Why religion is not so bad!!!!

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“Hauser (2005) pointed out that even though we share the overwhelming majority of DNA with chimpanzees they are not as well adapted as humans to know what the intentions of other people are.  In some situations, they do not perform as well in this sphere as our canine friends do.  Thus, we do not have to ignore scientific evidence to agree with Maurice Bloch to accept the religion as uniquely human.  We deviated from him to argue that the ‘Transcendental Social’ can be a person with special mental abilities.  Previous chapters unfolded the proposition that in the primitive hunter-gatherer societies, the early humans’ genuine experiences of the strange abilities of some individuals gave rise to the belief in the supernatural.  This had been a uniquely human experience.  I also argued that the rituals related to puberty of girls might have arisen because of their ability to develop abnormal mental states that resemble paranormal phenomena.  We speculated that the Goddess Culture in the Palaeolithic Period might have had some links to the puberty rites.  The supernaturally powerful people or their actions soon became widely known with the help of human need for arousal.  New things or unusual events easily arouse our curiosity and make us flock to investigate and to know more about.  This should have happened in yonder times too.  These events then instinctively led to next part of the action which was the need for attribution.  They used a rudimentary form of logic, the Rule-of-Thumb Logic, to connect the ends to the means.  The supernatural, which was occasionally seen to act at a distance, gave rise to the animism that populated the physical world with the unseen spirits.  With the advent of agrarian societies, the natural progression of these animistic ideas led to the polytheism with an anthropomorphic character.  These gods, unseen in their ‘human’ form, but visible in their ‘action’ could be easily tied to the animistic spirits by the human tendency to cogitate and attribute.  The supernatural can be implored to help the humans with their mundane wishes.  As humans, we always look for personal gain and thus, can be called ‘upside hunters’ using a financial market analogy.  With the upside hunting what come naturally is ‘herding behaviour’ which makes people imitate others.  The humans are born to imitate and they imitate the actions that would help their personal aspirations, like the cargo cult followers imitating the foreigners to bring in the much-valued cargo.  Monotheism was the next big idea which did not need a special path of development.  The polytheistic gods in the hands of nomadic societies gave rise to the monotheistic God who could protect them anywhere on their travels.”

“The people who could use abnormal abilities could have been the very first priests.  These priests later came from a hereditary caste or the initiates.  When they could not meet the expectations of the community with its expectation of the special abilities of the priests, they might have experimented with other means like hallucinogenic plants.  They might have tried rhythmic sounds and body movements to achieve similar ends.  Many of the ancient Indian Sacred Texts were said to be written by Rishis with extraordinary abilities.  Egyptian priests were known to have some mystical knowledge that was only given to the initiates.  The Oracle at Delphi in Greece was a priestess who could talk to the supernatural.”

“We also discussed that the religions show a tendency to consolidate as bigger groups and then form small groupings within the bigger religious movements.  This was compared to monopolistic competition in economics.  The competing interests, namely, the power of the supernatural and the more localised needs of the believers created this situation.  Polytheism became monotheism and the supernatural became more powerful.  However, the needs of the local believer could not be satisfactorily met by the super-size supernatural.  Thus, the people created deities or saints with more local or specific influence.”

“To reinforce the claims about the origin of the religious concepts,  the life stories of religious leaders were discussed and showed that they all had some exceptional abilities that pulled the people towards them.  In the followers’ eyes, many of them showed the strange ‘mental’ abilities that were beyond the capacity of the average person.  They also made use of the times they lived in and preached a message easily reaching the hearts and minds of the ordinary men and women toiling in the sun-soaked fields and the soot-filled workshops.  The story of Sai Baba movement was used to provide a modern example to illustrate these points and claimed that the next stage of religious development would be more of a synthesis of many religions than a brand new religious philosophy.  This diversity within unity is embodied in the Sai Baba Movement and thus, may soon attain the status of a new religion; a new religion in the shape of what the future religions would look like.  The Sai religion has the potential to make use of the economies of scale achieved through all the religions it embraces while allowing the individual religions to keep their identities.  This would provide a symbiotic relationship between the Sai religion and other religions.  So the religion in the future will become more of a thread binding humanity together than a force scattering mankind over the religious idiosyncrasies.”

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“The religion is not inherent evil so that we have to dismantle all the religious institutions for the sake of human progress.  The religion should be left to tread its own course without interference from the non-believers as it fills a vacuum that no other human endeavour can.  It provides hope and sanity to many for whom the modern lifestyle provides only despair and desolation.  Many argue that the morality can exist without religion.  Contrary to this, a recent study reported by Shariff and Norenzayan (2007) showed that when the people were primed with the religious ideas, they became more prosocial; the researchers assumed the idea of supernatural watcher as a possible explanation for the increased generosity among the subjects.  In this debate about morality, we can pick the side that we like.  Thus, the best the clergy and scientists can do for the humanity is to adhere to the principles of NOMA and avoid unnecessary clashes.  The religions should not try to explain the religion through science as Gould (1999/2001) advocated.  NOMA is about humanity and the duty of humanity is to respect all aspects of its mental evolution even if one group do not agree with the other.  The truth may not always and entirely be theirs or ours.  We should let various theories and explanations that we come up with as part-and-parcel of our mental evolution, to survive or die a natural death.  I respect what I believe and I equally respect your non-belief of what I believe.  As the first Prime Minister of India, Jawaharlal Nehru wrote, ‘Let us, even when we do not appreciate what others say, respect their views and their ways of life.’  Likewise, NOMA is about co-existence and non-interference.  It is also about respect and humility.  The lure of NOMA lies in the elegant message it struggles to convey……………….”

(Please note the above passages are mainly from an early version of the book ‘the lure of noma’ )

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The website aims to show the possible origin of religion through a ‘uniquely’ human process which has links to the seclusion of girls at puberty. It also advocates the view that the Paleolithic Venus figurines are related to these puberty rites and hence, the prehistoric Venus figurines may carry a much larger meaning. Thus, Religion is something more than a throwback from our animal past.
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