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Train Of Thought That Sort Of Hit Me This Morning


Ellinas
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The question that occurred to me was whether Abrahamic religion is actually a form of tribalism (with all due respect to anyone who still lives in a tribal system).

My thought process (and I don't pretend that I've thought this through entirely coherently, but in my defence, I was sat in a church with my wife at the time...) went like this:

  1. Judaism represents the victory of the cult of Yahweh over the rest of an archaic pantheon and his adoption as a national deity.
  2. Christianity and, later on, Islam, did not have the same national identity issue.
  3. Nevertheless, these religions maintain the exclusivity of the "our god is greater than your god" mindset inherent in the national religion out of which they grew.
  4. In order to express that exclusivity, some structure other than nationality had to be identified.
  5. That structure came to be based rather on a sort of "commonwealth of believers" (quite openly so in Christianity with the concept of the "Kingdom of God" and the text that tells believers that their "conversation" (KJV translation; literally having an idea of "citizenship") is in heaven).
  6. It also expresses itself in the factionalism that exists within these systems - denominations etc being merely another manifestation of the exclusivity and almost "superiority complex" of the Abrahamic original.

The question then is whether Abrahamic religion is simply a construct that, almost by historical accident, plays to an element within our psyches that needs to "belong" to a particular social group.

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Makes sense to me. If you apply the concept of evolution to social processes, you could say that religion had survival value to the tribe because you needed a unified people to win wars, and religion did the unifying. In "The God Delusion", Dawkins puts forth the idea that in evolutionary terms we need to be programmed to believe what our parents tell us when we are young because it has survival value--when we are taught religion it piggybacks on that mechanism.

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I agree that Christianity is a kind of tribalism.

 

Tribalism has always been a combination of shared thoughts and shared familial relationships.  Some forms of tribalism emphasize one more than another, and Christianity emphasizes shared thoughts, and tolerates less close genetic commonality.  The same goes for Islam.  The reality is that all of us are "family" as we all share common ancestors and our kinship connections exist with all other humans, to a greater or lesser degree.

 

Tribalism also has existed where there are multiple overlapping tribal affiliations, and where members of one tribe are interspersed with members of others.  Christianity permits a great deal of diffuse "interspersion" if that is a word.

 

Other forms of modern tribes (in addition to religion) are gang affiliation, national citizenship, military affiliation, professional associations, guilds, unions, fraternal associations, corporations, and licensing organizations.  You could think of a nuclear family and a marital partnership as a "micro-tribe."

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It makes total sense to me. My train of thought has always been that it makes evolutionary sense for humans to have organized themselves in groups. A group of people who are committed to protecting others within the group makes everyone in the group safer and have more power than they usually would on their own, especially against other groups. We are hardwired for social grouping/interaction and tend to group ourselves even when we don't realize it. Many animal species do the same thing, but they don't have the verbal communication abilities (at least that we know of) to create elaborate narratives that explain the groupings to each other. I don't see religion as much more than an extensive social grouping process that gives people many social benefits and in some senses gives them power over others. Why else do some Christians relish the idea that certain groups are going to hell and rail against the homosexual community? It gives them a feeling of authority/superiority and (at least until the last few decades) keeps certain groups in check and subservient to the larger group.

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And so if the tendency toward tribalism is an evolutionary function, what does the individualist or non-conformist indicate?

Perhaps the very mutation that will lead toward humans evolving into a better/higher species.

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And so if the tendency toward tribalism is an evolutionary function, what does the individualist or non-conformist indicate?

Perhaps the very mutation that will lead toward humans evolving into a better/higher species.

 

TheRedneckProfessor,

 

Bless you. I feel affirmed.

 

Human

 

p.s. you realized that was a leading question, right? wink.png

 

Naturally, but I don't mind being led once in a while.

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bfuddled,

 

So are you suggesting that theological systems are like military strategies, and denominations are a form of tribal warfare, against not only one another, but even moreso against secular groups? Fascinating.

 

 

I think so. I think normally it's in a subconscious way more than anything, but there is overt things as well. Christians say they're in "Spiritual warfare" against the homosexual agenda. They talk about their "territory" and how to prepare for the attack, things like that. If you haven't seen the movie "Jesus Camp", it's a great (although all too real) documentary to watch that illustrates plainly how many denominations look at their fight against secular culture.

 

 

And so if the tendency toward tribalism is an evolutionary function, what does the individualist or non-conformist indicate?

Perhaps the very mutation that will lead toward humans evolving into a better/higher species.

 

 

I think you're on the right track, RNP! You could also see the non-conformist's actions as more of an outgrowth of the evolutionary trait of learning. I think the atheist position is a result of our logical/problem-solving/learning abilities to progress far beyond that of our ancestors. Just a few hundred years ago we still believed that mental illness was the result of demonic possession (sadly some still do), but the progression in knowledge now explains (some) of the reasons that mental illness occurs. I think that it's possible that eventually we will "evolve" out of religious belief because there will be no need for it any more. The more issues that science explains, the less need there is for God.

 

The psychology/sociology of belief is  fascinating to me, I've been doing a lot of reading on the subject lately. A few articles that you might like:

 

Religion as a Schedule Induced Behavior

 

Making Sense of Spirituality

 

The 2nd article talks a little bit about Relational Frame Theory, which is super duper freaking awesome. Basically it talks about how verbal communication and the ability to create relationships between words is the basis of humanity's superiour intellect and the reason why we have evolved past all the other species. He goes on to talk about how that could possibly be the explaination for how/why religion was created as well.

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The question that occurred to me was whether Abrahamic religion is actually a form of tribalism (with all due respect to anyone who still lives in a tribal system).

 

My thought process (and I don't pretend that I've thought this through entirely coherently, but in my defence, I was sat in a church with my wife at the time...) went like this:

  1. Judaism represents the victory of the cult of Yahweh over the rest of an archaic pantheon and his adoption as a national deity.
  2. Christianity and, later on, Islam, did not have the same national identity issue.
  3. Nevertheless, these religions maintain the exclusivity of the "our god is greater than your god" mindset inherent in the national religion out of which they grew.
  4. In order to express that exclusivity, some structure other than nationality had to be identified.
  5. That structure came to be based rather on a sort of "commonwealth of believers" (quite openly so in Christianity with the concept of the "Kingdom of God" and the text that tells believers that their "conversation" (KJV translation; literally having an idea of "citizenship") is in heaven).
  6. It also expresses itself in the factionalism that exists within these systems - denominations etc being merely another manifestation of the exclusivity and almost "superiority complex" of the Abrahamic original.

The question then is whether Abrahamic religion is simply a construct that, almost by historical accident, plays to an element within our psyches that needs to "belong" to a particular social group.

Pretty much every religion ever plays to that element of our psyche.. (I would sort of even maybe go to the extent of saying that a thing that doesn't play to it isn't really a religion).

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The question that occurred to me was whether Abrahamic religion is actually a form of tribalism (with all due respect to anyone who still lives in a tribal system).

 

My thought process (and I don't pretend that I've thought this through entirely coherently, but in my defence, I was sat in a church with my wife at the time...) went like this:

  1. Judaism represents the victory of the cult of Yahweh over the rest of an archaic pantheon and his adoption as a national deity.
  2. Christianity and, later on, Islam, did not have the same national identity issue.
  3. Nevertheless, these religions maintain the exclusivity of the "our god is greater than your god" mindset inherent in the national religion out of which they grew.
  4. In order to express that exclusivity, some structure other than nationality had to be identified.
  5. That structure came to be based rather on a sort of "commonwealth of believers" (quite openly so in Christianity with the concept of the "Kingdom of God" and the text that tells believers that their "conversation" (KJV translation; literally having an idea of "citizenship") is in heaven).
  6. It also expresses itself in the factionalism that exists within these systems - denominations etc being merely another manifestation of the exclusivity and almost "superiority complex" of the Abrahamic original.

The question then is whether Abrahamic religion is simply a construct that, almost by historical accident, plays to an element within our psyches that needs to "belong" to a particular social group.

Pretty much every religion ever plays to that element of our psyche.. (I would sort of even maybe go to the extent of saying that a thing that doesn't play to it isn't really a religion).

 

 

You have a point - but where do individuals who have beliefs that they've thought out for themselves and which are not reflected by a particular identifiable community of believers fit in?  Are they simply "belonging" to a more diffuse, less coherent group (perhaps as loose as "the spiritually minded")?  Or do their religious type beliefs not actually represent a "religion"?

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The question that occurred to me was whether Abrahamic religion is actually a form of tribalism (with all due respect to anyone who still lives in a tribal system).

 

My thought process (and I don't pretend that I've thought this through entirely coherently, but in my defence, I was sat in a church with my wife at the time...) went like this:

  1. Judaism represents the victory of the cult of Yahweh over the rest of an archaic pantheon and his adoption as a national deity.
  2. Christianity and, later on, Islam, did not have the same national identity issue.
  3. Nevertheless, these religions maintain the exclusivity of the "our god is greater than your god" mindset inherent in the national religion out of which they grew.
  4. In order to express that exclusivity, some structure other than nationality had to be identified.
  5. That structure came to be based rather on a sort of "commonwealth of believers" (quite openly so in Christianity with the concept of the "Kingdom of God" and the text that tells believers that their "conversation" (KJV translation; literally having an idea of "citizenship") is in heaven).
  6. It also expresses itself in the factionalism that exists within these systems - denominations etc being merely another manifestation of the exclusivity and almost "superiority complex" of the Abrahamic original.

The question then is whether Abrahamic religion is simply a construct that, almost by historical accident, plays to an element within our psyches that needs to "belong" to a particular social group.

Pretty much every religion ever plays to that element of our psyche.. (I would sort of even maybe go to the extent of saying that a thing that doesn't play to it isn't really a religion).

 

 

You have a point - but where do individuals who have beliefs that they've thought out for themselves and which are not reflected by a particular identifiable community of believers fit in?  Are they simply "belonging" to a more diffuse, less coherent group (perhaps as loose as "the spiritually minded")?  Or do their religious type beliefs not actually represent a "religion"?

 

I wouldn't call beliefs held by one person a 'religion' - this isn't a question of status or anything from my use of terminology, a person with unique beliefs should have his rights to hold those beliefs. I just think applying the term to something like that will make people focus too much on the belief-part of religions when thinking of and analyzing religions as phenomena. Religions are much more than just a set of beliefs, they're generally sets of practices, ideals and manners that unify a community.

 

If we refer to someone with unique beliefs as having his own religion, this kinda vindicates the protestant idea that religion is solely about doctrine.

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