Can religion be based on ritual practice without belief? 

26 Nov

Since the dawn of anthropology, sociology and psychology, religion has been an object of fascination. Founding figures such as Sigmund Freud, Émile Durkheim and Max Weber all attempted to dissect it, taxonomise it, and explore its psychological and social functions. And long before the advent of the modern social sciences, philosophers such as Xenophanes, Lucretius, David Hume and Ludwig Feuerbach have pondered the origins of religion.
In the century since the founding of the social sciences, interest in religion has not waned – but confidence in grand theorising about it has. Few would now endorse Freud’s insistence that the origins of religion are entwined with Oedipal sexual desires towards mothers. Weber’s linkage of a Protestant work ethic and the origins of capitalism might remain influential, but his broader comparisons between the religion and culture of the occidental and oriental worlds are now rightly regarded as historically inaccurate and deeply Euro-centric.

1 Comment

Posted by on November 26, 2016 in Asia


Tags: ,

One response to “Can religion be based on ritual practice without belief? 

  1. tindlerslist

    December 26, 2016 at 3:23 am

    Make no mistake, we humans are not half as special as we have thought ourselves to be over the last few thousand years. Nicolaus Copernicus helped break humankind out of its perspective of being privileged when, in the early 1500s, he proposed that the earth is not the centre of the universe.1 Thereafter, developments in biology have demonstrated humankind’s close anatomic, physiological and genetic affinity to the animal world. We are the consequence of evolutionary biology working on the same genetic raw material as every other species of living organism on the planet. There is no a priori reason why Homo sapiens should be central and special, particularly as it is now clear that we are not the only species of human to have walked the earth.2
    Our brains (and many of our other physical attributes) evolved to allow our early primate ancestors to survive on the African plains. A quick brain was needed to run down prey and avoid predators, and later to understand the passage of the seasons so that crops could be cultivated and harvested. It allowed us to master fire and make stone tools. It allowed us to ask ‘how’ and ‘why’ things worked the way they did. Thought patterns developed which allowed us to form ‘ideas’, and to use them in cooperation with others for the development of ‘organised entities’. Examples are supernatural stories, money, societies. We became so good at this that today we can grapple with complex issues in the world we perceive around us — how the cells within our bodies work, how to probe deep into the cosmos, and why it is the way it is. We can grapple with the profundities of subatomic particles, and ask why they behave quite contrary to some of the laws of physics. In the laboratory, we can create tiny genomes which will support growth and division when inserted into a cell whose own DNA has been removed. We have invented a sophisticated tool to help us — the computer.
    Ever since we began to ask ‘how’ and ‘why’, probably around six million years ago or so, we have in effect been doing science. Science is grounded in discovery, and in hypotheses drawn from the facts we have discovered. Our ancestors more often than not drew a blank when they asked ‘how’ or ‘why’. ‘What causes it to rain?’ ‘Why does the sun come up?’ ‘What makes the seasons change?’ They simply did not have the knowledge or the scientific tools to find out. Yearning to know, they became enslaved to attributing paranormal causes.3,4,5 And from there it is a short jump to begging favours of whoever controls the rainfall, because you have observed that without rain your crops will fail. In short, they invented religion. Humankind is unique in espousing science and religion. No other species on earth does it.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: