The Origin of Superstition - Animism and Agency

Introdcution

Even in our modern technologically advanced world the vast majority of people on planet Earth believe in something supernatural or some form of abiding spiritual truth. Most human beings identify with some form of religion or another although what sect and Church they identify with may be wildly different from what their neighbors believe. Even among the fastest growing group of people, those who profess no religious belief at all, there are pockets of believers in something spiritual, in superstitions that aren't as rigid as organized religion but are still a loose collection supernatural beliefs.

So why then do so many atheists argue against religious belief? It seems like something so ubiquitous to human experience that most forms of it must be innocuous. Perhaps there MUST be something true to these supernatural claims or otherwise why would so many people believe it? In this hub I'm going to talk about the basic building blocks that most religious claims are forged from and how all religions, modern and ancient, are built on the same psychological pattern-seeking quirks from our evolutionary past.


Rumble in the Jungle

Imagine for a moment that civilization is gone, you are alone in the desolate jungle that remains of one of humanity's former cities. Plants and animals have retaken the Earth from us and only you and a few bands of hunter-gatherer humans remain to try to salvage the human race and survive. All of a sudden checking your smart phone is no longer priority number one, now your very survival and the survival of your species in question every single day.

So you are walking alone in the forest when all of a sudden you hear the bushes ahead of you rustling and see the branches shaking. What are your immediate thoughts? Well it could just be a bird. If could just be the wind. But it also could be a predator, a hungry tiger that is seeking to eat you. The tiger is an intelligent agent, it has a desire to make you into lunch. If you choose to assume that the rustling is nothing at all and go on your way you might find yourself being gnawed on by a hungry animal and never get to pass on your genes. This is known as a type 2 error.

If you do, however, cautiously come to the conclusion that there is a tiger in the bush, you might run away and escape before it can pounce, you might climb a tree to avoid it. If you run away from the rustling sound and it happens to simply have been the wind all you have done is expend a bit of adrenaline and energy, no big deal. The consequences for making this sort of mistake (which is a type 1 error) are not bad whereas if you make the first type of mistake (assuming it was just the wind) you might end up lunch.

As Michael Shermer and many other skeptics point out natural selection favors the people who make the second mistake here because at least some of the time people who make the first mistake end up getting eaten. We modern humans are the descendants of primates and people who made the second sort of mistake, assuming there was an intelligent agent even when there wasn't one.

If you look hard enough you can find patterns everywhere, the face on mars is an infamous example of pareidolia
If you look hard enough you can find patterns everywhere, the face on mars is an infamous example of pareidolia

Pareidolia and Pattern Recognition

The basic problem here is in our methods of pattern recognition, because of our need to avoid predators as our ancestors descended from the tree tops to live on the forest floor we became great at pattern seeking. This is what is behind the psychological phenomenon of pareidolia, of finding familiar shapes even when they are not intentionally or actually there. Two dots and a semi-circle might be considered a smiley face and our brains immediately want to connect that shape to some intelligent designer. Like seeing shapes in clouds pareidolia is a big part of the puzzle in why human beings invoke agency, because we see patterns that aren't really there or that are completely coincidental.

For example let's say you get a song stuck in your head and then hear it on the radio and then this happens again, and again, ten times in the course of ten weeks. This might seem too great a pattern to be explained away as coincidence but if you are in the habit of listening to the radio and are familiar with a great deal of radio friendly songs you might well get songs you've heard stuck in your head and then hear them on the radio. Even if it's a song you haven't heard in a long time, or aren't immediately aware that you've ever heard at all, it can get stuck in your head only to show up on the radio.

Even some paranormal research groups acknowledge and attempt to correct for pareidolia, while others will shamelessly post photos of supposed “spirit orbs” and try to say there are faces inside of them.

It is tempting to put some kind of special importance on events that seem to form a pattern or that seem as if they would have to be somehow guided. We have to be sure we aren't falling victim to a false positive like in our example of the predator in the bushes above, we have to be sure the pattern really is there and that is where superstition fails.


Fine-Tuning and Agency

The supposed Fine-Tuning of the Universe is another classic example of invoking agency to explain a seemingly unlikely series of events. There are too many constants that are finely tuned, say theists, so that everything unfolded the way it did, right down to human beings evolving in the way they did. We wouldn't be here if the Universe were even slightly different, the chain of events leading up to us wouldn't have been the same.

This argument asserts that it is too unlikely for all of these events to have occurred on their own without intervention at some point. I just don't see how this is the case. If we take the chain apart and view each piece we can see the how and why that it might have happened doesn't have a magical connection to anything. The only point at which the chain becomes fuzzy and completely unknown is at the singularity and there is where Fine-Tuning proponents and Cosmological argument users like to stick their God of the gaps, invoking agency in the last place where scientifically literate people can actually do so.

The other point at which we have a problem with the Fine-Tuning argument is its assumption that because the existence of human beings is very improbable without a God (they assert) that there must be one because otherwise none of us would be here. This assumes that we are somehow special and that events aren't merely just taking place by cause and effect but are specifically tuned to lead to us.

There is simply no reason to make this assumption even if we were to agree that it is unlikely for us to be here. The moment you posit a God making sure we get here in the end you are doing away with your first premise, namely that it is unlikely and amazing that we are here. There's nothing special about us being here if a God did it, it would be much more surprising for a being like a God to fail in bringing about a desired outcome.

The fact is that the first premise of the argument, namely that the fine-tuning of the Universe is due to physical necessity, chance or design, presents us with a false trichotomy. The third option, of course, has never been established to be a viable explanation for the supposed fine-tuning it explains. We have no reason to think that an intelligent disembodied agency beyond time and space (which is typically how God is defined) is even a plausible viable possibility.

We have flawed premises that do not have evidence backing them up and we have the fact that they are assuming we are special and that we were the intended outcome of the Cosmos.

Philosopher and atheist AC Grayling has an ingenious way of breaking this argument down. His argument goes along the lines of: imagine for a moment all the disparate events that had to come together for my great great great great great grandfather to meet my great great great great great grandmother and for them to fall in love and eventually down the line a long long way, lead to me. Of course when viewed in this massive chain it seems entirely unlikely that all of these events happened by chance. There is an amazing arrogance in assuming that we are supposed to be here at all, as if all these events happened on our behalf so that we could one day be born.

Animism and Natural Religion

Remember the example of the rustling in the bushes? Now try to imagine what the first people on Earth might have thought about the trees, the wind, the sun, the moon, the stars. What patterns might they see in their day to day, year to year, existence that would lead them to believe that there was some intelligent agency behind everything? Where might religion spring from?

Sun worship is widely believed to be one of the oldest known forms of religion and one can see why. Human beings moved up in the world immensely when we switched from hunter-gatherers, to farmers who raised crops and livestock. And what do all crops need? The sun. The sun is what allowed human beings to do agriculture, it kept the predators of the night away, it gave them heat and light to work and live. It is easy to see how primitive humans would imbue the sun with agency and like many gods of later centuries the sun fell and died only to rise again.

Rain, too, was viewed as being controlled by an intelligent agency but it seems likely that the original line of thinking was not that a man in the clouds controlled nature but that nature itself was alive. This view is known as Animism, the idea that inanimate objects and things like plants have some quality of life, a spirit or agency within them.

Using Animism the ancients arrived at a better understanding of the world around them, marking the movements of celestial bodies, aligning many ancient sites, like Stonehenge, to the motion of the sun, moon and stars. They used this information to further agricultural knowledge that helped move human beings toward historical times and out of pre-history. Rather than mere myth many early forms of religion use the superstitious beliefs that made natural phenomenon thinking agents to make observations that helped them know when to plant crops, when the rains would come, etc.

Source

Inferring Agency in a Chaotic World

So what went wrong? What turned Animism and the desire to place agency and meaning onto the patterns we view in the world into suicide bombers and the Westboro Baptist Church? The answer is in the chaos and destruction that we observe in the natural world around us and in the unfortunate downsides of human nature.

When the crops are bad it might be inferred that the gods are angry, that the Earth is cursed or the creation tainted somehow. When drought or famine descend, when plague ravages and when the animals we needed to survive moved off to other pastures who was to blame? Some might have been bold enough to blame the gods but others, it seems, had the bright idea to blame members of their own community, or other communities, for behaviors that must have upset the gods. And so religion as a force of social coercion was born.

How do we get the rains to come back? By giving up behaviors that the shamans and priests advise us may upset the rain spirits. All of a sudden there are intermediaries interpreting the wills of these mysterious forces that govern our world and determine whether or not we survive another season. All of a sudden there are reasons to take the sinners out to the outskirts of town and stone them until they are dead, lest the wrath of the gods come down on the heads of the innocent. All of a sudden people are coerced into obeying authority by the specter of imaginary consequences in an afterlife. All of a sudden there is a reason for zealous young people to offer themselves as voluntary human sacrifices for the good of their civilization, because they falsely believe there is agency in the natural world that will look kindly upon them.

As religion became more and more tethered to every facet of people's lives it dragged on humanity making it harder and harder for us to progress. Suddenly it wasn't just about charting the motion of stars or knowing when the rainy season would come it was about enforcing rules and appeasing the chaotic forces of evil. People who were different could be demonized as witches, blamed for the famine or plague that had come down on their heads. Superstition became religion and, as the late Christopher Hitchens explained, eventually religion poisons everything.

Conclusions

At the root of all superstition and religion there is the idea that the natural world can be explained by invoking a supernatural agency. Whether you are a college student praying to pass some exam or an ancient farmer praying that the goddess bring rain soon you are invoking a supernatural agent to act on your behalf. Whether you are practicing Joel Osteen's Prosperity Gospel or are a believer that the Universe cannot have come into existence naturally and must have been the product of a mind you are invoking the same principle that made the ancients believe that when the volcano erupted a God was angry.

Believers who insist that there must be something supernatural, that the patterns are really there, seem to be making a type 1 error. Much like Pascal's Wager what we have here is an argument that says, “it's safer to believe, just in case it turns out to be real”. But for those of us who are skeptical not only do we not see any evidence for the existence of a god we also see reasons why such beliefs are based on psychological quirks and faith alone. Thanks for reading!

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Comments 39 comments

jonnycomelately profile image

jonnycomelately 18 months ago from Tasmania

Thank you... great food for thought.


Titen-Sxull profile image

Titen-Sxull 18 months ago from back in the lab again Author

Thanks for the comment Jonny, glad you found it interesting!


Stargrrl 18 months ago

"We have no reason to think that an intelligent disembodied agency beyond time and space (which is typically how God is defined) is even a plausible viable possibility."

Yes, we do.

"The other point at which we have a problem with the Fine-Tuning argument is its assumption that because the existence of human beings is very improbable without a God (they assert) that there must be one because otherwise none of us would be here. This assumes that we are somehow special and that events aren't merely just taking place by cause and effect but are specifically tuned to lead to us."

We are special. Everything happens for a reason. God has a destiny for us, and He created us in His own image.

People chose to worship the sun, moon, and stars because God had not revealed Himself to them. If you remember, God had to reveal Himself to Abraham and other men of the bible. Without God, humans had to attribute happenings to the sun. It is God who revealed Himself to us, and subsequently gave us the knowledge to figure out things for ourselves, or He told some of us directly. Everything that has been discovered, we have been led to by God. He just hasn't led us to a cure for cancer yet--I know you are going to bring that up. One day He will.


Link10103 profile image

Link10103 18 months ago

"Yes, we do."

Nature I assume? The human body?

"We are special. Everything happens for a reason. God has a destiny for us, and He created us in His own image."

Some people are certainly more special than others. I would have imagined that a father god who you assert loves us unconditionally wouldn't include the death and suffering of billions of people for millennia in his destiny plan though...sounds rather satanish. Sure you arent the one being tricked instead?

"He just hasn't led us to a cure for cancer yet--I know you are going to bring that up. One day He will."

And yet he leads people to find their car keys...fantabulous priorities.


Stargrrl 18 months ago

Link

God has a reason for everything He does. He came down to earth, lived among us, suffered death for us, so that we may be reconciled to Him. Jesus' death was the ONLY acceptable sacrifice that could be made for our sin. He loves us and suffers with us. When we die, we (hopefully) go back to Him.


jonnycomelately profile image

jonnycomelately 18 months ago from Tasmania

Stargirl, supposing you were to say, "I believe.....God has a reason for everything He does." I could respect your point of view then. However, when you make a statement of fact which I do not see as fact, then you alienate my opinion.

Your opinion is very Christian. I am not Christian.


Link10103 profile image

Link10103 18 months ago

I guess if I had limitless power I would also jump straight to human sacrifice/ritual suicide rather than simply removing the problem Star. Non lethal means just isn't as fun...


Titen-Sxull profile image

Titen-Sxull 18 months ago from back in the lab again Author

Oh, we do have a reason for assuming its a disembodied agency?

Please tell me what that reason is.

Because I have yet to see you make an argument with any substance to it.

"we have been led to by God."

So now human beings aren't even capable of doing science without God? I cannot imagine being as superstitious as you are, what a horrible way to go about my life, seeing demons and Satan in everything I disagree with and giving God the credit for everything good while blindly accepting the Bible as if it has some kind of authority.

No offense but I just don't see what intellectual ground you have to stand on to believe these things. You constantly just assert them without anything to back them up. Here I am giving reasonable arguments and your best is to say "No, I believe the opposite is true"... okay but WHY do you believe it and in what ways do your beliefs match up AT ALL with observable reality?


Austinstar profile image

Austinstar 18 months ago from Somewhere in the universe

Just chiming in to get on the 'follow' list for this hub. Love those Aztec pictograms!


jonnycomelately profile image

jonnycomelately 18 months ago from Tasmania

If I was God those would go up in my Gallery as proof of my "Failed Projects" never to be repeated!


Stargrrl 18 months ago

Titen, I am not buying your fine-tuning argument. I want to go back to that. It got me thinking. Scientists have long speculated that life might possible exist on any of the eight planets in the solar system, most recently the moons of Jupiter. But you know that on all eight other planets in our solar system--no life has been found, nor could any exist. Some scientists claim that life will spring up everywhere there is water. But if life can emerge from non life so quickly and efficiently on a planet as undistinguished as ours, then why not throughout the universe's hundreds of billions of galaxies? You claim here that Earth has no privileged status. What would be the point of all these advanced civilizations existing if there was no God? Earth is anything but ordinary, our sun is far from average, and even the position of our planet in the galaxy is eerily fortuitous. We couldn't possibly be an accident--there are too many things and too many examples of intelligent design to be labeled as mere "coincidences." There is NO proof that advanced civilization exists anywhere else in the universe. Yes, it would be a waste of all that space, but we don't know what exists outside of the universe. Scientists are uncovering concrete evidence suggesting that we were created to discover and learn about the surroundings in which we have been placed. God may have designed us to do science itself.

In conclusion- Earth may be the ONLY planet in the right place at the right time. Earth is not just one planet among trillions. Earth is uncommon, and unique from any other planet. There is a reason why all other galaxies are zillions of miles and light years away. There is a reason why the other planets in our solar system are inhabitable. If you believe that there are other advanced civilization elsewhere in the universe, you have to admit you have faith in something--the possibility of aliens. Because you don't have any tangible proof that there is otherwise.

And humans are capable of NOTHING without God. Perhaps God is using the study of science to lead others to Him. Many scientists have come away as believers once they really looked into things like the origin and existence of the universe. They realize at some point that stuff cannot just happen by itself, and they have admitted that they do not have all the answers.


Link10103 profile image

Link10103 18 months ago

"Many scientists have come away as believers once they really looked into things like the origin and existence of the universe."

Can you name any Star? Plenty of people lose their faith simply by reading the bible as it really is. Science is the epitome of logic and critical thinking, the mortal enemy of blind faith.

If you are saying scientists come out saying "its certainly possible", well i completely agree. If you are saying they come out believing jesus christ is their lord and savior and satan is trying to trick people away from god, gonna have to call BS on that one...

Oh, and google Kepler-186f.


Titen-Sxull profile image

Titen-Sxull 18 months ago from back in the lab again Author

" nor could any exist. "

This simply isn't true. Life is organic chemistry, wherever you have the right ingredients and enough energy entering into the system (whether it be geothermal, solar, etc) life might form. We haven't even landed a person on Mars and you are already declaring that there's no life ANYWHERE in our solar system?

It doesn't happen quickly, no one is saying that it is, abiogenesis would likely take millions of years to get from simple molecules to actual living cells

"What would be the point of all these advanced civilizations existing if there was no God?"

I don't understand your question. Do you mean what is the purpose of them existing? Like what meaning does their life have? It has whatever meaning they ascribe to it, same as our lives do. Ask a hundred people what they find meaningful about life, what the meaning of life truly is, and you'll get a lot of different answers, even if you asked a hundred Christians you'd get different answers.

"our sun is far from average"

There are hundreds of billions of stars in our galaxy alone and there are hundreds of billions of galaxies. You are wrong on this point. Our sun is not special and we only see Earth as special because we haven't found life elsewhere yet and because its our home. It would become no more special if it was summoned into existence by a cosmic wizard, if anything it would be LESS special.

"there are too many things and too many examples of intelligent design to be labeled as mere "coincidences." "

That's why scientists don't call them coincidences. See scientists study and look for the best answer that the evidence leads us to, whereas what Intelligent Design proponents do is look at one or two things science hasn't explained yet (and some things science HAS explained that they pretend it hasn't) and insert a logically fallacious God of the gaps.

"Scientists are uncovering concrete evidence suggesting that we were created to discover and learn about the surroundings in which we have been placed"

Cart before the horse. The Earth is not tailored to us, we, because of natural selection, are tailored to the Earth. What you're talking about is evolutionary advantages we have over other species that help us understand our world, these are hardwired base-level instincts from which things like reason and science eventually were developed. There is no reason to invoke the spooky or supernatural. Your entire argument is based on "science can't explain X, therefore God is a better explanation".

"Earth may be the ONLY planet in the right place at the right time."

There are at least one hundred billion stars in the Milky Way, we have even found planets in the habitable zone outside of our solar system. You can search earthlike exoplanets, scientists find more everyday. Sheer numbers alone mean we should wait to see what science discovers before we go pretending that Earth is the chosen one of planets.

"There is a reason why all other galaxies are zillions of miles and light years away."

Yes, it's called gravity.

"you have to admit you have faith in something--the possibility of aliens."

Okay, I have faith in the POSSIBILITY of aliens. And this proves what? I have faith in the POSSIBILITY of gods too and unicorns and zombies and a magical space penguin named Marvin. All of these things are hypothetically possible.

The thing that sets aliens apart from the magical, however, is that they are biological, they do not require the ad hoc assumption that a God or supernatural force exist. Aliens are perfectly consistent with a naturalistic worldview, whereas the paranormal and supernatural generally aren't. Now as you pointed out I don't have faith that aliens absolutely do exist but advanced aliens MIGHT exist. We don't have enough data and haven't explored enough planets to determine how likely it is for intelligent life to arise and how likely it is for that intelligent life to move into interstellar space. Our own species seems content to play in the muck while we overpopulate the Earth and spend money on wars and other bullshit while education and space travel suffer for it.

"God may have designed us to do science itself."

Human beings have been around about 200,000 years. Animism, which I view as a sort of proto-science, didn't come into its own until we stopped being hunter-gatherers and became agriculturalists. The Greeks had an early version of science a little over 2000 years ago but modern science has only been around since Galileo and didn't come into its own until the Industrial Revolution. So if God designed us to do science he did a terrible job.

"Many scientists have come away as believers once they really looked into things like the origin and existence of the universe."

Some scientists are believers but a much larger portion of the scientific community are atheists than the amount of atheists in the general population.

Science ALWAYS admits that it doesn't have all the answers. I mean they've been complaining about not being able to form a 'theory of everything' to merge quantum mechanics and relativity since Einstein at least. But here's the thing, it is FAR more intellectually honest to admit that WE DON'T KNOW then to pretend than to fit the square peg of some ancient mythology into the round hole of the gaps in our knowledge. It is a logical fallacy to invoke God as a pat answer for anything unknown or mysterious. The beauty and awe of the Cosmos is far more engrossing and enveloping when you look at it through the lens of science and leave the bronze age mythology behind.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9D05ej8u-gU

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p0_YHVFoXkM


Austinstar profile image

Austinstar 18 months ago from Somewhere in the universe

Kepler 186f is the first of many "goldilocks" planets to be discovered in the near future. We are just now getting our probes and telescopes out there and we now know what to look for.

Find the right sized sun - there are billions of these

Find the gravitation wobble equivalent to our own stars wobble - billions of these too.

Then look for the planet causing that wobble - again billions are possible.

Humanity's future looks very good for finding and eventually travelling to other earth-like planets.


Stargrrl 18 months ago

You don't know that humans have been around 200,000 years. No one can actually prove the age of the earth, no matter what carbon dating alludes to. People have debunked carbon dating.

And even if we think we have found other planets like ours, that does not mean there is life or anything we think of on them. They are so far away that even the best telescopes can't be taken as gospel.


Titen-Sxull profile image

Titen-Sxull 18 months ago from back in the lab again Author

"No one can actually prove the age of the earth"

They can and have. You can look up how its done and why its reliable. This is grade school level science education. And no, the Earth isn't dated by carbon, that's a misconception that creationists parrot when they have no idea what they're talking about. How do I know its a bullshit misconception? Because when I was 16 I was a creationist who went around telling people that carbon dating was unreliable when I was just repeating what creationist websites had told me. The difference is I eventually educated myself and realized I was wrong.

"They are so far away that even the best telescopes can't be taken as gospel."

I don't know what this means. Does this mean that if we had a telescope that could see into ETs living room you still wouldn't believe?

And finally, the only argument in the scientific community about when modern human beings emerged is the point at which we should call our ancestors the same species as us. Because evolution is so gradual it is impossible to pinpoint a single generation that is homo sapiens where the last generation was something else.


Link10103 profile image

Link10103 18 months ago

Quick google search tells me that carbon dating isn't the only method used to determine age, mainly because it becomes inacurate the further back you go. I also saw that the age it can determine can be within the 5 digit area. Not sure what debunk you are talking about when scientists clearly compensate for it.

Star, earlier you said earth is uncommon and unique. Immediately after that you are shown a planet that is somewhat similar to ours, opening up the possibility that a planet exactly or incredibily similar to ours could in fact exist and have life/the potential of life, yet you discount the possibility right afterwards.

Do you pay any attention to what you say?


d.william profile image

d.william 18 months ago from Somewhere in the south

Great article. Interesting P.O.V. and always a great topic for much discussion.

My favorite line that people use to justify their beliefs in earthly religions is: “....''it's safer to believe, just in case it turns out to be real”.....

That would imply that their God can be fooled into thinking that those followers believe everything without question. Or what they call "Blind Faith". Not a very bright or perceptive God after all...

i like you writing style and logical rationalizations. I look forward to reading more of your works.


Stargrrl 18 months ago

Titen,

I did a quick search on Google about the age of the planet and radiometric dating, and I got four different answers. No one knows the exact age of the Earth. They claim different types of rocks with different ages have been found.

I'm not saying I think the Earth is 6,000 years old. I think God's version of time is different from ours. One day to Him is many, many years. But scientists can only speculate at what age the earth and the universe are.

"And finally, the only argument in the scientific community about when modern human beings emerged is the point at which we should call our ancestors the same species as us. Because evolution is so gradual it is impossible to pinpoint a single generation that is homo sapiens where the last generation was something else."

Huh? This only tells me that no one knows, or can know.

And don't tell me that this stuff is grade level science. I've taught grade level science and students don't start to learn this stuff until high school.


Titen-Sxull profile image

Titen-Sxull 18 months ago from back in the lab again Author

Thanks for the kind words d.william, glad you found the article interesting.


Titen-Sxull profile image

Titen-Sxull 18 months ago from back in the lab again Author

All of the results have been over four billion years, with the actual age of Earth being somewhere around 4.5 billion.

"The age of the Earth is 4.54 ± 0.05 billion years (4.54 × 109 years ± 1%)." - The wikipedia article on the Age of the Earth, it has three citations for this all of them scholarly articles.

"Huh? This only tells me that no one knows, or can know."

No one can know the exact moment our ancestors became our species because the definition of the word species isn't specific enough. Evolution isn't a leap from an old species to a new species, its a series of gradual nudges, some of the nudges seem a bit more abrupt than others but it is a slow process either way.

"I've taught grade level science and students don't start to learn this stuff until high school."

Really, because I remember learning about the Earth, its age, and how the solar system worked and formed in fourth grade. Maybe it didn't go into full detail on how the planets formed or how radiometric dating works but the age of the Earth is established science that most kids learn well before high school.


jonnycomelately profile image

jonnycomelately 18 months ago from Tasmania

@Stargrrl, ""I've taught grade level science and students don't start to learn this stuff until high school."" Was that a mainstream school? Or was it a school where children were taught a fundamentalist curriculum?


Oztinato profile image

Oztinato 18 months ago from Australia

The principle of evolution can't be jettisoned when convenient. As with psychology the principle of evolution penetrated widely different fields. So why simply fail to apply it to the very real existential dilemmas grappled by religion? Answer: convenient hypocrisy to try to "win" a debate.

Superstition is based on a like attracts like principle. The hub here is not even a proper anthropological (scientific) presentation about superstition or animism but one person's attempt to present an unscientific quickly concocted simplistic hub.

Simply pretending there is no existential dilemma for conscious beings is to turn ones back on one of the main themes of both ancient and modern literature, culture and art. Then to present some ghoulish depictions of a failed cultures failed attempt to sun worship and simply forget the glorious artistic heritage of world religious history is a gross misrepresentation and very very unscientific.


Titen-Sxull profile image

Titen-Sxull 18 months ago from back in the lab again Author

You are accusing me of misrepresenting things that I simply did not have room to talk about here or that were entirely irrelevant to the subject I am covering. If I delved into everything that influenced early religion and culture and art this hub would be miles long, it would likely have to be a book. Rather this is a general hub about how agenticity lead to animism and animism helped with agriculture but ultimately fell by the wayside in most parts of the world when anthropomorphic deities became the norm.

This hub sets out to do exactly what the title says, explain how Animism and Agency form the backbone of superstition. People see patterns in their lives, people see supernatural forces working behind the scenes and eventually this leads to all sorts of superstitious beliefs.

If you want to write a hub about how religion inspires art and architecture and literature have at it but that simply is not the purview of this hub.

"glorious artistic heritage of world religious history"

This hub is not about how religion influenced art, your accusation is out of left field here.

"Simply pretending there is no existential dilemma for conscious beings is to turn ones back on one of the main themes of both ancient and modern literature, culture and art."

Again this hub is about Animism and Agency, not about the deep existential questions human beings face and certainly has nothing to do with modern literature, culture or art. I am not trying to say that agenticity is the only building block on which religion is based - I never argued that.

I am not a scientist nor do I generally consider myself to be engaging in a scientific endeavor when I write hubs on hubpages, this should be fairly obvious by the fact that this hub is not in the Education and Science category.


cam8510 profile image

cam8510 18 months ago from Columbus, Georgia until the end of November 2016.

Your excellent hub is full of thought provoking points, such as, was I designed to fit the universe, or was the universe designed to accommodate me? Or, did we each adapt to the other?

Another thought popped into my head as I read. Religions are like professional sports teams and fans. Everybody is loyal to their local team. That explains why Indians are largely Hindu, Americans are Christian etc. Everybody cheers on their local deity, claiming it is the greatest or the only god that exists.


Titen-Sxull profile image

Titen-Sxull 18 months ago from back in the lab again Author

"Another thought popped into my head as I read. Religions are like professional sports teams and fans. Everybody is loyal to their local team."

Indeed, this is an excellent observation. Look at what happens when scandal hits an organization like the NFL or even a singular team defenders come out of the woodwork. This is because people consider religion a part of their cultural and person identity so when someone points out flaws or scandals within their beliefs they immediately take personal offense. Religion believes it is in possession of a sacred truth and many unsavory characters use that truth to hide all sorts of evil deeds because the organizations are beyond reproach, especially the Catholic Church.

Thanks for your comment Cam8510.


Oztinato profile image

Oztinato 18 months ago from Australia

Titen

the hub's title pretends to talk about superstition but devolves rapidly into another excuse to denigrate religion.

Your premise here simply ignores any real existential dilemmas (which even propels science to ask "why". It can't be just tossed aside.

I note there has been no response to the legitimate observation that the Principle of Evolution has also been tossed aside.


Titen-Sxull profile image

Titen-Sxull 18 months ago from back in the lab again Author

Ah yes, because I totally denigrate religion in this hub.

Except that I don't.

So I didn't cover existential dilemmas therefore the hub is a failure in your eyes? When did I ever say I was going to talk about humanity's philosophical endeavors to understand how and why we got here? That is not the purview of the hub, this is not a hub about the deep philosophical yearnings that might feed superstition and religion, again it is only about Animism and Agenticity as the TITLE suggests.

If you want something more comprehensive go find an actual academic piece of writing, this is hubpages not Google Scholar, I don't have room in one hub to dig into every facet of what might motivate religious thinking.

I am not beholden to live up to whatever arbitrary standards you pulled out of your rear end Oz, if you don't like my hub you can thumb it down and move along or at the very least say something of substance regarding what I wrote not merely acting as if because I didn't write an all-encompassing master thesis on religion and superstition I am somehow attempting to vilify religion or make it look like it isn't a complex issue.

Oh and I googled Principle of Evolution, couldn't turn anything up that has to do with the subject of this hub. If you are referring to the supposed "Law of Attraction" that you mentioned earlier as like attracts like that is, again, outside the purview of this hub. If you want to write a hub about new age beliefs regarding the Law of Attraction be my guest but it has nothing to do with the subject of my hub.


Oztinato profile image

Oztinato 18 months ago from Australia

Titen

you're missing the point: you imply strongly that there is no existential dilemma in all your "arguments"; and also that there is no evolution taking place in religious thought. It is Implicit in what you are saying throughout.

The theme of the Hub therefore gets down to bare basics and goes for the low stereotypical blow against all religion as a whole.


Titen-Sxull profile image

Titen-Sxull 18 months ago from back in the lab again Author

"you're missing the point: you imply strongly that there is no existential dilemma in all your "arguments""

If anything what I imply is that the supernatural is not a satisfying answer to any of the big philosophical questions that plague humanity. My hubs about religion are generally about arguments made by theists and whether they stand up to scrutiny or about logically and morally picking apart the Bible or some facet of Christian doctrine. The fact that they are used to fill some kind of psychological yearning about where we come from and the meaning of life is irrelevant to whether or not there is any rational justification to believe.

Yes, the hub is meant to get down to one of the big psychological quirks that powers superstitious thinking.

This hub is not about the evolution of religious thought as a whole and is only touches upon the movie from Animism to anthropomorphic deities, as I said it would take an entire book and I probably have to get several advanced degrees to delve into the details completely in any kind of academic way. Obviously this hub does not really touch upon Eastern religion, like Hinduism or Buddhism where the philosophy is more nuanced, but again that's not the purview of this hub.


Oztinato profile image

Oztinato 18 months ago from Australia

"My hubs about religion are generally about arguments made by theists" is yet another serious flaw as you are giving what you mistakenly think they are saying not what is actually being said.


Titen-Sxull profile image

Titen-Sxull 18 months ago from back in the lab again Author

If you think I'm attacking strawman arguments then by all means explain what the arguments actually say, otherwise this is just another empty complaint.

On another hub you asserted that all religious traditions are talking about the same thing and have been evolving toward unity and when asked for examples you gave none.

Can you give an example of an argument for God that I have grossly mischaracterized or are you going to ignore me like you did there?


Oztinato profile image

Oztinato 18 months ago from Australia

If you read back a little on various hubs (including this one) I have repeatedly offered scientific viewpoints and flawless arguments without receiving any rational responses.


Titen-Sxull profile image

Titen-Sxull 18 months ago from back in the lab again Author

Oz you haven't even gotten close to a rational argument anytime in the recent past on my hubs. The closest you got was talking about the Placebo Effect, which I then researched and found out you were being pretty damn hyperbolic about how effective the research actually said it was. Of course just shouting "placebo effect" in the comments section over and over again is not an argument of any kind.

But of course you're SO FAR above the rest of us, with all the studying of "Inner Meaning" you've done.


Austinstar profile image

Austinstar 18 months ago from Somewhere in the universe

@Oz - What are you? Two years old????


Oztinato profile image

Oztinato 18 months ago from Australia

All personal attacks are being reported.


Titen-Sxull profile image

Titen-Sxull 18 months ago from back in the lab again Author

If that's the way you want to play it, fine.

Your comments are no longer welcome on my hubs.


Say Yes To Life profile image

Say Yes To Life 18 months ago from Big Island of Hawaii

Another great hub, Titan-Sxull!

I"m wondering if you can do one on people"s belief about the afterlife. I have checked out the website on near death experiences, and have known a few people who experienced it. Most experiences are positive. However, I read of one case where a man who was dying in the hospital screamed he was on fire, even though he had no fever. Could this be where the concepts of heaven and hell cone from?

I could write the hub myself, but I would LOVEyour take on it.


Titen-Sxull profile image

Titen-Sxull 18 months ago from back in the lab again Author

Thanks for the kind words Say Yes to Life.

It's one of those topics I've thought about covering but never got around to, somewhere in my backlog of ideas I have a hub about how atheists view death which was meant to address claims of NDEs and an afterlife.

I am fascinated by the fact that these experiences are different depending on the culture and predominant religion you were raised in. I am also fascinated by the tendency of people to cash-in on their experiences, with books, TV appearances, etc.

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