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Posted by on Apr 4, 2013 in Blog | 9 comments

The Secret Origin of Religion (Part I)

Blog post by: Dan Hettmannsperger III

 Where did all this superstition come from in the first place and why has it managed to hold on to this very hour even in the age of Iphones and Twitter?  No one can know with absolute certainty of course just how and where It all began, but we can make some pretty good guesses based on what we’ve gathered from Anthropology, Psychology, History and Archeology.  We know for example that primitive stone age people as far back as 100,000+ years ago buried their dead with items that belong to the deceased and that the ritual of cannibalism was sometimes part of this process.  Looking at the hunter-gatherer cultures that still exist today in Africa, Australia and North America we can get a very strong sense of what pre-historic society was probably like and how it later developed from the stone to bronze age and later the iron age of the Romans. 

Try to imagine for a moment what it must have been like living in that time.  Life was very simple and yet very hard.  Not a single modern convenience we now take for granted existed and would not exist for millennia.  Tribal peoples had absolutely no knowledge of how the world actually worked and how nature’s patterns could be both benign in their predictability (as with the sunrise) or terrible in it’s randomness (as with an earthquake).  For the earliest civilized people all that mattered was survival, and in the Darwinian Hell of the pre-historic world this cannot have been anything but difficult.  When a thunderstorm came a tribe had no idea what was happening, that it was merely a passing atmospheric phenomenon.  We all remember how thunder would frighten us when we were children because we didn’t understand what it was…and to them it was no different.

Doubtless on one such occasion the various tribal members asked the shaman (“Holy man”) what was happening and if anything could be done.  It’s a little too easy to imagine the shaman, faced with frightened people, saying: “Well…look, the Sky Spirit is merely expressing his anger for not showing proper respect and the only way to calm him down is to give him an offering.”  Naturally the people would be only too happy to offer up anything they have to stop the constant rain, thunder and lighting. “What must we sacrifice?” They would ask, and the shaman would say: “Well….everyone knows that Larry is the biggest asshole in the tribe.  He steals, he’s lazy, and he can’t keep his hands off our daughters….clearly we need to sacrifice Larry.  Once we do that the Sky Spirit should be appeased and that’ll be that.”  So the whole tribe grabs Larry, drags him out to a clearing and the shaman crushes his skull with a stone while others hold him down.

Unfortunately the next day the rain is still coming and the thunder is still booming and the tribe is still quaking in abject fear, so the shaman says, “I think we need to sacrifice Larry’s parents too….after all no one likes them and the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree does it?”  So in a grizzly repeat of the previous day both of Larry’s parents get dragged out to the same location since now it’s considered ‘sacred’ and they too get their skulls crushed.  A few hours later the rain stops, the clouds brake, and this can only mean that the sacrifice worked.  Right?

Now the story I’ve told might sound like a fiction with little credibility until you consider that recently the oldest human sacrifice  dating some 5,500 years ago was discovered in the Sudan in a tomb containing three adults and high-quality clay pots that probably belonged to “Larry.”  That there are still people in large numbers who attribute floods and plagues to God’s displeasure is only an indication of how deep-rooted this kind of irrationalism really is.

Freud was correct when he asserted that belief in the supernatural was essentially a maladaptive coping mechanism that we have clearly outgrown and yet people still routinely engage in human sacrifice…but now it’s internal.  They sacrifice their Reason, their Intuition, and their Imaginations for faux truths and childish comforts instead of facing life on life’s terms. They do so out of unfounded fears based on ancient myths that could not be less relevant.  Only by banishing such primitive thinking can the human race finally move from Difficult Adolescence to a post-industrial Adulthood once and for all.

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