Religion, Science and the De-Animation Of Nature

[OK my readers!! I decided not to wait. Here is my first installment on Religion.  I have no doubt there will be more later.  Note: we are leaving to return to the USA for the summer, so I will respond to you all in a few days, on the other side.]

We are told that history begins in Sumer, near the Persian Gulf, where the first civil laws were instituted roughly fifty-five hundred years ago. Coincident with this founding, there emerged entirely new ways of thinking, acting, and interacting with one’s fellow citizens. With those first social laws, citizenship was born. The overwhelming evidence from anthropology, archeology, paleontology, ethnography and the history of religions strongly reinforces the view that a new set of problems arose with the transition from an egalitarian kinship-based, predominantly nomadic hunting/gathering lifestyle characterizing the Paleolithic, and autonomous villages representative of the Neolithic, to more sedentary, hierarchically structured life ways, based primarily on intensive plant and animal domestication economies, that erupted onto the scene at the close of the Neolithic period.

This transformation had an incalculable impact upon human consciousness over the ensuing centuries, producing entirely novel categories for understanding and manipulating the world. Reality was constituted differently after the birth of civilization than it had been previously. This would have resounding reverberations for all generations to follow, entrenched as they now were in new hierarchies and institutions that would appear — including formal institutions of religion. Borrowing terminology, I will call this new model according to which reality was thereafter constituted, the curriculum of the West. The burgeoning temperament for this new way of seeing the world affected every dimension of life as civilization spread, and cities continued to populate the globe over subsequent millennia.

This new set of problematics was directly related to our changed relationship to nature. The world was emptied of any inherent significance aside from that which we humans attributed to it.   And it was this proto-scientific and early scientific objectivization of the world – destroying the power and thickness of a pre-objective present – that led initially to the de-animation of the natural world and subsequent theoretical constructions of some transcendent religious powers – gods, goddesses, or other supernatural beings from beyond. All of the major world religions have this erroneous conception as their common denominator, whether it is called Allah, Brahman, God, or Yahweh. Even those polytheists, the ancient Romans and Greeks, fell victim to the same errant ways, the only difference being that they had numerous gods, as did the Hindus before them. The philosophers for their part also sought out a true reality beyond the phenomenon in some “noumenal” realm, again reinforcing this fundamental assumption about some immutable “Being” which gives life or meaning to the world of “becoming.”

Like its first cousin, natural science, and its bastard brother, the human sciences, historical religion has lived off of this fundamental dualism that has haunted human conception since the birth of history. Pre-historical humanity on the other hand experienced the world as alive, having a power and motility that it shared with all sentient beings. It is for this reason that pre-historical consciousness was a participatory consciousness; tribal members actually could fuse with their totem animal, for example, because from their perspective there was no substantive difference between them and the totem: they were essentially of one substance or consubstantial. We must not be confused here.  It is not as if they thought like us, only with incorrect judgments; they didn’t think the way we do at all!! It was essentially a different mode of perceiving and thinking all together. They did not see things from a detached objective perspective; indeed, we cannot say that they saw any “things” at all in the sense that we speak of things in space. Rather they participated things. The way they configured their world was different naturally from the way we configure the world.

Martin Heidegger understood this as well, that the modern conception of pure extension and duration, and so our commonsense conceptions of space and time, represented abstractions, transformations and perversions of a more primal and overwhelming experience of being — perhaps what the Pacific Islanders referred to as “mana.” For the Islanders, there was apparently no such thing as empty space or simple, objective material extension, as was the documented case among many other pre-urban tribes and hunter-gatherer societies; their world was filled with living, animate, sentient and powerful subjectivities lurking everywhere and residing almost anywhere – in the wind, the water, the stone, or the bush. We first-worlders call it, condescendingly, animism.

As well, there is good reason to suggest that indigenous tribes had no genuine concept of pure linear duration either, no time, as we have come to know it, flowing from past to future (e.g., Dorothy D. Lee, Freedom and Culture). The natural cyclicality of life breathed around, through, and within them: the rising and setting of the sun, the lunar cycle, seasonal changes, the repetition of ritual archetypal behavior. In Heidegger’s terms what happened with the emergence of thought from these auspicious and pregnant beginnings was a “flattening out” of an originally uncanny and overwhelming primal moment.

The fundamental error that underlies [modern sciences, natural and human] is the opinion that the inception…is primitive and backward, clumsy and weak. The opposite is true. The inception is what is most uncanny and mightiest. What follows is not a development but flattening down as mere widening out… a perversion of what is great, into greatness and extension purely in the sense of number and mass. The uncanniest is what it is because it harbors such an inception in which, from over-abundance, everything breaks out at once into what is overwhelming…. (Introduction to Metaphysics, 165)

To this day there are some excellent studies that correctly point to the spread of agriculture and the birth of cities as the principal focus of our changed material relations with the world. Yet even these analyses typically make the underlying and pre-thematic assumption that the perceptions and consciousness of our preliterate, pre-civilized predecessors were roughly identical to our own; that we perceive the same world and experience our place therein as did our “primitive” forebears. But to infer that primal humans reasoned and conceptualized as we do today would be an unsustainable inference (see Owen Barfield, Saving the Appearances). Indeed, the opposite assumption is more likely the case; that they reflected quite differently on the plenum of existence and on themselves than we do, and that this was in large measure a result of how differently they perceived and felt themselves within the world. There is certainly nothing in the anthropological, paleontological, or ethnographic record that would contradict such an assumption. In fact, there may be much, both in mythology and ethnography, to recommend it (for example, Mircea Eliade, Cosmos and History, Daniel Everett, Don’t Sleep, There Are Snakes).

But, it was with Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s work in the modern era that the locus of human dwelling was rediscovered philosophically, recovered from the oblivion of Western rationalism, scientism and religious metaphysics. It was his relentless focus on le corps sujet (the body-subject) that broke open that mysterious chiasm, the foundational “intertwining” of my body with the world-as-lived (my flesh, the flesh of the world), affording the very possibility of sentient experience — of touching and being touched, of seeing and being seen, of hearing and being heard, of smelling and being smelled, of tasting and being tasted (The Visible and the Invisible).  It is here, in the natural intertwining of the lived-body-world that the primal intuition of the animistic experience lies.  It is here that my flesh and the “flesh of the world” are one; my outline, the inline of the world; my totem an instantiation of the same power that animates me, the forest, the river, the sun, the moon and the stars.  It is here, in the “animistic” concept of mythic participation that the recognition of mutual influence has its foundation: the world and the tribe, mutually influencing one another.

If one is prepared to accept the theories of modern physics concerning the composition of matter (in whatever theoretical flavor you prefer) than you must also be prepared to agree that the familiar world we see around us (objects in space-time) is just a system of collective representations upon which we all agree. We must never forget that this is the case, and that these collective representations are reinforced by training and dedicated indoctrination to the curriculum. But if we ever do forget that, and begin to concretize a world as objectively present to us, forgetting there is a primal connection between my embodied-subjectivity and the world-as-lived-by-my-body, at that moment our collective representations become reified, they become idols before which we bow, whether those are the Idols of modern science or religion.

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48 Responses to Religion, Science and the De-Animation Of Nature

  1. John Bollig says:

    This topic is interesting, we are so conditioned, so trained that we are no longer one with the natural world ? Things need to be catagorized when you are no longer a band or a tribal society. Hence, the end of the so called natural world viewpoint. It is not the western ways of thinking that changed people. Rather, it was the advent of agriculture. The attempt to stabilize food supplies in certain fertile areas favorable for cereal grain production led to the settling down of tribes. Organized religion is just one result of the need to control the masses as to cajole them into staying on the farm so to speak. If you live in a band, it is pretty hard to carry much beyound a few items. However, once settled into villages and cities, it is possible to have temples and social control as well as security is made much easier. Grain can be stored and given out to the masses.

    • StrayCat says:

      I would add to this that the very act of planting, fertilizing, protecting and harvesting grains impelled a change of perception of the human place in the universe. The crop plants became visually and economically separate from the rest of the world, and then the distinction between crops and steppe and forest became apparent to the farmers. The change in the economic environment then, maybe, led to the change in spiritual practices and belief. Man could not become one with the crops he grew and ruled. Additionally, man became more dependent upon the cycles of the seasons for a very large proportion of the food for the community. Thanking nature for its bounty morphed into supplicating nature, then gods for rain, but no too much, sunshine, but not too much and for pest control over the predators who found masses of grain to be a bounty of food. This monoculture led to blooms of locusts and other pests as the bountiful food led to huge population increases. We suffer from that today as our golf courses and mechanized petroleum fed farm practices pollute the water and feed algae and other plants and animals.
      All of these changes led to a change in the way man saw itself in the world, and to the creation of gods with man=like attributes and powers to help or hinder the crops. History is replete with the consequences of that set of changes. Sandy has introduced us to a line of thought that has, in the last century been relegated to the dust bin. Yet, the power of his observations, and those of others he has referred us to demonstrate a powerful and accurate alternative to the narrative of empire. Peace, love and joy, StrayCat

      • Disaffected says:

        Good post. A lot of food for thought there. I’ll comment on it later.

      • Disaffected says:

        Quick comment. I’m not all that deep in the history department, so it had never really occurred to me before the impact that the transition from a hunter/gatherer society to one of stationary agriculture and the production of more than was needed must have had. Surely the urge to steal from one’s own masses must have followed closely on the heels of the urge to organize armies and plunder others. And several centuries later little has changed, other than this whole approach to reality seems to have reached its culmination. Could be that’s all that apocalyptic biblical texts had in mind in the first place. A simple culmination of a way of life, a turn of the cosmic wheel, a cultural organizing principle, that must have seemed obvious even then to the “primitives,” who were more attuned in all their “primitiveness” than we are in all of our technological “sophistication.”

      • kulturcritic says:

        It is interesting SC. I saw a sign in the park today (my first week back in AMERIKA since December) and it read… “Don’t feed the geese. Let’s keep the wildlife, wild.” So, I guess the real take away from that sign, apropos your remarks on agriculture, is that the feeding of people (with ‘produced/packaged’ food) rather than letting them hunt or gather their own, is itself the primal act of DOMESTICATION (or DeWilding)!!

        • StrayCat says:

          Right on. Domesticated animals, including humans are docile, reliable, and provide a great return on energy investment for those who run the place. Other humans with god given superiority and/or the winners of the claimed Darwinian struggle. Hobbs plus Darwin plus small minds and the will to power equal the justification for those who now control the direction of civilization.

  2. brandon says:

    Awesome perspective…I always tell my wife how we are constantly trying to divorce ourselves from our biology and the world around us..I am glad to know that there are others that feel as I do and have the ability, and more importantly, the courage and conviction to speak truth to our fellow citizens…keep up the great work…thank you

    • kulturcritic says:

      Brandon – thanks for joining the discussion. Indeed, we have tried systematically to divorce ourselves from our own biology, the fear and denial of death the ultimate negator of presence. Please stick with us in the coming weeks. sandy

  3. Disaffected says:

    Great post today Sandy. I’m going to take a while to ruminate on this one. Religion always strikes home for me. I had a significant break up last week that was based on once again, among other things, religion. This has become a recurring theme in my life, so I guess I’m like a moth drawn to the flame when it comes to seeking out relationships with religious women. Of course none of them ever advertise the fact that they’re overtly religious up front, but that’s a story for another day.

    I slammed the objectified outward focus of modern religion that you address today in last week’s comments, and I stand by those comments still. I’ve always viewed the objectified external hero model as grossly naive and infantile and find it hard to believe that religion has actually had a resurgence in popularity in my lifetime. I can only imagine that that’s a direct response to the overwhelming increase in anxiety and uncertainty (if not actual terror!) in the world, although I find it hard to believe that anyone actually takes solace in the obviously thread bare religious narratives they find. I mean really, both Christianity and Islam have always only been about instilling guilt and fear in their followers, all the better to get them to worship a blatant graven image in the form of a man, who will by his virtue alone allow them to be “saved.” A better example of guilt and fear based mind control there has never been. And yet, the masses ask for more of the same. Simply amazing!

    • StrayCat says:

      I am coming to think that the late 20th early 21st century increase in religious activity is another effect of the emptiness of our cultural situation. It is interesting that during the colonial and early federalist periods of our history, very few attended church regularly, and that many active in the formation of the new nation were skeptics, Unitarians and deists. They were not hounded from the stage or treated like even Republicans are treated by the religiously florid today. There is a desperation that underlies all the fervor. That desperation, as it often does, may lead to real violence and chaos. If it is permissable, I will import a comment from another blog that I posted last week tomorrow after I have slept. Peace, love and joy to all, StrayCat

    • Disaffected says:

      In truth, I think I DO know what’s so appealing about religion after all. The actual dogma for most people is just so much detail, which they;re not really interested in or paying attention to anyway. If you merely tell them they need to show up to church at least semi-regularly, throw some money in the basket on a regular basis, and profess “belief” (however halfheartedly) in whatever creed is being professed, most view that as a damn fine trade-off to make to hedge their bets against possible eternal damnation if the “good book” turns out to be true after all. I once had a girl friend who came right and told me (bless her little sinning heart) that she had always planned to “get right with god” when she got older in recognition of the fact that her odds of survival were shrinking accordingly. Talk about refreshing! Here was a girl that not only realized that the whole thing was a game of “hedge your bets,” but had the childlike honesty to come right out and say it (I always loved that part about her).

      But even more simply still, religion is first and foremost a club of like minded people. Misery loves company” as they say, and if you have to be miserable about your existential terror of death, what better way to do it than in the company of like-minded people, who, if nothing else, share the same cultural stories/mass delusions as you do. The physicists tell us that what we commonly experience as physical reality is, at some level, all an illusion anyway. Perhaps religion was originally never meant to be anything other than mass story/illusion we told ourselves to provide some small level of meaning and/or comfort against the ultimate knowledge that all of life is ultimately fatal, and that none of us – NONE OF US – knows for sure what comes next. In that context it all begins to make sense. What it has become since, especially in the last century or so, is surely an abomination, but then, what in our world hasn’t? The contortions ANY belief system must undergo to make sense of our current world without recoiling in horror is surely too much bear. Unfortunately, religions, with their deep grounding in ancient and unchanging tradition are particularly maladapted to cope in such an environment.

      So there you have it. I think I’ve reasoned myself through a complete 360, and am back at square one all over again. Religion as a social club? I guess that’s OK. Religion as a deep-seated source of meaning and/or transcendence? Umm… better come equipped with some powerful psychedelics as well if you ask me. But that’s just me…

      • kulturcritic says:

        DA, SC, et al – I think an important issue not to overlook here is the transformation of our collective perspective. And even those of us who are atheist or non-religious are still infected with the same disease as the religionists. When the Gods were born, man’s relationship with the earth changed 180 degrees. Instead of looking down to the earth for fulfillment and a sense of our place in the whole, we started to look up at the skies; rather than embracing our bodies as the flesh of the world; we began to ignore and then deny our bodies in a bid for masterly control and immortality. But a foundational fear of mortality only really arose systemically with the advent of unilinear time and the recognition that we, like it, must come to an end somewhere in the future.

        • StrayCat says:

          Exactly! Before the creation of gods, with supernatural powers, death was part of life, and ones life continued for good or bad as an extension of ones acts while alive and the addition to the community made by one. Welcome to the Corporate States of America, Greek edition. SC

          • Disaffected says:

            Good points all. As I’ve said before, man’s relationship with death, aka his own mortality, is still the central – and I would submit ONLY – question in need of answering at the current moment. As in, answer that one, and all the rest begin to fall like dominoes of their own accord.

        • StrayCat says:

          Yes, we have never gotten over our identification of the power of the sun, the mystery of the moon, and our complete lack of understanding of the way the Universe works at the time of the invention of place based religions. One for each town and city. So we still look to the sky gods and the exercise of power by them as a means of trying to connect with something that does not exist. Thus, that most treacherous of false emotions, faith. Without the invention of faith, there could be no religious hierarchy, nor any magic or elevated positions for humans.

          • kulturcritic says:

            SC – your intellectual struggles with religion are intriguing to me; but I am looking for the direction of your thinking. I understand you dislike religion, as do I; but I am not sure why you dislike it. sandy

  4. John Bollig says:

    DA,

    I think it has to do with the loss of control that we hve faced when we become bombarded with the powerful sensory disruption in the past 100 years. Religion is a powerful control tool and the powerful will prop it up because it benefits the social control that is so desireable.

    • Disaffected says:

      No doubt. Religion can also be used to offload government social programs on (both Bush’s were strong purveyors of this meme), all the better to complete the plundering of the US Treasury by eliminating obligations to poor people, aka “those who don’t count.” In less than 20 years (optimistically) the transformation should be complete.

  5. capt rick says:

    very good
    Wat is a problematic verses a problem?

    • Hasdrubal Barca says:

      Hi Capt.
      The word problem is a noun. The word problematic is an adjective. An adjective describes or modifies a noun. It would be proper to say ‘He is a problematic child’ instead of “He is a problem child.’ Note that Kulturcritic used the word ‘problematics’ which is a plural noun that defines the “uncertainties or difficulties inherent in a situation or plan.” (from dictionary.com)

    • kulturcritic says:

      Capt – It’s just a cute word; and suggests that the problem is not just isolated, but more general, or widespread.

  6. Disaffected says:

    I really expected a larger response to a post on religion. It appears that many of the readers of this blog may be similarly disaffected with modern day religion, or at least disabused of the notion that it’s serving any meaningful purpose in modern day life, other than as yet another distraction to the larger events that truly matter. In that respect, perhaps modern religion has realized its highest goal: as mere pretty wallpaper in the background and giving context to the massive national security, corporate, financial, oil, media kleptocracy. I mean really, what’s not to love at the playing of the national anthem before any major sporting event (but EPITOMIZED by football!) when all of the elements come together in their utmost glory: the flag, the invocation, the anthem, the hand over the heart, the MIC provided band, color guard, and fly-over (spewing thousands of years of spent petro-fuel out their tails as an overt in-your-face to anyone who says we aren’t entitled!), the cutaways to troops “nobly protecting the homeland” in faraway places, and the petitions to god to keep us “free” to do more of the same forever and ever amen.

    TRULY we have raised the concept of empire to by far and a way its highest state ever, and although religion may have not always played a central role in the effort, it played one of the most vital nonetheless. That is, in addition to the always vital role of simply placating the masses as required, to provide a bedrock pseudo moral and philosophical rationale for all of the above activities, and if that foundation is sufficiently flimsy that most simply lose interest and begin taking it all at face value with a friendly “wink and a nod,” then so much the better. What better way to pull the wool over on the masses by using sham moral frameworks, than when the masses have become so jaded by the whole mess that they could care less anyway? Seems to be that’s our current predicament, and one which religion is particularly well equipped to handle as well. For hierarchical based religion has always been about submission to authority, especially entrenched authority, whose very authority is its own authority (I AM that I AM). Talk to any reasonably firm Christian about their beliefs on any particular subject and just see how long it takes the argument to become circular. Two, maybe three exchanges at most, in my experience. After that, it’s back to the wallpaper. You’ll have a lot more luck reasoning with it.

    • Hasdrubal Barca says:

      Disaffected (and others),
      Thanks for taking the time to explain your attitude towards religion. It doesn’t make for a lively discussion, but I agree with you. I’ve recently converted from being a Joe Sixpack (albeit a skeptical one), but haven’t yet figured out what I’ve converted into. I rejected the whole religion thing when I was a youngster. My mother forced me to go to sunday school and church services, but when I was able to make my own choices, I never went back. Even when I was 6-7 years, I was able to determine it was all a bunch of fairy tale nonsense. With that said, I can’t deny religion played a crucial role in how my values and morals were established and how I live my life today. And that all goes back to what Sandy and others have said about religion shaping our consciousness. Six thousand years of molding and shaping what we see and think has created the fishbowl we all live in. It may not be reality, but it’s the only thing we know, so we accept it, and it reinforces itself. I’m not saying anything new– my difficulties arise from coming to terms with this new-found understanding. All this new knowlege isn’t helping me. Know what I mean? The deeper down the rabbit hole I go, the more absurd many things in everyday life become.

      • Disaffected says:

        Your experience sounds exactly like mine. I remember when I was 4-5 getting all caught up in it, because I actually thought it was an actual fantasy playacting thing. By 6-7 I realized the truth of things and began to disentangle. We were only “second hand religious” in the first place. My grandmother on my mom’s side shamed my mother into going through the motions, even though my dad would have nothing to do with it. My mom has never really recovered from the shame and disgrace of all of it. She continues to this day to live with one foot in and one foot out the door. She professes the whole Christianity bit, but she never goes to church or really goes out of her way to live an actual “Christian life,” whatever in the heck that is. In other words, she’s one of the red state Christian right nut-jobs mucking up the political works these day. And TOTALLY BAT-SHIT INSANE! Nothing but contradictions living happily side by side inside the same head with nary a cogent thought process to be found. Such people can only be avoided. There’s nothing of reason going either in or out of their stunted and small minds. They’re automatons of the worst kind.

      • Disaffected says:

        HB,

        I think in fairness, considering my multiple slams on religion – Christianity in particular – above, I should come clean about just what it is I do believe. But first of all, I think it’s important to be clear as to exactly what we’re talking about in the first place.

        First and foremost is existential terror number one, and in fact, the ONLY terror that is truly worth acknowledging AT ALL. The fear of death. What happens to us all once we die, and indeed, do we need “saving” from anything? That is the root core of all modern western religious tradition. PERIOD.

        Second, does any particular religion have the luxury of exclusivity? As in, do they have the right to assert that “We are right and everyone else is wrong?”

        Third, what are the implications for those who are “wrong” in question number two above, assuming they have otherwise lived a pious and just life, but wrongly chosen to cast their lot with the “wrong” god?

        Fourth, does religion, and religion alone, allow us to live a moral life?

        Fifth, does any particular religion (and I’ll even be gracious here, does any combination of religions) adequately define what a moral life is?

        Sixth, what are the implications of any particular religion or group of religions “getting in bed with” the political powers that be at any particular place/time?

        Seventh, AND MOST IMPORTANTLY, what does religion ACTUALLY MEAN to those who practice it, regardless of circumstances? What are its practical/impractical advantages/disadvantages to those at the “grass roots” level who actually adhere to its principles for no other reason than it gives them comfort?

        I’m not going to answer all those questions myself right now, but rather, throw them out there to the blogoshere to see what answers come back. I think they’re all important, and in spite of my thorough denigration of religion above, I think the IDEA of religion is VITALLY important to mankind’s continued viability on this planet. INDEED, the answers to the above questions literally DEFINE us as a species in my humble opinion, and they are ALL crying out for an answer.

        DA

        • Disaffected says:

          OK, my take on the above:

          Number one is the crux of the entire religious conundrum. Yes, we all (most of us at least) are “mortally” afraid of our own demise and what comes next. Certainly understandable. The question then becomes, are we need in “saving” from anything/anyone to ensure continued “happy trails?” This is of course the “hook” that religion sinks into all of its victims/adherents and is the root core of all that follows – and everything that follows from this assumption is universally bad in my opinion. It is nothing less than the root core of all societal shame and guilt, and it’s inculcated in those who are born into a religious tradition from day one. DAY ONE! While it’s certainly debatable whether or not religion is just playing to an underlying psychological need for such a belief, or is in fact responsible for such a belief in and of itself in the first place (I’ll leave that for others more qualified than I to decide), there can be no doubt that it is religion itself that is the chief propagator of this meme in the modern world. BY A WIDE MARGIN!

          Number two logically follows from number one. If you buy into the meme that we’re in need of saving from something, then to most people it naturally follows that there must be a single best method of achieving that goal. Religions have been trading on that very assumption since their inception. A very clever and effective marketing technique I might add, not to mention deadly.

          Number three should cause most to question the validity of number two, and yet, most followers I’m acquainted with have no particular qualms about those of other religions who are otherwise fine and upstanding people being “cast into the lake of fire,” whatsoever. They don’t call them sheep for nothing I guess.

          Religions may serve a small good in defining “moral life” for those who are too stupid (and probably amoral as well) to figure it out for themselves. In my view, that was probably their appeal in the early days, when man was certainly more primitive and likely to act out in the first organized hierarchical societies. Nonetheless their dogmatic approach in the ensuing interval has caused them to literally tie themselves into mental knots (Catholic Church anyone?) to justify their early positions. In the end, I have to conclude that simply adhering to the beliefs of any particular organized religion(s) is a poor substitute for genuine individually driven morality. Simple minded rules followers are, in the end, ALWAYS morons.

          No need to comment on the implications of religions getting into bed with governments. We’re seeing the results in the news everyday as we speak, and the results lie on a spectrum beginning at universally bad and ending well north of cataclysmic.

          What do adherents get out of religion at a personal level? Can’t speak to this, because I never have gotten anything out of it. I’m willing to concede that some do draw comfort legitimately, although I have to ascribe this to something along the lines of a mass psychosis and/or wishful thinking. Granted, there’s real power in “using one’s illusions,” but I think you then have to weigh those advantages against all the real pain and suffering that is allowed, perpetuated, and even initiated in the name of organized religion. When you do, I think the answer has to come back that we need to at the very least begin an open discussion into the merits and and drawbacks of perpetuating religious memes (cost/benefit analysis anyone?), especially with respect to allowing official religious stamps of imprimatur on publicly elected officials.

          The road we’re traveling currently is headed straight for a precipice of historic magnitude, and is in fact, already yielding all of the very predictable results that should have already alerted us to its dangers. The fact that that has not, is not, and apparently will not happen should be considered nothing less than a three alarm fire calling for an all hands on deck response. Not surprisingly, I’m not optimistic at all. It now appears to me at least that apocalyptic religious visions will indeed be born out in their “fullest glory,” brought on no doubt by the very religious belief systems that spawned them in the first place. The self-perpetuating meme.

          As the religious folks might say: God help us all!

          DA

      • StrayCat says:

        Hi, HB, just a short comment on your early experience with church. For me, it became harder and harder, then impossible to resolve the disconnect between the moral teachings of the Bible, especially some of the sayings attributed to Jesus, with two sets of contradictions. first was the truly horrifying things in the OT that were approved by their god. Killing whole tribes. Salting the earth so that no crops could grow. Women were less than cattle (not much change in the MENA on that point}, and those in power could lead the husbands of their girlfriends into death and still be beloved of that god. Sounds like todays politicians. The second contradiction was the stated morals of the church members was contrary to all of the teachings. Racism, gossip, bearing false witness, and the bowing to the god of wealth and nationalism. Ba’al used to demand live children to be fed into the fire as a sacrifice to keep things OK for the Phoenecians, and we today feed our children into the fire of perpetual war and the cold outer hell of poverty and hunger. Indeed, every organized religion has, when allied with the state, endorsed and carried out mass murder, torture, burnings, property theft and war after war. Every religion had claimed their view to be the truth and the only truth. That’s OK, everyone is entitled to their opinions; however, every religion also claims the right to both insist that everyone believe what they believe, on pain of death, or other lesser penalty, and the most destructive claim, that the believers are special, and the elect. Calvinist theology has caused as many wars as the Catholic claim ti universality. And even Buddhists now wage war. The very claim of specialness, of above the earth, not part of the animal kingdom, and the claim of supernatural knowledge that trumps observation and sense make all religion dangerous, inhuman activity. In my opinion, for what it is worth, all moral and ethical teachings and feelings can be properly ascribed to out evolutionary history combined with our ability to reason. If there is any “god” he she it or they must be on the other side of the big bang, to be forever unknowable, and which have no interest in our being. Not even in this universe.

      • kulturcritic says:

        Have you seen the Mad Hatter yet, HB?? 😉

        Your observations are accurate. There is no telling where the bottom is. The curriculum to which we have been indoctrinated is complicated and rigorous. What we need to remember is hard to recall, because it lies hidden pretty deep within us.

      • StrayCat says:

        Was it religion that affected your moral development, of the idea of religion as a unifying exercise?

  7. John Bollig says:

    Well, I see the discussion has turned to how bad the various faiths are, but that is to be expected. If you understand what religion is really all about, a social control tool of the powers that be. My thinking is that we should see the death of religion as an evolutionary breakout of the box. Note, that I did not say faith, which is a belief , not a control room tool IMHO. Simply going to church, duly following ritual and being in the faith community does not make you a member of that faith, it makes you a follower of a religion. The faith is far deeper and more personal. Indeed you can’t justify faith thru the scientific method. It is simply belief.
    Now a religion can support a faith, nuture it and give it strength or it could destroy it, creating cynicism, distrust or even hatred. I put my faith in action every day in my service to my fellow man.

    • Disaffected says:

      I always call religion the politicization of faith. In fact, the original Roman Catholic was the very definition of a political organization. Surely an example of the motto “keep your friends close and your enemies closer,” it was little more than an effort to co-opt early Christianity in order to control it. I’d say they did a damn fine job of it too.

      • kulturcritic says:

        And Christianity was successful in the Greco-Roman environment because it structured itself to be accepted by the masses. It was a universal faith system; and the Christian apologists did all they could to highlight that universal elements in distinction to the Judaic faith that preceded it. See Cicero and Tertulian!!

  8. Hasdrubal Barca says:


    Vancouver mayor and police chief blame Stanley Cup riot on anarchists

    Doesn’t matter how many times they’re set straight, the media still insists on equating the term ‘anarchist’ to some sort of urban terrorist. Drunken hooligans aren’t anarchists.

  9. John Bollig says:

    HB,

    In states that have failed to meet the needs of the people, i.e. all, the social outlets that have been crafted by the powers that be have started to fade. Even in polite and proper prosperous societies, many citizens feel alienate from the greater group. Hence when an opportunity to riot breaks out, they jump into the fray. I think that rioting is a natural reaction to being penned in cities. By penning us into large herds and then separating us into nuclear families, they create tension and anger. Let the cities burn, roast marshmellows and make smores, HB.

    • Disaffected says:

      John,

      There’s a lot of concern that the ongoing meltdown in Greece could be the trigger that sets the dominoes falling. It’s hard to say for sure, but either way there’s multiple other European states already lined up awaiting debt resolution/default as well that will provide the same opportunity. It now seems likely that a European failure of some sort will ignite the brush fire that turns into the inferno that will sweep back our way. The least they could do after we were so kind to ignite the last one in 2008.

      Watch how things go down in Greece/Spain/Ireland to see a precursor of our own very near future. Of course over here we’ve got our own war weary shock troops to contend with, who have been practicing their craft containing insurgencies for the past ten years or so in earnest. They’ll be sure to make it interesting; but in the end, when their government issued pay checks become worthless and they’re ordered to shoot their friends and relatives here at home, I think most of them will come to their senses.

      There’ll still be more than enough blood and carnage until that happens; but in the end, the US will end up going like all great empires before it. Into sudden and major decline if not total dissolution and chaos, followed shortly thereafter by irrelevance, as the rest of the world sighs in relief that the chief instigator of all the shit that’s wrong in the world today suffers its long overdue comeuppance.

    • kulturcritic says:

      John – absolutely right about the confinement of cities; Civilization writ small!

  10. Brutus says:

    I’m responding to the subject post but not the comments that follow.

    The “curriculum of the West” as you call it is very familiar to me, as is the lesson in psychohistory that makes the curriculum intelligible, not merely an invisible artifact of deep culture. I don’t have the advanced degree in divinity, which is as good a point of entry as any, I suppose, but I’ve been coming at this question from a variety of angles my entire adult life. I see more and more others taking the lead of Jaynes and Berman (the two to whom I’m most indebted) and developing the idea that our way of being in the world is the product of ancient, subtle forces beyond our awareness most of the time. The author I’m currently reading and whose book I’m blogging as I make slow progress, Iain McGilchrist, is driving toward the same conclusions (at least I think he is — I could be projecting).

    Explaining the curriculum to others or even convincing them of its existence is a seriously steep uphill battle for two reasons: the erudition and wherewithal to grasp it is formidable, and our intensely personal self-identification using modern consciousness and its precepts pretty much blots out the possibility of entering into another style of mind. We have numerous examples of primitive cultures surviving today that do not share our worldview, but most people regard them as crazy (or at least exotically bizarre) rather than recognizing a legitimate alternative.

    • kulturcritic says:

      Brutus – you are on the right track!! The rest of the West is crazy!!

    • kulturcritic says:

      Brutus –

      It has been a while since I read Jaynes’ book. Certainly identifies critical issues in the development of modern consciousness. I would also suggest you look at Saving The Appearances, by Owen Barfield. See the link to his book on my Bookshelf.

  11. StrayCat says:

    The christian religion is, in my mind, the longest lived and most successful pagan religion. We have miracles. We have saints for each geographical area. We have man gods and god men. (No women, notice) We have temples for prayer in each town and village, and the beliefs are different in different countries. We have saints, to who it is proper to pray; bones and other items of sacred content. We have the mysteries and the unknowable. We have gods interacting with men and impregnating women. All of the elements of the mature pagan belief system is present in Christianity. So, yes, its all made up, and yes it is for the purpose of social control, and I don’t know how it retains the power to rule and to cause harm. Faith is a powerful sedative I guess.

    • kulturcritic says:

      SC – not sure where this analysis of Xity takes you; while I do agree there are pre-Xian influences, it is a different vehicle all together. It is salvific, with a focus on the end-time. The future is all important.

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