The God Delusion - Chapter 5

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The God Delusion - Chapter 5

Post #1

Post by otseng »

According to Dawkins, how did religion arise?

McCulloch's question:
Is religion as an accidental by-product – a misfiring of something useful?

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Re: The God Delusion - Chapter 5

Post #31

Post by bunyip »

> "The first sentence of the second paragraph:
"Knowing that we are products of Darwinian evolution, we should ask what pressure or pressures exerted by natural selection originally favoured the impulse to religion."

What then is the point that Dawkins is trying to convey in this chapter?"

First, he's explaining that "religion" [by which i presume he means "faith"] is an individual matter. The fact that "Christianity" is now comprised of something like ten thousand different sects is a prime example of this. Every new idea about their deity breeds offshoots. California alone has nearly 650 registered "religions". One assumes the vast majority of those are "Christian" in one form or another.

The second is an area Richard is merely touching on - what is the one aspect of Natural Selectioni that sets us apart from the rest of the animal kingdom? Out mental faculities. The human brain is clearly more complex and evolved faster than that of any other creature. We have only begun to find out what's going on in there. The research into how our brains generate the idea of "agency" is very recent. His mention of Michael Persinger's work in passing [p. 168] shows how much work remains to be done. But "temporal lobe epilepsy" is as good a basis to build on as any.

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Post #32

Post by Furrowed Brow »

Confused wrote: While what you say is true, why has it persisted in the face of other concepts that have phased out? Because of "memes" or "teleology"? I don't consider these sufficient explanations as to why religious doctrine has remained so firmly rooted in society when other superstitious thought has often been phased out.
Well maybe some of the other superstitious have evolved. No one seriously practises alchemy anymore - because science has moved on. Maybe some superstitions were competing with the now established religions. One thinks of the introduction of Christianity to the Americas.

Alchemy is a good example of a belief system that actually says something about the world that can be tested - and fails miserably.

In the 17th century people believed in spontaneous generation of life. A belief often confirmed by the inexplicable appearance of maggots on rotting meat. And so on.

Religion on the other hand - so it seems to me - is a powerful social glue. Yet says very little about the world that can actually be tested. Soul spirit, heaven etc. And when stuff like prayer is tested, it can’t accept the results.

I’d also say that humans have a very powerful urge to be seen to be social, and accepted by their peer group. Better to be an insider than an outsider. Religion taps into this. To be part of the peer group one needs to be or at least seen to be striving to be a “good person” as defined by the rules of the peer group. A belief system that says if you are like us you are good, and if you are good you are accepted, is a an excellent way of keeping a social group together and cohesive.

Two groups competing for recourses, one with religion and one without, I’d bet on the religious group winning out.

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Re: The God Delusion - Chapter 5

Post #33

Post by bunyip »

>" Why does religion still maintain such a stronghold? "

Although i'm ashamed to admit i let this comment slip by me, i hope i'm not too late to call your attention to Richard's comments about this. He contends quite rightly that the brainwashing of children is the obvious cause. Smothering the kiddies with "faith" makes it hard to break out of the mind-set that creates. How we are to deal with parents imposing mental child abuse on children is one of our greatest societal challenges.

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Post #34

Post by otseng »

Furrowed Brow wrote:In the 17th century people believed in spontaneous generation of life.
And so do people in the 21st century.
bunyip wrote:He contends quite rightly that the brainwashing of children is the obvious cause. Smothering the kiddies with "faith" makes it hard to break out of the mind-set that creates. How we are to deal with parents imposing mental child abuse on children is one of our greatest societal challenges.
Mental child abuse? Greatest societal challenges? I would think that's a bit going too far. Just because you do not subscribe to religion would not mean others are abusing their children mentally.

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Post #35

Post by Furrowed Brow »

Otseng wrote:Furrowed Brow wrote:
In the 17th century people believed in spontaneous generation of life.

And so do people in the 21st century.
Touché. :?

But I suppose for the 17th Century mind life meant what they could see. Bacteria and simple celled organisms fell outside their world view. Or fly eggs in the case of maggots.

I've just read an article in the Scientific American about RNA. I think I might have to start a new thread.

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Post #36

Post by bunyip »

> "Mental child abuse? Greatest societal challenges? I would think that's a bit going too far. Just because you do not subscribe to religion would not mean others are abusing their children mentally."

Whell, we're only on Chapter 6 . Keep reading. You may gain some further insights.

The question has been posed somewhere is this chaos about the persistence of religion in the face of evidence. The persistence lies in the brainwashing of children. The Jesuits got it right, although they didn't know why.

Cognitive science shows how easily a mind-set takes root and how difficult it is to dislodge. Religion is one of the worst of these, most likely because of the fears associated with its teaching. Darwin rejected Christianity because Nature demonstrated that "a loving god" was a lot of tosh. People still speak of such a deity, but the fundamental premise is that if you don't accept that version of "love", damnation is the sole alternative.

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Post #37

Post by otseng »

bunyip wrote:Whell, we're only on Chapter 6 . Keep reading. You may gain some further insights.

I've already read through the entire book. No insights on this have been found.

The question has been posed somewhere is this chaos about the persistence of religion in the face of evidence.

In the face of evidence? What evidence are you referring to?

People still speak of such a deity, but the fundamental premise is that if you don't accept that version of "love", damnation is the sole alternative.

As I tell atheists, if you believe that God does not exist, then damnation should not be a concern.

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Post #38

Post by Joe »

Although I enjoy reading Dawkins books I feel he often lacks necessary detail, which in itself is not bad as it requires the reader to think.
The first sentence of the second paragraph:
"Knowing that we are products of Darwinian evolution, we should ask what pressure or pressures exerted by natural selection originally favoured the impulse to religion."
From other studies I feel the above sentence provides the information required to achieve an answer to the original question. Evolving from a line from the primate chain early hominids lacked any knowledge which would allow them to answer the many questions they eventually would ask. When one lacks sufficient knowledge to provide a correct answer to a question, it is very likely they might come up with a supernatural being, superior to them, who is capable of creating the things they question. This would be especially true when they had acquired some necessary skills allowing them to create simple items. The elements of nature which could have devastating impact on their lives would have only been an example of the power of the assumed superior being which would have elevated him to a position of a God to be feared and obeyed. From that point forward religion became an important part of societal life.[/quote]

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Post #39

Post by Confused »

Furrowed Brow wrote:
Confused wrote: While what you say is true, why has it persisted in the face of other concepts that have phased out? Because of "memes" or "teleology"? I don't consider these sufficient explanations as to why religious doctrine has remained so firmly rooted in society when other superstitious thought has often been phased out.
Well maybe some of the other superstitious have evolved. No one seriously practises alchemy anymore - because science has moved on. Maybe some superstitions were competing with the now established religions. One thinks of the introduction of Christianity to the Americas.

Alchemy is a good example of a belief system that actually says something about the world that can be tested - and fails miserably.

In the 17th century people believed in spontaneous generation of life. A belief often confirmed by the inexplicable appearance of maggots on rotting meat. And so on.

Religion on the other hand - so it seems to me - is a powerful social glue. Yet says very little about the world that can actually be tested. Soul spirit, heaven etc. And when stuff like prayer is tested, it can’t accept the results.

I’d also say that humans have a very powerful urge to be seen to be social, and accepted by their peer group. Better to be an insider than an outsider. Religion taps into this. To be part of the peer group one needs to be or at least seen to be striving to be a “good person” as defined by the rules of the peer group. A belief system that says if you are like us you are good, and if you are good you are accepted, is a an excellent way of keeping a social group together and cohesive.

Two groups competing for recourses, one with religion and one without, I’d bet on the religious group winning out.
Missed that rational mind.

I agree that some other superstitions have evolved. I also have to say that Christianity has evolved as well. It had to in order to survive. But I have to wonder why it is still so popular. Clearly, it is impossible to truly follow any of the teachings of Christ, save for the "no Gods before me". I haven't met anyone yet who can say that they follows the teachings as they are taught. They have adapted them to fit into todays society. Yet they use the same book. How is it that despite the obvious impossibility to follow all the teachings of Christ and still survive, Christianity is still flourishing? I understand the need to be social creatures. But one can go to dance club and be social. One can go to a book club and be social. One can join various charity groups and find acceptance, purpose, and social structures. So why is it Christianity, or religion in the general sense, remains despite the contradictions between life in todays society and the teaching of Christ?
What we do for ourselves dies with us,
What we do for others and the world remains
and is immortal.

-Albert Pine
Never be bullied into silence.
Never allow yourself to be made a victim.
Accept no one persons definition of your life; define yourself.

-Harvey Fierstein

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Post #40

Post by Furrowed Brow »

Confused wrote: One can go to a book club and be social. One can join various charity groups and find acceptance, purpose, and social structures.

I don’t think this has to be either/or. There may be multiple ways of founding cohesion in society. In fact the more devolved the society the more ways may present themselves. Hey - even internet forums. But some will be more powerful than others. I don’t think the pyramids would have been built so grand without religion.

And the pay back to a society is then massive coordination of your subjects. Order. Organisation. Management skills. Single purpose. Etc.

Monarchies have also been another social system. One that has fed off religion for its legitimacy. If you are appointed by God, and you can get your subjects to buy into that, then you are less likely to be toppled from within. And society gains from not be torn apart by inter-fighting.
Confused wrote: So why is it Christianity, or religion in the general sense, remains despite the contradictions between life in today’s society and the teaching of Christ?
I don’t think we should under estimate the pull felt by individual towards accepting something greater than themselves. And I don’t think we should underestimate the evolutionary advantages of having members of a population open to such a pull.

Could religion be evolution’s greatest con tricks? :eyebrow:
Otseng wrote: Further, suppose that it is a product of natural selection, how does he know that religion is not the final useful product rather than a by-product?
We don’t. But that would require a supernatural explanation to be added on to what is a naturalistic explanation.

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