The Worth of an Angry God

  • 6 Replies
  • 297 Views

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

sciborg2

  • *
  • Old Name
  • *****
  • Contrarian Wanker
  • Posts: 915
  • "Trickster Makes This World"
    • View Profile
« on: June 03, 2019, 01:38:00 pm »
The Worth of an Angry God: How supernatural beliefs allowed societies to bond and spread.

Brian Gallagher

Quote
Did humans need belief in a God-like being—someone who can punish every immorality we might commit—to have the big societies we have today, where we live relatively peaceably among strangers we could easily exploit?

Harvey Whitehouse, the director of the Institute of Cognitive and Evolutionary Anthropology at Oxford University, doesn’t think so. “Complex societies,” he and his colleagues declared in a March Nature paper, “precede moralizing gods throughout world history.” They relied on a massive historical database, called Seshat, which over a decade attracted contributions from over a hundred scholars. With the database “finally ready for analysis,” Whitehouse and his colleagues wrote in The Conversation, “we are poised to test a long list of theories about global history,” particularly “whether morally concerned deities drove the rise of complex societies,” some hallmarks of which are more economic integration and division of labor, more political hierarchy, the emergence of classes, and dependence on more complex technology and pre-specialists. Whitehouse concluded that those deities did no such driving. As he told Nautilus in a 2014 interview, as societies became more agricultural, what researchers see “in the archeological record is increasing frequency of collective rituals. This changes things psychologically and leads to more doctrinal kinds of religious systems, which are more recognizable when we look at world religions today.”

Joseph Henrich, chair of the Department of Human Evolutionary Biology at Harvard University, sees it differently. He contends that moralizing gods spurred societal complexity because belief in moralizing gods leads to success in intergroup competition. It increased trust and cooperation among a growing population of relative strangers, he said, and buttressed traits like bravery in warfare. “The word ‘moralizing’ is not a useful term,” though, he added. “People use it casually, because people are interested in morality, but the theory specifies this very specific set of things that increase your success in intergroup competition. Most people want to call greater cooperation, helping strangers, things like that, moral. That’s just a Western preoccupation.”

I caught up with Henrich earlier this month to discuss the anthropological chicken-and-egg problem of whether gods or complex societies came first. He was gracious in defending his position that gods were the bonds that allowed societies to gain strength and grow.
Health Resources:

https://docs.google.com/document/d/12NfnxYU5ZSur-RahRNI-bNMnTjxE12vyGWmY46Xq2h0/edit

Register family with 911 services. Also mental health info & hotlines, articles, treatment assistance options, prescription assistance, legal aid, etc.

Wilshire

  • *
  • Administrator
  • Old Name
  • *****
  • Enshoiya
  • Posts: 5743
  • Do you remember the words?!
    • View Profile
« Reply #1 on: June 03, 2019, 06:24:38 pm »
Wouldn't you know, this showed up on my news feed today.
One of the other conditions of possibility.

H

  • *
  • The Zero-Mod
  • Old Name
  • *****
  • The Honourable H
  • Posts: 2619
  • The Original No-God Apologist
    • View Profile
    • The Original No-God Apologist
« Reply #2 on: June 04, 2019, 12:22:20 pm »
Well, I think maybe this sort of thinking, that there must be "an answer" to which preceded which, to maybe be a little nonsensical to ask.

I mean, the question "makes sense" in the asking, but I don't think it's something to which you get a real answer.  It's like asking if environment precedes genetics, but genetics only exists in the environment.  So, while it is sort of "trivially true" that one of them must have "came first" the answer is, maybe, one, unknowable and two, possibly, not explanatory of anything in reality.

To me, it would seem more that they are relational sorts of principles.  The capacity for "religious thinking" was either latent or basally existent.  Technology and/or environmental factors placed a sort of pressure on humans which caused that latent, or simply unused capacity, to become more relevant/necessary.

So, I don't know that it makes too much sense to wrack our minds to ask if the pressure made the capacity, or if the capacity allowed the response to the pressure.  The answer, I'd guess, is simply "yes."
“I am a warrior of ages, Anasûrimbor . . . ages. I have dipped my nimil in a thousand hearts. I have ridden both against and for the No-God in the great wars that authored this wilderness. I have scaled the ramparts of great Golgotterath, watched the hearts of High Kings break for fury.” -Cet’ingira

sciborg2

  • *
  • Old Name
  • *****
  • Contrarian Wanker
  • Posts: 915
  • "Trickster Makes This World"
    • View Profile
« Reply #3 on: June 04, 2019, 12:47:33 pm »
One thing to note is the idea that religion with its rituals and sacrifice follows from agriculture seems challenged by Göbekli Tepe?

I thought that site showed that "The Cathedral preceded The City"?
Health Resources:

https://docs.google.com/document/d/12NfnxYU5ZSur-RahRNI-bNMnTjxE12vyGWmY46Xq2h0/edit

Register family with 911 services. Also mental health info & hotlines, articles, treatment assistance options, prescription assistance, legal aid, etc.

H

  • *
  • The Zero-Mod
  • Old Name
  • *****
  • The Honourable H
  • Posts: 2619
  • The Original No-God Apologist
    • View Profile
    • The Original No-God Apologist
« Reply #4 on: June 04, 2019, 01:09:12 pm »
One thing to note is the idea that religion with its rituals and sacrifice follows from agriculture seems challenged by Göbekli Tepe?

I thought that site showed that "The Cathedral preceded The City"?

Hmm, yeah, I am not too knowledgeable about the site, but that seems like what I've heard too.  Stonehenge, as well, also was not part of any "big cities" that I know of either.  I think that the sort of thinking this article is sort of "banking on" is perhaps a sort of misapprehension about what the correlation between "religious thinking" and "complex society" would be and what the difference between a sort of correlation and what we think would be causation.

I think this is akin to asking something like, "does our a priori notion of time and space allow society to bond and spread?"  I mean, of course, if we didn't know where or when we were doing things, of course no one could agree on anything.  But no one would think that society created the notion of time, for example, but it did put emphasis on it, it did "formalize" it, it was, in some sense, "necessary" for society to function.  But that doesn't mean that society created "time" nor would it mean that the notion of "time" created society.

To me, that would be a bit like asking if the notion of a flat plane created a table.  Or that the notion of a table, created the notion of a flat plane.  Not really, I don't feel like either of those statements can mean anything.  Sure, one might have preceeded the other, but they didn't "cause" each other, no more than night causes day, or day causing night.
“I am a warrior of ages, Anasûrimbor . . . ages. I have dipped my nimil in a thousand hearts. I have ridden both against and for the No-God in the great wars that authored this wilderness. I have scaled the ramparts of great Golgotterath, watched the hearts of High Kings break for fury.” -Cet’ingira

TLEILAXU

  • *
  • Old Name
  • *****
  • Exalt-Smiter of Theories
  • Posts: 731
    • View Profile
« Reply #5 on: June 08, 2019, 01:42:11 am »
What about Buddhism tho. I mean it's moralizing but there's no angry god.

Wilshire

  • *
  • Administrator
  • Old Name
  • *****
  • Enshoiya
  • Posts: 5743
  • Do you remember the words?!
    • View Profile
« Reply #6 on: June 10, 2019, 03:23:02 pm »
What about Buddhism tho. I mean it's moralizing but there's no angry god.

I think the argument was moreso that an angry god preceeded complex societies. I dont know how old Buddhism is, but I'm guessing its not old enough to be considered as a counter-argument in this instance.
One of the other conditions of possibility.