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Why all the religions have similar aspects

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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alan_wattsify
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Why all the religions have similar aspects

Post by alan_wattsify » October 28th, 2019, 3:32 pm

First of all I would like to ask some questions, which might be obvious for people who have some kind of education on this subject. I'm interested in the history of religion, where it come from... trying to make sense without any educational background.

Reading about ancient mythology, there is a lot of information based on some inscriptions. For example, there was a deity Inanna in the Sumer. As I understand, the contents of those inscriptions can be deciphered only by looking at particular words and the context they are used. How then it's possible to know how they pronounced those words?

There is also a God of heaven, named An. Is it just an agreement between researchers to assume that it was 'heaven', and not 'air' or 'sky' for example?

It seems to me that when people try to explore old religions, they are very much influenced in current religions, and in such cases, when it's not obvious what the word stands for, they take it from other religions with similar contexts, which might explain why all religions have similar aspects. If we assume that civilization was developed in many places, independently, it's strange that they have so many similar aspects.

There is another similarity which I cannot find a good explanation. I believe there really was a flood, and having no scientific knowledge, people tried to make sense of that unnatural phenomena by creating myths. What strikes me is the similarity of those myths.

In Genesis God informs Noah for the coming flood (and in some other religions, probably they are derived from one another), in China (if I remember correctly, it was from ancient eastern civilizations) a king saved a fish, then fish informed about the incoming flood to him. In another myth from another region, a king is informed about the flood from the gods, and escapes to the mountains, alone, and then starts new civilizations.

There are some 'theories' none of which seems convincing. There could be a moving society, so myths were spreading that way. Or civilizations weren't independent, although it's not clear why they would borrow myths from each other.

Or maybe all those myths are exactly the same, and they differ because the translation of them was inaccurate?

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Re: Why all the religions have similar aspects

Post by Mark1955 » October 30th, 2019, 3:51 am

Years ago a TV archaeologist said we shouldn't talk about religion, we should only talk about ritual, because anything else was making assumptions and philosophically I'm sure he's right. Practically given the universality of religions in the written era to describe similar behavior for the pre-written era as religions, or to interpret previously untranslated text in a religious manner, doesn't seem that improbable to me.

If you assume religion is a very old idea and was largely transmitted by oral repetition, it's hardly surprising many ideas reoccur but are slightly jumbled.

Of course historians and particularly archaeologists have a living to make and that requires them to 'discover' something; a bit like white Europeans 'discovered' America and New Zealand so a new hypothesis every few years is an inevitability and, given the small amounts of real evidence they get, some of the hypotheses are a bit flaky on detailed examination.
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Re: Why all the religions have similar aspects

Post by Felix » October 30th, 2019, 1:18 pm

I recommend The Perennial Philosophy by Aldous Huxley -- https://amzn.to/2MXiUY1
"We do not see things as they are; we see things as we are." - Anaïs Nin

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Re: Why all the religions have similar aspects

Post by alan_wattsify » October 30th, 2019, 2:59 pm

Felix wrote:
October 30th, 2019, 1:18 pm
I recommend The Perennial Philosophy by Aldous Huxley
Thank you for the book, I'll reach to it. When I read such books, which expresses opinions on topics like religion, society... I feel like I cannot treat them with enough criticism, because of lack of my knowledge. First I want to gain information about history, preferably from first sources. In practice I see that it helps me to reject unreasonable ideas, which I would accept not having information.

The problem with information is that I find it very hard to find books which convey only information. Most of information from ancient world (which I think is essential to understand modern world) comes from archaeologists, and they feel temptation to write everything they 'know' and think, regardless the reader would care about it or not. Like Jacque Fresco would say, they are filled with 'it was a sunny day'.

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Re: Why all the religions have similar aspects

Post by thephilosopher101 » October 31st, 2019, 10:14 am

I am not a religious man myself, however I do believe that there is some greater form out there.

I also don't know about each religion, how it started and how it evolved but all I can think of is that back in those days, many years ago, as ancient civilisation started, they probably needed someone or something to believe in or look up to, like a greater form. Something that would guide them and give them hope throughout their lives and others too...

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Re: Why all the religions have similar aspects

Post by Pattern-chaser » October 31st, 2019, 12:31 pm

Religions all attempt to help us in understanding the world, and (it seems) that was why they emerged. So it's not really surprising that they share such a lot. As for where they came from, or the details of how extinct religions were practiced, we can't know this just like we can't know similar historical details concerning the other doings of those same ancestors of ours. Things get lost or forgotten as time marches on....
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Re: Why all the religions have similar aspects

Post by Greta » October 31st, 2019, 5:02 pm

Either a great flood happened or a number of great floods in different parts of the world. https://science.howstuffworks.com/natur ... -flood.htm

If there was a great flood, stories of it would have been passed down over generations, with myths wrapped around the story to keep the warning memorable and compelling for the young. The intended message was probably along the lines of "Beware the great flood. Take contingency measures because it has happened before. So do not be complacent".

Ultimately, religions are similar because humans are similar.

Wherever we are in the world, whether our cultures touch or not, we all tend to operate along similar lines. We split along the same lines, we conduct more or less the same arguments, and we make very similar observations. We humans are nowhere near as unique as we imagine, collectively or individually. Our overblown sense of uniqueness comes from our extreme focus on the human meta-reality - the world of opinions.

A million products can come off an assembly line and they will all appear to be completely unique if viewed through a microscope. Pan back from that extreme close-up view and they will all seem to be exactly the same. Like us.

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Re: Why all the religions have similar aspects

Post by LuckyR » November 1st, 2019, 3:25 pm

Greta wrote:
October 31st, 2019, 5:02 pm
Either a great flood happened or a number of great floods in different parts of the world. https://science.howstuffworks.com/natur ... -flood.htm

If there was a great flood, stories of it would have been passed down over generations, with myths wrapped around the story to keep the warning memorable and compelling for the young. The intended message was probably along the lines of "Beware the great flood. Take contingency measures because it has happened before. So do not be complacent".

Ultimately, religions are similar because humans are similar.

Wherever we are in the world, whether our cultures touch or not, we all tend to operate along similar lines. We split along the same lines, we conduct more or less the same arguments, and we make very similar observations. We humans are nowhere near as unique as we imagine, collectively or individually. Our overblown sense of uniqueness comes from our extreme focus on the human meta-reality - the world of opinions.

A million products can come off an assembly line and they will all appear to be completely unique if viewed through a microscope. Pan back from that extreme close-up view and they will all seem to be exactly the same. Like us.
A great post. To take it one step further, religions are guaranteed if you look at populations psychologically. That is, regardless if there are or aren't deities, a smart/clever prehistoric individual will invent one. Say you are born in antiquity. You find you are way, way smarter than everyone you know. You are physically weak and you are not of royal birth. You are ambitious. Formal education hasn't been invented yet, same for the trades/professions. You would like to be powerful and command large groups of minions. What do you do?

Well you could predict when the river is going to flood and make a prophesy. You could say that the almighty god Blahblah foretold of this. After you get beaten up by the strong, the river floods just like you said and anyone who didn't move to high ground lost either their life, limb or possessions. Now you are a bad-ass. You are the clerical leader of the simpletons. Even the royalty bow before you.

Rinse, repeat ad infinitum over the millennia, just with a different shtick.
"As usual... it depends."

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Re: Why all the religions have similar aspects

Post by Greta » November 1st, 2019, 4:08 pm

LuckyR wrote:
November 1st, 2019, 3:25 pm
To take it one step further, religions are guaranteed if you look at populations psychologically. That is, regardless if there are or aren't deities, a smart/clever prehistoric individual will invent one. Say you are born in antiquity. You find you are way, way smarter than everyone you know. You are physically weak and you are not of royal birth. You are ambitious. Formal education hasn't been invented yet, same for the trades/professions. You would like to be powerful and command large groups of minions. What do you do?

Well you could predict when the river is going to flood and make a prophesy. You could say that the almighty god Blahblah foretold of this. After you get beaten up by the strong, the river floods just like you said and anyone who didn't move to high ground lost either their life, limb or possessions. Now you are a bad-ass. You are the clerical leader of the simpletons. Even the royalty bow before you.

Rinse, repeat ad infinitum over the millennia, just with a different shtick.
Yes, a form of control. Take Matthew Hopkins, Witchfinder general in England, and responsible for the torture and death of hundreds of innocent people, his malign influence even extending through his writings to Salem. He took the ravings of one grief-stricken man, accusing a cantankerous old one-legged woman of putting a spell on his dying wife.

Hopkins, who was raised to think that it was not enough to believe but one must do public acts, hitched on to this opportunity and volunteered his services. He tortured the old invalid for three days until she broke and "confessed" to being in league with Satan. Hopkins, taking advantage of the divided nation in civil war, wheedled his way into being given this special new position of Witchfinder General.

Increasingly villagers volunteered people they didn't like as witches. Increasingly Hopkins flouted the laws against torture, and ever more boldly. he extended his working area far outside his legal jurisdiction. He collected monies for interviewing "witches", then collected more for acting as witness, and more again for executions. He was building his fortune at the expense of villagers. Executions were expensive and, wherever Hopkins went, financial troubles followed. That was the beginning of the end for him.

One of Hopkins' great wins was executing a (reportedly grumpy) vicar, who withstood prolonged torture, including near-drownings, before finally confessing his sins. Like Hopkins' first victim, he was eighty years old. However, it turns out that another vicar of a small parish was speaking out about Hopkins, claiming that his executions were opportunistic and arbitrary, and that he was profiting from human misery.

After hearing of this small-time vicar speaking out about him, Hopkins wrote him a letter, hinting that he had sent one vicar to his death as a witch and he could do more. But he refused to be silenced and, mainly due to the financial situation, he won the public war of words, the law was changed, and Hopkins lost his job.

The story feel rather familiar.

Still, such political games wouldn't work if there was not already a predisposition. How else would pre-science people think of disease? A malign influence. An evil spirit. What did they make of the Sun? The Moon? The Earth? They all seem pretty godlike to me, as a modern secularist.

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Re: Why all the religions have similar aspects

Post by h_k_s » November 3rd, 2019, 2:11 am

alan_wattsify wrote:
October 28th, 2019, 3:32 pm
First of all I would like to ask some questions, which might be obvious for people who have some kind of education on this subject. I'm interested in the history of religion, where it come from... trying to make sense without any educational background.

Reading about ancient mythology, there is a lot of information based on some inscriptions. For example, there was a deity Inanna in the Sumer. As I understand, the contents of those inscriptions can be deciphered only by looking at particular words and the context they are used. How then it's possible to know how they pronounced those words?

There is also a God of heaven, named An. Is it just an agreement between researchers to assume that it was 'heaven', and not 'air' or 'sky' for example?

It seems to me that when people try to explore old religions, they are very much influenced in current religions, and in such cases, when it's not obvious what the word stands for, they take it from other religions with similar contexts, which might explain why all religions have similar aspects. If we assume that civilization was developed in many places, independently, it's strange that they have so many similar aspects.

There is another similarity which I cannot find a good explanation. I believe there really was a flood, and having no scientific knowledge, people tried to make sense of that unnatural phenomena by creating myths. What strikes me is the similarity of those myths.

In Genesis God informs Noah for the coming flood (and in some other religions, probably they are derived from one another), in China (if I remember correctly, it was from ancient eastern civilizations) a king saved a fish, then fish informed about the incoming flood to him. In another myth from another region, a king is informed about the flood from the gods, and escapes to the mountains, alone, and then starts new civilizations.

There are some 'theories' none of which seems convincing. There could be a moving society, so myths were spreading that way. Or civilizations weren't independent, although it's not clear why they would borrow myths from each other.

Or maybe all those myths are exactly the same, and they differ because the translation of them was inaccurate?
There are lots of similarities between the stories that Moses (Moshe in Hebrew) tells the Israelites after they have left Egypt and the prior Mesopotamian folklore.

My view is that he gets these stories locally from the Mesopotamians which go back thousands of years even before his own times.

Compare for example the babe in a reed basket story about Sargon The Great (google him) with Moses' own story about his own adoption by the Pharaoh's daughter.

Either unwed mothers were launching their babies in baskets in droves during prehistory (before Herodotus invents academic history) or else Moses got that story from Sargon The Great.

Remember that Moses/Moshe had 600 thousand or clans to govern, and he had to put the fear of God (so to speak) into them all. And even so doing he still sometimes lost complete control of them as a group. Evidence their dancing around a golden calf, which is an Egyptian cult tradition (you can read more about the Egyptians in Herodotus' "The Histories" (Inquiries, in Greek).

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Re: Why all the religions have similar aspects

Post by h_k_s » November 3rd, 2019, 2:12 am

Greta wrote:
November 1st, 2019, 4:08 pm
LuckyR wrote:
November 1st, 2019, 3:25 pm
To take it one step further, religions are guaranteed if you look at populations psychologically. That is, regardless if there are or aren't deities, a smart/clever prehistoric individual will invent one. Say you are born in antiquity. You find you are way, way smarter than everyone you know. You are physically weak and you are not of royal birth. You are ambitious. Formal education hasn't been invented yet, same for the trades/professions. You would like to be powerful and command large groups of minions. What do you do?

Well you could predict when the river is going to flood and make a prophesy. You could say that the almighty god Blahblah foretold of this. After you get beaten up by the strong, the river floods just like you said and anyone who didn't move to high ground lost either their life, limb or possessions. Now you are a bad-ass. You are the clerical leader of the simpletons. Even the royalty bow before you.

Rinse, repeat ad infinitum over the millennia, just with a different shtick.
Yes, a form of control. Take Matthew Hopkins, Witchfinder general in England, and responsible for the torture and death of hundreds of innocent people, his malign influence even extending through his writings to Salem. He took the ravings of one grief-stricken man, accusing a cantankerous old one-legged woman of putting a spell on his dying wife.

Hopkins, who was raised to think that it was not enough to believe but one must do public acts, hitched on to this opportunity and volunteered his services. He tortured the old invalid for three days until she broke and "confessed" to being in league with Satan. Hopkins, taking advantage of the divided nation in civil war, wheedled his way into being given this special new position of Witchfinder General.

Increasingly villagers volunteered people they didn't like as witches. Increasingly Hopkins flouted the laws against torture, and ever more boldly. he extended his working area far outside his legal jurisdiction. He collected monies for interviewing "witches", then collected more for acting as witness, and more again for executions. He was building his fortune at the expense of villagers. Executions were expensive and, wherever Hopkins went, financial troubles followed. That was the beginning of the end for him.

One of Hopkins' great wins was executing a (reportedly grumpy) vicar, who withstood prolonged torture, including near-drownings, before finally confessing his sins. Like Hopkins' first victim, he was eighty years old. However, it turns out that another vicar of a small parish was speaking out about Hopkins, claiming that his executions were opportunistic and arbitrary, and that he was profiting from human misery.

After hearing of this small-time vicar speaking out about him, Hopkins wrote him a letter, hinting that he had sent one vicar to his death as a witch and he could do more. But he refused to be silenced and, mainly due to the financial situation, he won the public war of words, the law was changed, and Hopkins lost his job.

The story feel rather familiar.

Still, such political games wouldn't work if there was not already a predisposition. How else would pre-science people think of disease? A malign influence. An evil spirit. What did they make of the Sun? The Moon? The Earth? They all seem pretty godlike to me, as a modern secularist.
Witch-finding … that's certainly an art that we have lost since the 1600's !!

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Re: Why all the religions have similar aspects

Post by h_k_s » November 3rd, 2019, 2:15 am

LuckyR wrote:
November 1st, 2019, 3:25 pm
Greta wrote:
October 31st, 2019, 5:02 pm
Either a great flood happened or a number of great floods in different parts of the world. https://science.howstuffworks.com/natur ... -flood.htm

If there was a great flood, stories of it would have been passed down over generations, with myths wrapped around the story to keep the warning memorable and compelling for the young. The intended message was probably along the lines of "Beware the great flood. Take contingency measures because it has happened before. So do not be complacent".

Ultimately, religions are similar because humans are similar.

Wherever we are in the world, whether our cultures touch or not, we all tend to operate along similar lines. We split along the same lines, we conduct more or less the same arguments, and we make very similar observations. We humans are nowhere near as unique as we imagine, collectively or individually. Our overblown sense of uniqueness comes from our extreme focus on the human meta-reality - the world of opinions.

A million products can come off an assembly line and they will all appear to be completely unique if viewed through a microscope. Pan back from that extreme close-up view and they will all seem to be exactly the same. Like us.
A great post. To take it one step further, religions are guaranteed if you look at populations psychologically. That is, regardless if there are or aren't deities, a smart/clever prehistoric individual will invent one. Say you are born in antiquity. You find you are way, way smarter than everyone you know. You are physically weak and you are not of royal birth. You are ambitious. Formal education hasn't been invented yet, same for the trades/professions. You would like to be powerful and command large groups of minions. What do you do?

Well you could predict when the river is going to flood and make a prophesy. You could say that the almighty god Blahblah foretold of this. After you get beaten up by the strong, the river floods just like you said and anyone who didn't move to high ground lost either their life, limb or possessions. Now you are a bad-ass. You are the clerical leader of the simpletons. Even the royalty bow before you.

Rinse, repeat ad infinitum over the millennia, just with a different shtick.
I think it is mostly ancient kings that invent religions, or else they hijack them, and make themselves the sons of gods, or even a god themselves.

The more modern ancient Greek versions of this is that all the royal houses of ancient Greece (Hellas) are descended from Heracles or some such other god or demigod.

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Re: Why all the religions have similar aspects

Post by h_k_s » November 3rd, 2019, 2:16 am

Greta wrote:
October 31st, 2019, 5:02 pm
Either a great flood happened or a number of great floods in different parts of the world. https://science.howstuffworks.com/natur ... -flood.htm

If there was a great flood, stories of it would have been passed down over generations, with myths wrapped around the story to keep the warning memorable and compelling for the young. The intended message was probably along the lines of "Beware the great flood. Take contingency measures because it has happened before. So do not be complacent".

Ultimately, religions are similar because humans are similar.

Wherever we are in the world, whether our cultures touch or not, we all tend to operate along similar lines. We split along the same lines, we conduct more or less the same arguments, and we make very similar observations. We humans are nowhere near as unique as we imagine, collectively or individually. Our overblown sense of uniqueness comes from our extreme focus on the human meta-reality - the world of opinions.

A million products can come off an assembly line and they will all appear to be completely unique if viewed through a microscope. Pan back from that extreme close-up view and they will all seem to be exactly the same. Like us.
There was no flood @Greta .

It is all bull sh!t. The opiate of the masses.

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Re: Why all the religions have similar aspects

Post by h_k_s » November 3rd, 2019, 2:19 am

thephilosopher101 wrote:
October 31st, 2019, 10:14 am
I am not a religious man myself, however I do believe that there is some greater form out there.

I also don't know about each religion, how it started and how it evolved but all I can think of is that back in those days, many years ago, as ancient civilisation started, they probably needed someone or something to believe in or look up to, like a greater form. Something that would guide them and give them hope throughout their lives and others too...
Congrats @thephilosopher101 YOU are a Romantic Deist.

You are in the same boat with me, Augustine, Aquinas, Descartes, and Leibniz.

You're in good company my friend.

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Re: Why all the religions have similar aspects

Post by h_k_s » November 3rd, 2019, 2:21 am

Mark1955 wrote:
October 30th, 2019, 3:51 am
Years ago a TV archaeologist said we shouldn't talk about religion, we should only talk about ritual, because anything else was making assumptions and philosophically I'm sure he's right. Practically given the universality of religions in the written era to describe similar behavior for the pre-written era as religions, or to interpret previously untranslated text in a religious manner, doesn't seem that improbable to me.

If you assume religion is a very old idea and was largely transmitted by oral repetition, it's hardly surprising many ideas reoccur but are slightly jumbled.

Of course historians and particularly archaeologists have a living to make and that requires them to 'discover' something; a bit like white Europeans 'discovered' America and New Zealand so a new hypothesis every few years is an inevitability and, given the small amounts of real evidence they get, some of the hypotheses are a bit flaky on detailed examination.
Flowers in the grave of a prehistoric child are indicative of a belief system of some kind. They also buried with her some toys.

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