Perhaps a frivolous waste of time is an inadequate construal of things. Perhaps we should think of it more in terms of a scaffold that is eventually discarded because, after helping us get where we need to go, we no longer need it.
I think I will begin here, it would have been my first objection, that has long been the point that "frivolous" pursuits would be counter-productive in a survival capacity such as cave dwelling hunter-gatherers, let alone ubiquitous and universal (it would seem) similar pursuits across continents and millenia. (Its not like old Joe took up whittling to while away the hours, and started a local fad.) It has long been a puzzle I've spent a good bit of study into, attempting to determine why our evolutionary forebears would even bother to begin with.
I think I like this "scaffold" idea, at least conceptually.
Both the atheist and monotheist fall for disenchantment.
OK, but would they not relatively equally fall for enchantment just as well?
Or perhaps I am conflating matters (my mind is still on pre-history, ice age humanity)? I am familiar to a mild degree with the usual arguments for and against Atheism, "yes there is, no there isn't." No objective evidence is possible (it would seem, though perhaps we do see and don't realize fully what we see - yet), only subjective evidence is possible and available, and the only subjective evidence that seemingly carries any genuine weight is personal experience, unless one falls for "cult of personality" and accepts "on faith" what another tells them that by definition is unproveable. And the problem with personal, subjective evidence is that it is clouded by culture and language and various other social trappings.
We can go to the grocery store for our food; there's no need to spend lots of time hunting and preparing food. Hence the prevalence of our disenchantment with the animal kingdom, which stands in contrast to hunter gathers that prayed to animal spirits after a kill, thanking them for their sacrifice. Most modern monotheists and atheists would see talking to animals and thanking them for their sacrifice - a spiritual practice the hunter gatherer valued - as a waste of time. Instead, the monotheist thanks her God, and the atheist might experience a feeling of gratitude to have such a fine dinner, knowing that not everybody has the same luxury. Both have shooed away a world inhabited by animal spirits and so on. Perhaps this has real-world catastrophic consequences. Perhaps as a result we trade health for physical ease - a tradeoff that has produced many illnesses for us modern humans.
Very well said, although I can't help but wonder if such primitive humanity actually "saw" the Divine in a more raw, genuine, "naked" sense, with minds not so clouded with culture and language and society. A typical tribe is thought to have been essentially an extended family, perhaps 3 or maybe 4 generations "under one roof." We can't say much for language because spoken words do not preserve, writing if it existed more than 10K years ago is speculated but unproven and very simple (like "make your X here"). It was the Agricultural Revolution and the incorporation of grain into the human diet (humans did not evolve to consume grain), that had an effect to expand human consciousness. I suspect but cannot yet prove this would have been when we began "labelling" experiences in our minds. It is certainly known that because of the Ag Rev we acquired the wheel, writing, math, astronomy, walled cities, warfare, and so many other things we take for granted now that were unheard of to our Ice Age ancestors. It is also when our views of the Divine seemed to begin to diverge, at least in such manner as to be obvious.
Similarly, our language today is becoming more and more oriented in a scientific frame. What kind of effect will that have on our way of being and thinking?
I agree, but I certainly hope all language and thought does not surrender in totality to such a narrow view of the world around us. So much beauty would be lost.
Anyway, thanking the animal spirit gives the hunter gatherer a sense of respect for the animal's sacrifice and a respect for other animals and the balance of life. She knows killing too many animals will disrupt this balance. Her language and everything else that shapes her way of thinking and experience of reality is constrained by time, place, and community. Of course, us moderns can also nurture a sense of respect for the animal kingdom too with great care for how we treat them. My point is modern people don't have to talk to the animal spirit and thank it for its sacrifice to do so. One may simply see the data and the harm modern ways of living are causing to the planet and conclude: Geez! I really need to shape up on how I treat animals because its causing some real destruction here. Such a person may be an atheist. The atheist may not describe his experience as spiritual, but it is a genuine experience of reality nonetheless. At the same time the atheist may look at the hunter gather and conclude: talking to animal spirits is a waste of time that served the psychological needs of my ancestor's in a certain time and place.
Perhaps. I miss Path-of-One around here. As I recall she is / was an anthropologist, or worked in the field for a living. I had the discussion with her once, about cultural elitism, of thinking that our modern ways are so much better than everyone else. I'm not so certain, and pointed to various cultures that have winnowed away and disappeared, leaving anthropologists lamenting the demise and growing lack of diversity - not taking into account their own role in that disappearance. Humanity is successful as an animal for being able to adapt to so many natural niches, yet some of those niches require adaptations that are essentially useless elsewhere. Yet because we live in "elsewhere" doesn't by default mean that those adaptations, those ways of life and looking at the world, are meaningless and useless.
Both the hunter gatherer and the atheist can potentially end up doing something beneficial, such as having a deep care for animals, while having different philosophical worldviews. The discussion here hinges on our description of that experience in the lens of each worldview. At least that is how I see this discussion. Maybe I am way off. The atheist will have what may be described as a "spiritual" experience with this practice of deep care for other creatures since similar psychological experiences are triggered in the brain, but to get wrapped up in wrangling over the use of the label the atheist constructs for it here doesn't matter much to me since both the hunter gatherer and atheist both benefit the planet by treating other animals with respect and experience some kind of connection to the world around them.
Perhaps, but then anyone, of any stripe or persuasion can be conscientious - or not. Perhaps some cultures promote stewardship more than others, but that is no guarantee the individuals within that culture will be good stewards.