Sunday, April 27, 2008


Is it just me, or are most "modern" religions no different from all the "primitive" ones? Well, maybe one difference is a bunch of theologians end up adding a bunch of fluff until it's all empty gibberish.

Meh, I've thought of that before, but I guess I'm posting it as a main post, rather than a comment.


Anonymous said...

Well there are some changes. Yes if you look at things like Christianity (especially Catholocism) the collection minutia borders on the level of a D&D setting guide, but there's been some history over the changes. Nonsense? Oh sure it's been that from the start, but there's a marked evolution from the days of shamanism and it's focus on various spirits here and there, and later religions where instead of each cloud having a spirit, the clouds are controlled by one spirit, say let's call him Zeus, and from there sects following this or that major spirit rather than others to the point where they all just gain each other's powers and become rival "one true gods". From there it's changed more, as various atributes are dropped except the "godness" part, as in it suddenly becomes "formless" instead of having a specific body, or it's residence is pushed "outside our reality" instead of specifically "north of the northern wall of the Earth", or it's scale is pushed from making one big planet surrounded by inconsequential points of light to having made a massive universe all just to show off it's greatness to one specific species of life.

Yeah I'd say things have changed. Also of note is that I've been reading The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins and, aside from noting that Hideo Kojima must have read it at some point too, I think his way of looking at "meme evolution" was pretty revealing. I wouldn't call that a theory so much as a "model of looking at things a little differently", which is exactly how he described his selfish gene idea anyway. I'd say looking at religion as meme competition could be pretty enlightening. Where I'd differ is that while "blind competition" between memes can be said to be as much reality as the blind competition between genes, I think it's a mistake to completely seperate memes from intent and forsight.

So I mean if you see religion as memetic evolution, I'd say it makes a lot of sense that things would change as they have. It's a lot easier to pass on a basic idea like what most religious people have today of "a caring entity looking out for you" than the past spreading of an idea like "Zeus controls thunder, Hades controls the dead", because it's less specific, and those in turn are more easily passed down than "the tree spirits are curious, the rock spirits are steadfast, and this is how you appease every spirit".

Anonymous said...

Depends... Do you count the Church of the Subgenius as a real religion?

Even discounting that one, there are many in the neo-pagan community who know perfectly well that none of the entities they venerate are actually real...

Rhoadan said...

Hey, if you're going to bring up the Church of the Subgenius (which, let's face it, pre-dates the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster by quite a few years), you also need to mention Discordianism. Hail Eris.

Lifewish said...

Theology is just for people who care if their religion is transparent rubbish. Sad to say, most people don't, and it was always thus.

The only reason that modern religions have more theology than primitive religions is cos in a primitive (read: low population density) society, it's harder for the skeptics to band together and start making a fuss. Hence, modern (high population density) societies have greater need of a control valve for the pressure of thought. Getting all the thinkers talking about angels and pinheads is an inspired tactic here.