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Anomalocaris

The Origins of Religion

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The Origins of Religion: How Supernatural Beliefs Evolved

Despite the popular belief that science and religion (or science and the supernatural, more generally) don't quite go hand in hand, scientists have quite a lot to say about this topic — specifically, why such beliefs even exist in the first place.

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Edited by Anomalocaris
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This article was interesting to read. I've often wondered as to how belief in magical sky-deities could have served early humans as a positive evolutionary trait, so it was nice to read several of the leading theories. I wonder what it will take to eliminate or lose those traits, now that we don't need them for survival anymore.

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I thought it was very interesting. Thanks for posting it. I really don't understand the differencethough between evolution and adaption.

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There are better theories. This one has fallen by the wayside to better more research and tested theories other than assumltions built on platitudes.

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It's an interesting question (the origin of 'religion') but this article's explanations fail largely because they depend on a common (though largely unconscious) view that ancient people were unable to perceive, mediate, and explain reality rationally ... even though the human species managed to survive and thrive for a couple hundred thousand years before the supposed birth of rational thought. The arrogant 'savage childlike stupid irrational' view of ancient people. 


Another reason these explanations fail is because they offer no challenge to the (also largely unconscious) assumption that 'religion' is ancient ... a culturally conditioned distorted perception of ancient people's sophisticated oral traditions,  records, and rites. The concept of 'religion', as it is now commonly understood, is a very modern invention that dates only to the 13th century and can be attributed to Thomas Aquinas. In his writings, he frequently included a term that originated in the 13th century, used to describe something that was believed to exist separate from nature and above it: supernaturalis, the supernatural.  He also distorted the meaning and common usage of the Latin term religio, defining it within a supernatural context, with the result that the idea, emotional states, and practice of ‘religion’ were invented. Prior to his claiming and reinventing the term, religio had a variety of common meanings, none corresponding to the modern concept of religion, nor making a distinction between religious and secular. The original meaning included nuances such as rite, protocol, decorum, sense of reserve, scruples, rules, and law - none of which are inherently ‘religious’. Several modern scholars favor the derivation re (again) and ligo from (connect), but this shouldn’t be assumed to mean connecting with anything supernatural; it should be understood as a reestablishment of a connection with social order, consistent with the established and common usage of the term previous to that time (and as I’ll make clear further along, a means of being consciously engaged with the patterns and processes of the natural world, and with the celestial mechanics that rule the natural world and that results in a perennial threat to social order and the human community.   

Aquinas’s new supernaturalized definition of religio was then used by Christian scholars to translate the Hebrew terms huqqah and dan, (now understood to have simply meant statute, custom, or enactment); the Greek term threskeia (now understood to have meant simply rite or duty); and the Arabic term dīn, from which the Hebrew term dan derives (now understood to have meant simply custom, social transaction, social order, and law). As a result, these terms came to be newly regarded as carrying religious / supernatural meaning also. However, there is no comparable term for 'religion' in Proto-Indo-European (PIE), the common ancestor of Indo-European languages. Classical Greek has no term that functions as ‘religion’. In an article in the Encyclopedia of the Qurʾān, Patrice Brodeur writes of Arabic dīn: “Prior to the twentieth century, the English word ‘religion’ had no direct equivalent in Arabic nor had the Arabic word dīn in English. They became partially synonymous only in the course of the twentieth century as a result of increased English-Arabic encounters and the need for consistency in translation” (Brodeur 2013). And the well-known Islamic scholar Fazlur Rahman Malik has suggested that dīn is best considered simply as “the way-to-be-followed” (Malik 1979). And, as in Classical Greek, there is also a notable lack of any word in premodern Chinese that signifies ‘religion’ or ‘supernatural,’ or anything that corresponds to those terms. The modern Chinese term zongjiao was first employed to mean ‘religion’ in the late nineteenth century. 

Many people in modern society have been taught to think that the concept and emotional experience of ‘religion’ and an imagined ‘supernatural’ extends back to the origins of civilization, and even that it is somehow intrinsic to human evolution. However, scholars are increasingly contesting the idea that the concept of religion is ancient. The concepts of religion and the supernatural, the habits of thought, the emotional states, and the way of seeing that are conditioned and provoked by them (religiosity), and the redefining of ancient oral traditions, seasonal festivals, and mnemonic rites as worship are carefully manufactured products of the late Middle Ages. This exploitive, science-erasing dogma was then imposed on the cultural astronomy, oral traditions, written records, symbols, rites, geoconstructions, and social codes of non-Christian and non-Western cultures, and persuasively impressed upon the leaders of these cultures, often with economic promises tied to military threats. These cultures then gradually came to accept this conceptual imposition so that their oral traditions, social codes, and mnemonic rites, now religionized and supernaturalized, will be regarded on the same level as Christianity, and to protect themselves from Christian Europe’s aggressive and frequently cruel persuasion tactics. This process meant that the (pre-religious) Old Story which was rooted in an acute awareness of the natural world and celestial mechanics, around the globe, was forced underground, where it was nearly entirely forgotten and replaced with the newly invented abstractions of religion and the supernatural imposed on traditions. 

This concept of ‘religion’ is entirely a modern Eurocentric subjective construct that func­tions as a comparison to Christianity, while applying classifica­tion and definition when used outside of Christianity. Defining and classifying the traditions of ancient cultures as supernatural religion, and defining their associated rites and codes as religiosity, is tantamount to colonization and erasure. Recontextualization is erasure. Whoever controls the story, language, images, and rites controls how the mind thinks. It is as aggressive and destructive as Christianity's burning of libraries, destruction of standing stone circles, and the imprisoning, torturing, and murdering of scientists, mathematicians, and philosophers. The ancient traditions mirrored and reflected the natural world and celestial mechanics. This mirroring was tied to social codes and practices that kept society and individuals in balance with the patterns and processes of Earth and sky. It was science preserved in a complex technical language and a corresponding social order rooted in the reality of the place we exist embedded in. It wasn’t an interiorized pursuit of, or reverence for, a supernatural abstraction designed to provoke irrational emotionality. Quite the opposite: the ancient story was a way to preserve scientific data and a corresponding social code that kept humanity from becoming self-absorbed and collectively mad. It emphasized the integration of body and mind, and integration with each other, the ecosystem, and celestial mechanics for very practical purposes: physical and mental wellbeing, social order, contentment, happiness, and the survival of the species in a constantly changing, often life-threatening Earth and sky. It was a story of integration and balance, not separation and alienation. 



The simultaneous birth in the thirteenth century of Christian-dominated high scholasticism and the invention of the ‘supernatural’; the melding of high scholasticism and supernaturalism with Aristotelianism; the co-opting and redefining of the Latin term religio and using it to define nonreligious terms in the oral tradition and rites of non-Christian and non-Western cultures, and the very unholy marriage of the church and the merchant class (to control and exploit the masses) — these signaled the beginning of the end of a sophisticated, multilayered technical language preserved in stories, rites, geoconstructions, and symbols around the globe … an enduring framework of existence that had informed, sustained, and protected humanity for countless tens of thousands of years. The ancient oral traditions, rituals, and symbols that told the story of the sky and its relationship with Earth, and humanity’s embedded place in them, have been mythified and mystified … religionized and supernaturalized. This modern invention - 'religion' - severed Earth and sky, and severed humans from the earth and sky ... rendering humanity pathologically alienated and given to religious delusions and destructive behaviors. These delusions and behaviors are tools in the hands of the ruling class…  

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That's a very long post and I will admit I haven't finished reading it, but I was under the impression that religion, not in a modern sense , but in the sense of a belief in something after death, was quite old. 

I'm not 100% sure how far back but I am pretty certain I read a story about some stone age graves that where found to have extra things in them, like jewellery and tools. This indicates a belief in the idea of someone finding use or comfort in them after death.

I'm going to go do a little research and see if I can find the article.

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3 minutes ago, Kismit said:

This indicates a belief in the idea of someone finding use or comfort in them after death.

Does it? I see it as a modern projection of belief onto that stone age circumstance.

I'm reminded of a practice among some Native American tribes ... when a person died, all their possession and their shelter would be burned ... a way of acknowledging that this person's life was no more and the things of this person's life should also no longer exist. Placing a person's belongings in the grave with the body could mean the same thing ... a burying of everything associated with the person that no longer existed. This would be very beneficial to those left behind ... a very decisive letting go.  

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33 minutes ago, Kismit said:

That's a very long post and I will admit I haven't finished reading it, but I was under the impression that religion, not in a modern sense , but in the sense of a belief in something after death, was quite old. 

I'm not 100% sure how far back but I am pretty certain I read a story about some stone age graves that where found to have extra things in them, like jewellery and tools. This indicates a belief in the idea of someone finding use or comfort in them after death.

I'm going to go do a little research and see if I can find the article.

NSG's post is similar in a way to a long one I put up some time back . There are some differences ; one example would be, from mine ;

"  .....  there was no word for 'religion' in Ancient Hebrew, the nearest translates as 'law' . "    NSG's term 'statute' seems close to that.

One might even say the same here ( Australia ) with the indigenous ; the overall term would best be 'Law' as well.  I listed several others in the article . 

Its fairly standard anthropological or  comparative / historical  religion  , academic view nowadays . As we get more people studying and researching  that are not ascribing to old colonial viewpoints, and also people from other cultures and ethnic groups qualifying and contributing research , we get further away from the old Eurocentric and sometimes Christian dominated views.

Stone age graves may have had tools, weapons, jewels,  ......   grave goods,  but this may not indicate 'religion' .

As NSG points out , and as I have tried to a few times - and this is one of the most difficult concepts to get across  ( and stumped many a person here who read my attempts) -  there was 'no division ' , then there was a split .  A 'new mind' or 'method of paradigm came into being. The dynamics between 1400 - 1600 in Europe are crucial to an understanding of what happened. Also crucial is an understanding of how the human mind 'worked' ( viewed things )  'then' and 'now ' 

Many times I have highly recommended , in order to comprehend this, a brief read ;  just Ch 1 of  Herbert Bloomfield's , 'The Origin of Modern Science' , its easy to find on net , pdf book and easy to navigate  . 

This lack of 'division' , no need for religion' , no separation  between 'spiritual' and 'material' , for me , was best demonstrated by some of the indigenous here, still living close to a traditional lifestyle, at times, and still cultivating that mind set .  Its something hard for the modern mind to comprehend . 

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I'm inclined to think that if H.Erectus made it to Java 1mbp that there was a fair bit of reasoning and adapting going on then, so the possibility that there was some form of religious structure/myth at that this time and many times since. 450kbp hominids were making heat treated compounds from birch trees that was not the sap. This required a knowledge of what type of wood would achieve the proper heat and for how long. Most of what we understand about archaic hominids is from lithic, faunal, and skeletal artifacts, there may have been many other aspects of their ingenuity that we may never know due to degradation of materials used to produce or fabricate. For there to be a religious or other than self awareness does not seem to be unreasonable.

jmccr8

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58 minutes ago, No Solid Ground said:

Does it? I see it as a modern projection of belief onto that stone age circumstance.

I'm reminded of a practice among some Native American tribes ... when a person died, all their possession and their shelter would be burned ... a way of acknowledging that this person's life was no more and the things of this person's life should also no longer exist. Placing a person's belongings in the grave with the body could mean the same thing ... a burying of everything associated with the person that no longer existed. This would be very beneficial to those left behind ... a very decisive letting go.  

There is a tradition here with many indigenous groups to not even  mention the name or show an image of or sound from , one deceased,  there are even warnings on the TV if there is a chance of that in an upcoming programme 

Related image

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14 minutes ago, jmccr8 said:

I'm inclined to think that if H.Erectus made it to Java 1mbp that there was a fair bit of reasoning and adapting going on then, so the possibility that there was some form of religious structure/myth at that this time and many times since. 450kbp hominids were making heat treated compounds from birch trees that was not the sap. This required a knowledge of what type of wood would achieve the proper heat and for how long. Most of what we understand about archaic hominids is from lithic, faunal, and skeletal artifacts, there may have been many other aspects of their ingenuity that we may never know due to degradation of materials used to produce or fabricate. For there to be a religious or other than self awareness does not seem to be unreasonable.

jmccr8

It isnt that they did not have such practices , the issue is terming them 'religious' which gives them a modern connotation  relating to our modern understanding of the term.  

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Here is an old anthropological classic   which shows , what we might term ,  the 'religious' practices and strange rites of an unusual culture ;

http://www.ohio.edu/people/thompsoc/Body.html

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So it's the term religion and how it is perceived that is the issue? For the majority of society who view religion as a Christian type of thing, it has been defined to reflect a more modern idea of religion? I may be well off.

1 hour ago, No Solid Ground said:

Does it? I see it as a modern projection of belief onto that stone age circumstance.

I'm reminded of a practice among some Native American tribes ... when a person died, all their possession and their shelter would be burned ... a way of acknowledging that this person's life was no more and the things of this person's life should also no longer exist. Placing a person's belongings in the grave with the body could mean the same thing ... a burying of everything associated with the person that no longer existed. This would be very beneficial to those left behind ... a very decisive letting go.  

It could mean that, but doesn't that still show a ceremonial practice of some sort?

7 minutes ago, back to earth said:

There is a tradition here with many indigenous groups to not even  mention the name or show an image of or sound from , one deceased,  there are even warnings on the TV if there is a chance of that in an upcoming programme 

Related image

what do they believe happens if you do mention the name of the deceased? (And just quietly I feel ashamed that I don't already know this):blush:

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I was not inferring that it they were in the same sense as current and recorded religions organized over large ares for profit. I was relating it to mans need for there to be a something more. It's why people through recorded time til now still need to be a part of something greater. I do find the venus carvings interesting because of time and geographic dispersion as well as the similar wide hip big breasted depiction. :)

jmccr8

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3 minutes ago, Kismit said:

So it's the term religion and how it is perceived that is the issue? For the majority of society who view religion as a Christian type of thing, it has been defined to reflect a more modern idea of religion? I may be well off.

1 hour ago, No Solid Ground said:

 

It could mean that, but doesn't that still show a ceremonial practice of some sort?

14 minutes ago, back to earth said:

There is a tradition here with many indigenous groups to not even  mention the name or show an image of or sound from , one deceased,  there are even warnings on the TV if there is a chance of that in an upcoming programme 

Related image

what do they believe happens if you do mention the name of the deceased? (And just quietly I feel ashamed that I don't already know this):blush:

As I see it, it's the lens that is the issue. Viewing ancient oral traditions and rites through the very modern perceptual / conceptual lens of religion distorts / colors our view of those traditions / rites ... and muddies them with very modern (frequently unconscious) values and assumptions. 

There is nothing inherently 'religious' about ceremonial practice.

I can't speak to aboriginal avoidance of the names of deceased, but among premodern cultures there existed a central goal of staying acutely present in the present ... letting go of the deceased completely would have been consistent with this survival imperative. That is, when our thoughts / emotions are tied up with the past, we're not acutely present in the present.  

 

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14 minutes ago, back to earth said:

Here is an old anthropological classic   which shows , what we might term ,  the 'religious' practices and strange rites of an unusual culture ;

http://www.ohio.edu/people/thompsoc/Body.html

This is a very interesting article, dentist's, councillors and fecal examination. Sounds like a tribe who noticed important things, like a need for dental hygiene but lacked the ability to study it in a pro-active manor. Perhaps the rituals even became corrupted by earlier saddistic sociopathic mouth men, with strong personalities.

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Posted (edited)

17 minutes ago, jmccr8 said:

I was relating it to mans need for there to be a something more.

This is actually a very modern Western need, in start contrast to premodern people's practiced avoidance of this kind of need. This need is a symptom of modern people's alienation from the natural world / celestial mechanics ... the need is a hunger for a conscious integration with what modern people have severed themselves from. 

Edited by No Solid Ground
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18 minutes ago, Kismit said:

So it's the term religion and how it is perceived that is the issue? For the majority of society who view religion as a Christian type of thing, it has been defined to reflect a more modern idea of religion? I may be well off.

It could mean that, but doesn't that still show a ceremonial practice of some sort?

I leave those ?s for NSG 

18 minutes ago, Kismit said:

what do they believe happens if you do mention the name of the deceased? (And just quietly I feel ashamed that I don't already know this):blush:

I dont feel qualified to answer that.   In my personal communications  with the indigenous ( Bundjalung and Gumbayngirr ) they have mentioned the names of dead people and relatives.  Some do, some dont, and for different reasons .

We have to remember Australia, before Euro settlement, had around 600 different 'groups' defined by language,  these encompassed some very different types of people, perhaps from 3 successive waves of 'Australoids' . 

Interesting question though ! 

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9 minutes ago, Kismit said:

This is a very interesting article, dentist's, councillors and fecal examination. Sounds like a tribe who noticed important things, like a need for dental hygiene but lacked the ability to study it in a pro-active manor. Perhaps the rituals even became corrupted by earlier saddistic sociopathic mouth men, with strong personalities.

You did 'get it'   didnt you  ?    ( if you did ... you 'got ' me then  ^     :)  )  

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Posted (edited)

12 minutes ago, No Solid Ground said:

As I see it, it's the lens that is the issue. Viewing ancient oral traditions and rites through the very modern perceptual / conceptual lens of religion distorts / colors our view of those traditions / rites ... and muddies them with very modern (frequently unconscious) values and assumptions. 

There is nothing inherently 'religious' about ceremonial practice.

 

I understand how individual perceptions of religion distorts the view we have when looking at ancient cultures. It's a phenomenon which takes place on these boards with all too much regularity. Not so much in the discussion of older concept of religion, but in just about anything from where do dreams come from, to where did my missing sock get to.

So then, when looking at ancient burial practice, we may state that the act of burying a member of the tribe who had died, may well have been due more to a social bond, and nuturing need, than with a belief in something more supernatural.

Edited by Kismit
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2 minutes ago, No Solid Ground said:

This is actually a very modern Western need, in start contrast to premodern people's practiced avoidance of this kind of need. This need is a symptom of modern people's alienation from the natural world / celestial mechanics ... the need is a hunger for a conscious integration with what has been severed away. 

People need to have other people since Adam and Eve so to speak, they function best in a group even if there are some in the group that are more detached they are dependent on each other . In any given a hierarchy will form and the one or ones that are at the top will still want to pass the buck and say god did it.:lol:

jmccr8

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11 minutes ago, No Solid Ground said:

This is actually a very modern Western need, in start contrast to premodern people's practiced avoidance of this kind of need. This need is a symptom of modern people's alienation from the natural world / celestial mechanics ... the need is a hunger for a conscious integration with what has been severed away. 

NSG , are you familiar with the works of Patrick Harpur ;   ' Daimonic Reality'  &  'Philosopher Secret Fire '   ? 

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8 minutes ago, Kismit said:

I understand how individual perceptions of religion distorts the view we have when looking at ancient cultures. It's a phenomenon which takes place on these boards with all too much regularity. Not so much in the discussion of older concept of religion, but in just about anything from where do dreams come from to where did my missing sock get to.

So then ,when looking at ancient burial practice, we may state that the act of burying a member of the tribe who had died, May well have been due more to a social bond and nuturing need than with a belief is something more supernatural.

What do the Maori think about these things ? 

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1 minute ago, Kismit said:

So then ,when looking at ancient burial practice, we may state that the act of burying a member of the tribe who had died, May well have been due more to a social bond and nuturing need than with a belief is something more supernatural.

 

2 minutes ago, back to earth said:

NSG , are you familiar with the works of Patrick Harpur ;   ' Daimonic Reality'  &  'Philosopher Secret Fire '   ? 

No. Googling them now. 

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8 minutes ago, Kismit said:

So then, when looking at ancient burial practice, we may state that the act of burying a member of the tribe who had died, may well have been due more to a social bond, and nuturing need, than with a belief in something more supernatural.

Yes, community and family bond / support. 

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