On Human Nature Part 1

The Seven Deadly Sins.
Lust (Latin, luxuria)
Gluttony (Latin, gula)
Greed (Latin, avaritia)
Sloth (Latin, acedia)
Wrath (Latin, ira)
Envy (Latin, invidia)
Pride (Latin, superbia)

Ever notice how the seven deadly sins are all forms of self indulgence and one of the key points of Christianity is to value to community over the self?

"Do unto others as you would have others do unto you."

In studying several different religions I've noticed a common thread across them all. Each religion basically has the same ideas in place, they just say them in different ways. The three Judaeo-Christian religions (Yes, I'm including Islam among them because it has the same core origins as a religion of the book, founded by the figures Abraham and Moses.) have the Ten Commandments, each of which is a rule that puts the selfish goals of the individual behind a more community oriented goal. Buddhism has a tendency to claim that the very concept of self is a lie, and only by transcending the goals of the self will enlightenment be achieved. Numerous other religions have the same values at their core.

As far as I understand things, the very concept of religion is a method to push community values over individual values.

"Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, just as it is the spirit of a spiritless situation. It is the opium of the people."

- Karl Marx

I've always held the belief that religion isn't merely a new set of rules to obey. It is a way to develop a sense of community when human nature is the tendency to abuse such a community for personal gain. Hence the reason why concepts like the seven deadly sins have developed, each of these forms of self indulgence does nothing to assist the community at large.

From this standpoint, religion isn't a method of finding God. Religion is merely a method to establish a community of like minded individuals. Religion is the rituals that the community follow, and the framework for the ethics of the society.

Perhaps in ancient times, a religion needed to establish a firm grip on the minds of the people because it was such an unusual concept. It would establish this grip through claims of vengeful gods and spirits. Oppressed people are always willing to believe in something if it gives them the idea that their oppressors will be judged by a higher power, through this community spirit the oppressed rise en masse. Oppressors fear the strength of numbers and the religion gains credence.

No religion grows by catering to the oppressors. Whereas cults, ideologies and heresies grow most rapidly when they offer a way to restore the balance.

Of course, I believe that human nature plays a strong part here as well. Many cults cater to the human conditions of greed, pride and other deadly sins. They offer something to the individual that they can't get elsewhere, whether that be secret knowledge, wealth or power.

If you look at things this way, Capitalism is a cult with advertising executives as it's priests. Bodybuilders could be considered a cult with their own rituals dedicated to honing the body to "perfection". Anything that takes the drives of the individual and focuses them in a new direction could fit this category.

I want to be better, what can I do?

Join the cult of Capitalism and if I buy new things then my status will improve...

Join the cult of bodybuilding and dedicate hours each day in the gymnasium to make my body more buff and toned...

Join the local masonic lodge to gain access to secrets passed down for generations...

Become a born again Christian so that all my old sins will be forgotten and I instantly gain a clean slate whenever I need one...

Join the cult of fame, because famous people seem to lead such wonderful lives and maybe we can end up like Mr. Black in yesterday's rant.

It seems that all of the successful religions play a balance between the extremes of catering to the individual and placing laws that moderate the values of the community. Each has it's own values and it is through the interaction of these values that conflicts arise.

Maybe that's where I'll head with tomorrow's entry.


Alex said…
Agree on that.
Sometimes I even feel tat, in its very beginnings, religion was a means of maintaining both social unity and ecological balance, putting a limit to what human reasoning can bring about in its limitedness. Even though there are often statements of Man being superior and qualified to rule over nature, there are just as much limitations to how he can do it, and what is right or wrong, and even a notion of respect... Of course, most religious rules wee set in a context of relatively small communities, and probably unadapted to large societies/populations as ours.
Another thought of mine that joins what you've said by the end, is that *any* set of rules can be viewed as a cult, if we believe totally in it. This often causes endless debates when I dare say that science, from my point of view, is just another belief system. People will argue that "science derives from observation, trial and error, and logic..." But for me that doesn't change much: most mystical beliefs also came as a manner to express the observable, only at the time they chose to personify the phenomena as "spirits". But that can be another discussion.

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