://old.richarddawkins.net/articles/643584-why-i-refuse-to-debate-with-william-lane-craig

      http://old.richarddawkins.net/articles/612104-dealing-with-william-lane-craig

      .. but as I said this is not the thread for that discussion. He has nothing to do with the archaeological, historical, evolutionary, or psychological origins of religions.

      All his arguments are recently invented, previously refuted, nonsense, disputing the proven sciences of evolution and cosmology.

    • In reply to #21 by rockdoom:

      But there have been others, William Lane Craig, etc.? In the eyes of most, certainly of mine, it makes you appear WEAK-sir !

      if you’ve ever tried to debate with a overtired toddler or teenager you’ll know the answer why. Don’t listen, don’t understand (deliberately or otherwise), not rational and sure to claim you’ve said things you haven’t. Well debating with creationists and extremists is much the same.

      I do believe Dawkins has debated many times with the more intelligent and saner religious folk. Father George Coyne the genuine scientist, Archbishop Rowan, Francis Collins and so on. So it isn’t that he’s afraid or weak. I guess its just his kids have grown up and his days of arguing with the irrational are over. Plus irrationality doesn’t appeal quite so much from an adult as it does from overtired two year olds.

  12. Here’s how I pretty much view things: Our ancestors, with their limited understanding of the world, invented abstract entities as place-holders to help them make sense of the world. For example: deity X [insert elaborate story here] gave birth to trees and plants – this is why we have trees and plants. That’s the deity bit out of the way, but what about religion? Well, what happens when trees and plants become diseased or damaged due to a natural disaster – or what happens when the people themselves become diseased or die, etc. Once again, because of their ignorance and feelings of disempowerment, they try to make sense of the world; the place-holder[deity X] is now responsible for causing the disease, damage or death. Being a little fearful and paranoid they begin to believe they are being punished – or believe neighbouring tribes or those they dislike in the community have upset deity X. They then come up with rituals(animal and human sacrifice) and other ways of worship to try and pacify deity X – all of which ease that sense of not being in control. Notions of life after death would have probably developed around the same time under similar circumstances.

    So it probably went something like this:

    1) Invent deity
    2) Sht happens
    3) Can’t deal with sh
    t
    4) Find ways to deal with sh*t
    5) I feel better now I’m back in control

    Religion and the beliefs are mainly about maintaining control and the self-serving need to survive. They are conspiracy theories that have had chance to develop and grip society.

  13. There is – obviously – no written record of any notion of eternal life being in the heads of early humans freshly down from the trees, or even as late as 64,000 years ago when a family of Neanderthals at Shanidar buried, with flowers, their elderly relative who was a cripple from birth. It is pointless, however, trying to interpret the laying of flowers as a belief in the hereafter.

    With the invention of writing at Kish about 5,500 years ago, the only reference to eternal life in Sumerian literature was confined to the gods. The common people never had that pleasure (or boredom), with the exception of Ziusudra, the hero of the great flood of 3050 BC, whose name translates as “Extended Life” (not eternal life). Nor is there any mention of eternal life for humans in later Babylonian literature, either for kings or commoners.

    Nor is there mention of it in the OT for humans, not even for Moses or his sister Meri-Amun, with the possible exception of a brace of prophets. In John’s Revelations, however, there is reference to 144,000 men (12,000 from each of the 12 tribes of Israel) booked to serve their god eternally in heaven, but the list is sealed and there is no room for anyone else. Sorry if you are waiting for the Rapture.

    Eternal life for the hoi-poloi was first offered in the gospels, decades after the execution of Jesus who, like Romulus, died, came back to life, and walked on water. All you need to do after living a life of obscene crimes all your years on earth is believe the tale at the moment of your death, and god help you if you don’t.

    By the end of the 7th century AD, the idea of eternal life became firmly established in Arabia, complete with a description of the fires for unbelievers in one place, and an assortment of plants and consorts in the other to reward those who led impeccable lives or had slaughtered each other in the name of their god.

    I dare say – indeed I insist – that there is no such thing as perpetual life, but if I am wrong and find myself condemned to endless eons in either heaven or hell, I would only go if I am allowed to take all my books and CDs with me. “The Ancestor’s Tale” alone would keep me happily informed and entertained in either place for decades, while listening to the divine music of the eternal Mozart.

    • In reply to #30 by ZedBee:

      There is – obviously – no written record of any notion of eternal life being in the heads of early humans freshly down from the trees, or even as late as 64,000 years ago when a family of Neanderthals at Shanidar buried, with flowers, their elderly relative who was a cripple from birth. It is pointl…

      I would happily opt for another hundred years, but after that I think it ( life) would just become a bit tedious.

  14. I think the key is a period in our life when we accept whatever parents say, and burn it in for life. This is useful to teach children “don’t eat laburnum berries”, “run if somebody gives you candy”.

    Of course it goes awry if it includes religious instruction.

    When you were a child your parents taught you not to take money from strangers and not to
    take money from your friends. Who does that leave? Known enemies!

    ~ Sondra Ray

  15. In response to Nitya (# 32)

    An extra hundred years on top of the current span may well be within reach of science in future. But, to be fair, the extra century would have to be granted to the 7 billion humans already on earth, and rising exponentially. I am not sure the planet’s resources can cope.

  16. I have always thought that someting very telling is the line from believers to we atheists: “if this is all there is, why don’t you just kill yourself?”

    From a psychological standpoint, they’re projecting. People, including me, have a hard time with “this is all there is” and while I accept it, some people can’t. They grasp for and then cling to whatever seems to give their life meaning. I’ve never understood how “serving god” is meaningful, but again, that’s just me. It obviously works for a great many people.

    I also imagine 10K plus years ago, there was a guy a lot like Stephen King, Garrison Keillor, or J.K Rowling. Somebody who could tell stories for days. Everbody would sit around and listen, picturing in their heads what was being told, and that would give these story tellers a lot of power. That is why I see a lot of benefit in what Richard does. And, Sam Harris and the like. These are OUR story tellers and given enough time, their voices will start to win out because they do give an alternative “meaning” to things. Especially Richard, IMO. Sam’s writing comes across a bit intellectual but Richard expresses the wonder and amazement that I think is missing for a lot of people if they even contemplate giving up religion.

    • In reply to #34 by MAJORPAIN:

      I have always thought that someting very telling is the line from believers to we atheists: “if this is all there is, why don’t you just kill yourself?”

      From a psychological standpoint, they’re projecting.

      I agree strongly. Dissatisfaction is arguably part of reality, so it that sense it is natural to want something more, and from that to convince yourself that there is something more. Perhaps the shrill fervour and militancy of evangelicals stems from this unhappiness and, since God does not exist, the deep emptiness of their creed and lives.

      Only by looking reality in the face can we have any real hope.

      • In reply to #35 by steve_hopker:

        I have always thought that someting very telling is the line from believers to we atheists: “if this is all there is, why don’t you just kill yourself?”

        From a psychological standpoint, they’re projecting.

        I agree strongly. Dissatisfaction is arguably part of reality, so it that sense it is natural to want something more, and from that to convince yourself that there is something more.

        The problem for the theist – especially the fundamentalist, is that their “something more” is in fact a magic “something else”.

        If the little delusional world inside the woo-bucket is taken away THEY indeed have NOTHING – and the workload/skill-level to start to build a scientific understanding, (after a lifetime of easy – no thought required – “god-did-it” answers) is prohibitive!

        So yes! Those deeply steeped in delusion, simply cannot see the wonders in nature, or the joys of living, if the magic fairies they have spent their lives pleasing, are removed.
        That is the be-all, end-all, and “purpose” of their lives. Through the “faith-blinkers” nothing else is visible – Hence the projection of this attitude on to atheists!

  17. Hello Capetownian,
    You are right in that I have been frustrated by the religious communities rejection of fairly simple and solid rationale that all of us use as argument against religious belief and I am stunned by their ability to ignore it. But I have thought it through (to the best of my ability) and I think I understand it a bit better now. The world seems to be divided between two different sorts of people when it comes to thought processes with regard to faith and my conclusion, if it’s any help, is as follows.
    People who hold irrational beliefs are only drawn to them because lots of other people are as well. Opinion therefore, is fixed in the irrational mind by sheer weight of numbers. That’s it. I believe it’s that simple. The rationale goes on to say that “the faithful” do not own any autonomous thoughts because they all eminate from outside themselves. This must be true because they all say the same things. It’s a bit like reading the “gutter press” where a very popular lowbrow newspaper pontificates about some national issue and the next day millions of people are quoting it word for word regardless of whether it’s nonsense or not. The readers will not be argued with. After all, it must be true because of where it came from. Now try changing their minds! This strange trait is also resposible for racism, football violence, binge drinking, father xmas, even wars, in fact most of the stupidity the world is afflicted with.
    Sylwin1.

    • In reply to #37 by sylwin1:

      It’s a bit like reading the “gutter press” where a very popular lowbrow newspaper pontificates about some national issue and the next day millions of people are quoting it word for word regardless of whether it’s nonsense or not. The readers will not be argued with. After all, it must be true because of where it came from. Now try changing their minds!

      You have picked out a very good example of herd thinking.

      I recall two occasions when I have experienced this.
      The first was a conference where delegates were asked not to discuss some sensitive issues with the gutter press. Naturally a couple of the self important village idiots who had been listening through ideologist ear-muffs, blabbered a load of nonsense to the reporters. In the hotel bar next day, some “knowledgeable readers”, were busy arguing with conference delegates about what had been said at the conference where those delegates had been present.

      On another occasion a group of “informed readers”, spent 10 minutes “correcting” my perceptions about what had been said in a certain meeting. Having listened to the regurgitated fiction which had been made up by some tabloid hack, I simply informed them, that as the chair of the meeting concerned, (who had since read through the recorded draft minutes), I had a much better view of what had been said, than the tabloid writer who was not present, and had told them a load of rubbish! Some however still knew better, “having seen an account in print”!

  18. LIFE, DEATH AND EVOLUTION…

    The nature of death, continuity of life, resurrection and the Last Day have full support in human experience.

    Death is not annihilation. It is merely a transfer from one state of existence to another.

    Also the death we experience after having lived our life on earth cannot be regarded as our “first death”. This fact emerges clearly when we view the progress of our lives, backwards. There you find that scientific knowledge has so far traced our existence to the life germ. But scientific reason insists that it must have lived in some form or forms even before that.

    Indeed, we must have lived since the time of Creation. And thus we must have experienced numberless deaths in our journeys towards higher forms of life.

    However, if you confine yourselves only to the experiencable duration of you existence, the problem of understanding the “other view” is solved.

    You suffer the first known death when you leave the habitat of your father’s body and move into our mother’s body, where you are entombed in your mother’s womb for a period of time. You may reasonably call it a grave, which you enter later on in life does not differ much from the belly of you mother which bulges under outward pressure of pregnancy.

    Inside the first known grave of yours, you stay for a period of time to “undergo continuous transformations” until you initial form of the life-germ changes to the form of a fully-fledged baby. Then you emerge “Resurrected” from you “grave” of your mother’s womb with “severe shakings” – pangs of birth – and move out into the open world – an infinitely larger world than the mother’s womb. In that new form of life you pass through different stages of your evolution, ultimately facing death. Then you are buried for the second time in a grave. This time your grave is the “Womb of the Mother earth”.

    Atheists say that the burial in the grave forms the “end of the road” – that the physical death means the annihilation of the personality.

    Let’s stop here and reflect!

    There are certain very logical and valid considerations which can assist in understanding the true nature of death, life-after-death, the Last Day and the Resurrection:

    1. You have seen that there are numerous deaths which occur before what is regarded in the superficial view as the only death. Now, these previous deaths are only crisis which bring about transformation from a”lower state” to a “higher state” of existence. To regard the superficial (atheist) view, as the only – death as annihilation is therefore, totally unwarranted, irrational, illogical and unscientific. Rather, we are compelled to view it as a crisis which paves the way for further evolution, or as a gateway to another and higher form of existence.

    2. Atheists view regarding the earthly grave as the first one is wrong because your first known and observable grave is the mother’s womb and not the earthly grave.

    3. So too is the atheist view of regarding the grave as the “end of the road” entirely wrong. Because, if the first known grave, i.e. the mother’s womb, does not form the “end of the road” but only a stepping-stone to further evolution, to hold an opposite view for the earthly grave shall be most unwarranted , irrational and arbitrary.

    4. Similarly, atheists view regarding the “Last Day – the rising up from the earthly graves” as fantasies turns out to be most unwarranted. Because, your emergence from your mother’s womb is your first known “Rising up from the grave and Resurrection” and the existence of these phenomena tears into shreds the atheist insinuation and proves to the hilt the validity of the “Last Day”. Consequently, what we know about the events of the “future” exists already in the present, which is already present in human experience. The only difference being that of the scope and level of the phenomena of the “present experience” are narrower and lower than the scope and level of the “future experience”.

    Viewing now the problem of life-after-death on the basis of the principle of Evolution, I might need to repeat what I have alluded to earlier.
    Every human being observes life evolving in the world from stage to stage. For instance, you find that the human individual is a mere speck at the start, which gradually grows, changing its forms, until it becomes a full-fledged human baby and is born into this world. The baby starts on its evolutionary journey with new qualities emerging and developing at different stages of its growth. At the very beginning of its earthly life it is only a physical entity with only a basic instinctive activity.

    Later on, its senses are gradually activised and its sensations developed into a meaningful sense-perceptions. After the mental growth starts until the child, who had practically a clean slate so far as his mental activity was concerned, is transformed into an intellectual giant with his mental processes becoming immensely complicated. Soon after the commencement of the intellectual growth another quality also begins to take shape – the quality of Conscience. Then his moral ideas of good and bad lead him to a quest for a personality who is Absolutely Good (God). This is the beginning of the spiritual growth and it is, so to say, the last to take place. This is one of the immediately-observable phenomena of Evolution which falls into the ken of observation of even the least intelligent human being.
    When you enter the domain of scientific enquiry you find the same phenomena being repeated on a world-scale. You are told that this world was first of all constituted of inorganic matter only. Then there came a stage when a very rudimentary type of organic existence emerged. That rudimentary type was still just a lump of physical qualities, possessing only very vague sensations. After that, the rudimentary type succeeded by a type of living beings possessing more complicated physique and better-developed senses.
    This evolution of types and forms continued through the millenniums until the reptiles, the birds and the quadruples came to exist. They had highly developed physiques, perfect senses and also a type of mental activity. At the last stage emerged man, enjoying all the good qualities of physique and acuteness of sense-perception, and also possessing in addition to them self consciousness, creative thinking, moral consciousness and the quest for spiritual realities of life, including God Himself. This is the rational story of Evolution! (Not the Darwin story. A plagiarised story I may add. Copied from the works of a previous scholar who lived centuries before him, named ibn Miskawayh. Refer to his book “Kitab al-Hayawan. No acknowledgement made by Darwin…..of course!).

    Just as life has been evolving and the human being is the last and final product of this process of Evolution, there is no ground for believing that evolution should stop at this point merely because scientific observation has to stop due to its natural limitations. It is logical as well as scientific to believe that it should continue.

    The disintegration of the body takes place at the time of death because the human personality has now to soar into higher regions which are spiritual in their character and constitution. In the very nature of the case, it does not require those qualities which have become redundant. They were only the stepping stone for further stage of evolution and as such they had quite naturally to be left behind.

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