"A Man's a Man for all that!" - Rabbie Burns

"Religion? No thanks. I prefer not to outsource my brainwashing." - Bunc
Trying to get your average Joe creationist to understand the phrase scientific theory is as hard as getting a fish to enjoy mountaineering. Its an unimagined world for them - it requires a complete reversal of their normal modes of thinking and being. The fact that humans could explain the complexities of this world without a creating God is a world view they cannot grasp. It's like asking a tuna if it appreciates the view from the top of Mount Everest. Bunc

May 7, 2009

How men create their Gods

"Men create gods after their own image, not only with regard to their form but with regard to their mode of life." Aristotle.

Agnostic and atheist rejection of religious belief has a long history and stretches back even to the ancient Greeks. Sometimes Atheism is projected by creationists as the handmaiden of those who accept the facts of Evolution and the theory of natural selection but this is a distortion.

Aristotle shows that even thousands of years ago there were great thinkers who questioned where the belief in gods came from. In many ways it is remarkable that Aristotle was able to see so clearly that the foundation of the belief in the existence of Gods is to be found in the nature of men themselves.

Aristotle sets out that not only do men create their own gods but that they shape them in an images of themselves and their culture.

It is interesting to think about this in relation to the various strands of thought that we see in the world today.

One of the things that all religions appear to have in common is the belief in some form of afterlife. For the Christian, Jew or Muslim this is some form of imagined heaven. In more eastern religions there are supposed cycles of rebirth leading to Nirvana or to eventual release.

Invariably the imagined heaven offers a release from and a contrast with the hardships of this life. Grieving for a deceased relative or worried that in death you will lose your family for eternity? Fret not for you will see them in heaven. Weighed down by care or the pain of illness? Take comfort for in heaven all will be well.

For those who live the affluent lifestyle of the US there are the fundamentalist christian interpretations. Aristotle would I am sure not be surprised to have found that it was in the US, where so much emphasis is placed on material possessions, that there are preachers who promise rewards on earth for those who are born again.

In many Muslim ( and fundamentalist Christian) cultures women are traditionally tightly under the control of men. And guess what? Surprise surprise - their concept of God is of a supreme being who is essentially male and who supports their cultural prejudices.

Living in a culture which heavily controls free association of the sexes and sexual activity outwith marriage? Hey! - No sweat! - there will be forty virgins waiting for you if you die for Allah.

Want your religion mixed with some female emancipation? - Don't worry! The faithful can create gods in that image as well. Become a Pagan and worship "mother earth" !

In all this we see that belief and worship of gods is about wish fulfillment.

There is of course no obvious reason why an omnipotent god or gods would care a jot about humans collectively - let alone any individual human being. But believing in those types of Gods would be singularly unfulfilling - so it seldom happens.

Perhaps the argument that there is an omnipotent creator would be more compelling if the nature of this being wasn't so obviously tied to the hopes and fears of the humans who believe in this stuff.

5 comments:

Marf said...

Indeed, an act of panspermia by an advanced alien race would be more believable.

Such a race might even have an interest in Earth or perhaps even humanity, in the same way a biologist would a petri dish.

But they're not going to intervene on a personal level or hear your prayers.

UNRR said...

This post has been linked for the HOT5 Daily 5/5/2009, at The Unreligious Right

Looney said...

Hmmm. I haven't read Aristotle, but I do know from reading Cicero that their complaint against the Epicureans was that they invented their own anthropomorphic gods in their own image. The Stoics were quite religious.

Bunc, what do you think of all of the female goddesses like Venus and Ishtar, along with the practice of temple prostitution that grew with them? On the other hand, the Vestal Virgins were, um, virgins, at least until Nero got involved.

Anonymous said...

It's a good sentiment and I agree wholeheartedly, but...
Aristotle probably did write this, but where? when? Anyone can make up a quote about anyone and you don't know if it's true. Only quotes with a provable source have any value - the rest are merely adding to the mountains of unverified information that litters the internet. Please - source your quotes; it shows that you have some intelligence and don't just parrot what other people have said.

Bunc said...

Anonymous -
First - I dont usually respond to anonymous comments but I'll make an exception.

This is a Blog and as such it is fairly informal. If you are interested in the source of something that I havent posted then you have two options - ask for it or try searching for it yourself.

And finally - I dont feel any need to prove to you my intelligence or lack of it. If you dont like the fact that I havenet referenced a quote from an ancient and widely published source then I am sure you know what to do ....

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