Skip to main content

Conventional wisdom of many on the progressive side of politics and social change is that religion, particularly Christianity, is a key source of our culture’s problems if not evil in general.  John Lennon’s classic song "Imagine" conjures a utopian world that would be free of this supposed source of division and strife.  Many people more on the conservative side of things do not share that concern about the Christian faith and its practice, but see Islam in that same sort of negative light.  My take is that neither (nor religion in general) is a source of hate, war and oppression, actually came into being to promote love and humanistic ideals, but have been manipulated as tools of a much older ideology of domination and "us and them" thinking that some would call "Patriarchy".

Now I am no more or less a half-baked amateur religious historian than many others, but I come to this opinion after a fair amount of study and thought, including reading Riane Eisler’s The Chalice and the Blade and Sacred Pleasures, Karen Armstrong’s A History of God, The Battle for God and Holy War, Lawrence and Nancy Goldstone’s Out of the Flames, plus other tracts on history and how it has interacted with religious theology.  So take my theorem for what it’s worth and with a grain (or even a pillar...*g*) of salt of course, but here goes...

My working theory is based around the premise that the Axial Age (that thousand years between 800 BCE and 200 CE) as coined by 20th Century German philosopher Karl Jaspers, and described by him (per Wikipedia) as in fact "an interregnum between two ages of great empire, a pause for liberty, a deep breath bringing the most lucid consciousness".  Without any apparent connection or cross-pollenization, great philosophers emerged and their philosophies were codified in religious thought and practice that still play a key role in contemporary societies and cultures throughout the world.  During this period we see the emergence of philosophers like Buddha, Confucius, Jesus and Plato and an array of religions – Judaism, Hinduism, Christianity, Buddhism, Confucianism, and Zoroastrianism – that two millennia later have over a billion adherents.

Prior to this age, there is plenty of archeological and written historical evidence of domination, violence and hate reflected in archeological digs from that period along with other historical records.  Most noted in standard ancient history textbooks are the various Babylonian, Assyrian and other empires that arose in the Fertile Crescent (in modern-day Iraq) and conquered neighboring areas plus similar militaristic practices by smaller and more nomadic tribes on the fringes of the more settled fertile valleys around the Mediterranean Sea.  Eisler in particular (based on the archeological work of Marija Gimbutas and others) paints a scary picture of an age of unmitigated violence and domination, the various dominator cultures celebrating the strength of warlords (whether human or deity) and the destructive power of "the blade".

But we humans are ever evolving, and maybe the great Golden Rule and "love thy fellow man" (if not women) thinkers of the Axial Age were the "progressive" activists of their own era trying to inspire the best in the human character rather than the worst, advocating codes of practice like the Ten Commandments or Confucian teaching, in an attempt to mitigate the prevailing hierarchical "command and control" by any means necessary prevailing conventional wisdom of the period.  Certainly if one looks at the surviving tales of the actions and words of the Jewish prophets of this period, Jesus or Buddha, there is no hint of the "us and them" justification of violence or conversion at the point of a sword that characterized certainly the organized practice of the Christian religion with its Crusades and Inquisitions during the Middle Ages.

Focusing particularly on Western history (which I am more familiar with) it was an emperor like Constantine I who was not born a Christian but essentially adopted and molded the religion as a tool for building and maintaining his Roman/Byzantine empire.  It was perhaps emblematic of the end of Jaspers’ Axial Age and the use of its progressive thought for a perhaps far less noble purpose of control and domination.  

In 325 CE Constantine convened the Council of Nicaea, a gathering of Christian bishops within his empire charged with coming to consensus on a version of Christian thought that would become his state religion.  One of the thorny questions they wrestled with was whether Jesus was born human or an aspect of God.  This was more than an esoteric theological question.  If Jesus were a human who achieved godhood then would not other people within Constantine’s control aspire to likewise challenge secular authority as the Gospels told that Jesus did?  But if Jesus was born an aspect of God (the "son" of the "father, son and holy spirit") then his perfection was unattainable by muggle humans who, in all things, needed to listen to their more enlightened authority figures.

Islam, though founded four centuries after the Axial Age, grew out the same innovative and humanistic ideas that spawned the other Abrahamic religions, repackaged in the Arabic language for the peoples of that region.  In the early centuries of its spread and influence it encouraged great scientific thinking, while Christian Europe was plunged in its Dark Ages.  Later the religion, like Christianity before it, would become be co-opted as a tool of secular empire building and control and would develop its own dysfunctional hierarchies to exercise control.

In the same vein, the Huns, Goth, Vandals and other militaristic tribes that invaded, conquered in settled in the areas that would eventually become modern Europe adopted Christianity and torqued its Golden Rule turning a loving Jesus into their metaphorical warlord justifying later Medieval massacres of Jews and repeated bloody Crusades against the equally infidel Muslims.  Though still bearing its founder’s pseudonym (Christ-ianity) this was no longer any ethical or spiritual practice of "turn the other cheek" that that founder could possibly recognize or endorse.

In my take this was pure unadulterated Patriarchy, power-over domination and control being exercised by male warlords using this religion to give them supposed justification from the Father God in the sky for very unethical behavior.  The warlord’s torque of the Golden Rule was to say that I do the bidding of the Father in the sky, so my serfs and vassals in turn must do mine.  If the emerging infrastructure of Christianity had not been available, these tribal leaders would have just as easily built a justification for their absolute rule around the Olympian, Norse or other deities, anything that would give them the bonafides of themselves answering to a higher power.

Move the historical time line forward to the Protestant Reformation that launched the Modern Era.  A Papal hierarchy controlled Rome, the Roman Church, and its lucrative "franchising" of cardinals and bishops throughout Europe, using that funding source for wars and orgies and other very worldly indulgences of the rich and powerful.  In my mind this was patriarchal hierarchy building, masquerading as the religion of Jesus and his disciples.  This corruption was called out as anything but Christian by the monk Lutherwho perhaps naively thought this was still the "meek shall inherit the earth" ideology that the carpenter from Nazareth had originally called out.

This reinvigorated "reformed" Christianity, both Protestant and Catholic, looks to have played a positive role in challenging dogmatic thinking generally and perhaps helping clear the path for a flowering of scientific and other more secular thought, an age of exploration, free enterprise and budding egalitarianism.  The dark side of this new era was that exploration led to exploitation of the indigenous people seen as inferior and industrial enterprise led in many cases to turning autonomous individuals into interchangeable cogs in the mechanization of society.  I see the whole Calvinist theological concept of "election" torqued by the industrial barons (the modern equivalents to the ancient and feudal warlords) into a religious justification for a return to secular domination and control.

Perhaps I am trying to paint with too epic a brush for an effective four-page essay.  Getting back to what I started to try to say here, I think our progressive cause is poorly served by painting religion as the antagonist in our struggle for a more humanistic and caring society.   I would put forward that our main antagonist instead is Patriarchy, the exaltation of the stern, controlling father figure and male-centric hierarchical thinking.  This ancient worldview that held perhaps unmitigated sway before the Axial Age continues to be a path of least resistance for people who wield power, whether justified at the moment in religious or secular ideology.

Though I am not a believer in god myself (though I am comfortable around believers) and I try to rationalize deities as a metaphor for some deeper level of transcending mystery that we can not fully grasp.  But I would not be surprised, like in the 1960s with the Civil Rights movement, if inspiration for progressive thought, action and evolution is yet to come from new or reinvigorated religious doctrines.  This, as we continue to challenge what I see as the real culprit, this ancient ideology of the power-over hierarchy built aroung the stern father figure.  Until we acknowledge that true source that stands in the way of our progressive principles and efforts, I believe we will be just tilting at windmills.

Originally posted to leftyparent on Sat Jul 10, 2010 at 12:57 PM PDT.

EMAIL TO A FRIEND X
Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags

?

More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

  •  Ummmm..... I might be. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    tiponeill, ZedMont

    "But I would not be surprised, like in the 1960s with the Civil Rights movement, if inspiration for progressive thought, action and evolution is yet to come from new or reinvigorated religious doctrines."

    With respect to the LGBT community, if they're going to show up, they need to start 40 years ago.

    Organized religion in America has often been, and has the hope of being again, a tremendous source of promoting civil rights. But in my personal neck of the woods, on the whole (with many fine exceptions), it has a lot to answer for.

    Good food for thought, though, even though I'm contrary, I'm tipping/rec'ing.  Thanks.

  •  I think of "religion" in two ways. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ms badger, Angela Quattrano

    On the one hand the ideals of the historical religious figures are admirable and mostly humanistic.

    But then the reality is that those same historical religious figures have been mythologized to the extent that their ideals are reduced to irrelevance.  In other words the myth is the message.

    Example:  How often do you hear Christians urge each other to sell what they have and give to the poor, or to invite the dregs of society into their homes, feed them, clothe them, and treat them with the same respect they would a sports hero, for example?

    No, what you hear is how if you only believe in this pagan-inspired one god that is actually three gods in one, then at the sound of a trumpet some day you will float up into the sky (not sure which galaxy is the destination) and you will be saved to live forever, where you can look down upon your less fortunate neighbors who are still stuck on earth being tortured to death by some apocalyptic jabberwockyish creature as a prelude to their eventual eternal damnation in a lake of fire (courtesy of their loving god, of course).  Schadenfreude is apparently optional, but don't try to tell that to the Westboro Baptist Church.

    So, in a purely abstract sense, religion is rather benign and potentially a benefit to society.  But the reality of what it is in practice...not so much.

    Patriarchy may figure in the devolution of religion, but it was also the precursor and catalyst for it in the first place.  Chicken or egg.

    "A man of true science uses but few hard words, and those only when none other will answer his purpose..." - Melville

    by ZedMont on Sat Jul 10, 2010 at 01:21:25 PM PDT

    •  My reading is that religions arose to mitigate... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      ZedMont, seethruit

      patriarchy, not to perpetuate it.  Thus the great flowering of thought and humanistic ideas around each new religious ideology or its significant reinvigoration (like the Protestant Reformation).  My ideas come mainly from reading Eisler's The Chalice and the Blade and Armstrong's A History of God

      I'm just trying to say that vilifying religion as the culprit, alienates us from so many positive people who resonate with those religious ideologies rather that calling out the real antagonist.

      Cooper Zale Los Angeles http://www.leftyparent.com

      by leftyparent on Sat Jul 10, 2010 at 01:30:44 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I'm not vilifying it. I'm just saying (0+ / 0-)

        religion is as religion does.  

        Read "The Jesus Sayings:  The Quest For His Authentic Message," by Rex Weyler, and what I'm trying to say will become crystal clear.  You will not be bored and you will come away with a far greater appreciation of Jesus than you ever imagined based on what you hear from a pulpit.

        "A man of true science uses but few hard words, and those only when none other will answer his purpose..." - Melville

        by ZedMont on Sat Jul 10, 2010 at 01:45:03 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I might add that Jesus dedicated his life to (0+ / 0-)

          leveling the playing field vis a vis patriarchy, but his message was hijacked and patriarchy was institutionalized.

          "A man of true science uses but few hard words, and those only when none other will answer his purpose..." - Melville

          by ZedMont on Sat Jul 10, 2010 at 01:47:31 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  That is my point... let's call out the real... (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            dorkenergy, ZedMont, Arakiba

            enemy here, the wisdom of a great person being turned into a religion of the Father by a cult of the Father figure.

            Cooper Zale Los Angeles http://www.leftyparent.com

            by leftyparent on Sat Jul 10, 2010 at 01:56:58 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  slight mod to bring out that point even more (0+ / 0-)

              clearly to those who might otherwise miss it (even though it's in your first para.):

              My take is that neither (nor religion in general) is a source of hate, war and oppression, actually came into being to promote love and humanistic ideals These religions have been manipulated as tools of a much older ideology of domination and "us and them" thinking that some would call "Patriarchy".

              ambiguity is okay--if you know what I mean

              by dorkenergy on Sat Jul 10, 2010 at 03:17:22 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  So you agree with my premise here? (0+ / 0-)

                Cooper Zale Los Angeles http://www.leftyparent.com

                by leftyparent on Sat Jul 10, 2010 at 03:20:29 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  largely, though my preference is (0+ / 0-)

                  to recognize complexity and not adopt any reduced conclusion as dogma.

                  I'm not as interested in the "truth" as I am in how we can most efficiently and effectively develop and use tools to advance our communal goals. So, I very much appreciate your exploration of this issue in the diary and your engagement in the comments.

                  ambiguity is okay--if you know what I mean

                  by dorkenergy on Sat Jul 10, 2010 at 04:03:30 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  I like your preference, to look for what works... (0+ / 0-)

                    and not get caught up in overarching grand conclusions.  When it comes to religion I urge people to look at the details and analyze on a case by case (or perhaps denomination by denomination) basis.

                    Cooper Zale Los Angeles http://www.leftyparent.com

                    by leftyparent on Mon Jul 12, 2010 at 06:18:54 PM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

        •  I hear about Jesus from a UU pulpit... (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          ZedMont

          as more guru or rabbi than godhead.  But I will try to check out the book some day.  But for the sake of discussion here can you synopsize Weyler's work in a paragraph or two?

          Cooper Zale Los Angeles http://www.leftyparent.com

          by leftyparent on Sat Jul 10, 2010 at 01:54:40 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Basically, he said what you heard from (0+ / 0-)

            the pulpit.  Many biblical scholars - maybe most - now believe Jesus never said many of the things attributed to him in the NT.  Jesus comes across in the NT as two distinct personalities, one humble and wise, even self-effacing, and the other a strident god demanding to be worshipped.

            Evidence far too detailed to cite here says he is one or the other, and it isn't the latter.  The oldest manuscripts indicate he was a wise cynic and a typical first-century faith healer whose mission was to change the way people relate to earthly authority and to each other (Faith healing worked then exactly like it does now).

            Clearly, he was a Jew, but a Galilean Jew, much more worldly than a Judean Jew.  By Judean standards he was rebellious toward the faith, which is what got him into trouble.  

            The book convincingly makes the case that references to Jesus as a deity were the inventions of gentile (Greek) Christians who put words in his mouth decades after he had died.  There are existing mythological traces throughout the NT.  For example, the idea of eating Jesus' flesh and drinking his blood, or the idea of the trinity, would have been literal anathema to a Jew, but quite in line with Greek mythology.  The virgin birth also had prior mythological roots.

            The trinity was not actually formally introduced into church doctrine until the third century, when Tertullian declared it truth.  Even so, the trinity did not appear in pre-Latin Greek editions of the bible.  It was actually not until the 16th century that the doctrine was introduced into the bible by revising an ancient Greek manuscript, based on a scribe's marginal note.  

            By the way, my favorite bible story, the one about Jesus shaming the crowd that was about to stone an adulteress, does not appear in the earliest manuscripts.  It was added after the fact by who knows.  Great story, though.

            One of the most fascinating books I've ever read, with a burgeoning bibliography that I look forward to exploring.

            "A man of true science uses but few hard words, and those only when none other will answer his purpose..." - Melville

            by ZedMont on Sat Jul 10, 2010 at 02:39:52 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Thanks for sharing your synopsis... (0+ / 0-)

              Its a good pitch to read the book.  I find it fascinating learning more about the different "schools" of editors who compiled the various sections and versions of the Bible that exist today and what their agendas were, often at cross purposes.

              Like the fact that their are two pretty incompatible creation stories, one where Adam and Eve were created in God's image, the other where Eve came from Adam's rib.

              Cooper Zale Los Angeles http://www.leftyparent.com

              by leftyparent on Sat Jul 10, 2010 at 03:25:38 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

      •  Whoa! "to mitigate" Really? (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Angela Quattrano, Arakiba

        My sense is that Sky Pilot has traditionally been of the great utility in justifying whatever tribal traditions are prevalent among The People. (aka: Human Beings)

        In tribes where the mens be large and in charge, Yaweh and his Holy Writ sez that's just how it's got to be.

        Funny coincidence, that.

        •  Really!... that's my take based on my reading... (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          ZedMont

          of Riane Eisler and Karen Armstrong.  Armstrong's point is that religions catch on because they serve a real need for human evolution, and they die away or transform when they no longer serve that need.  Now I guess you are arguing is the need they serve is top-down control, but I don't think people are such sheep as that, they need more out of their ethical underpinnings.

          Cooper Zale Los Angeles http://www.leftyparent.com

          by leftyparent on Sat Jul 10, 2010 at 02:27:02 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  re: (0+ / 0-)

            However they come about, alot of religions continue existing to keep those in charge still in charge.

            •  I think they have to deliver something to... (0+ / 0-)

              their "customers" as well.  Some sense of that transcending mystery of life, of like-minded community or of familiar ritual or communal agency.  Something!

              Cooper Zale Los Angeles http://www.leftyparent.com

              by leftyparent on Sat Jul 10, 2010 at 11:53:42 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

          •  I think your examination is couched deep within (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Angela Quattrano

            and predicated upon the framework of faith and religion. I don't think anything very surprising or useful can come of that. It's like studying X-rays from within a strict Newtonian framework.

            "a real need for human evolution"? Weird. Whose need, and why is it a "need?"

            For that matter, what sort of things can we expect from our "ethical underpinnings?" High fiber? Better mileage? Tastes great and is less filling?

            My favorite theory was put forward not long ago by Richard Dawkins. To paraphrase wildly, he suggested that listening to the old wise ones of the tribe has some utility when they tell you not to eat the purple berries. But old wise ones worldwide are apparently inexorable about then proceeding to tell us about why the Sacred Turtle made the purple berries to trick the earth Children of Wyo the Magic Rabbit into surrendering their spirits...

            Religion: one part unanswerable questions and nine parts total BS.

            •  I would suggest that you are failing to... (0+ / 0-)

              understand the metaphorical power of that turtle story or other stories of mythology and magic beyond our muggle existence.  People need some sense of deeper layers beyond complete comprehension.  I think I'm beginning to reach that age myself of some significant age and hopefully some wisdom in it, and hopefully I have something to contribute to the human discussion about what appears to be important.

              Good question though about why evolution is a human need?  Don't really know why... it just feels right to me.  Nothing else seems to matter enough.

              So what's your take as to what its all about?

              Cooper Zale Los Angeles http://www.leftyparent.com

              by leftyparent on Sun Jul 11, 2010 at 12:02:17 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Spirituality is a biochemical state of the brain (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                prfb

                Religions exist to exploit that for political gain. They are used by those in power to justify the power structure and convince those who are exploited that it is God's will that they not start a revolt.

                The idea that Jesus existed is not well substantiated. Only two contemporary references exist, and they are suspect of interpolation. Compare this with John the Baptist, of whom many first person stories exist.

                It is a mistake to consider a sacred scripture to be even an inaccurate representation of historical events.

                "Too big to fail" is not too big to jail.

                by Angela Quattrano on Sun Jul 11, 2010 at 07:41:18 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  I think of sacred scriptures as capturing... (0+ / 0-)

                  mythological tales that convey important shared values.  That is what I have gleaned from reading Karen Armstrong.  

                  I see that you are a person, like my mom, who feels that religion is a wholly malevolent force in the world.  I have come to not feel that way.  I have seen a lot that is inspirational and life-sustaining in the religious experience of others I have know, including my partner Sally's family who are Jews.  There religion has been an important source for them, with its laws and its rituals, to inspire them to be progressive activists.  How can I eradicate that by saying all religion is a crock?

                  Cooper Zale Los Angeles http://www.leftyparent.com

                  by leftyparent on Sun Jul 11, 2010 at 09:30:24 AM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  Well, it may be time to "grow up" a little bit (0+ / 0-)

                    as a Gaian society: the old wise ones may have it right about the purple berries and still be full of shinola about the rest of it. Tribes without refrigerators may have been right to eschew the pork and the shellfish, but...

                    I love mystification as much as the next guy: yay Harry Potter! And Joseph Campbell and Karl Jung: let's go spelunking into the murky depths of the human self and see what's lurking there.

                    But let's recognize, please, that Ms. Rowling may be an unreliable guide to life, the universe, and everything. At that, at least she's honest about the fact -- unlike certain old men in Rome and Liberty University.

                    And religion is a force for good or bad just about the same as people without religion are... except that "faith" seems to pre-condition many to Act without really thinking things through or accepting any personal responsibility for their actions. She's a witch, after all...

                    I have no quarrel with asking questions, or with living one's life according to precepts that I may personally find fabulistic or absurd. I do have a major problem with people acting as if they KNOW answers and thus deserve to dictate the permissable to everyone else. Religion has too often served as impediment to truth and progress.

                    •  I think we have common ground at least... (1+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      dorkenergy

                      on your last paragraph.  As a big believer in "many paths", I have a big problem with people dictating the "right" way to educate oneself, or attain some sort of enlightenment and understanding of the transcending mysteries of life including why we are here.

                      Dissing religion completely seems to be advocating for one non-religious path perhaps, saying that their chosen path is fundamentally invalid, the same thing we don't like them doing with us.  The Golden Rule tells me to look more closely as what the various religions have to offer in hope that those religious folks will look more closely at my more humanist path and accept it as well.

                      Cooper Zale Los Angeles http://www.leftyparent.com

                      by leftyparent on Sun Jul 11, 2010 at 12:47:37 PM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

  •  I don't believe in an "Axial Age" (5+ / 0-)

    First, because the term and time period are too vague to mean anything;

    Second, because I don't think that there are fewer great religious thinkers now than in the past;

    Third, because the people who are now looked on as great religious founders were all doing something rather different from each other.

    Confucius, for instance, was trying to stabilize a fragmenting society by establishing norms of behavior and conduct which were probably fairly novel but which he believed, or purported to believe, had been the norms of an ideal past.

    Zarathushtra and his cultural context are very poorly known, but the best guess is that he had experienced a religious revelation, and worked with great tenacity to spread it, permanently altering the beliefs, culture, ethics, and even language of the Iranic peoples.

    Shakyamuni Buddha worked out of the already-existing shramana (ascetic) tradition of ancient India, and attempted to refound that tradition on a more solid ethical and philosophical basis. His success was probably due to his method's simplicity, its (relatively) moderate demands on the human constitution, and his willingness to find a place for laypeople in his movement.

    We don't know exactly what Jesus was doing -- he may have been a revolutionary firebrand whose image was softened up by his successors in order to avoid confrontations with the Romans, or he himself may have tried to redirect angry political passions into a spiritual sphere.  His message was, in either case, far from universal, but very much focused on the conditions and problems of 1st century Palestinian Jews; it would satisfy neither the advocates of the "Liberal Jesus" nor the "Conservative Jesus" -- nor pretty much anyone else.

    Muhammad's goals were also as much political as religious, but his problems were different; the Arabs of his time were between two great but tired Empires, dominated by neither one; they were increasing in population and martially skilled, but divided by deep internal antagonisms.  Muhammad was to create a revolutionary party that would overthrow the old divisions, start at Zero Hour with a new religious ideology, and redirect all allegiances to himself, his family, and his followers.

    So we have reactionaries, reformers, revolutionaries; people motivated by inspiration and meditation; spiritual, ethical, political concerns; what do they really have in common except (looking backwards) immense social effect?  And don't we unfairly discount those many would-be prophets whose voices were little-heard in their own day and who, by the accidents of history, remain largely, or altogether, unknown?

    •  Thanks for all that religious history... (0+ / 0-)

      So discounting the "Axial Age" idea, given your educated view, what is your take on my premise that religion is not the issue, patriarchy is?

      Cooper Zale Los Angeles http://www.leftyparent.com

      by leftyparent on Sat Jul 10, 2010 at 01:34:13 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I'm not sure what you mean (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        gsenski, ZedMont

        Due to male dominance in most literate, urban societies down to recent times, pretty much all major religions have been patriarchal from their beginnings -- either entirely male-dominated, or allowing women at most a subordinate role.  Constantine didn't make Christianity patriarchal; it was already patriarchal when he got there.  (And the decisions of the Council of Nicaea had a lot more to do with internal politics among the (all-male) Christian bishops than with deeply meaningful theological issues; the formulations quarreled over are 99% identical, but the remaining 1% allowed important episcopal sees, like Alexandria or Antioch, to assert predominance over the others.)

        Constantine's conversion did affect Christianity, but not so much due to his own beliefs, as because access to state power gave factions within Christianity the power to crush their rivals.  But that wouldn't have been an issue if they had not already been divided by schism and filled with hatred and bitterness toward one another.

        •  Its the forces behind Nicaea that I want to... (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          dorkenergy

          out.  As you say it was a political agenda of dominance and control that only coincidentally involved Christianity because it was the hot new ideology in Constantin's empire.  It could just as easily have been some completely different ideology to the same effect.

          There is a lot of positive progressive energy in people who resonate with Christianity.  I don't want to lose them as allies by tilting at the windmill of their religion while the real culprit lies deeper.

          Cooper Zale Los Angeles http://www.leftyparent.com

          by leftyparent on Sat Jul 10, 2010 at 02:02:09 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Some of my best friends are Christians (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            dorkenergy, ZedMont, godlessheathen

            Sorry, I couldn't resist. :)  Although it's true...

            I agree that patriarchy is a big problem, for Christianity and most religions; which some are dealing with well, and some not so well.  In general, religions tend to be conservative, and thus it takes more oomph than in other social venues to get religions to change.

            It's often not just patriarchy that's at the core of the problem (though patriarchy is a common manifestation).  Rather, it's a problem of power, and symbols of power, and representations and representatives of power.  If your core idea of religion (and this is by no means true of all religions) is one of a commanding deity who expresses himself in terms of absolute rules without exceptions, then you're going to have (and expect) religious professionals to act as commanding figures who state and enforce those rules, because they act on behalf of that deity.  And if, as is usually the case, all the representatives of the deity are male, then -- not at all coincidentally -- those rules are going to favor men and repress women.  But the issues aren't just about gender roles; they're about all forms of power and privilege.

            The good news is that not every Christian or every theist has this concept of a commanding, monarchical deity, and many are open to reconsidering old rules and behaviors.  Unfortunately, many of them have to attend churches run by people who have much more simplistic notions, and can't express themselves without being shouted down, accused of trying to water down religion so that they can indulge in sin.  The Anglicans, for instance, are currently facing the prospect of splitting over very different views of power and the role of the church -- in which women's rights and gay rights are the fulcra of discussion, but where the deeper questions are "Who gets to run things?" and "does anybody get to dissent?"

            •  Good points about religion and power... (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              dorkenergy

              It is the hierarchical power-over control model that we are talking about.  The "flavor" of this practiced for the past five millennia is generally built around the cult of the stern Father figure.

              And I agree with you that religious institutions tend to lag (relative to political, economic and family) in this transition from hierarchy to egalitarian organization.  I find it interesting that education is also one of those lagging institutions, so difficult to change.

              Thanks for the comment!

              Cooper Zale Los Angeles http://www.leftyparent.com

              by leftyparent on Sat Jul 10, 2010 at 02:33:51 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

        •  male dominance (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          prfb

          Regarding 'male dominance in most literate, urban societies down to recent times'...it has nothing to do with male superiority, or men being "better" than women, as some in the patriarchal religions believe.  It's much simpler than that -- it's all about imposing the will of one part of humanity on another part..."power over", as Eisler would say.  First it was physical power (fists, then weapons); and later it was governmental and religious power.  Keeping women controlled through physical violence (or threats of it), then add in laws that kept them second class citizens, along with doctrines that told both men and women that women were inferior.  And speaking out against one of these laws or religious doctrines could lead back to the old standby, violence.  

          Religion and patriarchy -- two not-so-great tastes that taste even worse together.

          •  Its exercising as you say power over someone... (0+ / 0-)

            and all the bad stuff that goes with it.  Though I'm basically an atheist myself, I think religion is redeemable... patriarchy is not.  Your tag line makes me think you probably don't agree.

            Cooper Zale Los Angeles http://www.leftyparent.com

            by leftyparent on Sun Jul 11, 2010 at 12:10:15 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •   nothing in history suggests religion is redeemab (0+ / 0-)

              and I wonder why you care so much, when the trend is that is it (gradually, and slower than would be good for humanity) just going away.

              What is the great value of religion that you seek to "redeem" it, and what would a "redeemed" religion look like?

              And how would that be superior to being "basically an atheist"?

              You sound like you are unhappy to be an atheist, otherwise why this desire to defend and "redeem" religion?

              Always make new mistakes - Esther Dyson

              by RandomActsOfReason on Sun Jul 11, 2010 at 10:58:33 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  I agree with you on the trend, but... (0+ / 0-)

                we probably have at least 50 to 100 years of this sort of right-wing religious practice before generational change begins to hopefully diminish its influence.  But I think some of the more progressive, eastern and new-age religious denominations may well be with us after that.  There has been a Jewish religious/ethnic culture for several thousand years now, I would imagine it will be with us for centuries to come.  And who knows... Buddhism and metaphysical practices around Yoga and Qigong may catch on in a larger sense which people will then build worship routines around.

                I'd much rather encourage religious practice to evolve than keep trying to discourage it from existing at all.  Best to let things live or die of their own volition rather than trying to publish a premature epitaph, and give folks a cause to prove you wrong.

                I guess the value may be in building community larger than the family unit and maybe for folks who don't have existing or supportive family units.  My participation in the UU religion has been a great developmental experience for me and particularly my kids, and I have made great friends besides.

                Cooper Zale Los Angeles http://www.leftyparent.com

                by leftyparent on Mon Jul 12, 2010 at 06:30:26 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

  •  You lost me at "religion is not the problem" (8+ / 0-)

    Always make new mistakes - Esther Dyson

    by RandomActsOfReason on Sat Jul 10, 2010 at 01:34:24 PM PDT

    •  That's what I'm afraid of... but say more about.. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      dorkenergy

      your thinking on religion.  Even my mom thought it to be the source of most evil in the world.  That was the humanist university milieu that I grew up in and I guess am attempting to move beyond.

      Cooper Zale Los Angeles http://www.leftyparent.com

      by leftyparent on Sat Jul 10, 2010 at 01:37:00 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Isn't the attempt to "move beyond" the truth (6+ / 0-)

        a pretty bad idea?

        All evil needs to succeed is for good people to say "the votes aren't there in the Senate."

        by Jacques on Sat Jul 10, 2010 at 01:52:49 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Well, as you yourself say in your comment, (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        prfb, KathleenM1, gsenski, dorkenergy

        you are basically reacting emotionally to something you were taught as a child.

        Why not start by looking at the evidence, and then following it wherever it goes - regardless of whether the conclusions are comfortable or not, regardless of whether or not they match your existing beliefs or biases or worldview, no matter where the facts lead, that is what reality is.

        To ignore the fact that religion is a factor, and has been a factor, in nearly every violent conflict in the world, either as a primary cause or as a factor in exacerbating conflict or as a barrier to resolution or as a perpetuating influence, is as contrafactual as claiming that religion is The source of "evil" (which is, basically, a religious term) in the world.

        There are, of course, many factors that lead to the choice to resolve conflict with violence, but religion certainly has some role in the mix.

        Why not examine what inherent characteristics in religion lend itself to abuse, extremism and authoritarian hierarcy?

        Why not examine what the fundamental (pun intended) flaw is in any worldview that believes it knows THE Answer, THE Truth - including the notion that "Patriarchy Is The Problem"?

        Surely Margaret Thatcher, Sarah Palin, Phyllis Shlafly, Sherry Angle, et al, should disabuse anyone of the notion that the world would be a utopia if only women were in charge.

        Organized religion is an inherently hierarchical, authoritarian system, premised on the notion that wisdom, morality and laws are handed down from elsewhere, rather than independently and collaboratively derived by, of and for humans. Nothing in that statement presumes male domination, necessarily.

        Always make new mistakes - Esther Dyson

        by RandomActsOfReason on Sat Jul 10, 2010 at 02:01:49 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  You make great points for argument... (4+ / 0-)

          Thanks for elaborating on your earlier terse comment!

          Here is my take on each of your points...

          1. The evidence as I see it points to the problem emerging before the advent of these religions and continuing in even secular societies.  I see no instance of an egalitarian society turned hierarchical by religious practice, I see only the reverse, a hierarchic society turning an initially egalitarian religion into a tool that suits that hierarchy.
          1. But I agree religion plays a role in the mix, but as tool and not the wielder of the tool.
          1. Every ideology, every technique lends itself to abuse.  No human invention is abuse proof.
          1. The opposite of a patriarchal hierarchy is not a matriarchal one.  That would be equally negative.  The alternative is an egalitarian circle of equals.  Thatcher, Palin & Shlafly are just participating in and promoting that hierarchical structure.
          1. Organized religion is not inherently hierarchical.  Look at Buddhists and Quakers, Unitarian-Universalist and Jews (post destruction of the Temple).  These are very egalitarian religious systems.  Most cultures are inherently hierarchical, so all the ideologies and techniques they resonate to will be adapted to maintain that hierarchy.

          Good discussion Randomactsofreason... would love your further thoughts.

          Cooper Zale Los Angeles http://www.leftyparent.com

          by leftyparent on Sat Jul 10, 2010 at 02:18:35 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Just a couple points: (5+ / 0-)

            Every ideology, every technique lends itself to abuse.  No human invention is abuse proof.

            Some tools have greater propensity for abuse than others, and the potential damage each can cause is not equal.

            Plates and dishes made from uranium ore are inherently more harmful than those made of silica glass.

            Bombs tend to destroy more than bridges. Bridges tend to connect people.

            It's a cop out to say, "well, anything can be abused". That is the classic argument made against abolishing nuclear weapons - "well, we'd fight with sticks and stones if we had to". All the sticks and all the stones in the world cannot produce a fraction of the destructive power of a single nuclear exchange betweeen, say, India and Pakistan.

            Organized religion is not inherently hierarchical.  Look at Buddhists and Quakers, Unitarian-Universalist and Jews (post destruction of the Temple).  These are very egalitarian religious systems.  Most cultures are inherently hierarchical, so all the ideologies and techniques they resonate to will be adapted to maintain that hierarchy.

            All of those systems share the notion that some truth is "out there", that there is a particular way to go about reaching it, and that "It" is defined in certain terms. None of those systems say, "hell, we don't know, it's up to people to figure things out" - not even Buddhism, which really isn't an organized religion in the traditional meaning of the term.

            By the way, the versions of Buddhism that are more like organized religions - and which have, arguably, more adherents in the world today than the minority nontheistic, non-doctrinaire, Dalai Lama version that so appeals to the West -  are just as guilty of perpetuating injustice, hate and violence as Western religions. If you think it is only Hindus attacking Buddhists, and not the other way around, you haven't read the news from the Indian subcontinent recently.

            As for Jews, having lived for 13 years in Jerusalem, Israel, the notion that Jews are somehow non-hierarchical and non-authoritarian in their religion is rather laughable.

            The only reason most of the American Jews you encounter aren't like that is because a) they have no political power in the US, and b) most people who call themselves "Jews" in the US consider themselves cultural Jews, not religious Jews.

            As for Quakers and Unitarian-Universalists - find me one of their congregations whose primary message is "our philosophy is potentially just as wrong as any other, in fact, all evidence suggests there is nothing beyond the material world, so you might be completely wasting your time in our rituals", and I'll consider your claim.

            All religions, even the most liberal and questioning, have core assumptions that are not subject to disproof and about which doubt is not welcome.

            Many years ago, under another screen name, I asked the now-celebrity, but then just a failed pastor named dan, who pontificated all the time about how liberal and open he and his were, whether he had ever invited an atheist to speak to his liberal congregation. His response, verbatim? "Why would I invite the enemy into my house"?

            Besides all that, there is reality and evidence again - take all the nontheistic, non-authoritarian Buddhists, all the quakers, Unitarian-Universalists and Jews combined, particularly in the US, and you don't get a rounding error in the number of of followers of organized religion.

            If you take a teeny, tiny minority of cases, and use that to represent all of religion, then you're not being particularly practical.

            Always make new mistakes - Esther Dyson

            by RandomActsOfReason on Sat Jul 10, 2010 at 02:33:48 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

      •  One more point: (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        KathleenM1, gsenski

        If there were less religion in the world, do you really think we'd be less well off?

        If so, based on what data?

        Certainly, in our current world, there is a direct, consistent, strong correlation between levels of religiosity in a society and levels of violence. Certainly, in today's world, there are no cases of atheists warring with agnostics, or humanists blowing up trains full of materialists, or physicists torturing biologists to recant Evolution.

        So, what is the basis for concluding that "Religion is not the problem", no matter what you think is after that premise?

        The less religious a society becomes, the less warlike it becomes.That is true the world over. In fact, even atheistic dictators use religious trapping, language and symbology to incite people to atrocity.

        Finally, organized religion is inherently incompatible with democracy. The former assumes ultimate authority outside of human reach, the latter assumes ultimate authority in the collective will of the people.

        Always make new mistakes - Esther Dyson

        by RandomActsOfReason on Sat Jul 10, 2010 at 02:05:20 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  What about Stalin & Hitler?... (0+ / 0-)

          The two greatest militarist patriarchs of the 20th Century, neither motivated by religion but by secular creeds?

          I actually do think that perhaps without the "Axial Age" the supposedly civilized world could have degenerated into a brutish Mad Max chaos.

          And I don't agree that organized religion is incompatible with democracy.  It was Unitarian, Calvinist and Quaker thought that contributed greatly to our country's democratic underpinnings.  It is patriarchy that assumes that "superiors" need to tell "inferiors" what is right and wrong.

          Cooper Zale Los Angeles http://www.leftyparent.com

          by leftyparent on Sat Jul 10, 2010 at 02:45:28 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Huh? (0+ / 0-)

            The two greatest militarist patriarchs of the 20th Century, neither motivated by religion but by secular creeds?

            'Secular'?  You mean, not motivated by religion?  Okay, conceding your point for a moment purely for the sake of discussion, chemistry is secular.  So is air travel.  So by your logic, nerve agent and deaths in DC-10 crashes are 'secular'?  Your term only functions as 'all outside of religion', which is really meaningless.  The fact that splitting the atom is 'secular' science hardly means that nuclear warfare is a result of 'secularism'.

            And as for Hitler, slaughtering a few million Jews was hardly a secular act.  Jews have been persecuted for a couple thousand years essentially because 'they killed Jesus'.  That's the root justification for the evictions of Jews from England, for pogroms the world over, for the Holocaust, and far too many more horrific acts against Jews than I care to list.  Hitler didn't invent anti-Semitism, he latched on to  many centuries of Christian-based slaughter of Jews.

            That which occurs in an absence or religion is not born of that absence.

            •  Maybe "non-religious" is better than secular... (0+ / 0-)

              but I think both Hitler and Stalin were motivated by non-religious ideologies and fears to do what they did.  Of course you have to start with the fact that they both were psychopaths.

              Stalin's version of Marxian communism was completely antithetical to religion but completely in line with patriarchy.  In my thinking, he was the purest modern version of an ancient patriarchal warlord.

              My take on Hitler is that he barely even attempted to cloak his directed hate in Christian religious terms.  His Aryan mythology as far as I can came from Pagan roots and had nothing to do with Christianity.  Religion was way to "fem" for Nazi macho.

              Cooper Zale Los Angeles http://www.leftyparent.com

              by leftyparent on Sat Jul 10, 2010 at 03:35:57 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  dominator societies (0+ / 0-)

                Hitler and Stalin's ideologies may not have been overtly religious, but they were both examples of what Eisler refers to as dominator ideologies.  Authoritarianism, the domination of one type of people over another type, the use of violence to keep people in line, and the belief that this is a good and moral way to order society.

          •  Oy. Just when I thought we were making progress (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            KathleenM1, JimmyTheSaint, gardnerjf

            You should know better than to bring up the ahistorical "Hitler was an atheist" canard.

            It was Unitarian, Calvinist and Quaker thought that contributed greatly to our country's democratic underpinnings.

            Ah, I see, the Secular Enlightenment and nontheist thinkers had nothing to do with it.

            So, I guess the Texas School Board's decision to remove that heretic Thomas Jefferson from the history textbooks and replace him with Phyllis Schlafly are on the right track, then?

            It is patriarchy that assumes that "superiors" need to tell "inferiors" what is right and wrong.

            And the premise of religion - that there is a right handed down by a god, and that it is ambiguous enough that it requires human interpretation, which then lends itself to a priestly/guru class - you believe that inherent attribute of organized religion has no role in creating a hierarchy?

            The basic religious method of understanding the world begins with dogma, and then seeks facts that support the dogma, while ignoring those that do not.

            The basic scientific method of understanding the world begins with facts, and then seeks explanations that are consistent with those facts as well as all previously known facts.

            You tell me which system has led to vaccines, sanitation, and the increase of life expectancy in the entire world over the past 200 year, when no nation's citizens had an average life expectancy above 40, to today, when no nation's citizens has an average life expectancy below 40.

            Which system led to the end of slavery, segregation and man's domination over women, and which perpetuated them for thousands of years? Which system led to women's suffrage? In which nations are LGBT rights most advanced, and in which least advanced - the more secular nations, or the more religious ones?

            In which nations is the press most free - the most religious or the most secular nations?

            In which nations are citizens most participatory in government - the most religious, or the least?

            Which nations have the lowest infant mortality and the highest longevity - the most or least religious?

            The theory of religion never seems to match its reality. Perhaps that indicates a problem with the theory. Using the scientific method, when the evidence does not match the belief, the belief must go.

            Always make new mistakes - Esther Dyson

            by RandomActsOfReason on Sat Jul 10, 2010 at 03:08:59 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  "Contibute greatly" does not mean that... (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              dorkenergy

              there were not other significant contributions to that thought.  The Deist thinkers (who believed in God as a creator of the universe now governed by scientific laws) made a very significant contribution as well.

              I would say a lot of thinking beyond religious thinking is based on dogma... look at our education system.

              I think America is a very religious nation, much more so than its European cousins are today.  Our freedom or religion led to a flowering of religious thought in our country, for better or for worse.  It is funny how the founding elite of America were for the most part non-religious, but the common folk organized mostly around religion.  Where as in Europe of the same time the elite were religious, and the common folk organized around secular ideologies like communism and socialism.

              Cooper Zale Los Angeles http://www.leftyparent.com

              by leftyparent on Sat Jul 10, 2010 at 03:42:26 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Our educational dogma has its roots in religion. (0+ / 0-)

                Children taught that there is no big power in the sky that looks over them and whom they better obey, or who at least knows better than they; who are taught, instead, that ethical systems are the product of human thought, and that they evolve - and should evolve - as human understanding grows - tend to resist tyranny, demagoguery, and the lure of simplistic binary solutions far more than those raised not to question certain things, and that there is One Truth, and everyone else is wrong, and that evidence has no bearing on things.

                The US is an anomaly among all free societies - it is, by a wide margin, the most religious society, and also the most irrational when it comes to our policies. If you see no connection between the two, perhaps you aren't looking.

                Re: Europe - the most secular nations today are the most peaceful, the healthiest, and the most stable.

                Soviet State Communism, like Chinese State Communism, was no more a secular ideology than Nazism was, although Hitler referred to God's Will and Nazis recited prayers to God and rode into battle wearing belt buckles that said, God is with us, and the State Communists were explicitly nonreligious (although, when it served his purposes, Stalin protected and supported the Russian Orthodox Church, which, in turn, supported him and his butchery).

                Rather, they were both nontheist religions, complete with all the trappings - ecstatic rituals, reverent songs, uniform garb, a priesthood class, symbology raised to mystical levels, sacred writings, propaganda-based schools, and, above all, a presumption of inerrancy that brooked no dissent.

                Those authoritarian systems reveal the central flaw at the heart of organized religion - the "organized" part requires submission to a higher power, requires a hierarchy of officials to preserve the integrity of the core beliefs, and requires uniformity of those core beliefs in order to sustain itself.

                That is why sects break off and religions splinter - because they cannot tolerate any but a modest degree of dissent in their midst.

                Organized religion is designed to resist change and progress and to support a status quo. It doesn't matter whether it is "Patriarchial" or Maternal. It is organized religion that is the problem.

                Take away the inherently authoritarian organization that supports each religion, and you take away the problem. Unfortunately for the religion, you also guarantee its extinction - which is why religions have constructed such an elaborate meme justifying their existence, and why they have promoted such a strong cultural taboo against questioning their merit.

                Always make new mistakes - Esther Dyson

                by RandomActsOfReason on Sat Jul 10, 2010 at 03:57:47 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  I disagree that organization requires hierarchy.. (0+ / 0-)

                  that is one of the great patriarchal myths.  The only form of power is directive power-over.  There is an entire world of facilitative power-with in various religions and secular traditions.

                  And I don't agree that the Nazis and the Stalinists were essentially religious.  That's too broad a definition of "religion" in my book.  That's like saying the KKK and modern skinheads are motivated by religion.  They are motivated solely by pathological hate for anything other than the ruling tribe, I don't see anything theological about that!

                  Cooper Zale Los Angeles http://www.leftyparent.com

                  by leftyparent on Sat Jul 10, 2010 at 04:05:11 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  I did not state that organization requires (2+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    Prof Haley, gsenski

                    hierarchy. I stated that authoritarian organization requires hierarchy, and religion is inherently authoritarian, in that it lays the ultimate authority outside human decision.

                    Science and reason are enemies of religion, because they promote a method of thinking and gaining understanding that undermines the religious claim to revealed truth.

                    Free societies are necessarily based on the notion that human beings can and should create their own systems of ethics and law. As such, they are inherently incompatible with systems based on revealed, inerrant truth.

                    Always make new mistakes - Esther Dyson

                    by RandomActsOfReason on Sat Jul 10, 2010 at 04:10:05 PM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  You are painting with a pretty broad brush... (0+ / 0-)

                      The Quakers, Buddhists, UUs, Wiccans, to name a few aren't particularly authoritarian and hierarchical.  Some religions, like UUs and Moslems 1000 years ago really celebrate scientific achievement.  So I would suggest to say maybe "most" and not "all".

                      Cooper Zale Los Angeles http://www.leftyparent.com

                      by leftyparent on Mon Jul 12, 2010 at 06:33:45 PM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

              •  Final thought for the day: (0+ / 0-)

                From P.Z. Myers:

                Name one insight religion has ever given us that could not have been made by secular philosophers, that was also useful and true.

                Name just one.

                Always make new mistakes - Esther Dyson

                by RandomActsOfReason on Sat Jul 10, 2010 at 04:01:31 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  None... but in many cases the religious... (0+ / 0-)

                  philosophers said it first and managed to get much better distribution of their ideas.

                  Thanks for the final thought and the discussion... it was fun and enlightening for me!

                  Cooper Zale Los Angeles http://www.leftyparent.com

                  by leftyparent on Sat Jul 10, 2010 at 04:10:07 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  Citations needed (0+ / 0-)

                    Are you sure the "religious philosophers said it first"?

                    Always make new mistakes - Esther Dyson

                    by RandomActsOfReason on Sat Jul 10, 2010 at 04:35:27 PM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  Not sure... they seem to be ones that... (0+ / 0-)

                      said it in writing, writing that has been widely distributed and read.  Maybe not first and maybe not best.

                      Cooper Zale Los Angeles http://www.leftyparent.com

                      by leftyparent on Sat Jul 10, 2010 at 05:14:32 PM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

                      •  So, to summarize - (0+ / 0-)

                        you acknowledge that there is not a single insight that religion has given us that could not have been, and likely was, given by secular means, and you can't even substantiate the cultural assumption that religion got there first (not that "First" matters to the present anywhere except in new diary comments).

                        You acknowledge that organized religions by and large are inherently hierarchical in practice - or, at the very least, authoritarian in that they assume a truth outside human knowledge. (with potentially a few extremely marginal exceptions that have little influence on the world of today).

                        So, explain again why religions are neither the problem nor even part of the problem, and explain again what their value is to the contemporary world?

                        I see only negatives in religious thinking today. I see not a single merit that is unique to religious thought, and many ways in which religious thought thwarts beneficial human progress.

                        I think the only reason you defend religion is because of the enormous cultural pressure to do so, not because of any rational conclusions. Not to single you out, that is a ubiquitous problem in our society, and the reason religion persists long after its utility, if it ever had any, has expired.

                        Always make new mistakes - Esther Dyson

                        by RandomActsOfReason on Sun Jul 11, 2010 at 08:30:07 PM PDT

                        [ Parent ]

                        •  What is the point of the question (0+ / 0-)

                          How do you define "insight"? Is the point that because religion and secularism can reach similar conclusions, that religion has no point? How are you defining "insight," and how does one necessarily prove whether it could be achieved through solely religion? I ask, not out of ignorance, but rather because you have not defined the requirement of that which you seek.

                          As to value of religion, clearly you see none; but if one construct can lead to the same beneficial insights as secularism, does that automatically mean we should prefer one or the other?

                          More to the point, if religion helps someone to be good or live a virtuous life, is that a bad thing, just because they didn't follow the same path to it that you did? Just because you didn't require faith to live out virtues, why is it bad if someone else has faith and religion and lives out these same virtues? You might consider religion to have little value, but others might disagree if they actually have it. Isn't, after all, value subjective in some sense, regardless of whether it is measured by the individual or by society?

                          •  What similar conclusions? (0+ / 0-)

                            I suppose the conclusion that disease is caused by demonic possession, or the casting of spells by a witch, or bad "humors", or not sacrificing enough goats to a god, or not praying hard enough, could be considered similar to the conclusion that disease is caused by microorganisms or is the product of genetic defects or environmental toxins - in the same way that baseball is similar to cooking.

                            BTW, the alternative to religious thinking is not "secularism", it is rational aka critical aka scientific thinking.

                            More to the point, if religion helps someone to be good or live a virtuous life, is that a bad thing, just because they didn't follow the same path to it that you did?

                            If someone eats a steak every day, and does not die of heart disease, does that negate the cumulative harmful effects of eating a steak every day on an entire population?

                            On balance, religion does far more harm than good - and there is no evidence to suggest that the good attributed to it is a unique benefit of religion, rather than something that can be obtained via less harmful means.

                            Just because you didn't require faith to live out virtues, why is it bad if someone else has faith and religion and lives out these same virtues?

                            I never said it was bad. But religion more often leads people to live lives of intolerance, arrogance and opposition to science, reason and democracy.

                            Religion teaches lessons that are incompatible with human progress and progressive values - self-determination, collective self-governance, authority imbued solely by consensus of, for and by the people. Religion teaches that some things must not be questioned, only accepted and obeyed. That is training for submission to authority, not freethought.

                            You might consider religion to have little value, but others might disagree if they actually have it.

                            And the horror at the notion of debating the question is sufficient proof, in an of itself, of the dangers and drawbacks of religious thinking.

                            If you claim religion, on balance, has merit, then make that argument rationally and we can discuss it. I claim it causes, on balance, more harm than good, and that this is a fundamental part of organized religion itself and religious thinking itself, not something that can be easily reformed or corrected. Even if it were, everything about a religion is designed to resist change.

                            And change is the engine of progress. Without openness to change - which requires openness to error - which, in turn, requires openness to inquire and explore new ideas - there is no progress.

                            Which is why religion is an idea whose time has passed, and whose persistence holds back humanity and may ultimately prevent us from growing sufficiently to save ourselves from ourselves.

                            Always make new mistakes - Esther Dyson

                            by RandomActsOfReason on Mon Jul 12, 2010 at 09:57:21 AM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  Ok (0+ / 0-)

                            I'd like to define more terms before we continue. What is "good"? Is "good" something that is flexible to the whims of the consensus? Is there anything absolute to it?

                            Before we continue with that, I would disagree that religion is automatically resistant to chance. For example, I believe my faith calls me to radically alter myself, not to impose rules, but for the better of myself and others. Sure, you can do that too without faith, but I don't see how mine automatically renders me opposed to change. I believe that my faith is more of a journey than a destination that is reached and held out against the outside; it requires me to continually grow and adapt. Is that not change?

                            How is that inapposite, by necessity, to human progress?

                            That asks the next question; is progress only measured by one set of ideals? Can progress be a subjective viewpoint among individuals, such that the question of whether religion impedes progress somewhat more difficult than applying a rote formula?

        •  Is it religion per se? (0+ / 0-)

          The less religious a society becomes, the less warlike it becomes.That is true the world over. In fact, even atheistic dictators use religious trapping, language and symbology to incite people to atrocity.

          This seems to sort of agrees with what lefty is saying.  If there were no religion there would be something very much like it being used by men to control others.

          So, is it religion per se that's the problem, or is it the way religion is co-opted and used for ulterior purposes that's the problem?

          "A man of true science uses but few hard words, and those only when none other will answer his purpose..." - Melville

          by ZedMont on Sat Jul 10, 2010 at 02:56:24 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Evidence contradicts your assertion (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Prof Haley, ZedMont

            In modern nations where religiosity has declined, what has replaced it is egalitarian, peaceful society.

            BTW, if religion is inevitably co-opted, then what is the difference from it being "religion per se"? The practical result is that, wherever organized religion florishes, authoritarian thinking does as well - because the nature of religious thinking is inherently authoritarian, it involves, first and foremost, a surrender of ultimate authority to an alleged supernatural determinant of right and wrong.

            Always make new mistakes - Esther Dyson

            by RandomActsOfReason on Sat Jul 10, 2010 at 03:39:57 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Organized religion florishes nowhere more... (0+ / 0-)

              than in our country, but though we are not a perfectly egalitarian society we are relatively speaking pretty good I think.

              Cooper Zale Los Angeles http://www.leftyparent.com

              by leftyparent on Sat Jul 10, 2010 at 03:47:30 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Relative to more secular societies? (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Prof Haley, dorkenergy

                the data does not support your assumption.

                Global Peace index:
                http://www.visionofhumanity.org/...
                Please scroll below the map and look at the rankings of ten most peaceful nations in the world. Correlate with their ranking in terms of religiosity, and, for the least peaceful nations, the religiosity of their conflict opponents. Repeat for the least peaceful nations, and, if you have the patience, for all 149 nations on that list.

                Cross-National Correlations of Quantifiable Societal Health with Popular Religiosity and Secularism in the Prosperous Democracies, from the Journal of Religious Studies:
                http://moses.creighton.edu/...

                See particularly the Conclusion. The correlation between high levels of religiosity and low levels of societal health - across a whole range of qualitative and quantitative measures - is striking.

                Always make new mistakes - Esther Dyson

                by RandomActsOfReason on Sat Jul 10, 2010 at 04:21:33 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  It's interesting, though, how the teachings of (0+ / 0-)

                  Jesus have been corrupted, both by the "apostle" Paul and later writers and church authorities.

                  Strong evidence of your point, and I believe mine as well, is the attitude of Augustine, Bishop of Hippo in North Africa.  He used "blessed are the peacemakers" from the sermon on the mount to justify violence against heretics.  He figured that using violence to bring heretics back into the fold resulted in a "greater peace."  

                  Sort of like the Strategic Air Command's  "Peace is Our Profession."

                  "A man of true science uses but few hard words, and those only when none other will answer his purpose..." - Melville

                  by ZedMont on Sat Jul 10, 2010 at 07:54:38 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  A good example of torquing the message... (0+ / 0-)

                    of love into a doctrine based on fear leading to hate.

                    Cooper Zale Los Angeles http://www.leftyparent.com

                    by leftyparent on Sun Jul 11, 2010 at 12:16:16 AM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

                  •  What is interesting (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    Prof Haley

                    is that rather than conclude logically that, if organized religion inevitably and always "corrupts" the message, that perhaps the problem is with organized religion, you use the classic apologetics of "well, they're doing it wrong".

                    Ever asked yourself what it is about the structure of religion that causes it to be "corrupted" all the time?

                    Imagine a business that manufactured tables out of uranium, and every time people died from radiation poisoning after sitting around it for a period of time, the manufacturer blamed them for "doing it wrong" - not wearing lead-lined suits to dinner.

                    Would you remark how "interesting" it is that people don't follow the manufacturer's instructions - or, would you examine what in the product might be inherently defective?

                    Always make new mistakes - Esther Dyson

                    by RandomActsOfReason on Sun Jul 11, 2010 at 10:23:14 AM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  I don't agree that it always happens... (0+ / 0-)

                      though it often happens.  Other secular institutions are subject to that same tendency towards corruption and one-path-only external authority, like for example our education system.  But I believe that though patriarchy is not redeemable, religion and education are.

                      I'm not about to advocate closing all the churches, synagogues, mosques, temples etc, or all the schools, because these institutions that are based on external authority tend toward patriarchal corruption.  Some don't, and the purpose they are attempting to serve is a good purpose.

                      Cooper Zale Los Angeles http://www.leftyparent.com

                      by leftyparent on Sun Jul 11, 2010 at 01:17:41 PM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

                      •  What purpose do the churches, etc serve? (0+ / 0-)

                        It is clear what purpose schools serve - to inform, educate and to teach future citizens to think for themselves.

                        It seems to me that religious facilities teach the exact opposite. What merit do you see in them (not that I would advocate "closing" any, but this cultural presumption that they are a good thing is worth examining critically, rather than just taking on [pun intended] faith.

                        Always make new mistakes - Esther Dyson

                        by RandomActsOfReason on Sun Jul 11, 2010 at 08:25:11 PM PDT

                        [ Parent ]

          •  That's my premise... look at the real culprit! (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            dorkenergy

            Maybe I would venture to say that the less hierarchical and more egalitarian a society becomes the less warlike it becomes.  Have not fully vetted that out but I think that would stand pretty well.

            Cooper Zale Los Angeles http://www.leftyparent.com

            by leftyparent on Sat Jul 10, 2010 at 03:45:00 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  The primary cause of war (0+ / 0-)

              is population pressure. Organized religions encourage their members to have unsustainably large families, which results in population pressure. Historically this has been the case, and although there are many sects that ignore the biblical commandment to "multiply", there are many more that oppose birth control for this reason.

              Back in the Bronze and Iron Ages, when the Old Testament was written, the larger population was almost guaranteed a victory. The Old Testament is documentation of continual massacres and enslavement of the losers of just such struggles.

              "Too big to fail" is not too big to jail.

              by Angela Quattrano on Sun Jul 11, 2010 at 08:12:36 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  And power-over politics get enmeshed with that... (0+ / 0-)

                I recall that Napoleon III, the leader of France in the mid 19th Century, anticipating having to fight major wars with Germany (and possibly other countries) convince the Pope at the time to make abortion a mortal sin in the hopes of having more French babies to staff a larger army.  It is interesting that the initiation of that change did not come from the Church itself but from a secular monarch.  Of course most people at the time in France were Catholics and both sides had a lot at stack politically in continuing their relationship.

                Interesting the during the time of the Old Testament, Alexander the Great defeated the Persian Empire with maybe one tenth of the soldiers that Darius, the Persian Emperor had at his disposal.  Alexander's army was more highly trained, including a core of citizen soldiers, and more advanced military technology.  My take is that Alexander's conquests were not motivated by population pressure but to dominate the known world because he could and because he felt the Greeks and their culture were superior to others and should naturally (in patriarchal thinking) rule others.

                Alexander was pretty much a secular tyrant, one of those enlightened despots that so many seem to long for, not to my understanding inspired by his own Olympian religion or the fact that the Persians and the others he conquered had different religions.  I don't think religion played much of a part in that whole period.

                Cooper Zale Los Angeles http://www.leftyparent.com

                by leftyparent on Sun Jul 11, 2010 at 09:16:35 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

  •  As an Iraqi woman so aptly said (2+ / 0-)

    'It's not about the religion. It's about the mens.'

    While the Democrats and Republicans take incoming from each other and corporations are pwning America, the Chinese are taking over the world. C'est le vie.

    by Village expects idiot home soon on Sat Jul 10, 2010 at 01:55:52 PM PDT

  •  I Think You Mean "Faith" Isn't the Problem (0+ / 0-)

    The patriarchal "faiths" are formally organized religions. "Religion" is the proper term for it.

    But the other problem is imperialism. Many or most of the Christian sects are proselytizing, based on instructions of Jesus, and some of those are aggressively imperialistic.

    None of the authoritarian patriarchal religions I know are accepting input about changing their ways. I don't see that you can have for example Catholicism without the clergy and the Vatican. It's not an improvisational religion, which was some of the point of the Reformation.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Sat Jul 10, 2010 at 01:59:48 PM PDT

    •  I agree that Roman Catholicism is hobbled... (0+ / 0-)

      by its hierarchy.  Many people practice that religion for love of its rituals and in spite of that hierarchy.

      Patriarchal religious practice, or any practice that involves a small powerful group on top resists surrendering their power.  Even secular institutions get caught up in that.

      I like your take on the Reformation as "improvisational".  That rings true to me.  Just get some people together with a bible and see where that written word leads things.  I think that improvisation lent itself to the development of America, for better or for worse.

      And imperialism is all about Patriarchy and control, with religion just an excuse.  The British Empire was built around the secular qualities and supposed superiority of the English people with religion only playing a minor part in that.

      Cooper Zale Los Angeles http://www.leftyparent.com

      by leftyparent on Sat Jul 10, 2010 at 03:00:06 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  For me, it's tribalism more than patriarchy. (1+ / 0-)

    The thinkers of the Axial Age spoke to a universal perspective/consciousness that transcended tribe. I certainly agree with you that this universal message has been coopted, over and over again, by those seeking to wield power. And this universal message is often poorly understood by believers of nearly all denominations.  As soon as a group of believers gather, you have another tribe.  Another us vs. them dichotomy.

    My problem with "patriarchy" is that it connotes a biological family contruct which focuses on maleness.  Not that male authority hasn't been the source of many problems at every level of family/social organization.  But "tribalism" refers to the human propensity to think/feel/act on an "us vs. them"  paradigm.  It can probably be traced to the "troopism" of our primate ancestors.  In any case, religion is easily manipulated to promote tribalism.

    On the other hand, many religious people personify the Axial impulse of universalism (Mother Teresa, Desmond TuTu, Jimmy Carter, the Dalai Lama, etc.)  while many seculars personify tribalistism as well as the most fervent religious zealots.  Vilification of all sorts is harmful and, by my lights, a favored tactic of tribalists.

    •  I think the concept of the tribe is woven... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      seethruit

      into patriarchal thinking, which focuses on a worldview of "us and them" and a ruling "superior" tribe superimposed over subjugated "inferior" tribes in some sort of "natural" order.  

      I think we could split hairs but I suspect we are pretty close to agreement.

      Cooper Zale Los Angeles http://www.leftyparent.com

      by leftyparent on Sat Jul 10, 2010 at 03:04:43 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Probably. I definitely agree that religion is (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        dorkenergy

        not the cause of our troubles even though it can be recruited to malevolent purposes.  This afternoon I happened across a rather provocative NYT article that touches on patriarchy and most certainly on our human condition.  It's tangential to this discussion but I thought you might find it interesting.  

        BTW, thank you for a very interesting, thoughtful, and well written diary!

        •  Interesting article on shared breeding... (0+ / 0-)

          an early community organized around developing the next generation.  That's really the essence of what being human is all about I think.

          Thanks for sharing!

          Cooper Zale Los Angeles http://www.leftyparent.com

          by leftyparent on Sat Jul 10, 2010 at 04:12:20 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  Two things: (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    KathleenM1

    But I would not be surprised, like in the 1960s with the Civil Rights movement, if inspiration for progressive thought, action and evolution is yet to come from new or reinvigorated religious doctrines.

    A lot of that was inspired by non-religious, secular idealism. MLK didn't single handedly inspire and invent the sixties any more than Hugh Hefner did.

    If one accepts your seeming thesis that religion was invented or created or evolved to spread certain ideas and ideals such as the golden rule, then they are pointless and problematic. By attempting to spread a reasonable idea through unreasonable and irrational dogma, they and their doctrine and goal founder on that dogma. How can attempting to teach "goodness" through lies and deceit be a good thing? How can it succeed?

    OK, 3 things -- how can you shoehorn Judaism in there? The god of the Old Testament was mean, petty, jealous, vicious, nasty, brutal, cruel and hegemonic, a genocidal maniac of nearly unparalleled viciousness. He doesn't belong in the same book, lt alone the same chapter, as Buddha.

    That, in its essence, is fascism--ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power. -- Franklin D. Roosevelt -

    by enhydra lutris on Sat Jul 10, 2010 at 02:14:17 PM PDT

    •  I agree on the secular idealism of the 1960s... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      enhydra lutris

      as well as the religious.

      So do you think that the recorded words of Jesus about the Golden Rule show evidence of his own lies and deceit?

      Yes I would agree that that angry vengeful war god that Judaism inherited and elevated to the One God is problematic.  But the ethical framework developed by the Jews I think mitigated those stern, warlike patriarchal roots to create a very egalitarian code that has made an important contribution to later republican "rule of law" type thinking.

      Cooper Zale Los Angeles http://www.leftyparent.com

      by leftyparent on Sat Jul 10, 2010 at 03:13:15 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  asdf (0+ / 0-)

        So do you think that the recorded words of Jesus about the Golden Rule show evidence of his own lies and deceit?

        Recorded? The bible was written much later. We have no knowledge of what Jesus, if there was such a person, said about anything. We do know that the new testament is tacked onto the old one and treats it as gospel (sorry) truth, and contains some pretty wild tales itself, above and beyond the whole underlying great sky faery creation myth thingie.

        That, in its essence, is fascism--ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power. -- Franklin D. Roosevelt -

        by enhydra lutris on Sat Jul 10, 2010 at 03:48:25 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Okay... but based on his alegded words... (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          enhydra lutris

          as later recorded about the "cheek" and the "meek" don't seem deceitful to me.  I think the man had some really positive things to say to the world and I don't think what was later recorded totally misrepresents him.

          Cooper Zale Los Angeles http://www.leftyparent.com

          by leftyparent on Sat Jul 10, 2010 at 03:52:29 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Are you aware (0+ / 0-)

            that everything Paul knew about Jesus he learned during visions? How accurate would you consider the words of Abraham Lincoln if our best first person recounting of them was written more than 100 years after his death?

            "Too big to fail" is not too big to jail.

            by Angela Quattrano on Sun Jul 11, 2010 at 08:17:36 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Good point... maybe I would tend to see Paul's... (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              dorkenergy

              words maybe more as his own, or his own projection of what he thought Jesus was saying.  Definitely acknowledge the high probability of "spin".

              Who knows if Jesus said any of that stuff or if it is all apocryphal.  Somehow these stories of Jesus were told by others and eventually got written down in some form and finally codified in the Bible.  I suppose the fact that there is a good deal of corroboration of the events that led up to his death may speak to some veracity there.

              Whatever... words associated with Jesus seem to me to be pretty powerful progressive stuff given the context the man lived in.

              Cooper Zale Los Angeles http://www.leftyparent.com

              by leftyparent on Sun Jul 11, 2010 at 09:23:19 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

  •  lol @ unimaginative people... (0+ / 0-)

    who simply can't countenance the notion that they can both be problems.

    And there are many other problems as well (gasp!).

    I'm gonna go eat a steak. And fuck my wife. And pray to GOD - hatemailapalooza, 052210

    by punditician on Sat Jul 10, 2010 at 02:46:56 PM PDT

    •  So you think we would have been better off... (0+ / 0-)

      if we had had patriarchy but no religious ideologies to mitigate it?

      Cooper Zale Los Angeles http://www.leftyparent.com

      by leftyparent on Sat Jul 10, 2010 at 03:16:09 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Uh.... (0+ / 0-)

        If you're asking if I think we're better off with 1 problem rather than 2, then the answer is 'yes'.

        Obviously we'd be even better off with 0 problems.

        Durr.

        I'm gonna go eat a steak. And fuck my wife. And pray to GOD - hatemailapalooza, 052210

        by punditician on Sat Jul 10, 2010 at 04:52:58 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Okay... clearly stated & we disagree... (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          dorkenergy

          I don't see the effort in religious thought to wrestle with the transcending mysteries of life as inherently a problem.  Ceding ones own agency to external authority, now that can be a problem.  Trying to answer the question why are we here and developing perhaps a group consensus around that answer (which in essence could be called a religion) can be a good thing in my thinking.

          Cooper Zale Los Angeles http://www.leftyparent.com

          by leftyparent on Sat Jul 10, 2010 at 05:20:31 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  I certainly agree.... (0+ / 0-)

            That if one simply ignores all of the problems with religion, then no problems remain.

            Thanks for that genius bit of thought there.

            I'm gonna go eat a steak. And fuck my wife. And pray to GOD - hatemailapalooza, 052210

            by punditician on Sat Jul 10, 2010 at 05:42:28 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

  •  so what? (0+ / 0-)

    matriarchy is the solution?

    Entry Level .NET programmer looking for work

    by SetaSan on Sat Jul 10, 2010 at 02:55:16 PM PDT

  •  While it's true that patriarchy predates (0+ / 0-)

    xtianity, it doesn't predate it by much. At this point the two seem inextricable. And I would ask, why bother trying to separate the two? I doubt the monotheistic religions could have developed outside of patriarchy. The Goddess may (or not) have been worshipped in antiquity (as such) but never to the exclusion of all other deities. Even the original monotheists had many other gods until, through war and slavery, the monos won out. As far as what you seem to view as their saving grace, these values that you term progressive and seem to see as egalitarian, I believe you are very deluded. Xtianity has only ever promulgated love and justice in order to control people. The hierarchy of the catholic church, the early xtians and those since, have always erred on the side of power, wealth and might. To say otherwise is to ignore all evidence to the contrary. The early xtians confabulated a story of a historical christ, as opposed to all the other astrotheological ones who were rampant throughout the region at the time. In fact, xtianity, predates itself and the alleged birth of its demigod. Entire stories were cut and pasted from older mythologies by the church "fathers".

    A good source for this information:

    truthbeknown.com

    •  Marija Gimbutas has found archeological... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Arakiba

      evidence of patriarchal "Kurgan" cultures going back to 5000 BCE.  The remnants dug up of their settlements show a worship of violence and war and a hierarchical order around their male chiefs.  Check out her work cataloged in "Civilization of the Goddess".

      Cooper Zale Los Angeles http://www.leftyparent.com

      by leftyparent on Sat Jul 10, 2010 at 03:57:41 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Amazing Diary (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    godlessheathen

    Book:  "The Great Cosmic Mother: Rediscovering the Religion of the Earth" by Monica Sjoor and Barbara Mor.

    Review:

    Monica Sjoo and Barbara Mor show that the religion of the Goddess - which is tied to the cycles of women's bodies, the seasons, the phases of the moon, and the fertility of the earth - was the original religion of all humanity.

    From the oldest stone artifacts, it was women who were first depicted as Gods.

    Then came patriarcy ... then came war ...

    I want to take more time to really read this Diary. Thank you.

    There will come a day of judgment, and our Republican friends know that. That, Mr. President, is why they are terrified. - Sheldon Whitehouse

    by RhodaA on Sat Jul 10, 2010 at 04:08:34 PM PDT

  •  One small factoid (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Zoskie

    Militantly atheist regimes enslaved, imprisoned, tortured and killed hundreds of millions of people in the last 100 years in every country in which they gained power, from Albania to North Korea.

    Was patriarchy the problem there?  Or atheism?

  •  Religion is an authoritarian construct. (0+ / 0-)

       Authoritarianism is the problem. Patriarchy is a natural form of early group dynamics that would have dwindled away if we as a people had begun living in a real democratic society.
       Religion is just one of many authoritarian tools that keep us from growing (growing up) as a societal species.

    This is a very good link for experiencing teabagging joy...thanks to Sharron Angle. Teabaggerette.

    by reddbierd on Sat Jul 10, 2010 at 04:35:40 PM PDT

    •  I don't think we can have a what first argument.. (0+ / 0-)

      that progresses anywhere.  But I agree with you that authoritarianism and hierarchical organization is the problem.  In human culture it has tended to organize around the cult of the father figure and male supremacy.  Supremacy of one gender over the other allows even the most basic unit of society, the family, to be organized hierarchically.

      But I don't agree that religion has kept human culture from growing up.  It has been an important part of our maturation process as we attempt to wrestle with the transcending mysteries and "why" of life.

      Cooper Zale Los Angeles http://www.leftyparent.com

      by leftyparent on Sat Jul 10, 2010 at 05:28:38 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Well that could be debated. It sounds like (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        prfb

        you have more respect for religion than I do. Let's just say that as a tool, religion has been used to divide and oppress us for a long while.
           And as far as a what came first argument, it seems likely to me that men were bossing females and children around before they started burying their dead thinking of the afterlife.
           Not to try and stop your thought process at all, just more stuff to consider. Good diary.

        This is a very good link for experiencing teabagging joy...thanks to Sharron Angle. Teabaggerette.

        by reddbierd on Sat Jul 10, 2010 at 09:07:04 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Thanks for the encouragment... (0+ / 0-)

          I have a lot more thinking to do on this.  My respect for religion comes from seeing people I know get a lot out of it.  Even though it is not my thing I can't invalidate what seems to add to their lives.  I have to incorporate it somehow in my worldview... thus more thinking required.

          Cooper Zale Los Angeles http://www.leftyparent.com

          by leftyparent on Sun Jul 11, 2010 at 12:20:51 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  the real problem (0+ / 0-)

    The real problem is that religion and patriarchy so often go hand in hand.  Both bolster each other, propping each other up so that they can be almost impossible to separate.

    •  Agreed... a big problem... but I think the best.. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      dorkenergy

      way to challenge religion is to identify the patriarchal bath water and try to let the baby live, if that metaphor makes any sense.  Things that get people maybe to stretch beyond their everyday ordinary existence and consider even briefly a deeper level have some value.  Religion offers some people (though not me) a way to do that.

      Cooper Zale Los Angeles http://www.leftyparent.com

      by leftyparent on Sun Jul 11, 2010 at 12:24:40 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Religion can make good people do evil (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    prfb

    Someone once said that good people will do good, evil people will do evil, but it takes religion -- or some other unquestioned, authoritarian doctrine -- to make good people do evil.

    If someone thinks God wants them to invade another country, or steal someone else's land, or kill someone else's child, they might just do it...especially if they're threatened with death or eternal damnation if they don't obey.

    •  I would say fear can make good people... (0+ / 0-)

      do bad things.  Fear can be delivered in many forms, religion being one of them.  But love and affirmation of humanity can be delivered as well, I've witnessed it.

      Cooper Zale Los Angeles http://www.leftyparent.com

      by leftyparent on Sun Jul 11, 2010 at 12:27:15 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Hey everyone... hope the discussion continues... (0+ / 0-)

    but just want to say thanks everyone for contributing many interesting and thoughtful takes on this question!  Keeps those thoughts coming and I will continue to share mine.

    Cooper Zale Los Angeles http://www.leftyparent.com

    by leftyparent on Sun Jul 11, 2010 at 01:19:42 PM PDT

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site