Home > Critical Thinking, Current Affairs, Dystopia, Musings, Philosophy sans Sophistry, Reason, Secular Religions, Skepticism > What I Really Think About Human Beings as a Species: 6

What I Really Think About Human Beings as a Species: 6

In the previous post of this series, I made the point that all organized ideologies (religious and secular) are based on a rather peculiar and seemingly universal human need.

All religions and popular ideologies are about rationalizing and sanctifying the abuse, robbery, murder and coercion of those labelled as “others”.

But why do most humans require some pseudo-rational explanation and sanctification for doing what they always wanted to do. Compare and contrast this urge to other ones like the urges to eat and drink. Why do we not construct elaborate legends, explanations and rituals to explain and justify our urge to eat when we are hungry or drink when we are thirsty? Why do we not require “holy” men and “prophets” to justify the sexual desire evoked by a young and attractive woman?

So why humans require ideology to justify the abuse, robbery, murder and coercion of “others”?

An other way of asking this question is- Why not just abuse, rob, murder and enslave others because you felt like it? I should also point out one more odd facet of this behavior. Humans do not seem to require religious justification and sanctification for violent (but normal behaviors) such as hunting animals for food or killing dangerous animals. Nor do they require such justification and sanctification for killing other human beings during the course of highly localized conflicts where the issues they are fighting over are highly personal in nature.

Then there is the question of whether abuse, robbery, murder and coercion of “others” is always associated with religious-type beliefs. Well, let us answer this question by having a look at the religious-type beliefs of hunter-gatherers. You might have noticed that almost all the religious beliefs of hunter-gatherer are about personal connection with “other worlds”, “forces of nature” or some version of a “life force”. While different aspects of this set of beliefs have their own names such as Animism, Panentheism, Shamanism and Totemism- it clear that they are centered around individual and personal spiritual experience.

Now contrast this to traditional religions, aka the organized belief systems that came into being with the advent of agriculture and the first kingdoms. Let me frame that question another way- What are traditional religions about? Let us start by asking that question about old-timey Judaism. Is it really spirituality? Well, if you look at history- the answer is a big NO. Old-timey Judaism is basically a set of largely arbitrary rules, regulations and the accompanying legalisms that are meant to enrich a few at the cost of the majority of its believers. Christianity is and was no different. After an initial run of perhaps one hundred years where it did try to recreate the individual and personal spiritual experience of pre-agricultural religions, it quickly became old-timey Judaism-lite. This ossification and transformation was almost complete by the time it became the official religion of the Roman Empire. Islam has, from its inception, been largely about abuse, robbery, murder and coercion of those pesky “others”.

Nor is this tendency restricted to monotheistic religions. Hinduism, in all its forms, is nothing more than a systems of laws, regulations and customs about caste. Yes, you heard that right- Hinduism contains (and offers) nothing more than arbitrary rules, regulations and some fairy tales. While it makes tall claims to morality and spirituality, it practitioners display a level of materialism, greed and pettiness that is unmatched by any group except east-asians. Let us now turn our attention to the organized religious beliefs of east-asians. While I could write a lot about this subject, it is very easy to summarize their core beliefs. All major and most minor east-asian religious-type belief systems are about rituals, rules, regulations, mores, encouraging unquestioning obedience to “authority” and destroying the individuality and personal happiness of its members.

So why are the core beliefs and modus operandi of major religious (and secular) belief systems so similar? Why are they so devoted to the creation and enforcement of arbitrary rules, regulations, mores and rituals? Why are they so devoted to creating very elaborate fairy tales, explanations and justifications for their supposed “authority”? Why are they so interested in preventing anything approaching an individual and personal spiritual experience among their followers? Why are they so interested in encouraging conformity and unquestioning hierarchic obedience? Why are they so interested in destroying the individuality and personal happiness of their members? And why don’t these belief systems tackle real problems or make the lives of their followers materially better?

I have partially answered the last question in a fairly specific context in one of my earlier posts. The next post in this series will, among other things, discuss a more generalized version of that explanation.

What do you think? Comments?

  1. P Ray
    August 14, 2014 at 4:11 am

    That’s why I have a very strong distaste of “organized religion”, because that implies the idea “God doesn’t listen to you unless you have a union” … which itself, says some pretty interesting things about God.
    On the flip side of things, religion is used to comfort people ….
    but why, if they have done nothing wrong against others, do they need comfort?
    Unless the reality of their blameless lives is some kind of horrific daily torture of the bland?

    • joesantus
      August 14, 2014 at 5:50 am

      “but why, if they have done nothing wrong against others, do they need comfort?”

      Answers depend in part upon what you mean by and include in “comfort”.

      People’s daily existence inevitably involves some sorts of pain, including physical, mental, psychological, emotional, and social sorts. Many people experience pain that would leave them overwhelmed unless they employ various methods to cope with their pain. One method employs comforting. Religion provides many people this type of comfort, obviously.

      But not all pain is the direct consequence of wrongdoing — some pain is simply part of the fragility and mortality of human existence. So, comfort isn’t necessarily limited to, say, the comfort of feeling forgiven after having felt guilty for some wrong (real or imaginary) done to another.

      For instance, a distraught parent whose young child is terminally suffering from an incurable disease, or a grieving person whose beloved family member has died, or a person whose home and city has been completely obliterated by a tornado, receives comfort from the beliefs concerning “god’s sovereignty and perfect will” and “the eternal joys of the afterlife” typically taught by organized religions.

  2. Jack
    August 14, 2014 at 8:27 am

    Why do people stay in and join religions and systems (jobs they hate) that actually make their life worse? Why do regular people go along with these and continue to give their time (life) and money to support those systems? Recently I was surprised to think that most people do not really want freedom, so they appear to want safety, security, stability, being told what to believe and what to do, belonging to a group, to not make logical decisions but to make emotional decisions and religion is a highly (possibly an area in the brain like drugs) emotional experience. Religion is a comfort for the fear of death and the hope of living forever, so people will jump through the hoops and suffer as religion tells them that is what they have to endure in this life (even when in fact the religion intentionally adds to their suffering and makes their actual physical life worse) to have a chance if you’re good enough to get into eternal life (that can’t be in this universe if this universe will eventually end) and be happy then and there (not here and now while you are alive and can be happy doing things you enjoy). It is easy to make someone have a religious experience and religions are programmed to run this process in the mind. Once in a religion it is very difficult if not impossible for most people to get out. People don’t seem to ask questions and think for themselves to make their own decisions. If I was not raised in this religion from childhood would I have freely chosen to join this religion? Do I honestly really share the beliefs and values of this religion (if no, why am I still in this religion and giving my time and money to an organized religion that I do not really agree with)? Is what I am doing in this religion and what this religion tells me what to do and what not to do really how I want to live my life? Do I feel controlled by this religion (sit, be quiet, stand, kneel, sing, bow, pray this politician is elected, don’t do xyz)? Is this belief really true? Is there a loophole around this belief? Has religion made me more repressed, more judgmental, more neurotic, more controlling of others, more self-repressive, and more unhappy? Does being in this religion and hearing what they keep repeating every week like a broken record really feel right to me? Is this religion really in my best interest when I explain to other people in the religion how I desire to live my own life and they forcefully tell me I am wrong for wanting to live my own life that way? Why don’t the religious texts say helpful things such as, “Thou shall make toilets, sinks, heat, antibiotics, and medicines to extend thy life expectancy by 50 years, and this is how to make the internet for whenever you want to talk with me directly”?
    Even I went to a church for many years as the normalized thing to do until I gradually saw that the religion was not what it appeared to be. Until around 20 I didn’t completely know sexuality was a major issue in the religion. Then I began hearing no masturbation, don’t watch porn, and don’t look at or touch girls, and I thought I am in favor of those things and doing those things is fine with me and as a masculine man I will continue to masturbate, enjoy watching porn, and being sexually attracted to girls. Then I would hear sex is for marriage only, and no contraception. I would think that I do not agree with those, as I have no problem with non-married sex and I am in favor of using contraception and I will have non-married sex and I will use contraception. I discovered one of my core values is sexuality (sexual freedom). I researched and found that there was words in the religious texts that were not accurate and that set free my mind again as when I was a kid who could think freely. Then I thought I do not agree with these issues and beliefs of this religion and I cannot continue to associate with people I do not share core values with and who are against how I want to live my own life. When I kept hearing religion being against sexuality and against freedom I became more repelled by the religion and I stopped being a member of religion. I now am happier, less stressed, and feel more freedom to enjoy life for a while.

  3. blurkel
    August 14, 2014 at 3:55 pm

    Religion is but another mechanism the powerful use to keep their rabble in line for when war is desired. Nothing like an all-powerful religious myth to cover over the political myth that war is a good thing, and what human wants a wrathful deity angry at him?

    • P Ray
      August 14, 2014 at 7:27 pm

      Only people really good at their jobs have big enemies.
      But on the flip side:
      There are such things as “false flag operations” and “subcontracting the hits”.

      • blurkel
        August 15, 2014 at 3:33 am

        @ P Ray

        Religion? Good at their jobs? Please.

        What do false flag ops and subbing the hits have to do with my comment as you see it?

      • P Ray
        August 15, 2014 at 9:28 pm

        Religion? Good at their jobs? Please.

        What do false flag ops and subbing the hits have to do with my comment as you see it?

        You have to be able to really put salt into the obvious wounds, to anger true believers and shake the political elite
        You can be so successful doing it, that people on your own side are scared they have created a maverick
        The religious fanatics pay off someone to be a “disturbed maniac” that guns you down.

  4. Doctor Angelicus
    August 15, 2014 at 6:40 am

    I’m enjoying these posts, and as a believer the only flaw I can point out is some confusion between religion and religions.

    Religions are beliefs derived from the statements of some prophet, who has obtained insights from communing with God, or meditation, or actually being God in the case of Christianity. Even where the religion is a collection of laws and traditions, such as Judaism and Hinduism, you still have prophets and seers. There is usually some philosophy mixed in.

    Then there is religion, which is essentially a fertility cult. If you participate in communal worship, and live your life the way you are told to do so during the communal worship (by the other worshippers at least as much as the priest), you will be a good person and will be rewarded. Something like heaven may be offered as the reward, but being a good person turns out in practice to mean having a large family with lots of material possession and status in the community. This is a sort of ur-religion which is what most participants in religion actually believe.

    The ur-religion exists as the belief of most of the people who claim to believe in the actual religions, and sort of lurks within their structures, even though the proclaimed beliefs of the actual religion really have nothing to do or even explicitly contradict the beliefs of the old fertility cult. But then you have a few people who really are into the beliefs of the prophets and seers their religion is supposed to follow, they tend to get classified as heretics. The tension is especially acute with Christianity.

    Basically enough self-proclaimed religious people are hypocritical enough that you have to distinguish between what they claim to believe, and what they actually believe as shown by their rituals and actions.

    As to whether religions made things materially better, this is not something religion is “about”, but compared with the pre-Christian pagan Mediterranean world, the adoption of Christianity is associated with higher status for women and less use of violence for entertainment. Attitudes towards sex in the pagan world were very different, to the point where even post-Christian libertines would be shocked by alot of the fairly common practices in the old world. Slavery took a long time to die, but again there is a difference between the Christian attitude towards slavery (slightly guilty and lots of searching for rationalizations) and the pagan attitude (slavery is awesome and lets attack these people so we can make them slaves). And Islam can make similar claims, though slightly muted because Islam usually took over territory already occupied by one of the higher religions.

    • joesantus
      August 16, 2014 at 6:30 pm

      “The ur-religion exists as the belief of most of the people who claim to believe in the actual religions, and sort of lurks within their structures, even though the proclaimed beliefs of the actual religion really have nothing to do or even explicitly contradict the beliefs of the old fertility cult.”

      I might disagree with a couple minor details overall, Angelicus, but in that particular assessment, I agree. The ever-consequential “God and country” bastardized offspring of Christianity-couples-with-US nationalism (I’m a 58-year-old, US-born “blue collar” white male, by the way) has long been one (regrettable) example.

  1. August 17, 2014 at 5:57 pm

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