sage Wrary Herbert: We all know that when someone dies, their “agency” dies, too. They are no longer active in the world in the same way they were. Even children get that when grandpa is gone, he’s gone. Even so, our intuitive sense of that person — the thinking, feeling grandpa — can still be activated by memories of the deceased. This intuitive discrepancy persists, and the rational mind steps in to make sense of it. The discrepancy become the dual nature of human beings — the body and soul. This in turn leads to idiosyncratic thoughts — that dead people are “still around” — and especially to beliefs in ancestral spirits.

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http://www.huffingtonpost.com/wray-herbert/is-religion-just-an-assor_b_2646779.html

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The vast majority of the planet’s seven billion people ascribe to some kind of religious belief — that is, a faith in things that cannot be proven. This makes no sense from a scientific and psychological point of view, because supernatural beliefs — in contrast to our evolved thinking in general — serve no apparent purpose. They don’t help us comprehend and navigate the world. Why would the human mind create them, and allow them to persist?

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Two cognitive psychologists now offer an intriguing explanation for this philosophical puzzle. Nicolas Baumard of the University of Pennsylvania and Pascal Boyer of Washington University in St. Louis argue that beliefs result from the interplay of two distinct human thinking processes that make up the human mind.

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Years of research have demonstrated that we all have a powerful intuitive system of thought — fast, automatic, largely hidden — as well as a slow and analytical system of thought.

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According to Baumard and Boyer’s theory, religious beliefs originate in deep-rooted intuitions about things completely unrelated to gods and afterlives — intuitions that were once adaptive but no longer are.

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Beliefs are not simply intuitions, however.

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They are the slow, deliberate mind’s attempt to explain these vestigial gut feelings.

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Here are some of their illustrations:

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It made sense for our ancient ancestors to be intuitive and keenly on guard for signs of peril in the world — a predator’s tracks or natural poisons, for instance.  As a result of this hypervigilance, humans learned to respond emotionally and defensively to threats and contagion, a response that continues today — even though those old threats are largely irrelevant to most of us.

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Other people were one source of dangerous contagion, and we still respond — on a gut level — to our intuitive avoidance of others, especially the sick.

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But this lingering gut feeling leaves a lot unexplained, like the biology of how germs are actually transmitted, so it’s left to the slow reflective mind to make sense of these strong but mysterious impulses.

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Our modern mind elaborates on these old intuitions, creating beliefs about magical contagion, both good and bad.

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According to Baumard and Boyer, this may be why believers worldwide will ritualistically touch relics and kiss the likenesses of saints.  Modern belief in the protective power of these rituals “hitchhikes” on an ancient fear of germs.

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We all know that when someone dies, their “agency” dies, too. They are no longer active in the world in the same way they were. Even children get that when grandpa is gone, he’s gone. Even so, our intuitive sense of that person — the thinking, feeling grandpa — can still be activated by memories of the deceased. This intuitive discrepancy persists, and the rational mind steps in to make sense of it.

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The discrepancy become the dual nature of human beings — the body and soul.  This in turn leads to idiosyncratic thoughts — that dead people are “still around” — and especially to beliefs in ancestral spirits.

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The human mind craves synchrony. Acting in unison with others — whether it’s a military procession or a church choir — triggers a biochemical surge in the brain, which increases social bonding and cooperation.

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This ancient bias was probably crucial to the forging of early societies, but the modern reflective mind — unaware of the original link between congregation and pleasure — seeks a supernatural explanation for the urge to unite, in the form of angels and gods.

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We all have an intuitive sense of right and wrong. Moral intuitions likely originated in the need to have fair relationships with others because, if we didn’t treat others fairly, we were excluded from future interactions. One of these ancient moral intuitions dictates that we should compensate others whom we have harmed, and if we can’t for whatever reason, that we should redress the unbalance with self-inflicted suffering. This could take the form of flagellation, mutilation, fasting or giving away money  to a third party — an orphanage or church, for instance. These actions seem intuitively to restore symmetry, yet to the reflective mind the reasons for such acts are mysterious.

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This mystery generates possible explanations, including divine justice and karma.

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These are just a few examples of common religious beliefs and practices, drawn from an article to be published in the journal Current Directions in Psychological Science. There are many more. What they all have in common is that they all originate in intuitive beliefs, which “pop up” without deliberate thought, and demand an explanation.

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In that sense, Baumard and Boyer say, religious notions are not special. They are just one form of evidence that the human mind is motivated, as a result of evolution, to comment on its own gut feelings.

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Thriving learning & wisdom are about waking up each morning with an intention to seek and nurture connection.

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Connecting is life’s healthy, healing path of inner nourishment and peace of mind. Pololei/pono.

 

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https://curtisnarimatsu.wordpress.com/2013/01/23/space-faces-causality-and-the-origin-of-religion-sage-jeff-schweitzer/

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https://curtisnarimatsu.wordpress.com/2013/01/11/the-evolution-of-religion-god-or-the-group/

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https://curtisnarimatsu.wordpress.com/2012/12/27/theodicy-suffering-in-the-world-and-the-problem-of-evil-an-afterlife-is-a-cop-out/

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https://curtisnarimatsu.wordpress.com/2012/12/12/the-choice-is-not-whether-to-have-or-not-have-a-worldview-in-which-you-place-faith-the-only-choice-is-whether-we-are-willing-to-choose-with-intention-clarity-commitment-sage-steven-kala/

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https://curtisnarimatsu.wordpress.com/2012/12/08/redoubling-science-vs-scripture-purposeless-vs-purposeful-universe/

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https://curtisnarimatsu.wordpress.com/2012/12/05/physics-are-not-metaphysics-where-science-collides-with-scripture/

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https://curtisnarimatsu.wordpress.com/2012/12/01/is-popular-religion-derived-from-our-inherent-evil-egotism-or-is-it-a-palliative-to-our-cursed-nature/

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https://curtisnarimatsu.wordpress.com/2012/11/28/do-more-women-believe-in-god-than-men-do/

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https://curtisnarimatsu.wordpress.com/2012/11/13/faith-is-consequential-but-it-is-not-about-immortality-faith-is-about-finding-peace-within-oneself/

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https://curtisnarimatsu.wordpress.com/2012/10/23/we-are-not-immortal-via-a-religious-afterlife-were-no-different-from-other-living-organismsthings/

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https://curtisnarimatsu.wordpress.com/2012/09/18/psychology-research-suggests-that-belief-in-the-supernatural-acts-as-societal-glue-and-motivates-people-to-follow-the-rules-further-belief-in-the-afterlife-helps-people-grieve-and-staves-off-fears-o/

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https://curtisnarimatsu.wordpress.com/2012/08/30/dissidence-in-service-to-a-higher-calling/

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https://curtisnarimatsu.wordpress.com/2012/07/31/philosophy-as-a-conversation-in-which-we-discover-things-about-ourselves-and-others-rather-than-as-an-arbiter-between-the-really-real-and-the-illusory/

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As you consider the truths of changing seasons, and eagerly anticipate Punxsutawney Phil’s early Spring, hear anew the words of Ecclesiastes. 

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There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:
a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.
Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/kristen-marble/punxsutawney-phil-seasons_b_2642847.html

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http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-david-liepert/why-the-golden-rule-matters_b_2482166.html

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Why the Golden Rule Matters

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If God is real, and as transcendently good and supremely intelligent as most religions claim, then why is it that religions — all of which claim the ability to promote good and positive relationships with both our Creator and the rest of Creation — don’t seem able to cooperate in that purpose with each-other?

This blog is a short summary of the khutbah (sermon) I gave last week at one of our city’s mosques, and a speech I gave the next night to a mixed group of atheists, Muslims, Christians and Jews.

The truth is everybody believes in our common humanity, and virtually every believer — no matter which religion they follow — believes in many of the same things within our religions, even though we often believe different things about them. For instance, everybody believes in faith, which motivates believers to seek a relationship with God, and grace, God’s loving response, and that both are gifts from God Most High. But the things we believe about them and God are different, and often merely the products of what adults have told their children generation after generation, until those beliefs eventually became what we use to organize ourselves into different religions today.

Which means that we are all made by God, and made to seek God together, while the differences between us are made by us.
There’s a good reason why a Muslim’s core beliefs are called aqueedah (binding), rather than haqq (absolutely right), which would mean we believe the important thing about them is that they are true. Instead, we believe they bind us together as Muslims, but also that they bind us to the God-driven journey of our lives, by binding us to both faith and grace.

The important thing to realize about that is this: that different beliefs, even different core beliefs can serve the same purpose for someone else, even if you don’t think their particular beliefs are true. And that might explain why the Qur’an explains God made us different from each other because He wanted us li ta’arafu (to know each other) in a reciprocal and ongoing relationship with each other despite our differences, perhaps to teach us not to take them so seriously: we’re all on our God-ordained journeys, from the same ignorant beginnings, and with God’s help we are headed towards the same destination too. On the way, we are supposed to live in dialogue with each-other, regardless of what we believe.

I think that’s why the Qur’an and the Sunnah (acts of Muhammad, peace be upon him) are so often sympathetic towards different sorts of non-Muslim believers, despite disagreeing with certain non-Muslim core beliefs and condemning some of the things some of those non-Muslims did all the same. If you’re one of God’s prophets, I expect you don’t sweat the occasional religious argument: even if someone disagrees with you, you know they’ll eventually figure it out properly if they give it an honest try.

Much is often made by Islamists and Islamophobes together of how sometimes the Qur’an commands Muslims to fight with different sorts of believers, and how sometimes Muhammad and Muslims did so. But if you look at the context and history of both those commands and those battles you’ll realize they were never about the beliefs by which each group was self-identified as polytheist, or Christian and Jewish. Those two groups of believers sometimes also grouped together as “People of the Book” — but instead were often despite them, a response to those self-identified group’s inappropriate behaviors: treacherous and treasonous acts including some particularly egregious attempts to exterminate Arabia’s Muslims en masse for self-serving political and economic reasons.

Regardless, under Muhammad’s leadership in Medina and Mecca and throughout the early Islamic Empire absent treason, treachery, criminal acts and attempts at anti-Muslim genocide, religious freedom reigned supreme. One young Jewish woman, who accidentally killed one of Muhammad’s good friends while she was trying to assassinate Muhammad, even gained his forgiveness and pardon when she explained successfully that she had only been trying to see if she could assassinate him, on religious grounds: a “test” of his prophethood.

In fact, the only group the Qur’an and Muhammad condemned specifically, unequivocally and repeatedly just for being who they were the Muslim hypocrites, who pretended to believe one thing — Muhammad’s inclusive, egalitarian, “servant-leader” example — while doing another thing entirely for self-serving political and economic reasons themselves.

Because our response to God’s gifts of faith and grace isn’t supposed to be belief or a meaningless and empty allegiance to one group over another. The Christian Bible quite correctly points out that even demons believe, and shudder!!  Instead our response is supposed to be gratitude and righteousness, and righteousness looks pretty much the same regardless of who, what or where you are.

Judaism, one of our world’s oldest religions was summarized by Rabbi Hillel whilst standing on one foot upon the challenge of a Roman Centurion as, “that which is despicable to you, do not do to your fellow, this is the whole Torah, and the rest is commentary.” Jesus himself, peace be upon him, said: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

Meanwhile, the Qur’an tells Muslims in Al-Baqarah 2:177:

Righteousness is not that you turn your faces toward the east or the west, but that one believes in Allah, the Last Day, the angels, the Book, and the prophets and gives their wealth, in spite of love for it, to relatives, orphans, the needy, the traveler, those who ask, and for the freeing of slaves; that one establishes prayer and gives charity; that one fulfills their promises, and is patient in poverty and hardship and during battle.

And James the Just, first Bishop of Jerusalem proclaimed in James 2:14,

What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it?

Righteousness isn’t only found in the Abrahamic traditions either. I strongly recommend that anyone struggling with how to differentiate between what you can do and what you should do –American soldiers, al-Qaeda terrorist-franchisees, Israeli soldiers and settlers and Palestinian freedom-fighters alike — should read Prince Arjuna’s conversations on that subject with the Lord Creator of his universe, found in the Bhagavad Gita.

 

Believers can’t deny our religions have often been used for bad purpose, nor can non-believers deny the same thing about the institutionalized absence of religion either, most recently in the Soviet Union, Cambodia, and China’s Great Leap Forward. In all those conflicts, the issue has always been our tragic tendency to devalue the “other,” based not just upon what they believe or don’t, but upon what we believe as well.

I call it the American Express assumption, that to make our own perspectives more marketable “Membership Must Have Its Privileges,” and so believer or no, we try to create a world in which that is true, despite the fact our philosophies, religious or not, all urge us to treat others with respect too.

But we can find a path forwards for ourselves if we realize believers don’t have to agree with each other to serve God alongside each other, and none of us have to believe in God to look after our neighbors. All it takes is a little regard for our common humanity, and a little respect for the implications of being among the created, if God created everything.

The one great truth of our common humanity is that we’re all in this together, no matter what we believe.

And my fellow believers, who believe God loves you: Remember, God Loves everyone else — even if God doesn’t agree with everything they might or might not believe — with grace, just the same as God loves you too.

 

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6 Responses to sage Wrary Herbert: We all know that when someone dies, their “agency” dies, too. They are no longer active in the world in the same way they were. Even children get that when grandpa is gone, he’s gone. Even so, our intuitive sense of that person — the thinking, feeling grandpa — can still be activated by memories of the deceased. This intuitive discrepancy persists, and the rational mind steps in to make sense of it. The discrepancy become the dual nature of human beings — the body and soul. This in turn leads to idiosyncratic thoughts — that dead people are “still around” — and especially to beliefs in ancestral spirits.

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  2. Pingback: Wray Herbert: disorder also inspires breaking from tradition, which can lead to fresh insight, and that order is linked to playing it safe. Vohs concludes with the example of Albert Einstein, who famously quipped: Einstein on “disorder” as the

  3. Pingback: Wray Herbert: disorder also inspires breaking from tradition, which can lead to fresh insight, and that order is linked to playing it safe. Vohs concludes with the example of Albert Einstein, who famously quipped: Einstein on “disorder” as the

  4. Pingback: Wray Herbert: disorder also inspires breaking from tradition, which can lead to fresh insight, and that order is linked to playing it safe. Vohs concludes with the example of Albert Einstein, who famously quipped: Einstein on “disorder” as the

  5. Pingback: Wray Herbert: disorder also inspires breaking from tradition, which can lead to fresh insight, and that order is linked to playing it safe. Vohs concludes with the example of Albert Einstein, who famously quipped: Einstein on “disorder” as the

  6. Pingback: Wray Herbert: disorder also inspires breaking from tradition, which can lead to fresh insight, and that order is linked to playing it safe. Vohs concludes with the example of Albert Einstein, who famously quipped: Einstein on “disorder” as the

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