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Religion without gods or an afterlife

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: Religion without gods or an afterlife

Post by Burning ghost » October 24th, 2017, 1:39 am

Greta -

I am even more astounded by your response after what I've just said. Maybe it is such a glaringly obvious question you have failed to see it.

I am saying NO CONCEPT OF GOD OR AN AFTERLIFE. So if you try to imagine you have no concept of "god" or "afterlife" and you turn around and say, "But I do." you're hardly putting in much effort.

To make another attempt think of it like this. Imagine you are a creature that comes to Earth. You have houses like humans and rooms like humans, but you have no tables or chairs. If you were to enter a human room and see these objects you would not think "Oh! They must be tables and chairs!" You would perhaps regard the objects as decorative, used for exercise, to stand on whilst speaking, etc.,.

In this respect if you view prehistoric and ancient artifacts, written works etc., then deregarded the concept of "afterlife" and "god", you may view these historical items differently than how you usually would.

As a further example, I may watch people walk into a building and see them sing together about some story. I may see them place their hands together in front on themselves and closed their eyes. If ("IF" being the key word in the entirety of what I am asking from you) these people had ZERO concept of "god" or an "after life", then what would they be doing this for?

Can you see now why the response of,"but they do have a concept of "god" and an "after life"" just doesn't hold fast to what I am asking?

We could say that they are trying to communicate silently, or that their sorting their emotions and/or memories, that they listen to a familiar story over and over because the familiar is comforting and that this place is where they go to relax, like some kind of end -of-the-day mental wind-down building. Maybe they sing together to gain a sense of unity.

In more abstract form we could even propose they go here to sit quietly and focus on the days events and prepare for sleep and plan for the next day.

THey may bury dead people for other reasons. Maybe they do so as a means to create a physical map of an abstract thought that in this case would have nothing to do with any concept of an after life (because they don't possess that concept as far as we are concerned for this exercise.) Are these dead bodies buried as if to bury memories. The use of the physical to represent an abstract experience (an emotional/learning mechanism.)

There are many different possibilities here and I can only come up with what I can come up with. I was hoping others here could offer a slightly different perspective that has evaded me.

Understand? If so go for broke. See what your imagination can dredge up and share if you so please.

Thanks
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Re: Religion without gods or an afterlife

Post by Steve3007 » October 24th, 2017, 1:47 am

Burning ghost:
Say if people went to church, to a mosque or some other place, with no belief in god or consideration of god whatsoever, then why would they go?
Because of their desire to believe in the people who surround them in that church and who demonstrate their membership of the same tribe by sharing the same rituals.

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Burning ghost
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Re: Religion without gods or an afterlife

Post by Burning ghost » October 24th, 2017, 2:21 am

Steve3007 wrote:Burning ghost:
Say if people went to church, to a mosque or some other place, with no belief in god or consideration of god whatsoever, then why would they go?
Because of their desire to believe in the people who surround them in that church and who demonstrate their membership of the same tribe by sharing the same rituals.
Yes, and you can go further. The church did not just appear. It was build, likely as a communal activity, to serve a social/personal purpose. Not merely as a shelter, but to also frame a particular physical shape and imbue it with meaning.

If the "tribe" would have understandings of areas in nature. Certain symbolic representations would present this or that field, wooded area, etc., with a "feeling", a historical narrative. If you think of your own house each room has it's own 'culture'. The kitchen will hold certain memories for you rather than being merely a functional space for X or Y practical activities. When babies learn to speak they learn meanings of words by the physical space it is used in.

The questions in the OP are only the surface. It seems obvious that "sense of community" plays a significant role here. Then you can do what I've done above and expand that thought into other areas, look at the how and why of constructing the object (in this case the building), and then you could even disregard the idea of any desire to believe the people around them share a common habit of life (or "ritual" as you put it)

What if we exclude "god", "after life" and "nationhood"? Can we call tribal identity the very same thing as personal identity? Is there sense of identity only known to them by way of the tribe? Are there other parts of "identity" that reach beyond the sense of tribal identity?

Steve/Greta -

Maybe I am simply expecting too much of you. I am just beginning to realise that what I am asking of you can be very time consuming, and at the very least require some serious meditation.

Either way I would appreciate anything you have to offer.

Thanks for persisting
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LuckyR
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Re: Religion without gods or an afterlife

Post by LuckyR » October 24th, 2017, 3:41 am

Burning ghost wrote:This is something I wrote around 20 years ago that I still find to be a very useful exercise when viewing religious traditions:

Religion without gods

Imagine that the ancient Egyptians, Babylonians, Assyrians, Hindus, Aborigines or Celts never believed in a god or gods; never considered the ‘afterlife’ to be important or even to exist. Then look at all material that is left behind by them: the texts, temples, stone circles, pyramids, ziggurats, and tombs. The tales and fables of strange characters with moral themes encompassing the universe and mankind as one. Descriptions of strange worlds and beings, beast men and serpents all vying with and against each other. The symbolism and artefacts, the artwork and tools. Special festival days, calendars, looking to the heavens, aligning the stars to constructs, personalising and naming constellations.

Ask yourself, if the people didn’t believe in higher beings then what does it all mean? Say if people went to church, to a mosque or some other place, with no belief in god or consideration of god whatsoever, then why would they go? For the Koran or the Bible? For words of wisdom? Why walk into a building when you could stay at home and read there? For mind to have a place for these thoughts? Fir experience to be enclosed separately from normal life? Why? Is it easier to remember the knowledge bestowed by moral texts if associated to a physical place?

If this is taken to be so for our ancestors then why have festivals and special days? For the same reason? A system of place and time for memory like schooling? How do you preserve knowledge? Through memory?

Why bury the dead in pyramids of stone aligned with the Earth’s poles and certain heavenly constellations? Why fill these places with pictograms and scripture about journeying to another world if god plays no part and the afterlife is not considered of any value? What could it all mean?

It is best never to forget that science as we know it started in the humble temples of the world. Why? Because of memory? Before language how did we remember? Through maps in our minds?


So, what do you think? What explanations can you come up with?
OK, let me try again. If no one believed in a god or gods and no afterlife, then religion would not exist, or if it did it would be in the direction of paganism or nature worship, or would that violate your premise?

If so, then I don't think religion would exist. There could still be creation mythology of course. And actually things like magic belief would fulfill the human need for explanations in the absence of understanding, yet not invoke gods. So a different form of "religion", but we wouldn't use that label, but it would fulfill the religious role.
"As usual... it depends."

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Burning ghost
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Re: Religion without gods or an afterlife

Post by Burning ghost » October 24th, 2017, 4:32 am

LuckyR -

No, it is not a case of "belief". I am talking about the constructs and habits of "religions" viewed as if those constructs and habits were made and developed without any concept of "god/s" or any concept of an "afterlife".

I think that is perhaps the simplest way I have put it other than in the OP.
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Re: Religion without gods or an afterlife

Post by LuckyR » October 25th, 2017, 11:14 am

Burning ghost wrote:LuckyR -

No, it is not a case of "belief". I am talking about the constructs and habits of "religions" viewed as if those constructs and habits were made and developed without any concept of "god/s" or any concept of an "afterlife".

I think that is perhaps the simplest way I have put it other than in the OP.
Well, you are describing things from both sides of the divide, hence it doesn't make a lot of sense. That is, your premise is that gods and afterlives were never invented, which is an interesting premise. But if you agree with the concept, you can't then, after the fact (now) nitpick about this or that nuance of "belief" in a universe that never considered the issue, gods and afterlife in this case.
"As usual... it depends."

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Burning ghost
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Re: Religion without gods or an afterlife

Post by Burning ghost » October 25th, 2017, 6:31 pm

What would you make of something like Stone Hedge then? Or the Pyramids of Giza?

What practical/psychology/social function would you say they would fill? Why bury dead people?

That is all I am asking.
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Re: Religion without gods or an afterlife

Post by LuckyR » October 25th, 2017, 7:50 pm

Burning ghost wrote:What would you make of something like Stone Hedge then? Or the Pyramids of Giza?

What practical/psychology/social function would you say they would fill? Why bury dead people?

That is all I am asking.
Well, I can make up plausible stories why folks who definitely believed in an afterlife (the Egyptians) built a large stone burial pile separate from gods and a belief in the afterlife, but of course that would confirm my excellent imagination and cleverness but tell next to nothing about Egyptians, real or imagined. OTOH, if you don't mean the specific edifices you listed but used them as examples of the sorts of things that such ancients might have built in the absence of gods and afterlife, I have already mentioned nature worship aligned with harvest improvements, either actual through seasonal calculations or magical such as ritual sacrifice. Fertility, agriculture and disease treatment are all general areas where belief in the supernatural or the scientific (equal to their eyes at the time) could lead to religion-like behavior and construction without requiring gods and/or a belief in the afterlife.
"As usual... it depends."

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Burning ghost
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Re: Religion without gods or an afterlife

Post by Burning ghost » October 25th, 2017, 10:42 pm

LuckyR -

I am not sure what you mean by "nature worship"? I am taking you to mean (likely I am wrong) that people thought life was great and the world was amazing so they decided to pile up stones and bury dead people? Obviously I don't quite see the connection here.

As for harvesting, we can see some clear representations of constructions being built to measure celestial cycles and therefore seasons and such. Again though, some of these constructs predate agriculture, but we could still assume that they would help function for particular occasions such as animal migration that would mark a traditional "hunt" of a some sort maybe?

I find it much easier to disconnect the concept of "god" or an "after life" from more prehistoric evidence. To expand this to the Pyramids of Giza takes more effort and a stubborn resolve to cut away the obviously prominent physical evidence, in the form of representation of the land of the dead and such ... here we'd have to assume a shift in the use of language so that the "land of the dead" is to be translated as "land of X", of "area of something" etc.,.

Also, what do you mean by "magic" and "supernatural"? If we take the idea of deities and some after life world out of the equation what is there left over that you would class as "supernatural" or "magic"?

It may be useful if I started another thread somewhere regarding a book I am currently re-reading ""Inside The Neolithic Mind" - I think I will because the use of one of my favourite definitions of "religion", by Geertz, is very interesting.

Not wishing to sidetrack this thread. I would also like to ask what a "ritual" is and what a "habit" is. Ritual sacrifice I can kind of accept because if you are farming then you understand that you take some of the crop and give the rest back to the Earth. Also, given how the human mind works if someone dies prior to some glorious event I can easily see how some may connect the dots and use causal thinking to establish the seed of human sacrifice as being beneficial combined with the general human understanding of suffering leading to learning/understanding, and usually something we could call a "reward" in some sense.

I actually had a weird idea about human sacrifice recently, but its highly dubious and probably rubbish (will share later once I've mulled it over a bit more.)

Just to repeat I am asking because I only have my own squalid brain to imagine and would like to see if you, or anyone else, can come up with something that I've not given due attention to.

I really think art can be helpful in looking at the exercise I've posed. Dance, music, tool crafting and ornamentation, etc.,.
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Re: Religion without gods or an afterlife

Post by LuckyR » October 26th, 2017, 2:36 am

Well to my understanding druids don't believe in a god but are nature worshipers. Again I am not shoehorning actual things like the great pyramids into a fake thought experiment as you are proposing, that makes no sense.

As to magic, if I convince you I can bring you good luck, or cure a disease, or accomplish a goal (get your sterile bull to impregnate cows) by incantation, that could be magic. No gods or afterlives required.
"As usual... it depends."

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Re: Religion without gods or an afterlife

Post by Burning ghost » October 26th, 2017, 2:47 am

Okay.
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Re: Religion without gods or an afterlife

Post by 3uGH7D4MLj » December 14th, 2017, 7:14 pm

Burning ghost wrote:
October 22nd, 2017, 1:56 am
None of you are responding as I would have wished. I hope the above clarifies more what kind of response I was looking for (my own response to the question was to look at memory and knowledge.) If large groups of pepple gather together to build something then why would they do so? Why would they hold festivals? All of these kind of questions are meant to be answered looking upon human history as if belief in gods or an afterlife don't exist and no one ever believed them.
I hope that humans would build, gather, dance, chant, etc., if there was no religion.

Has there ever been a culture without a religion? There's no afterlife mentioned in the Hebrew scriptures.

I was drawn here by the title, intrigued by the possibility of a religion without gods or afterlife.
fair to say

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Re: Religion without gods or an afterlife

Post by Felix » May 8th, 2018, 2:33 pm

Man is a myth making creature, it is integral to the human psyche. What function do myths and ritual play in human society? Joseph Campbell's books do a good job of answering that question.
"We do not see things as they are; we see things as we are." - Anaïs Nin

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Re: Religion without gods or an afterlife

Post by ThomasHobbes » May 8th, 2018, 4:29 pm

Burning ghost wrote:
October 20th, 2017, 4:47 am
This is something I wrote around 20 years ago that I still find to be a very useful exercise when viewing religious traditions:

Religion without gods
...
So, what do you think? What explanations can you come up with?
This is puzzling.
"Explanations" for what? Are you asking?
What is the 'exercise' exactly?

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Re: Religion without gods or an afterlife

Post by 3uGH7D4MLj » May 8th, 2018, 11:00 pm

ThomasHobbes wrote:
May 8th, 2018, 4:29 pm
This is puzzling.
"Explanations" for what? Are you asking?
What is the 'exercise' exactly?
Say you were studying firefighting in the U.S. Fire engines, fire companies, fire houses, equipment, etc. Now imagine there was no such thing as fire. Why would they be doing those firefighting activities? Mmm?
fair to say

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