Posts tagged ‘evolution’
The other contributors on this website do a great job offering ideas and concepts they find regarding religion, God, atheism, and the like. In lieu of this, I would like to share some wisdom from theologian Huston Smith. Smith is Thomas J. Watson Professor of Religion and Distinguished Adjunct Professor of Philosophy, Emeritus, of Syracuse University (to learn more, visit his website).
For fifteen years he was Professor of Philosophy at M.I.T. and for a decade before that he taught at Washington University in St. Louis. Most recently he has served as Visiting Professor of Religious Studies, University of California, Berkeley. In addition, Smith holds 12 honorary degrees and has written 14 books (some titles include: Why Religion Matters, The World’s Religions, and The Soul of Christianity). That being said, it is from some of Smith’s writings that I base this post.
Here’s a video by the Atheist Dad (aka The Fighting Atheist):
– The de-Convert
Daniel C. Dennett, in his wonderful book Breaking the Spell: Religion as Natural Phenomenon, puts forth the theory that religion may be an outgrowth of the needs of the human community in its evolutionary process.
He likens religion to two natural evolutionary phenomenon. The first is the “sweet-tooth theory” which asks, “Might we have a god center in our brains along with our sweet tooth? What would it be for? What would pay for it?…God may just be the latest and most intense confection that triggers the whatsis center in so many people. What benefit accrued to those who satisfied their whatsis craving? It could even be that there isn’t and never has been any actual target in the world to obtain, but just an imaginary or virtual target, in effect: it’s been the seeking, not the getting, that has had a fitness advantage…Is religion itself a subspecies of folk medicine, in which we self-medicate for relief, using therapies honed by thousands of years of trial-and-error development?” (Dennett, 83).
Right about the time I entered grad school, I discovered that simultaneously being a physicist and a literalist Christian was difficult. A religion that relied on revelation by faith, and a discipline that relied on investigation and logic made strange bed-fellows. I was outspoken in my Christian beliefs before entering grad-school and intent on becoming a physicist, but science had forced me into silence. I had to keep my Christian convictions held to Sunday morning, and I completely separated my beliefs from daily life. I discovered for myself that religion and science simply do not mix. This was over 10 years ago, but it was probably the beginning of my gradual slide away from being “on fire” for Jesus…
Growing up in church, it’s easy to assume that since the beginning of time, God, as defined by the Bible, existed. After all, Genesis 1:1 states that “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” The Bible then proceeds to document the history of humanity.
However, upon closer study, one would discover that this history of humanity is from the perspective of a small group of desert nomads and they referred to themselves, of course, as “God’s chosen people.” If you did not live within this very small region in the Middle East, you may has well have not existed. Furthermore, one would discover that the earliest books of the Bible were written sometime between 800 and 1500 years before Christ – hardly the definition of “in the beginning.” Even Christians who do not believe the earth to be millions of years old, can safely conclude that humans have existed for at least 10,000 years, possibly longer.
Did the earliest humans have a belief in God? If so, was he defined as he is in the Bible? In fact, one could ask was he even a he or was he a she? Female definitions of God pre-date the male definition due to the fact that it was a woman who gave birth to life…
In the evolution of humans, I believe one of the primary factors that caused the development of a belief in God is the issue of death and dying. First of all, it’s easier to deal with the death of a loved one when you believe your separation from them is only temporary. After all, you’ll see them in heaven soon. Secondly, it’s easier to face death when there’s a known expectation of what lies beyond the grave.
As a Fundamentalist Christian, I was not afraid of dying. Death simply meant I would be in the presence of God enjoying an eternity of blissful happiness. Of course, there was that possibility I would end up in hell but I worked out a belief system that would not ever put me there.
Now I’m not sure what I believe about death. There’s a part of me that says that my life is all there is and then there’s a part of me that wonders if there is really some sort of existence after life. Do I really have a spirit that lives on beyond the grave?
One of the primary roles of any good atheist is to dispel the many, many lies and misconceptions perpetrated by the patriarchal religious systems. Like the fact that women should be subject to men, are the weaker sex, and are not worthy of participating in religious leadership. There are many such untruths that ruled for thousands of years and still keep women in chains in various parts of the world. These ideas have convinced many women that they are second class citizens.
These lies and misconceptions have even spilled over into what we are taught of the origins of humans from a secular point of view. Therefore, when I come across information that can forever change the way women view themselves, I am obligated to share that information.
An article in the March 19 issue of Newsweek contained an interesting article on the origins of humankind entitled, “Beyond Stones and Bones.” The article had a very telling statement about how anthropologists are now changing their view of the means by which humans were able to thrive in the hostile prehistorical times.