On the origins of gods


I have before written here that I think gods, whatever they are, were created as a result of two things; ignorance and fear of the unknown. I think this view explains quite conclusively why every time members of our race are ignorant of a cause, they make a god responsible.

In the Naked Ape, which am currently reading, D. Morris suggests that we created a god/ gods to fill the vacant position of a tribal tyrant as we evolved from our common primate ancestor. He writes

in a behavioural sense, religious activities consist of the coming together of large groups of people to perform repeated and prolonged submissive displays to appease a dominant individual.

[…]from our ancient background there remained a need for an all-powerful figure who could keep the group under control and the vacancy was filled by the invention of a god.

He continues to comment on why religion has been so successful where he writes

it is surprising that religion has been so successful, but its extreme potency is simply a measure of the strength of our fundamental biological tendency, inherited directly from our monkey and ape ancestors, to submit ourselves to an all-powerful dominant member of the group.

He writes

because of this, religion has proved immensely valuable as a device for aiding social cohesion.

What are your thoughts on the above?

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About makagutu

As Onyango Makagutu I am Kenyan, as far as I am a man, I am a citizen of the world

83 thoughts on “On the origins of gods

  1. I think that ignorance is very relevant to the concept of gods. The best example is that people can be ignorant enough to be unaware that not everyone agrees on the definition of a god or deity.

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  2. pinkagendist says:

    I think there’s yet another reason for the success of religion and gods – and that is politics. All religion has overlapped politics and the control of ideology in society.

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  3. Morris’ anthropological reasoning concretely addresses the human rationale for an omnipotent leader from an adult perspective. However, there may be other psychological factors at work such as those related to adolescent or even juvenile behavior. The cultural infatuation with teen idols, for example, doesn’t seem to fit the “group control” hypothesis and might instead represent a form of rebellion. Human lifespans were significantly shorter when the concept of godlike beings originated, and this must have had a limiting effect on rational (i.e. adult) cognition.

    Now, I’m not suggesting that “kids” came up with the idea of gods, but imagine a tribe facing hard times and questioning their leader’s authority. Youthful upstarts could have asserted (using a gambling analogy), “We’ll see your Chief and raise you God!”

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  4. to presume that current situations have a single historic source is not a healthy attitude nor one that I suspect will be shown to be correct. The social dynamics of social animals is a delicate balancing of needs and greeds. It is difficult to see organization in any such animal society.

    Those animals who do go to war either offensively or defensively tend to have leaders so success depends on the leader… this is undeniably a survival technique. The big MF in the group being ‘top dog’ is very evident and often this character pays a price such as male lions do, first in protecting the pride then in losing rank as soon as there is a younger big MF to push him off the throne.

    The pride needs that protection, so this also is a survival technique. How many other survival techniques may have contributed to god belief is unknown, but I see many as fitting into shaping the role that a god would hold in society.

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  5. paarsurrey says:

    It is just a guess work; or more accurately rather a leap in the dark. There is no evidence to support it.

    Belief in the One-True-God is the natural and or default position; when one tilts to one side one believes in many god and when one tilts to the other side one denies Him.

    This is done out of superstition and or ignorance; not out of any certainty or evidence. Doubt is also a position of ignorance not of evidence or certainty.

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    • makagutu says:

      We have had this one true god discussion before and given that am busy am not going to waste my time repeating how full of BS it is to repeat the same stupid line.

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      • paarsurrey says:

        You are still on the same untruthful line; well that is your prerogative; yet Truth is presented to you.

        Please don’t be angry; instead concentrate on the reasons and arguments.

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        • “You are still on the same untruthful line; well that is your prerogative; yet Truth is presented to you.”

          And you are still spreading the same line of fairy tales!

          Please don’t be angry; instead concentrate on the reasons and arguments.

          What reasons and arguments could you possibly have in defense of magic?

          I’m curious, Paarsurrey, what did your people believe before Mohammed came along?

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          • paarsurrey says:

            @ archaeopteryx1 January 20, 2014 at 20:15
            “what did your people believe before Mohammed came along?”

            I don’t get you; please elaborate.
            I never believed in any magic. Do you? Please

            Thanks

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          • Then prithee tell me, Paarsurrey, to just what truth you refer – “Truth is presented to you” —

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          • makagutu says:

            The one true god! Or has he invented a new one. He shocks me! How do you repeat the same line to the same people you have had a similar debate with who have shown you the problems with your assertions

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          • That could only happen if one ignores the responses of the dissenters.

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          • paarsurrey says:

            It is good to have discussion in a light mood. I don’t mind it.
            Now please be serious and prove your view point.

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          • “Then prithee tell me, Paarsurrey, to just what truth you refer – ‘Truth is presented to you’” –

            I’m still waiting for you to tell me to what “truth” you refer – let me know when you’re ready to do that. Oh, and please bring along some verifiable evidence that the “truth” you speak of is actually truth. The words of a caravan driver who suffered from epileptic seizures will not be sufficient.

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        • Sorry, my bad – I forgot to say, “Poohbear!”

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          • paarsurrey says:

            @ archaeopteryx1 January 20, 2014 at 20:16
            You believe in Pooh Bear?Strange!
            Other Atheists don’t believe in it, I think.
            It is OK if you forgot.

            Now come to the arguments; please

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          • “Now come to the arguments; please”

            Arguments? Against what? You’re provided no evidence against which I can argue – give me your evidence, and I’ll give you my argument, fair exchange.

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          • paarsurrey says:

            I told you that I very naturally believe in the One-True-God; I am an open mind and could only leave my position if somebody proves his position with reasons and arguments.

            The Atheists claim of not believing in One-True-God is unnatural and extraordinary; one cannot live in Doubt permanently; please present your extraordinary reasons and arguments to prove your position of doubt.

            I respect you however.

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          • “The Atheists claim of not believing in One-True-God is unnatural and extraordinary.”

            Do you have some medical doctor or mental health specialist, such as a psychologist or psychiatrist who can reliably confirm this, or is it your opinion only?

            The truth is, it’s the most natural and ordinary thing about humans – we are born atheists, no baby knows anything about the myth of “gods” until someone comes along and fills their little minds with such nonsense. It is our contention that children should remain natural and ordinary, and not be infected with the disease of religion.

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          • makagutu says:

            You amaze me, you really do!
            We provide evidence why your god doesn’t exist before you provide us with reason to think it does! How funny

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          • I believe this is where we left off last time, when you ran away. You can run, but as long as you insist on coming back, you can hardly expect to hide.

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          • makagutu says:

            I think this is where he takes off!

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          • paarsurrey says:

            I am here to serve you again.
            You should have welcomed me.

            Why you people avoid friendly discussion?

            You should provide evidences in favor of your present position of doubt.

            Please be serious now.

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          • Why you people avoid friendly discussion?

            Because you refuse to discuss – you say we should believe, “the truth,” yet when I ask, what truth, and ask you to prove that what you call “truth” is really true, you skip to another subject and avoid answering – how can you call that a “friendly discussion“? If you’re here to “serve” me, simply answer my question, that would serve me quite well.

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          • “You should provide evidences in favor of your present position of doubt.”

            Do you believe Mak has a dragon in his garage? If so, call all of the international press, as you have made the scientific discovery of the millennium! Do it now! If not, please provide evidences in favor of your present position of doubt.

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          • makagutu says:

            We are all for friendly discussion but not in endless circles of nonsense and fairy tales. Those are reserved are reserved for kitchen fires where children are being taught how to be good citizens and not here

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        • makagutu says:

          You are still on the same untruthful line; well that is your prerogative; yet Truth is presented to you

          And you are still on your silly line of fairy tales.

          Please don’t be angry

          Please don’t be angry when I tell you that you are misguided.

          instead concentrate on the reasons and arguments.

          what reasons and arguments? Why would a one true god need arguments?

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          • paarsurrey says:

            It means you have no good reasons and arguments to offer; and simply you have drifted away from the truthful path in confusion and frustration.

            Please don’t while away your life in doubt.

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          • Please don’t while away your life in the belief of fairy tales, humiliating yourself by bowing and scraping five times to a god who isn’t there.

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          • makagutu says:

            If you said something worth responding to, I really would, but as you are incapable of doing that, I will let you wallow in your ignorance. You seem to be the type that can’t be cured

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  6. john zande says:

    It’s certainly one aspect of it. Fear is the great motivator, though, and we must always factor that into any human behavioural equation.

    LeJames raised a simply fascinating concept the other day regarding the possible origin of sacrifice. A predator enters the clans area and anxiety levels go through the roof. There will be blood, everyone knows this. When an unlucky member of the clan is brought down and killed by the predator the group is relieved, even overjoyed: it wasn’t them! The proposition is that this developed into preemptive action: the sacrifice to appease that which the clan did not understand, and feared.

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  7. paarsurrey says:

    @ archaeopteryx1 January 20, 2014 at 21:29

    The Truth descends with the word of the One-True-God (Allah Yahweh Ahura-Mazda Parameshawara Eshawara):

    [10:83] ‘And Allah establishes the truth by His words, even though the sinners be averse to it.’

    http://www.alislam.org/quran/search2/showChapter.php?submitCh=Read+from+verse%3A&ch=10&verse=76

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    • And just how do those “words” reach us, PaarSurrey, from wherever your Allah Yahweh Ahura-Mazda Parameshawara Eshawara Flying Spaghetti Monster lives? Magic?

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      • paarsurrey says:

        The One-True-God communicates with the righteous persons among us who merit to give message to the masses if that is intended by Him.

        Flying Spaghetti Monster might be a mythical and superstitious character that Atheists prefer to believe.

        Thanks

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        • “The One-True-God communicates with the righteous persons among us who merit to give message to the masses if that is intended by Him.”

          But how does he do this exactly? Email? Telephone? Telegraph? Walky-Talky? Short-Wave radio? The mail? Smoke signals? Or, dare I say it, magic? Can’t you possibly see how ridiculous that sounds?

          Flying Spaghetti Monster might be a mythical and superstitious character that Atheists prefer to believe.

          Ah, but he/she/it is just as real as the rest of your list.

          Sadly, Paarsurrey, you’re a frightened little man, too afraid of turning loose of the beliefs with which your parents brainwashed you.

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  8. paarsurrey says:

    Further to my comments where I requested you “Now come to the arguments; please”; I have to add that I believe in the One-True-God very naturally; like I believe in me and my mother and father. I am an ordinary man in the street; with no claim to piety or scholarship. I do have a right to live my life as others have theirs. It is quite natural and reasonable for me to continue believing as such till somebody convinces me otherwise with observations and evidences.

    If you have any evidences that the One-True-God does not exists; and that I and my mother and father never existed; you may like to present such evidences .

    I therefore request you again to present just one arguments. not a list of arguments, in this connection.

    Others could also give the argument, please.

    Thanks and regards

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    • You’re the one who said your Allah exists, it’s your job to prove it – I must assume you’ve seen your parents, when was the last time you saw Allah?

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      • paarsurrey says:

        I have told you that I believe in the One-True-God (Allah Yahweh Ahura-Mazda Parameshwara Eshawara) very naturally like I believe in my father and mother; I have no reason to doubt that they are my parents so no need of any further evidence; their love of me and caring of me is enough to believe in them as my parents.

        Don’t you believe your parents? Did you ever think that you, just in supposition, were born out of cow, for instance?

        You will reject such idea at the very outset; won’t you.

        Please don’t be angry and don’t resort to deride and to ridicule; that is not done in a friendly discussion.

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        • You’ve used that example before, and I thought it too weak an argument to bother with a response, but it would seem it’s not going away. Your parents, Paarsurrey, assuming they’re still alive, are tangible – you can see them, hear them, touch them, smell them, and though I wouldn’t recommend it, taste them. THAT is how you know they are real.

          I’m only sorry you didn’t think of that yourself, and needed me to point it out for you – I really encourage you to learn to think for yourself.

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    • makagutu says:

      paaesurrey, you are now becoming ridiculous. Unless you are a clever bot, why should we doubt that there is a man behind the silliness you parrot here and given that we know men are born of women and fathered by men, you are not an exception. Asking me to show your brand of magic doesn’t exist is akin to me telling you there is a dragon in my garage and asking you to disprove it. Am afraid things don’t work like that here.

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  9. paarsurrey says:

    @ archaeopteryx1 Jan 21, 7:46 pm
    What do you think is verifiable evidence?
    Do you think only scientific proof is a verifiable evidence? Please

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  10. Better yet, do some reading on the accepted rules of evidence, and see if it fits. The kind, for example, that would be accepted in a courtroom.

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