Religion, as it's generally encountered, is a bunch of silly make-believe.  Its practitioners often seem aware of this, but they worry that if they quit their game, life will become unbearable.  But was it always intentionally deceptive, or could honest philosophy have once been involved?  I wonder this because I was pondering how existence might have begun a few years ago, and I came up with the idea that what initially must have existed could have only two properties: identity and lack of cause.  I felt pleased with this idea.

Identity can be thought of as a recursive logical structure.  Something is what it is what it is, etc.  This idea has a couple things in common with a very basic observation.  Our universe is several orders more large and complex than it needs to be in order to make one's head spin, but is nonetheless (really or virtually) contained within a quite tiny three dimensions.  Well, if it "emerged from nothing" by virtue of a technically simple self-referential fact, then it makes sense for it to be unimaginably expansive and repetitive at the same time.

A while later, I drove some billboard that I don't remember any more while continuing to ponder this, and it suddenly occurred to me that the trip sequence part of Exodus contains a couple parallels with the ideas that I came up with.  I hadn't (and still haven't) read it in probably more than a decade, but I remembered how the bush claimed to be god, and said that he is who he is, and has no name.  If you remove all of the cheese, and there's a lot of it there, you end up with the same idea that I thought was pretty clever when I thought of it- that the universe derives from a thing that is what it is and has no cause.  I was very upset about this at first, wondering if my Catholic upbringing had imperceptibly tainted me forever, but then I came up with this idea.

Could religions as we now know them have once hosted attempts to legitimately understand things, and then ended up devolving into nonsensical yet somewhat practical (or just addictive) social rituals like those practiced by ancestral tribal cultures, while also being corrupted by charlatans and greed?  General stupidity and disinterest, as well pressure from outside, would certainly have made it very difficult for ancient societies to pass along any sort of abstract concept for several generations.  The components of the idea would dissolve into childish symbols for the sake of easy transmission, but would then take on lives of their own, with the fractured meanings not approaching the original's in terms of depth or attempted validity.

Successful religions always exhibit mechanisms that deter people from leaving, as well as mechanisms that lead to their own spread.  But they also tend to have some blatantly abstract, sometimes horrible bits that have no clear meaning and that do nothing but frighten and/or confuse people without providing any clear benefit to any society, modern or ancient.  Could a few of these parts be the remnants of complicated speculations that have been subsequently splintered and rotted?

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It is my learned opinion (yeah, right!) that, the Abrahamic religions at least, were the result of Abraham's schizophrenic hallucinations and delusions.

I'd say that philosophy has yet to catch up with religion, in terms of visceral relevance, scope, power and soul-saving ability.  At the same time, philosophy has a place in providing a firm basis for religion which currently doesn't exist. 

Still got that book that's going to vindicate religion in your back pocket, just waiting for the right moment to change the world, eh, Simon?

Philosophy can't save souls. There's no such thing as a soul. Just a consciousness tied to a brain in a physical body.

Now why would an atheist want to do such a thing.

Oh, I forgot.  Simon is a fake atheist.

I agree, Steve, except I would say Simon is pretending to be an atheist.

My guess, and it is a guess, is that she's hoping to convert us.

I've never thought Simon was an atheist. I don't think he claims to be one.

From his profile info:

Profile Information

Your Religious Status
Atheist

Theism and atheism are stances on a concept without much agreed-upon definition.  If we're going to draw lines, we need to start out by clarifying terms.

It's taking longer than I anticipated, but it's making good progress all the same. 

It's probably all of those revelations and one-on-one chats with god, that are interrupting his writing. The world awaits with suppressed enthusiasm.

exactly...

Wouldn't having a soul, precede saving it? If he's talking about saving shoe leather, he spelled it wrong.

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