I wrote this a few days ago and was looking for some feedback. Thoughts?

Original: http://www.teenageatheist.com/2010/08/how-god-evolved.html

How God evolved

Gods are reflections of societies. We make them, in our own image, to answer our needs and to project our own ideals.

Societies, ancient and modern, desperately need something to grasp and give meaning to, for most at best, a mediocre existence, and at worst, a difficult and painful life. Societies then adjust their gods to adhere to the standards of the time and to explain new mysteries. These gods are mere idealistic projections of the current view on the supernatural. Unsurprisingly, this constantly changes.
As society evolved morally and socially, the divine followed accordingly.

Ancient views...
If you look at the Roman or Greek gods, they were entirely human when it came to character. Whether it be Zeus or Old Testament Yahweh, these were violent, jealous and spiteful beings with entirely human desires and attributes. Simply put, these were merely more powerful versions of Man.

The Greek god (one of many), Zeus, was perceived to spend his time punishing people who didn't treat their
guests with respect, flashing his thunderbolt and ensuring Atlas continued to hold up the sky. His other duties (or associations) included managing the Universe (a typical and enduring attribute in religions) and escapades with the ladies, resulting in countless children such as Hercules and Helen of Troy. Many of the ancient gods were believed to have acted similarly and incessantly bicker among one another.

Men rarely (if ever) manage to dream up a God superior to themselves. Most Gods have the manners and morals of a spoiled child.Robert A Heinlein

Looking at the Christian god of 2000 years ago doesn't help the religious case either. This god was believed to be a real hardass. Instead of encouraging us to utilize our mental capacity through skepticism and independent thinking, he condemned anyone who dared doubt his existence or not adhere to his attention-seeking demands of prayer, worship and the odd blood-soaked sacrifice. He had a thing against homosexuals, fortune tellers and witches, too, and was quite the misogynist. He also felt the need to give us guidelines on how to treat our slaves and would annihilate populations from time to time. Ofcourse, these gods weren't always this terrifying. Since their characters were modelled after humanity, they had some pretty inspiring parts chucked in as well, but the moodswings and deeds that the gods were believed to have committed clearly reveal the time frame and
mindset of the time.

Overall, the ancients perception of divinity was often a fearful representation of a societies values, culture and ignorance. The society inadvertently dictated the creation and design of its own "higher being" and derived the gods meaning and teachings from the society itself, not the other way around. Society doesn't play catch-up, god does.

Modern views...
In the last 300-400 years, the Western understanding of god has evolved to become a more humane, tolerant and softened being. The Christian god (for the most part) no longer spends his time sentencing his creations to eternal hellfire, shunning homosexuals or tutting at our sex lives. Instead, he's become a more accepting, loving and distant god.

Although many still claim to have personal relationships with whatever god or gods that they happen to believe in, the attribution of natural disasters, coincidences and managing of the cosmos to the supernatural is fading. As science fills the gaps and replaces myth with fact; the religious respond in turn by adapting and minimizing their gods duties to fit with these discoveries. What was previously considered to be fact, such as the direct creation of man (or other religious versions/equivalents), is relabelled as allegorical fiction. As secular principles are introduced, previous moral systems inferred from theological scriptures and tradition are recast as primitive and oppressive. These outdated ethics are trimmed and fashioned to fit in with society once again.

As convention is overturned and attitudes shift, god follows shortly behind.

The religious often like to hijack morality. They claim that we acquire our own meaning and ability to distinguish right from wrong as a god-given gift. Unfortunately for them, this is backwards. Morality is a natural consequence of natural selection, and we often inject these values into whatever idealized being the society is calling god at the time. As time passes, these change, and the gods change along with it.

How God evolved.

Views: 48

Comment by Yet Another Atheist on August 12, 2010 at 12:17pm
Excellent article. One interesting thing I'd like to note is the dwindling role of gods in our society. Whereas at one point they were constantly micromanaging the environment, planetary orbits, stars, universal workings, etc., now the current idea of a god (or at least the most intelligent one in existence) has been reduced to simply having snapped his fingers and standing back and letting everything form and evolve on its own. It's that last, desperate thread onto which many theists cling.
Comment by Bill on August 12, 2010 at 12:35pm
This is an excellent start! I don't think one can begin to understand the evolution of modern human societies without some serous study of the evolution of their religions and gods.
Comment by willailla on August 12, 2010 at 1:13pm
Yes, well written, Raithie,

I liked your article on atavisms. In the 'freak' shows of the early 20th century one could see all kinds of human oddities, throwbacks, on display: The Wolf Man with fangs and thick hair covering his body; The Snake Lady with reptilian skin; The Monkey Boy with a tail. Seems like a perfect god couldn't design a fail safe mechanism for his code.


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