Origins of religions
  • Geoff October 2011
    My evolutionary psychologists friends try to tell me that religion started when ancient humans heard unseen rustling in the grass and applied agency to that rustling.

    As we cannot (as yet) time travel, there would seem to be no way we could check this out. It is purely a surmise.

    Perhaps a better surmise would be that early humans had transcendent experiences. We know they had music and art. Could it be that in some of these experiences they met with God.

  • SimonSimon October 2011
    I think our relationship with God evolved in line with our sentience in much the same way that a parent's relationship with a child evolves as the child becomes more sentient. This doesn't necessarily rule out the existence of Adam and Eve, but does suggest that they were more like significant characters like Noah, Abraham or Moses then the very first people to ever walk this planet, or indeed know of God.
  • stevencarrwork October 2011
    'Could it be that in some of these experiences they met with God.'

    Did the Aztecs and Incas also have transcendent experiences, meetings with God etc? I wonder why God met all those people and inspired all those pagan religions that Paul condemned so strongly.

  • SimonSimon October 2011
    Not all Christians maintain that Christianity is the "only way". I certainly maintain it is the "best way" to God, but am not arrogant enough to say that everyone who happens not to be a Christian will automatically by condemned by God. I think God is far more interested in a persons ethics than their ontological leanings.

    Yeah many Christians might disagree with me - bring it on - I'm not afraid of encountering better arguments and changing my views.

  • stevencarrwork October 2011
    So a Muslim who sincerely believes Christians are blasphemers will not be condemned by God?
  • SimonSimon October 2011
    In my view, yes.
  • SimonSimon October 2011
    OK - so a couple people have emailed me asking that I clarify my view:

    1) I like to draw a strong distinction between life on earth and an afterlife. This is because I prefer to worry more about how we should act on earth then what happens to us after we die. Furthermore I think understanding Christian ethics gives us a much better insight into God than worrying endlessly about ontological issues that will never be resolved.

    2) Given this emphasis on ethics, and especially my preference for virtue ethics, I use God as a model for the "ideal" balance of virtues. As benevolence and forgiveness are both virtues, I find it hard to envisage a God who has these virtues condemning people for forming opinions based upon situations that were not of their choosing. Now I appreciate we could get into sticky area concerning free-will & determinism here (which may merit a separate thread), but roughly speaking I think free-will is something we apply to the situations we find ourselves in, and the important thing is to be both sincere AND humble. As such I have no problems thinking that God will approve of a sincere and humble Muslim in the same way as he will a sincere and humble Christian.

    3) So isn't this universalism? - NO. I think Christianity is the best way to know God, however in order to become a Christian you have to encounter Christianity in a fair way. If I was bought up in an entirely Muslim nation, and taught that Christianity was blasphemous and evil (and frankly if you look at the behaviour of some Christians this is not difficult to imagine), then of course I would not be a Christian. This doesn't mean that I think all religions are equal, just that very few people are able to choose their religion based on careful examination of the facts - and God knows this!

    Conclusion - God understands our context better than we do so does not judge us based upon things we have no control over. As we do have control over our sincerity and humility it is these that distinguish the "saved" from the "unsaved" far more than specific doctrinal creeds.