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Is religion really necessary?





codegeek
They say necessity is the mother of invention. If this is true, humans must have had a reason for creating organized religion(s). I may be wrong here -- I frequently am in these matters -- but I feel that religion was just a stepping stone from the savage lifestyle of the ancient man into civilization.

It was a way of controlling people, and of maintaining a chaos-free society. One may argue that we have law and order for those things, but faith is probably a better tool to keep people in line than law. Well, if we assume that to be the purpose of religion, has it become unnecessary at this point of time in the development of human society? What do you think?

(To all religious people out there, I am not really trying to attack your faith. I am only questioning the concept of organized religion from a purely scientific point of view, pertaining to human psychology and anthropology. So, let's not make this about whether or not God exists, although I do understand that the two subjects are pretty deeply interlinked.)
Ankhanu
codegeek wrote:
It was a way of controlling people, and of maintaining a chaos-free society. One may argue that we have law and order for those things, but faith is probably a better tool to keep people in line than law. Well, if we assume that to be the purpose of religion, has it become unnecessary at this point of time in the development of human society? What do you think?

Faith is a handy tool, but, it only works to a point; I tend to agree that the roles it has played in the past have largely been supplanted by secular laws, science and other institutions. When you begin actually investigating the questions of nature in a rigourous manner, the mysticism of religion is no longer necessary to provide answers (such as they are) to formerly unknown questions. Ditto for expanding ethical circles and related senses of fairness and justice with topics of law.
nickfyoung
There seems to have been a need from the beginning of man to worship something whether it be the moon or whatever. All sorts of gods for all sorts of needs have been around for a long time with many cultures having many gods with one to suit whatever the need may be at the time. All cultures seem to have been afflicted with this need. At what point in the evolutionary process did this occur and do you think other species have this inbuilt need as well.
Indi
codegeek wrote:
They say necessity is the mother of invention. If this is true, humans must have had a reason for creating organized religion(s).

Yes, but be careful. Sometimes the necessity isn't what it appears to be. For example, chindougu. Also the Snuggie and even things like Pokémon. None of these things are technically necessary in and of themselves. The necessity is extrinsic - the necessity has nothing to do with the "thing" itself. Pokémon were made to sell junk to kids to make a small group of people rich, Snuggies for pretty much the same reason, and chindougu is made for the lulz.

While it's certainly true that there was some kind of need that religion fulfils, don't assume that that means that it's a need that religion itself fulfils. There was no "need" for a pair of slippers with a broom and dustpan on the toes. But there was a need, in the person who created it, to make something funny - perhaps for attention, perhaps to sell books, who knows.

So perhaps the "need" for religion isn't really something intrinsic to religion at all. Perhaps the "need" for religion has nothing to do with satisfying some innate need to believe or worship or some innate need to have explanations for the universe wrapped up in tidy packages. Perhaps people invented religions for their own reasons, not for any good the religion might provide, and perhaps religions only stuck around because people who had already invested in the religion were to embarrassed to quit, and the only way they could avoid feeling stupid for being part of it was to force others to be part of it, too.
Dennise
I think religion inventions came about for four primary reasons.

In order of importance .....

    Remove the fear of death (ones own and also of loved ones)
    Hope for life after death
    A form of social glue
    Explain the mystery and purpose of our own existence


Just my two cents.
Indi
Dennise wrote:
Remove the fear of death (ones own and also of loved ones)
Hope for life after death

Actually, this may blow your mind.

It has long been known that the myth that religion assuages fear of death isn't as obviously true as people think. Dozens of studies have shown that religious people are more afraid of death than non-religious people. Here are just a couple:
But what was just discovered recently was that fear of death actually makes people LESS religious.

Seriously. They did a couple of experiments where they stressed people out or reminded them of their mortality, then tested them to see whether they turned to faith or science. They turned to science.

Not that this should really surprise any of the atheists reading this. Contrary to religious fantasy, atheists don't sit around and worry about death. Quite the opposite, most atheists are quite sanguine or even positive about their mortality. They certainly worry about it a whole lot less than religious people. A stark demonstration of this is the way atheists approach theists versus the way theists approach atheists. Just about the first thing out of a theist's mouth when talking to an atheist is "aren't you afraid of what happens when you die?" in some form or another. Meanwhile, no atheist walks up to a theist and talks about death or dying - they talk about the irrationality and stupidity of their beliefs.

Dennise wrote:
A form of social glue

This may have been true in the past, when people lived in isolated cliques and cultures only rubbed shoulders in a small number of trading cities. And it may still hold true in places where one religion is so dominant that other religions are practically invisible. But it doesn't hold true in places where multiple religious traditions have to coexist without any of them holding dominance, which is more and more of what the world looks like today.

Religion "brings people together" if and only if those people all have the same religion, in which case they don't really need to be brought together, because they're already together. Whenever people of different religions mix in a society, there ain't no harmony or peace. It's no accident that the least religious, and most peaceful, places are usually the most cosmopolitan. If ever any religion gains dominance in a region, it will - and always has - suppress any other beliefs, sometimes subtly, but often quite savagely. Even "peaceful" religions are hardly shining examples of "social glue", because if they don't spread their beliefs and just stay in a small clique, that clique will quickly become isolated from the rest of society.

So if this is something that religions do, they do it only in a very limited sense, and only in very localized instances. If you want to talk historically, then religions could only be social glue either after they'd squashed any competing beliefs, or after they withdrew from mainstream society and became a cult. Which means religion couldn't have been brought people together... until after it had torn them apart first. So, no, religion could not have been created to bring people together.

Dennise wrote:
Explain the mystery and purpose of our own existence

The problem with that claim is that they don't - not by a long shot. Religions usually actively suppress any real questioning or exploration of mysteries.

I've never understood the sense of the claim that religions help people "understand" the universe. It's so obviously false it boggles me anytime it's claimed. If anyone really needed questions about the universe answered, religion is such an obviously bad way to do it, it can't possibly satisfy.

And in point of fact, the reality is that religious people who want to understand the mysteries of the universe DON'T accept the religious claims. That's been true all throughout history. That's what religious apology is; it's religious people trying desperately to square rational understanding of the universe with the claims of the religion. They're trying to understand the universe, but they're not using the religion, they're trying to shoehorn the religious claims to fit. The only people who "accept" religious claims about the mysteries of the universe are people who weren't really interested in the mysteries to begin with, so it can hardly be true that this is a need religion fulfils.

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If I were to make a suggestion for why religion was created and why it's persisted, i would guess that it's because it provides a powerful way to create and reinforce ape pack structures from our distant evolutionary past. Basically, most of us have a need to either be submissive to a strong leader, or to struggle for leadership of the pack. But if we let the struggle instinct run free, society would be needlessly violent and unstable. So we create the ultimate brute apes - the gods - to be the alphas; beings we not only can't possibly fight, but even if we could we're told we would just lose anyway.

Put another way, we need to be slaves. We need to have a strong leader who frightens us into being peaceful and social. Without a brute on top, we feel the need to struggle to be the brute on top, even when we know we can't possibly do it. The lack of a strong leader leaves us frightened, because it means - to our ape minds - there's got to be a struggle to find a leader, and we're probably going to be caught up in it, and most of us know we aren't going to win it, so we basically know we're about to get our ass kicked (or even killed).

Our need to have that kind of structure is why we replicate the pattern all through our society. The hierarchy at work; the military; the structure of government; even sports teams with their captains... it's all about the pack hierarchy and having and alpha to keep the structure stable.

All religion is is an attempt to enforce a pack structure where none exists, then silence our rational minds from noticing that it's all smoke and mirrors. That's it. Nothing more, nothing less.
Pippo90
I think you raised a really good point when you said that religion is good for mantaining equilibrium in society. Personally I'm atheist, but I've never felt superior in any way to other people, nor I consider my "faith" worth of being propagandated.

This is because I realise that a strong religion can considerably help in keeping constrained a certain kind of people; I don't blame them, since I think that believing that nothing else exists like I do is a terrible thing, leading easily to suffering and depression. Some people cannot stand this (and they may have a point), and it's better for everyone if religion makes them happier.
Bikerman
Pippon....if you are an atheist then how long have you been one?
You really think atheism leads to mental anguish?
What I think is that, despite your protestation, you ARE being overly judgemental. Most of the atheists I know have no issues arising - certainly not the sort of mental anguish you seem to think goes with the territory.
Do you really think they theists spend all that time thinking about the afterlife? Or that it gives them security and happiness to 'know' there is something more?
Easy to test - check out a hospice and see if there is a difference between dying theists and dying atheists. One might expect the atheists to drag it out as long as possible, and the theists to relax and let go - knowing they have another conscious existence to go to.
I honestly don't know if this has been done, but here is what I predict:
either no significant difference, or perhaps a slight difference in the opposite direction.....,

There is a nice masters or even Doctoral thesis here somewhere.....anyone looking for a Master's thesis ?
Pande
codegeek wrote:
One may argue that we have law and order for those things, but faith is probably a better tool to keep people in line than law.


Law and order *was* religion, law has been very tied to religion since day 1.
nickfyoung
Bikerman
Quote:
Or that it gives them security and happiness to 'know' there is something more?



You don't think that is the case? I really can't imagine not having something to look forward to in the distant future and I imagine that most theists would be the same. It is not so much a matter of having somewhere to go in the afterlife, but the Bible will tell you that eternal life starts the moment you are converted. So one lives it now each day and is in it and part of it so when he eventually dies it is just an extension of what he already has. Like Jesus said, 'the kingdom of God is within you.'
So for the Christian, it is not so much looking forward to the afterlife or eternal life, but enjoying all the benefits of it here and now as his relationship with his God grows and develops, and the whole thing just culminates at death and becomes complete.
Bikerman
no - I know many Christi\ans and few (if any reslly BELIEVE that stuff. These are intelligent people in the main and religion may drag them into a certain level of cognitive dissonance, but it isn't THAT strong, and most are pretty well aware that it's a nice story rather than a realistic probability.
You actually have to be pretty wacked-out to internalise the notion and tr5eat it as a cert. Most of the people who do can only sustain the delusion if they deliberately isolate themselves from large areas of modern science and avoid thinking too much about it in detail.

As I said, this seems to me to be a fairly nice hypothesis to test. There are no huge ethical barriers and the actual reporting and data gathering would be pretty straightforward. I might do some work on this myself and see if I can whip it into a basic experimental trial format...
nickfyoung
Bikerman wrote:
no - I know many Christi\ans and few (if any reslly BELIEVE that stuff. These are intelligent people in the main and religion may drag them into a certain level of cognitive dissonance, but it isn't THAT strong, and most are pretty well aware that it's a nice story rather than a realistic probability.
You actually have to be pretty wacked-out to internalise the notion and tr5eat it as a cert. Most of the people who do can only sustain the delusion if they deliberately isolate themselves from large areas of modern science and avoid thinking too much about it in detail.

As I said, this seems to me to be a fairly nice hypothesis to test. There are no huge ethical barriers and the actual reporting and data gathering would be pretty straightforward. I might do some work on this myself and see if I can whip it into a basic experimental trial format...


Quote:
I know many Christi\ans and few (if any reslly BELIEVE that stuff


Quote:
Pentecostal and Charismatic Christianity numbers over 500 million adherents.
[2]

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pentecostalism

You would find that the 500 million on the whole would believe that stuff.
Bikerman
No, you haven't been following.
Belonging to a group doesn't mean you believe what the group is thought to believe or even what the group defines itself as believing.
It is simply daft to assume that 500 million self-identified Pentecostalist loons = 500 believers in all of the main Pentecostalist lunacy, in the same way that it is stupid to assume that the Catholic countries of Europe will have very low condom use and therefore high population growth.The most Catholic country in Europe - arguably the world - |Italy - has one of the LOWEST birth rates in Europe. So
So clearly, Catholic or not, they are making HEAVY use of birth control. Now they KNOW as Catholics that this is a big strike and will probably send them downstairs, not up. But still they buy those condoms.
Now, of they REALLY believed, full strength, that there WAS an afterlife, it would be total INSANITY to even go near a condom, since the potential consequence is incalculably horrendous. Far better to slit your wrists and take a chance on being forgiven for the crime of suicide - much better odds than murder I know it isn't. but please remember - these are religious zealots. They don't try to be truthful or reasonable or even sane - they lie, cheat and deceive for Jesus.
For example -check this video from those innocent looking nuns I mentioned in another post...



I'll give a big COIN prize to the person who comes up with a robust value for the number of lies told in this video, by the way,

Now, is anyone ELSE going to tell me that I should respect people's religious beliefs? Because you know what you can do! (I advise some serious yoga training before attempting it.
But, This makes ABSOLUTE SENSE if you REALLY believe that life eternal awaits....Morality? Don't be naive.


NFFR - the total solution
Finally, this brings up something I've been working on for a while.....Alternative Energy, I'm aiming to replace 10 or 20Ł fossil fuels - I'm aiming to replace it all. My plan is simple and requires no new technology - so we can start any time. It came to me one evening that I couldn't see any proper research into NFFRs at the Euro Fusion test-pad - ITER. Obviously we are still decades away from a viable fusion reactor, let alone one which could use Nuns as fuel, but it is surely something we should be considering.

Few people realise that total mass-market conversion of a single nun would be enough to power most of the planet. One nun is about 6.3 quintillion joules of energy = 6,300,000,000,000,000,000. (e=mc^2) The entire planet uses around 15 trillion watts per second.

So a single nun could power the Earth for about 100 hours.

Some people have called my proposal silly - pointing out that we may never develop an efficient Nun fusion Reactor - but they are missing another major part of the plan, which will fo into production any time and-start to reduce the problem right NOW.

NFP - the Interim Solution
Even of we just consider the chemical energy. a good solid Nun can provide up to 400 Mega Joules of energy if burned efficiently. That compares well with coal and gas, and Nuns are a renewable source, unlike fossil fuels. We can therefore move quickly to s new generation of Nun Fired Power-stations to replace the current Oil, Coal and Gas fired plant.

I think this proposal is worth some serious consideration - the answer to our energy problems is currently say around making offensive videos, so there is no significant loss to society. The nuns should be happy with the ideas since it speeds them on their way to Paradise and removes them from temptation og the flesh. We could have to intensively rest novices in battery-convents for the first 5-7 years, and then they would be moved into the harvesting unit.

All in all I think thins is a win-win situation....
catscratches
Bikerman wrote:

I'll give a big COIN prize to the person who comes up with a robust value for the number of lies told in this video.000
That's simple. All you have to do is simply count the number of claims made. I doubt a single one of them will be completely true (though some may be a partial truth). The only difficult part is determining what counts as an individual claim.

For example does "studies have been made and show that x" count as two claims - one for "studies show x" and one for "studies have been made" - or merely one?

Hmm, so actually it might be rather difficult after all.
LxGoodies
@Bikerman how immoral, your fantasy Laughing Laughing poor nuns !

codegeek wrote:
but I feel that religion was just a stepping stone from the savage lifestyle of the ancient man into civilization.

Did religion actually provide, or help civilisation ? It is tempting to assume so, because religious rules seem to be clear-cut and make people fear the consequence of disobedience, so as a result most people will comply. Believers will. Question stands though, if we can regard ancient men as believers. Also: did ancient religions put sanctions to herecy, like modern religions do ?

The astrology religion (at the time: science) provided structure: a calendar to the farmers ! very important structural tool. Stonehenge could be regarded as an expression of that, but we don't actually know if Stonehenge "imposed" anything or shaped society. It existed and people gathered there, for ritual.

In antropology/archeology, it remains a question. Stone age and bronze age religions, like the ones based upon fertility godesses we don't know anything about. They may have been needed as inspiration for sex. There may have been temple communities with structure, but all we know is temples (places of ritual) and finds of artifacts (considered ritual) coincide with habitation of certain regions. We actually don't know if religion imposed rules or structure on these early societies. Other forces exist that impose structure. Agriculture, trade and labour specialisation can be relevant factors that shape a civilisation as well.

What structured the Syrian, Egyptian and Greek civilisations ? was it trade and specialisation, urbanisation, or religion ?

In my view, our current civilisation is Roman and the Romans had tamed religion long ago: they incorporated foreign religions (polytheism), they even shaped christianity, with their (civilized) habits and laws as a starting point. The emperor himself imposed that. When christian religion kicked in, following it became a necessity. Not because god would punish you, but because you are a Roman Citizen. But in fact, a Roman civilisation structure was already present: Theodosian's laws were derived from Caesar's laws and said to be christian law.

We should thank the Romans and Caesar for our orderly society. Improve on it.
nickfyoung
Bikerman
Quote:
It is simply daft to assume that 500 million self-identified Pentecostalist loons = 500 believers in all of the main Pentecostalist lunacy



You are right in that there would be a few hangers on for sure. Although the structure of the Pentecostal church service would make it very difficult for a non believer to sit through for very long. He would either find himself conforming or leaving. It is pretty confrontational if you are not one of them. I maintain that the number would be pretty high simply because of the nature of their beliefs and how they conduct them.

Your comparison to anything Catholic is irrelevant as we are talking about two completely different things.

You could add a few priests in with the nun mix to get a better burn. I wonder if the pope would generate more energy.
Bikerman
Why do you say that non-dynamic relics are essentially telling is nothing about the culture that used and created them.?
The Egyptian pyramids ` us the huge amounts about the society and they also give us one of the driving forces that make the culture take. I am far from being an expert in anthropology social history and related it issues, but I reckon even I can have good.stab at describing the Greek Egyptian and Mesopotamian cultures including the major drivers. So let's see.
Mesopotamians. We are at the dawn of large-scale culture and agriculture. The plan is the first time living in groups and communities larger than clan gatherings. Man is also able to specialise in one function of one role because of the increased numbers available on the table build permanent structures and dwellings because of the newly developed agriculture that removes the need for nomadic travel in search of food. So we are moving away from nomadic culture into fixed hierarchical city culture.
We see rapid development of artistic and aesthetic pursuits such as storytelling music sculpture and performing arts. We can make epic tale of Gilgamesh – which the Hebrews later borrow extensively from when writing the parts that will eventually become the Torah.
Each it.
Egypt's is an acropolis to social and imperatives. These are the flooding of the Nile on an annual basis this and the ongoing and expanding building programme of the Pharaonic over structure which is itself sent it are and neck acropolis – i.e. the worship band preparation for death.
Greece.

Here we see the development of the first entirely nonreligious attempts to explain observations and perceptions of the people in religious terms. Most people would say that the Greek culture spawned the first scholars that we can call philosophers. Some people take this much further and would say that Pythagoras and later scholars represent the first real attempts at science. Personally I think this is going too far, but there is no doubt that under the Greeks occurred perhaps the largest spurting development ever. By the time that Greek culture was in terminal decline and the Romans were taking over, the Greeks heard A which of the cosmos that was not bettered until the 17th century; and measurement of the diameter of the Earth which was not bettered it again until the 17th century; an estimate for the distance to the nearest star; and the beginnings of mathematical and philosophical systems of thought that we are still developing today.

The Greeks reached peaks of cultural achievement which would see regarded by future generations with awe and reverence. In fact this is one reason that society stultified and went backwards for the next 1200 years – if the person wanted an answer, research consisted of consulting the relevant Greek manuscript, usually from Socrates Plato, Aristotle. Indeed Neoplatonism and neo-Aristotelianism would provide the church with its major sociology and control mechanisms for the next millennium and half. Firstly it adopted an extreme version of Plato's teachings, in which truth was seen as something spiritual on separate plane of existence in the Platonic realm, and the material Earth and planets were degraded evil and progressively more so, down to the centre of the Earth help/Hades was found. A continuous chain of being, from God then through the Angels and cherubim since Seraphim's and eventually down to the corrupt and evil human kind meant that every animal and every human had their fixed and immovable place in the scheme of things. Truth was not something to be sought because truth is an illusion on our plane of existence,. This is of course an extreme version of Plato's cave allegory in which the occupants of the cave see shadows from behind them. The shadows represent their perceptions in real life, while the actual goings-on behind them represents the Platonic plane of perfection and ideals – real truth. This incredibly stultifying and damaging worldview lasted for centuries. It led to profound doublethink where it was perfectly acceptable to posit for example that the world was not flat – something which sailors knew very well – as as one also accepted that it was, really,, because the Bible says so. The perceived non-roundness was okay to do sums and work out navigation. But one must never forget that it are higher and more meaningful sense, the world is flat because how could the Bible be wrong. This schizophrenic mentality damaged Western culture, and still damages it today. I can look around even today, and I can see examples of this idiocy still very much alive and kicking in the nonsense believed and evangelised by creationists for example.

Personally I believe that the period from the end of Greek civilisation until the beginning of the Enlightenment, was tragically. It is known of course as the dark ages. Just imagine if we had not had this 1500 year old to progress in the development, in nearly every field except theology. We would have walked on the moon by 1200 CE, by the time of the Middle Ages we would probably have colonised the near planets. Today, who knows, maybe we would have left this entirely and be on our way to Proxima Centauri.
nickfyoung
Bikerman
Quote:
the world is flat because how could the Bible be wrong



Bit of a myth you are promoting here. Sure there are some who claim the bible teaches a flat earth just as there is a flat earth society today who still believe the earth is flat. There is much argument as to what the Bible actually does say about the shape of the earth for both sides of the debate and it is not settled that it does say that the earth is flat. There is just as many feasible arguments that the Bible describes the earth as a sphere and I checked out a few from both sides of the debate and have included a link to one that I particularly liked.

http://www.geocentricity.com/astronomy_of_bible/flatearth/doesbibleteach.html
abhinavm24
depend!
its your choice and you are free to decide upon this. Laughing

truly speaking it is necessary bcoz all religions teach us to be considerate towards fellowmen.
its worth it.
LxGoodies
Interesting topics on FH Smile keep up my 45 points, easily Smile

@Bikerman,

Quote:
Why do you say that non-dynamic relics are essentially telling is nothing about the culture that used and created them.?

You don't quote me, but I suppose this submit is a reply to this.

In answer to your question, bronze age and stone age artifacts are very difficult to interpret. When abstract in shape, e.g. Hallstatt arts we don't have a single interpretation. And while Hallstatt was overtaking Western Europe 1000BC-250BC, the Romans (or Greeks) developed their colony in Rome.

Bikerman wrote:
Why do you say that non-dynamic relics are essentially telling is nothing about the culture that used and created them.?
The Egyptian pyramids ` us the huge amounts about the society and they also give us one of the driving forces that make the culture take.

Inside these pyramids, very little is found that refers to daily life of ordinary men. If we want to answer the OP-question worldwide, there must be an explanation for human self-organisation, with or without (essential) influence of religion. I think there was an influence, but I don't think it was essential to reach civilisation level, as suggested in the OP as a "stepping stone". Other factors, like calendar-driven agriculture, trade and specialisation were more important.

And indeed, the Greek city states were founded in a secular context (of territorial wars..)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Delian_League


Lx
Indi
nickfyoung wrote:
Bikerman
Quote:
the world is flat because how could the Bible be wrong



Bit of a myth you are promoting here. Sure there are some who claim the bible teaches a flat earth just as there is a flat earth society today who still believe the earth is flat. There is much argument as to what the Bible actually does say about the shape of the earth for both sides of the debate and it is not settled that it does say that the earth is flat. There is just as many feasible arguments that the Bible describes the earth as a sphere and I checked out a few from both sides of the debate and have included a link to one that I particularly liked.

http://www.geocentricity.com/astronomy_of_bible/flatearth/doesbibleteach.html

This website is not correct - it misrepresents a number of things both about ancient people believed and what modern scholars say about them, and there's a lot of stuff in there that is just made up completely.

For example:
Quote:
Most modern scholars claim that the Bible teaches an earth, flat and rectangular in shape, which is placed on several pillars which, in turn, are based on a foundation.

False.

Most modern scholars claim that the Bible teaches that the Earth is flat and DISK-SHAPED, floating in the "cosmic primordial waters of chaos", and possibly supported by pillars or a foundation or both (they're not 100% sure of that last part, and it's likely that the Bible writers themselves weren't 100% clear on it either - or at least, not in agreement from book to book).

Obviously i can't prove it, but since this is so well known by anyone who has bothered to study the topic, i suspect that the writer of this site deliberately misrepresented that fact for the sake of twisting all the mentions of the "roundness" of the Earth to mean spherical, when they actually don't - they mean literally round, flat and disk-shaped, not spherical.

Quote:
On the contrary, the Bible was already hinting of the sphericity of the earth by referring to the "compass upon the face of the depth" (Proverbs 8:27) some 500 years before the nations first started to doubt the flatness of the earth.

(1) misrepresentation; (2) deceptive.

(1) Proverbs 8:27 does not imply a spherical earth - it states precisely the opposite. Do you know what a compass is? This is a compass:


The verse is not referring to a magnetic compass used to find direction, because they didn't exist in that part of the world until the 12th or 13th century CE. (They did have magnets and compass-like devices in China in the 2nd century BCE, but a) that's too late for Proverbs, which at the absolute latest was complete by the 4th century BCE, but more likely between the 10th and 6th centuries, and b) those ancient Chinese compasses were just used for divination, and had nothing to do with finding direction until at least the 11th century CE. The verse makes no sense if the "compass" is a device for divining what the spirits are saying or what the flow of ki is doing. Meanwhile, drafting compasses were being used in that part of the world since 18th century BCE.)

You can see what the compass is doing: it's drawing a flat circle, NOT a sphere. That's exactly what Proverbs 8:27 is saying: God metaphorically set a compass down on the "cosmic primordial waters of chaos" and drew a circle which would become the Earth.

This is what the Bible actually says, using a modern English translation rather than the flowery KJV because it's much easier to understand:

Proverbs 8 wrote:
22 "The Lord possessed/created me at the beginning of his work, before his acts of old.
23 Ages ago I was set up, from the beginning, before the Earth.
24 When there were no depths(*1) I was brought forth, when there were no springs abounding with water.
25 Before the mountains were shaped, before the hills, I was brought forth,
26 before he had made the earth, or the fields, or the highest part of the dust of the Earth. (*2)
27 When he prepared the heavens, I was there; when he set a compass on the face of the depths,
28 when he established/stabilized/firmed up the skies above, (*3) when he established/stabilized/firmed up the fountains of the deep,
29 when he gave to the sea his decree that the waters might not pass his set boundaries, (*4) when he marked out the foundations of the earth,
30 then I was beside him, like one brought up with him, and I was daily (filled with?) his delight, rejoicing before him always,
31 rejoicing in the habitable parts of the Earth, and my delights were the sons of man."

You can see the flat Earth model plain as day there:

*1: The "depths" refers to the "cosmic primordial waters of chaos".

*2: I don't know what "the highest part of the dust of the Earth" means, but it most likely means the tops of the mountains.

*3: "Firming up" the skies above refers to the creation of the dome of the heavens - the firmament. Basically, this verse is describing God separating Heaven from Earth, and Earth from whatever is below.

*4: Basically, God is making sure the "cosmic primordial waters of chaos" won't wash over the Earth plate.

(2) The absolute earliest date for Proverbs is c. 10th century BCE, but that's stretching it - a more plausible date is closer to the 7th century BCE. That was around the time that it was not only known but well-accepted as fact in several schools of philosophy in ancient Greece that the Earth was spherical. I suspect the author was using the absolute earliest date for Proverbs and the date when all of Greek thinkers agreed the Earth was spherical, not when it was "first doubted", just to stretch out the number.

Quote:
The pillars can be shown to correspond to crystalline rock, commonly called the mantle, and that there is an unspecified number of foundations to the earth which can range from the roots of mountains to the core of the earth to the very foundation, Jesus Christ himself.

This is all complete bullshit. There is never any indication of what the "pillars" are made of - certainly no hint that they're crystalline (note the author just says "can be shown" but never actually provides any evidence), and the rest is shit the author is making up off the cuff because it sounds cool. The writers of Provers had no clue about Jesus.

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The Hindus, for example, have a cosmology in which the earth is taken to be a flat disk, placed on the back of an elephant which, in turn, is standing on a giant turtle which is swimming in a vast cosmic ocean.

No, they didn't. There are several different Hindu mythologies. There is the mythology of Kurmuraja, the turtle - all the world is INSIDE his shell, not on top of it (the top part of the shell is the dome of the heavens). There is also the mythology of Shesha, the multi-headed snake - all the universe rests on his heads, and he controls the flow of time by coiling and uncoiling. There is also an elephant story, but that idea didn't appear until much later and was probably due to a mistranslation of the ancient word for snake. It is unlikely that anyone took the elephant story seriously - it was just a neat story, not a serious cosmology like Kurmuraja or Shesha.

The story of the elephants on the turtle is Western invention, caused by conflating multiple Hindu mythologies.

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The Greeks until about the sixth century before Christ, believed the earth to be flat and placed on the shoulder of the giant, Atlas.

No, they didn't. The ancient Greeks believed the Earth was flat and floating on water. Atlas supported the HEAVENS on his shoulder, not the Earth. Good grief, that's basic Greek mythology - even Ayn Rand got that much right.

...

I could go on pointing out the errors but let's focus just on the ones dealing with Biblical cosmology.

Quote:
The Bible speaks of both the world and the earth as having foundations. The term, "world," speaks of the order of man in the earth. As such, references to foundations and pillars of the world cannot be held as very authoritative when it comes to speaking about the shape of the earth. The term "earth," on the other hand, can not only refer to the whole earth, but also to "ground" and, as we shall see, "land" or "country." So it is that a complete picture of the form of the earth in Scripture will not be manifest until all these are considered.

What he's planning to do is play word games using modern translations. Often the same Hebrew word gets translated differently in different places - and just as often different Hebrew words get translated to a single English word. That's why when you want to figure out what the Bible writers meant, you look at what the Bible writers wrote... not what King James' team (or even more modern translators) thought they meant. Remember, when the KJV was written (1611), there was no real question about the spherical nature of the Earth (and, at that point, it was even more-or-less established that the Earth went around the sun). They deliberately fudged the translation to downplay the fairly obvious flat Earth model. Now this writer is using that as the basis for his claim that the Bible doesn't have a flat Earth cosmology? What craptastic scholarship.

Quote:
(referring to 2 Samuel 22:16 and Psalm 18:15)

The context of both passages indicates that the foundations of the world are now hidden and will be discovered (or exposed) at the time of the judgment.

No, they don't. They quite clearly describe God coming angrily down and tearing shit up - with such destruction that it blows away even the top layers of the world. The claim that "world" refers to the human world and not the Earth is absurd - it makes no sense in context. Look, right before it talks about the "channels of the waters" (referring to the "cosmic primordial waters of chaos") also getting exposed by God's nose blast. If "world" refers to "humanity", what the hell would "channels of the waters" refer to? Makes no sense. The word "world" there obviously means the Earth, and the message is that when God's mad, he can blow off the top layers and expose the supports beneath.

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Since the world is defined to be that part of the earth that pertains to mankind, there can be little doubt of the truth of the statement that the world is founded upon the seas, not built upon rocky foundations like the foundations of a building.

It says plain as day that the Earth was built upon the "seas" and the "floods" (referring to the "cosmic primordial waters of chaos"). "Since the world is defined to be that part of the earth that pertains to mankind..." ... by absolutely no one else but this author. He made that whole idea up out of whole cloth!

The author is clueless and grasping at straws, plain and simple. Here's the proof: the word that gets translated as "world" in both 2 Samuel 22:16 and Psalm 18:15 is תֵּבֵל (tebel). That word specifically means "the habitable part of the world"... not the human world as the author pretends. The same word is used in Isaiah 14:17 ("made the world as a wilderness, and destroyed the cities thereof"), Isaiah 26:18 ("neither have the inhabitants of the world fallen") and Nahum 1:5 ("the world, and all that dwell therein") - and it makes no sense for the word to mean "humanity" or "the human world" in any of those ("made humanity a wilderness"? "the 'inhabitants of humanity' have fallen"? "those who dwell 'within humanity'"?). Furthermore, the same Hebrew word is translated in Proverbs 8:31, which i quoted above, as "the habitable parts of the Earth" (the same word is in 8:26 in "highest part of the dust of the Earth"). Because that's what it means.

(Ironically, the word he identifies as translating as "Earth" is usually אֶרֶץ ('erets)... and that word is sometimes used to mean "the people of a country" or "humanity". תֵּבֵל (tebel) never means that. In other words... this dude has it exactly opposite.)

Quote:
(After referencing Psalm 102:25, Job 38:4, Proverbs 8:29, Proverbs 3:19, Micah 6:2 and Psalm 104:5...)

Given the above references to the foundations of the earth there are two things which become readily apparent. First of all, the foundations themselves are fastened upon Christ, the sustainer of the universe.

Wait, wut?

This is clearly just making shit up.

But to take just one specific example, let's look at Proverbs 8:29. The author says "Proverbs 8:29 tells us that the earth's foundations were appointed" and from that presumably deduces "appointed? Jesus was appointed! this must refer to Jesus!" But you'll notice that when i translated Proverbs 8 into plain English above, it doesn't say "appointed", it says "marked out". Why did i do that?

Because that's what the ****** word means.

The word is חָקַק (chaqaq). This is what it actually means. It means "the lines were drawn". It does not mean "someone was assigned".

Let's skip some stuff and get to the next "big" point: the corners of the Earth.

Our diligent author spends some time going into the roots of the word "corner", how it came from the Latin root meaning "horn". What good research, eh?

Except... the Old Testament was written in Ancient Hebrew, and the New Testament was written in Greek (though some may have been Hebrew or Aramaic originally). Not Latin. Derp.

Predictably, the author goes on to "prove" that the Bible writers didn't mean a square Earth (because several verses flat out say it's round, surprise surprise). Bizarrely, they then offer an argument about the four "corners of the Earth" being "Norway, Newfoundland, Cape Horn and the Cape of Good Hope". The logic is that if you slice the surface of the Earth apart and spread it flat with Jerusalem at the centre, you get these four corners, and that's what the Bible writers meant. Sure, okay, let's accept that for just a moment - if you spread the Earth flat with Jerusalem at the centre, you get 4 distinct "points" at the far edges (not really true, but okay, let's accept the argument for a moment). But then the author says the Bible writers couldn't have meant a flat circle because there are no corners. Yes... but... wait... you just... you just said... a sphere can have corners... you spread it flat and call the pointy bits of land corners... but... a flat disk can also... so... by your own argument... that's proof that....

Wow. The author actually proves that the flat Earth model makes sense in context if you interpret the "corners" as peninsulas (though that's really not what the original authors meant)... then dismisses it for the very model the Bible actually uses. Wow.

(For the record, what the original authors meant was pretty obvious, in context. If the Earth is flat, it's a 2D surface. Even if you don't know geometry, it's patently obvious that there are 2 orthogonal dimensions - forward/back and left/right - and two directions for each dimension - giving forward, back, left and right. It's a perfectly natural way to think about travelling: you can go forward, back, left or right - you don't naturally talk about going forward-left, bearing 060 and reverse. It's completely obvious and natural that some ancient writer, trying to talk about "going everywhere", would say: "I'm going to go forward until i get to the end of the world... then (still talking about where he's standing) i'm going to go that way (left) until the end of the world... then until the end that way (right)... then i'm even going to go back in the direction behind me." Boom, 4 "ends of the Earth" - a perfectly natural way to say "in all directions" or "everywhere" when talking about a flat surface. Of course, it make no sense when talking about a spherical one, because if you go forward... you'll never get to "the end of the world"... you'll come right back around where you started. The arbitrary "ends" this author came up with are patent bullshit - they don't even make sense geographically, get the dude a globe for goodness sake.)

Moving on.

The author then tries to argue that Luke 17 refers to day and night happening at the same time, because it's referring to a day and night happening during the rapture and 1 Corinthians refers to the rapture as happening quickly.

This is what Luke actually says:

Quote:
31 In that day ...
...
34 I say to you, In that night, there shall be two men on one couch, the one shall be taken, and the other shall be left;
35 two women shall be grinding at the same place together, the one shall be taken, and the other shall be left;
36 two men shall be in the field, the one shall be taken, and the other left.

Now, if you really want to be a Biblical literalist, the pervert in me has to point out that there's no mention of daytime. It says "in that day" and "in that night", which is not contradictory because night comes once a day, then talks about two men on a couch, two women grinding together, and two men in a field. This could all be at night. And... that "grinding"... may not be the grinding of wheat. And... those two men in the field... may not be surveying or farming.... ^_^

But on a more serious note, there are two obvious rebuttals to the author's claim. The first is that when the phrase "on that day" is used, it doesn't necessarily mean the literal period from sunrise to sunset. In fact, just focusing on Luke, the word for day used is ἡμέρα (hemera), and Luke also uses it in 1:7 and 1:18. But if you check those verses, you won't see the word "day" there... it's translated as "years". Still just in chapter 1, it's also used in verse 75, which talks about serving God "all the days of our life" - you really think that just means when the sun's up (though that might explain the grinding ladies, and the men in the field, i suppose)? The second rebuttal is that Luke and 1 Chronicles are written by two different people, so it's hardly surprising that they disagree on details. You can take your pick - if you want to be a literalist, the literal translation doesn't support the "day and night at same time" theory (and implies that the rapture will come at night); if you want to be a realist, then this is just another example, among many, of Biblical contradictions.

Moving on...

The next claim is that Acts 1:8 refers to the "uttermost part"... singular... and a flat Earth has infinite uttermost parts (its borders) while a spherical Earth has only one (the antipode). (Unsurprisingly, the author ignores the fact that the antipode of Jerusalem is right in the middle of the South Pacific, derp. Good luck proselytizing there, jackass.) This is yet another case of the author basing their argument on the English translation, and not the original source. Because the original word for "uttermost part" is ἔσχατος (eschatos), and the exact same phrase is translated... also in Acts (13:47)... as "the ends of the Earth". (Don't forget: the translation he's reading was done in 1611 - that's after Copernicus and Columbus, and during the fuss between Galileo and the Roman Catholic Church (though the Church of England was already separate from the Roman Catholic Church, and James himself was an intellectual, and fairly anti-Catholic - also Kepler actually wanted to dedicate one of his books to James) - so the translators were trying to fudge a spherical (and heliocentric) Earth model into the text... but the original writers were pretty consistent about the Earth being flat.)

Then it's back to equivocating between the habitable world and the "human world", when the text clearly means the former while the author is desperately trying to argue for the latter.

And his final shot - the big finish, which the author says "will modify any preconceived notions we may have about the pillars of the earth":

Quote:
(Job 26:7) He stretcheth out the north over the empty place, and hangeth the earth upon nothing.

A flat earth, upon pillars and foundations, hanging upon nothing is very difficult to imagine since one usually imagines the foundation to be the primary support for an structure. But here we note that according to this verse, in addition to the pillars and foundations underneath, the earth also hangs upon nothing.

Uh... yeah... that's... actually not very difficult to imagine at all. It's actually entirely consistent. The Earth is resting on its foundation, thus it's hanging on nothing. Hanging on nothing means not hanging on anything, because nothing is not a thing, it's nothing. It sounds weird to put it that way, but what's happening is Job is bragging about how great God is by saying he set up the Earth and the sky out ex nihilo - out of nothing.

Notably, the author completely ignores the rest of Job 26. In the part from around verse 5, he's talking up how awesome God is by saying God can see through the (flat) Earth to Sheol and Abbadon underneath, how he set up the sky ("the north") and Earth from nothing and held back the waters of Heaven from Earth (above the firmament), and... dun dun dun... drew a circle in "the waters" to hold them back from the land (verse 10). It's the flat Earth cosmology again, laid bare and explicit.

Finally the author wraps up by claiming that the "pillars of the Earth" are "vertically-oriented crystalline rock" - completely out of the blue - and points to two examples: "Pinnacles National Monument in California, which is not really crystalline in nature" (mmhm...) and Devil's Tower (which, technically, is also not really crystalline - it is phonolite, though it has some some feldspar crystals in it). (I still don't know where the hell the author got the idea of the pillars being crystalline.)

In summary, this is not a good reference at all. The author doesn't know as much about any of the cosmologies they talk about as they pretend to (they get some very basic stuff wrong) - not even the actual Biblical cosmology - and the author obviously doesn't know how to actually study what's written in the Bible without nitpicking the KJV's wording.

The truth is that an honest reading of the Bible makes the flat Earth cosmology crystal clear. It's all through the Bible, right from Genesis. Note Genesis 1:2, where, before any creation, "darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters." What "deep"? What "waters"? That's what i've been referring to as the "cosmic primordial waters of chaos". Then in 1:6 it talks about creating the firmament to separate the waters above from below. There it is again. We can go right through to Revelation! For example, there's Revelation 21:8 and 21:9 - among the last verses to talk about the Earth before it's finally destroyed - that talk about the four corners, and the plain of the Earth.

There is not "much argument" about whether the Bible describes a flat Earth or not - at least not among actual Bible scholars. There is, as usual, what scholarship says versus what believers insist. That is not an argument. That is one side making reasoned arguments and using evidence, and the other side sticking their fingers in their ears and shouting "la la la i can't hear you!".
Klaw 2
@indi...
Yes at first the greeks thougt the earth was flat but didnt Eratosthenes(?) calculate the size of the earth? (Late 3rd century bce... (does that make sence, 3rd century bce?))
moncong
codegeek wrote:
They say necessity is the mother of invention. If this is true, humans must have had a reason for creating organized religion(s). I may be wrong here -- I frequently am in these matters -- but I feel that religion was just a stepping stone from the savage lifestyle of the ancient man into civilization.

It was a way of controlling people, and of maintaining a chaos-free society. One may argue that we have law and order for those things, but faith is probably a better tool to keep people in line than law. Well, if we assume that to be the purpose of religion, has it become unnecessary at this point of time in the development of human society? What do you think?

(To all religious people out there, I am not really trying to attack your faith. I am only questioning the concept of organized religion from a purely scientific point of view, pertaining to human psychology and anthropology. So, let's not make this about whether or not God exists, although I do understand that the two subjects are pretty deeply interlinked.)


I'm free from religion..
the important point is help others, if not don't hurt others..
also self controlling
nickfyoung
Indi, First I must apologize for a misapprehension I have of you being female while a couple of recent posts refer to you as male. I don't know where I got that from but your posts now do take on a slightly different meaning. There has to be some discrimination in there somewhere and it does humble one to realize ones short comings and failings.

As usual I am not going to argue with your impeccable logic but will raise just a couple of points.

Indi
Quote:
The writers of Proverbs had no clue about Jesus.


It is generally accepted that the majority of Proverbs was written by Solomon. He was supposed to be a pretty smart cookie of his time.

Quote:
Conservative Evangelicals continue to attribute most of the book to Solomon,


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Book_of_Proverbs

It is also generally accepted that Jesus is referred to in Proverbs.

Quote:
Messianic interpretations in Christianity
There are found in Proverbs,


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Book_of_Proverbs

The Old testament was the only Bible that the Jews had. It is full of dozens of references to the coming of Jesus and was designed to prepare the Jews for his coming. After all the generations of preparedness they still didn't recognize him and so had him killed.

Quote:
The Christian New Testament frequently cites Jewish scripture to support the claim of the Early Christians that Jesus of Nazareth is the messiah


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jesus_and_messianic_prophecy


Quote:
when the KJV was written (1611)



The KJV was just a re-translation of the Geneva Bible 1560 which was a re-translation of the Great Bible 1539 which was a re-translation of the Tyndale Bible1525. While great care was taken with these re-translations a few errors did creep in by the time it got to being the KJV

I prefer something after 1978 such as the New International Version which starts from the earliest copies and does a complete new translation with the added benefit of cultural insights from the Dead Sea Scrolls.
Nyasro
yeah religion is necessary coz It shows every one a right path to walk
during life time
dude_xyx
I guess it's necessary for those who need it. If someone doesn't need it no need to be bother about it.
amagard
I can easily imagine that religions emerged because people have been searching for answers to the typical "why" questions as in "Why are we here ?".
In early ages of human mankind science wasn't there to provide good answers. Nowadays science provides better and more answers but of course every answer creates new questions. Anyway more and more people might find those answers to those "why" questions sufficient and thus religion these days becomes less important for many people.
And there always have been people who care a lot about those "why" questions, for those religion has been important. And I actually believe the majority of people are in this group. Nevertheless, there are people who simply don't care why we are here, who don't need a reason for their existence to enjoy it. Those people probably never had any need for any religion, except may be Buddhism, which kind of focuses on the here and now without asking too many questions.
I became aware of this after seeing this Lifehacker article today:
Indi
Klaw 2 wrote:
@indi...
Yes at first the greeks thougt the earth was flat but didnt Eratosthenes(?) calculate the size of the earth? (Late 3rd century bce... (does that make sence, 3rd century bce?))

Yes indeed! And the Greeks were pretty sure the Earth was spherical two hundred years before that, even. I didn't go into any detail of Greek cosmological beliefs because the web page was specifically about Biblical (Hebrew) ones, but the Greek story is actually far more interesting and awesome.

Basically, they started out in like the 12th century BCE the same as everyone else that came out in the area of Mesopotamia - the Hebrews, the Egyptians, the Babylonians, etc. - believing same that the Earth was flat and floating on water (some believed with foundations, others without). This was the "Greek Dark Ages". During this period, Greece was forming by borrowing stuff from other cultures and incorporating it into their own. They weren't particularly thoughtful or academic yet - this was a period of incessant wars, when many of the ancient civilizations were wiped out (including the Mycenaeans, whom the Greeks more-or-less descended from).

The Greek Dark Ages ended with the flourishing of the great poets - Homer, Hesiod - and the founding of the era of Athenian Tyrants (c. 800 BCE - c. 500 BCE). This was still not exactly a peaceful era (in fact, one of the later wars is the Persian war, dramatized in 300, though the film incorrectly paints Sparta as fairly democratic when in fact it was one of the last non-democratic city-states - actually a just a bunch of militaristic thugs - and never quite hip with the rest of Greece), but as each Tyrant tried to set up their own private city-states, there was more and more effort spent on building up grand mini civilizations - basically, each Tyrant was trying to outshine the others. The result was an explosion in civilization, but in isolated pockets rather than universally, and there were tons of different "schools". This was before philosophy, so these were really schools of mysticism - almost but not quite religions unto themselves (they never quite became independent religions because they were still part of the mainstream, which includes the mainstream religion). Because Greece was primarily a sea-faring civilization, big on trading with neighbours, it advanced rapidly, and developed technology for things like navigation (which means astronomy, mathematics and geography) very quickly. Most of the "schools" still probably taught flat-Earth cosmologies, but some of them taught about a round Earth, though it's hard to say with detail because the records are all lost.

Then along came Thales (~624 BCE - ~546 BCE). ^_^ (pronounced "thah-less")

Thales is a name you've probably never heard. When people talk about Greek philosophy, it's all Socrates, Plato and Aristotle, because Plato was the father of the Christian philosophy which ruled the world for the next 1500 years (and Socrates was the philosopher Plato gushed over) and Aristotle was his antithesis - every story needs a good guy and a bad guy after all.

But it all started with Thales. Thales is the father of philosophy...

... mathematics...

... geometry...

... and even science.

In fact, in a very real way, Thales is the father of all rational thought. Seriously. He was the first person to try to think deliberately non-mystically. In other words, he tried to explain the universe, and solve problems, without appealing gods or mythology. Mind you, in modern terms, Thales can sound a little mystical, but that's because he was the first - he was starting from scratch and had no concept of "secular reasoning" to build on. He had one foot in the dark, mystical past and one foot in Enlightenment. He did still believe that the Earth was flat and floating on water, but - and this is one of his great leaps forward - given that "fact", he tried to explain other natural processes in terms of it. For example, earthquakes were not the gods getting angry and stomping around, they could be because of the floating Earth hitting choppy waters. Like i said, he had one foot in the dark ages of mysticism and the other in the future of rational thought (there are actually traditions that claim, for example, when he figured out his mathematical theorem (the first theorem attributed to anyone, by the way), he sacrificed an ox to the gods).

Thales started the ball rolling, and his students picked it up and ran with it. One of his students was Anaximander (~611 BCE - ~546 BCE), who took over after Thales and really went hard-core on the secularism of thought - he may have conducted the first scientific experiment. Anaximander did NOT believe the Earth was flat!... but... he did think it was shaped like a cylinder. ^_^; Ah, well, that's progress. Actually it was progress, because Anaximander had the wholly revolutionary idea - seen nowhere else in any thought, mythological or otherwise, that i know of - that the Earth was floating... in nothing. That it was just hanging... in space. Everyone else had the Earth resting on something, even if was just the "primordial waters of chaos" (like ancient Greek mythology and Thales supposed). Anaximander was the first to imagine... space! He modelled the cosmos with the sun and stars able to go... under... the Earth, as they orbited around it. Yes, this is geocentrism, but... damn this was a revolutionary leap forward in thought.

Among Anaximander's possible students was one Pythagoras (~570 BCE - ~495 BCE). You may have heard of him. Actually, Pythagoras was more of a cult leader than a rationalist philosopher, and he kinda breaks off from the chain (Anaximander was actually succeeded by Anaximenes (~585 BCE - ~528 BCE), who supposed the flat Earth was floating on air - in fact, everything is made of air, which is not as stupid as it sounds if you hear his arguments). He went and established his own cult-like school/religion (remember, this was still back in the day when reasoned thought was still detaching itself from mysticism) that worshipped... numbers. Yes, seriously. Actually, it's likely that most of the stuff attributed to Pythagoras wasn't actually done by Pythagoras, because his followers attributed everything to him. But to give a graphic example what Pythagoreanism was like, legend goes that one of his followers (Hippasus) discovered the existence of irrational numbers... which so scandalized the Pythagoreans who believed that numbers should be "perfect" that they drowned the guy.

Yeah. Don't ****** with Greek mathematicians.

But what's relevant here is that Pythagoras taught that the Earth was spherical. This was not a scientific theory, mind you, or even a philosophical one; it was a mystical one - they thought the Earth was a sphere because spheres were "perfect", and they worshipped them. But they were one of the most influential schools that taught this (possibly the first, but that seems sketchy, because there is some evidence that even Hesiod in the 8th century BCE thought the Earth was round), and they pretty much standardized the idea. Later thinkers made rational observations to support the theory (such as that tall ships in the distance sink below the horizon), and by the time you get to Eratosthenes two or three hundred years later, the idea is no longer mystical belief - it's just well-established fact.

Thales, Anaximander, Pythagoras, and the rest were the harbingers of the golden age of Greece that really didn't end until the Roman conquest in 146 BCE (and that point, it triggered the Roman golden age, which lasted until Constantine and Christianization in the 3rd century CE). When the last of the Tyrants fell and Greece became a democracy (~5th century BCE), philosophy and mathematics flourished, and we get into Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, and the philosophers and philosophies we all know about.

While it's a myth that the Western world forgot that the Earth was spherical in Dark Ages (after the fall of Rome and the loss of all the Greek knowledge), it is true that they had no idea how big it was. That's because Eratosthenes had measured the Earth in stades, and no one knew anymore how long a stades was. ^_^; That was what the debate Columbus was having was about - not whether the Earth was flat or not - and ironically, Columbus was wrong. He underestimated the stades, and thus underestimated the circumference of the Earth, which is why he was so far off when he hit the Bahamas but thought he was near India.

So it's not exactly a linear progression (and i've left a lot of really interesting stuff out!) but it's roughly the case that Greeks thought the Earth was flat and floating on water up until the 6th century BCE, and during the 5th century BCE they converted to a spherical Earth (though there's a lot of overlap - and it was probably commonly believed among the seafarers of the 6th century that the Earth was spherical).

When Christianity rose to power there was some friction, because the Church Fathers could see the flat Earth model in the Bible as plain as day, which was problematic. But it wasn't as bad as you'd think. There were a few literalists who wanted to stand firm on the idea of a flat Earth (right up to the 6th century CE), but most Christian thinkers were okay with fudging the facts (the old "the Bible is not a science text" idea), and the official word - from the Pope, who was the universal authority at the time (this was before the Great Schism) - was that the Earth was a sphere.

So basically, once the Greeks figured it out in the 6th or 5th century BCE, it was fact in all Western thought that the Earth was a sphere from then on out.

(Muslim thought also inherited the idea from the Greeks, but actually went much farther, developing spherical geometry (mostly so they could calculate distances and directions to Mecca), and finding a new method to estimate the Earth's circumference that get gave them a number within... get this... 20 km of the true number. That's an error of 0.26%. (Eratosthenes was ~5-10%, which is really not bad.) Meanwhile, further East, the Chinese still believed the Earth was flat (and square) until the 17th century, when Jesuit missionaries spread the idea there.)

(Now, no one figured out that the Earth isn't a sphere until the 18th century. ^_^; But that's another story.)

nickfyoung wrote:
Indi, First I must apologize for a misapprehension I have of you being female while a couple of recent posts refer to you as male. I don't know where I got that from but your posts now do take on a slightly different meaning. There has to be some discrimination in there somewhere and it does humble one to realize ones short comings and failings.

Does it really matter?

nickfyoung wrote:
It is generally accepted that the majority of Proverbs was written by Solomon. He was supposed to be a pretty smart cookie of his time.

Ah, no.

There are no less than 4 different authors mentioned within Proverbs. Traditionalists and evangelicals like to claim that it was all Solomon, and wave off the 4 different authors as just different names for Solomon... but this is absurd. Take Proverbs 30:1 for example, which not only names Agur as author, it even names Agur's father as Jakeh... not David.

The reality is that Solomon might not even have existed, or, if he did, he certainly wasn't the great king he's painted as (and neither was David). There is pretty much zero archaeological evidence of him, and the "great Hebrew kingdom" at the time appears to have been a single city of a couple hundred (not thousand) people. (Which, if one takes Biblical accounts that Solomon had 700 princess-wives and 300 concubines seriously, seems to imply that Solomon was either married to or ****** the entire population. Nicely done.)

Real scholars believe Proverbs is a mish-mash of writings from multiple authors, one of which may have been Solomon, but that seems unlikely. (It's more plausible that, if he existed and had any part in Proverbs, one or more of his scribes recorded his "wisdom".)

nickfyoung wrote:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Book_of_Proverbs

It is also generally accepted that Jesus is referred to in Proverbs.

Again, no. And... oddly, it explains that flat out right in the link you gave.

What is going on is that Proverbs (in places) talks about Wisdom as if it were a person. For example, Proverbs 9:1 ("Wisdom hath builded her house..."). Much of Proverbs is written as if Wisdom were a person, and showing how Wisdom and God are best buds.

And the expected result happens when you get Christian readers poring through the Old Testament for evidence of prophecy about Jesus: "Hey, here's something that's talking about a person who's really awesome... MUST BE JESUS!!!11!1!" (This is especially true of Hellenistic Greco-Romans, who believed that Jesus was the personification of Wisdom - the Logos - so it seemed a natural match.)

But it's all just another case of wishful thinking - of putting stuff into the text that you want to be there, rather than stuff that's actually there. Modern translations, using better source material and better understanding of Biblical Hebrew, make it quite clear: Proverbs does not talk about Jesus.

nickfyoung wrote:
The Old testament was the only Bible that the Jews had. It is full of dozens of references to the coming of Jesus and was designed to prepare the Jews for his coming. After all the generations of preparedness they still didn't recognize him and so had him killed.

That's a bit of an exaggeration, mixed in with the anti-Semitic propaganda associated with Christian tradition, along with other errors. (For example, the Jews, in fact, did not have a "bible" in the sense that modern Christians understand - they had (and have) several holy texts. The Tanakh (what you'd call the "Old Testament" is really the combination of the Torah, the Prophets, and the Wisdom), but they also had tons of Rabbinic writings, and the Targum (and that's not even to mention the Oral Torah).)

First of all, there are not really "dozens" of references, unless you count every individual reference in Isaiah (which, of course, people do, to inflate the numbers). Isaiah is a whole book about the prophecy of the fall of Israel and the rise of the King that will restore Israel and lead them to conquer the world (and, ultimately, even conquer evil and death). If you don't count Isaiah, there are only a handful of mentions of a coming messiah. And those are only references to Jesus if you really squint and ignore the context. (For example 1 Chronicles 22:9-10 is usually claimed as a prophecy of Jesus, but is quite plainly about Solomon (it even says so!).) There's also a translation error in play, but i'll get to that in a minute.

Second, if you actually look at what the prophecies of the messiah claim, it's clearly not Jesus. Like, plain as day. The only way Christian thinkers can fudge is with this idea of the "second coming" (among other silly ideas). You see, the messiah was prophesied to do lots of stuff. He was supposed to be the King of Israel (Jesus was not, and Christians arbitrarily naming him so does not make it so - that's like me naming George Carlin King of the USA), he was supposed to lead the Israelites in rebuilding their kingdom and conquering the world, unifying everyone under the Jewish religion. Jesus did none of those things, so the only way Christians can claim he is the messiah is by saying "oh, but he's going to come back and do them", which Jewish thinkers rightly dismiss as bullshit, and not only because the messiah was supposed to have done those things not long after the destruction of the second Temple.

Third... there's not just one messiah, and, in fact, Jewish belief recognizes dozens of them. Some even in the Bible. That probably threw you for a loop, just as it apparently does for many Christian readers who think every time the word "messiah" appears it means Jesus. What's going on here is that the word for messiah is מָשִׁיחַ (mashiyach), which really just means "annointed one". Anyone who is annointed with oil is a messiah (which is why it was such a big deal when it happened to Jesus). In the Bible, there are many people named as annointed. There are the Levite priests in Leviticus 4:3-5 and 4:16 (check and see for yourself!), there's Samuel in 1 Samuel 12:3-5, there are "strangers wandering from nation to nation" in 1 Chronicles 16:22, and, not the least, there's King Cyrus, who is explicitly called messiah in Isaiah 45 (and implied in other prophecies, like the "seventy sevens" in Daniel). And there have been dozens of other messiahs since - after the alleged time of Jesus - written about in the Talmud rather than the Bible.

There is one particular messiah prophesied (almost only in Isaiah, and other mentions might just be references to Isaiah) as the King Messiah (the annointed King)... but that's clearly not Jesus, because he was supposed to come hundreds of years ago, and he was supposed to lead the Israelites on a path to conquest and global domination. What Christians do is interpret prophesies about that messiah as Jesus by making absurd claims (like that he'll unite the world when he comes back, or that the "triumphant entrance into Jerusalem" described in the New Testament is the one prophesied (it's clearly not, because the entrance into Jerusalem was supposed to liberate it from its conquerors and make it the capital of Israel again, which Jesus clearly didn't)). They also go all through the Bible looking for every reference to "annointed" and "messiah" and screaming "Jesus"! But there are dozens of messiahs.

The claim that Jews having Jesus killed is just anti-Semitic bullshit. The Bible states plain as day that it was the Romans who had him killed, and as hard as it tries to pin the blame on Jews that doesn't even makes sense in context. Historically, it makes even less sense. The earliest Gospel texts put the blame on the Romans, but as time goes on, the ones written later try harder and harder to pin the blame on the Jews. Why? The answer is obvious: because they were trying to win over Romans, and blaming them for the death of the messiah was bad PR, and because as time went on it became more and more clear that Jews had no interest in recognizing Jesus as the King Messiah (for obvious reasons), so, basically, ****** them.

If Jews wanted to kill Jesus, all they had to do was wait till he went out into the desert (as he allegedly often did) and send a team to murder him. Done, clean and simple. The body would probably never be found. Instead, there's this circuitous tale of them "pressuring" reticent Roman authorities to do it for them. As if the Roman authorities would give a shit about executing Jesus: "Hm? You want this itinerant mystic accused of sedition and executed? Meh, no problem. Gives the guards something to do - they just love to gamble with the property of people being crucified right in front of them." Seriously, the Roman authorities are not going to say: "Oh, this dude was preaching the rise of a new Jewish kingdom that would overthrow Rome, but... should we kill him? He seems like such a sweetie." Whoever's reporting Jesus would get just as far as: "There's a mystic preaching the rise of a kingdom that will overthrow Rome-" and that would be that, Jesus would be dead before the sentence ended.

nickfyoung wrote:
Quote:
The Christian New Testament frequently cites Jewish scripture to support the claim of the Early Christians that Jesus of Nazareth is the messiah


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jesus_and_messianic_prophecy

You didn't actually read that page past the first paragraph, did you. ^_^;

amagard wrote:
I can easily imagine that religions emerged because people have been searching for answers to the typical "why" questions as in "Why are we here ?".
In early ages of human mankind science wasn't there to provide good answers. Nowadays science provides better and more answers but of course every answer creates new questions. Anyway more and more people might find those answers to those "why" questions sufficient and thus religion these days becomes less important for many people.
And there always have been people who care a lot about those "why" questions, for those religion has been important. And I actually believe the majority of people are in this group.

The problem with this idea is that it presumes religion actually has something to say about those "why" questions. Does it? No, of course it doesn't. It pretends to, just as it pretends to have something to say about just about any question you ask - whether it's a question about morality, history, cosmology, or even what to eat or wear. But it doesn't actually have anything to say. It offers obscurity, fantasy and sometimes outright lies... and it doesn't offer those things to answer the "why" questions, but rather to make you stop asking them.

Thus - to borrow an analogy - a person who wants to ask the "why" questions needs religion like a fish needs a bicycle. Not only is it flat-out useless, offering you no real answers and hollow comfort, it is often quite dangerous. It can and does, on occasion, lead to horrifically bad answers - such as those people who ask why they're on Earth and determine the answer to be "to blow myself up and earn paradise for my loved ones by fighting sin and killing infidels".

So when people say religion fulfils a need that people have to find meaning... no, it doesn't. It distracts people from a real search for meaning. People who find meaning via religion have not found meaning - they can't possibly have; all they've found is a reason to stop looking.
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