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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What he means is that our brains haven't changed much.  Evolution takes a long time, therefore out altered perceptions are culturally based.

Maybe I should hire you to run around and explain what I really mean, too.

SOMEbody needs to, what does it pay? I might consider it myself --

I'll do it for free, if I can get full editorial privilege.  Hehe.

I have a question. It contains its own answer.

Which came first, the fear people felt or the philosophy a few people used to ameliorate the fear?

The philosophers, finding that fearful people would pay to have their fear ameliorated, became theologians.

Cynical? Not I, folks.

Reason and logic are powerless without knowledge. At one time when the first minds came along, not much was understood.  Back then anything that seemed to have the power to give or take life was a god. For the historic mind, I think that it's perfectly rational to think of the sun as a supreme being. I think for the historic mind, it's possible, even likely that religion was derived from serious sophistry.

However, religions mutate over time and grow as each new religion learns what works and what doesn't, which ideas people can escape easily, and which ideas will haunt until skepticism succumbs to fear. Each generation of religion evolves until in our case; the end result is the bible, the koran, the torah, or what have you.

In our age of reason, however; science has allowed us to reach unparalleled heights of understanding through experiment and analysis. Without the bible or any "modern" prevalent "holy" text, what would believers believe in? The prevalent texts contain beliefs that without them, the believers would never have. If the bible never existed, could we use reason and philosophy to come to the conclusion that 6,000 years ago, a talking snake convinced a woman to partake in some evil fruit and in the act doomed humanity had it not been for god sending his son, who was also himself to die on a cross 2,000 years ago to cover the bar tab? I say no.

The present state of affairs with the whole god thing is, to me; simply a parallel to the ancient mind looking at something they don't fully understand, and coming to the conclusion that there MUST be a watchful eye guiding it. After we learned what the sun was and how it worked, nobody kneeled before a jar of hydrogen.

-My two cents.

Even when the Age of Reason began, we didn't leave our delusions behind in leaps and bounds. Newton, for example, despite his brilliance, determined that there was an instability among the orbits of the planets that, according to his laws of motion, would over time, allow for their decay. We have since learned that those perturbations are self-correcting, but Newton believed that comets were in fact, angels, sent down periodically to adjust those orbits.

That's telling. He also tried to calculate/predict a date for the biblical end of the world.

It's easy to presume that some kind of intention makes everything happen, but it takes a lot of work to figure out how things really happen. If humankind could accept that we're given brains to figure things out, and not be so presumptuous and dogmatic about what He wants, religion wouldn't be preached with such ignorance, arrogance, and fatalism.

If humankind could accept that we're given brains to figure things out, and not be so presumptuous and dogmatic about what He wants, religion wouldn't be preached with such ignorance, arrogance, and fatalism.

Hear, hear!   I would agree completely.

Religion loses its way when it abandons humility. 

...and where exactly is this "humility" that I keep hearing about? What makes religious people humble when they claim to have the one and only Truth? They insist they are correct without any proof and claim that non-believers are wrong for not believing what they believe?

Is not the Atheist claim of our insignificance in the Universe not more humble than claiming your God created it for you?

The only thing less humble than a christian is....two christians!

I do wonder how one can assert that "religion loses its way when it abandons humility"?  What "way" might that be? How could a direction or "way" be steered according to contradictory claims of revelation from a diety for which there is zero evidence? Irrational claims cannot offer a "way" but they can get "in the way" of human progress as has been the case.

LOL.  Yes, I think one of the Roman emperors made a comment like that.

To borrow a parallel from science, science is quite arrogant in some ways.  We tend to believe that we have the one Truth about things like conservation of energy, and roll our eyes and act patronizing and arrogant when someone comes along talking about how wonderful their perpetual motion device is and how wrong and stupid we are to believe it can't be done.

At the same time, science loses its way when it abandons humility.  When it clings to its human understandings of the truth of the universe instead of remaining inquisitive and humble before the observational data. 

There is a parallel  with religion.  We theists are apt to roll our eyes and act patronizing and arrogant when we read some of the silly ignorant things that get written by atheists about religion.  I'm sure I do!   But we lose our way if we don't remain open to new insights, new inspirations of God, new knowledge about the universe.  We have been given brains to figure things out, and learn, and grow.


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