The History of Religion-- What about the Present of Religion?

Discussion in 'Religion Archives' started by rodereve, Jan 20, 2013.

  1. lightgigantic Banned Banned


    Big difference between life and the chemicals life utilizes.

    Essentially Balerion has nothing new to add since urea was synthesized several hundred years ago.

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  3. Yazata Valued Senior Member

    I think that the biggest part of the reason is modernity. Since the scientific revolution, the enlightenment, and the industrial revolution, Western and more recently most of the rest of the world's thinking has become a lot more physicalistic and rationalistic than it was in earlier centuries. Medieval people thought that they saw magic and other-worldly influences all around them. They imagined themselves surrounded by signs and wonders. If somebody heard about extraordinary things happening, it fit right in with their picture of how the universe operated and they were inclined to believe it. In our modern terms, people were a lot more credulous in ancient and medieval times, because they conceived of their world very differently than people typically do today. They didn't share the modern world's reflexive skepticism.

    Another and not unrelated part of the explanation is theological. The Protestant reformation wanted to emphasize the absolute distinction between creator and created, in order to emphasize God's utter holiness and transcendence. The only bridge, the only link that was recognized were Jesus Christ himself and the revealed Bible. The Catholics' sacraments and saints were dismissed in almost atheistic fashion, along with the rest of the medieval supernatural immanence. The physical world around us was no longer imagined as a Neoplatonic image of higher realities. This world was entirely distinct from God, operating according to an invariable set of laws set down by God's will at creation. So a whole new image of physical reality started to elaborate - the universe as a clock-work. And a new sort of physico-theological thinker set about to uncover and make explicit God's physical laws governing the mechanism.
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  5. rodereve Registered Member

    Very nice discussion. Although Balerion was a bit hostile, I don't blame him, he was championing one side while everyone else was championing the other, sorry for leaving this discussion imbalanced

    Please Register or Log in to view the hidden image!

    The reoccurring theme I see brought up is this: Look to the past, and extrapolate to explain the present.

    When you say: show us how organic matter comes from inorganic matter, this is simply not possible to show in real-time. It would require millions of years to occur through environmental conditions that existed in Earth's earlier form, something that we do not posses in present but we did possess before. This argument is known more popularly and humorously as the peanut butter argument. Watch the video for laughs to ensue. Justly so, we don't see humans popping out of the ground spontaneously, evolution has been and always will be a slow process.

    While we do not know what happened in the past first-hand, it is easy to pass off someone by saying: "Show me. You can't? Well too bad". Luckily for us, documentation passed through generations solves that. While theists believe their holy texts ARE the documentation that proves their beliefs, I would argue that the wholesome cross-examination of several holy texts as documentation disproves the credibility of their beliefs. As for Balerion's cultural evolution argument, this does have a documentation of progression. Many religions have shared ideas and stories while building on past religions. Here is a progression of how the bible story came to be, building upon past religions and cultures.

    It was something I came across while I was x-ian but discredited at first glance without watching the entire thing. I was intentionally avoiding knowing both sides of the argument because I thought I was already right; this is otherwise known as being ignorant. Once you know both sides of an argument, then you can finally make an educated decision for yourself. Being raised in a christian home definitely weighs heavy on your mindset, and will only be balanced out by learning more about other points of view later on in life.
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  7. wynn ˙ Valued Senior Member

    deleted because duplicate
    Last edited: Feb 3, 2013
  8. wynn ˙ Valued Senior Member

    mod queue

    I really don't know how you come to such conclusions.

    Given that so much of what we nowadays consider to be "rational" and "scientifically proven" is based on faith, how can you conclude the above?

    We nowadays have faith in different objects and different institutions than people from hundreds of years ago had faith in, but we nevertheless have faith.
  9. wellwisher Banned Banned

    What about marketing and political rhetoric? If a politician paints a utopian vision, which never seems to come to realization, or the marketeer tells you if you own product X the babes will come running, like magic, how is this rational and why isn't the rationalist discussing it? These fantasies have replaced induction of the same areas of the brain which the religious use for religion. This is not called religion, based on cause and effect of the brain. It is not called religion based on a no god personifications, but with the utopian places, ignored.

    If say, I can see the day where we are all equal. This is not rational since people are different This religious fantasy can make people feel good based on a paradise which transcend the cause and effect of common sense. It needs force of law to approximate this fantasy; another mop and bunch of zoo keepers, to create the illusion of a natural cause and effect.

    A rational person does not just take the words of others, even in their own pack, rather they run their own experiments. To call religion irrational, a scientists first need to learn religion, so you are not just reciting something they never inferred. As an analogy, someone who never took biology can use the buzz words and talking points of biology and sound rational. This is not the same as taking a few years of biology and then commenting. Atheism works better if you don't learn religion, for your own experiments, but simply recite the party line, without verifying this data with your own experiments. There is faith in the utopian place and no need to challenge this by learning the other data to make sure this is on the up or is over simplified.
  10. Yazata Valued Senior Member

    Rodereve originally posed what I thought was a fascinating question: Why do the world's religious traditions almost universally suggest that supernatural contacts, events and visitations were more common in the distant past than today? Christian theologians have asked why God has seemingly gone silent. Even the non-theistic Theravadan Buddhists often seem to think that becoming an arahant was once relatively common, but is almost impossible to achieve in our degenerate age. So... where has all the magic gone and why did it go away?

    My opinion is that it's due to changes that have occurred in the world's cultures, broad intellectual changes associated with the rise of modernity. People are just a lot less willing to believe in the reality of full-frontal miracles these days. People conceptualize natural laws as universal and invariant, and they will no longer happily accept that the natural order is subject to frequent supernaturally-motivated violations. And when people like Moses or Mohammed occasionally come down from the mountain and announce that they have received messages from God, our culture's response is going to be dismissive skepticism and perhaps the psychiatric administration of anti-psychotic medications.

    It happens that I've recently been reading Saint Bede's 'The History of the English Church and People'. Bede was one of the early (673 - 735 CE) Anglo-Saxon Christians, writing at a time when the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms were newly Christianized and the common people were only slowly converting from paganism. The fascinating thing about the book is that there's hardly any reference to the Bible in it. Instead, it's all about the hagiography of the various early Christian saints who first evangelized the English and of the first kings who announced their own and all their people's (!) conversion to Christianity. These stories are a succession of one miracle after another performed as the saints made their progress through the countryside.

    Many of the titles of the book's short chapters are descriptions of miraculous events: 'Of the signs which were shown from heaven when a mother of that congregation departed from life.' 'A blind woman, praying in that monastery, was restored to her sight', 'How a certain captive's chains fell off when masses were sung for him', 'The same St. Cuthbert, being an anchorite, by his prayers obtained a spring in a dry soil and had a crop from seed sown by himself out of season', 'St. Cuthbert's body was found altogether uncorrupted after it had been buried eleven years', 'Of one who was cured of a palsy at the tomb of St. Cuthbert', 'Of one who was cured of a distemper in his eye at the relics of St. Cuthbert', ' How Ethelwald, successor to Cuthbert, leading an eremetical life, calmed a tempest when the brethren were in danger at sea', 'How Bishop John cured a dumb man by blessing him', 'The same Bishop John, by his prayers, healed a sick maiden', 'The same Bishop healed an Earl's wife that was sick, with holy water', 'The same Bishop recovered one of the Earl's servants from death', 'How miraculous cures have been frequently done in the place where King Oswald was killed, and how first, a traveller's horse was restored, and afterwards a young girl cured of the palsy', 'The power of the earth in that place, against fire', 'Of the heavenly light that appeared all the night over the bones of King Oswald, and how persons possessed of devils were delivered by his bones', 'How Bishop Aidan foretold to certain seamen a storm that would happen, and gave them some holy oil to lay it', 'How the same Aidan, by his prayers, saved the royal city when fired by the enemy'... and on and on and on. That's just a small sampling.

    Keep in mind that it's a Christian Saint who composed those chapter titles, one of the most learned men of his time and place. It's clear that these first English Christians were perceived by both themselves and by the people around them as something akin to wizards, as powerful workers of magic, and that's likely why the average person in England originally chose to identify him or herself as a 'Christian'. It's much closer to Merlin than it is to anything that most contemporary Christians would recognize.

    My point in quoting chapter titles from Bede is to illustrate how these early medieval people lived in exactly the same world that we live in, but they conceptualized it very differently. They expected entirely different kinds of events from it and they were prepared to believe radically different kinds of things about it.

    The underlying question of this thread seems to be how we got from where Bede was to where we find ourselves today. That's one of the most fascinating questions in the history of ideas.
  11. Aqueous Id flat Earth skeptic Valued Senior Member

    (meaning the origins of life)
    The texts commonly used in the life sciences offer quite a few clues on this subject, usually as introductory material in the introductory courses.

    (as to whether religion has cultural origins)
    But you have access to the museums and literature that explains the origins of religion.

    (in reference to the existence of supernatural agents)
    Obviously a right mind is one that doesn't embrace ancient superstition while professing that the universe is governed by natural law. To the right mind, the standard of proof is "best evidence". A right mind would attribute the religious explanations for life and consciousness to the cultural baggage of primitive cultures who relied on myth, legend, superstition and fable to explain phenomena for which they had no science. A right mind wouldn't concern itself with the rigor of proving the null hypothesis for the remnants of that kind of logic, since it's long since been relegated to a matter of common sense.
    Cut and dried would be a fitting way to characterize this in a "right mind".
  12. leopold Valued Senior Member

    actually they are guesses.
    NONE of these "clues" have been shown to be the answer.
    don't know about the museums but i do have access to the bible and koran.
    actually it was in reference to the unknown
    "god" or "the supernatural" was the specific point.
    i don't know if god exists, nobody does.
    to state that something doesn't exist when its unknown is what, bias? obsessed? agenda seeker?
    yes, DEFINITELY the right mind indeed.
  13. Aqueous Id flat Earth skeptic Valued Senior Member

    They have either been shown to be "the answer", or else "best evidence". That's as good as it gets.

    You are obviously online, so you have access to museums with their historical artifacts, to historical literature, and to countless exegetical works on the Bible and Koran.

    Everyone with a right mind, armed with a few basic principles of history and science, knows that God has no basis in fact, only in ancient superstition. That's as close to knowing something doesn't exist as it normally gets.

    The question is well known, as are God's roots in superstition.
    The central proof that God does not actually exist is the one which demonstrates that God is merely an invention of ancient superstitious cultures.

    A right mind would rely on best evidence, to the extent available, and would insist that valid proofs apply to propositions which have a basis in fact. Belief in God is not a theory; it has no basis in fact. If there's anything that might be worthy of proof, according to a right mind, it's that God is a superstitious concept invented by ancient civilizations who had no science to explain natural phenomena and origins. A right mind would turn to the historical evidence and refer the Bible and Koran to the historians, archaeologists, curators and professors of exegesis, deferring to best evidence.
  14. leopold Valued Senior Member

    a right mind relies on truth.
    there is a difference.
    statistically you can get damn good evidence of impossible things.

    and on top of all that, what is "the right mind?"
    one with no sanctity?

    listen, science is neutral on the concept of "god".
    no scientist is ever going to categorically state something does or doesn't exist with out proof, not evidence, but PROOF.
    it's that simple.
    you can churn them words for years if you want.
  15. wynn ˙ Valued Senior Member

    For one, there is the issue of selective preservation of information and selective observation of existing information.
    More below.

    Or maybe they've just begun to consider that they may be working with inferior definitions of "God."

    In the early 1900's, the official party line in Bangkok was that nirvana was out of reach and that nobody could become enlightened anymore. And then small groups of monks from poor peasant background dared to prove them otherwise, what became the Forest tradition.
    But those poor monks never made it into the official Thai Buddhist elite, so their voices were barely audible, outdone by the official Bangkok Buddhist elite. Does that mean that the official elite is right, or representative?

    When I listen to, say, Richard Dawkins, it really doesn't seem like "the magic has gone away." Modern scientists, politicians, doctors, artists speak with as much fervor, enthusiasm, ecstasy, faith, and, well, hot air, as people from hundreds of years ago.
    The specific vocabulary may be different, in that nowadays, words like "miracle" or "saintly" are not considered pc.

    I seriously doubt that. I think people believe in miracles all the same as they've always had.
    Words like "rational," "science," "experiment" sound really powerful. But merely using them in one's speech doesn't make that which one is talking about, rational, scientific and the like.

    Conceptualizing natural laws as universal and invariant doesn't automatically translate into knowing what they are and how they work out in ways that we can apprehend.

    People can fall prey to truisms and logical conclusions here, thinking that theoretical physics equals applied physics; or that theoretical biology equals applied biology.

    We might not use terms like "supernaturally-motivated violation," but that doesn't save us from assuming ourselves to have divine abilities in predicting and controlling natural phenomena.

    I'm not sure what the source of this skepticism about self-declared religious authorities is; but I think that the fact that there are so many of them and that they sometimes contradict eachother, is what makes people skeptical.

    And there are people who think modern psychiatrists, scientists, artists, politicians etc. are wizards.

    It does take wizardry, to, for example, get millions of people to believe that infinite economic growth is a realistic and achievable goal.

    That variation exists today just the same.

    Different people still conceptualize the world differently, and expect different things.

    Which views will be preserved in the course of history as representative of an age, only time can tell.

    Perhaps Bede's view was not representative of his age to begin with; maybe it has been preserved because it was a written record, while other things, which may have been more representative, or more common, were not written.

    Moreover, there is the basic question of what exactly can count as representative of an age. The views and practices of the elite? Of the statistical majority of the population? What exactly?

    As a further point of skepticism about old texts, as an example, there is that controversy about the Minnesang. For centuries, into the 1950's, it was believed that the poetry of courtly love adequately depicted the way people back then went about man-woman relationships. Over the centuries, a whole cultural meme about romantic love developed in relation to that, seeing the Minnesang as ideal. And yet later research shook these old convictions about the nature of romantic love in medieval times, suggesting that the Minnesang was an idealistic literary form that had little basis in how romantic relationships were actually conducted back then.

    And just like the Minnesang is probably mostly overblown, idealistic, literary pomp, I think many old writings may be so too, and should not simply be taken at what we think is face value.

    Interestingly, in the time of the Minnesang, people seemed to have understood that it was just literary convention, and didn't take it that literally or seriously.

    My hunch is that many other things were also understood as literary and cultural conventions; and that people may have been better able to distinguish between literary/cultural convention and reality than they are nowadays. Or at least that nowadays, people have an understanding that much contemporary art, politics and other areas of (presumed) knowledge are to be taken with reservation, but we seem to generally be unwilling or unable to take old media products with the same reservation.

    Take any modern blockbuster movie, romantic or action genre, and it's full of idealistic, romantic nonsense - and modern audiences know this, and generally watch these films with adequate reservations, at least implicitly understanding artistic conventions of fictionality.
    And if these blockbuster movies is what gets to be preserved for posterity, what will people in the future think of us? That we believed in supernatural powers.

    Then there are specific problems of historiography. How is it that, say, books about WWII that were written 50 years ago, often seem so wrong and biased in comparison to those written nowadays about WWII?

    Then there are further specific problems of genre and of assigning genre to a text, and how to read a text in relation to its genre.

    I don't think we've really gotten anywhere, and that the differences are merely superficial.
    Dependent co-arising was no different hundreds of years ago than it is now.
  16. rodereve Registered Member

    Why would it be more statistically probable to get evidence of impossible things? That seems more improbable just by the nature of it. Examples?

    And why would science be neutral on concept of god. Just look at the "scientific model" that underlies science. There are good models that fits with the empirical data, but can also explain past and future observations. There are bad models that may explain the past, but fails to explain any future observations. Not all theories or models are held at the same standard. There is definitely a stance of science on religion, just look at the world around you - theists saying science prove religions and atheists saying science discounts it. There is no neutral ground
  17. spidergoat Venued Serial Membership Valued Senior Member

    They might not be absolute about it, but we can say that something is likely to be false based on the preponderance of evidence. Science is not neutral on the God question, there have even been scientific studies on things like prayer.
  18. Aqueous Id flat Earth skeptic Valued Senior Member

    Semantics. Whatever is true, once it becomes evident, incorporates into best evidence.
    I'm not sure what you're talking about, of what this has to do with the scientific method's basis in best evidence. There simply is no better method for applying the rational mind to ascertaining truth.

    You would have define what you mean by sanctity. It's a term from the early Roman Catholic era, when their world was still almost entirely steeped superstition, myth, legend and fable to explain phenomena for which they had no science.

    Right thinking is what replaced that "sanctity", as the scientific method gradually reclaimed its prominence as the best way to acquire best evidence.

    Not quite. The history that teaches us about the invention of gods, and especially the archaeology and anthropology that provides us best evidence of ancient superstition, myth, legend and fable, is not at all neutral, but leaning very heavily toward the truth of the matter.

    No scientists in their right minds would submit to that definition, particularly in this context, without establishing that all proof is to be established in best evidence, and that the scope of all inquiries are limited to natural phenomena. Given this more truthful definition of the scientific method, we can categorically say that the inexistence of gods has already been scientifically proven, from the abundance of evidence about human nature. Best evidence has long revealed that gods were invented to explain phenomena for which ancient people has no science. Long before Christianity even appeared as the umpteenth incarnation of superstition, myth, legend and fable - replete with its borrowed syncretic fusion of ancient myths (from Phoenicia, Egypt, Persia, Babylon, Sumeria, Akkadia and Greece) - The Greek philosopher Critias had already revealed the nature of scientific inquiry into the existence of gods, and of the best evidence for its roots in false human nature:

    There was a time when the life of men was unordered, bestial and the slave of force, when there was no reward for the virtuous and no punishment for the wicked. Then, I think, men devised retributory laws, in order that Justice might be dictator and have arrogance as its slave, and if anyone sinned, he was punished. Then, when the laws forbade them to commit open crimes of violence, and they began to do them in secret, a wise and clever man invented fear (of the gods) for mortals, that there might be some means of frightening the wicked, even if they do anything or say or think it in secret. Hence, he introduced the Divine, saying that there is a God flourishing with immortal life, hearing and seeing with his mind, and thinking of everything and caring about these things, and having divine nature, who will hear everything said among mortals, and will be able to see all that is done. And even if you plan anything evil in secret, you will not escape the gods in this; for they have surpassing intelligence. In saying these words, he introduced the pleasantest of teachings, covering up the truth with a false theory; and he said that the gods dwelt there where he could most frighten men by saying it, whence he knew that fears exist for mortals and rewards for the hard life: in the upper periphery, where they saw lightnings and heard the dread rumblings of thunder, and the starry-faced body of heaven, the beautiful embroidery of Time the skilled craftsman, whence come forth the bright mass of the sun, and the wet shower upon the earth. With such fears did he surround mankind, through which he well established the deity with his argument, and in a fitting place, and quenched lawlessness among me ... Thus, I think, for the first time did someone persuade mortals to believe in a race of deities.

    2500 years after the Golden Age of Greece the churning has long since resolved into the simple pursuit of best evidence.

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