Class Warfare Blog

June 30, 2019

Evolution of the Gods—Reason and Faith

Filed under: Religion — Steve Ruis @ 7:09 am
Tags: , , , , , ,

I have written about how it is relatively easy to come up with animistic religions by having a somewhat overactive agency detector, a feature that provided us an evolutionary advantage by making us less susceptible to predation. The roots of religion, therefore, are quite understandable. How we got to “now,” however requires some more consideration.

For example, over time we have reached a place in which “reason” is set in opposition to “belief” and “faith.” I don’t think this can be laid at the feet of reason for why this is so. So, was reason, ever, the enemy of faith/belief?

We only have written records going back some 5000 years or so, which defines what we mean by written history. Those records show that people had religious faith and used reason for that entire time . . . that is, some people, not all people, did this.

History is punctuated with any number of episodes in which religion ran up against faith. For example, Socrates was executed in 399 BCE (given the grace of being allowed to commit suicide) “refusing to recognize the gods recognized by the state” and of “corrupting the youth” thereby. Since this sort of prosecution (by secular and/or religious elites) happened a great deal, there was a decided downside of using reason applied to the gods. The Spanish Inquisition (and many of the other inquisitions) kept meticulous records of the numbers of people they tortured, executed, and executed by torture for being “heretics.” Some of the records show ordinary people being naively quite atheistic in their “interviews” with the Inquisitors of the Holy Office of the Inquisition. Apparently they had been counseled by their lying eyes and not so much by their incompetent priests.

In the Abrahamic faiths, disdain for reason was hard-wired into scripture. Numerous bits and pieces of their holy books encourage rejection of reason as a guide for one’s life. This, of course, is understandable because religion is a social control mechanism, endorsed by the elites. If a religion is not endorsed by the elites, it doesn’t last long. (Yes, yes, there were folk religions, but did many of them survived the onslaught of the well-heeled, well-organized campaigns for state religions?)

So, the curious thing, in my mind, was how vigorously religious apologists pursued “reasons” why their faith was the One True Faith™ and their god(s) were the One True God(s)™. In the western tradition, the Greek philosophers starting arguing for (and against) gods, well back before the Common Era.

Epicurus (341–270 BC) has attributed to him (it might, however, been part of a campaign to smear Epicurus as an atheist—theists apparently lie a lot) the argument: Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil? Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?

Plato and Aristotle, amongst others, both made arguments for the existence of gods. So reason was being applied to faith thousands of years ago if the historical record is to be trusted.

Fast forward over much of the “Dark Ages” and we reach Saint Anselm (1033-1109 CE). Anselm became a Doctor of the Church and a Saint for using reason to support the case for the existence of his god. His go to argument was the ontological argument.

So, rather than there being an antagonism between reason and faith, as it seems is almost always the case now, reason was good if it supported religious faith, bad if it did not. This is much like Republicans being in favor of smaller government, except when it comes to war making, control over women’s bodies, doing favors for businesses and rich people, etc.

Religion was always suspicious of reason because reason required no intermediaries (especially their intermediaries). Reason could go on inside someone’s head and you wouldn’t even know it! This did not contribute to the elite’s control over society, so was looked upon with suspicion . . . except where the tame reasoners could be trotted out on their leashes.

It is the same today. Christian apologists make fair incomes by going around and applying reason to their faith and coming to the conclusions that: god exists, faith is good, atheism is bad, etc. Science is declared to be atheistic because it is based solely upon reason, but the apologists are holy men for doing the same.

 

 

 

 

13 Comments »

  1. Steve, I think you just cracked the code! Religious reasoning is also comparable to their marriage to certain scientific principles by hairsplitting scripture to show the ancients already knew this, and how god must have done it. And it matters if the discovery was made by a Christian scientist or secular. Would the Big Bang be embraced by the Catholic Church if it wasn’t a catholic that hypothesized it?
    It works in reverse too. If someone like Collins can say “There are answers that science isn’t able to provide about the natural world—the questions about why instead of the questions about how. I’m interested in the whys. I find many of those answers in the spiritual realm. That in no way compromises my ability to think rigorously as a scientist. Which I read as an admission of bias (by looking to the supernatural to find evidence) but Christians believe as proof of god.

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    Comment by jim- — June 30, 2019 @ 8:57 am | Reply

    • Supernatural causes are “causes of the gaps.” One would never hypothesize one if one understood what the real causes were. The “why” rather than “how” questions explain us more than they do nature. Our need to know “why” is a god seeking effort. Our need for a god is the source of our need to know why. Nature is completely impersonal. There are no “whys” which is why science focuses on “hows.” The godlies don’t want to accept that there is no parent surrogate, no caring function of nature, so they invent stuff (and lie, lie, lie) about these things.

      If a “supernatural” cause results in a natural effect, then that cause wouldn’t be supernatural, now, would it? Just as the “god of the gaps” becomes smaller and smaller each time the gaps in our knowledge get filled in, the “supernatural causes of the gaps” will do the same.

      On Sun, Jun 30, 2019 at 8:57 AM Class Warfare Blog wrote:

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      Liked by 2 people

      Comment by Steve Ruis — June 30, 2019 @ 9:04 am | Reply

  2. […] Steve Ruis has some excellent insight today on reason and religion. If you don’t already read Steve, see his fantastic analysis on acceptable forms of reasoning HERE. […]

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    Pingback by Sunday Best – TheCommonAtheist — June 30, 2019 @ 9:12 am | Reply

  3. Supernatural my sore hind end!

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    Comment by Walter Kronkat — June 30, 2019 @ 5:09 pm | Reply

  4. Oh, nearly forgot to add; this god of the gaps thing is crap. Feeler gauges don’t ever get made that big. Hells bells, it would take 50 fit men and five huge cranes to fill some of those gaps the xtians admit exist.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Walter Kronkat — June 30, 2019 @ 5:11 pm | Reply

    • Currently with the “god gaps” closing so much I would have put that as “Feeler gauges don’t ever get made that small.” Actually when I moved to a high rise in Chicago, I gave away almost all of my automotive tools (we don’t even have a garage anymore to work in) and from time to time I miss working on cars. So, I just watch something on the Motor Trend Channel in the way of a car rebuilding show, have a beer, and the feeling subsides. And I don’t even have to clean all my tools and spend three days cleaning my hands.

      On Sun, Jun 30, 2019 at 5:11 PM Class Warfare Blog wrote:

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      Comment by Steve Ruis — July 1, 2019 @ 12:37 pm | Reply

  5. Hello

    I just read this one post as you were recomended by one of my atheist friends/archenemies “Frienemy” Jim. So my comments may reflect ignorance of earlier ground you covered.

    You seem to assume that Socrates and everyone else accused of heresy was an atheist. But it may be that they simply had different conceptions of God. Socrates believed he had a divine spark. Heretics may have believed all sorts of things.

    “In the Abrahamic faiths, disdain for reason was hard-wired into scripture.” I couldn’t disagree more at least when it comes to Christianity and Judaism.

    “If a religion is not endorsed by the elites, it doesn’t last long. (Yes, yes, there were folk religions, but did many of them survived the onslaught of the well-heeled, well-organized campaigns for state religions?)”

    I’m assuming you believe Christianity was endorsed by elites. And after Constantine I would agree. Are you saying that Christianity would have died if Constantine never allowed it? How did Christianity last long enough to get to Constantine?

    “So, the curious thing, in my mind, was how vigorously religious apologists pursued “reasons” why their faith was the One True Faith™ and their god(s) were the One True God(s)™. In the western tradition, the Greek philosophers starting arguing for (and against) gods, well back before the Common Era.”

    It perfectly natural to me because I understand western traditions to involve reason and Faith. That’s why Aristotle’s arguments were incorporated by Aquinas.

    Most reasonable Christians are not against Science. And the main people involved in what we consider the scientific revolution were Christians.

    Just a brief note “History is punctuated with any number of episodes in which religion ran up against faith. For example, Socrates was executed in 399 BCE”

    I think you meant to say *reason* ran up against faith. I do those same sorts of typos all the time.

    Like

    Comment by Joe — July 1, 2019 @ 9:15 pm | Reply

    • Hello, Joe,

      I hope I didn’t give the impression that I thought Socrates was an atheist. I used him as an example of how atheism and freethinking was treated.

      And as to how anti-science is hardwired into scripture, do you know the story of Benjamin Franklin and the bell ropes? In the period of Franklin’s life, it was commonly believed that ringing church bells would ward off lightning strikes. But lightning is often accompanied by rain and the bell ringers (yes, churches employed them) were often holding on to wet ropes attached to very large metal objects positioned high above the ground in lightning storms. A great many bell ringers got electrocuted. Franklin experimented with electricity and one of his inventions was the lightning rod, a scientific device that does ward off lightning (but not by attracting lightning strikes as so often portrayed in movies, etc.). The installation of lightning rods was opposed by many of the current clergy and bell ringing continued for many years after. If I may quote from Seidel, Andrew L. “The Founding Myth” (p. 63). Sterling. Kindle Edition:

      The founders had firsthand experience here. Ben Franklin was renowned in his time for snatching “lightning from the sky and the scepter from tyrants.”49 Until he invented the lightning rod, ringing church bells specially baptized with water from the Jordan River were used to ward off lightning.50 This practice, which required humans to grasp a connection to a hunk of metal atop the highest structure in a town, killed more than 120 bell-ringers from 1750 to 1784, but was still believed to be effective.51 Many Christians did not believe humans had a right to defend themselves from divine attacks. Abbe Nollett, a man of the church, deemed it “as impious to ward off Heavens’ lightnings as for a child to ward off the chastening rod of its father.”52 Franklin retorted that “the Thunder of Heaven is no more supernatural than the Rain, Hail, or Sunshine of Heaven, against the Inconvenience of which we guard by Roofs & Shades without Scruple.”53 When organized Christianity failed to stop the spread of the useful invention, it blamed other natural phenomena, such as the 1755 Boston earthquake, on Franklin’s rods.54 John Adams condemned the religious opposition to Franklin’s rods, writing that they “met with all that opposition from the superstition, affectation of Piety, and Jealousy of new Inventions, that Inoculation to prevent the Danger of the Small Pox, and all other useful Discoveries, have met with in all ages of the World.”

      Of course, you know that organized religion opposed vaccinations for smallpox as an “attempt to thwart God’s will.”

      Christian scripture is full of support for Kings and Tyrants and against the use of reason. Christianity is anti-democratic and anti-science and to the extent that “modern Christians” do not have these attitudes, well this can only be laid at the feet of ignoring the teachings of the Bible.

      Liked by 1 person

      Comment by Steve Ruis — July 2, 2019 @ 1:00 pm | Reply

      • What does that story have to do with Christian scripture?

        Lots of people of all sorts of cultures misunderstood science at the time.

        Christian scripture is not against reason or wisdom. Science came from a deeply Christian culture.

        Scripture has a mixed view of kings. Our constitutional system was the product of mostly devote Christians. Many came here just so that they could simply practice their religion.

        You seem to be grasping at anecdotal straws and missing the bigger picture.

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        Comment by Joe — July 2, 2019 @ 6:55 pm | Reply

        • Re “Lots of people of all sorts of cultures misunderstood science at the time.” The opposition to the lightning rod did not come from a misunderstanding of the science of it. It came from a misguided notion that their god was the source of the lightning and thwarting that god’s will. In fact, they would have to admit that the lightning rod worked to oppose it. If it didn’t work, then it could not oppose their god’s will.

          If you are gong to make this claim “Science came from a deeply Christian culture.” You will also have to claim that so did genocide, war, child abuse, slavery, disease, etc. Scientists had no alternative to being Christians in our western tradition. The example of Socrates was repeated over and over. There was no upside for admitting you though Christianity was delusional. (The person who translated the Bible out of Latin and into English was burned at the stake for his trouble. Opposing established religion in any way was very dangerous.) Science did not come from Biblical sources. Most of the “science” in the Bible is wrong. The story about Franklin was an indicator of the attitudes of people trained from the Bible. The religious opposed smallpox vaccination because it was in opposition to the will of god. The religious today (in the form of evangelicals) oppose the theory of evolution and the fact of evolution because it runs counter to the science of “the Bible.”

          Scripture doesn’t have a mixed view of kings, it has a mixed view of certain kings because of their performances as leading figures of their religion. In all cases, the Bible backs up the divine rights of kings as instruments of its god. The Bible is all about submission and not standing up for what is right in the here and now. What does Yahweh do when David conducts a census that Yahweh forbade? As punishment of David, Yahweh kills 70,000 of his subjects, knowing that this will pain David a great deal. What about the 70,000 dead Hebrews? Apparently they don’t count, but the feelings of the king do.

          On Tue, Jul 2, 2019 at 6:55 PM Class Warfare Blog wrote:

          >

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          Comment by Steve Ruis — July 3, 2019 @ 12:35 pm | Reply

          • “If you are gong to make this claim “Science came from a deeply Christian culture.” You will also have to claim that so did genocide, war, child abuse, slavery, disease, etc. ”

            None of those things originated in a Christian Culture. All pre-existed Christ. Perhaps you could argue modern genocide in some sense came later. But the term was coined for the Armenian genocide.
            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Armenian_Genocide

            “Scientists had no alternative to being Christians in our western tradition. The example of Socrates was repeated over and over. There was no upside for admitting you though Christianity was delusional.”

            It was a christian culture so it is true that generally people don’t have upsides in going against the grain. But what we also see is that the scientists happened to be very religious.
            https://trueandreasonable.co/2016/12/02/the-relationship-between-the-catholic-church-and-science/

            “In all cases, the Bible backs up the divine rights of kings as instruments of its god.”

            In a certain sense all things come from God. And it is true that Christianity is not a political religion. It does not say you can not properly be a christian because of a certain sort of government. But point of certain old testament stories is clearly not in favor of kings. Give to Ceasar what is Ceasars give to God what is gods is a clever way of saying we should give ourself to God not to kings. Do you know why?

            “Most of the “science” in the Bible is wrong.”

            The bible is not a science book. To read it like one is to miss everything it is trying to tell you.

            “The story about Franklin was an indicator of the attitudes of people trained from the Bible. The religious opposed smallpox vaccination because it was in opposition to the will of god. The religious today (in the form of evangelicals) oppose the theory of evolution and the fact of evolution because it runs counter to the science of “the Bible.””

            I do agree that there can be people who unnecessarilly have religion interfere with science. Just like there are people who unjustifiably claim that science interferes with religion. The fundementalists and the anti-christians are really the fringe that do this battle.

            “What does Yahweh do when David conducts a census that Yahweh forbade? As punishment of David, Yahweh kills 70,000 of his subjects, knowing that this will pain David a great deal. What about the 70,000 dead Hebrews? Apparently they don’t count, but the feelings of the king do.”

            Again you, like the fundamentalists, take a very literalist approach to scripture.

            Like

            Comment by Joe — July 3, 2019 @ 1:52 pm | Reply

            • Where do you get this stuff? Pre-existed a Christian culture? Are you a Trinitarian? If so, Yahweh/Jesus formed the planet and all of its inhabitants. At one point he despaired of his creation and killed all of the human beings, save eight, and all of the animals, birds, and fishes, save an ark full. I beleive that was the first genocide, speciicide, etc.

              And, “In a certain sense all things come from God. ” is basically a statement that anything goes. If it happened, it was because god wanted it to happen, no?

              If the Bible is not a science book, what are people quoting it to oppose scientific ideas? Why does Answers in Genesis continually push an agenda to replace or merely place Christian theology in public school classrooms?

              Really, where do you get this stuff? The quality of Christian apologists has fallen a great deal.

              Liked by 1 person

              Comment by Steve Ruis — July 3, 2019 @ 1:58 pm | Reply

              • “Where do you get this stuff? Pre-existed a Christian culture? Are you a Trinitarian? If so, Yahweh/Jesus formed the planet and all of its inhabitants. At one point he despaired of his creation and killed all of the human beings, save eight, and all of the animals, birds, and fishes, save an ark full. I beleive that was the first genocide, speciicide, etc.”

                Yes as I use the term Christian I mean people who believe in Jesus. All creation including humans come from God but that does not mean all humans are what I would call Christian.

                You draw no moral distinction between the creator and his creations.
                https://trueandreasonable.co/2014/04/07/is-god-horrible/

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                Comment by Joe — July 3, 2019 @ 2:29 pm | Reply


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