Drill weekend coming and time for philosophy will be relegated by the mud and shouting of orders. There is philosophy, and there is getting the beans and bullets.
As I was shining my boots and pressing the uniform tonight, I was thinking on the questions raised in class (philosophy of religion). I’ve had the flu and so I’m behind on the readings.
Suppose there is no god, why then be good? Such is leveled by many of those I know against the morality of humanists. If there were no threats of an afterlife judgment, then this life people could get away with murder. Morality ultimately is anchored by the religious fact that “someone is always watching”.
But the humanist friend turns around and says that there is no God and we act well (could be better, admittedly) and we do just fine.
So I thought back in time. I watched the series “Rise of Man” where a caveman sees an animal gasp it’s last breath just as his struck-by-lightning sister “comes back to life” and thus is born religion. (they don’t show many disclaimers on these shows that most of this is speculation). Yet what if…
what if there is no god. What if we were to take the question posed to Socrates (I forget by whom) of two men, one just and the other unjust, where Socrates goes to say that it is best to be just. What if we treat civilizations as an organism (as we treat organizations as a singular thing in psychology today). The rate of change would be slow in the past, slow enough to perhaps have genetic implications on the humans that grew up within them. Unlike today’s world where society might change drastically, I am assuming that, aside from armies and changing rulers, societies in the ancient world were much slower to change.
A world without a god might not have anything to impel people to behave. There might not be anything more than “don’t let the chief see me take these palm dates”. In a world where hunger is real and danger is present, survival might come first. Morality often goes out the window when it comes to getting food… I’ve found out.
Let us assume that Socrates was right, that societies that operate with this sort of existence, are not as healthy as those that do. Perhaps I should say Plato instead, since it was Plato that wrote it all down.
Introduce another concept. That is that one function of religion extends outside of the sphere of morality and through it’s use of symbology incorporates real knowledge of how things work. I speak here of agricultural knowledge of planting times and the like. This sort of knowledge is found throughout ancient pagan religions. It is unlikely that ancient farmers on the Nile would write out time tables and DIY’s on when to plant and where. It is more likely in my mind that they elaborate stories rich in symbols would develop that communicated this language.
Perhaps, either through invention of necessity (Socrates spoke of inventing the myth of the mettles in the Republic), or sheer luck, morality became intertwined with these stories. Perhaps C.S. Lewis’s point has something here in that we all want to be treated fairly. Yet this feeling, or need, seems natural to me. Afterall, what dog wants its master to kick it? Watching a group of monkeys, a pack of wolves, or a pride of lions on the Discovery Channel (I love that channel) I have yet to see a glutton for punishment… a monkey, lion, wolkf that was always asking to be bitten by the others. Nope. We all want our share of the food and will take as much as we can get. Humans are clever and can think about the whys and whats… and so we must add a whys and whats to the same impulses.
So over time, the societies that got along together the best, lasted the longest, and people evolved with a need for a god that fitted in nicely with the earlier present need to left the **** alone. Consider that our history goes back much farther than the Egyptians and we’ve been at it for a while. It gets really messy now that we can write and start telling each other that your idea is wrong and mine is right.
Perhaps religion evolved into our societies. I am talking here of meme theories, which seem to hold a lot of promise to me.
Perhaps the time has come for us to evolve something new.