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Thread: 5 Stages of Religious Evolution

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    Default 5 Stages of Religious Evolution

    My theory is that Religion has gone through five stages during human history, and these are:
    1) Naturism - when we apes were animals, and accepted Nature as do other beasts, as a force to contend with. No religion, as such.
    2) Animism - when our large brain got active, and imagined
    'spirits' in all things, living and non-living. The age of totemism and fetishism. Survives as Le and La in the French language.
    3) Polytheism - when spirits became anthropomorphic, and pantheisms proliferated. This was the peak period of Religion.
    4) Monotheism - when the Jealous God sought to eliminate rival gods.
    5) Atheism - as of now. The impact of Science makes any divine explanations of phenomena unnecessary; God too.
    We may add a sixth, in which we apes think of ourselves as God and control our own destiny. This reign may soon end, with decimation and extinction.

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    Default Re: 5 Stages of Religious Evolution

    It's an interesting hypothesis, so far.

    Are there any particular studies or books which helped form it?
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    Default Re: 5 Stages of Religious Evolution

    Norenzayan's "Big Gods: How Religion Transformed Cooperation and Conflict" would be a good start for stages three becoming four...
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    Default Re: 5 Stages of Religious Evolution

    Feminist writing would hold that you missed a stage:

    1) Naturism - when we apes were animals, and accepted Nature as do other beasts, as a force to contend with. No religion, as such.
    2) Animism - when our large brain got active, and imagined
    'spirits' in all things, living and non-living. The age of totemism and fetishism. Survives as Le and La in the French language. (Shinto is living example of such as religion)
    3) Polytheism - when spirits became anthropomorphic, and pantheisms proliferated. This was the peak (What do you mean by peak? When religions were most profilic? Popular?) period of Religion.
    4) Matriarchial monotheism - when Goddesses were dominant
    5) Patriarchal monotheism - when Gods sought to eliminate Goddesses.

    6) Atheism - as of now. The impact of Science makes any divine explanations of phenomena unnecessary; God too.
    Last edited by workmx; 25th October 2017 at 01:22 PM.
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    Default Re: 5 Stages of Religious Evolution

    Quote The Irreverent Mr Black said View Post
    It's an interesting hypothesis, so far.

    Are there any particular studies or books which helped form it?
    Not sure that this is a hypothesis: is it falsifiable or testable?
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    Default Re: 5 Stages of Religious Evolution

    I'd say that you are looking at the evolution or history of religion through a "western civilization" lens. Other advanced civilizations did not always follow the same path.

    My understanding is that much of China pretty much jumped straight from 3 to 5, for example.

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    Default Re: 5 Stages of Religious Evolution

    Quote 142857 said View Post
    I'd say that you are looking at the evolution or history of religion through a "western civilization" lens. Other advanced civilizations did not always follow the same path.

    My understanding is that much of China pretty much jumped straight from 3 to 5, for example.
    That. And human societies don't evolve.

    The history of humanity is the autobiography of a lunatic.
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    Default Re: 5 Stages of Religious Evolution

    Don L H wrote:-
    1) Naturism - when we apes were animals, and accepted Nature as do other beasts, as a force to contend with. No religion, as such.
    I think the "religiosity" of non-human animals is uncertain. First of all, except for the last decade or so intelligence/cognition in many non-human animal groups has been under-estimated. Non-human apes of course, corvids [the crow family], some other bird groups, cetaceans [whales etc]and cephalopod molluscs [octopus, squid etc] to name a few. Even the humble fruit fly [Drosophila sp] which weighs in with only 250 neurons [100,000 in brain], has some rudimentary reasoning ability.

    So abstract thinking, rudimentary language of some sort, planning, and theory of mind is certainly not unique to humans, and therefore I don't think we can totally rule out "why" questions in these groups. But I am not ruling it in either.

    Further, evolution tends to build brains that are biased towards the optimistic, and further a mostly poor ability at statistics. Although humans seem particularly paranoid, clusters of bad[or good] shit that happens to animals may make them superstitious.

    Well, just like human animals, we can only infer what goes on inside the heads of animals from behaviour, and any language [if present or decipherable].

    I think part of the problem with scientists [and the general public] with animal mental abilities has been the influence of religious concepts like the "Great Chain Of Being" and other claims to the uniqueness of humans as being above nature, rather than part of it, and originating from biological and chemical evolution.

    But certainly, many complex animals seem to mourn their dead, like elephants and chimpanzees. Chimps may even use tools to clean the body and teeth after death. How much this behaviour reflects an inner mythology or "spirituality" is of course open to question, but given that religiosity evolved in one species, and the gap between non-human and human animals is not nearly as wide as was once imagined, I would be wary of making an absolute call on the matter either way.
    Just stick to the idea that science tests falsifiable hypotheses to destruction.

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    Default Re: 5 Stages of Religious Evolution

    Personally I think you are mistaking the development of society for the evolution of religion. Religions don't evolve, they change to suite the society. For instant we still have pantheist religions in Hinduism and others, we still have animist religions in Africa.

    Western society has moved in a direction where religion is no longer necessary, but not because religion has evolved but because western society has developed, for the most part, in a direction where individual rights and freedoms are valued. But there's no reason, as an example Russia, why society can't go in the other direction and religion become more dominant.
    From the mouth of a seven year old: "When you're you're dead, you don't go anywhere!"

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    Default Re: 5 Stages of Religious Evolution

    I think this is a classic case of what Foucault called "the descriptive becoming the normative".

    In other words: this is the way things appear to be, so they must always be that way.

    Humans are complex animals and human behaviour does not "evolve" in an endlessly positive trajectory.

    Hence my comment above about human history.

    Add the Hawthorne Effect to that and we have a complex thing to attempt to understand.
    Last edited by workmx; 25th October 2017 at 03:15 PM.
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