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Thread: Are There Scientific Theories as to Why Religions Start?

  1. #1 Are There Scientific Theories as to Why Religions Start? 
    Forum Radioactive Isotope zinjanthropos's Avatar
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    Self explanatory. Is it mental, physical or the result of something tangible and can it be proven?


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    Psychological pressure put on vulnerable people. I had an example only this week. Walking through my local shopping precinct I was confronted by 2 guys who informed me that if I did not believe in God I would burn in the fires of hell. Statements don't get more loaded than that. Without mentioning evolution I was told that it was rubbish. Sensing they were members of a Christian cult, probably Jehovahs or Christadelphians what I did say was that I did not believe in God and that Christ had died for me. Instead I am of the scientific belief that if anything died for me it was ancient stars as all the atoms in my body were made there.


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    Forum Radioactive Isotope zinjanthropos's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ox View Post
    Psychological pressure put on vulnerable people. I had an example only this week. Walking through my local shopping precinct I was confronted by 2 guys who informed me that if I did not believe in God I would burn in the fires of hell. Statements don't get more loaded than that. Without mentioning evolution I was told that it was rubbish. Sensing they were members of a Christian cult, probably Jehovahs or Christadelphians what I did say was that I did not believe in God and that Christ had died for me. Instead I am of the scientific belief that if anything died for me it was ancient stars as all the atoms in my body were made there.
    Should have asked them how they thought their religion got started. Try it next time, you'll get to see some total befuddlement. One guy told me his religion started at a meeting of church elders. Be aware though, to even attempt to poke holes in whatever answer they give you is a waste of time.

    Edit: is it suffice to say a religion started because of a specific event or would all it take be one person to determine the ideology and does force or threats of bodily harm which may include laws, play into the origin of religion? Regardless, is there any science surrounding the reason?
    Last edited by zinjanthropos; July 5th, 2014 at 09:38 AM.
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    There are some and it should probably be a more serious subject of study.

    Here's a pretty good read that describes it as a combination of utilitarian value such as when to plant, what to eat, how to treat each other etc, with often a supernatural side that often serves as the emotional motivations toward individual behaviors.

    http://evolution.binghamton.edu/dswi...0/01/DSW04.pdf
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    Long time ago primitive forms of religion was a way to describe world. Things like thunder and lightning, seasonal changes, death etc. were described as acts of gods, spirits of places and so on. It was shown that evolution of early forms of religion went similarly all over the world.

    Idea of hierarchy of gods (like in Ancient Greek pantheon) appeared with formation of state. The thinking was roughly the following, if there is hierarchy on Earth, there also should be hierarchy in Heavens. This idea was utilized and future developed by the state to make rule of the king/aristocracy sacred.

    So main source of religion on its own is an inability to understand certain processes. Usually these processes are vitally necessary for a person. Another thing is a desperate will to get some things, primarily immortality and justice.
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    Quote Originally Posted by BlasW View Post
    Long time ago primitive forms of religion was a way to describe world. Things like thunder and lightning, seasonal changes, death etc. were described as acts of gods, spirits of places and so on. It was shown that evolution of early forms of religion went similarly all over the world..
    Where was this shown? What studies?

    I ask because in tribal religions and even in the more organized ones including the largest now explanations of various phenomena are the weakest in detail of all of them, (often just a handwave) while ceremonies, rules, dates, and other actual useful parts of followers life done in great detail as are various stories about the deities.
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    Quote Originally Posted by zinjanthropos View Post
    Self explanatory. Is it mental, physical or the result of something tangible and can it be proven?
    The field of neurotheology is a new one but one thing is common to all religions. They appear to be restricted to the human species. Andrew Newberg, Patrick McNamara and Michel Persinger have different takes on the role the brain may have taken with respect to spirituality. Their findings are contentious but interesting to say the least.

    I suspect that such studies relate to those with a cognitive predisposition to spirituality but I suspect that a large degree of human acceptance of religion is from the 'need to belong to a power base', 'indoctrination', 'social reasons', 'comfort reasons' or other related factors...the possibilities are endless and would be dependent on so many potential factors....aside from common sense/ tic
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lynx_Fox View Post
    Where was this shown? What studies?
    See works of this man: Lewis H. Morgan - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia and his followers.

    Quote Originally Posted by Lynx_Fox View Post
    I ask because in tribal religions and even in the more organized ones including the largest now explanations of various phenomena are the weakest in detail of all of them, (often just a handwave) while ceremonies, rules, dates, and other actual useful parts of followers life done in great detail as are various stories about the deities.
    I was talking about origins of religion. If we are talking about future evolution of religion, I would like to mention one thesis from Soviet atheist literature - "No religion can change real life; It's vice versa, real life changes any religion."
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    I wouldn't put too much stock into Morgan's works--even is central work with the Iroquois were criticized later because even the lines of questioning trying to get details would often heavily influence the interpretations--one that was already heavily influenced by Christian thinking (heck my female ancestor relatives were already leaving tribal life and entering the US by than). I am talking about origins of religion as well--where studies of tribal oral traditions are often extremely rich in social structure, remembering some version of their ancestral history, and ceremony to recognized key life events and rituals to remember important things about how to live, and survive, but very sparse in the "this explains that" department. I think the idea that all the wondering about the big questions was not at all that important--in austere environmental folks are just trying to get from day to day--not contemplating their navels.
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    Walked into this again yesterday. A Kurdish Sunni Muslim tried to scare me with the apocalyptic idea that the world will end in under 9 years, based on numerology. The date he gave was February 29th 2023 (no such date) so I guess we're all safe. Then I found that Nostradamus had made a similar prediction for 2023. But this serves to illustrate one way the monotheists get to exert power. The earth is no more than God's judgement park.
    If you reason how religion begins then you should consider how it ends, and I would say that as religion has lost all its intellectual standing to science then it is dead already. What little remains is now presided over by extremists with their mental and physical terror.
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    Forum Radioactive Isotope zinjanthropos's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lynx_Fox View Post
    There are some and it should probably be a more serious subject of study.

    Here's a pretty good read that describes it as a combination of utilitarian value such as when to plant, what to eat, how to treat each other etc, with often a supernatural side that often serves as the emotional motivations toward individual behaviors.

    http://evolution.binghamton.edu/dswi...0/01/DSW04.pdf
    Damn good read. First time I've ever seen anyone attempt to study religion scientifically although even the author admits to not covering everything, it's an onerous task to do so I'm sure. If your thinking about joining up with a religion then I suggest you read this first. You wouldn't invest time or money without researching it first, would you?
    All that belongs to human understanding, in this deep ignorance and obscurity, is to be skeptical, or at least cautious; and not to admit of any hypothesis, whatsoever; much less, of any which is supported by no appearance of probability...Hume
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    Religions are started out of a desire to suppress and control people.
    Science replaces fairy tails with facts - churches don't like facts e.g the Vatican has a great many scientific manuscripts in their keeping that should be in the public domain.

    I really enjoy talking to God botherers and de-bunking all their clap-trap. I keep them talking as long as I possibly can - that way they
    can't be bothering anyone else : )
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    There are many different theories into how religions originated and I think most of the "original religions" were most likely ancestral cults.

    The idea of the afterlife seems incredibly intuitive since we build up people's personalities in our minds. I can simulate conversations with my good friends in my mind because I know how they generally would act and respond to certain events or statements. I can even simulate a conversation with President Obama in my mind without even knowing him (even though my mental simulation would probably be an inaccurate version of how Obama really is). When a person dies, this ability to simulate their mind in our own mind still persists which is why many people still "communicate" with their dead ancestors. Some people, like myself, acknowledge this is a creation of my own mind but some people believe it's actually the mind of whoever they are simulating. My mother thinks she communicates with my deceased grandfather but she is just simulating a conversation in her mind.

    This idea was carried over into the mainstream religions of today. Almost all adherents of religions claim to "communicate" with their gods or God. We can learn about the personality of "Jesus" throughout the New Testament just like we can learn the personality of Harry Potter in Harry Potter books. We can simulate conversations with these fictional characters in our mind in the same way we do it with friends and family. Communication with the gods of the world religions is paradoxical since more than one "creation" god cannot logically exist and therefore the idea that these communications are authentic is not viable. It's quite clear these ideas are created from within the mind.

    My hypothesis: So, in an ancient society a great leader dies. The people of this community would praise him after he died for what great deeds were done and at the same time they would be "communicating" with him after his death. Over time, stories would be passed down about this great leader to newer generations. We know that verbal histories tend to get exaggerated. What was once a great leader would eventually become more godlike as time went on. This godlike ancestor would be communicating to his people and it would be inferred that he is probably watching them as well. Cognitive anthropologist Pascal Boyer states that the one central reoccurring theme to all religions is the projection of a mind.
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    I was once watching a movie about a criminal mastermind who robs banks, and someone asked him how he came up with his plans, and he said he tried to imagine someone smarter than him, and then asked himself : what would that guy do?

    Religion starts by trying to imagine a superhuman. Over time, story tellers keep trying to come up with ideas for that superhuman to have supposedly communicated. When the people hear a new story, either they agree that a superhuman would have said that, or they don't agree. If they don't agree, then the story is a heresy. The teller of the story is a "false prophet".

    This selection process gradually starts yielding a body of doctrine, most of which reflects an impressive intellect (at least somewhat above average.) This body of doctrine serves to further reinforce the idea that their superhuman must be real, because most individual adherents know they couldn't have written something like that.

    If they could write something like that, or even come close, then it's less likely that seeing the text would convince them.


    Quote Originally Posted by ReligionOfTheSemites View Post
    My hypothesis: So, in an ancient society a great leader dies. The people of this community would praise him after he died for what great deeds were done and at the same time they would be "communicating" with him after his death. Over time, stories would be passed down about this great leader to newer generations. We know that verbal histories tend to get exaggerated. What was once a great leader would eventually become more godlike as time went on. This godlike ancestor would be communicating to his people and it would be inferred that he is probably watching them as well. Cognitive anthropologist Pascal Boyer states that the one central reoccurring theme to all religions is the projection of a mind.
    We could expand upon that. Leaders, by stating their religion, also are stating a core body of beliefs. People trust that if they claim to follow that religion, they will lead according to those beliefs.

    Naturally most people prefer to be lead by a superhuman.
    Last edited by kojax; August 27th, 2014 at 10:23 AM.
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