Explanatory Theories of Religion And Religious Thoughts (by Cris Campbell)

Have a look at  Explanatory Theories of Religion ( http://genealogyreligion.net/explanatory-theories-of-religion ). I found that article on Cris Campbell’s blog. 

There are many explanatory and evolutionary theories of how magical and religious thoughts (and different religions) emerged among our ancestors.
In this reblogged article we can read about Cris Campbell’s take on that topic. 

Cris holds advanced degrees in anthropology, philosophy, and law. He’s apparently very interested in the origin of magical and religious thoughts. And he obviously knows a lot – and I really mean a great deal; he’s a scholar! –  about the many hypotheses and theories that try to explain how it became possible for our ancestors to invent divine spiritual beings of different kinds.

His blog readers get a very good resume of how this “religification process” may have looked like. Here are some quotes taken from Cris Campbell’s blog article:

This is not, of course, a simple question and no single theory provides a definitive answer. Since 1990 (i.e., the beginning of the modern era of evolutionary theorizing about religion), scholars have proposed so many different varieties of “cognitive byproduct” and “social adaptive” theories that simply surveying, sorting, and analyzing them is a considerable challenge. Synthesizing them is an even greater challenge and, given their differing premises, may be impossible.
[…]

Seeking clarity, last year I decided to conduct an intensive review of all previous theories (i.e., those predating 1990) that could variously be characterized as: (1) explanatory, (2) developmental, and/or (3) evolutionary. The latter category can be confusing because many scholars working within a post-Darwinian evolutionary paradigm tend to conflate biological withcultural evolution. Such scholars may also prefer non-Darwinian explanations, but they are still working within an evolutionary or developmental paradigm. When this occurs, I refer to them as “evolutionist.”

My richly rewarding review resulted in a great deal of writing, most of which has appeared here in scattered posts over the past year. Now that the review is nearly finished, I want to gather all those posts and links on a single page. The theorists are listed mostly in chronological order of their appearance. I chose this arrangement not just for convenience. One thing I discovered is that the scholars working within the developmental-evolutionist tradition were fully aware of previous work and were responding to their predecessors or contemporaries. If you read these scholars’ original works in serial order, you will find yourself eavesdropping on a brilliant conversation that lasted for well over 100 years.


BTW, here’s an interesting TED Talk video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c7vH4rgdmxw .

The speaker is Yuval Noah Harari, author of the book “Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind”. For a short review of that book, have a look at   http://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/sep/21/sapiens-brief-history-mankind-review-yuval-noah-harari  

Harari suggests that our ancestors became “human” when they acquired the ability to think in symbolic “terms”, i.e. to create imaginary realities and not only accept the physically real reality. 

As an atheist I especially like Harari’s take on money and gods. Suggest to a chimp that if he gives me one of his bananas, I’ll give him some paper money in return, and the chimp would, maybe, wonder if you’ve gone insane.

The same thing goes for gods and heavens. If you pay tithes to your church, your priest/minister promises you that he’ll do all he can to help you entering Heaven through its Pearly Gates.

A chimp would NEVER buy that concept, that imaginary and creative symbolic idea.

Neither would I.

But many fellow religious True Believer humans seem to accept that kind of deal without any hesitation at all.

How about you? 

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12 Comments

Filed under Atheism, Blogs I follow, Consciousness, Delusions, Evolution, Gods, Neuroscience, Religion, Science, Soul, Theological bullshit

12 responses to “Explanatory Theories of Religion And Religious Thoughts (by Cris Campbell)

  1. “A chimp would NEVER buy that concept, that imaginary and creative symbolic idea.
    Neither would I.
    But many fellow religious True Believer humans seem to accept that kind of deal without any hesitation at all.
    How about you? ”

    Well, I have no use for most religions, especially Western ones, but your comment is like many others of it’s kind. What you are really saying is:

    “See how much better and clearer my thought processes are than those others who believe X”

    You won’t convince anyone of your position by making such comments.

  2. @bonaparteocoonessa: Glad to hear you’re not offended.

    But at the same time I must admit I like to offend religious people. In fact, that’s the purpose of this blog.

    You see, that’s why I call my blog “Mass Delusions a.k.a. Magical & Religious Woo-Bullshit Thinking.”

    Nevertheless, I don’t agree with you that my depreciating and belittling of religions and religious thought paradigms equals egotism.

    Anyhow, it doesn’t matter how you treat religious woos, if you show them respect or not. They are (almost) all unable to understand ANY message that is critical of their faith paradigms.

    BTW, as you may have seen, this blog is put on hiatus since more than a year. But still I sometimes have more than ten visitors a day to my blog. I want to believe that it’s God Almighty who sends them here. How did you find your way to my blog?

    • Your professed proclivity to offending religious people will not do your psyche any good. I agree with you that the “religions of the book” are basically just a load of cat-poo, as are most of the content of the others. But what is the point of being merely offensive? It won’t change their minds, but it will as I mentioned, do harm to your personal well-being, even if only slightly. Also, a serious commitment to demolishing what you call “woo-woo” seems to me to be a self-imposed limitation on open-mindedness to all the strangeness in the universe. Consider that meteorites (for example) were for a long time dismissed as being impossible by the contemporary scientific community. That doesn’t mean you have to accept any and all ‘strange phenomena’ but a more open attitude will not lead to you missing out on any possibilities you might come across.

      As for your site I have had it bookmarked ages ago as one which I might visit now and then. I am quite disappointed that it has not been updated for ages!

  3. Thank you for your advice! (Yes, I mean it.)

    But even as I listen to it, I’m not going to obey or follow it.

    I’m sorry. I can’t follow your advice. And I don’t want to either.

    Maybe it’s some sort of mental disorder I suffer from. I think religious people deserve to be ridiculed. They are dregs.

    • It’s your funeral. But please consider – if you suffer from some sort of mental disorder (and I don’t think for a moment that you do) – or some sort of life-defeating obsession, would a rational person not do something to sort it out?

      If you are going to be irrational about this, you are no better than any of the God-botherers you despise.

      Over and out.

  4. I think I’ve got your message, dear bonaparteocoonessa.

    Nevertheless I’m quite stubborn not to change my current attitude or position concerning religions and religious people. So I’ll continue kicking my can down the road. Religious faith is not a virtue, it’s a vice. A certain component of all big religions is evil. See for instance http://dwindlinginunbelief.blogspot.se/2006/06/which-is-more-violent-bible-or-quran.html and https://valerietarico.com/2014/10/24/bible-vs-quran-test-your-knowledge-of-who-deserves-death-in-which-religion/ .

    Also, there is a strong positive correlation between intolerance and religious fervor/fanatism. And this correlation is backed up by neuroscientific evidence.

    Also have a look at these two news items:

    1) https://mic.com/articles/45811/religious-fundamentalism-is-a-mental-illness-that-could-soon-be-cured#.aKoGyzeX9 ; and

    2) http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/religion/11935492/scientists-reduce-belief-god-hostility-immigrants-magnets.html .

    Over and out from me too.

  5. You are welcome! :o) lol

    I don’t deny I’m an intolerant person with many similarities to fanatics.

    I just can’t stand religions and hypocritical God believers.

    But at least I don’t (want to) stone them to death, decapitate them or burn them alive.

    I just ridicule them. Don’t kill them.

    BTW, talking of fanatics, here’s an interesting article about that topic: http://nautil.us/issue/39/sport/the-unique-neurology-of-the-sports-fans-brain .

    And I’d like to add, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone.” (John 8:7)

    Halleluiah, my “friend”!

  6. I just read in the Guardian that I’m not alone.

    Also Pope Francis criticizes and denounces (many) religious people. He says that sometimes it’s even better to be a good atheist than being a hypocritical Catholic.

    I can but agree.

    Read more by clicking this URL: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/feb/23/pope-francis-better-to-be-atheist-than-hypocritical-catholic

    Way too many religious people deserve to be held in contempt. They usually don’t practise what their religion preaches.

    Who has never heard of the Lying for Jesus movement? And nowadays we who live in the Western world have learnt a lot about taqiyya too. See for instance https://www.thereligionofpeace.com/pages/quran/taqiyya.aspx .

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