"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.
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Burning ghost
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Re: "Fear of Death" a Primary Motivator of Religions?

Post by Burning ghost » June 13th, 2017, 3:00 am

Philosch -

Yeah, there are many "motivators" that can be looked at. That is generally what I am posing to Spectrum. To give better weight to his thesis it seems reasonable to look at these ideas of "will to power", "will to pleasure", and such, as you've labelled them, and see how they relate to the human attitude of religion in a personal sense and in a broader political sense.

We would, I expect, hear religious folk protest and say their idea of religion is about love, faith and understanding. This may be ironic to us, or not, but it does show something other than fear of death needs to be addressed before it is pursued as the possible fountainhead of all religions. What is more there is basic psychological pattern we know about humans in which when we have an idea we hold to the information that supports our views rather than actively combat against our own views. The OP doe snot ask what is the primary motivation for religions, or religious people. It asks specifically about Fear of Death, so it is up to us to either chose to add weight to the proposition or weigh in against it. I am simply asking about other factors not being considered and going against surface appearances that sound fitting and pleasing to the reader.

I have to question how appropriate it is to say there is an "impulse" to live if there is no consciousness? I will further this position in my reply to Spectrum in the final paragraph, and have already alluded to it in my point about evolution in last post.

Then we have the broader item of neurological theories of emotions. There is a long history in science that looks at what emotions are. The celebrated names evade me right now though ... anyway the emotion is a "feeling", a body reaction known and felt consciously. I cannot remember who first said this, but it was basically something like "our hearts do not race because we are excited or scared, our hearts race and this combined with other sensory feeling is felt as 'fear'/'excitement'." This could get messy because it is addressing the ever popular debate about the philosophical tradition of the mind/body so I'll just leave it there.

I think I get the gist of what you're putting across here. There is no right or wrong answer, I agree! I just think it makes sense to address how fear factors into all human activities, not just religion, or how religion factors into other human condition, other than fear. To limit and confine the argument to one singular particular area is up to Spectrum. In a comprehensive thesis I would at least expect these kind of points to be touched on. If he outlines his investigation as being how Fear is used in religion that is not an issue for me. What I don't see useful is making the assumption that religion is ruled only by the fear of death, rather than the fear of death being a contributing factor to a complex human tradition of which the origins are obscured in history and within the machinations of the human condition itself in the present day. This is a problem of psychology, and I would argue as did Husserl, that the modern tradition of psychology suffers from trying to make itself an empirical pursuit in order to present itself as a physical science, when it is anything but a physical science and deals with the 'spirit' (in an none religious sense of the word) of humanity in general rather than collections of empirical data. Luckily we've had great strides made in reinforcing how we view human consciousness with neuroscience and the empirical and phenomenological attitudes towards consciousness have further revealed the schism between subjective and objective experience.

As an add on I think Jung made a very important point about Freuds linear view of human psychology. He said, in relation to dream analysis, that Freud's interpretation of a dream was focused on his theory of sex. He took a very sexual interpretation of the dream to be the underlying meaning. Jung said that this is a valid interpretation, but it is not necessarily the correct one. He went on to view the representation of his idea of Archetypes and came to a different interpretation. In some instances Freud's sexual interpretation will hold more weight than in others. In this sense I am viewing the OP and in this sense only. I am not saying it is a false proposition only that it is one of many ways of interpreting the question of religious motivations (which are essentially human motivations).


Spectrum -

I was being pedantic, like I said I was, in order to highlight other things you may be overlooking. If you are saying fear of death is the primary motivator for religions then I feel you should address other possibilities and show us how this fear of death over powers other drives, or relates to them. Drives such as the need to understand and pleasure.

You still seem to be avoiding my general point though. That is that if fear of death is the fountainhead of all human activities, then why are you only focusing on religion in regards to this? It doesn't make sense in the way you've presented it. Like I charitably said we can roughly see that religions tend to address the main questions of mortality and implant the idea of an afterlife. So here you are most definitely justified in saying what you are saying, but I think the reader would also have to ask other questions of what you are saying.

The point of the chocolate is to show that we don't generally say that we eat chocolate because we want sex and fear death. Of course I understand the pedantic nature of this statement, and I was equally hoping you'd understand this as an outlining the over all counter position to what you seem to be proposing. We are much more inclined to say that religion stems from existential crisis that wanting to eat chocolate does. This is obvious. What is not so obvious are the other factors that are buried under this premise (which is in itself perhaps flawed anyway, being an oversimplification - that is not directly important here though.)

To be clearer still one person may be diagnosed with cancer and fearful of approaching death try to make sense of their existence, thus turning to religion as a means of comfort and strength in reflection to their having to face the question of their mortality. Another person may simply find the community and brotherhood of some religious organization appealing and be drawn into the idea of some "immortal soul" at a later date.

Another distinction I was trying to allude to was the difference between the motivation of the religious practitioner and the institution of a religion. The motivations of the individuals undoubtedly differ from the over all founders, but there is at least some wider appeal. Over all the institution of a religion is set out with a political motive of some kind, as it necessarily must being something taken on by the people. The individual idea, the Holy Man's idea, may differ quite drastically from the spin off of his thoughts. What we do see is a common theme in religion that most certainly addresses very human questions about personal meaning in life and how we came to be here on Earth asking all these questions. If anything in this line of thinking it is not any kind of FEAR that drives us, but rather wanting to KNOW.

If you are to propose that Fear of Death is the Primary Motivator for Humans I am open to this discussion. This is what I am considering in my responses. I am asking you about the specification of religion, and in what sense (personal subjective appeal or as an institution with a pervading authority, which necessarily would stem from an individual with a point of view of the world they feel inspired to share and/or impose on others.)

I cannot say conclusively that religious people are motivated primarily by Fear of Death or that religious institutions are based on the idea of the Fear of Death. Although I have to admit the later is certainly a very ripe fruit to weigh in on as we know fear can override our rational minds and be used to control swathes of people. This would be appropriate as a conclusion if we viewed religious institutions intents as being merely to control masses of people (which I am in no doubt many religious figures, and political figures, have historical done!)

To add in on what I previously said in my last post about evolution ... bacteria don't have fear of death nor a desire to reproduce. We can view bacteria "as if" they do, but they don't. This shows the fallacy of assuming that evolution has an intent. The fact that we have brains to question our own existence is the primary motivator, a singular cell organism does not possess any "motivation". When we are talking about the primary motivation for religions we are most certainly talking about the intent of the founder and the institutional bodies that represent, justly or not, what the fountainhead of the religion is to be viewed as. We can clearly see that religious institutions played a significant role as a political body, but the founder may very well have been against the idea of such a political institution or may not even have considered this as an issue. Also, these founders may not even have imagined their ideas, experiences and beliefs would be so influential on future generations and I very much doubt that who they were is in anyway reflected in religious texts. We know they were human, or simply made up. There is some evidence for some and little evidence for others. All religions present a very obvious heritage and we can see how historically their views and ideologies consume and dismiss other religious attitudes, based on geopolitical climates.

note : I am still to offer my views publicly or privately once you've finished your thesis. I am not an expert and my authority is only my own, but the offer is there and I am willing to offer critic of the style and substance of what you write - although my grammatical know how may not be great I am reasonably familiar with philosophical texts and giving critique is just as useful to me as receiving it. I expect nothing and hope for everything :)
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Re: "Fear of Death" a Primary Motivator of Religions?

Post by Spectrum » June 13th, 2017, 5:46 am

I was being pedantic, like I said I was, in order to highlight other things you may be overlooking. If you are saying fear of death is the primary motivator for religions then I feel you should address other possibilities and show us how this fear of death over powers other drives, or relates to them. Drives such as the need to understand and pleasure.

You still seem to be avoiding my general point though. That is that if fear of death is the fountainhead of all human activities, then why are you only focusing on religion in regards to this? It doesn't make sense in the way you've presented it.
I believe you missed the reason why I select to variables i.e. Fear of Death and origin of Religion. Here it is again, I hope you get it;

Why my Problem Statement is "Fear of Death is the Primary Motivator of Relgions?"
  • 1. I am not officially a Buddhist per se but I have a strong inclination for Buddhist Philosophies in addition to others.
    2. I happened to adopt one of the Bodhisattva Vows, i.e. to empathize and extend compassion to fellow human beings.
    3. One area of extending empathy to fellow humans is their sufferings from ALL evils.
    4. But I don't have the capacity to contribute nor knowledge to deal effectively with ALL evils, so I have to specialize only certain aspects of it.
    5. One aspect of evil I have expertise are those evils related to religions and the most notable evils are the evils from Islam [partly] which is so evident on a daily basis.
If you have written a thesis you would have known the general rule of forming a Problem Statement is to ensure the cause to effect link as few direct variables as possible.
The above points 1 to 5 and the rule of the Problem Statement are the reasons why I am focusing on religions. This is the reason why I raise the OP specifically in this 'Religion' section of the forum.

In problem solving the critical approach is to find the ultimate or proximate root causes.
For example the fundamental cause of cancer are malignant cancer cells. Therefore if we ensure no cancer cells exists by whatever means or enter the body, then there will be zero possibility of cancer.

On the surface it would appear that religions are cause by many factors, wanting eternal life, social bonding - brotherhood, father figure, politics, organizational factors, etc.
However my thesis I am betting the Fear of Death is a proximate [not ultimate] cause of the origin of religions.
Thus when we manage and control this 'fear of death,' then there is no need for religions at all! In managing this fear, people will come to understand why wanting eternal life is an illusion.
Thus if we can get rid of religions by managing the 'fear of death' as a primary factor why do we need to bother about other factors causing religions.
Once we get rid of religions and its evils, people can seek social bonding tru other avenues.

-- Updated Tue Jun 13, 2017 5:22 am to add the following --

@ Burning Ghost
Burning Ghost wrote:If you are to propose that Fear of Death is the Primary Motivator for Humans I am open to this discussion. This is what I am considering in my responses.
If you want to open up to all human variables we will need to cover it in an OP within General Philosophy not in this Religion section.
I cannot say conclusively that religious people are motivated primarily by Fear of Death or that religious institutions are based on the idea of the Fear of Death.
In my full thesis I will prove Fear of Death is the Primary [proximate] Motivator of Religions which by default or instutionally organized. For individual[s] without institutional religion, that would be associated with theistic spirituality.
To add in on what I previously said in my last post about evolution ... bacteria don't have fear of death nor a desire to reproduce. We can view bacteria "as if" they do, but they don't. This shows the fallacy of assuming that evolution has an intent.
I have said before there are no teleological purpose within evolution. We infer 'purpose' from empirical evidence of living things that no species has emerged with the objective to be extinct immediately.

Note this;
  • 1. All living things strive to survive at all costs -as observed in general.
    2. To ensure survival, living things are endowed with
    ..2a. reproductive [sexual, etc], cloning, regenerations properties
    ..2b. capabilities to avoid premature death to enable 2a.
    3. All living things are endowed with the basic instinct of the fight or flight response to avoid death and survive.
    4. Higher living things are endowed with emotions, pain & pleasure, consciousness.
    5. With consciousness, there is the fear of death.
    6. With self-awareness, there is an existential crisis at the subconscious level. [apply only to humans]
Single cell living things do feel fears [not endowed with emotions] are covered within point 1 to 3 above.
So their actions are still driven [in a way motivated*] by fear of death and reproduction, i.e. the proximate causes in 2 above.
* motive, the root is to move?

Note there are loads of all kinds of evil going on at present. However evils related to religions, especially Islam is very critical to the possibility that the human species could even be exterminated by SOME Muslims. As a concerned citizen of humanity I am obligated to contribute whatever ideas within the capabilities I have on this aspect of evils. You seem to be discouraging me on this and requesting me to widen my scope and thus diluting my efforts.

Point is there is so much and all kinds of evils in the World today and their origins can be traced to the proximate root causes I highlighted above. For example the drug problems, the evils of politics, racial problems, social crimes, etc. There is no way any one can simply deal with all of these problems at one go. Somehow one can only concentrate in areas one has expertise. In my case, it is religion-based evil, thus this OP.

Thanks for your offer to review and critique my thesis, will consider when I have a readable draft.
Not-a-theist. Religion is a critical necessity for humanity now, but not the FUTURE.

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

Post by Burning ghost » June 13th, 2017, 10:36 am

Spectrum -
On the surface it would appear that religions are cause by many factors, wanting eternal life, social bonding - brotherhood, father figure, politics, organizational factors, etc.
However my thesis I am betting the Fear of Death is a proximate [not ultimate] cause of the origin of religions.
Okay, gotcha! :)

I do still think it would be worth while in touching on these points even if you don't think they contribute as much as "Fear of Death" to most religious ideologies. I was not suggesting you look into everything Fear of Death touches in human lives, only refer to the above in some capacity in your thesis. I think we can all get on board with the general idea that most religious institutions, and even a large enough number of religious people, are quite aware of the idea of death and the idea of life after death. It does undoubtedly hold sway over many religious ideas.

I kind of go over a few points in my own thinking in a post called "Religion, what is it and where did it come from?" I doubt there is much there you'll find of use, but I have very vaguely outlined my thoughts about "religion" there. Was a while ago I spat it out onto this forum so cannot off the top of my head remember everything I wrote, but my general thinking about the subject of "religion" has not changed a great deal.

I have probably written this quote over a dozen times across forums. I love it!

It is from Clifford Geertz. He was trying to set out a definition of religion without any ambiguous terms like "spirit" or "soul":
a system of symbols which acts to establish powerful, pervasive and long-lasting moods and motivations in men by formulating concepts of a general order of existence and clothing these concepts with such an aura of factuality that the moods and motivations seem uniquely realistic.
note: I read this is book by Renfrew who was using this definition to apply to humans regard for "money" rather than "religion".
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Re: "Fear of Death" a Primary Motivator of Religions?

Post by Philosch » June 13th, 2017, 10:49 am

@Spectrun
@Philosch

Philosch wrote:
As I hope I stated above there is clearly a desire aspect to religions but the fear component I would argue (without doing the research) seems where most of the destructive aspects of religion lie. Although desire may be sublimated into the will to power and domination so maybe I'd have to rethink which aspect of the two is the most harmful or the most compelling? I would appreciate thoughts on this from either of you
It is the fear of premature death and mortality that activate one to desire religion, from religion other desires [religious based] are created. From, desire with ignorance there is desperate clinging that contribute to the terrible evils and violence committed by SOME believers who are evil prone.

The other main drive is sex [reproduction of the next generation] but this is secondary to fear of premature death, i.e if a person is dead, s/he cannot have sex to reproduce naturally. I think it is evident the awareness of any threat of premature death, the first action re sex is 'limpness' as the body divert the whole system and resources to prepare for fight or flight to avoid premature [unnatural, untimely] death.

A review into the doctrines of all religions will review the fundamental is that of Soteriology in one form or another. Even in Buddhism the central theme is from the Buddha Story as reflected by the threat of a corpse [death].
I mentioned Kierkegaad -the father of existentialism;
I don't quite agree with the hierarchical structure you have arranged these motivators in humans. Sexual desire in humans I view as a substituent of desire which is the antecedent of fear. In Buddhism...fear and desire are taken as a dualistic pair. Desire is not always taken as negative in Buddhism as it would be stated by Shopenhauer but it seems it is placed next to fear and not as a substituent of fear. It's not a big deal but I do think the placement is significant in terms of developing a correct understanding of how these various motivations interact and give rise to a myriad forms. It seems obvious to me that both fear and desire are human sublimations of the drive to live which is basic to the DNA molecule. Now reproduction is a key to the DNA structure's ability to continue and so is fundamental and that is where the raw sex drive at the instinctive animal level comes from and I suppose that level of instinctual impulse can be reflected in human beings but generally I would resist characterizing "normal" human behavior at the instinctual level. People who were deviant in some regard I would suppose it useful to examine instinctive causes of action. The reason this distinction is important is you talk about fear as a result of the cognitive dissonance and so desire at this level would also be related to consciousness and therefore above the animal instinctual level of the baser sexual impulse. If we go all the way down to strictly animal level instinct and talk about reproduction at this level, this is before fear even arises. The "sex" instinct is part of the "impulse to life" preceding the cognitive dissonance.

Animal equation...Impulse to live ---> survival (of the individual) instinct + reproduction (instinctive) (survival of the genetic code)
Human equation ..Impulse to live + cognition(self awareness) ---> Fear + Desire (Conscious Sex and other desires)

This is how I would state what seems to be the root actions with the ---> representing the sublimation process that "yields" the results. You can see it really is the same equation except where the cognitive dissonance causes a transmutation of the yielded dualistic pair to a conscious level of action

@ Burning Ghost
I have to question how appropriate it is to say there is an "impulse" to live if there is no consciousness? I will further this position in my reply to Spectrum in the final paragraph, and have already alluded to it in my point about evolution in last post.
No worries here as the impulse to life is not meant to convey consciously undertaken action. It's at a molecular biological level reflected in the nature of the DNA molecule itself. Some might say this extraordinary property of the molecule is a precursor of consciousness if you will but as far as I know this phenomenon is a still very mysterious.

As far as the rest of your post I generally agree with your comments. Fear and desire do indeed give rise to ALL subsequent and more specific motivations in conscious human beings. Shopenhauer saw this and was disheartened as I believe he thought these 2 sources of motivation as negative resulting in sorrow and loss (pessimistic philosophy)....like the first Buddhist teaching which says "all life is sorrowful". But Buddhism itself while viewing fear as negative views desire as both good and bad and allows for the case where desire leads you down the path to enlightenment.

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

Post by Spectrum » June 13th, 2017, 9:20 pm

[b]Burning ghost[/b] wrote:I kind of go over a few points in my own thinking in a post called "Religion, what is it and where did it come from?"
viewtopic.php?f=4&t=13980&start=45
I read the above OP. All the points are scratching the surface and do not get to the root of where did it come from. However note your points;
  • Burning Ghost: What I am really saying here is that all "religion" stems from ASCs. All religions possess blatant traces of techniques required to achieve ASCs ...
    In my experience what people gain from attaining such states is a lack of fear.
Therefore in the above you are inferring 'getting rid fear' is a purpose of religion.
What you did not dig further is, this fear is not just any ordinary fear, but the 'mother of all fears' i.e. fear of death or to be precise fear of premature death and thus mortality.

1. The ultimate cause of religions [as with others human acts] is survival.
2. The penultimate or proximate cause is fear of death + consciousness -> existential crisis.

'Religion' is a very loose term and thus need to be defined from many perspectives but the ultimate and proximate root causes are the above.

Religion can be divided into 1. Proto-religion and 2. modern religion.
What is generally and commonly taken as 'religion' are the modern organized religion with a reasonable large numbers of followers.
The smaller groups are called sects, cults, etc. We have to determine what number of followers should be regarded or qualified to be termed as a modern organized religion, >100,000 or >1 million.
It is from Clifford Geertz. He was trying to set out a definition of religion without any ambiguous terms like "spirit" or "soul":
a system of symbols which acts to establish powerful, pervasive and long-lasting moods and motivations in men by formulating concepts of a general order of existence and clothing these concepts with such an aura of factuality that the moods and motivations seem uniquely realistic.
Because of the term religion is so loose, there are thousands of different definition of religion. Note the one by William James.

Instead of defining religion, what Ninian Smart did was to study all the modern religion of the world and find their common characteristic. He found all these religion comprised of 7 necessary dimensions.

Ninian Smart's Analysis of the Dimensions of Religion
and of Religious Experience
http://www.westminster.edu/staff/brenni ... SR28.3.pdf

The 7 Dimensions
http://www2.kenyon.edu/Depts/Religion/F ... evendi.htm

Theism [though popular] is not one of the dimension because religions like Buddhism and Jainism are not theistic.
However Smart did not identify 'fear of death' as a significant characteristics underlying all religions.

ASCs are only a part of religions, but its relevance is only perhaps 10% [Eastern higher] and confined to the mystics within the respective religions.
ASCs are more prominent in spirituality [higher practices].

Shamans? they emerge from various reasons, i.e. spiritual savants, happen to eat some hallucinogens [mushrooms, barks, leaves, etc.] mental illness, brain damage, that small percentage of cross wirings in the brain.
Note Jill Bolte [neuroscientist] who experienced an exceptional kind of ASCs due to a massive stroke.
Shamanism is not exactly a religion because it does not has the 7 relevant dimensions of what constitute that is commonly recognized as a religion.

-- Updated Tue Jun 13, 2017 9:48 pm to add the following --
Philosch wrote:As far as the rest of your post I generally agree with your comments. Fear and desire do indeed give rise to ALL subsequent and more specific motivations in conscious human beings. Schopenhauer saw this and was disheartened as I believe he thought these 2 sources of motivation as negative resulting in sorrow and loss (pessimistic philosophy)....like the first Buddhist teaching which says "all life is sorrowful". But Buddhism itself while viewing fear as negative views desire as both good and bad and allows for the case where desire leads you down the path to enlightenment.
I was very deep into Schopenhauer long time ago. I think Schopenhauer could not reconcile the Buddhist's concept of 'emptiness' and 'nothingness' with empirical reality.
Schopenhauer wrote:WWI Vol 1: FOURTH BOOK.
Assertion And Denial Of The Will-to-Live
71 Explains what is ‘nothing’. nihil privativum (+)ve & (-)ve. Where Will vanish, only knowledge remain. Similar to Prajna-Paramita.
At least we agree "fear of death" is somewhere at the deepest layer of the psyche while we disagree on the precision of its sequences. I believe it is a matter of definition.
I agree a conscious feeling of fears which is the Buddhist's concept of 'fear' arise from desires [ignorance] and the the cycle of dependent origination. What is desire is ego-centric in contrast to animal instincts and these can be studied in more detailed and deeper.

In other posts, I mentioned a persistent conscious fear of death is a mental illness, i.e. thanatophobia that need psychiatric help. The OP is slightly misleading as it is more of an attention-getter and I have pointed out to Burning-Ghost many times, it is not the conscious fear of death that I am concerned with.

To be more precise, I am more concern with the cognitive dissonance [existential crisis] that arise subliminally as a result of the conscious fear of death [arising from threats of premature death] being suppressed [for good reasons] by inhibitors and its combination with self-awareness.
Animal equation...Impulse to live ---> survival (of the individual) instinct + reproduction (instinctive) (survival of the genetic code)
Human equation ..Impulse to live + cognition(self awareness) ---> Fear + Desire (Conscious Sex and other desires)
I see the Human equation differently.

Mine would be edited as ;
1. Animal equation:
Impulse to live - survival (of the individual) instinct --> reproduction (instinctive) (survival of the genetic code) + avoidance of threats to premature death.

2 Human equation:
[Animal equation:Impulse to live - survival (of the individual) instinct --> reproduction (instinctive) (survival of the genetic code) + avoidance of threats to premature death.] + self-awareness [ego] ---> conscious fears ---> cognitive dissonance [unconscious] -->existential crisis ---> angst ----> religions.

The point is DNA wise, all humans are evolved with an inherent animal set-up with a topped-up [stacked on top] higher neo-cortical brain that enable higher self-awareness, planning and reasoning power.

Actually desires, motives, instincts, drives, impulses in one sense are fundamentally the same within a continuum. What is termed 'desire' is merely the above [urges to actions] in associated with an ego with self-awareness. Humans with ego - can desire consciously, but not animals who are merely instinctual and act on various impulses.
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 by Prothero » June 14th, 2017, 12:00 am

The promise of an afterlife does seem to be a prominent feature of many religions.

Some religions do not emphasize an afterlife, even the Jewish faith does not emphasis an afterlife.

I think in general the more fundamental motivation for religion is seeking some larger meaning or purpose to our lives and the world around us. The notion that life and consciousness are mere accidental emergent qualities in an otherwise accidental and purposeless universe just does not seem satisfactory for many.

This may be the fundamental divide between those with religious inclinations and those who choose agnosticism or various forms of atheism.

Of course the proposed solutions to the religious problem are many and varied.

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

Post by Burning ghost » June 14th, 2017, 1:52 am

Spectrum -
I read the above OP. All the points are scratching the surface and do not get to the root of where did it come from. However note your points;

Burning Ghost: What I am really saying here is that all "religion" stems from ASCs. All religions possess blatant traces of techniques required to achieve ASCs ...
In my experience what people gain from attaining such states is a lack of fear.
Therefore in the above you are inferring 'getting rid fear' is a purpose of religion.
What you did not dig further is, this fear is not just any ordinary fear, but the 'mother of all fears' i.e. fear of death or to be precise fear of premature death and thus mortality.
I was asking my own specific question. "Fear" was something I mentioned not integral. You have yet to convince me with your opinions.

My biggest critique of what you are saying is that you looking for evidence to back up what you say rather than dismissing other lines of inquiry. It is this I repeatedly keep trying to bring you to address. I do understand if you are focusing specifically on this that you have to go in depth with it. It would give much more weight to what you are saying if you could point out other possible avenues to investigate and show some of the weaknesses (doubts and possible interpretatioins) with the ideas you present.
1. The ultimate cause of religions [as with others human acts] is survival.
2. The penultimate or proximate cause is fear of death + consciousness -> existential crisis.
You have to understand that this is your opinion not a solid fact. You have a very viable line of investigation for sure. It really irks me as a reader that I see little moderation and lot of ideas and interpretations presented "as if" they are truths.

Theism is defined generally as belief in a supreme being or all pervading 'energy'. Much about Buddhism, and I would argue Hinduism too, do not fit neatly into the idea of a 'supreme being'. The distinction between religious attitudes from the West to the East is very interesting. From the gulf region across to the Americas there is a distinct difference in the leading religions compared to the traditions in the East from India and further East (I am talking in a historical sense here and referring to the general structures). Monotheistic ideas seems to have created a very distinct schism between East and West.

In the modern sense, given we know a lot more about the universe we live in than we used to, those not educated to understand the application of sciences fear them and dismiss them. This is a very common human attribute and does not have anything to do with "Fear of Death".

I could be wrong, but at a base level it seems you appear to be conflating evolution with human attitudes. Meaning you are saying survival of a species is driven by the "Fear of Death", where we are in no position to say evolution has a "drive" or "purpose", it is just how we frame it given that this our how we live our emotional lives (as causal beings).
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Re: "Fear of Death" a Primary Motivator of Religions?

Post by Spectrum » June 14th, 2017, 2:41 am

Prothero wrote:The promise of an afterlife does seem to be a prominent feature of many religions.

Some religions do not emphasize an afterlife, even the Jewish faith does not emphasis an afterlife.

I think in general the more fundamental motivation for religion is seeking some larger meaning or purpose to our lives and the world around us. The notion that life and consciousness are mere accidental emergent qualities in an otherwise accidental and purposeless universe just does not seem satisfactory for many.

This may be the fundamental divide between those with religious inclinations and those who choose agnosticism or various forms of atheism.

Of course the proposed solutions to the religious problem are many and varied.
The OP is "Fear of Death" a Primary Motivator of Religions i.e. All religions [as defined], the afterlife is secondary to relieve the above subliminal [not so much the conscious] 'fears'
The afterlife is featured in most religions except perhaps Buddhism. Even then there are some Buddhists who believe in rebirth and some sort of after life.

Here is one view on Judaism;
The afterlife is a fundamental of Jewish belief.
http://www.simpletoremember.com/article ... e-beliefs/

A Parallel Example: Note in the case of sex, DNA wise all humans are programmed with a potential drive for sex. However this drive is muted toward all sorts of secondary drives and actions which will eventually lead couples in general to have sex, e.g. the quest for power, dominance, politics, money, grooming, fashions, sports, etc.

It is the same for many religions which do not focus glaringly on the afterlife or fear of death. Most of the time this is hushed up or spoken indirectly because death is a taboo to many. However on closer scrutiny, the religion is leveraged on the 'fear of death' and the afterlife.
Why many feel a vacuum and meaningless in their life despite all the material wealth is due to the internal subliminal cognitive dissonance that generate angst within their psyche. When they accept or reinforce a religious belief [promise of an afterlife], they feel good and their angst disappear almost immediately.

Almost 80-90 % of people are religious. Even if the subject of afterlife is not prominently highlighted on a daily basis, this promised of the afterlife is basic and provide some sort of insurance for them come what may.
Buddhism do not believe in the afterlife but Buddhists still rely on the religion to soothe or resolve the psychological angst arising from the basic "fear" of death on a subliminal basis. Note I used the concept of fear in this case very loosely, there is more to this concept.

Those who are agnostic or atheists in various forms are indifferent or avoid religiosity for various reasons. However most of them are still affected by subliminal psychological angst and they deal with it via non-religious means, e.g. drugs, keep themselves busy with various interests, self-psychotherapy, indulge in crimes, etc. I am not going into this secular area as this section is on religions.
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 by Burning ghost » June 14th, 2017, 3:00 am

I forgot to add that in ancient Greece and the ancient world in general each city state had its own specific "god". This brings to light more than simply an ideology concerned simply with Fear of Death, but more of a tradition that encompasses humanity and human activities. Gods of hunting/war/fertility/wisdom/love etc.

An the anthropologist would be very careful about how people in ancient times regarded their world and the ideas of the religions. My argument is that the idea of "God" figures is that they are related to experiences of ASC's and basic mneumonic principles in humans (traditions of techniques used to pass on information prior to writing - prehistory.)

I do not take this idea to be the be all and end all of religion and current modern institutions of religion because they are used for many other means outside of a small community of people and have expanded and given weight to wars, science, education and law.
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Re: "Fear of Death" a Primary Motivator of Religions?

Post by Spectrum » June 14th, 2017, 3:21 am

Burning ghost wrote:My biggest critique of what you are saying is that you looking for evidence to back up what you say rather than dismissing other lines of inquiry. It is this I repeatedly keep trying to bring you to address. I do understand if you are focusing specifically on this that you have to go in depth with it. It would give much more weight to what you are saying if you could point out other possible avenues to investigate and show some of the weaknesses (doubts and possible interpretatioins) with the ideas you present.
I agree as part of my thesis I have an onus to introduce some alternatives and counter them. I will do that somewhere but that is not part of the OP. In any case, when I can link two variables with high correlation, i.e. 'fear of death' [not conscious but subliminal] to 'Religion' the rest of the contributing variables are secondary.
1. The ultimate cause of religions [as with others human acts] is survival.
2. The penultimate or proximate cause is fear of death + consciousness -> existential crisis.
You have to understand that this is your opinion not a solid fact. You have a very viable line of investigation for sure. It really irks me as a reader that I see little moderation and lot of ideas and interpretations presented "as if" they are truths.
The point is whatever the conclusion I will have to justify them solidly. So far I have justify my conclusion quite crudely but not in detail yet.

I did ask you a question?
Show me any species which has emerged with the immediate purpose to be extinct?
If you cannot we can hypothesize all species of living things emerge to strive to survive at all costs till the inevitable.

This is something I have to start with.
What have you got? nothing.
Theism is defined generally as belief in a supreme being or all pervading 'energy'. Much about Buddhism, and I would argue Hinduism too, do not fit neatly into the idea of a 'supreme being'.
There is no concept of 'supreme being' in Buddhism, but there is in Hinduism, i.e. Brahman [neti neti aside].
In the modern sense, given we know a lot more about the universe we live in than we used to, those not educated to understand the application of sciences fear them and dismiss them. This is a very common human attribute and does not have anything to do with "Fear of Death".
As I had stated, the emotion of 'fear' emerged to ensure the organism avoid any threats that are potential to a premature [unnatural] death.
All humans are programmed to fear any thing that is new to them until they have enough knowledge it is safe for them. This is the same with anyone who enter into a very dark place because there could be dangers lurking therein, so it is always a safer and positive option of fear the dark and the things unknown.
Those [many] who are unable to understand Science, will be instinctively triggered with fear when facing Science as a threat.
So the fear of Science, Mathematics, etc. can be reconciled to the proximate fear of death to ensure survival.

Just give me any human thoughts, reaction and behavior, and I will link it up to the ultimate [survival] and proximate [fear of death and sex] for you. I suggest you try harder and you will be able to do it yourself. [Note Bell Curve and its extreme percentiles.]
I could be wrong, but at a base level it seems you appear to be conflating evolution with human attitudes. Meaning you are saying survival of a species is driven by the "Fear of Death", where we are in no position to say evolution has a "drive" or "purpose", it is just how we frame it given that this our how we live our emotional lives (as causal beings).
Nope, instead I stated "fear of death" [reactions to threats of premature death] is driven by 'to survive at all cost' [as abstracted from empirical evidence] see my question in bold above. To ensure survival, one must fear [react to] threats of death.

I have said many times there is no teleological purpose within evolution.
Yes, it is how we frame it and it a very likely principle within the Framework used.
This is the same with how scientists derive the principles of gravity from empirical evidences.
Popper asserted scientific theories are at best polished conjecturals.
So even if my 'survival at all cost as ultimate purpose of humanity' is a conjectural, it is quite well polished one and supported by empirical evidence [no black swan btw], like the principle of gravity and other scientific theories.
Note the question I asked in bold above and prove me wrong.

-- Updated Wed Jun 14, 2017 2:56 am to add the following --
Burning ghost wrote:I forgot to add that in ancient Greece and the ancient world in general each city state had its own specific "god". This brings to light more than simply an ideology concerned simply with Fear of Death, but more of a tradition that encompasses humanity and human activities. Gods of hunting/war/fertility/wisdom/love etc.
All these individual deities relate to the security of the individual[s]. Security from what, you guess .. it from the threats of premature death. If the have a god of sex or eroticism, that is heading toward reproduction and thus preservation of the species.
An the anthropologist would be very careful about how people in ancient times regarded their world and the ideas of the religions. My argument is that the idea of "God" figures is that they are related to experiences of ASC's and basic mneumonic principles in humans (traditions of techniques used to pass on information prior to writing - prehistory.)

I do not take this idea to be the be all and end all of religion and current modern institutions of religion because they are used for many other means outside of a small community of people and have expanded and given weight to wars, science, education and law.
Experiences of ASCs are due to exceptions and abnormalities of brain functions. The normal average person do not experience ASCs unless artificially induced.
Even with ASCs, bad trips are not welcomed nor are to seek to be repeated. These are the one that trigger the fear and pain circuits which eventually is about avoiding the threats of premature death.
As for ASCs with pleasurable and pleasing trips in whatever the way, the experiencer will seek to repeat it along with its instinct even in the long run in some cases it may be damaging to the person. Whatever the secondary reasons, they can be traced to the ultimate and proximate causes.

As with the OP, "Fear of Death" is the Primary Motivator of Religions?
Thus when Muslims insist their God command them to beat their wives, fight and kill non-believers, and commit all sorts of evils, what we need to throw at them is the truth, i.e. there is no God. The bottom line of all their evil intentions then fall back on them within the depth of their psyche on their ignorance and cowardice to face the truth within themselves.

When Muslims insist on Sharia to infringe on the rights of others, they must understand there is no solid grounds for their demands other than their own fear of death within their psyche.

Identifying the root cause to their own internal psychology will force them to seek psychological cure within themselves. This is already ongoing with the Buddhists and many believers of Eastern religions.

On the other hand what can your theories contribute to humanity? ... nothing significant!
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 by Burning ghost » June 14th, 2017, 5:24 am

Spectrum -
I did ask you a question?
Show me any species which has emerged with the immediate purpose to be extinct?
If you cannot we can hypothesize all species of living things emerge to strive to survive at all costs till the inevitable.
This is something I have to start with.
What have you got? nothing.
Of course I understand and agree with the face value of the words and you have shown you understand my issue is mainly with the semantics involved.

What I have is a physiological process going on. In a truly physical sense that is all there is going on. The base level of physics is where the theories stem from. I species that exists to be extinct can be said to have achieved its job. The dinosaurs are extinct therefore the conclusion of the species was to find death as will we most likely by evolving into another species and even once the universe and entropy take there presumed course. I do not on any level say that the universe strives to create life, yet if we say the same thing about species and "striving to survive" we can at least begin to question the validity of this position in a technical and precise sense.

Of course the weight of evidence presents us with the obvious conclusion that species survive by way of reproduction and passing on DNA because the organisms have "expiry dates". I am not denying this. What I am bringing to question is something more subtle. This is the difference between bacteria and humans. Or even single animals cells (including a single neuron). Here the idea of 'fear' becomes something about "consciousness" rather than something about all living things. We have to then add in the need for a neural system and enter the whole debate of whether or not an ant, a spider, or a mouse has "fear" or not. If fear 'emerges' in the course of evolution it is not correct to call it the "driving force" of evolution. For humans we can certainly except, by way of subjective experience, that fear plays a major role in our general experiential make up.

I am really splitting hairs here and I am guessing this is what you want from us here in order to give yourself a better grounding to your ideas.

To explore further we can say simply that we cannot really point to a discrete point in time were either "life", "consciousness" or "fear" begins. What we can say about consciousness is that it is a 'felt' experience and that without bodily sense there is not really a solid foundation for us to say 'fear' can exist for a living thing that doesn't possess bodily senses and the means to process them. This harks back to what you said earlier about a cell, and we can obviously say it reacts in certain ways (moves toward or away from this or that - as do non-living chemical substances due to the principles we understand about things of a molecular, and even a subatomic level.)

My point being we are still very much in the dark about what constitutes the "emergence" of "consciousness". I think we can all agree that for humans consciousness is required for us to have emotions. The discussion is then about what the primary emotions are, or if we can really say there is a "primary" emotion. This is why I have said that you have me onside with investigating 'fear' as an important feature of human emotions and interactions with the world.

I am attracted to some things naturally and repulsed by other s things naturally. The repulsion can be "equated" with "fear" and I have no problem with that as long as it is understand in a many faceted way to include disgust and stress, pain and pleasure. I then simply ask what about the hand that reaches out to the fire rather than the painful and fear induced reaction? Do I fear the unknown or actively seek to interact and learn and thus discover fear. If so fear is not a primary mover, but rather part of the dichotic attraction and repulsion known well enough in the natural world. I have not even gotten on to contemplate or understand about mortality yet, let alone try to comprehend my existence in a post-lingual rationalist way.

Everything necessarily interacts. That is the first principle I work from. From these interactions various things emerge. I am born with the drive to seek food and water, to understand the world around me. I do not assume that I am born to fear death, although I may very much come to fear death once I grasp the sense of my own mortality. I don't think other animals "fear" death as we do, but I do assume some do.

So we can look at humans as embracing life and questions or actively disengaging from them. I don't see it as simply looking for sex and avoid death, but I guess this is what you reduce the attraction and repulsion to at a base psychological level?

"Abnormal" is a very political term. The Bell Curve won't save you from denying difference exist. There are many so called physiological, and evolutionary, "faults" with humans (or rather short comings).
Identifying the root cause to their own internal psychology will force them to seek psychological cure within themselves. This is already ongoing with the Buddhists and many believers of Eastern religions.

On the other hand what can your theories contribute to humanity? ... nothing significant!
You have framed my broad answer in the sentence above about Eastern religions. My view is that it is all primarily about self understanding and that by the by this means the greater extent of The World at large (then we all have our own pursuits and it is more of a question of finding ways to ask people to question themselves and their thoughts and beliefs - which is what I constantly attempt to do with more or less force as a stumble through a social word trying to navigate the many ego-based presences in myself and noticed in others.

time for work!! hope you find time to watch vid I sent. two interesting and entertaining characters!
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Re: "Fear of Death" a Primary Motivator of Religions?

Post by Philosch » June 14th, 2017, 10:07 pm

@Spectrum

While your reframing of my equations is interesting I would still have to disagree with the order and non-equivalence of some of these terms but maybe we are just have a semantical issue. I don’t agree that avoidance of threats would be an additional object rather I would see it as derivative of the survival instinct. The second point I would make is that the existential crisis while leading to angst and then religion I would agree with sequentially, I would view this as incomplete since I think many other motivations also arise here. Small point though, your basic premise is compelling.

If the Buddhist notion is that fear arises from desire I would also disagree with this as I see them as equally derivative products from the point of human cognition as it get’s applied to the impulse to life. One other small issue I would take from you latest post is you mention “conscious fears” unless you are distinguishing them only from sub conscious fears, if that’s the case then I have no objection. I do have an objection to the general notion of fear in animals. I don’t actually think animals can be afraid in the conventional sense as their consciousness is not quite self-aware. Maybe Elephants and the other of the highest forms of animal consciousness might experience the very beginning of fear but I think most if not all other animals experience the fright or flight response as instinct only whereas conscious fear is just that, conscious.

In any case this is a very interesting post on a subject that’s of great interest to me and I’m enjoying the responses from all involved. I’ll have to look into Shopenhauer’s 4th book.

@ Burning Ghost

We are not in a position to say anything about a "purpose" but we can say something about a "drive" or impulse in evolutionary or biological terms as I’ve suggested already and that is born out in the nature of the DNA strand being ”compelled” (in some sense) to replicate itself. I’ve already attested to the point that I have no idea why this occurs and I’ve never seen a good explanation of it, but it clearly does. Maybe it’s just thermodynamics but it’s still and extraordinary phenomenon and it is singularly unique in our known Universe to this point which makes it all the more extraordinary. That molecule “appears” to be driven by unknown forces to replicate itself. We may discover molecules in the future but we haven't as of yet

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

Post by Spectrum » June 14th, 2017, 11:40 pm

Burning ghost wrote:Spectrum -
I did ask you a question?
Show me any species which has emerged with the immediate purpose to be extinct?
If you cannot we can hypothesize all species of living things emerge to strive to survive at all costs till the inevitable.
This is something I have to start with.
What have you got? nothing.
Of course I understand and agree with the face value of the words and you have shown you understand my issue is mainly with the semantics involved.
I don't think it is semantics.

For example, note
"strive"
1. make great efforts to achieve or obtain something.
2. struggle or fight vigorously.

It is obvious from empirical evidence all species [with exceptions re individuals] struggle, fight vigorously, make great effort to survive at all cost till the inevitable.
What I have is a physiological process going on. In a truly physical sense that is all there is going on. The base level of physics is where the theories stem from. I species that exists to be extinct can be said to have achieved its job. The dinosaurs are extinct therefore the conclusion of the species was to find death as will we most likely by evolving into another species and even once the universe and entropy take there presumed course. I do not on any level say that the universe strives to create life, yet if we say the same thing about species and "striving to survive" we can at least begin to question the validity of this position in a technical and precise sense.
Note I stated "survive at all cost till the inevitable." The dinosaurs and all species that are extinct are due to catastrophe [physical, diseases, etc.] and event beyond their control. They did not 'deliberately' kill themselves like what beached whales are doing.
No one would say the universe [no agency] strive to create life, but it is very appropriate to state individual[s] and the species [with some degree of agency] strive to survive at all costs in general.
Of course the weight of evidence presents us with the obvious conclusion that species survive by way of reproduction and passing on DNA because the organisms have "expiry dates". I am not denying this. What I am bringing to question is something more subtle. This is the difference between bacteria and humans. Or even single animals cells (including a single neuron). Here the idea of 'fear' becomes something about "consciousness" rather than something about all living things. We have to then add in the need for a neural system and enter the whole debate of whether or not an ant, a spider, or a mouse has "fear" or not. If fear 'emerges' in the course of evolution it is not correct to call it the "driving force" of evolution. For humans we can certainly except, by way of subjective experience, that fear plays a major role in our general experiential make up.
I agree there is more to the term "fear" in this case.
Note I had put "fear of death" in inverted commas in the OP.
I had explained my concern is not significantly about conscious "fear of death" [which leads to thanatophobia]

The more significant point here is the mechanisms programmed to avoid premature death so that the individual[s] [with exceptions] can survive to reproduce the next generations. To avoid premature death, the primary emotion of fear in invoked.
I am really splitting hairs here and I am guessing this is what you want from us here in order to give yourself a better grounding to your ideas.
OK, I would welcome that. The problem is at times I am not sure you are countering the whole core idea or splitting the 'hairs.' Another problem is in a forum like this we do not have time and space to deal with differences at the fringes.
To explore further we can say simply that we cannot really point to a discrete point in time were either "life", "consciousness" or "fear" begins. What we can say about consciousness is that it is a 'felt' experience and that without bodily sense there is not really a solid foundation for us to say 'fear' can exist for a living thing that doesn't possess bodily senses and the means to process them. This harks back to what you said earlier about a cell, and we can obviously say it reacts in certain ways (moves toward or away from this or that - as do non-living chemical substances due to the principles we understand about things of a molecular, and even a subatomic level.)
To understand fear and consciousness [as observed and understood], we can do a reverse engineering from empirical evidence of the present and stopped at the limit of the grey areas.
The OP is dealing with humans [emerged from 3+ millions years ago] where the fear emotion is well studied at present.
My point being we are still very much in the dark about what constitutes the "emergence" of "consciousness". I think we can all agree that for humans consciousness is required for us to have emotions. The discussion is then about what the primary emotions are, or if we can really say there is a "primary" emotion. This is why I have said that you have me onside with investigating 'fear' as an important feature of human emotions and interactions with the world.
To date we have mapped the human genome. At present we have the Connectome Project to map the circuits of the neurons in brain and much headway have already been made in this area. I am optimistic humanity will make great progress in this area to understand more about consciousness and other aspects of the brain mechanisms.
To have the above knowledge would be preferable but to effect the principles of my thesis we don't need the full knowledge of the above.
Based on the latest and future incrementals we can use the black-box approach to understand the mechanisms between cause and effects from where we can take corrective actions.
As I had stated the higher echelons of Eastern Religions has already used the black-box [without understanding of the complex mechanisms of the brain] to make significant progress in spirituality which distancing from religiosity.
With my thesis and advancing knowledge of the brain mechanisms we would be in a better way to understand the mechanics of religion and linking religion to its ultimate and proximate root causes.
I am attracted to some things naturally and repulsed by other s things naturally. The repulsion can be "equated" with "fear" and I have no problem with that as long as it is understand in a many faceted way to include disgust and stress, pain and pleasure. I then simply ask what about the hand that reaches out to the fire rather than the painful and fear induced reaction? Do I fear the unknown or actively seek to interact and learn and thus discover fear. If so fear is not a primary mover, but rather part of the dichotic attraction and repulsion known well enough in the natural world. I have not even gotten on to contemplate or understand about mortality yet, let alone try to comprehend my existence in a post-lingual rationalist way.
As I had explained 'fear' is only a part of it and note it is not conscious fear that I am concerned with. The main point here is 'avoidance of premature death so that the fertile individual can produce the next generation'. The primary fear emotion play a critical role in this complex set of algorithm.
From another perspective "the fundamental purpose of avoidance of premature death so to ensure survival, thus to reproduce next generation" do not absolutely depend on the primary emotion of fears. One can apply logic and reason.
However as far as it is religion ' the fundamental purpose of avoidance of premature death so to ensure survival, thus to reproduce the next generation' is significantly effected by the primary emotion of fears at the primal level in combination with self-consciousness and the resulting cognitive dissonance and existential crisis.
Everything necessarily interacts. That is the first principle I work from. From these interactions various things emerge. I am born with the drive to seek food and water, to understand the world around me. I do not assume that I am born to fear death, although I may very much come to fear death once I grasp the sense of my own mortality. I don't think other animals "fear" death as we do, but I do assume some do.
I have said many times, the main concern of this OP is not about a conscious fear of death.
You as a human [as with all humans] is born with a mechanism to avoid premature death and from that you are endowed with instincts of hunger to seek food, thirst to drink water, primary emotions of fear, anger, etc. intellect to understand the world, etc.
What is fundamental [proximate] within all humans is mechanism to avoid premature death.
The mechanism to avoid premature death is very active and strongest during one's most productive age but wane after one's productive ability get weaker as one grow older.

SideNote: Within all humans there is also a neural module that facilitate one to face death. If this module is too dominant, then people becomes suicidal.
So we can look at humans as embracing life and questions or actively disengaging from them. I don't see it as simply looking for sex and avoid death, but I guess this is what you reduce the attraction and repulsion to at a base psychological level?
You forgot what I had stated earlier. I have said many times, the concern is not with your conscious mind to look for sex nor avoid death.
Surely you are aware there are lots of instinctual mechanisms that drive you towards sex and avoid death that are activated instinctively beyond your control. Why do you crouch immediately if something sweep across just above you? Why do you freeze and stop/pause suddenly upon hearing a very loud noise? etc. etc. These are actions to avoid premature death without your conscious intervention.

In addition, to resolve problems effectively the default is one must always trace the problem to its ultimate or proximate root cause.
While we are not in the position to find certain cure for cancer, we at least understand the root cause for cancer is the existence cancer cells. With this knowledge of the root cause we have a target to aim for instead of fire-fighting the symptoms and being ignorant.
At present we have a real serious problem on hand, i.e. the terrible evils and violence from so-claimed religious believers [thus this OP in the religion forum]. So to be effective in using any problem solving technique we have to apply root cause analysis.
"Abnormal" is a very political term. The Bell Curve won't save you from denying difference exist. There are many so called physiological, and evolutionary, "faults" with humans (or rather short comings).
Now this is a matter of semantics and definition.
The term "abnormal" as used by certain politicians is the bastardization of the common use of the word. This is how the gay community hijacked the word 'gay' for their own interests.
Such hijacking is common within semantics. What is critical here is how we define the term and agree on what the intended meaning.
The term 'abnormal' I used in this case is based on its common meaning, i.e. an extreme variation from the mean [average].
If the average height of all human is say 5 feet 7 inches [75% between 5 feet and 6 feet] then being 2.5 feet tall is considered abnormal relatively. What is wrong with that?

I thought one of the feature of the Bell Curve is to demonstrate differences exist in different degrees along a continuum.

-- Updated Wed Jun 14, 2017 11:13 pm to add the following --

@ Philosch
Philosch wrote:@Spectrum
While your reframing of my equations is interesting I would still have to disagree with the order and non-equivalence of some of these terms but maybe we are just have a semantical issue. I don’t agree that avoidance of threats would be an additional object rather I would see it as derivative of the survival instinct.
The second point I would make is that the existential crisis while leading to angst and then religion I would agree with sequentially, I would view this as incomplete since I think many other motivations also arise here. Small point though, your basic premise is compelling.
I had stated before the sequence is as follows;
  • 1. Preservation of the species - abstracted not teleological.
    2. Survival at all costs of the individual
    3. 3a - avoidance of threats of premature death
    3. 3b - sex to produce the next generation
Therefore 3a is a derivative or subset of 2 - survival.

I agree there are a lot of things and processes to fill in and talk about between existential angst and religion.

If the Buddhist notion is that fear arises from desire I would also disagree with this as I see them as equally derivative products from the point of human cognition as it get’s applied to the impulse to life. One other small issue I would take from you latest post is you mention “conscious fears” unless you are distinguishing them only from sub conscious fears, if that’s the case then I have no objection. I do have an objection to the general notion of fear in animals. I don’t actually think animals can be afraid in the conventional sense as their consciousness is not quite self-aware. Maybe Elephants and the other of the highest forms of animal consciousness might experience the very beginning of fear but I think most if not all other animals experience the fright or flight response as instinct only whereas conscious fear is just that, conscious.

In any case this is a very interesting post on a subject that’s of great interest to me and I’m enjoying the responses from all involved. I’ll have to look into Shopenhauer’s 4th book.
I did not imply fears arise directly from desire.

Image

Note sure if you are familiar [most Zen followers do not look into this?] with the Dependent Origination, the 12 Nidanas
https://en.wik:pedia.org/wik:/Prat%C4%ABtyasamutp%C4%81da

If you look at the image above one of the 12 Nidanas is Tanha [No. 8], i.e. craving or desire.
If one is caught in the cycle of the 12 nidanas, then the process produce sufferings, and one of the sufferings is 'fear', others are worries, anxieties, and all sorts of dukkha [sufferings].

This is why I stated 'fear' is the resultant of 'desire' as an element of the 12 ninadas within a whole [complex] process.

The main purpose of Buddhism as I see it from the perspective of the Buddha Story, is to manage the mother of all sufferings, i.e. the fear of death [indicated by the corpse]. Once this main hindrance is managed, the other tasks [well being] will be easier.

I don't think the concept of conscious fear is appropriate to non-humans.
Animals reacts and do what it take instinctively to avoid premature death.
We may say the dog fear the sound of firecrackers but the dog will not feel fear consciously like humans do.
However if we compare the active parts of the brain between a dog and a human who react "fearfully" to sound of firecracker, it is likely there will be a lot in common reactions in the lower and middle brain.
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 by Burning ghost » June 15th, 2017, 4:37 am

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.

These things are tackled in different ways. In the Christian tradition there is focus on denying the physical pleasures of life. This is instilled with use of "fear" in the form of "guilt". This denial of "pleasure" is quite a perverse idea. We see the dichotomy of this basic human functioning (fear and hope) further taken on by religious institutions in the form of "laws" and the idea of "sins" and "virtues". The "sins" are opposed by a subservient collection of passive "virtues". Intrigue is smothered by the idea of humility, leadership by blind following and such and such.

This is a look at the institution of religion more rather than the individuals attitudes toward religion. With this in mind we know historically the role religious institutions have played in popular education. The reason people learned Latin was because of the religious tradition of Latin not merely in order to read and get to grip with Roman texts. This can be further extended into Islam and the current situation of having the masses unable to read and understand the text first hand. The Quran is still viewed as the Bible used to be. As highly sacred. Let us remember that people were murdered for translating the Bible from Latin. This is part and parcel of a whole other feature of the world we live in that in the west we are simply incapable of appreciating. That is the fast and steady technological advances we've had being throw to the far corners of the world over a short period of time. To us it is like imagining aliens landing and distributing numerous pieces of technology and strange ideas (that is a whole other matter of concern and more about anthropology and cultural clashes.)

Now, the individual! Someone is puzzled by life and wants guidance and advice. They want stability and to be told what the "right" thing to do is due to some personal crisis. These people are open to anything and desperate. Religion offers a definitive answer here. It does not offer doubt only dedication. This is obviously of appeal to some people. Others, less vulnerable and open, can nevertheless still see the idea of humility as being a good thing. They may see the religious attitude as being more about 'surrender' than blind dedication (this is my view in general and something I openly admire about religious attitudes, yet it is obviously not without its own problem therein!)

The person looking at religion as offering guidance can say "I don't know and these people think they do and many people seem to get something from this so logic dictates that I may as well take a look." This is probably the first dangerous step into skepticism as a justification for belief (kind of ironic, but an understandable illusion of a "rational" mind.)

To step aside here, I am more inclined here to view religion as being an avoidance of "questioning". We could easily say that it is a "fear" of wanting to do the work and, ironically again, equivocal to "sloth"!

This does not hold up completely though because I have met some very religious Christians and discussed with them about their attitudes. They were very dedicated to understanding the Biblical texts and spent many hours pondering the meanings and interpretations of the stories in it. Their view of the Bible was a healthy one in my opinion even if they may, at large, have been believers of some "deity". This they referred to as a possibility more than a certainty, and admitted they could not really explain why they had this "faith", only that it felt correct and they knew it may be faulty. That was the reason they continued to explore and constantly reassess their position. I would say they were not driven by "fear" at all.

This comes back to curiosity and acceptance. The religious institutions seem to want to still human curiosity, yet curiosity can never be fully stifled. It may be that this is where the "fear" factor comes in useful to bend people away from their natural curiosity about the world? There is again a strange irony here because we actively want to understand things yet deep down I think we all know we are deeply limited beings and so in this paradox religious organisations have taken the form of playing within the paradoxical field of human interest. They promise a "revelation" yet have extended the ancient theme of Pandora's Box into the Old Testament. In Buddhism this is dealt with in a more curious way and a very similar thematic is touched upon from the Tao Te Ching to the Vedics in some idea of a "primal" being or origin. The Serpent in the Bible could well be more in reference to infinity than to Evil, or as many others have rightly argued, it may be more about Thoth and medicine (again we touch upon knowledge in the form of Thoth.)

Freud would have pointed toward the simply fact that we have parents as being the reason for religion. We want a parental figurehead who is all knowing. When we were mere babes we viewed our parents in this light. They knew more about the world, they had all the answers we didn't, they were stronger and more powerful. Once we've grown up I guess it is a good argument to say we look for a replacement for our parents. We search for a guiding figure. The "fear" here is in responsibility and in understanding our limitations. It is much easier to be told what to do and follow blindly than think for ourselves. This is a topic that has been touched upon by many.

In light of an existential crisis it seems people can, and do, return to religious texts/institutions for guidance. The crisis may be more profound or less so. It may be more specific or less so. Maybe someone has lost their child or committed an act they are ashamed of. Maybe someone is looking for answers, guidance or forgiveness, for questions, ways to lead others or accusation? The reasons for an individual looking into religion are numerous. Yours has its own path as does mine (whether or not either of us believe in some all pervading "force" or "deity".)

"Physically" when faced with an immanent threat we do one of three things, we freeze, we run or we fight. "Mentally" we may frame these differently, when faced with an intellectual problem, we ignore it, we avoid it, or we try to solve it. I think this movement from a "physical" process to a, less tangible, "mental" process (not that I am suggesting there is a dualism here!) Once the "threat" has passed we assess what we've gained and how our gains or losses relate to the action we've taken. Of course knowing about The World allows us to live a more productive life about The World. If anything I would refer to "fear" as being the revelation of out limitations and that this "fear" equally has three different approaches. We can except our limitations, explore our limitations, or confine ourselves to things that are limited and understandable. We partake of all of these things in one way or another. Then we have the opposing, yet identical non-approach, to view ourselves as limitless (for me this is probably where I would explore the more extremist religious views as stemming from, as a wanting approach and belief in personal godhood. Obviously a dangerous area for all those around the individual if they condone violence as a means to their undeniable ends.)

As a little aside:
The term "abnormal" as used by certain politicians is the bastardization of the common use of the word. This is how the gay community hijacked the word 'gay' for their own interests.
I think you'll find this interesting! Women prostitutes in NY used to be referred to as "gay women". Then when male prostitutes started to appear they were called "gay men". That is the origin of the term for homosexuals, it really referred to prostitutes in general rather than being about sexual identity! Language is a curious thing :)

This area also brings up the issue I would have with saying people are "abnormal". The simple truth is there is no "average" person anywhere in the world. The idea is a mathematical principle applied to a non-discrete World. My favourite confusing term in the English language is "extraordinary" ... I mean, wtf? It is a self-refutation, yet we use it to mean something "abnormal" by calling it "more normal than normal". Language is a very, very bizarre thing indeed! XD haha!

Anyway, to get onto the ASC's. These are not really that uncommon. I have had one. There is a physiological requisite for this as mentioned. What I personally found curious was that in my experience right after coming out of this "....." state I instinctively went into a fetal position and purposefully began to hyperventilate. In hindsight it seems that my body was trying to get me back into the "...." state I had just been in. I say I purposefully started to hyperventilate, but I had no idea why it felt like the right thing to do, I just did it and in a controlled and purposeful way. Later once I started trying to understand this unique experience I found out about the various techniques for entering into these states (of which I had quite rigorously exposed myself over a period of time. My experience was not purposefully induced, but an accident of certain physiological conditions and my frame of mind at the time.)

I should add here that if I was religiously inclined (in the commonsense of the term "religious") I would no doubt have been out on the streets preaching to people about Christ, Buddha or Muhammed. There is a lot to be said about the roel of "fear" in these kinds of experiences. In Buddhism, and general meditiative techniques, there is this description of "surrender" and I can see a certain relation here. For me I witnessed in myself a stubborn attitude and a non-stop pursuit for answers, and path of extreme intensity that no day-to-day living would normally be exposed to. It is an explosive psychological force, and obviously potentially a very dangerous one as well as being potentially fulfilling. This is the general reason I have become more inclined to see the traditions of religions as relating to these kinds of experiences.

In a lack of "fear" you will find yourselves exploring everything. What appears to happen is your inner curiosity is let loose and the danger is the lack of discernable limits (here insanity and sanity lies.)

Even if these ASC's are limited to very specific circumstances we are all capable of achieving these states. Our understanding is that the world over these states are a physiological fact not just an amalgam of culturally specific instances. The general initiations and circumstances of ASC's are the same from the Inuits, to Aboriginal Australians, from Africa to South America, from Europe to the far East. It is innately human. How this relates to religion is that these techniques were actively practiced and that individuals in tribes learnt to induce and control these states (to varying degrees, no doubt some would be considered insane by many.) Absolutely undeniable is the physiological/psychological stress induced to attain these states. Here we have a blatant finger to point at "fear" in these mortally stressful situations. On the psychological level this would be called intense concentration rather than some kind of direct "mortal" threat (much like how I looked at the more "mental" approximation of the freeze, flight or flight attributes.

I found the idea proposed in the link you gave to be one about basic philosophical questions of rationality and empiricism. I mean this by the "invisible world" theme he applies to religions. The same is true of mathematics and language. These are invisible worlds and highlight the whole issue of objectivity as being what another poster on this forum referred to as an "illusion". This is where I would delve into more Husserlian views on psychology in general and what we can hope to gain from empirical science in regard to a subjective matter.

note: Don't worry I understand you've chosen a specific area to look at. I am more or less just trying to help myself and my own thoughts in this are by writing what I write. I tend to pull from several different positions and cannot help tangential investigations. Whatever I do I care about writing and learning to express and share better and understand better. Not sure how successful I have been, but it is my "religion" ... influenced by something Alan Moore said about writing. He said to approach writing as if it is ia God. I think that is good advice. We will err in our worship of writing and our attempts, but we should most definitely keep honouring the art of writing with reverence. I will take a break from this thread and leave you to it. I need to do my own specific thing for a while. Look forward to getting back to you.

-- Updated June 15th, 2017, 4:41 am to add the following --

Oh yeah! Thanks for bothering to read my posts. I do make an effort to reign the amount I write and the topics I bring up.
AKA badgerjelly

Philosch
Posts: 407
Joined: July 25th, 2012, 3:42 pm

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

Post by Philosch » June 15th, 2017, 9:39 pm

@ Burning Ghost

I've read your last post and what you seem to be doing is making an account of all the myriad complex motivations that arise as the fear of death and desire for immortality get further sublimated into the more subtle and complex forms. One thing I would say about hope is that it seems to still be caught up in the fear of death, after all what is "hoped" for is usually some desire for peace or some desire for answers or some desire for attaining heaven or some other nirvannic state, all a which are of the form of rejecting death and hoping for some continuation in being. Most if not all of the various and subtle motivations and intentions you go through in you posts are sublimations of the dualistic pair fear/desire which represent what the "ego" is all about.

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