Author Topic: "The Humble Origins of the Abrahamic Religions"  (Read 788 times)

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Offline Quetzalcoatl

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"The Humble Origins of the Abrahamic Religions"
« on: September 01, 2019, 02:55:47 PM »
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The Humble Origins of the Abrahamic Religions

The biblical narrative of the Israelites begins with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob shepherding a fledgling group of people based in the Levant, who benefit from God's special protection provided that they are loyal to him and keep his laws. Eventually moving to Egypt to escape the famine and drought that periodically affected their homelands, they find themselves as slaves of the Egyptian Pharaoh. Guided by Moses, and following a series of devastating plagues inflicted on the Egyptians to provoke them into freeing their captives, they set about reconquering the lands of the western Levant (known at this time as Canaan) under the guidance of Joshua, Moses' successor. There then followed the period of the 'Judges'—leaders such as Samson, who would emerge periodically to save the Israelites from the conquering intentions of surrounding civilizations such as the Philistines. As skirmishes with neighboring tribes became more and more common, leadership under a strong king was sought, and Israel became a monarchy, first under Saul, and then under his successor David, who was in turn succeeded by his son Solomon. The monarchy under these last two kings is seen as a 'Golden Age' where there was peace and prosperity, and where the previously disparate tribes of Israel were brought under central leadership based in Jerusalem. This kingdom then fractured in two, bringing about a northern kingdom called Israel and a southern kingdom called Judah.

Whether religious or not, these stories make for fascinating reading. However, the lack of evidence for the biblical narrative is striking, and no support for it is ever advanced from a disinterested ancient historian. The myriad of documents that have come to light from ancient Egypt never mention a huge population of foreign slaves that leave in the hundreds of thousands following a series of catastrophes. Modern archaeological techniques have also been able to identify the movements of nomadic wanderers as early as the third millennium BCE in the Sinai peninsula, but have found nothing about the supposed half a million refugees (Exodus 12:37) travelling many hundreds of years later with their families in tow. Likewise, no neighboring empire seems to have noticed the kingdom of David, which is said to have comprised of a vast piece of territory from the Euphrates River to the borders of Egypt (1 Kings 4:21), and no evidence has ever come to light of Solomon's opulent gold-decked Temple and palace ruled by a king whom "people from around the world wanted to meet" (1 Kings 10:24).

By historical coincidence, the myths, legends, and lore of a Canaanite tribe became the myths, legends, and lore of a large part of the world's population (Jews, Christians, Muslims, and various off-shots). As this has been a strong influence in our history, I do think that it is important to know the historical and archaeological facts surrounding it, and I wish that this knowledge was more widespread in the world than it is. Even lots of non-religious people who don't believe in the miracles (like turning sticks into snakes) often think that there is more of a historical base to the stories than there actually is.
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Offline gebobs

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Re: "The Humble Origins of the Abrahamic Religions"
« Reply #1 on: September 03, 2019, 10:21:54 AM »

By historical coincidence, the myths, legends, and lore of a Canaanite tribe became the myths, legends, and lore of a large part of the world's population (Jews, Christians, Muslims, and various off-shots). As this has been a strong influence in our history, I do think that it is important to know the historical and archaeological facts surrounding it, and I wish that this knowledge was more widespread in the world than it is. Even lots of non-religious people who don't believe in the miracles (like turning sticks into snakes) often think that there is more of a historical base to the stories than there actually is.

Sure. There is probably little or nothing that is strictly or even closely historical in any of the texts that comprise the various Abrahamic "Bibles". The Koran probably has the best chance of containing some historicity but probably not much. Forget about the Pentateuch.

Online daniel1948

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Re: "The Humble Origins of the Abrahamic Religions"
« Reply #2 on: September 03, 2019, 05:29:09 PM »
A guy (Jesus) belonging to a small tribe that worshipped its own particular god, got executed by the Romans for political crimes, and a reasonably talented con man (Paul) decides to make a new religion out of it because the dead guy ain't gonna contradict him. The new religion takes off because it offers the promise of eternal life after death, something earlier religions didn't have. To make his new religion more palatable, he gets rid of the dietary restrictions and the circumcision. Why the fuck Constantine adopted it, I haven't got a clue. "Love your enemy" became "Spread the Gospel by slaughtering anyone who won't convert." And presto! the insular religion of a small tribe of people gives rise to one of the "great" filthy religions of modern times.
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Online John Albert

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Re: "The Humble Origins of the Abrahamic Religions"
« Reply #3 on: September 04, 2019, 06:01:01 PM »
The classical era had other religions, Mithraism et al, which promised their followers eternal life. Some of them predated Christianity by hundreds of years. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. even wrote an undergraduate term paper on the subject.

The Edict of Milan, penned by Constantine and Licinius, legalized Christianity along with many other minor religions. That fact is often ignored in Christendom, in favor of the myth (which probably arose in the Middle Ages) that Constantine experienced a sort of Pauline epiphany during the Battle of Milivan Bridge, after which he allegedly declared himself emperor under the will of the Christian god.

The story goes that Constantine converted on the spot and declared Christianity the religion of the Empire, but that is not true. It was in fact Theodosius I who convened The Council of Nicaea to establish a formal Christianity and declare it the official religion of the Empire.

No record of Constantine's personal faith survives that I'm aware of, but it's generally accepted that he was likely indoctrinated into Christianity by his mother and wasn't even baptized until his deathbed. As for political motivations, I surmise that being raised Christian, he probably experienced the consequences of religious tyranny firsthand, and saw freedom of religion as a way to appease the populace. Maybe I'm a bit of a realpolitik cynic, but I figure Theodosius also recognized that all the various cults of Christianity could be ruled more efficiently if united under a single faith.
« Last Edit: September 05, 2019, 11:57:59 AM by John Albert »

Online arthwollipot

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Re: "The Humble Origins of the Abrahamic Religions"
« Reply #4 on: September 04, 2019, 08:49:54 PM »
So we know that pretty much everything in the Pentateuch is not factual. I wonder, then, where it came from. What was its actual origin. Did some guy somewhere just start making stuff up?

We'll probably never be able to trace the stories back to their actual origins though.
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Online daniel1948

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Re: "The Humble Origins of the Abrahamic Religions"
« Reply #5 on: September 04, 2019, 09:34:41 PM »
So we know that pretty much everything in the Pentateuch is not factual. I wonder, then, where it came from. What was its actual origin. Did some guy somewhere just start making stuff up?

We'll probably never be able to trace the stories back to their actual origins though.

I think the notion is that it's all derived from earlier mythology, but if you take any given thread all the way back, then, yes, it was just some guy making stuff up. It's interesting, as is any culture's origin mythology. But it's not history.
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Online John Albert

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Re: "The Humble Origins of the Abrahamic Religions"
« Reply #6 on: September 05, 2019, 08:56:45 AM »
« Last Edit: September 05, 2019, 09:09:28 AM by John Albert »

Online daniel1948

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Daniel
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Online John Albert

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Re: "The Humble Origins of the Abrahamic Religions"
« Reply #8 on: September 05, 2019, 11:49:36 AM »
Where "some guy" made it up.

Basically.

Online Awatsjr

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Re: "The Humble Origins of the Abrahamic Religions"
« Reply #9 on: September 05, 2019, 12:05:07 PM »
Some of the material probably originated in ancient Sumeria, Babylonia, Egypt, Syria and Arabia.

Where "some guy" made it up.

That is the bottom line that unfortunately many refuse to acknowledge. It's always attributed to some earlier "belief" or "myth" without just saying, "they made it up." No, not revelation - made it up. Pulled it from their ass. BS'd you. Fucking with your head. You're a simpleton and bought it.
« Last Edit: September 05, 2019, 06:27:56 PM by Awatsjr »

Offline Shibboleth

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Re: "The Humble Origins of the Abrahamic Religions"
« Reply #10 on: September 05, 2019, 12:42:30 PM »
I suppose it is easy to paint people as simpletons if you paint the picture that way. If I were to guess, and this is just a guess, that oral stories were passed down in regional areas and modified over time. Much of the stories had mystical aspects added to them just like with any other culture and as people migrated or as people invaded stories were usurped and modified to meet the needs of a given people.

We often talk about religion being used to explain natural phenomena or to deal with what happens after death but it also serves a pretty big purpose in giving people authority over land and others. "This is my land because God says so.", "I am allowed to rule here and you not because God." Much of the early stories of the Bible work to that point. "We are the chosen, we have rights to your land, your God is fake therefor you're claims can't be real. etc."

I would say the chances that it was just some guy making shit up is pretty unlikely.
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Online John Albert

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Re: "The Humble Origins of the Abrahamic Religions"
« Reply #11 on: September 05, 2019, 12:47:25 PM »
That is the bottom line that unfortunately many refuse to acknowledge. It's always attributed to some earlier "belief" or "myth" without just saying, "they made it up." No, not revelation - made it up. Pulled it from there ass. BS'd you. Fucking with your head. You're a simpleton and bought it.

Who knows who made it up? Who cares?

Likewise, who's responsible for our modern bullshit myths like the Pizzagate conspiracy theory? Was it one person, or a bunch of people spitballing ideas around until one happened to catch on?

Regardless of who made it up, people believed it. And those people went and told other people, and that false information spread around like a cognitive virus. And people continue to believe it even today, and some even factor it into their mental processes when making decisions and formulating their actions. 

But I don't think people have to be simpletons to fall for bad information.

Critical thinking is not a natural, inborn mental process. It's a set of skills that must be learned through hard work, and practiced regularly to keep sharp.

And even after we've learned the skills, that doesn't grant us immunity from bad ideas. We all have our ideological blind spots and can still fall prey to cognitive bias.

That's why skepticism can't be practiced in a vacuum. It must be a community effort. We're all responsible for keeping ourselves and each other in line.

Online Awatsjr

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Re: "The Humble Origins of the Abrahamic Religions"
« Reply #12 on: September 05, 2019, 06:30:31 PM »
By "you" I mean people centuries ago when these stories came out. People today see millions in the past believing something so they figure it must be true since believing something makes it true.

Online daniel1948

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Re: "The Humble Origins of the Abrahamic Religions"
« Reply #13 on: September 05, 2019, 06:34:43 PM »
... I don't think people have to be simpletons to fall for bad information.

Maybe it's my Asperger's, but I really cannot fathom how people can believe the utterly preposterous claims of religions. It's not just "bad information." The whole construct and every aspect of it is preposterous.

Take the most fundamental aspect of Christianity:

An all-powerful, all-knowing God puts two people in a garden and orders them not to eat the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. He knows they will eat it, because he's all-knowing, and he created them with the weakness that guarantees that they would eat it, and since he's all-powerful, he's responsible for how he made them.

Okay, so they broke the rule and he kicked them out of the garden.

Now, he's supposed to be just, but he curses not only Adam and Eve, who broke the rule, but their descendants for two hundred generations. And even though he's all-powerful, he CANNOT remove the curse from the human race until a man who is his actual begotten son is killed as a sacrifice in one of the most cruel forms of execution the human mind could invent.

I'm sorry, that is just so fucking STUPID that I cannot comprehend how anyone who does not have a defective brain can swallow it.

At some point in the past, somebody, or some group of somebodies, made this stuff up, probably little by little, and pulled it off on people who were ignorant and superstitious. There's no excuse for anybody continuing to believe it.

Admittedly, the above is just my view of it, possibly colored by my inability to understand what the fuck goes on in other people's brains.
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Online arthwollipot

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Re: "The Humble Origins of the Abrahamic Religions"
« Reply #14 on: September 05, 2019, 08:33:38 PM »
You've got to consider that our modern, science-literate perspective is very different from the basic worldview of the ancient peoples. All of the epistemology and philosophy of the Greek was still many hundreds of years in their future. Most technology was in their future. Even if you don't take Asperger's into account, it is very difficult for we modern people to understand the mind of someone from that time, and to call them stupid because they can't see the world from our modern perspective would be a mistake.

Our basic level of intelligence 10,000 years ago was essentially where it is today. They didn't have the knowledge that we do. They didn't have the mathematics, they hadn't made the observations, they were still at a very early stage of social and cultural development. It doesn't make them stupid, it makes them uneducated.
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