Have Human Religions Evolved and If So How?

Discussion in 'Religion' started by joepistole, Apr 26, 2016.

  1. joepistole Deacon Blues Valued Senior Member

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    As I look back at human history, it appears to me that religions have evolved over time. For example, there was a time when Gods were appeased with blood sacrifices. Blood sacrifices were common, now they are almost nonexistent. And human sacrifice is non existent. So if you believe, as I do, that religion has evolved, where is it going? What is the future of religion in our society? What role does it play and what role will it play in the future?
     
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  3. Hapsburg Hellenistic polytheist Valued Senior Member

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    The idea that religion has "evolved" in a linear development is a popular one, and one that seems intuitively sensible. However, there is little evidence for this theory. The hypothesis of a linear development originates primarily with the Modernist intellectual movement, specifically the work of James George Frazer and his book The Golden Bough. And it is, admittedly, a very captivating idea. But it belies a lot of presumptions on the part of the Modernists--notably Darwinian evolution as an intellectual paradigm, and the belief in a (rather Eurocentric) single global narrative. Secondarily, in part due to these presumptions, Frazer and others like him did not have due diligence with scholarship, and researched only so far as to confirm their existing biases and hypotheses. Some of these hypotheses were iconoclastic at the time, even scandalous, but nevertheless their research was not deep enough and thorough enough to truly investigate their subjects. They warped the evidence, even if it was unintentional, to fit their theories.

    Religions have adapted to suit their changing times. So it has "evolved" in a sense. But it is not a linear progression. There is no "perfect" system that religion as a whole is moving towards. Indigenous religions are not necessarily "more primitive" or "less advanced" than other religions. And this belies, again, the presumptions of the Modernist movement: their Eurocentric and colonialist attitude is that Western civilisation, specifically the 20th century scientific, Christian, Western European civilisation, is the ultimate point of development for society, religion, economy, et al. It is, ultimately, the White Man's Burden applied to the history of religion. And it has no place in modern anthropology.
     
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  5. exchemist Valued Senior Member

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    I think you may be criticising a viewpoint that is not necessarily being advanced by the OP. I take your point re the Golden Bough's "Whig View of History" thinking. But you say yourself religions adapt, so they do evolve. And I think it must be true that since religions have to adapt to the improving models of science (It is not, I think, a Whig view to say that scientific knowledge, at least, improves with time!), then to that extent at least they have to become more nuanced, shall we say, in order to survive.

    I think myself that part of the popularly presented current battle between science and religion in the economically developed world is the diminishing of the idea of the Deity as an interventionist in nature and the consequent refocusing of religion on providing a personal guide to living, based on traditions, teaching and examples. There has also been a social process at work, by which, starting I suppose at the Enlightenment, religion is pushed out of lawmaking and government.

    But we do see reactions against this secularising trend, notably in the muslim world.
     
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  7. Hapsburg Hellenistic polytheist Valued Senior Member

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    I wasn't sure if he was or not, but decided to "head it off at the pass" so to speak. It is a viewpoint that is often brought up when the subject of religion's development from prehistory to modern times comes up. Especially when one factors in the propensity of many "pop-sci" consumers, especially online, to espouse a rather...Frazerian view of religion.
     
  8. Edont Knoff Registered Senior Member

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    I believe that religions have evolved, but I see no big future for religions. Most of the time religions were the "answer-giver" for all the unexplained mysteries of the world. Spirits of the ancestors, nature spirits, gods and such were used to explain the otherwise unexplainable.

    Since 500 years or some more, science stepped into place to give answers, answered the questions that needed gods as explanations before. Science reduced the need for gods as explanation. Still there is much that science cannot explain, but the need for gods has dropped.

    I think god-based religions are on a decline. We don't need gods anymore to explain our world.

    But there are some other types of religions, like certain forms of buddhism. They focus on the "right way to live", or "the way to live right", focus on the humans, their interactions with other humans and the environment. I think there always will be a need for "the right way to live" and many people welcome guidelines "how to live right". Many religions gave godly rules on these questions, but the gods are not really needed there. God-less religions (or ethics, philosophies) can give those answers too.

    Briefly, I think god-based religions will see a decline, human-environment-morale based ethics and religions are growing.
     
  9. Yazata Valued Senior Member

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    If 'evolve' simply means 'change', it would seem to be inevitable.

    If 'evolution' is understood in the same way as biological evolution is, then I think that I agree with Hapsburg in thinking that it isn't a unidirectional ascent from 'lower' to 'higher'. We probably shouldn't read 18th and 19th century beliefs about 'progress' into it.

    So my answer would be that religion isn't going to any particular destination. It isn't ascending to some perfected state of truth, goodness and grace.

    It's always going to reflect the broader presumptions of the cultures in which it is found, while simultaneously challenging and criticizing those assumptions.
     
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  10. Thomas Cranmer Registered Member

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    As we learn more about God and improve our understanding or his Holy Word, then obviously our religious ideas and rituals have changed to accommodate the newer revelations.
     
  11. Jeeves Valued Senior Member

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    I have to wonder where the new information and revelation is coming from - through whose intrepretive mind - and under what circumstances any new revelation is generally accepted as valid by an established religious institution.
    Which, obviously, raises the question: Why was the Holy Word so incomplete and unclear in the first place? After all, the human brain has not changed appreciably in the last three or four thousand years. If the ancients were capable of inventing celestial navigation, the corbel arch and solar calendar, they would have been able to get : Do not onto others as you would not have them do onto you.

    Of course, religions are institutions: subject to the demands of political expediency, economic advantage, the popular mood of the age, international power relations.
    Human/blood sacrifice is the very least of the particulars that rank religious canon in terms of more or less advanced (which, in any case, is a matter of pov.)
    What are the neo-fundamentalist Muslims up to this morning?
    It changes all the time.
     
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  12. Michael 345 Bali in Nov closer Valued Senior Member

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    Religion started off as

    Garbage In Garbage Out

    and has

    I use the word evolved lightly

    into

    More Garbage In More Garbage Out

    Please Register or Log in to view the hidden image!

     
  13. iceaura Valued Senior Member

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    Cultural evolution is not necessarily Darwinian - other theoretically valid possibilities can come into play, such as Lamarckian evolution.
    Even Hegelian development can become a factor.
     
  14. Jeeves Valued Senior Member

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    How so? Please elaborate one or more of those examples as regards religion(s) and its/their evolution.
     
  15. kx000 Valued Senior Member

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    Pacifism deserves religious rights and tolerance. It sorts good from evil by living and letting let. Dis-believers are hopeless and go to naught to inner peace. The must ethical way to temptation. This is how we can evolve.
     
  16. timojin Valued Senior Member

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  17. timojin Valued Senior Member

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    Garbage is an improper word.
    Your statement would be more proper by saying : How much you invest into , so much you get out of it.
     
  18. spidergoat Venued Serial Membership Valued Senior Member

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    I see religion changing to adopt secular morals, like anti-slavery , which are absent from the Bible.
     
  19. timojin Valued Senior Member

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    Do you know what means jubilee year , you are supposedly to be a jew
     
  20. spidergoat Venued Serial Membership Valued Senior Member

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    So they supposedly freed the slaves every 49 years. Do you think that makes slavery right? Most people didn't even live that long!
     
  21. timojin Valued Senior Member

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    You know the Torah teaches you against slavery. By the way ,if you were a slave for 6 months when the jubilee date comes you have to set him free.
     
  22. spidergoat Venued Serial Membership Valued Senior Member

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    They don't say slavery is wrong.
     
  23. joepistole Deacon Blues Valued Senior Member

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    Except it doesn't.
     

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