Tuesday, June 16, 2009

A CLUE: RELIGION ISN’T Going ANYWHERE

I don’t know about you, but I’m getting fed up with the “Religion is so bad to us -- why won’t it go away” camp. (See this article and the snippets from it below).

First, dust off your anthropology books, sweeties. Religion won’t go away ‘cause we humans exit mommy’s womb blank slates – stupidos, really – and we need something to clue us in on how to behave.

Animals have all the luck – they’re born with instincts. We aren’t. To survive, we hafta hang on for dear life to a “culture” – a connected spider web of rules for how to do everything from raising baby Bing to tying your shoe laces.

And religion is the center around which all cultures spin. Every single society anthropologists have studied has had religion. Why? ‘Cause without religion, humans can’t cope. (Well, dudes like Chris Hitchens can cope, but that’s only because they suck off a society already organized around a religion).

Second, the only reason some think religion is bad is this: The only religions they “see” are the ones with daddy-war gods ruling the roost: Yahweh’s religion, and Allah’s, and Jehovah’s, Ares’, Mars’, Zeus’, Indra’s, and the daddy-war god religions of the ancient Aztecs, Incas, Mayans, and Egyptians.

Jeesh, dudes, get a grip! Reams of other religions in the world haven’t lead to “political excesses … intolerance, persecutions, expulsions, forced conversions, [and] autos-da-fé…”. And guess what? They weren’t run by daddy-war gods. Look for example at the religions of the Pueblos, the Tahitians, or the Inuit.

And for big, beautiful complex civilizations run without daddy-war gods, feast your eyes on the Minoan and the Indus Valley Civilizations. All signs point to these two swirling around not daddy-war gods, but gorgeous guiding oddesses.
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Prominent secularization theorists like Peter L. Berger who, as recently as the 1960s, openly conceded religion's demise, are having to radically alter their forecasts. They have had to invent new concepts and categories to describe the phenomenon of religion's unexpected global resurgence.”

SNIP

But Jeesh, look at “… the historical and political excesses of dogmatic belief: the intolerance, the persecutions, the expulsions, the forced conversions, the autos-da-fé….”
From Reason vs. Faith: the Battle Continues
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thnx to SLS Photography for the fine foto; go HERE to see more of her work.

8 comments:

AnnaPerenna said...

Good evening dear auntie Athana.
I just had a huge, blown out discussion on religion on a favourite forum of mine, where I have presented my view: organized and monotheistic religions suck (the ones that we know today). I have a lot of sympathy for ancient desorganised religions, where there were a ton of goddesses and gods for each aspect of life, and they didn't interfere with eachothers' competences - and desorganised: nobody needed priests with dogmas, because everyone had their own altar at home, where they could worship their ancestors and protective goddesses of the home and hearth. Kids were born at home and presented into the community with a name after a dead ancestor (reincarnation right there) and presentation to the goddesses of home, people buried their dead under the floor and got married at home. None of this church business! About the competences: even Zeus uber-daddy of law and fear, or Odin were powerless against the goddess of death or against the edicts of the goddesses of fate. The thing with the omnipower monodaddy is both cruel and illogical - he is omnipower and omniscience yet he created weak people with ability to sin against him... which he punishes them for. He created the world yet he doesn't punish scientists. And despite being depicted as caring, he allows all the evil in the world and bad things happening to bad people. I like how the old religions had caring goddesses of love and birth, and cruel goddesses of death or diseases - separate thus logical!

I too think the religions are here to stay, but our need for them is not a need for something invisible in the sky which we can worship (we can gather around other stuff, or live kind of secluded, selfproviding) but from our most ancient instinct: fear of death and pain when someone we love dies. So it's natural for us to imagine an afterlife, where we will meet our family. This way we won't fear death but actually even look forward to it. A friend called this our coping strategy. I think all the other stuff came from our need to explain everything, when there were no science yet - our origins, the laws of nature, sunsets, rainbows, animals, thunders, diseases..
And of course when power and fear daddy religions arose, their organized priests saw to it that they will make money of this our ancient need for afterlife and parasite on our community spirituality (rites of passage) which they tragically do to this day.

What do you think?

Sonia said...

I really like your point about socialization. Culture would be nothing without religion.

I think humans do have instinct, and culture is the appropriation and direction of those instincts to patriarchal ends.

You know, I was wondering-what would happen if we started praying to YAJ to f%^k off because of all the trouble he is causing? food for thought anyway. If he can't behave I'd rather he just went home..

Athana said...

Yes! I think you are right on target, AnnaPerenna! The war-daddy religions *use* us. They take our tender and deepfelt needs and use these to manipulate us for their own gain.

And I hadn’t thought about it before: the ancient religions didn’t get people together in large groups and lecture them, did they? Or at least I don’t remember reading anything to that effect.

When you get people together weekly and lecture them, tell them what they can and can’t do, threaten them with hell, you then have people in the palm of your hand. You can ask them to do anything and they’ll do it. Because they’ve learned to become sheep following the flock.

That’s how you get a Jim Jones ordering 1000 or so people to drink poison koolaid, and have most of them just lie down and die.

As for the ancient polytheistic religions with daddy-war gods calling the shots (Greece, Rome, Norse, Egyptian), I think that's more complicated.

Here’s what I think happens a lot: We tend to see the past as some static, never-changing place, with everything in its slot and that’s it.

I think instead that everything in the past is horribly fluid, always changing, every minute and in every tiny place on the globe, things are always changing. So in ancient Egypt for example, at certain times (but not others), every single village or small collections of villages had their own set of deities. Each set was different. Maybe in some villages all the way up to the present there are still pantheons in which goddesses are the EQUALS of gods.

For most of the history of ancient dynastic Egypt, however, the dominating classes were ruled by a pantheon with a dominating, brutal, bloody male god at the top.

And yet at the same time, many of the common people, especially in the outlying villages (such as they were; no one was very far from the Nile River), were no doubt secretly or even openly thumbing their noses at this power-over god.

And then of course there was that period when Isis became so powerful. This was a few thousand years after the heyday of the Egyptian dynasties, though.

And again, I think it was the common folk who followed her. The Establishment I don’t think liked Isis. Just the way the Establishment doesn’t like us Pagans today. We're too free, can't be manipulated.

Unfortunately, however, we live in societies shaped and ruled by iron-fisted war gods. So no matter how Pagan we think we are, we still possess tons of the habits of war-god peoples.

OnlyEd said...

After all the trouble he's caused he needs to be punished, not just sent home where he can get drunk, beat his wife and kids, and kick the cat.

Athana said...

Yeah, Sonia, I think any culture shapes itself around its religion. Religion is like the center of the wheel and our rules for most everything else are like the spokes bursting out from that center.

I love your idea about praying that YAJ would just slink off with his tail between his legs and never come back to haunt us again! I just love it! Great idea!

Most scientists agree that humans don’t have instincts the way animals have them. Birds are born, for example, knowing how to make nests. They don’t learn this, they are *born* knowing it. But no human has ever been born knowing how to make a house, a tent, or even a lean-to. We have to learn how to do that by watching others (whether we watch people or animals).

Likewise animals are born knowing sometimes elaborate courtship behavior. They don’t learn it, they have it in them from birth. With us? Phew! Have you ever met a man who knows absolutely so little about “courting” that you want to just run in the opposite direction when you see him coming?

I rest my case!

Athana said...

Hey, onlyed, welcome to RGT!

Glad you brought up the topic of punishment. Here we believe that what the world needs is a Guiding Mother Goddess. And like all healthy mothers, a guiding mother goddess isn't into punishment, she's into teaching, training, guidance, coaching, etc.

If you want to teach kids to play ball, do you punish them when they don't get it right? Of course not. You coach them, guide them, train them, teach them.

Punishment is for losers and loser societies.

AnnaPerenna said...

I think a lot of JAH and other war gods pester and poison science and history today. Half the time I open a book on history, on old religions or other than "monotheistic", the other goddesses and gods are always diminished as "demons" "spirits" "small deities", described as primitive and not as enlightened as the YAH, Kongfutse, budda and other male hierarchy crap! As if adopting the cruel war daddies and their sin-dogmas was an act of reason and not forced with swords and death and fire upon all other cultures!
As they say, the winners write the history books.
Also, of course, Egypt and all other cultures were not as organised and ordered as the historians try to sell them. 12 Olympians for all Greeks? Nonsense, each Greek city state and island had their own goddesses and gods! Only Ra and Horus for all Egypt? Nonsense, each city had at least a triad of diff. major gods and tons of others. Each Egyptian city also had their own version of creation. Same with Celts and Norse and whoever.

Lecturing, no, the desorganised religions didn't really lecture. All the people had their own small altars at home with preferred deities and their own ancestors, and they kept their rites of passage at home. They also had one or more big temples, rocks or megalitic graves in the community - where they usually gathered on big holidays! (the astronomical holidays and whatever else they worshipped and observed). Temples were community party centrals at first, not lectures! Also, a lot of temples didn't even need a roof - when you worship Mother Nature and all her aspects, to celebrate her you can use holy trees, holy mountain tops, groves, springs and all that is not a building. All landscape could be holy. This is of course also diminished by JAH scholars - if a religion didn't built huge churches or temples with roof, it's considered primitive today.. HA!

Later temples were also used as wealth coffers (I guess no-one would like to steal from gods out of fear of taboo). I think that has a lot to do with priests developing greed and always wanting more wealth.. thus developing greedy war religions. But even then, the people could always keep their home gods and ancestors. Only when JAH came to town, the home cults were forbidden (competition!) and all holy rites of passage in human life parasited on by churches and temples..

AnnaPerenna said...

Also, a lot of old religions rarely had a vision of separate hell and paradise and suffering all eternity for their sins.
When people died, their souls just went to the other side, where from they returned now and then and demanded to be fed as usual.
Hades, Elysee, Hel, Freja's Folkevang and Sheol are examples of equal lands of death - everybody just went there, no matter how they sinned and they hang out for the eternity.
Egyptian Aaru or the west land of eternal reeds had a condition - you had to obey the rules of Maat,
the goddess of truth and justice. If you were bad and broke those laws, your soul would be.. eaten by lion goddess Ammit. Sorry, you don't pass start, you don't collect eternal life ;)
Then came Valhalla which only accepted violent war guys obedient to Odin, or Abraham's lap in Sheol for the obedient Jews and fiery pits of damnation for those who sinned against what the priests said. This is how our vision of paradise (Jesus lap this time) and hell formed (later islamic hell came along also, very explicit). And now JAH scholars also look down on those ancient, eternal lands of equality for all dead, as SAD, misty, BORING and not exciting enough afterlife!
Which apparently JAH promises.. sheesh