Religion as technology (was Why we believe )

From: Nigel Hammersted (
Date: Wed Jul 05 2000 - 13:56:01 MDT

in order to avoid deception i now state that nigel
hammersted is not the name by which i am usually

thus far in our discussion, we have considered the
question of why individual humans are inclined to
believe in spirit. this inclination appears in all
human populations and thus must have arisen early in
the evolution of the species.

let us change our perspective for a moment to view the
human as a social animal and ask what survival value
belief in spirit might have had for early human social
groups. the following characteristics common to most
religions come to mind:

1. the initiated think of their diety as *the* only
legitimate diety;

2. followers of a certain diety tend to look upon
non-followers as lesser humans, or possibly
sub-humans, ie. *this* group following *the* diety is
the only game in town;

3. from 2 follows the dependence of the individual on
the group and his willingness to subdue his individual
preferences in favor of group preferences.

4. if belief in the diety includes belief in an
after-life, followers of the diety are often willing
to sacrifice their effort, assets, or lives for the

5. it is easier for a leader to establish himself as
leader if he can convince his followers that he has a
special relationship with the diety; and

6. the divine guidance of the leader allows him to
more effectively organize and direct the activities of
his followers.

the 6 characteristics listed above would seem to
greatly contribute to the ability of human groups to
pool the resources and abilities of individuals in
fighting other groups. it would also allow for the
formation of a "preistly" elite which might be freed
from the tasks of routine maintenance in order to
pursue their groups version of the arts and sciences.

nigel hammersted

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