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General Discussions => Religion / Philosophy Talk => Topic started by: Quetzalcoatl on September 01, 2019, 02:55:47 PM

Title: "The Humble Origins of the Abrahamic Religions"
Post by: Quetzalcoatl on September 01, 2019, 02:55:47 PM
Quote
The Humble Origins of the Abrahamic Religions (https://infidels.org/kiosk/article/the-humble-origins-of-the-abrahamic-religions-943.html)

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 (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canaan) 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.
Title: Re: "The Humble Origins of the Abrahamic Religions"
Post by: gebobs on September 03, 2019, 10:21:54 AM

By historical coincidence, the myths, legends, and lore of a Canaanite (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canaan) 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.
Title: Re: "The Humble Origins of the Abrahamic Religions"
Post by: daniel1948 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.
Title: Re: "The Humble Origins of the Abrahamic Religions"
Post by: John Albert 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 (https://kinginstitute.stanford.edu/king-papers/documents/influence-mystery-religions-christianity) on the subject.

The Edict of Milan (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/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 (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_the_Milvian_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 (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First_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.
Title: Re: "The Humble Origins of the Abrahamic Religions"
Post by: arthwollipot 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.
Title: Re: "The Humble Origins of the Abrahamic Religions"
Post by: daniel1948 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.
Title: Re: "The Humble Origins of the Abrahamic Religions"
Post by: John Albert on September 05, 2019, 08:56:45 AM
Some of the material probably originated in ancient Sumeria, Babylonia, Egypt, Syria and Arabia (https://kinginstitute.stanford.edu/king-papers/documents/light-old-testament-ancient-near-east).
Title: Re: "The Humble Origins of the Abrahamic Religions"
Post by: daniel1948 on September 05, 2019, 11:23:52 AM
Some of the material probably originated in ancient Sumeria, Babylonia, Egypt, Syria and Arabia (https://kinginstitute.stanford.edu/king-papers/documents/light-old-testament-ancient-near-east).

Where "some guy" made it up.
Title: Re: "The Humble Origins of the Abrahamic Religions"
Post by: John Albert on September 05, 2019, 11:49:36 AM
Where "some guy" made it up.

Basically.
Title: Re: "The Humble Origins of the Abrahamic Religions"
Post by: Awatsjr on September 05, 2019, 12:05:07 PM
Some of the material probably originated in ancient Sumeria, Babylonia, Egypt, Syria and Arabia (https://kinginstitute.stanford.edu/king-papers/documents/light-old-testament-ancient-near-east).

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.
Title: Re: "The Humble Origins of the Abrahamic Religions"
Post by: Shibboleth 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.
Title: Re: "The Humble Origins of the Abrahamic Religions"
Post by: John Albert 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.
Title: Re: "The Humble Origins of the Abrahamic Religions"
Post by: Awatsjr 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.
Title: Re: "The Humble Origins of the Abrahamic Religions"
Post by: daniel1948 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.
Title: Re: "The Humble Origins of the Abrahamic Religions"
Post by: arthwollipot 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.
Title: Re: "The Humble Origins of the Abrahamic Religions"
Post by: daniel1948 on September 05, 2019, 09:33:47 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.

I was five years old when I decided (and told anybody who would listen) that there is no God and no Santa Claus, because both were just simply ridiculous ideas. I had no science education yet, and had never heard of Plato or Greek philosophy. I suppose I couldn't even do arithmetic yet, much less mathematics. God was just such an obviously stupid idea. And still is.

But really, I doubt that anyone actually believes it. People who claim to believe in God and heaven will say "He's in a better place now" when their child dies, but they still cry and demand retribution against whoever they feel was responsible. If they believed in God and heaven, they'd celebrate the death of a loved one. They don't. Because they don't honestly believe that crap any more than I do. They're just afraid to be the one to say the emperor has no clothes. Religion is bullshit and everybody knows it, but for some reason they play along.
Title: Re: "The Humble Origins of the Abrahamic Religions"
Post by: arthwollipot on September 06, 2019, 12:32:15 AM
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.

I was five years old when I decided (and told anybody who would listen) that there is no God and no Santa Claus, because both were just simply ridiculous ideas. I had no science education yet, and had never heard of Plato or Greek philosophy. I suppose I couldn't even do arithmetic yet, much less mathematics. God was just such an obviously stupid idea. And still is.

Right but for those five years you were immersed in a scientifically literate, technological society. You had Sesame Street. At the time these stories were invented, there was no Sesame Street.

But really, I doubt that anyone actually believes it. People who claim to believe in God and heaven will say "He's in a better place now" when their child dies, but they still cry and demand retribution against whoever they feel was responsible. If they believed in God and heaven, they'd celebrate the death of a loved one. They don't. Because they don't honestly believe that crap any more than I do. They're just afraid to be the one to say the emperor has no clothes. Religion is bullshit and everybody knows it, but for some reason they play along.

Nope, you're absolutely wrong about that. Many people who profess belief in religion may indeed be bluffing, but there are many, many more who are sincere.
Title: Re: "The Humble Origins of the Abrahamic Religions"
Post by: Ah.hell on September 06, 2019, 11:11:15 AM
(click to show/hide)
But really, I doubt that anyone actually believes it. People who claim to believe in God and heaven will say "He's in a better place now" when their child dies, but they still cry and demand retribution against whoever they feel was responsible. If they believed in God and heaven, they'd celebrate the death of a loved one. They don't. Because they don't honestly believe that crap any more than I do. They're just afraid to be the one to say the emperor has no clothes. Religion is bullshit and everybody knows it, but for some reason they play along.
Because if my best friend were leaving for another country because it offered a great opportunity where he would absolutely be better off, I wouldn't be said to see him go in the least.  Only, death really is permanent and there is no hope of seeing them until I die too. 
Title: Re: "The Humble Origins of the Abrahamic Religions"
Post by: daniel1948 on September 06, 2019, 11:44:52 AM
... You had Sesame Street. ...

Nope. Sesame Street did not exist. I was 18 years old (and didn't have a TV) when Sesame Street began. When I was 5 I would have been watching Howdy Doody and cartoons where animals ran straight off of cliffs and didn't begin to fall until they realized there was no ground under them. Then they came to a complete stop, looked down, expressed surprise and consternation, and then fell. Not really exposure to science.

(click to show/hide)
But really, I doubt that anyone actually believes it. People who claim to believe in God and heaven will say "He's in a better place now" when their child dies, but they still cry and demand retribution against whoever they feel was responsible. If they believed in God and heaven, they'd celebrate the death of a loved one. They don't. Because they don't honestly believe that crap any more than I do. They're just afraid to be the one to say the emperor has no clothes. Religion is bullshit and everybody knows it, but for some reason they play along.
Because if my best friend were leaving for another country because it offered a great opportunity where he would absolutely be better off, I wouldn't be said to see him go in the least.  Only, death really is permanent and there is no hope of seeing them until I die too. 

I would miss my friend, but I would be happy for him and I would not call for the execution of the person who offered him a better job in another country. Old-time Gospel music expresses how Christians think they should feel when someone dies. In the song Wayfaring Stranger it's life that's sad and lonely and filled with hardship; death is going home to "that bright land" where there's no sickness or toil and you're reunited with your loved ones. But when it actually happens, that's not how they do feel. If they believed their own religion, they'd miss the dead person, but they'd celebrate that they'd gone to a better life. They would be happy for the murdered child who would never have to experience the cruel hardships of this life; who God had taken directly to an eternal life without hardship. They don't feel that way because they don't truly believe their professed religion. They use the words. "Good took him or her." But they don't really believe it because they immediately call for breaking the very first Commandment by killing the murderer.
Title: Re: "The Humble Origins of the Abrahamic Religions"
Post by: John Albert on September 06, 2019, 02:14:15 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.

That mode of thinking—which rejects the very notion of objectivity—is enjoying a resurgence in some quarters of academia today. The idea that "believing something makes it true" (a.k.a. "subjective truth") is practically a central theme of poststructuralist philosophy (https://www.philosophybasics.com/movements_poststructuralism.html).
Title: Re: "The Humble Origins of the Abrahamic Religions"
Post by: Shibboleth on September 06, 2019, 03:59:41 PM
I do not believe in free will so when I look at religion and why people believe it I have a real hard time saying that they do because of stupidity. I think at the core people born into certain environments have a completely different ontological view than someone that is an empirical skeptic.
Title: Re: "The Humble Origins of the Abrahamic Religions"
Post by: arthwollipot on September 08, 2019, 08:50:53 PM
Nope. Sesame Street did not exist.

Equivalent children's television, then. My argument does not hinge on the specific example.
Title: Re: "The Humble Origins of the Abrahamic Religions"
Post by: bachfiend on September 08, 2019, 11:16:19 PM

By historical coincidence, the myths, legends, and lore of a Canaanite (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canaan) 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.

‘The Koran probably has the best chance of containing some historicity but probably not much.’  With emphasis on the ‘not much.’  I’ve never read it, but I understand it’s more like a collection of prayers.  It’s not a history of Mohammed (if he existed).  Nor of early Islam.  The earliest biography of Mohammed was written around 150 years after he supposedly lived.
Title: Re: "The Humble Origins of the Abrahamic Religions"
Post by: daniel1948 on September 08, 2019, 11:28:57 PM
Nope. Sesame Street did not exist.

Equivalent children's television, then. My argument does not hinge on the specific example.

There was no "equivalent" children's TV back then. Children's TV was cartoons. Roadrunner killing Wile E. Coyote over and over again. Parakeets outsmarting cats. Bugs Bunny. The Mouse. There was nothing educational, unless maybe the Army McCarthy hearings, which I did not watch. I knew that my step-father could not get a job, but I don't think I understood why. (He was blacklisted.) Carl Sagan's Cosmos didn't come on until I was in my 30's, living in rural North Dakota without a TV.
Title: Re: "The Humble Origins of the Abrahamic Religions"
Post by: arthwollipot on September 08, 2019, 11:36:06 PM
Nope. Sesame Street did not exist.

Equivalent children's television, then. My argument does not hinge on the specific example.

There was no "equivalent" children's TV back then. Children's TV was cartoons. Roadrunner killing Wile E. Coyote over and over again. Parakeets outsmarting cats. Bugs Bunny. The Mouse. There was nothing educational, unless maybe the Army McCarthy hearings, which I did not watch. I knew that my step-father could not get a job, but I don't think I understood why. (He was blacklisted.) Carl Sagan's Cosmos didn't come on until I was in my 30's, living in rural North Dakota without a TV.

My argument does not hinge on a specific example. You and I were immersed in a technologically sophisticated environment from the moment we were born. Our entire development was embedded in a technological society, with all the assumptions and defaults that go along with it. Those people who first considered whether there was an active agency behind seemingly random events developed embedded in nothing but nature. From our modern perspective, we cannot imagine how those people viewed the world.
Title: Re: "The Humble Origins of the Abrahamic Religions"
Post by: daniel1948 on September 09, 2019, 11:14:10 AM
Before Christianity, belief had nothing to do with religion. Religious authorities didn't care whether you believed or not. They cared whether you performed the rituals. Obviously, I can't know what it was really like way back when religion got started, but I'm quite confident that it had nothing to do with belief and everything to do with politics, control, and paying taxes to the authorities, who ran both the civil and the religious institutions. Before Luther, Christians didn't even believe most of the stuff in the Bible. Most of it was seen as allegory. The conflicting accounts of Genesis didn't matter because they were not regarded as history. They were stories. God himself might well have been an allegory rather than a person. Then one doofus comes along who gets pissed about the corruption of the Church, and decides that you're supposed to believe all that crap literally, and people who want to be accepted as part of the group have to pretend that they believe stuff that anybody with two brain cells to rub together can see is nonsense.
Title: Re: "The Humble Origins of the Abrahamic Religions"
Post by: Shibboleth on September 09, 2019, 03:10:30 PM
I have never thought about it before that Christianity was one of the first religions where faith was at its very core.
Title: Re: "The Humble Origins of the Abrahamic Religions"
Post by: arthwollipot on September 09, 2019, 09:06:29 PM
Before Christianity, belief had nothing to do with religion. Religious authorities didn't care whether you believed or not. They cared whether you performed the rituals. Obviously, I can't know what it was really like way back when religion got started, but I'm quite confident that it had nothing to do with belief and everything to do with politics, control, and paying taxes to the authorities, who ran both the civil and the religious institutions. Before Luther, Christians didn't even believe most of the stuff in the Bible. Most of it was seen as allegory. The conflicting accounts of Genesis didn't matter because they were not regarded as history. They were stories. God himself might well have been an allegory rather than a person. Then one doofus comes along who gets pissed about the corruption of the Church, and decides that you're supposed to believe all that crap literally, and people who want to be accepted as part of the group have to pretend that they believe stuff that anybody with two brain cells to rub together can see is nonsense.

Well, as you say, we can't know. But I don't think so. I think that's a maximally cynical approach to the subject. But *shrug* I'm not going to argue about it.
Title: Re: "The Humble Origins of the Abrahamic Religions"
Post by: John Albert on September 10, 2019, 04:52:55 AM
Before Christianity, belief had nothing to do with religion. Religious authorities didn't care whether you believed or not. They cared whether you performed the rituals. Obviously, I can't know what it was really like way back when religion got started, but I'm quite confident that it had nothing to do with belief and everything to do with politics, control, and paying taxes to the authorities, who ran both the civil and the religious institutions.

Do you have any evidence for this claim?

I've read some material that suggests what you describe was pretty much the case in the pre-Constantine Roman Empire, but I don't think it's fair to extrapolate that view to every pre-Christian religion in the world.
Title: Re: "The Humble Origins of the Abrahamic Religions"
Post by: daniel1948 on September 10, 2019, 09:10:36 AM
Before Christianity, belief had nothing to do with religion. Religious authorities didn't care whether you believed or not. They cared whether you performed the rituals. Obviously, I can't know what it was really like way back when religion got started, but I'm quite confident that it had nothing to do with belief and everything to do with politics, control, and paying taxes to the authorities, who ran both the civil and the religious institutions.

Do you have any evidence for this claim?

I've read some material that suggests what you describe was pretty much the case in the pre-Constantine Roman Empire, but I don't think it's fair to extrapolate that view to every pre-Christian religion in the world.

The first two sentences were stuff I picked up from a Teaching Company course. The rest is opinion. You are correct that I cannot know what it was like for every religion. But that was my impression from the course. And (obviously opinion here again) it makes sense to me that it applied in general. Paul seems to have invented out of whole cloth the idea that belief was the thing that mattered. Animistic religions personified aspects of nature, and you solicited their favor with ritual gifts or actions. They may have assumed that you believed, but what mattered were the gifts. Christianity, for the first time (presumably) substituted belief that Christ was the sacrifice, for an actual sacrifice. That is, instead of a gift or sacrifice to God, we appeased the wrath of the divine being by murdering his own son in the most drawn-out and painful way the Roman state could invent. (Yeah, that makes no sense, but neither does anything else about Christianity.)

In Christianity's immediate predecessor, Judaism, what mattered was that you followed an arcane set of idiotic laws.

I'm pretty confident that Christianity is, at the very least, the first religion we know about, where belief rather than ritual actions was what mattered.
Title: Re: "The Humble Origins of the Abrahamic Religions"
Post by: Ah.hell on September 10, 2019, 10:02:41 AM
Given that one of the charges against Socrates was atheism, one suspects that belief or faith along with following the forms was important to at least some of the Greeks.  My brief internet search indicates that this seems to be largely true of most of the polytheistic religions. 

It seems more like the ancients typically didn't make much of a distinction between faith and ritual.  Why wouldn't you do the rituals if you believed? 

And of course within Christianity, there has long been a debate as to which was more important, faith or works and whether works alone can get you into heaven.  Catholics being somewhat in the middle on the matter while protestants seem to go hard one way or they other depending on denomination. 
Title: Re: "The Humble Origins of the Abrahamic Religions"
Post by: Quetzalcoatl on September 10, 2019, 10:51:01 AM
At least some individuals in ancient Greece were sentenced to death for impiety (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Impiety).
Title: Re: "The Humble Origins of the Abrahamic Religions"
Post by: daniel1948 on September 10, 2019, 12:34:21 PM
Impiety is disrespect for the gods. Not disbelief in them.
Title: Re: "The Humble Origins of the Abrahamic Religions"
Post by: John Albert on September 10, 2019, 12:36:55 PM
I don't see any reason to believe Paul was the first guy to come up with the idea that belief was the primary thing that mattered. If I remember correctly, demonstrations of faith were a requirement of some classical mystery cults (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greco-Roman_mysteries).

It seems more likely that Saul was exposed to that idea somewhere in his travels and decided to incorporate it into his version of Christianity. Being a literate Jew and Roman citizen, he simply may have been the first to have written those ideas down for posterity.
Title: Re: "The Humble Origins of the Abrahamic Religions"
Post by: Shibboleth on September 10, 2019, 01:49:48 PM
Given that one of the charges against Socrates was atheism, one suspects that belief or faith along with following the forms was important to at least some of the Greeks.  My brief internet search indicates that this seems to be largely true of most of the polytheistic religions. 

It seems more like the ancients typically didn't make much of a distinction between faith and ritual.  Why wouldn't you do the rituals if you believed? 

And of course within Christianity, there has long been a debate as to which was more important, faith or works and whether works alone can get you into heaven.  Catholics being somewhat in the middle on the matter while protestants seem to go hard one way or they other depending on denomination.

If you are talking about Justification the Catholics reject the idea of any palagianistic view of works. Their belief is more along the lines of, "A good tree will bear good fruit." if someone isn't doing good works there is no way they can have true faith. Effective Grace.
Title: Re: "The Humble Origins of the Abrahamic Religions"
Post by: Ah.hell on September 10, 2019, 02:11:29 PM
If you are talking about Justification the Catholics reject the idea of any palagianistic view of works. Their belief is more along the lines of, "A good tree will bear good fruit." if someone isn't doing good works there is no way they can have true faith. Effective Grace.
I once knew a schismatic babtist who more or less turned that on its head. Something along the lines of only good christians doe good works or something.