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Future of religion
04-12-2009, 02:29 PM (This post was last modified: 04-12-2009 03:26 PM by Anglican.)
Post: #1
Future of religion
A couple of verses from the atheist song book:

1.) Religion is something which has been bred into us because at some point in the past it gave us an evolutionary advantage.

2.) Religion is superstitious nonsense which belongs to our primitive past. With the advance of science, and increasing education, it will surely die out in the next fifty years or so.

Hasn't it occurred to any of the new atheists that it is impossible to logically hold both of those opinions at the same time? If the religious impulse has been bred into us by evolution, that fact isn't going to change in the next fifty years, any more than the fact that human beings have four limbs is going to change in the next fifty years. It would be unlikely to change in the next 50,000 years.

For somebody to entertain any idea that an atheist's version of rationality could overcome the pre-programming of evolution, they would need to grossly underestimate the power of instinct, but I suppose that would be typical of the hubris which is abroad nowadays.

For anybody who has eyes to see, the way they worship science suggests that the religious instinct is alive and well even amongst atheists.
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04-13-2009, 09:04 AM (This post was last modified: 04-13-2009 09:07 AM by clarence clutterbuck.)
Post: #2
RE: Future of religion
There was a recent article, (probably on your favourite atheist website) theorising that religion originated when our early hominid ancestors developing a theory of mind ~ the ability to empathise and percieve purpose in outside entities. It sounded plausible to me. Increased awareness of the minds of others and the ability to impute motive in the behaviour of the natural world probably led to the development of belief systems and associated rituals. Perhaps early manifestations of this behaviour included something like tribes of hunters seeking to influence the success of the hunt by rehearsal and imaginative visualisation of both the prey and the natural environment on which a successful hunt depended. When these early tribes took to competing with each other, religious beliefs may have improved group cohesion and fighting success by helping large groups of unrelated individuals to focus on common goals.

That's how I see religion kicking off - then writing got invented and the sky was the limit. The ability to solidify ideas into written language transformed the religious landscape, not least because when something has been written down, it takes on an enhanced authority factor as more time elapses - kind of a Wisdom of the Ancients effect. In a coupla thousand years, maybe even L Ron Hubbards scribblings will benefit from this effect.

The question of religion dying out - I can't see this happening in a hurry, because of the way religion is transmitted by parents and society. In some countries, the state religion is compulsory and the penalty for apostasy or failing to follow religious laws can be severe. If people had genuine freewill and were left alone by parents, brought up in a religion neutral environment and allowed to make up their own minds what to believe, maybe then there would be a dramatic reduction in religious belief.
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04-13-2009, 12:01 PM
Post: #3
RE: Future of religion
There's another strawman argument from you. I, for one, do not believe religion gives us an evolutionary advantage.

Well, having a cause for people to be zealots about gives a political, social, and often military advantage, which I suppose could be seen as evolutionary, but that cause does not need to be religious. Nationalism, outrage at injustice, fear of attack, these serve just as well.

Although even on a fundamental level your logic fails. Fins gave an evolutionary advantage back in our aquatic past, but once animals moved on land they abandoned such things for advantages that suited their new, more advanced existence. By its very nature, evolution is all about giving up the things that gave us advantages in the past but do not any longer, and replacing them with things that give us advantages now.

BUT, that whole thing doesn't work when talking about human mentality, because social evolution is not the same thing as biological evolution. Religion was never an advantage, save for a few warlords who used it to lead cults of people. Religion was simply the explanations that a scientifically benighted people used to explain the things they could not understand. The earliest Gods were physical forces, the sun, the water, the lightning. As time went on gods shifted, no longer being actual physical forces but being more ethereal, anthropomorphic ideals that CAUSED those physical forces. And now that we know even more about cause and effect, we are beginning to abandon religion altogether.

But I don't think it will happen in fifty years. That is extremely optimistic. Because despite its falsity, despite its wrongness, and despite its incredible potential for abuse, religion is EASY. It is always easier to follow a code of conduct laid down by some almighty being than to accept the reality that there are moral gray areas and that things aren't always simple. It is always easier to believe in an artificial "purpose" given to you by some teaching rather than finding your own purpose for yourself. Atheism is not an easy thing to accept. It's just the truth. Truth is hard.

So honestly, I think religions will be around for a long time. Christianity is on its way out, it's become old and decadent and other faiths are nibbling at the edges like the barbarians at Rome, but religion itself will stay. Because there will always be a population that will take easy over true.
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04-13-2009, 04:09 PM (This post was last modified: 04-13-2009 04:42 PM by Anglican.)
Post: #4
RE: Future of religion
(04-13-2009 12:01 PM)GTseng3 Wrote:  There's another strawman argument from you. I, for one, do not believe religion gives us an evolutionary advantage.

Was I talking to you? Goodness me no. I was addressing people who can make comments like:

"To an evolutionary psychologist, the universal extravagance of religious rituals, with their costs in time, resources, pain and privation, should suggest as vividly as a mandrill's bottom that religion may be adaptive."


Quote:Well, having a cause for people to be zealots about gives a political, social, and often military advantage, which I suppose could be seen as evolutionary, but that cause does not need to be religious. Nationalism, outrage at injustice, fear of attack, these serve just as well.

Like the person just quoted, I was referring to biological evolution.


Quote:Although even on a fundamental level your logic fails. Fins gave an evolutionary advantage back in our aquatic past, but once animals moved on land they abandoned such things for advantages that suited their new, more advanced existence. By its very nature, evolution is all about giving up the things that gave us advantages in the past but do not any longer, and replacing them with things that give us advantages now.

In case you hadn't noticed:

a.) Religion is with us right now.
b.) It takes at least 10,000 years for evolution to work even a small change to the human species (not fifty).


Quote:BUT, that whole thing doesn't work when talking about human mentality, because social evolution is not the same thing as biological evolution.

Your psychology is even more naive than your philosophy. Human beings do not emerge from the womb, as some extreme existentialist might suppose, empty vessels just waiting for the world to pour something into them. They come into the world with a huge amount of "system software" already on board, and in the view of the person I have just quoted (and he is not alone) the religious impulse is part of that "system software".

If somebody is not explicitly religious, nothing is surer than that they will obey that instinct to self-transcendance, and cast around for something else to pin their colours to. Today it is the bright new future which science is going to usher in; forty years ago it might have been the bright new future which socialism was going to usher in.


Quote:Religion was never an advantage, save for a few warlords who used it to lead cults of people. Religion was simply the explanations that a scientifically benighted people used to explain the things they could not understand. The earliest Gods were physical forces, the sun, the water, the lightning. As time went on gods shifted, no longer being actual physical forces but being more ethereal, anthropomorphic ideals that CAUSED those physical forces. And now that we know even more about cause and effect, we are beginning to abandon religion altogether.

Crap. If religion consisted of dubious explanations for "scientifically benighted people," you are going to have a very difficult, in fact impossible, task explaining why eminent scientists, even today, can be very religious people. Even by your standards, coming up with explanations that facile can be no easy task.



(04-13-2009 09:04 AM)clarence clutterbuck Wrote:  ..... When these early tribes took to competing with each other, religious beliefs may have improved group cohesion and fighting success by helping large groups of unrelated individuals to focus on common goals.

To me that sounds suspiciously like an account of why religious belief might have given an evolutionary advantage.


Quote:The question of religion dying out - I can't see this happening in a hurry, because of the way religion is transmitted by parents and society. In some countries, the state religion is compulsory and the penalty for apostasy or failing to follow religious laws can be severe. If people had genuine freewill and were left alone by parents, brought up in a religion neutral environment and allowed to make up their own minds what to believe, maybe then there would be a dramatic reduction in religious belief.

Well that account has got people like me to contend with. My parents certainly aren't religious. Like most people in Britain, they could probably best be described as easy going agnostics, who couldn't much care less, one way or the other.
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04-14-2009, 02:26 AM
Post: #5
RE: Future of religion
It doesn't matter who you were speaking to, it's still a strawman argument.

Seriously - religion as an evolutionary compulsion? That's ridiculous. If true, some other species would have religion, and yet that is entirely a human development. There would also be some standardization among religions, but you have everything from fundamentalists who live by their literal faiths to liberals who barely care in thousands of different sects. Plus the atheists who just don't buy it.

I've come to realize that I respond to your posts as a service to others, because I'm a bit worried that your constant misquoting, your strawman arguments, and your general dirty tactics might mislead someone. But I'm not the forum's police force, and I need to have more respect for the intelligence of others. Our conversations are no longer enlightening, because you've said everything you're ever going to say, and I've said the same things back to you since those are all I need to say to respond. So, I'm just pretty much done.

I'm sure this sentence here is the only thing keeping you from coming back and saying, "Aha! Clearly you don't have a response to my dizzying arguments." But the truth is, I've already responded to your logic about a hundred times. If you actually believe what you say, then you are a naive fool who stumbles through life without ever considering the reasons or consequences of anything. I find it far more likely that you're an attention-seeker who wants people to argue with him.

To quote someone, "I'm not your monkey".
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04-14-2009, 03:32 AM (This post was last modified: 04-14-2009 04:03 AM by Anglican.)
Post: #6
RE: Future of religion
(04-14-2009 02:26 AM)GTseng3 Wrote:  It doesn't matter who you were speaking to, it's still a strawman argument.

It's a strawman argument because nobody argues that way. Somebody argues that way, but it is still a strawman argument. Wonderful.


Quote:Seriously - religion as an evolutionary compulsion? That's ridiculous. If true, some other species would have religion, and yet that is entirely a human development. There would also be some standardization among religions, but you have everything from fundamentalists who live by their literal faiths to liberals who barely care in thousands of different sects. Plus the atheists who just don't buy it.

Not everybody has the same sexual proclivities, so according to that argument sex can't be instinctual. Instincts are the driving forces behind behaviour, not a set of tightly typed out manuals about how to behave.


Quote:I've come to realize that I respond to your posts as a service to others, because I'm a bit worried that your constant misquoting, your strawman arguments, and your general dirty tactics might mislead someone. But I'm not the forum's police force, and I need to have more respect for the intelligence of others. Our conversations are no longer enlightening, because you've said everything you're ever going to say, and I've said the same things back to you since those are all I need to say to respond. So, I'm just pretty much done.

I'm sure this sentence here is the only thing keeping you from coming back and saying, "Aha! Clearly you don't have a response to my dizzying arguments." But the truth is, I've already responded to your logic about a hundred times. If you actually believe what you say, then you are a naive fool who stumbles through life without ever considering the reasons or consequences of anything. I find it far more likely that you're an attention-seeker who wants people to argue with him.

You can put it any way you want, but that just sounds like so much bombast.
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04-14-2009, 08:00 AM (This post was last modified: 04-14-2009 08:01 AM by George.)
Post: #7
RE: Future of religion
Quote:Instincts are the driving forces behind behaviour, not a set of tightly typed out manuals about how to behave.

Very good. But some of your language will cause counter argument.
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06-16-2009, 04:16 AM (This post was last modified: 06-16-2009 04:24 AM by IMtM.)
Post: #8
RE: Future of religion
(04-12-2009 02:29 PM)Anglican Wrote:  A couple of verses from the atheist song book:

1.) Religion is something which has been bred into us because at some point in the past it gave us an evolutionary advantage.
And yet, most of the "conquerors" of old were religion nuts. See Alexander the Great; died at the age of 32 and yet conquered most of the Ancient World by then. See also the story of Osiris, and either further back Isis. At first man thought that Earth was the provider of bounty, then the Sun became the focus, and now life should be viewed as anthropocentric.

Quote:2.) Religion is superstitious nonsense which belongs to our primitive past. With the advance of science, and increasing education, it will surely die out in the next fifty years or so.
Religion? Maybe, probably. Spirituality (which is directly proportionate to one's act of dissolving the SELF in the ALL), not as much. Spirituality is contingent on experience, not conjecture.

Quote:Hasn't it occurred to any of the new atheists that it is impossible to logically hold both of those opinions at the same time? If the religious impulse has been bred into us by evolution, that fact isn't going to change in the next fifty years, any more than the fact that human beings have four limbs is going to change in the next fifty years. It would be unlikely to change in the next 50,000 years.
Yep.

Quote:For somebody to entertain any idea that an atheist's version of rationality could overcome the pre-programming of evolution, they would need to grossly underestimate the power of instinct, but I suppose that would be typical of the hubris which is abroad nowadays.
LOL, yep. The "atheist" merely supplants the name of "God" with "not-God." They worship "science" and "Fact"(one of the few one-word oxymorons) in place of "God".

Quote:For anybody who has eyes to see, the way they worship science suggests that the religious instinct is alive and well even amongst atheists.
OMG, I wrote above before I read this. You say what I have just said. 'Nuff said.
(04-14-2009 03:32 AM)Anglican Wrote:  Not everybody has the same sexual proclivities, so according to that argument sex can't be instinctual. Instincts are the driving forces behind behaviour, not a set of tightly typed out manuals about how to behave.

The sexual drive is instinctual. Perpetuation of the species. But we, as humans, are given a "higher drive"; i.e., a Purpose.

..
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06-22-2009, 04:02 AM
Post: #9
RE: Future of religion
This is quite a curious debate, to some extent it seems to be coming down to the principles demostrated by Nietzche and Tolstoy, the irrelevance of religion vs our need for religion to mantain our self. Nietzche claimed god is dead, that he was no longer relevant, humans had moved on and no longer needed religious doctrine to guide them, having found other forms of reasoning. Tolstoy on the other hand proposed that religion may not be a perfect way of creating moral guidelines, rather it allows us to relate our self to the world around us. Giving us a sense of purpose and fulfillment. Whether this justifies religions existance by the comfort it gives people vs the sacrifice to their freedoms and the danger a controlling religion supposes is arguable.

The other idea somewhat relevant to this is the idea of memetic theory or the evolution of ideas. Using this you can propose religion as an idea which was successful on a social level, thus better allowing the societies holding a particularly good religion to thrive and survive as opposed to those who lacked this. Thus various religion survived and changed in line with the nature of the society and the causes of the time, however, this brings us to the question of whether (for the sake of it) from an atheistic perspective, religion still performs this purpose of increasing the functionality of society.

In my own opinion it is no longer necessary, though i agree that for some there needs to be a spiritual replacement, not everyone being comfortable with existantialist angst. The religious moral mindset appears to be too inflexible to the modern world, as showcased by countries where a fundamentalist government holds sway and oppresses and disadvantages its people. Religion by the idea of the evolutionary theory of ideas is becoming less and less realistic, and while it may well last for 50 years it may die off reasonably soon (in comparison to its life so far). There may however, be a spiritual component in any society for a long time to come, appealing as it does to many who find it softens the harsh scientific 'realities'.

my atheism is just like your religion
only i subtract 1 one more god
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06-22-2009, 06:19 AM
Post: #10
RE: Future of religion
(04-13-2009 09:04 AM)clarence clutterbuck Wrote:  ...In some countries, the state religion is compulsory and the penalty for apostasy or failing to follow religious laws can be severe...

Yes, such was the case in the former Soviet Union, where apostasy from the state religion of Atheistic Marxism carried enormous penalties.

http://www.biblicaltraining.org/ --- http://www.ntwrightpage.com/
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