Saturday, September 13, 2008
John Wilkins (an excellent, if antipodean, philosopher of science) is fond of what might be called the "social glue" theory of religion, as expressed in a recent post at his highly recommended blog, Evolving Thoughts:
The crucial role of religion proper, I think, is to mark out those who one can expect aid from, because they have demonstrated the "costly signaling" religion requires (a view of Richard Sosis and colleagues), from those who are more likely to cheat. Agriculture makes possible a society not based on close kinship, which makes religion the solution to that dilemma only after societies of that kind arise.
As Palmer explained:
We noticed that communicating acceptance of a supernatural claim tends to promote cooperative social relationships. This communication demonstrates a willingness to accept, without skepticism, the influence of the speaker in a way similar to a child's acceptance of the influence of a parent.
Almost every religion in the world, including all tribal religions, use family kinship terms such as father, mother, brother, sister and child for fellow members. They do this to encourage the kind of behaviour found normally in families - where the most intense social relationships occur.
I suppose it is inevitable that some turn out to be dysfunctional families.
Both read the same Bible and pray to the same God, and each invokes His aid against the other. It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God's assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men's faces, but let us judge not, that we be not judged. The prayers of both could not be answered. That of neither has been answered fully. The Almighty has His own purposes.
The other possible illustration I considered was some representation of the Hatfields and the McCoys. Never took pictures of our family reunions because it was too dangerous to have a camera, given the flying crockery.