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.
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.
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