Discussion in 'Belief and Spirituality' started by Postmaster, Dec 18, 2008.
Venus of Dolni Vestonice
Venus of Lespugue
Venus of Malta
For the Equine inclined:
Cosquer fresco of horses
Chauvet 4 horses and a rhino
The beach at Cosquer
Probably a bit hard to see, but these are the Cosquer reverse handprints in black (instead of red ocher)
Cosquer jellyfish, unique to this site
Cosquer penguins, also unique to this site
Unique as far as I know to Chauvet, an owl
Perhaps like I would procrastinate, but I haven't gotten around to it yet?
Chauvet Venus referred to as the "Hanging rock of the 'Sorcerer'."
Tried to copy the 'net address, but the format would not allow me. It can be found through the image gallery at the official Chauvet site.
Blombos Cave, South Africa, particularly noting art and tools and their relation to modern thinking, circa 70 thousand years ago.
MSA = Middle Stone Age
LSA = Late Stone Age
BBC = Blombos Cave
Ka = 1000 years (ex.: 70 Ka = 70,000 years)
http://www.svf.uib.no/sfu/blombos/pdf/16. CSH BBC Strat Jhb Fr. Conf 2005.pdf
A list of other related scientific papers related to Blombos cave and a weather chart covering the last 100 thousand years plus:
I would like to expand on this thought:
Moving into the cities did not "automatically" dispense with superstition, *nor* the attribution of spirit to all aspects of nature. Indeed, even in the modern Pagan movement there are resounding echoes of this (these?) very things!
Shedding of superstition, to the degree it has actually been shed, is likely as much to do with philosophical discipline as it has a disconnect and dissociation from the natural world. In effect, we talk ourselves into belief...one way or another. That, and we have (as Path of One has noted in past discussions) created an artificial environment for ourselves moving into cities. These artificial environments isolate us from nature and enhance the separation physically, mentally and spiritually.
Up until quite recently, as noted by Frazer in "the Golden Bough," these attributions of spiritual entanglement with nature were routine among rural folk across Europe, and I might add among a large percentage of rural American immigrants (case in point, Scots-Irish in the Appalachian Mountains through Virginia and the Carolinas - a read through the Foxfire series of books will demonstrate what I am alluding to).
Whereas Atheism as a distinct and deliberate manner of reasoning with any more than a few adherents is a relatively new POV. I have heard of an occasional Greek way back when, but there was not any serious atheistic movement known to me prior to the Higher Critical movement that stemmed from the Reformation and the Enlightenment, and that has by and large been confined to the cities and the well-educated (defined as wealthy). In recent years, perhaps since the end of WWII, there is a growing atheist movement...and it is focused (sp?) on thought / philosophy and a deliberate distance from nature. In effect, the typical atheist (in my experience) may mentally acknowledge the animal sense of being human, but they have lost touch with the realization of what that actually means. I mean this as no slight, just an observation - many atheists are sensorily disconnected, deliberately so, from their natural being.
It pays to be careful. Wouldn't want you to become sycophant.
Hi Juan and thanks for all the links you have been providing.
If you call this disconnect the result of replacing superstition with rational logic then who is to say which is our "natural being" ? We are evidently capable of both and to call one natural and the other not is plain silly. The rise of atheism as a deliberate POV is absolutely dependent on ones level of credulity, whether or not you are willing to accept evidence on the weight of its reasoning or whether you will accept it as authoritative based on an emotional need, because of its source or some other non-empirical reasoning. Atheism is to my mind the natural evolution of thought based on an ever expanding body of knowledge that has observed religion/belief and found it to be composed of too many false premises to have any credibility. I think very few atheists arrive at their POV because the have been taught it where as the religious are almost invariably so as the result of a cultural indoctrination. And this is key. Religious type belief developed to provide explanations in a time of ignorance. As that ignorance is thrown off we can patently observe that the old explanations were not only wrong but had been deliberately and systematically manipulated for the purpose of inferring power on an elite. And that the methodology they employed has been deliberately honed to take advantage of general ignorance.
The combined effect of cultural indoctrination and the deep seated need to have some meaning / notion of control in life creates a massive pressure toward accepting irrational ideas. The popularity of astrological predictions highlights well the need and ability to accept we can find answers and/or meaning when there is none. Amongst the religious there is this unspoken collusion to prop up each others superstitions which creates an investment that builds over time and makes it increasingly difficult to withdraw from that collusion. This is a completely artificial edifice of mutual consent to a completely artificial paradigm. There is nothing 'natural' about it, it is learned behaviour.
Atheism has risen in recent years in direct correlation to the rise in empirical information available to the educated. It is the availability of information alone that has made mainstream atheism possible. Atheism uses the availability of empirically founded study to prove conclusively that to date no religious concept has any validity and further, that each and every one can be demonstrated to have been developed by man for the sole purpose of social engineering. With the rise in available information and the introduction of secular social structures (political systems) religion has become obsolete. Atheism is in a real sense the natural evolution of thought we can expect to see when education dispels superstition. But even still it requires an environment in which the social pressures to conform to inherited superstitions are either negated or absent. It is thus no accident that you find more atheists in secular France, the UK and Sweden, where the cultural norm places little emphasis on religion and a lot on education, than in Pakistan, the US and Iran where religion dominates the cultural and political spheres. In the US you may have elected a black man to be president, but he is a black man who throws the word god into virtually every speech. An openly atheist individual would stand no chance of being elected. In the UK, France and Sweden you never hear a politician say god and frankly the reason for this is the people value our secular freedom and would distrust a politician who relied on superstition to carry a policy.
It is much easier to be an atheist is secular Europe than in the US, Pakistan or Iran where religion is much more pervasive. The dominance of religious talk in every corner of the social structure of these countries creates a feedback loop of credulity and acceptance that creates a pressure of conformity that is very difficult to reject. The only thing "natural" abut it is that it is generally a human trait, as a social animal, to conform to social norms. The structure itself is completely artificial. Atheism breaks down these artificial structures that rely solely on superstitious belief and replaces them with rationally deduced facts. An atheist cannot say that the universe was not deliberately created, because the information is as yet insufficient to state that, but he/she can say with absolute confidence that each and every religion is a human philosophy with no basis in the observational data. In that sense it is atheism that can claim the real "natural" truth. And to be sensoraly honest.
People with faith in something supernatural probably encouraged freedom and secular society. The freemasons wrote the constitution of America and to be a freemason you have to believe in God and be part of an organised religion. The freemasons also believe in the equality of all religions and people. Many US presidents were freemansons.
Whilst very many good people have some organised faith to which they belong I would say that this is in spite of their beliefs not because of them. Sure faith groups can and do organise egalitarian missions and certain people are drawn to the faith because of that. But so do humanist groups.
As for the Freemasons their history is far from clear. As a secret organisation they profess an enlightened morality but often seem little more than a self serving collection of businessmen looking after their own interests. This organisation started in and remains a powerful force in Scotland where they dominate the police, local government and commerce. But despite their stated charitable outlook you never hear of any public good they actually do and they remain a secret cult dominating the civic scene from behind closed doors and away from public scrutiny or accountability. If they are so good why the secrecy?
I have known masons and I know small businessmen who have been ripped off and bankrupted by the actions of masons. They are an unknown quantity and I certainly would never trust them. And their kabbalistic secret rituals do not inspire me to believe that they have a rational behind them that serves the greater good.
Hey Juan, thanks for the great pics!
I want to respond to the OP:
On several occasions I have asked posters here to define specifically what they mean when they refer to "God." What exactly is God? The consensus seems to be that God is some sort of connective force or ordered process that makes life happen. That's not enough to qualify as theism IMO. Theists are people who believe that God is a being with a personality who wants something from us. This God has emotions and the ability to exert its will through reward and punishment. It is capricious and can change its mind in a moment. It is not bound by its own laws.
Just realizing the essentially anthropomorphic nature of narrative metaphysics automatically makes one an atheist, IMO, if the strict definition of the term is employed. If God is a concept, you're an atheist. If you think you can pray and God will maybe change the weather, or keep your car from running out of gas, you're a theist.
Yeah but I guess you get your good and bad in any kind of organisation we just seem to be using them to diplay the good things they have done, like your trying to display what good Athiests do and have done. How about political systems that harshly encouraged Atheism, that wern't so sucessful?
And the word concept means in the strictest definition
Something understood, and retained in the mind, from experience, reasoning and/or imagination; a generalization (generic, basic form), or ...
Doesn't make an Atheist for calling God a concept IMHO. It could be through peoples conceptions that he revealed himself to them.
That's an interesting point - I've never been able to properly categorise my own beliefs, because I don't subscribe to an anthropomorphic God, but similar I find definitions artificially limited, or uselessly vague.
For example, Theism seems to imply any belief in the concept of God:
Theism - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
which means stating oneself to be a Theist is rendered immediately non-explanatory.
Then there are more interesting subdivisions such as Deism and Pantheism:
Deism - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Pantheism - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
I guess Panentheism is closest to myself:
Panentheism - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Then again, it doesn't really come across as a developed philosophical system, and Bill Hicks could reduce it to a wonderful single sentence.
In which case, perhaps more regarded as a belief direction than a belief system.
Relating this to the original post and with Chris's post in mind, I think the terms "Atheist" and "believer in God" can be difficult to define and apply.
For example, many "atheists" I meet online do not base the existence or non-existence of God in their worldview, but define themselves as "anti-Christian" and call it "atheism".
Additionally, while those who follow a specific faith may have a set way of "beliving in God", there are also those outside of faiths who have a belief, but this belief can take many different forms, both in historical faiths (such as animism) and modern forms (such as those above).
Therefore a lot of people will fall into a grey area in between the opening statement in the first place!
Wow. Gone for a couple weeks (technically still gone, but popping in for a quick hello) and I miss all this. To be honest, I'm not going to get into it much. I guess I just need to continue on with the anthropology of religion discussion as soon as I can feasibly write it up. Or just wait for the book- I'm hoping for late 2009 or 2010. Of course, people will then see what they wish to see, with Tao undoubtedly saying my interpretations are colored by my theist goggles and oodles of conservative Christians saying my interpretations are colored by an atheistic discipline. I'll take a line from Tao and just say: whatever.
To be honest, I'm sick of the fighting about this stuff. I experience the world the way I do, and I'm tired of hashing it out and justifying it to people who aren't open to thinking my reality is a viable one to begin with. I'm equally tired of justifying science as a way of investigating and knowing to people whose worldviews clash with its findings. To be frank, it all gets old.
I don't have a huge bit to say in this thread, except I'm kind of disappointed at the attacks, the snide remarks, and so forth on both sides. It was depressing. Guess I'm just in the mood for nice conversation since it's the holidays and all. That said, there are lots of good nuggets in there.
I'll toss out a few items and you can do with them what you all will. First, cave paintings and archaic H. sapiens of both varieties (Neanderthal and not) are not my thing. I know the basics but it's not my specialization. I specialize in people I can talk to and how people tick now. But considering it's unlikely we've substantially evolved in either our bodies or our brains since then, given our scant 10K years since the dawn of agriculture, I'd say it's not that hard to think about early human beings based on our modern cognition and perception, and you can certainly see all the same tendencies in modern humans... including a propensity for "us vs. them" thinking that makes this thread a depressing read to me.
So... As far as I've found in a decade of anthropology, most anthropologists agree that the cave paintings are not just graffiti and they have some magico-religious-spiritual connotations. Yes, that's an interpretation, along with virtually all of archaeological theory. Duh, of course it's an interpretation- those folks are dead and we can't go interview them. I guess we could just accept all things at face value and also presuppose the Maya temples were just handy buildings and the rock art all over the world was just "Bob was here," but then there would be no science of archaeology and it would be a boring world. No offense, Tao, love ya dude and you know I do, but I'm going to go with the predominant interpretation of a whole heck of a lot of archaeologists on the cave paintings... and most of them are atheist too, so they aren't tainted like me with the Divine Mystery.
Back to the "cave man" days (if you want to call it that), people suddenly began having art and they had burials in which they placed grave goods. Now, an ordinary burial (i.e., throw body in hole and cover) could be interpreted as nothing special. Maybe the dead person smelled and no one wanted predators about. But a burial with grave goods is a different manner. When you find bodies bound in the fetal position with flowers, ochre, animal bones... that isn't just "Gee, I need to get rid of this dead person." The most logical, simplest explanation is that, like we do, they were burying people with some idea of an afterlife, whether that was a fear they would return (so binding them) or that they were going on somewhere (so providing them with animals and tools)...
Somehow, with the Neanderthals and H. sapiens, you just get these sudden pop-ups of this stuff. And more. You get the first clear evidence of caring for the critically injured, elderly, and ill. Somehow, the cognitive leap that caused a modern form of sociality is joined to some sort of beginning of art and beliefs about the supernatural (or, I think more aptly, supramundane).
Is that religion? That depends on your definition of religion. The idea that religion and philosophy (and science and magic, for that matter) are separate areas of human life is only very recent and part of a Western-centric worldview. Look at China, for example- you get feng shui and chi and acupuncture and Taoism and political philosophy and ideas about dragons and demons all rolled into one. We can separate them artifically from an outside point of view, but that may not be all that useful in actually understanding how people there think about it. All that stuff is a bit of religion, a bit of science, a bit of magic, a bit of philsophy as one total worldview system. That's how most people work. We Westerners are the weird ones. And furthermore, it's not how most Westerners work either. Look around critically and it isn't hard to see it.
So... the answer is that the most likely and most agreed on scenario is that this stuff is messy! Oh, no! Yep- people didn't evolve this, then that, then the other thing. It's not like first came philosophy, then religion, then science. We draw arbitrary, culturally-bound lines around bodies of thought and inquiry and choose how to think about it. The reality is that people think in messy ways, and all that stuff is balled up together cognitively. And while altruism exists in other social mammals, you don't see any of the rest of them (including our closest relatives) burying the dead with grave goods. So there's something going on there very early in humans that makes us distinctively us.
As for shamans... they are not an "office." You can't equate them to priests. Shamanic religious systems are not institutionalized and are different in numerous ways from priest-based systems. Shamans share, with many mystics, distinctive personality traits that are relatively rare but crop up in all populations. Traditional societies recognize these people (generally when they are kids) by their distinctive traits and train them. They are generally perceived to be gifted at dealing with the supernatural realm, with healing people of both physical and mental illness, and at perceiving social and psychological dynamics. You become a shaman because you are born one, and then trained into it. But there is no "office." If a suitable shaman is not born, then there typically isn't one. It isn't something anyone can do with proper training, as priests are, because you don't acquire power and authority through training, but through innate giftedness. Furthermore, this isn't much of an issue, because shamanic systems are also typically animistic and the spirit world is generally perceived to be part of ordinary life for all people. The shaman is not a necessary intercessor. S/he's just better at it then the average Joe. But unlike the later religions, where God(s) only want to communicate in certain ways through certain people, in animistic systems, the spirits will communicate with everyone through various means.
Shamanic religions are religions, with belief systems and whatnot, but they are very open-ended systems. They tend to overlap substantially with folk science (including sometimes very reliable systems of herbology, climatology, biology, ecology, psychology, and medicine) and include philosophies about how to interact in a society and with the earth. You can't just chop such a system into Western-minded bits and call this part science and that part religion and that other part philosophy. To do so is to be inaccurate and ethnocentric, and so to miss the point that not all people in the world think like you do.
Personally, I think people would be better off if they'd quit arguing about the categories and just see the facts- that in any group of people there are good deeds and bad deeds, altruism and selfishness, and that all philosophies, religions, and institutions have done some good stuff and some bad stuff, been bent to serve selfishness and altruism. The common denominator? People are involved, and that's how we are. There is no "answer": atheism, religion, whatever. Individuals use anything in accordance with their own intent. There are, rarely, those boddhisattva-like people who will use whatever they're given for the most amazing potential of humanity. And (thankfully), rarely, there are those who are remarkably cruel. Most people seem to bounce around in the middle, more or less aware of their intentions and more or less just going along with whatever they're given, doing a few altruistic things here and there and doing selfish things here and there, all without much thought into the matter.
So, there are my 2 cents worth.
Well, Path, to a die-hard materialist/atheist, (like Tao), there probably is literally no form of experience/evidence which would cause them to consider the possiblity of other interpretations. It is in that "true-believer" (or in this case true non-believer) sense that materialism and/or atheism could be considered a "religious" fervor. earl
Thank you *very* much for adding your two bits, Path! It is greatly appreciated. And happy holidays to you and yours as well!
Separate names with a comma.