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Evolution of religion

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Evolution of religion

Post  Valencia2014 on Sun Dec 28, 2014 9:17 pm

Here is my general theory of how the perception of the Gods and Cosmos has evolved. First their is the more "primitive" view that the gods are literal visible objects for instance the Sun was thought of as a real god(the gods don't literally have to be perceived as real objects but worship and theology will perhaps stress the unity and survival of the group by appeasing the gods). Overtime as society becomes more complex and leisure is possible due to enough stability and security, people can think about the gods and the world; so many schools of thought or philosophies are created(perhaps mystery schools can be included?). Perhaps a good way to describe this stage of polytheistic perception would be "primitive polytheism"? The main figures in this stage are Shamans, elders, or priest-kings; in more complex polytheistic societies some aspects of the former remain but along side new ways of thinking(different philosophies, theologies, and mystery schools become prominent, laws are established. Famous examples are Orpheus, Zoroaster, Eumolpus, Lycurgus, Solon, Numa Pompilius, Pythagoras etc.). I'm not sure if my theory is completely correct but these are just the patterns I see in many polytheistic societies, maybe this is what we mean when we say it is evolutionary? I would like your opinions on this subject.
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Re: Evolution of religion

Post  DavidMcCann on Tue Dec 30, 2014 3:35 pm

I'm never happy about using the term evolution in any context other than biology. The concepts of evolution and progress were a 19th century idea that, happily, turned out to work in biology, but were a failure in their application to everything else. Things do not evolve: they just change, like language or fashion.

The concept of primitive also troubles me. Since Neanderthals conducted funerals, they may be assumed to have had some sort of religion. That takes us back around 200,000 years. Since the span of recorded history is only 5,000 years, we cannot know anything about what a primitive religion would be.

Undoubtedly,pre-agricultural) societies (probably pre-literate ones, in fact) would not have had any philosophical thought: it's hard to be a philosopher without a supportive group of like-minded people and some way to transmit and record ideas. But philosophy (sad as it may be for an intellectual like me to admit) is not essential to religion. How many Christians know the difference between Aquinas and Kierkegaard? Westerners (and westernised Indians) often write as if Shankara's Advaita was an essential part of Hinduism, but I suspect the average Hindu would be surprised, perhaps even shocked, by it. The Ancient World, in the Hellenistic Period, went through a phase when Stoic materialism was the dominant philosophy, but I doubt if that phase (or its ending) made any difference to the normal worshiper.

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