"Fear of Death" a Primary Motivator of Religions?

Discuss philosophical questions regarding theism (and atheism), and discuss religion as it relates to philosophy. This includes any philosophical discussions that happen to be about god, gods, or a 'higher power' or the belief of them. This also generally includes philosophical topics about organized or ritualistic mysticism or about organized, common or ritualistic beliefs in the existence of supernatural phenomenon.

Re: "Fear of Death" a Primary Motivator of Religions?

Post Number:#46  Postby Spectrum » June 15th, 2017, 10:18 pm

Burning ghost,
I appreciate your counter/critique points albeit at times what you wrote go off tangent. So I have to do some sieving/filtering.

Burning ghost wrote:I think it would make sense for me to say what I would do if I was to look at the role of Death and Fear in religion. We can see clearly enough that people are both instilled with Fear and with Hope. On the one hand they are told if they do "good" they will go to heaven, and if they do "bad" they will go to hell. This is very much the general view of Judeo-Christian traditions and Zoroastrianism (I have reservations about putting Hinduism in this same category for various reasons and also tend to view Brahma as being a deity due to culture contingency - I could argue the same for monotheisms being "mono-" for the same reasons though!)

Anyway, for simplicities sake fear and hope both entice the believer to act in such and such a way. The religious person, by the institutions, is told to expect either reward or punishment after life, and this is even embedded in Buddhism and the idea of "karma" (an often misrepresented term.)

The question then seems to be not simply about FEAR but about HOPE. If we are to focus on one the other does not seem like it can be ignored.

For all the major elements in my thesis [Problem Statement] I will make sure I dig as deep as possible into them. I have done extensive research into 'Emotions' and 'Fear'.

Fear is feeling that is felt consciously but its effects are reflected by distinct human reactions and expressions. The outer & observable features of 'fear' is supported by a complex set of internal mechanisms and operation both in the body and brain. The full details are too complex to put in few posts, so I have to generalize it as 'fear,' but 90% of it is below the tip of the iceberg.

HOPE is something that is introduced 'after' to quell the full mechanism of fear, i.e. to stop the impulses and feeling of fears and the related psychological angst.
Often a person who think he has a terminal disease will feel fears, but when a doctor advise the fact that 20% get cured or new effective medicines will be sold soon, then such news raise the HOPE of the person and the fears are immediately reduced and relieved.
So HOPE is always AFTER 'fears'. If there is no fears, then there is no need for HOPE in the respective cases. If the person don't have a possible terminal disease, then there is need to consider HOPE in respect of this specific situation.

1. In the case of religion, if the feelings [conscious and unconscious] of fear is triggered, then when HOPE is injected, it will relieve the fears.

2. Re religion, the psychological angst trigger fears and a religion provide HOPE via a promise of eternal life which contra the certainty of mortality and thus relieve the fears almost immediately.

3. Then once the believer is contracted with the promise, the religion will bring in their terms of the contract, i.e. from the holy texts.

4. The point is if believers do not comply with the terms of the spiritual contract [covenant] then they lose that promise and thus the HOPE, and their fears will reappear.

5. The terms of the contract as in the holy texts sent by a God commands the believers to do 'good' if they want to reinforce their HOPE of eternal life [contra mortality and associated fears].

6. But what is 'good' to a religion may not be 'good' in all cases to the whole of humanity.

7. One glaring example is Islam, what is 'good' to please Allah include killing and doing evil to non-believers.

8. Thus to reinforce the HOPE [reinforced and suppress the fears] SOME believers will do what is expected of them in the holy text to please Allah, i.e. killing and doing evil to non-believers.

Can you see the whole linkage between mortality --> fears --> hope -->holy texts ---> evils.

There are genuine good from religions but we cannot ignore the more threatening and dangerous evils from SOME religions.
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Re: "Fear of Death" a Primary Motivator of Religions?

Post Number:#47  Postby Present awareness » June 16th, 2017, 10:04 pm

The fear of death, comes down to the illusion that we are born and have an individual existence, which will perish with death. To alieviate this fear, many religions will say "no, there is an afterlife, and if you are good, there is a reward, if you are bad, there is punishment. Trouble is, the definition of good and bad, varies and is not agreed upon.

Truth be told, we were not born nor will we die. We have always been here, and always will be here. The key is not to be attached to any particular form, because forms come and go, as they always will. And even though the forms change, the essence remains.
Even though you can see me, I might not be here.
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Re: "Fear of Death" a Primary Motivator of Religions?

Post Number:#48  Postby Spectrum » June 16th, 2017, 11:11 pm

Present awareness wrote:The fear of death, comes down to the illusion that we are born and have an individual existence, which will perish with death. To alieviate this fear, many religions will say "no, there is an afterlife, and if you are good, there is a reward, if you are bad, there is punishment. Trouble is, the definition of good and bad, varies and is not agreed upon.

Truth be told, we were not born nor will we die. We have always been here, and always will be here. The key is not to be attached to any particular form, because forms come and go, as they always will. And even though the forms change, the essence remains.

The moment "we" "I" or "essence" is qualified and reified, then there is 'something' to be lost and thus the yearning to cling to it even at the finest levels of the unconscious. This [better then religiosity] is still influenced by the drive to avoid premature death.

Note the Buddha's Two Truth Theory, i.e.
1. It is
2. It is not.

One need to understand 'when it is', 'when it is not' in another perspective. Thus the need to shift perspective in accordance to the circumstances.

Then there is the Buddha's Tetralemma, i.e.

1. It is
2. It is not.
3. It is neither of the above
4. It is none of the above.

i.e. Form is Emptiness, Emptiness in Form

Ultimately there is no essence nor form.
What is critical is one's ability to apply the correct truth to its respective conditions.
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Re: "Fear of Death" a Primary Motivator of Religions?

Post Number:#49  Postby Burning ghost » June 19th, 2017, 6:04 am

This is nice (Buddhism mentioned) :

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d9FjsGMhAuI
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Re: "Fear of Death" a Primary Motivator of Religions?

Post Number:#50  Postby Spectrum » June 19th, 2017, 7:02 am

Burning ghost wrote:This is nice (Buddhism mentioned) :

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d9FjsGMhAuI

I took the bite and listened to the Buddhism bit till the Q & A.
Zizek spoke mainly on Buddhism [he has superficial knowledge from secondary sources] [on Nirvana], Schoppenhauer [Wille], Freud [Todestrieb (death drive)], Kant [unThere, etc.]. Zizek did not get a good grasp of Buddhist philosophy re Nirvana, desire, suffering, etc.

At one time, I was listening to various philosophers who quote this and that philosophers, but somehow I don't trust they are getting to the truth. So I decided to read up the original sources, e,g, Hegel, Hiedegger, Nietzche, Kant, Schopenhauers and others. I noted 75% of most philosophers get Kant wrong on its finer nuances of the thing-in-itself [with Buddhism as my backing], his morality, etc.

Re this video, other than Freud, I had dug VERY deep into Buddhism, Schopenhauer, Kant [not on my finger tips at present].

Zizek spoke a lot about the respective elements from various philosophies above but he did not manage to link them in a systematic theme.

I believed I had tied them up in an effective link in respect to the OP, i.e.

1. Surviving at all costs - link to Schopenhauer's Will to live.
...2. Sex drive - Freud discussed this but need greater polish
...3. Avoidance of premature death [Freud's Todestrieb] and Buddhism's Mother of all Suffering and Nirvana.
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Re: "Fear of Death" a Primary Motivator of Religions?

Post Number:#51  Postby Burning ghost » June 19th, 2017, 8:12 am

I am writing this to practice my critique of what I write too! I have found by offering critique to everything little thing other people write I help guard myself from making the same digressions. Please keep this in mind ...

It is statements like "75% of most philosophers get Kant wrong" that confuse me. What does "most" mean and where do you pull this "75%" from?

Anyway, what are the finer nuances, if you don't mind the slight digression?

As for the whole "fear" thing, cognitively we can say that life is driven by an assessment of "positive" and "negative" outcomes. Those that create a sensation of achievement are deemed positive. For some "fear" is "positive", and for others it is "negative". The judgement is made once the outcome is framed. "Fear" can cause death and/or save life. "fearing" death may be very well more likely to cause death.

I still very much protest against the idea that "religion" (as an activity) is carried out only in regard to some "fear of death". As a "fear" of the unknown? That makes more sense, yet it also works as a counter to this idea by presenting the pretense of "knowing", or rather supplication to ideals, from which people find comfort and understanding. For me it seems the basic mechanism for religious thought, and human thought in general, is about "understanding" of which the item (the idea) of "death" is but a facet.

This said, I of course agree that religion does tap into the bigger existential questions. The existential questions are not revealed by religion though, they are glossed over as a necessary means to create an ideology of how to approach "existence" of how to be a "good" human.

At the "core" I see "fear" as a repercussion of "understanding". A number of concepts clash here including "truth", "justice", "community", "reality", and "existence", to name but a few. In selecting one particular aspect and framing it as the instigator of the others is a false premise. The meaning of "fear" cannot be separated from a sea of other terms as some primary "idea" from which sprouts everything. I think I have more right to lie on the premise that we attempt to "understand" and that "understanding" is a better premise to work from. It is from such attempts that Kant began, and from which Zizek no doubt has begun too (although I have yet to fully understand his approach from Hegelian ideas, Marxist ideas and Lecanian ideas.)

Saying you've done lots of research or "dug deep" into this or that doesn't hold weight with me. I already understand you've put a lot of thought and time into this so there is really no need to keep enforcing this. What impression is it meant to have on the reader when you proclaim your own authority on such and such a matter? It is not endearing nor pretty. That at least I can admire, if it was purposely self-deprecating?

By all means assume ignorance of your audience. I would insist on informing rather than proclaiming your own authority on this or that subject. We are here to judge you, and here to judge Kant or whoever we choose to. Keep this in mind when writing your thesis unless it is purposefully being written as a piece of propaganda (which is your right, as well as an obvious unconscious requirement of anything we do in part, for we all wish to express the "truth" as we see it and proclaim it to be The "truth" rather than an opinion of "truth".)

I would even argue with Zizek in some sense by not listening, or trying to appreciate the larger extent of what he is talking about and say we are neither concerned with life or death, we are the "living dead". Meaning only in contemplating life and death do we parcel it away as an "otherness" we are not. Of course this is a whole other line of inquiry that would unravel numerous other fallacies!

By this I mean to say that to view religion as being absolutely defined by "fear" or "fear of death" (if you choose to be that specific), is a fallacy. To view the prominence of how religions look at death is more telling. This would have to be taken on in a more broader reflection and from numerous angles. Of course it is an inexhaustible investigation, it is this that tells me more about humanity than any specific item. The items of extension, such as "death" or "existence" are arms of human experience and it is in such semi-mystical expressions that religion is born and from which analogy is taken as a literal comparison. The "good Samaritan" is not meant to be believed as a real story, whether it was or was not, the point of these expositions is to frame an idea within a narrative because this is how we function in a society, and arguably in our greater environment pre-society and pre-speech.

In this sense "religion" is a narrative. Humanity is a narrative. We can view existence as a narrative or as a flowing from "fear", as many things and items selected to suit a purpose of understanding.

Decide on what you are writing for. If it is a scientific piece make it scientific, if it is psychological make it psychological, if philosophical make it philosophical, if it is political make it political. I don't know what you are attempting, but this is a philosophy forum so I am guessing it is philosophical. In which case backing up your position with scientific data does nothing much to enforce the philosophical position.
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Re: "Fear of Death" a Primary Motivator of Religions?

Post Number:#52  Postby Philosch » June 19th, 2017, 9:40 pm

@Burning Ghost

As for the whole "fear" thing, cognitively we can say that life is driven by an assessment of "positive" and "negative" outcomes. Those that create a sensation of achievement are deemed positive. For some "fear" is "positive", and for others it is "negative". The judgement is made once the outcome is framed. "Fear" can cause death and/or save life. "fearing" death may be very well more likely to cause death.


I disagree that fear causes death or saves a life with any regularity or that fear is ever positive. Fear itself as an emotion may have some utility which is what you are getting at but it is not positive in the usual sense. Mystics generally condemn fear in all cases. You can be cautious and careful and alert, watching for danger with vigilance using all your conscious skills without fear and you will be better off. You might argue that a healthy dose of fear is good but this is a popular misunderstanding of the difference between the recognition and respect for dangerous and powerful objects and situations and the emotion of fear which can overwhelm and paralyze a conscious being. When a deer runs from a lion it appears to a human to be running out of fear, fear of death at the hands of the lion but that’s our anthropomorphizing of the situation. The deer isn’t afraid like a conscious human, it’s reacting to preserve it’s life to be certain, but the reaction is instinctive. It looks like fear to us because that survival instinct is the root instinct that get’s sublimated into the emotion of fear by consciousness. So it does have utility as we were becoming conscious but still primitive. As we become more consciously aware and rational we become less fearful and superstitious and as we become more sophisticated in our thinking the more destructive the emotion of fear becomes. Fear is the enemy of rationality and fear of anything and everything stems from the fear of pain and more specifically the fear of death.

At the "core" I see "fear" as a repercussion of "understanding". A number of concepts clash here including "truth", "justice", "community", "reality", and "existence", to name but a few. In selecting one particular aspect and framing it as the instigator of the others is a false premise. The meaning of "fear" cannot be separated from a sea of other terms as some primary "idea" from which sprouts everything. I think I have more right to lie on the premise that we attempt to "understand" and that "understanding" is a better premise to work from. It is from such attempts that Kant began, and from which Zizek no doubt has begun too (although I have yet to fully understand his approach from Hegelian ideas, Marxist ideas and Lecanian ideas.)


Fear isn’t a repercussion of understanding whatsoever, it’s one of the prime motivators of our drive for understanding. I would in fact argue that true understanding diffuses fear, it doesn’t cause it. You are greatly confused about all the higher forms of our thinking and culture and how those apparently sophisticated concepts could arise out of such simple things like fear of death or non-existence. I think that’s because you fail to see how the complex evolves from the simple. Selecting one “aspect” (concept) and framing it as the instigator of others is in no way a false premise in general.

Spectrum’s premise if that fear of death is a primary causative factor in the development of religion, I don’t think he is saying it’s the only causative factor. It is a very compelling theory and his premise is sound although not proven. The nature of the universe is causation where single impulses, forces or actions give rise to myriad forms and complex systems so the development of religion in human culture can no doubt be traced to a few very powerful or influential causes.
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Re: "Fear of Death" a Primary Motivator of Religions?

Post Number:#53  Postby Spectrum » June 19th, 2017, 10:06 pm

Burning ghost wrote:It is statements like "75% of most philosophers get Kant wrong" that confuse me. What does "most" mean and where do you pull this "75%" from?

Anyway, what are the finer nuances, if you don't mind the slight digression?

75% represent a greater majority. In such a situation, the default is always a ballpark guess restricted on my own exposure of views out there. "Wrong" is from my perspective and I can support it with my arguments.

If you gather the views re Kant's morality, most [like 75%] interpret it as deontological which is wrong from my argued perspective.
https://en.wik1pedia.org/wiki/Deontological_ethics

Another is this;
The dual-object and dual-aspect interpretations:
Kantian scholars have long debated two contrasting interpretations of the thing-in-itself. One is the dual object view, according to which the thing-in-itself is an entity distinct from the phenomena to which it gives rise. The other is the dual aspect view, according to which the thing-in-itself and the thing-as-it-appears are two "sides" of the same thing.
https://en.wik1pedia.org/wiki/Noumenon# ... pretations


I am with the 'dual aspect view' but most [I guess 75%] agree with the 'dual object view.'

There are other contentious issues re Kant's philosophies.


As for the whole "fear" thing, cognitively we can say that life is driven by an assessment of "positive" and "negative" outcomes. Those that create a sensation of achievement are deemed positive. For some "fear" is "positive", and for others it is "negative". The judgement is made once the outcome is framed. "Fear" can cause death and/or save life. "fearing" death may be very well more likely to cause death.

I still very much protest against the idea that "religion" (as an activity) is carried out only in regard to some "fear of death". As a "fear" of the unknown? That makes more sense, yet it also works as a counter to this idea by presenting the pretense of "knowing", or rather supplication to ideals, from which people find comfort and understanding. For me it seems the basic mechanism for religious thought, and human thought in general, is about "understanding" of which the item (the idea) of "death" is but a facet.

This said, I of course agree that religion does tap into the bigger existential questions. The existential questions are not revealed by religion though, they are glossed over as a necessary means to create an ideology of how to approach "existence" of how to be a "good" human.

At the "core" I see "fear" as a repercussion of "understanding". A number of concepts clash here including "truth", "justice", "community", "reality", and "existence", to name but a few. In selecting one particular aspect and framing it as the instigator of the others is a false premise. The meaning of "fear" cannot be separated from a sea of other terms as some primary "idea" from which sprouts everything. I think I have more right to lie on the premise that we attempt to "understand" and that "understanding" is a better premise to work from. It is from such attempts that Kant began, and from which Zizek no doubt has begun too (although I have yet to fully understand his approach from Hegelian ideas, Marxist ideas and Lecanian ideas.)


As I have been saying, your focus is on the symptoms of an event rather than on the ultimate and proximate root causes of an event. e.g. you rather run about to put out fires as they appear on the surface rather than deal with the root cause of the fire.

Obviously if you look at religions from the surface, there are many reasons why people are religious which could be anthropological, cultural, social, political, psychological, etc. But the root cause is that subliminal cognitive dissonance of Doom that surfaces as fear of death intermittently.

I had stated I used the term 'fear' [the surface element] as a convenience, what is critical is that 90% below the tip of the iceberg of 'fear.' It is that neural system established to deal with the threats of premature death to ensure the productive human survive to produce the next generation.

As I can see, every time the term 'fear' appears you are caught by it on the surface rather than the whole system down to its roots.

My thesis is religions spring from the roots of what we feel as 'fear' i.e. the cognitive dissonance and neural system established to deal with the threats of premature death to ensure the productive human survive to produce the next generation. To avoid repeating this long explanation of the point, I had used 'fear of death' in the OP title.

Actually I am not way off in using this surface concept 'fear of death' as a basis for religion as all religions also emphasize such a concept in their holy texts. One can get to this point once we scrap off the the topmost layers of concepts related to religions. Tell me which of the mainstream religion do not emphasize on this concept of the 'fear of death' [re salvation and the existential crisis]. While they are groping on the surface, all religions do not drill into the proximate root causes. Actually no humans [except a few] has bothered to dig into its proximate causes and take corrective actions based on these causes. This is the reason why religious based evils and violence is a perennial issue.

My thesis [sub] is to drill down from 'fear of death' [surface] to its proximate root cause so that religionists and believers understand what are the real impulses [facts] that are driving them to be religious and from there why SOME believers commit terrible evils and violence in being religious.

Decide on what you are writing for. If it is a scientific piece make it scientific, if it is psychological make it psychological, if philosophical make it philosophical, if it is political make it political. I don't know what you are attempting, but this is a philosophy forum so I am guessing it is philosophical. In which case backing up your position with scientific data does nothing much to enforce the philosophical position.

My thesis is philosophical. Philosophy [as I defined it] rely on knowledge from Science and all other sources to achieve its objectives.
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Re: "Fear of Death" a Primary Motivator of Religions?

Post Number:#54  Postby Atreyu » June 21st, 2017, 3:08 pm

I agree that fear of death is one of the more important general motivators for people of religion. I'm confident that if we all knew what lied beyond the grave few people would have any use for any religion. The only motivator under such circumstances would be if people believed that religion could make them happier for their limited time here on Earth.
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Re: "Fear of Death" a Primary Motivator of Religions?

Post Number:#55  Postby Fanman » June 21st, 2017, 4:43 pm

Spectrum:

Obviously if you look at religions from the surface, there are many reasons why people are religious which could be anthropological, cultural, social, political, psychological, etc. But the root cause is that subliminal cognitive dissonance of Doom that surfaces as fear of death intermittently.


I'm not saying that you're wrong here, as I do agree that the fear of death and/or existential crisis is a root cause/motivator of religious beliefs. However, I do wonder, upon what basis you differentiate the “surface” from the “root,” because I think that anthropological, cultural, social, political, psychological causes/motivators of religious belief can also be called root causes if examined closely. Although it is reasonable to say that the fear of death is a root cause for religious beliefs, I think claiming evidently, that the fear of death is the root cause for religious beliefs is problematic, because there could be other root causes linked to psychology or social factors – how could we possibly know for sure which is the true root cause? The fear of death could well be the deepest root, but I don't think its the only root.

Whilst human beings are a type of animal, sharing the same instincts and impulses as other animals, I think that you could be reducing the effect that our complex intelligence and social structures have upon our belief systems. If you're arguing for the fear of death being the root cause of religious beliefs from an internal (within the person) perspective, then I think you make a decent point, but I think that you also could consider that external factors can be just as influential and impacting as internal factors.
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Re: "Fear of Death" a Primary Motivator of Religions?

Post Number:#56  Postby -1- » June 21st, 2017, 6:41 pm

Atreyu wrote:I agree that fear of death is one of the more important general motivators for people of religion. I'm confident that if we all knew what lied beyond the grave few people would have any use for any religion. The only motivator under such circumstances would be if people believed that religion could make them happier for their limited time here on Earth.

Frankly, I would be quite happy if religion could make me happy just for one Friday afternoon.

Then there would be Wiener Schnitzel for the next Friday; then Disco; then trapeze art.

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Re: "Fear of Death" a Primary Motivator of Religions?

Post Number:#57  Postby Spectrum » June 22nd, 2017, 1:58 am

Fanman wrote:Spectrum:

Obviously if you look at religions from the surface, there are many reasons why people are religious which could be anthropological, cultural, social, political, psychological, etc. But the root cause is that subliminal cognitive dissonance of Doom that surfaces as fear of death intermittently.


I'm not saying that you're wrong here, as I do agree that the fear of death and/or existential crisis is a root cause/motivator of religious beliefs. However, I do wonder, upon what basis you differentiate the “surface” from the “root,” because I think that anthropological, cultural, social, political, psychological causes/motivators of religious belief can also be called root causes if examined closely. Although it is reasonable to say that the fear of death is a root cause for religious beliefs, I think claiming evidently, that the fear of death is the root cause for religious beliefs is problematic, because there could be other root causes linked to psychology or social factors – how could we possibly know for sure which is the true root cause? The fear of death could well be the deepest root, but I don't think its the only root.

Whilst human beings are a type of animal, sharing the same instincts and impulses as other animals, I think that you could be reducing the effect that our complex intelligence and social structures have upon our belief systems. If you're arguing for the fear of death being the root cause of religious beliefs from an internal (within the person) perspective, then I think you make a decent point, but I think that you also could consider that external factors can be just as influential and impacting as internal factors.

One point to note is in this OP, the I had used the phrase 'fear of death' very loosely. The critical element here is the subconscious elements rather than conscious fears.

The fear of death could well be the deepest root, but I don't think its the only root.

I think it is best to use an analogy to explain my point on how I differentiate surface, intermediary and why the deepest root causes are the most critical.
Note for example, the AID virus is the root cause of AID. Once we get rid of the existence of the AID virus [the ultimate root cause] for good [in total control with no possibility of resurgence] then the threat of AID disappear.
The secondary factors like promiscuousity, homosexuality, bad hygiene during sex, blood transfusions, etc. are not the critical factor. at all If they remain they may cause other diseases but not AID at all because the critical root cause of AID do not exists anymore.

Therefore when we isolate the proximate root cause of religions and get rid of it [not practical at present] then humans will not be driven to religions.

    Analogy:
    When I say 'Amazon River' what comes to mind immediately is a chunk of a large section of river within a large rain forest with various tribes confined to each individual's exposure from NGEO documentaries, etc.
    The more precise truth is the Amazon River is a river system that has its ultimate, proximate roots source and tributaries of water flowing and meandering through thousands of rivers and thousands of miles to a delta of few hundred mile wide.
    The features and flow of the River System of the Amazon is influenced by thousands of variables due to nature and human variables [dams, settlements, etc].
    The ultimate causes of the Amazon river can be traced to the Andes Mountain and the way the Earth is and was, then ultimately to the way the Universe is and was.

    If we were to flatten the Andes Mountain, there will be no more Amazon River System as it is today. Therefore the Andes Mountain is the proximate root cause of the Amazon River System. The ultimate cause of the Amazon River System is due to the way the Earth/Universe is and was.

The above analogy of the Amazon River System is applicable to 'Religion'.
The way I differentiate the surface and root [proximate and ultimate] is, the surface element of the Amazon River System is its river mouth & delta while its roots are in thousands of miles away in the Andes mountains. In between the surface and the roots are the intermediary elements.

In the case of the System supporting religions, the surface elements are the various doctrines and forms of practices.
The root of religions as I have claimed are the ultimate and proximate causes within the brain and DNA.
The proximate causes of religion is that subliminal terror of doom in the depth on the human psyche linked to fears and expressed as angst. [not normal conscious fears - a separate subject].
The anthropological, cultural, social, political, psychological are the INTERMEDIARY causes/motivators that lie between the surface and the ultimate & proximate root causes.

how could we possibly know for sure which is the true root cause?

We cannot know 100% for sure. There are indirect empirical and theoretical testings that can be done.

The theoretical test is this;
If we get rid of the proximate root causes of religion, then there will be no subliminal psychological angst to drive humans towards religion [theistic and non-theistic].
This will involve managing and controlling all the neurons involved.
When we get rid of the root causes, then they will not exist to interact with the intermediary elements to drive humans to religions per-se.
Humans, being social animals will group together with specific interests and activities but none of these will be theistic nor religious as we recognized [as defined] as present.
With the exponential advancements of knowledge within the neurosciences, genomics, psychology, I am optimistic we will soon find answers to the above.

On the empirical side, the Eastern religions has been resolving the root causes associated with religions, i.e. fear of the threat of death on a black-box basis. They recognize [directly or indirectly] the root cause as the fear of death and by trial and error take steps to develop inhibitors to modulate the associated fears in a positive manner - in contrast to the Abrahamic religions which highlight, instill and aggravate that primordial fear and ending up inspiring SOME believers to kill non-believers.

Thus for religions, the most critical factor is the internal proximate root causes which drive the whole system of religions [just like a river system from source to delta]. The external factors are not that critical to religion.

Humans are exposed to all sorts of threats of mortality e.g. empirical evidence of loved ones and other humans dying, all sort of catastrophe [earthquakes, tsunamis, etc. that kill millions] and even fellow humans that commit genocides on other humans. These humans will not establish nor turn to God and religion [as defined] if the existential crisis within them as the proximate root cause is not active [from basement of the brain].

Why the concept of God and religion is so prevalent with the majority is because it works very effectively, believe and viola the angst disappears. Problem is the majority do not understand the root cause that drive them into such a dilemma where the possible potential of this is humans killing other humans in the name of God.

What is critical now is for the majority to 'Know Thyself' and understand the proximate root causes that are driving them to be religious [a selfish salvation but with a potential to exterminate the human species].

-- Updated Thu Jun 22, 2017 1:05 am to add the following --

Atreyu wrote:The only motivator under such circumstances would be if people believed that religion could make them happier for their limited time here on Earth.

While religions has their pros to most believers [selfish interest in own salvation based on subliminal primordial fears], but their clinging to religion also make them complicit [as secondary smoke] to the evils and violence commit by their other evil prone religionist.
Not-a-theist. Religion is a critical necessity for humanity now, but not the FUTURE.
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Re: "Fear of Death" a Primary Motivator of Religions?

Post Number:#58  Postby Burning ghost » June 22nd, 2017, 3:41 am

My base argument is that we see very common view being presented here. The premise is built upon religion being constructed to control people with fear.

I am not arguing that religious institutions have not employed this tactic (wittingly or not). I am arguing that it is the only real premise to the whole phenomenon of religion.

In western society we've been taught about this Kingdom of Heaven idea, something used to mobilize people under some flag or another. There seems to be little progress made in addressing the personal nature of religious practice and the more indoctrinated political motivations.

The very premise of heaven and hell arises from other ancient roots. Heaven and Hell are inventions of a religious institution set out to impose power. The ancient Egyptians were called devil worshippers (the devil being another invention of the institution of Christianity), as were other various pagan religions. Historically it is quite clear the Christianity incorporated many "pagan" ideas in to their religion. The myth of "Jesus" extends from Socratic and Platonic ideals, the myth of Mithras mirrors that of Jesus, long before his birth.

It is fairer to say that religion has been used as a means to teach populations and help them understand their world, and each other, better. The integration of laws into this system seems like a very obvious shift from "religion" as personal understanding, into a social institution from which authority and rule bloomed.

In its modern form religion is most certainly used for political gain and to manipulate populations in order to impose power. We all know "fear" is a powerful force in the human mind. To say outright that the primary motivation for religion in light of what I know is simply focusing on one particular facet of religions use as a political tool.

I would add that if you punch a small child in the face it will cry. It is not "motivated" to cry. If you burn your hand in a fire, you'll pull your hand away from the fire. You are not "motivated" to pull your hand out of the fire ... but you may be motivated to keep your hand in the fire for some reason. In this sense it is clear enough that religion can, and has been, employed to promote fear for political gain. People have been clever enough to use certain human drives as a force to cloud rational thought. They may be motivated by selfish or selfless reasons. These people may have feared death greatly and possessed a certain existential angst about their human lived life, and they may have found a great way to view this they wanted to share with others, or a way to reveal it as a primitive nonsense of no real consequence. Whatever the motivation for creating an institution I simply do not see "fear" as the primary force (this view stand by other institutions and ideologies such as democracy or any other politically motivated idea.) What is harder to ignore is that all political ideas stem from individual people. If anything all institutions are motivated by individual thought in its striving to understand the greater political climate it finds itself part of.

My over all view of "religious institutions" is that they are mostly against asking questions, they employ and instigate 'truths' which are hidden in awkward facades of logic and emotional weight. They actively discourage questioning at a certain level and strive to imbue the "believer" with a sense of "knowledge" whilst enforcing them to hold back pursuing "knowledge". For some we can look at it as a crutch to lean on in lazy ignorance (often a blind ignorance which is all the sadder), or as a means to frame the inherent contrariness of human nature and paradoxes that are thrown up in our lives. These would include moral and ethical dilemmas. Like children we do what our parents tell us, and believe what they say because they possess so many answers. They themselves feel inadequate and confused as to how to prepare us for our future lives. This is the role many religious institutions have taken up. As children we most certainly do not live in fear. As children we live as the most amazing learning machines known to us in the universe. Fear is merely an element of our make up to help us assess dangers. Fear can be overcome, knowledge cannot. If anything our will to know is the most primary and important condition of human existence. Without knowledge there is no fear, this is precisely what extremists preach and indoctrinate innocent minds with. They don't die "fearful", they bypass fear by believing wholly that they have overcome knowledge.

Even when I say this I would still not say that religion stems from our need to replace our parents with a greater figurehead.

Also think about the reverence with which religious institutions over the course of human history have withheld knowledge from people. Think about the power of the written word. The priesthoods tend to possess the knowledge which they dish out to the illiterate public. Then wind back time and consider those with literary power, and the ability to create and tell memorable stories to passed on to the next generation, stories filled with knowledge and know how. consider this is a world without the written word. Consider Thoth of Egypt, associated with medicine, knowledge and writing. Look at the us eof mythos in ancient Greece and how it was used to create an institution of political power and sense of identity for its people. Look at the bible and the tree of knowledge. Understand the importance of this symbol in relation to ALL of the worlds shamanic traditions.

Society and people are not motivated by fear at all. Various ideologies and institutions quite clearing make use of human fear (meaningfully or not) for political gain. We learn nothing by embracing fear if we cannot overcome it. Sadly some get stuck. And my belief is that th eprimary function of religion was to guard against this (which is ironic to say the least!)

Some of this is just my opinion though. I cannot prove my conclusions to be true and I do attempt defy and alter my conclusions if I can.

Spectrum -

Just read your last reply. It is messy. You can see this I guess? That analogy?? The comparison or the HIV virus to religion? It is questionable at best.

That aside I have seen no "Fear of Death", nor mention of death, in any Far Eastern text (Also take note that generally Lao Tzu is not really accepted as an individual and is often referred to as a collection of people - his name translates roughly to something like "Wise Old Man", although his name may very well have been employed after his existence as far as I know etymologically this doesn't hold weight? A small point, but generally there is no actual evidence to suggest the Tao Te Ching was written by a single individual.) The I Ching also doesn't mention death and although it is not exactly a religious text, it is a significant part of Eastern cultural traditions. The same can be said of the Tao Te Ching too. It is not considered "religious" yet Daoism/Taoism and Confucianism are considered as "religions", albeit religions without any mention of an afterlife or of a deity. They are not "Theisms", any more than the modern religion of the Jedi is.

In the East the idea of deities is over shadowed by more of an ancestor worship, or rather living in honour of dead relatives. Given that it is 2017 other religious influences have obviously been consumed too to some degree. We, clumsily, in the west refer to Confucius as a "deity" of Daoism! The eastern doctrines generally focus on the development of self and were used politically to influence people. They did not require any authority other than that of a man called Confucius.

Just like the path carved out by the flow of water down a mountainside I really think you've managed to do nothing other than set out to prove a point and gather evidence to prove it. Nothing you say makes me think you've simply collected data with a genuine interest and then had some idea revealed to you through the culmination of data.

If your thesis is going to be philosophical make sure it is philosophical. I fear you're going to litter your thesis with circumstantial evidence to prop up your ideas rather than solid philosophical analysis.

Up to now I've seen a few bits and pieces given to the reader followed by some unfounded conclusion and statements beginning with "Thus" as if you've proved your point beyond dispute.

All this aside I think you'd do far better steering clear of writing a philosophical paper and instead attempt something more scientific and/or historical. I am guessing as to what you will produce just stating the ground your standing on looks rather shaky from a philosophical position.

eg.

We cannot know 100% for sure. There are indirect empirical and theoretical testings that can be done.


Says who? On what grounds? This is not philosophy simply here say. The point of philosophy is not to rely on evidence it is to employ reason. Science is the branch of evidence driven knowledge, philosophy explores the more intangible nature of knowledge and justifications through rationality and categories of understanding a subject matter from multiple angles.

I would add not even the scientist goes looking to prove his theory right or wrong. The scientist employs the attitude that the answer is there and it is what it is. They are conditioned/trained to employ the result as it is rather than how they wish it would be.

There is a very vapid view of "religion" being given here. It is dated, out of date even.

Present the knowledge of religion, define religion and then move from there. As an aside state that you wish to compare and contrast how the emotion of fear factors into religious attitudes. Then, in a purely philosophical way, look at fear and what its effects are en masse and in the individual. This has to be considered. No doubt how you define religion will factor in to all of this. It appears to me you have already decided that religion is about fear and fear only. If you are investigating religion and fear and your premise is based on the definition of religion as fear driven you are not bringing anything to the table. Do you understand this?

I would suggest defining religion first and foremost. IF you find within your definition you cannot help but employ the term "fear" then you have simply said nothing more than "religion is about fear". Of which I can, and have, already stated you may as well say "life is about fear" and that "religion" just happens to be a part of life. I n which case we all have some existential angst of a sort so we are all religious?

Of course I am saying all this without first seeing your thesis. I am stating my concerns and hope you've tackled at least some of these problems, if not all.

What is your opinion of Mirea Eliade? What school of religious scholarship are you more inclined toward? Ninian Smart? To be fair we are dancing in a very vague area given that social sciences cannot help but collide with philosophy. It seems you are maybe inadvertently crossing over from Philosophy of Religion to Social Sciences.

On a scientific grounding we know that belief can both increase and decrease fear. We also know that many religious traditions and practices employ active attempts to unearth unconscious processes, although in some meditative techniques it could also be said that reinforcing consciousness is more of a prominent force. In every situation there is a flip side to the techniques employed. What we can say is they are important to humans and that even our everyday activities we take to be mundane adhere to much of these phenomena, such as exercise, dancing, reading a book or even going for a walk. What I see is that certain obsessions with this or that activity create a particular behavior. In Zen meditative practices deep states on concentration and focus are involved often imbued with 'mystical'/'mythical' attachment that gives a mundane activity a sense of sacred importance. In Esoteric traditions these factors are very strongly known and employed. The practicioner of "magick" knowingly performs an act so as to frame the time period with a feeling of sacred importance. In every religion there is a "cleansing" ritual. Even in everyday work there are certain rituals, although we don't focus importance upon them.

In regards to death the most extreme human experiences are often those that bring humans to the brink of death. It is in these moments that our whole neurological system does what it can to force the body to keep going. Under stress we see from modern stories films like 72 hours (or whatever it is called) and Into the Abyss. Both situations with individuals alone and under severe life-threatening stress find an inner drive, hallucinations and memories flood the mind. The climber from Into the Abyss says that a part of him died on the mountain and will never come back. If we wish to get into the psychoanalytic view of this I am pretty firmly drawn to what Carl Jung has to say (although I am not compelled by everything he said by any means.)

ps . it is a very fascinating subject! No doubt about it :) I myself when I was young was brought up to believe religion caused war and that was it. Then I started to write a novel and plan things out. I was creating a lore and decided to create a religion. From there on I found myself asking a lot of questions about how I could create a fictional religion if I didn't understand what it was that religious people really believed or thought. Even back when I was 16-18 I remember licking through pages of my friends and my books about various demons, gods and mythical beasts. I knew there was something I was missing in all these stories, some connection between them because they all possessed components of each other. It became clear they were all human fantasies, and that these fantasies were important to humans and they expressed something. Jung's theory of Archetypes tapped quite clearly into this. I do believe that religious "institutions" are set up to hold sway over people through fear or false promises. I do not believe that the heart of religious practice has anything to do with the hubris of humans, but that hubris is one subject of religious practice. Fro me the heart of religion is about facing yourself stripped down naked and unashamed, it is about seeing the devil and angel within and understanding them as being the same thing. What appears, so I believe, to have happened is this form of psychological investigation (and treatment in respect to some shamanic practices) has fallen prey to its own strength. The techniques employed, over the course of time, have been taken up as beliefs rather than techniques and/or narratives to use these techniques. This is a common theme in esoteric circles too and in this area I know more about Christian mysticism and occult practices than about Islamic ones.

I don't have a theory only an observation. No one can tell me that people the world over employing the same parallel mythos when culturally and lingually isolated means nothing at all.

People rightly say that if all the science books in the world wre destroyed they could be rewritten again in the future. In the same light, if all the religious texts in the world were destroyed and forgotten they'd never be written again word for word in the same way ... yet neither would the science books except in regard to the mathematical formula. The point being that mythos is human, and that when mythos grows in emotional power in larger and larger communities religious institutions are born. Prior to there birth it the seed from which these religious organisations must sprout. The seed is human understanding of the self and emotional investment in the world.

A long PS! I'll stop and go back to Husserl ... have fun :)
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Re: "Fear of Death" a Primary Motivator of Religions?

Post Number:#59  Postby Spectrum » June 22nd, 2017, 4:49 am

Burning Ghost,

As with my Amazon River analogy, your problem is you are not interested to find the sources of the river which is right up the Andes range.
What I see is you are groping about the delta of the Amazon River and up some distance on the main river and just accept that is the Amazon River.
What I have done so far is I had traced the source of the Amazon River to its source in the Andes mountain, the snows and the clouds that sent showers of rains at the source.

Burning Ghost wrote:Present the knowledge of religion, define religion and then move from there. As an aside state that you wish to compare and contrast how the emotion of fear factors into religious attitudes. Then, in a purely philosophical way, look at fear and what its effects are en masse and in the individual. This has to be considered. No doubt how you define religion will factor in to all of this. It appears to me you have already decided that religion is about fear and fear only. If you are investigating religion and fear and your premise is based on the definition of religion as fear driven you are not bringing anything to the table. Do you understand this?

'Religion' is a very loose term.

What I have done is to survey what is the general consensus of what the majority would recognize as a 'religion'.
I had relied mainly on Ninian Smart's research where he analyzed what is regarded as 'religion' where he found there are 7 dimensions that are common to the group of ideas and practices that is generally accepted to be religious. Smart's did not include theism as a common dimension of religion because some religions are non-theistic.
I had reviewed many other definitions of religion, William James has an interesting one.

Based on the above, I would define religion as a set of human ideas and practices that shared 7 common dimensions.
At this stage I have not emphasized on 'fear' at all.

Intuitively I am not fully satisfied with Smart's definition so I did extra research.

Based on my findings I would redefine religion as follows;

Religion is a set of human ideas and practices has 7 common dimensions [as listed] and driven by an existential crisis at its root.

If you are investigating religion and fear and your premise is based on the definition of religion as fear driven you are not bringing anything to the table. Do you understand this?

This is very odd.

The Problem Statement of a thesis is always a hypothesis that has to be proven for it to become a conclusion.
So what is wrong if I hypothesize initially in my thesis with the fear factor in religion.
The task is whether I can prove my hypothesis with evidence and reason.

FYI, there are many other critical factors I have not discussed yet but what I have presented so far is already quite a mouthful to chew.

-- Updated Thu Jun 22, 2017 3:55 am to add the following --

Burning Ghost,

I think you do not understand how critical is to resolve problems at its ultimate or proximate root cause levels. Note

Root cause analysis (RCA) is a method of problem solving used for identifying the root causes of faults or problems.[1]
A factor is considered a root cause if removal thereof from the problem-fault-sequence prevents the final undesirable event from recurring; whereas a causal factor is one that affects an event's outcome, but is not a root cause.
Though removing a causal factor can benefit an outcome, it does not prevent its recurrence with certainty.
Not-a-theist. Religion is a critical necessity for humanity now, but not the FUTURE.
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Re: "Fear of Death" a Primary Motivator of Religions?

Post Number:#60  Postby Burning ghost » June 22nd, 2017, 5:37 am

It is odd! You have reveled your definition of religion though as being built upon this "existential crisis". From there you extend it into fear of death.

The clearer and more careful your definition of religion is the better you can present your argument. "existential crisis" is as much a circumstance, if not more so, of meaning than of fear of death. The crisis is the meaning and understanding, which you may psychologically spin-off the idea of "fear of not knowing", but this doesn't fall into any particular category, be it fear of pain, death, responsibility, knowledge, living, loving, killing or spiders. I often compare patriotism to religion because people are willing to die for it. Ninian, so I believe, was criticized for not being specific enough in delineating between ideologies in general and religious ideologies. I think it is a little unfair to say such though because the writer has to draw a certain delineation somewhere. This is what you, in my mind, will need to do rather than just say "religion" and hope you hit the mark with the reader.

I have not read Ninian but I am guess he wrote a good explanation as to why he decided upon those seven points as guidelines. The ambiguity of the term "religion" should be addressed as quickly as possible IMO (you've probably noticed I often use parenthesis like they're going out of fashion!) haha! I simply lack the ability to find the precision of words I require.

Then there is the problem of justifying your definition and/or rooting out what you see as good/bad, useful/useless, infectious/benign within the whole scope of religion. And I will again highlight something I feel needs addressing, which I am sure you have already I forget? That is the need to view the institution of religion as something other than the personal experience, even though they are intertwined.

CRAP ! Late for work ...

The feeling of doom is about meaning not life or death. We know life ends, it is the weight of meaning we may come in our existence to bring to question.
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