The Elusive Pursuit of Perfection

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Discussion by: QuestioningKat

Why is the idea of perfection and the achievement of some sort of idealistic "heaven" so prevalent and motivating for many? Why do religions exalt Perfection? Perfection is preached as possible, usually as the experience of a blissful ego-less state, Nirvana, the union with Divine Love, or some sort of ultimate state of being that is untouched or currently unexperienced – generally possible in another life, another reality, after one has reached Enlightenment, or died.  Heaven, a place seen as perfection, is viewed as a reward for being good- free from trouble, evil, disease – an eternal "easy street" of Love, compassion, and endless provisions. In many religions, those who possess more "good" qualities are considered as being "favored" or perhaps possess "Higher Consciousness", an older soul, and closer to God or Perfection. The idea of Ego-lessness or sinlessness is considered a worthy pursuit by all those religious or spiritual.  Yet, frequently, ultimate perfection is reserve for God or those supposedly achieve a godlike state.

You could say that the idea of attaining perfection has strings attached and is conditional. If we have hardships, we are reminded that "we are not God" or somehow our thoughts are not aligned with Divine Mind. Only God is considered to be perfect enough to handle situations that perplex the mere human, yet we are "expected" to achieve a certain level of "goodness" (which is usually self-sacrificing, conforming to the expectations of the group, or for the benefit of the group or God.) Despite this expectation, a glass ceiling is set so that you are not allowed to get too "high and mighty" lest you make the mediocre people feel bad or something. "With GOD all things are possible."  (But only with God.) People who achieve a certain level of mastery are likely to be "blessed" instead of recognized fully for their efforts, intelligence, talent, upbringing, socioeconomic factors, or ability to nagivate through societal "infrastructures." There is something about obvious superiority or extreme ability that upsets many people. Be good, but not great. Religions seems to reinforce this idea. (Yet, people at times are quick to claim mastery when ability or intelligence may be limited.)

In my former religion of New Thought, traditional views of Christian sacrifice were not valued. You were expected to achieve greatness as a way towards service. (Service that generally did not involve any hardships on your part.) ANYTHING was possible. The bar was set at an unrealistically high level – so high that no one could ever achieve the ability to do "these things and more" as the Bible states. Minimally, achieving mastery translated into YOU aligning yourself with the Divine. This means achieving the highest possibilities in your life through effort to improve your relationships and interpersonal skills with others, being psychologically healed and balanced, forgiving yourself and others, healing your body, taking care of yourself, viewing others in a positive regard, pursuing your ideal vocation, living in an organized and ideal environment, having peace of mind, releasing expectations, and lot other stuff that makes you wonder "Where's God in all this?" (It's you. You just forgotten who you are.) To achieve an ultimate level of perfection was to achieve Christhood or Buddhahood essentially becoming "God"/remembering that you are a Divine being. A few Gurus have claimed this ability. I have seen some everyday individuals do great things, but never on a consistent basis or genuinely supernatural means.  Most people still acted out of habit or became regular workshop attendees in hopes of fixing themselves without making any change or effort, or hoped to manifest results through wishful thinking. (Of course, no one ever seemed to fully remember "who" they are and stumbled humanly while stiving for an unattainable level of perfection.)

We usually agree that attractiveness, prosperity, health, etc are "good." Disease, extreme poverty, and unattractiveness is undesirable. We may have some standards for a high level of good or perfection such as symmetry, exhibiting superior technical skill, demonstrating superior/above average abilities, but even this can be subjective or at least swayed by opinion. If you were to choose between money, power, attractiveness, intelligence, and respect, your answer would likely be different from your neighbor. Being assimilated into a realm of endless unconditional love, compassion, and acceptance may be someone's cup of tea, while others might prefer sitting alone on a rock. One person's view of heaven or perfection can be another's idea of hell. No wonder certain religions and spiritual views offer up the idea of heaven being a separate planet of one's own. (Thought —- Is a high level of "good" or mastery subjective? Is a high level of intelligence subjective?….Where do we draw the line between opinion and clear demonstration of mastery?)

Did the religious piggy-backing the pursuit of perfection with our natural inclination towards striving for betterment? Has religion now created a society in which we exclude that which does not fit standards of what is considered highly desirable while striving for self improvement- even though that aspect of society is nonreligious? (Perhaps secular society has not fully shaken it religious roots.) We naturally select out desirable mates. We exclude people who do not fit our definition of an ideal "good" life. Many view gays as imperfect, and flawed in the "eyes of God" or even otherwise.  We even listen secular motivators who encourage us to "be our best", "go for it!" "Shoot for your dreams." There are a multitude of nonreligious "businessmen" who have profited selling us on ways to live while they themselves are similar to ministers without any skill other than salesmanship. All of these acts and many more are done in our best interests of achieving what we consider to be "good", right, worthy…while quashing what is disliked and deamed wrong or evil.

We as a society seem preoccupied with "goodness" "badness" right vs. wrong with lots of fixing others to meet certain standards. Perhaps this is some sort of Evolutionary drive for survival and attainment of security, food, sex, power and prestige while avoiding pain and discomfort that has gone amuck. Maybe a dash of OCD added to the mix too. Even the idea of perfection, heaven, and goodness that the religious regard so highly, seems to be unaware, covert cover-ups for their own agenda of being on the winning side of "survival of the fittest" and aligning themselves with personal or group success. I wish they would recognize this. On a positive note, I am thankful for those who have strived to achieve a high level of aesthetics, mastery of skill, developing technical breakthoughs and advancing human achievement through their commitment to excellence for whatever reason – whether it is for personal challenge, worship of God, expression of the human spirit… I think most all of us can agree that this type of pursuit is part of what is best about our humanity.   I think, I can continue on with this topic endlessly, but enough of my ramblings. thoughts? opinions?

 

19 COMMENTS

  1. Seeking to improve yourself is a good thing. As you point out, the type of good many religions would have you seek are not actually good for yourself or those around you. “Perfect” is an idea like infinity that cannot be reached, and is unrealistic to try to attain. How would you even define perfect for something as diverse and messy as human life?

    I do think about how to be a better person, and how to change my society for the better. but as I was not brought up in a religious household the idea that I should seriously consider the ideals of various widely held fairy tales never occurred to me. As a young man I looked to my father, grand parents, and friends I respected as samples of what is good.Later in life when I was better educated and well read I started to explore the ideas of various philosophers about what is good. Much like Sam Harris I came to believe that people can determine what a good life is rationally by looking at how people and the world around them really are, and at how various policies have worked out in real life over the centuries.

    I also have come to strongly believe that one of he worse things you can do is try to force other people to be good they way you think is good, unless those people are directly harming other people. Only education and persuasion are good ways to try to bring other people to your point of view.

    So what do I seek to improve? I try to improve my virtuousness, mastery of useful and pleasing skills, and try to be a role model for my children, friends, family, and acquaintances. I never harm other people on purpose. I do not think I know the one “true” way. I help other where I can, give to charity, help family and friends out. I speak out and act when I see obvious wrongs. I tolerate the harmless actions and beliefs of others. I vigorously try to educate those who hold harmful beliefs, for example I will speak up, send letters to the editor etc… if anti-vaccination idiots are trying to get others to expose their children to easily preventable, serious disease.

    Good people should strive to improve themselves throughout their lives. Good people should try to make the society they live in better. Good people should be open to new ideas. Good people never force their ideas on others.

  2. Why do religions exalt Perfection?

    There are many views on this. If you take Catholicism perfectionism, it deals with purity not necessarily perfection of design or perfection of appearance . Purity of the soul . The ultimate emulation of god, god is perfect so shall you try to be. The body must be pure from sin etc etc.

    In Buddhism and Taoism perfection equates harmony.

    The problem with using god a measuring stick is you can never attain that perfection. god is like a movable do in music theory. It only means it is the start of the scale not necessarily the actual note of do and it can be anywhere along the scale. So re can be do etc.

    god is like a moving target that you can never lock in your sights. god was purposely created like this so as to make people feel small and incompetent and imperfect . It was done this way so people would believe in god. If the image of god was imperfect it would cast doubt on god’s capacity to keep them safe etc whatever god does…

    In judaism you are only expected to try to be as best a person as you possibly can. You are given guides to follow. Like the ten commandments . They are a guide to avoid badness . Along with some other not so logical guides…

    I think people in general want to be good and the best they can be. Religion latches on to this desire and exploits it as best as they can.

  3. I hope I’m not straying too far from the intention of your post, but the first thing to come to mind is our human propensity to see things and behaviour as black or white. We’ve recently had a guilty verdict handed down to a man convicted of a dreadful crime. There’s no doubt about his guilt and it’s hoped that he never sees the light of day again because he is a danger to society.

    When the history of his appalling crimes ( past and present) was finally revealed, people were quick to judge this man as evil. He is obviously very disturbed and has been since childhood but behaviour is complex. Somehow I can’t bring myself to attach the ‘evil’ tag. Criminally insane…..yes.

    • In reply to #3 by Nitya:

      I hope I’m not straying too far from the intention of your post, but the first thing to come to mind is our human propensity to see things and behaviour as black or white. We’ve recently had a guilty verdict handed down to a man convicted of a dreadful crime. There’s no doubt about his guilt and it…

      So I gather what you are saying is that people idealize perfection and the demonize the opposite…… which seems to be………. lack of social connection or actions that run counter to society as a group. (or vice versa) (That may make sense.) I didn’t say imperfection as opposite because that seems to get a pass in society if it’s a personal shortcoming or it’s an imperfection that involves others in a way that still is inclusive to the group. One extreme or another without the secret code of GOD is problematic. Someone who is incompetent at say math (or struggles in school) is still in the “good” category, but someone who is a genius at math (exceptionally intelligent) and has hermit like tendencies probably gets some sort of flack unless they see God in the numbers or are socially inclined. Individuals that display genius without God teeter on being considered egotistical, selfish, or evil. People who assert themselves for even healthy reasons run the risk of being seen as selfish and evil if the other person is somehow reliant on having others meeting their needs. Excellence certainly is a wonderful quality, but not if it leaves others in the dust.

      I’ve noticed most qualities considered “good” by religionists — helpful, sacrificing, kind, generous, abstaining, self-control, effort… are all qualities that consider others’ needs and the group dynamics. Evil or “bad” qualities – stealing, cheating, selfishness, glutony, jealousy, anger…are all qualities that either are parasitic or destructive to others or ignores others. The self is valued more than others. This line of thought I am on really reinforces the idea that religion is used to control the masses. It may be that it is the “masses” who selfishly want to control wayward individuals like crabs in a pot.

      Religion = crabs in a pot (?)

      • In reply to #4 by QuestioningKat:

        In reply to #3 by Nitya:

        In order to have an ideal of perfection we must also have it’s antithesis or pure evil. I don’t see things that way, but rather as a continuum. As a base line I’d start with the manipulators who coerce otherwise good people into doing dreadful things. At the other end of the spectrum I’d place those who are able to bring out the best in others or the inspirational. However, at no time would I consider these extremes absolute.

        So I guess I’m saying that the very concept of a ‘heaven’ would not sit well with me even if I believed in a god. I’d have two large hurdles to overcome before I could accommodate either possibility.

      • In reply to #4 by QuestioningKat:

        I’ve noticed most qualities considered “good” by religionists — helpful, sacrificing, kind, generous, abstaining, self-control, effort… are all qualities that consider others’ needs and the group dynamics. Evil or “bad” qualities – stealing, cheating, selfishness, glutony, jealousy, anger…are all qualities that either are parasitic or destructive to others or ignores others. The self is valued more than others. This line of thought I am on really reinforces the idea that religion is used to control the masses. It may be that it is the “masses” who selfishly want to control wayward individuals like crabs in a pot.

        Well, parasitism and altruism are two sides of the same coin: one party gets the benefit at the expense of another in both cases. We usually distinguish them only if the one paying the expense willingly does it. If they did, it’s altruism. If they didn’t, it’s parasitism. That’s why it’s worth being suspicious of too overt a call to altruism: it could just as easily be a collective selfishness against an individual.

        I generally prefer mutualism, aka mutual benefit, for the obvious reason that it’s good all around. The downside is that life isn’t so accommodating, and there may be times when altruism is necessary, so it pays to distinguish fair-weather friends from the genuine article when a need to stick one’s neck out comes along. I suppose tribalism and the veneration of altruism emerge from this need for allies in the face of adversity.

  4. There are also ideas of being the best you can rather than attaining perfection. A Hasidic story: “When I am called before the Almighty,” said Reb Zosya, “he will not ask me why I was not like Moses, He will ask me why I was not like Zosya.” All religions do not call for perfection. Perfection is an unrealistic goal with built in guilt when we fail it as all must. The idea of perfection is primarily a Christian concept not a religious concept as such. Since Christianity is the dominant religion in our society Christian ideas rather than being recognized as ideas of a particular religion get equated with religious ideas.

  5. I remember as a Mormon being told that I could one day become a God. Mormons believe there are multiple Gods and our God is the God of our solar system. Man is as God once was, Man will be what God is now. I remember the enthusiasm with which my priesthood teacher told us this at the time I remember thinking it seemed like an awful lot of responsibility. Now I couldn’t think of anything worse than spending eternity knowing what was going to happen for the rest of eternity. Perfection, someone else can have it.

  6. Hello all,

    I think that the brain, on top of all of it’s capabilities, is still a dumb machine in too many ways. As you mentioned, OCD and other anxiety problems are reflective of the challenges the human brain is facing in today’s world.

    Genetically, we are hunters-gatherers, and are not programmed physically and mentally to deal with all of the stimuli we get bombarded with on a daily bases, and this is just a tiny part of the human condition

  7. I am always amazed by the confused and endlessly meandering verbiage that the moderators of this forum seem to prefer in the questions to be put here. You would think that cogency and concision, far from being desirable in writing, were to be shunned.

    To address what seems to be most important here, it’s a mistake to analyze religion as an intellectual edifice. Religion is a SOCIAL institution and so must always be analyzed as a constituent of some particular society. Its main role in history has been to promulgate superstition as an instrument of social control. The particular superstitions that any actual religion would claim to be true are to some extent accidental, but in general they are embraced because they help religious institutions to control behavior. Heaven and hell, as respective promise and threat, had obvious utility as instruments of social control during the Middle Ages and the Renaissance both in Europe and throughout the Mediterranean basin, and still have some marginal utility in that regard, alough human credulity is fortunately decreasing. That is why these superstitions are preserved and emphasized in the religions prevalent in those regions.

    That is the long and the short of it. Heaven does not spring from some innate impulse to “perfection” or from any other impulse than the desire of historically definite ruling classes to control the society atop which they sit.

    • In reply to #11 by Markovich:

      I am always amazed by the confused and endlessly meandering verbiage that the moderators of this forum seem to prefer in the questions to be put here. You would think that cogency and concision, far from being desirable in writing, were to be shunned. To address what seems to be most important here, it’s a mistake to analyze religion as an intellectual edifice. Religion is a SOCIAL institution and so must always be analyzed as a constituent of some particular society. Its main role in history has been to promulgate superstition as an instrument of social control.

      I agree that religion is social, it seems like a fairly obvious claim actually, is there anyone who has ever said it wasn’t? But I don’t see how you leap from that to “it’s a mistake to analyze religion as an intellectual edifice.” So if something is social then it can’t be analyzed intellectually? Why? Not only do I not see a compelling argument, I don’t even see an argument at all just an assertion that it’s true with no rational justification. If that were true it would sort of mean political science was an oxymoron, we can analyze the intellectual consistency of political ideologies and I see no reason to think we can’t do the same with religion.

      In fact one of the most interesting books I’ve read in the last few years was essentially all about trying to do that, to look at what we know about religion from the standpoint of anthropology and evolutionary biology and see if we can understand more about how the human mind is structured by understanding why certain kind of religious memes are so powerful and prevalent across cultures. Actually, two books I’ve read addressed this: Religion Explained by Pascal Boyer and In Gods We Trust by Scott Atran.

  8. I am always amazed by the confused and endlessly meandering verbiage that the moderators of this forum seem to prefer in the questions to be put here. You would think that cogency and concision, far from being desirable in writing, were to be shunned.

    OK, I’m no Sam Harris – guilty

    To address what seems to be most important here, it’s a mistake to analyze religion as an intellectual edifice. Religion is a SOCIAL institution and so must always be analyzed as a constituent of some particular society.

    Are you conflating religion with human behavior under the influence of religion? I’m simply looking for understanding and several people here have contributed comments that have aided me in doing so.

    Its main role in history has been to promulgate superstition as an instrument of social control. The particular superstitions that any actual religion would claim to be true are to some extent accidental, but in general they are embraced because they help religious institutions to control behavior.

    You sound completely convinced. Care to share hard evidence?

    Heaven and hell, as respective promise and threat, had obvious utility as instruments of social control during the Middle Ages and the Renaissance both in Europe and throughout the Mediterranean basin, and still have some marginal utility in that regard, alough human credulity is fortunately decreasing. That is why these superstitions are preserved and emphasized in the religions prevalent in those regions.

    Can you explain the origin of the views of Heaven and Hell? Was it a result of drugs, dreams, a compulsive need? Can you explain why and how the views of Heaven and Hell have been molded to more recent religions/spiritual views?

    That is the long and the short of it. Heaven does not spring from some innate impulse to “perfection” or from any other impulse than the desire of historically definite ruling classes to control the society atop which they sit.

    Then, what is the source of these views?

  9. @QuestioningKat:

    Am I conflating religion with the behavior of people under the influence of religion? The question as I understood it was not about human behavior, but human religious ideas. I have said that since religion is a social institution, the ideas that become important within it, such as heaven and hell, are best explained in terms of their utility in facilitating social control, which is the main social role of religion in a society where one class of people rules others. The intellectual edifice that consitutes religion is no edifice at all, but a jumble of ideas that shifts to suit the social conditions of a given country or epoch. You say you’re looking for an understanding. I have suggested one.

    You want evidence that the main social role of relgion is to control human behavior. Are you aware of 1800 years of European history since the Coucil of Nicea? We have the idea that the Emperor (or King, or Czar) derives his authority from God, and rules on earth as God rules in heaven. What is that but religion as a prop for the control of society? We could also consider the Muslim world, but that is something with which I am less familiar. Religion seems to be about God because God is a superstition very useful to the implementation of power. What are the Ten Commandments but social strictures upon Palestinian peasants of pre-Roman times, written down? It is no accident that injunctions of that kind are so strongly emphasized in religious teaching.

    The early Roman Empire had to incorporate many diverse lands and gods, and the polytheism of the Hellenistic religion was a convenient mechanism for that. That religion became the official religion of the empire. During the middle empire we have deceased emperors themselves becoming gods, which was a way of unifying and centralizing power. Monotheism became widespread thoughout the late Roman world not because it was somehow better than polytheism on a spiritual level (I mean, how do we know that there is one god and not many?), but because a unitary, angry and all-powerful god was much more conducive to centralized control (necessary in a society under so much external pressure) than a relatively tolerant polytheism was. The idea that God has a high magistrate on earth somehow independent of temporal power did not come from the non-existent God. It came about because Rome fell to barbarian hordes and this idea was the only one that would maintain any sort of authority for the church. Constantinople didn’t fall, and there the Emperor remained the absolute earthly arbiter of things both temporal and spiritual.

    I’m not taking an isolated position here; it’s a widely respected interpretation of the role of religion in history.

    Nobody can say who first dreamed up the ideas of heaven and hell or how he thought of it, and it would be a fool’s game to try do so. What we can say is that these ideas, however they originated, became widespread because of their obvious utility in the implementation of an agenda of social control. These things are not important because someone thought of them; they are important because millions of people believe in them.

  10. @Red Dog:

    I agree that religion is social, it seems like a fairly obvious claim actually, is there anyone who has ever said it wasn’t?

    I didn’t say that religion has a social aspect. I said that it is fundamentally social. Religion comes from society or as some would say, Man makes God. That idea was not current before the mid-19th century, and is doubted by religionists even today.

    But I don’t see how you leap from that to “it’s a mistake to analyze religion as an intellectual edifice.” So if something is social then it can’t be analyzed intellectually? Why?

    Because religion fundamentally is not an intellectual edifice; it is an institution for promulgating superstition and using it as an instrument of social control. The ideas current within any given religion, other than some accidental features, are able to be explained by this. See my reply to QuestioningKat for some examples. They have no particular dependence on each other or logical consistency with each other. How could they, when the ideas are purposely mysterious? They come and go as necessary to support their purpose within any given society or epoch.

    If that were true it would sort of mean political science was an oxymoron, we can analyze the intellectual consistency of political ideologies and I see no reason to think we can’t do the same with religion.

    One important school of historical analysis, and political science, is that ideologies spring up because they satisfy the political agendas of certain groups of people. They have certain accidental features but the important thing about them is what they do in society. Religion in the broad sense is an ideology, and according to this understanding, it springs up for that reason. So what I am saying certainly does not rule out science, but rather it suggests a certain program for science. The important thing about National Socialism is not specifically how it was dreamed up by Hitler and some others, or any supposed degree of consistentcy or lack of consistency within its tortured ideas, but what it implied for German society and why it was upheld by millions of Germans. I don’t want to go into that any more here because it’s off topic.

    Analyzing religion anthropologically or biologically is very far from examining religious ideas in their content and their imaginary interconnections, and I fail to understand why you would equate the two. I think one could argue that the inherent human need to understand the world, combined with imagination, is capable of producing superstitions. So in that sense, I would say that a propensity to superstition is inherited. To say that a propensity for religion is inherited is a very far stretch, because once we have superstition and society, we can fully explain the rest of religion as a social phenomenon. Man is social; man has a tendency to superstition; and from that and particular social circumstances, religion springs.

    If religion is inherited, it becomes rather difficult to explain atheism as a social phenomenon, or why relgion seems to be weakening in the modern world.

  11. The question as I understood it was not about human behavior, but human religious ideas.

    Human religious ideas stem from human behavior. Ultimately, a particular need is being fulfilled. I recall (possibly Richard) commenting that all behavior has an Evolutionary “root”. (“Did the religious piggy-backing the pursuit of perfection with our natural inclination towards striving for betterment?”) Your view that religion’s sole purpose for being a matter of control is limited and does not fully explain emotional aspects in a variety religious traditions and spiritual paths. There is also an aspect to religion especially in modern times that focuses on one’s intrapersonal relationship with life, others, one’s environment, one’s well-being… Religion seems to be moving away from the literal black and white rules of a controlling group and utilizing positive, motivating, pie-in-the-sky sermons instead. Fear was the motivating factor for centuries and it seems to be switching to inspiration and promises for the ability for “extreme” manifestations. Many religions and spiritual paths are moving toward self-fulfillment and reaching one’s potiential. Prosperity gospel is only one such example of many. This is far different than religions of old that claimed God was watching one’s genitals. I think religion selling “perfection” warrants a closer look.

    Nobody can say who first dreamed up the ideas of heaven and hell or how he thought of it, and it would be a fool’s game to try do so. What we can say is that these ideas, however they originated, became widespread because of their obvious utility in the implementation of an agenda of social control.

    Yes, I am not denying or overlooking history, I completely understand this view. Yet, this seems to be only part of what is going on. Some people are quite aware of what motivates people (understands human behavior) and use this for their advantage. It may be a “fool’s game” to literally try to figure out who dreamed up the ideas of heaven and hell, but it is not frivolous to observe the outcome and views and wonder why – not only why historically, but what is it about us that makes us strive for something that is clearly unattainable? Essentially, I AM looking at human behavior and motivation.

    Nitya’s comment regarding “perfection” being the antithesis of evil makes sense. Yet, evil did not exist in my former religion nor was there any dogma. There were no rules set in stone nor judgement. No one tried to control you, but they did want your $. Some of the feel good sermons certainly were effective at raking in the dough.

  12. Well, I said that the MAIN role of religion in history has been to promulgate superstition and use it as an instrument for social control. Regardless of what any religious person who believes in heaven and hell thinks about them, the fact remains that these ideas exist because for most of history they were important constituents of a social control agenda. I don’t know, frankly, that any religious teaching that includes both heavan and hell, or even so much as heaven and the deprivation of heaven, could use them in any other way. These particular ideas will always remain the carrot and stick of people who are out to control the behavior of others.

    One historical role of religion has been to ensure the social status and material welfare of priests, and it is there that I would seek my explanation of touchy-feely religions that seem to make no moral demands upon their followers. But even that employs superstition as a tool to get people to behave in a certain way.

    I do not deny that someone who has an interest in the psychology of religious believers should pursue it. What I do deny is that religion can usefully be explained by analyzing the development of the ideas that it expresses. Religion is a social phenomenon, and the particulars of the beliefs of given religions, other than that they facilitate the manipulation of human behavior, are are mysterious, irrational and mostly accidental.

    I have said below that I don’t think that religion itself requires an evolutionary explanation. Human beings strive to understand their world and sometimes they commit themselves to very mistaken understandings. A superstition is simply a species of mistaken understanding. Superstition in context of society is sufficient to explain religion. The only evolutionary aspects of Man that this account relies on are that Man is social and that he strives to understand the world. We do not need to posit a genetic basis for religion or even one for superstition. The speculatons of Dawkins that I have read upon this subject seem to rely on strong and unnecessary assumptions.

    Further if religion itself has a genetic basis, it is rather hard to explain the decline of religion in this world and the rise of atheism. The account I just gave can explain these things, which result from the weakening of superstition as science gradually spreads a more correct understanding of the world.

  13. I do not deny that someone who has an interest in the psychology of religious believers should pursue it.

    OK we agree here.

    What I do deny is that religion can usefully be explained by analyzing the development of the ideas that it expresses.

    Not sure if I’m understanding you fully…I found that “understanding the development of ideas that it expresses” was a good way for me to personally see the root source of views taught in my former church, It enabled me to sort through the ideas rationally and eventually leave.

    Religion is a social phenomenon, and the particulars of the beliefs of given religions, other than that they facilitate the manipulation of human behavior, are are mysterious, irrational and mostly accidental.

    …which is where I sense that we differ. I say – take a look at this to better understand it, otherwise these views will be perpetuated.

    Frankly, I hear where you are coming from. So let’s agree to disagree.

  14. Perfection is matching results to objectives with a 100% match!

    It does not exist in the real world, but is very appealing and easily achieved in the mental perceptions of those using circular reasoning! (Especially for describing imaginary gods.)

    When someone starts with their presupposed conclusion and constructs a circular argument to arrive back at it, it matches PERFECTLY!

    Who would have thunk it?

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