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How did religion start?

Discussion in 'Religious Debates' started by savethedreams, Oct 20, 2010.

  1. tigrers99

    tigrers99 Member

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    Religion, more than likely, started out with primative man being terrified by thunderstorms, earthquakes, and volcaic eruptions. He sought to appease these angry things lest he be destroyed by them. As mankind evolved, he became more aware of morality and spirituality. His more evolved conscience constantly reminding him of his 'missing the mark' and others 'missing the mark' may have led him to appeal to his creator or creators for mercy by offering sacrifices, lest violent thunderstoms, earthquakes, and volcanic eruptions be unleashed upon him for having not lived up to the moral expectations of whatever placed this innate awareness in him. As primative man wandered, he may have developed different ways to appease these 'gods' and thus different religions came into existence. This does not negate God's existence. It just shows how God allowed mankind to sort of 'grow up' so to speak. After mankind evolved to the point where he could be communicated to, God did start to communicate with him
     
  2. Smoke

    Smoke Done here.

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    I've posted this a couple times before, but I still think it's the best explanation:

    [​IMG]
     
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  3. ButTheCatCameBack

    ButTheCatCameBack Active Member

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    The leap from origin to development is pretty easy to see.
     
  4. Skwim

    Skwim Veteran Member

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    And as I conjectured, this indeed seems to be the case. Opportunists abound when there's a buck to be made and a people willing to do your bidding.
     
  5. LuisDantas

    LuisDantas Aura of atheification
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    Nearly all, I believe. Of course, that doesn't necessarily make them false. Most relgions' overt goals do include personal gain, explicitly or otherwise.
     
  6. Man of Faith

    Man of Faith Well-Known Member

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    My religion started when God came to earth as a human being and died on a cross.
     
  7. Friend of Bill W

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    I don't think this is true (I'm only a 'plastic Buddhist' at present (i.e. looking into Buddhism)), but I believe that Buddhists doctrine says that there were other Buddha's prior to Siddharta Gautama, and others will follow.

    Now, just because someone gets Enlightened, it doesn't mean they become a Buddha. A Buddha is someone who gets Enlightened by finding his/her own path and does not follow a teacher. They also become teachers. Siddharta Gautama is this history's period of current 'teacher'; a bit like the USA has a current president. When Buddhism is forgotten about in X number of 1000s of years, a new Buddha will emerge, and when his teachings are forgotten about, a new Buddha will emerge.

    So there were other Buddha's before the Buddha.

    I think I'm correct here; but what I know is only surface knowledge.
     
  8. LuisDantas

    LuisDantas Aura of atheification
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    It depends on which school one is following, if I am not mistaken. But even those who make those claims are generally believed not to mean them literally. At least, that is how it turned out in the groups I actually visited or have been a part of. On occasion people actually commented on how the teaching doesn't really hold up if taken literally.

    I'm certain that there are other ways of defining a Buddha, but anyway I want to point out that canonically, Sidharta Gautama himself did follow teachers, at least up until a certain point.

    I believe that at least some Nichiren schools claim that Buddhism as taught by Sidharta has indeed been forgotten, and therefore Nichiren would supposedly be the current Buddha.

    I don't know that I would support them on that, however. I'm not even sure why some of them claim to be Buddhist, in fact, since their teachings are so frankly at odds with those of the Tipitaka.
     
  9. zenzero

    zenzero Its only a Label

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    Friend savethedreams,

     
  10. Nepenthe

    Nepenthe Tu Stultus Es

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    I'm not a big fan of the "religion/supernatural is an attempt at explaining their world" as the origin of religious thought. It has always sounded appealing to me, it just feels right- explaining lightning and thunder and rainbows and volcanoes and falling short by ascribing supernatural causes seems obvious. But this explanation fails to reconcile the fact that most human societies aren’t particularly concerned or even affected by things like lightning, rainbows, etc. Sure death is an obvious concern as are, say, weather patterns for agricultural societies, but religious behaviors and concepts were in our brains long before agriculture (of course the debate over defining religion is worth a thread of its own).

    I think anthropologists like Boyer have a better explanation (see Religion Explained): humans seem to have a predilection for imposing intent on nature- not because it helps explain the mysterious or unknown but because we’re hardwired to detect intent when "…we see branches moving in a tree or when we hear an unexpected sound behind us, we immediately infer that some agent is the cause of this salient event. We can do that without any specific description of what the agent actually is."

    Most of my opinions on the subject are influenced by Pascal Boyer and the work of anthropologist Scott Atran (all of his stuff is interesting but In Gods we Trust is my main source). Basically both adopt the modular theory of mind in that evolution has hardwired our brains with innate templates to interpret how the world operates. We are programmed to detect patterns and agency since mental models of situations like danger from a foe or aid from a friend would be advantageous (and possessing cognitive models of things means a concept of predicting events as well. Clearly a positive).

    Boyer references the classic example of the Azande and their belief in witchcraft. Witches are ubiquitous in their culture, most misfortunes are blamed on them much like how Westerners place blame on the ambiguous concept of "bad luck". Anthropologist Evans-Pritchard was studying the Azande when a home collapsed, the village gossip concerned just what the homeowner had done to anger the witches to retaliate against him so harshly. A cursory examination of the house showed extension termite damage- they were all well aware of what termites do and it seemed the more parsimonious explanation would be that insects and not witches were the culprits. But they insisted it was witchcraft and focused exclusively on why the house collapsed when it did with the specific people inside. They focused on the irrelevant and ignored the obvious causation.

    This brings up the second problem with the "religion/supernatural is an attempt at explaining the world" explanation: religions for the most part tend to make things more complicated and more mysterious, not less so. The simplest answer in the above scenario was insects, not the addition of witches. Adding witches opens up a whole new volume of ideas that further complicates things. Humans just don’t seem to be particularly good at ferreting out the logical answers to life’s mysteries- our brains don’t have a default setting for logic.

    Another one of my favorite examples is the Trobriander tribe. Their religious beliefs concerning pregnancy are odd- I rambled on about them before. Basically, their dogmatic certainty that pregnancy has a supernatural agent belies all logic yet it is an integral aspect of their religious culture. So why would natural selection "select" such an irrational brain that invents such illogical beliefs like the Trobrianders belief in magical pregnancies or the Azande and witchcraft?

    Very simply put, there’s something in our evolutionary heritage that makes our brains hardwired to be less logical, less parsimonious than benefits us. And that is likely due to our brain’s stubborn reliance on imposing patterns and agency onto nature when there are no patterns or intent involved. Religion is the byproduct of our brain’s evolutionary consequence of detecting intent or agency everywhere. Belief in the supernatural may simply be something piggyback riding on other cognitive attributes evolution has stamped onto our neurology (or to be less verbose, Gould and Lewontin’s spandrels).

    Assuming that there’s a predator or a rival lurking in the shadows would be advantageous, it’s just that our brains cannot differentiate between this useful evolutionary adaptation for seeing patterns or intent everywhere and faces in the clouds or ghosts shuffling in the darkness. In the long run the advantages of reacting to external stimuli that isn’t there is a net positive if it means your overly cautious (or paranoid or superstitious or religious) reactions allow you to perpetuate your genome; reacting to the patterns a predator may leave behind is smart from an evolutionary perspective while reacting to patterns that aren’t there (like divine retribution from a face in the stars) has little detrimental effect in the long run.

    Studies on this presumption of "agency" are in its infancy as is the whole evolutionary origins of religion. But one of the interesting programs that struck me is the work of Kelemen and Evans. They’re both specialists in cognitive processes in children and found that kids innately believe in agency for everything- they’re "intuitive theists". (see also here and here). Kids seem to be hardwired for the teleological argument, they attribute purpose to everything: they insist clouds are for raining, mountains for climbing, etc.
     
  11. Nepenthe

    Nepenthe Tu Stultus Es

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    I lean towards Marvin Harris’ explanation for food taboos. Pigs are proportionately greater producers of meat than most domesticated animals, they have a short gestation period so there’s plenty of supply, they have a higher birth rate survival compared to other livestock and are fully grown in a shorter span of time comparatively as well. The problem with the food illness or pigs eat excrement and/or are dirty argument is that pigs are actually not particularly dirty and the vast majority of domesticated animals eat their own crap and are just as, if not more, prone to disease than pigs. I think Harris is onto something when he argues that pigs were just not practical to raise in the environment at the time. I think ecology, not illness was the reason behind abolishing pork from their diet. Harris makes the same convincing argument for cows in India as well.

    Homer: Are you saying you're never going to eat any animal again? What about bacon?
    Lisa: No.
    Homer: Ham?
    Lisa: No.
    Homer: Pork chops?
    Lisa: Dad, those all come from the same animal.
    Homer: Heh heh heh. Ooh, yeah, right, Lisa. A wonderful, magical animal.
    :D
     
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  12. Erebus

    Erebus Well-Known Member

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    Interesting you brought that up, it was mentioned to me only a few weeks ago. It seems to make a lot of sense.
     
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