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Saturday, 30 April 2016

The origin of beliefs

The first 3 words that came to me while staring at a blank piece of paper and thinking about today's topic - the origin of beliefs - were: fear - belief - love. Both extremes, fear and love, gravitate towards the center: belief. I am fascinated by human belief systems and evolutionary psychology and thus the combination of both makes perfect sense to me.

While researching a different topic - tolerated theft hypothesis - I stumbled on a useful piece of information: "Advocates of the hunting hypothesis tend to believe that tool use and toolmaking essential to effective hunting were an extremely important part of human evolution, and trace the origin of language and [origin of] religion to a hunting context". (Wiki)

While digesting that information, the following diagram appeared in my mind:

I believe in the elegance of simplicity and this diagram feels convincing to me. Let me explain its essence.

The ongoing human survival against the forces of nature - even today - is essential in this diagram. During this survival, we either satisfy our basic needs (eg, food, water, shelter) or we do not (eg, hunger, thirst, no shelter). 

Satisfaction is cause for celebration, a feast with music and dance (also see my blogs on the origin of languages, part one and two) and the worship of the forces of nature. The opposite (ie, mourning) gives similar results.

Wiki: "A number of archeologists propose that Middle Paleolithic societies such as Neanderthal societies may also have practiced early forms of totemism or of animal worship. Emil B├Ąchler in particular suggests (based on archeological evidence from Middle Paleolithic caves) that a widespread Middle Paleolithic Neanderthal bear-cult existed".

The steps from animal worship to multi gods (polytheism) and then towards 1 God (monotheism) make perfect sense to me. I doubt it will stop there. I expect that the current religions will once "merge" into 1 universal religion that will put the Universe as its center. One could argue that the differences between Nature and Universe are far less than the differences between current religions.

A quote from the book (and movie) Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell: "Belief, like fear or love, is a force to be understood as we understand the theory of relativity and principals of uncertainty. Phenomena that determine the course of our lives.”

John Mayer - Belief (2006) - artist, lyrics, video, Wiki-1, Wiki-2

Is there anyone who ever remembers
Changing their mind
From the paint on a sign?
Is there anyone who really recalls
Ever breaking rank at all
For something someone yelled real loud
One time

Oh, everyone believes
In how they think it ought to be
Oh, everyone believes
And they're not going easily

Belief is a beautiful armor
But makes for the heaviest sword
Like punching under water
You never can hit who you're trying for

Some need the exhibition
And some have to know they tried
It's the chemical weapon
For the war that's raging on inside

Oh, everyone believes
From emptiness to everything
Oh, everyone believes
And no one's going quietly

We're never gonna win the world
We're never gonna stop the war
We're never gonna beat this if belief is what we're fighting for

(Is there anyone who you can remember
Who ever surrendered
With their life on the line?)

We're never gonna win the world
We're never gonna stop the war
We're never gonna beat this if belief is what we're fighting for

What puts a hundred thousand children in the sand?
Belief can
Belief can
What puts the folded flag inside his mother's hand?
Belief can
Belief can

Hat tip to ASK for suggesting this song with its beautiful lyrics!

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