Author Topic: Why God?  (Read 7520 times)

Tank

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Why God?
« on: September 04, 2011, 10:37:08 AM »
Why God?

The majority of the human population appear to profess a belief in a God or Gods. Why is this? What is the root of God in the human psyche?

Consider our ancestors and what makes humans different from all other animals, our brains. What evolutionary advantage does our brain give us?  It gives us the ability to determine cause and predict effect. It gives us the ability to create and manipulate symbolic language. Thus ‘Get up a tree there’s a Rhino charging!’ contains all the abstract symbolic information to potentially save the lives of a hunting party. Another example would be for a human to make a tool knowing that the sharp edge of a broken flint will cut skin and flesh.  We also have an imagination, the ability to create a fantasy and examine the unreal.  Along with these useful traits our brains come with some evolved deficiencies, autism, dreams and paranoia (the dark side of the imagination) to mention just three.

Consider ‘original’ belief systems, such as the animistic spiritual beliefs of isolated tribes throughout the world. Put yourself in their hut, at night, deep in a jungle where they were born. They dream and wake having no idea what a dream really is, they don’t know it’s an evolved ‘housekeeping’ process. All they know is there was a giant demon snake slithering after them. Why was a giant snake chasing them in their sleep? Original belief systems attribute causation to the unknown, spirits that control the unknown because all effects have causes; don’t they? 

Cause and effect demand knowledge and understanding. Imagination underpins curiosity. Any of our ancestors that were not curious enough died of starvation, any of our ancestors that were too curious died of surprise. Consider some of our ancestors who have evolved abstract language and are self-aware, discussing one thing we all know; the sun rises.  However these ancestors did not understand why the sun rises. They have knowledge but not understanding. But in their experience all effects have a cause. So if the sun rises what causes it to rise? People don’t like not knowing why something happens, it’s almost psychologically painful to not know why something happens. It’s called cognitive dissonance.

So why did cognitive dissonance start the path to God? When faced with knowledge but not understanding the mind can get distracted and confused. A distracted mind is often dangerous, more dangerous on average than a confident mind. Inaction is more likely to lead to failure of some sort than action. Sitting doing nothing will lead to failure, getting up and doing something may lead to success or failure. Only the confident ‘do something’ option has a possibility of success.  So if one person is distracted and reticent while the other is focused and confident the latter is slightly more likely to achieve a positive (survival/reproductive) outcome. 

So we have an animist original belief system wrapped around a mind with knowledge but no understanding of the true nature of reality. We have an evolutionary advantage to do something rather than nothing. Thus it is reasonable, in the circumstances, and evolutionarily advantageous to place a ‘spirit’ in any gap in understanding. I think this is why superstition survives because ‘on average’ to be superstitious is evolutionarily advantageous.

So why move from a spirit or animist world view to a ‘concrete’ God based world view? I think the ‘alpha male syndrome’ and tribalism push belief towards monotheism. Obviously there are plenty of pantheistic belief systems still around but while they were once in the majority they are now in the minority and continuing to decline.  Thus Gods become God. I think that Allah was once the top God in a pantheistic belief system; Mohamed simply promoted him and demoted all the others.

Now while the world was ‘large’ and ideas (memes) stayed apart and embedded in tribal folk law there were as many Gods as there were tribes/cultures.  Everybody had their own version of the first cause; the reason the sun came up every day.  Then written language arrived. This allowed the formalisation of ideas that could be consistently spread across the land and between generations. Superstitions became institutionalised into religions; concrete memes that existed beyond the tribe or any living individual. Memes persist through transmission between individuals. Children believe adults and in particular their parents. Families, and tribes, are entities that support meme transmission and reinforcement.

Humans respect authority; it’s a trait that natural selection has driven into us for generation after generation. Take two mothers, each with a child. One mother shouts at her child ‘Don’t eat that!’ and the child complies. The same happens between the other mother and child and the child eats any way, and dies. Thus children have evolved to be uncritical of what they are told by their parents and by extension adults in general and people perceived to be in authority. There is no such thing as a sceptical young child and some people don’t appear to ever get past the gullible stage.

So we now have spirits in place of understanding, alpha male behaviour exacerbated by tribalism, an unwarranted respect for authority all mixed together and compounded by institutionalisation brought about by the written word. It is from this concoction that I contend the creation of the God meme was inevitable. The God meme flourishes because it is simple to understand, and thus easy to transmit, immensely emotionally satisfying (daddy is great and will always look after us) and common belief gives one a feeling of societal security. Once one has a God one has the potential to manipulate one’s circumstances through ritual worship or personal prayer.  One gains a modicum of perceived control over the unknown e.g. “if I sacrifice this person the rains will come!”

It’s no surprise to me that all religions hinge on a book. For some reason humans often attribute authority to something written down. It may be because we have become used to things being written down by intelligent people or people in authority or that our education systems are founded on books. Thus the book becomes the synthesis of the authority and in the case of the Koran this is absolute authority as the words are deemed to be those of Allah himself. 

Thus humans created God out of ignorance and need.
If religions were TV channels atheism is turning the TV off.
“Religion is a culture of faith; science is a culture of doubt.” ― Richard P. Feynman
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Crow

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Re: Why God?
« Reply #1 on: September 04, 2011, 05:05:12 PM »
Good read Tank.

Its also interesting to look at the timeline when most of popular religions today came into there origin, most were throughout the iron age of those cultures where a massive fundamental changes within society took place, those that weren't spawned in the iron age came about again during other fundamental shifts within societies. Is it possible that religion and the god concept is a way to help people adapt to cultural shifts and help the masses gain an understanding of the world that is rapidly changing around them?

“It is not the strongest of species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.” Charles Darwin
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Tank

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Re: Why God?
« Reply #2 on: September 04, 2011, 05:19:21 PM »
That's an interesting thought that God changes with society, with the zeitgeist. I would think that any particular God is a pretty mutable meme, up to the point it get written down and institutionalised. After that it's a meme on its own!
If religions were TV channels atheism is turning the TV off.
“Religion is a culture of faith; science is a culture of doubt.” ― Richard P. Feynman
'It is said that your life flashes before your eyes just before you die. That is true, it's called Life.' - Terry Pratchett

iSok

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Re: Why God?
« Reply #3 on: September 04, 2011, 06:44:49 PM »
It was a good read Tank, thanks for putting your thoughts on paper.
Qur'an [49:13] - "O Mankind, We created you all from a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes so that you may know one another. Verily the noblest of you in the sight of God is the most God-fearing of you. Surely God is All-Knowing, All-Aware."

Tank

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Re: Why God?
« Reply #4 on: September 04, 2011, 07:14:21 PM »
It was a good read Tank, thanks for putting your thoughts on paper.
You're welcome :)
If religions were TV channels atheism is turning the TV off.
“Religion is a culture of faith; science is a culture of doubt.” ― Richard P. Feynman
'It is said that your life flashes before your eyes just before you die. That is true, it's called Life.' - Terry Pratchett

Gawen

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Re: Why God?
« Reply #5 on: September 05, 2011, 03:01:20 AM »
I would add, if I may...

If a man believes in the supernatural, he will account for phenomena by the supernatural. We know that formerly just about everything was accounted for in this way. The more ignorant man is and at odds with his environment and the less control he feels he has over it, the greater his belief in unseen superstitious/supernatural powers. For instance, an altar or shrine or a memorial has been erected to the ‘spirit of the place’. For all we know, this may have simply been that on some occasion a person coming home drunk one night was frightened out of his wits by a barn owl he couldn't see clearly. Consequently the place attracted a reputation for being haunted and the altar was put up to placate the ghost of the ‘dead person’ who swooped from out of nowhere trying to take possession of the drunkard.

You open a humungous can/s of worms in the excellent OP, Tank. I will however confine myself as best I can to the gist of it.

Consider the early human, who subsisted on roots, plants and animals that could be killed with a simple club or stone and yet could kill him equally as well. Countless objects of terror surround our early ancestors. They stand next to rivers with no beginning or end, by bodies of water with one shore that feeds them and yet sometimes flood them out. There are beasts mightier than they. They suffer strange sicknesses. He is afraid of the sound of thunder, blinded by the lightning, and he hides from the growing black and menacing sky. Then, somewhere, sometime, a early human begged for the protection of the Unknown.

In the long dawn of humanity's awakening, the seeds of superstition were sown in the mind of man. How this happened, we do not know. But we do know the early humans thoroughly believed that everything happened in reference to them. He believed that by his actions he could anger or placate the wrath of the Unseen. Sometime along that long early road, he resorted to flattery and prayer and sacrifice to the unseen. Put in stone, bone or carved in wood, his idea of his God(s) and before long, he built an altar, then a hut, a hovel, a shrine and at last, a cathedral for these entities. Before these images he bowed and prayed, and at these shrines, he lavished his wealth, and sought, perhaps not eternal in the beginning, but nevertheless protection for himself and for the ones he loved.

And he made others believe as he did.
The few took advantage of the many and the few pretended or were deluded enough to eventually become intercessors between the helpless multitude and the Gods.

But why God? All religions report numerous and equally credible miracles. As Hume noted, the religions of the world have established themselves upon their miracles. Vanity, delusion, greed and zealotry have led to more than one ‘pious fraud’ supporting a holy and meritorious cause with gross embellishments and outright lies about witnessing miraculous events (Hume).

Testimony (a constant) depends on the intelligence and integrity of the testifier and the intelligence of the one who hears it. People, with the best of intentions, honestly bear false witness because they have been imposed upon by appearances, ignorance, vanity, greed and power hungry and are victims of delusion and illusion and their credulity, in many cases, believes everything except the truth. Another constant, and rather uniform in its sinisterness is the willingness of people at all times in all ages to desire wondrous events. They are more than willing to be deluded about them, to fabricate, create, embellish, enhance, and come to believe in the absolute truth of their own or others passions and heated over-imaginations.

The writers of the Synoptic Gospels tell us that Jesus set great value by marvels that no one is able to do today. Ministers cannot cast out devils, move mountains, wither fig trees, and they are affected by poison the same as any other. The writers of Jesus had a primitive idea of the value of magic. Did Jesus do the miraculous or have the writers sought to deceive the gullible, or, as is more likely, were over-credulous? It is important to remember that Jesus stressed the value of enchantment and advised his successors to conjure in his name. If the miraculous had not been connected with Jesus, it is most probable that he never would have been heard of. His ethical teachings alone would not have won for him the exalted position that has come from the stories of his miraculous birth, life and ascension.

Still I haven't answered "Why God?" and I may never answer it fully or to anyone's satisfaction. Yet, way way back, when reading and writing were unknown and history was hearsay handed down for generations, fragments of facts were taken for the whole, and the deductions drawn were sometimes honest...and...virtually nothing but the untruth was retold. Only the wonderful, the fantastic and the miraculous were kept. The more miraculous the story was, the greater the interest was generated. Storytellers and listeners were alike ignorant and alike honest. Way back then, nothing was known or suspected of the orderly course of nature because everything was at the mercy of a being, or entities, which were, ironically, controlled by the same passions that dominated the ancient man.

That is "Why God?", in part, way back then. It has only become more perverse in the last 1700 years.
 
« Last Edit: September 05, 2011, 03:03:29 AM by Gawen »
The essence of the mind is not in what it thinks, but how it thinks. Faith is the surrender of our mind; of reason and our skepticism to put all our trust or faith in someone or something that has no good evidence of itself. That is a sinister thing to me. Of all the supposed virtues, faith is not.
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Tank

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Re: Why God?
« Reply #6 on: September 05, 2011, 07:17:18 AM »
@ Gawen

Thanks for your input, most interesting, thoughtful and informative as usual.

If religions were TV channels atheism is turning the TV off.
“Religion is a culture of faith; science is a culture of doubt.” ― Richard P. Feynman
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Stevil

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Re: Why God?
« Reply #7 on: September 05, 2011, 08:45:02 AM »
To answer "Why God?", you need to ask "Why Me?"

It's a very simple intuitive philosophical question, exploding into a plethora of complicated, intricate and textured puzzles.
Who am I?
How come I am me and not someone else?
Have I always been?
Where will I go when my body fails?
Why am I in this body, in this time and place?
Where did I come from? Yeah, I know, Dad's jizz, Mum's egg in the oven. But I am more that just flesh and bone. I am master of this body I possess. With it's limits and flaws, I am not that mirrored reflection, I am much more.
Don't judge me on how I look, how dare you, this vessel is pure chance. It's what is on the inside that is my pride and joy, I've crafted and shaped myself, I've removed my constraints, I've expanded my horizons, expectations and imagination. I can control who I am, just not so much on what I look like.

But I am special, I am not someone else, I am me. I have consciousness and intelligence, creativity and personality. I am certainly no stupid animal. There is no-one quite like me, never has been, never will be again. I am special, I am unique.

But what chance was there of me being me. If a different sperm had made it to that egg, if mum hadn't been in the mood that day, if mum and dad had fallen for someone else instead, what about grandma and grandpa? if they hadn't got together. Wow, the mind boggles. The chances against me being born are stupidly horrendously infinitesimally small, almost negligible.

I shouldn't be here, I shouldn't be me. It just doesn't make sense that I am here.

But then someone tells me about god. It completely makes sense. God made me in his image, god made this place for me (I mean) us. I was meant to be, god had a plan and I was always going to be in it. God loves me and wants me to come to heaven with him afterwards. It's all part of god's plan, and now I know my purpose.

But then someone tells me about evolution. You've got to be fu%#ing kidding, right. You look like a damn monkey, me, god created me in his image, I'm special, not just some outrageous random chance, an evolved monkey for god's sake! God is bigger than you and me, he created us because he loves us, he loves me. I'm special I tell you, all of creation was made for me (I mean) us.  

You can shove that fu%#ing monkey up your a$$ you c@ck s&%king atheist, devil worshiping child of godless wh%re. F%$k you, who the F*%@ do you and your %&king d*&^% t%$^ pri#k.

You just need to believe you d%&kwad, you filthy p%$!n w*nk#r, go k&ll yo%$self, and sh*t and die.

God loves you, you know. God IS love, why are you such a blind p&n!sfaced jockstrap and deny this fact. God doesn't want your hate and lies. You monkey lover, why don't you just go back to the jungle where you belong, F&*ck You!



« Last Edit: September 05, 2011, 09:12:50 AM by Stevil »

Evilbeagle

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Re: Why God?
« Reply #8 on: September 05, 2011, 09:31:32 AM »
Yawn , yawn, yawn !

Well, thats a very convincing argument, NOT.  :P
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Will

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Re: Why God?
« Reply #9 on: September 05, 2011, 09:34:16 AM »
What the hell, Stevil?
I want bad people to look forward to and celebrate the day I die, because if they don't, I'm not living up to my potential.

Tank

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Re: Why God?
« Reply #10 on: September 05, 2011, 09:46:05 AM »
Stevil's post is about the human ego, and why it would lead man to create God in his image.
If religions were TV channels atheism is turning the TV off.
“Religion is a culture of faith; science is a culture of doubt.” ― Richard P. Feynman
'It is said that your life flashes before your eyes just before you die. That is true, it's called Life.' - Terry Pratchett

Tank

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Re: Why God?
« Reply #11 on: September 05, 2011, 09:46:34 AM »
Yawn , yawn, yawn !

Well, thats a very convincing argument, NOT.  :P
Which one and why?
If religions were TV channels atheism is turning the TV off.
“Religion is a culture of faith; science is a culture of doubt.” ― Richard P. Feynman
'It is said that your life flashes before your eyes just before you die. That is true, it's called Life.' - Terry Pratchett

Stevil

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Re: Why God?
« Reply #12 on: September 05, 2011, 10:01:53 AM »
Stevil's post is about the human ego, and why it would lead man to create God in his image.
Precisely,

But also trying to make sense of yourself. It is strange if you think about it too hard. Well, it is to me. Why me, why now?

I also do try to make sense of a theist's disdain or disbelief of having evolved from something less than human and the anger that can manifest at someone who suggests such a thing. Re-reading my post, its a bit over the top there. Sorry bout that.
« Last Edit: September 05, 2011, 10:16:17 AM by Stevil »

The Magic Pudding

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Re: Why God?
« Reply #13 on: September 05, 2011, 10:02:58 AM »
Well I liked Stevil's post.

And I think "d%&kwad, you filthy p%$!n w*nk#r, go k&ll yo%$self, and sh*t and die" would make an excellent password.

Asmodean

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Re: Why God?
« Reply #14 on: September 05, 2011, 12:54:27 PM »
Just to answer a few points from a "why NOT god"-perspective

To answer "Why God?", you need to ask "Why Me?"
Simple answer involves a mommy and a daddy and bees and flowers.

Quote
Who am I?
The sum of my memories, actions and processed outside influence, boiling down to electrochemical reactions within my body.

Quote
How come I am me and not someone else?
The near-infinite variability in genetic coding and the uniqueness of experiences.

Quote
Have I always been?
Always, since the moment of my birth (and for a time prior to that)

Quote
Where will I go when my body fails?
Nowhere. The end is the end.

Quote
Why am I in this body, in this time and place?
Bees and flowers were in this space and within this linear timeframe.

Quote
Where did I come from? Yeah, I know, Dad's jizz, Mum's egg in the oven. But I am more that just flesh and bone. I am master of this body I possess. With it's limits and flaws, I am not that mirrored reflection, I am much more.

Yes. I am also what I mentioned before. The sum of my memories, experiences and processed outside influence.

Quote
Don't judge me on how I look, how dare you, this vessel is pure chance. It's what is on the inside that is my pride and joy, I've crafted and shaped myself, I've removed my constraints, I've expanded my horizons, expectations and imagination. I can control who I am, just not so much on what I look like.
Plastic surgery. Other than that, this does stroke my narcissism, so point approved.

Quote
But I am special, I am not someone else, I am me. I have consciousness and intelligence, creativity and personality. I am certainly no stupid animal. There is no-one quite like me, never has been, never will be again. I am special, I am unique.
...About as unique as any stupid animal, except not quite as stupid as many.

... ...

Ran out of boredom. Sorry. :P
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