The Origin of Religion
from a secular pedigree

I   
was listening to National Public Radio today and there was a discussion concerning a lawsuit to have a Ten Commandments statue or some such thing removed from a public building under the auspices of "separation of church and state". Those in favor of keeping the old millstones pointed out that the ten commandments are a "foundation" upon which American law is based.

Apparently, the founding fathers and the culture in which they were imbedded, was ... according to the TC protector's lights ... a religious civilization. And further, that TC constitutes part of the genuine history of our country and therefore, even if religious, still ought to be displayed to show the law's religious "bonafides".

I kept thinking ... "Talk about the pieces" ... "What about the pieces?" ... meaning take apart the document and reveal its component parts for what they are (as I did in this piece). However, he seemed to swallow the TC whole as all religious people do and I didn't expect what I heard next from the guy who initiated the lawsuit.

Maybe he read my piece ...

Because he certainly reiterated it pretty well. He said (taking it apart) ... that the first four commandments were strictly religious rules and had nothing whatsoever to do with civil law in any shape, manner or form ... and therefore warranted attention vis a vis the separation clause.

My heart soared like a bird.

He dismantled the TC and de-crapped it ... just like I did. Then, for good measure, he said that the rest of the TC were about not stealing, killing, etc. which predated the Ten Commandments.

"Yes!, says I! You got it!"

This is what makes me feel best in life ... seeing someone else come to the same conclusion (hopefully independently). But ... the above is not the main point of this piece. I had an important idea about the beginnings of religion that's been trying to get out for the past year or so. I long ago came to the conclusion that a rational secular society predates religion, i.e. religion is a corruption of a secular state.

Here is a clue ...

There was a program on the History Channel about an ancient city somewhere in South America (maybe Peru). The archeologists uncovered evidence of a large, coastal settlement and trade with other "cities" and folks inland. In seeking to prove their ideas, they sought out the "walls" of the city. At length, they had to accept that there were none as they had expected based on other excavations worldwide. This city was unlike all others in that the inhabitants did not anticipate any kind of attack. They just engaged profitably in trade without thought of defending their prosperity with walls and arms, etc.

The archeological conclusion was that a trade economy preceded warfare.

What I thought then was this ... "What would cause the collapse of such a happy state into the muck and mire of our present cultures?". My theory is that such a state could flourish indefinitely ... until ... something happened that they could not anticipate or handle ... which then pressured the population into stealing and killing one another to survive.

The culprit then is nature. No matter how cooperative and well-intentioned humans are toward one another (which is the true base for prosperity) ... nature will, in time, fail them. No culture can survive without facing the inevitable drought, or pestilence, or insects eating the harvest, or raging fire, or volcano, or avalanche, or tsunami, or hurricane ... or ... whatever. Something will eventually set it on its collective hiny.

When this happens men will lament ... "Why has this happened?" ... "What have we done wrong?" ... and the answer is in truth that they have done nothing wrong ... they just didn't have a complete knowledge of everything that nature could throw at them. Their happy, secular state has no answer.

The Gods are born ...

Some people will blame his neighbor and use it as an excuse to kill him and steal his goods. They place a physical blame however incorrectly.

Another type will invent an "unseen" enemy. "We have offended against the spirits of nature" ... and proceeds to name 'em too. And ... he invents a "solution". Do this, don't do that ... yada, yada, yada ... nothing of which has any physical connection to what has befallen the culture.

If people have no answer at all, they will divide themselves up into camps, each supporting whatever idea is available at the time. No matter how harebrained the scheme, some percentage of the population will follow. Now you get war ... now ... religion.

Not before or concurrently with rationality ... just after. When things are going right, people don't make up gods who are their benefactors ... they accept their own actions as being responsible for the good. No further hypothesis is necessary beyond the obvious. But when the obvious is no longer available ... out come the gods.

Now it may be that some "force" is identified as the mover and shaker of the universe ... after all, they can see the stars and moon and sun and have no direct knowledge of them and no understanding at all. But these things are out of the loop as far as credit goes. (Well, they would know that the sun helped the crops to grow ... but as a physical effect not a religious-philosophical effect.)

So, I am quite sure that secular precedes religious both logically and philosophically. And ... oh, yeah ... one other little thing ...

Language is the truest evidence of the priority of the secular

Does anyone think that there would be a word for "god" before man invented a word for "eat"?

Of course not. The first words invented would be things like ... food, animal, water, cave, spear, knife, wooooooman, boomboom ... get it? All physical stuff. Nothing philosophical at all.

The first humans are cavemen. Words are labels for "concepts" that they have identified in their external environment. Contemplative-caveman is a veritable contradiction in terms. These people didn't do much of that ... they did some ... just not much as compared to later humans who derived the benefit of the accumulating language which is the mechanism of contemplation.

You can't logically have a religion until there is a sufficient base of language to formulate abstract concepts. First come the concretes. First comes a secular life ... then the religion sets in ... if ... something goes wrong ... and it inevitably does.

That's why getting rid of religion and all such superstitions is tied up with our understanding of the universe. If we can answer all questions with a sensible answer ... god will sublimate like a piece of ice on Mars.

Goto part two



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