The role and development of religion throughout history is a subject that has fascinated me. I have studied it some, but not as much as I would like. I want to start a discussion on that topic in a forum such as this to benefit from the knowledge of so many people from different parts of the world. To get it going, I’ve used pieces of past discussions. Please contribute what you can to this important, engaging, enlightening, and certainly currently-relevant topic.
A few years ago, I did some independent research into comparative religions. Most religions follow a similar developmental path through time, although they are not all at the same place on that “path” at the same time. The route usually begins at animistic, continues through
polytheistic, and often ends up monotheistic. As a religion develops, at some typical point, a priest class is created. In short, most religions, as they develop, end up creating a priest class at some point. As BroonAle said, they can go by the name of priest, pastor, imam. Or minister or monk. In his old comparative religion text entitled “This Believing World,” Lewis Browne made an interesting observation. When many religions are studied over time, especially those whose whole life cycle can be observed, the “beginning of the end” for many religions can be linked to the point in time when the priest class was created. In other words, religions seem to begin their downward slide when priests are added, for the reason that they begin to corrupt any original value the religion had, by introducing a lot of self-serving unnecessary rules and politics.
While I do not have that answer (and likely no one knows exactly), I offer something that may help answer it. James Haught (“Holy Horrors”) has estimated that throughout recorded history, over 100 million people have been killed in some type of religiously-motivated conflict. I did some research on this number. While I couldn’t reach it exactly, it did seem plausable, all things considered. Additionally, this number does not take into account individual incidents of hate crimes, nor the countless acts of discrimination linked to religion every day in every country on the planet.
I wouldn’t go as far as saying that. But, I would say that your argument, based solely on the numbers of participants, is insufficient. At some point in history, a significant percentage of people was sure that the world was flat? While some learned men knew better, they did not constitute
the majority. Was there any link between that majority opinion and the actual fact? No.
Of course they don’t feel that their own beliefs are dogmatic or empty. Why chastise? I’d say criticize. Why? Because their activities are often divisive by nature and harmful. Sure, some good comes from organized religion, but much damage does also. It would seem prudent that all people should see it as their responsibility to reduce human suffering, regardless of the label on the source.
As to the death and destruction mentioned above, it is interesting to note by way of comparison that, in all American wars total from the Revolutionary War up through the Gulf War, just over one million Americans were killed ( infoplease.com/ipa/A0004615.html ). Surely, this is not an “apples to apples” comparison. However, it is still staggering to me to think that religious conflict has killed 100 times more people that all of the U.S. wars have within my own country.
[quote=“MikeN”]Commies, yes; Nazis, no.
- meaning that Nazis did not try to eliminate religion. Many Nazis were sincere believers in “positive Christianity” , including the belief that Jesus was an Aryan; others wanted to replace Christianity with their own
mystical mish-mash of pagan/race/fuehrer worship. Nazi ideology explicitly rejected atheism and naturalism .[/quote]
It may not be completely accurate to separate Nazi motivation from religious motivation in terms of culpability for deaths. I thought the quotation below was telling:
“And so I believe today that my conduct is in accordance with the will of the Almighty creator. In standing guard against the Jew I am defending the handiwork of the lord.” - Adolph Hitler
Which the the main reason that many will argue to defend it. It would not be in their perceived benefit to find any facts that might refute what they prefer to believe. I am not religious (although I was raised that way). However, I don’t like the fact that I’m not. Yeah, that’s what I said. I don’t like it. It would be much, much easier to be religious in this world. Unfortunately, if I am to honestly base my beliefs on discernable facts, to the best of my knowledge, they don’t justify being religious.
Not to discount personal choice, but two obvious reasons for that are 1) it was popular (which normally attracts the majority), and 2) throughout much of recorded history, it was socially or physically lethal to be an “unbeliever,” and so a simple interest in self-preservation would make
nearly anyone claim to be religious.
Maybe. It has been my personal experience that, among those with any significant exposure, those people who were the least dogmatic and even atheistic were the most enlightened and well-read.
[quote=“fred smith”]Anyway, I think that it is a bit desperate of those who claim to have such scorn for religions. Generally, talking to such people, you find that they do not have very well articulated moral concepts or precepts and that their personal lives tend to be a bit
unarticulated in terms of what they believe in and how they govern their lives as well.[/quote]
That may be. Try being raised religious within a religious society within a religious world. Then, over time, come to learn and experience things that compel you to become non-religious. Whether the religion was real or otherwise, this is the equivalent of having one’s entire foundation for life removed. This then leaves one in a position of either trying to swim against a formidable social current or clingling to a rock looking for way out of the river. Give that a try and see if you are less able to articulate the precepts that you’ll use to govern your life. Espousing beliefs is certainly easier when someone else writes them all and shows you which words to memorize and say.
Exactly … in the same way that those people who go to church regularly and claim moral superiority don’t have to be believed.
[quote=“Rubicon Bojador”]Half the population posess below average intelligence. Religion is necessary to coerce the lower classes into obeying some form of moral and ethical system. Without it, they fall into the empty chaos of nihilism. Look at the “ethics” of the general population in the former Soviet republics, with their insane rates of
alcoholism (which is serious enough to actually statistically lower the life expectancy on the international charts!), abandoned children, half the men in the Mafia and half the women whoring themselves on
russianbrideslookingforamerinskipassport.com . Religion may
seem silly to those of us with a bit of higher intelligence, but for the great unwashed masses, it’s all they can understand. Hell, I can barely understand the slightest parsec of quantum physics, do you think some
barely educated grunt with an IQ of 80 is going to wrap his mind around the Big Bang and evolution? Marx was famously misinterpreted when he said that religion was the opium of the people; he didn’t mean that in a negative sense - he meant that religion was a balm and comfort in a cold,
cruel, bizarre, and seemingly illogical world. It offers easy answers for people who can’t understand much more. Which, as much as some here would like to be in denial about, encompasses more, much more, of the population than the intelligentsia.[/quote]
Well said even if unpopular. In addition, religion fills one of the deepest needs of human beings – to belong. As a species, we seem compelled to affiliate. Ford or Chevy, Manchester United or the Bolton Wanderers, Windows or Mac, Christian or Muslim. We also desperately want the world to make sense and seek some explanation that helps, even if the explanation isn’t very good. It is precisely those understandable, but salmon-like urges which largely explain the drive to join religions even among those with IQs much higher than 80.