how did you come to believe or follow a religion?

An intelligent man should also have the capability to defend his viewpoint against counter-arguments... But you Amergin, have not demonstrated the above to me.

Actually, I have fully explained my views to you. It is not my fault that complex realities are beyond your Third-World brain and scientific thinking is blocked by the chains of superstition binding your mind. Unfortunately it binds you to continue to wallow in the mud hole of ignorance.

Actually, I have fully explained my views to you. It is not my fault that complex realities are beyond your Third-World brain and scientific thinking is blocked by the chains of superstition binding your mind. Unfortunately it binds you to continue to wallow in the mud hole of ignorance.


Thanks for exposing the nature of your "humanity" Mr. Humanist.

BTW, what you said is funny, coming from a "neuroscientist" who can't even tell the difference between Heat and Temperature.
but I could never understand why I needed someone to be the middle person between me and God.

I was born of an atheist and an agnostic. Like RevDella I was born Christian and despite a knowledge of God from my earliest memories I just didn't get the man in the middle idea.

I looked at numerous paths to God over the years and when I reached Islam I found my true path.

beyond your Third-World brain

You seem to be developing quite a racist trait these days I see ... so ugly!!
Hello peeps

my name is susie and i'm a photography student. I am currently working on a project about religion. more specifically how did oneself become to believe in god/ follow a religion. was it through an experience or an event. I wanted to hear stories or experiences off people who were non-believers at first and then came to believe. or even who were believers but became non-believers anf the reason why.

this came about when my dad died a few years ago. my mum turned to buddhism to help her cope and become at peace with it and she was a non-believer before.

I myself am a non-believer but have an interest on this subject but would love to hear them.

@mods i'm not sure if this was the right section to discuss this matter, so if its in the wrong section please move. thank you

Hi susiesnooz --

I was somehow sure that I've already submitted something of my own story (quite a long one) to this board(?). But I don't seem to see where I discussed it/submitted it! If I could find it, I'd just give you a link, and that would be it. As it is, though, with some trepidation, I'm submitting a rather more detailed version of it instead that has been kept on my hard disk for a while, purely as a reference, and that I've never submitted in its entirety. I don't have time to edit it and cut it down a bit -- wish I did. So here is the whole monster. If it's just too long for you to peruse as is, I'll quite understand and just chalk it up to experience. I just don't know when I'll have time to boil it down any time soon. Regrets for that.

Here goes (WHEW!!) --

I started as an atheist, because I saw no necessity to suppose that anything lay behind the Universe. Modern science has uncovered a sufficient number of details relating to various ways in which the universe operates. Those various ways suggested to me no clear necessity why one should suppose that the universe couldn't have generated itself by itself and been sustained purely by actions and reactions that had a momentum of their own. Why bring in a hypothetical entity like God? In any case, so many contradictions and so many cruelties emerge from so many religions that I could not fathom that anything logical or self-consistent or worthwhile could possibly be revealed in any belief in God of any sort.

And as you will see, I still find, even today, no good reason not to accept the highly developed data from modern science relating to evolution. I still feel that the theory of evolution has been satisfactorily proved as fact, and since the evolution of all species is partly contingent on beneficial adaptational developments relating to behavior, etc., which benefit the whole species and not just individuals, religion seemed to me the antithesis of anything beneficial in helping humanity to develop a free enlightened progressive society where everyone could at least have some chance at achieving their full potential.

That describes the beginning of my journey. From that point, I hope that the way things later developed for me from then on will make some sense in this lengthy account. Merely in order to make the stages of this long journey halfway manageable for the reader, I've divided it into 20 short chapters, so that hopefully the reader will have some vague idea of how far s/he has journeyed and how far s/he has to go. Yours is an interesting question, and I hope you get a number of personal accounts like mine that you can properly compare.

Chapter #1

For me, it all starts with reading. I have always been a compulsive and omniverous reader since before grade school. And I spend time comparing things a lot -- historical patterns, texts, social reformers, everything.

Personally, I don't ascribe to any one creed/religion, and I am, furthermore, skeptical of many a religion's claims, including those of the Judaic-Christian-Islamic orbit. I do, though, not rule out the possibility of some kind of extra-dimensional presence that certain especially acute sensibilities may have glimpsed in the past. The question is if that presence is only inside their own (deluded?) heads, or if they're responding to something that is external and therefore real. I don't pretend to be able to answer that question. But to be candid, I don't think anyone else today can really honestly answer that question yet either. Many a future research project into the mechanisms of the human brain will be needed far into this century and beyond, most probably, before we can fully understand its workings well enough to know when it is concocting a mere delusion and when it's responding to something external. Only when we understand the mechanisms of the brain faaaaaaaar better than we do today will we even begin to barely comprehend just what was going on inside the heads of some of those "acute sensibilities" of the past.

It's still interesting to see which gods, whether concocted or not (we simply don't know which), might -- theoretically -- emerge as the more useful, viable -- whatever -- when scrutinized through a 21st-century lens. Whatever the "god"/"presence" is that some visionaries of the past may have glimpsed, I don't think it likely that this "presence" has any kind of active power over events on Earth. If it has any influence at all, it's more likely to be some kind of modest consciousness-raising inside certain isolated acutely sensitive minds rather than any physical dominance over any external events. The latter notion is just too replete with too many internal contradictions.

That said, I'm going quite a bit overboard here -- no question -- with certain speculations on just how the kind of consciousness-raising that I describe might really operate. In this overview, which is strictly speculative on my part, of course, certain concepts relating to this "presence" may emerge as more viable than others. I don't know how many posters will have time to read this, but still, it's time for a relatively serious retrospective like this one.

Chapter #2

Essentially, this involves a step-by-step process. The first step is to take evolution as being thoroughly random, as described in Kirschner's _Plausibility of Life_. Consequently, I do not believe there is anything purposive, either at the outset or later, in the evolution of any species. That said, there are certain common consequences that obtain for those species that are most dependent on socialization -- as the species of humanity, of _homo_ _sapiens_, definitely is -- the chief one being the ultimately destructive impact of anti-social behavior versus the constructive impact of "pro-social behavior" (if you will), with similar long-term results across the board for all such species in either case.

It is possible to confuse that with a sense of purpose of a sort, but that would be misleading. One can perhaps clarify this by citing the example of a table laden down with various dishes and suddenly impacted by an earthquake, resulting in many of the dishes clattering to the floor. Now, there is no deliberate purpose anterior to the possible survival intact of certain dishes that are not made of the most delicate china, versus the probable shattering into pieces of those dishes made of the most delicate china. Yet, the tendency to shatter, and/or the tendency to survive intact, still obtains in the general conditions prevailing at the time of the earthquake. That doesn't mean that the tougher dishes were deliberately "meant" to survive this particular earthquake at this particular time. But it does mean that stronger materials are more likely to survive sudden earthquakes -- in general -- than would pieces of the most delicate china.

Consequently, it's what obtains in _prevailing conditions_ for species A and/or Species B (and/or Species C, etc.) that I'm spotlighting. In spotlighting this, it occurs to me that if the more cohesive "pro-social behavior" seems conducive to greater social cohesion -- i.e., you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours -- then the opposite is probably true as well -- i.e., that anti-social behavior by too many members can ultimately impact negatively the prospects for an overall community's or a pride's or a flock's, or a herd's long-term survival. The conditions are already there, in either case, for a certain ultimate outcome that remains more likely than not. But it is still not a foregone (or purposely planned) conclusion. I forget where, but I recall that Stephen Jay Gould makes a similar comparison, showing (essentially) that the species where "you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours" prevails is more likely to survive the figurative equivalent of an "earthquake" than is a community where it's Each One For Oneself.

Chapter #3

The second step is to analyze what may have been the chief circumstances behind any doctrines that have sprung up in Community A where, say, self-centered behavior has been promulgated, versus the chief circumstances behind any doctrines that have obtained in Community B where, say, selfless or altruistic behavior has been promulgated, and so on. This necessarily entails scrutinizing any and all cultural doctrines (including possibly opposing doctrines) at their originating point, or as close to their originating point as is humanly possible -- i.e., the earliest extant instance at which such or such a doctrine has first been advanced in the written record. Tracing all this is not so easy, but sometimes it is possible. Bear in mind that throughout this step-by-step process the possible future of a given community is always in the balance: Will it flourish and cohere with at least a minimum level of altruism and selflessness among its members that can prod a degree of growing social cohesiveness along, however haltingly, or will its members grow more and more self-centered instead, ultimately threatening its social cohesion or even its very existence altogether? As my brother often reminds me, "No man is an island" -- a lesson that applies just as well to Gould's description of other mammalian species that, like homo sapiens, also depend on socialization. This second step, then, entails analyzing how come some cultural doctrines have honored the "No man is an island" principle, while others haven't.

The paper trail for the various doctrines behind human communities/cultures throughout the past 5,000 years or so may not be complete, but it is still ample enough to be useful in detecting any general trends.

Extrapolating those general trends -- once one has assembled the chief doctrines and their earliest extant examples -- is the third and biggest step.

Chapter #4

In first perusing these doctrines, back in the '80s/early '90s, I didn't study them with any eye at all to either atheism or theism. I was an atheist at the time anyway, while I'm not as sure today as to just how I'd call myself, although as a result of these studies outlined here, I'd say I'm no longer a skeptic -- at least, no longer a skeptic with a capital S. So when I started this doctrinal research, way back when, all such considerations of atheism/theism etc. seemed pretty irrelevant at the time. Instead, I simply viewed all such doctines as a straightforward sequence of sociological patterns. I only had one goal in mind: seeing if there were any consistent patterns of any kind behind the self-centered doctrines versus those behind the altruistic ones that have prevailed back and forth throughout the pushmi-pullyu odyssey of human cultures. I didn't necessarily expect to find a pattern at all, in fact. But I was hoping I'd find one. Why? Because I was dismayed first by the way that the Cold War was still being pursued in the face of all sanity at the time, then by the ostrich-headed response to the hard science emerging on polar warming and convulsive climate change, and finally by the dashing of all hopes that the subsequent end of the Cold War might bring some sanity to ethnic strife in the industrialized world in the mid-'90s rubble of Bosnia.

It seemed quite clear to me that all the more altruistic doctrines throughout history have emerged -- randomly, yes, but still luckily -- at points in the human story when cruel cultures are on the very brink of implosion through sheer brutality. However, I couldn't help thinking, now that such brutality has the newfound capacity in our new global village to impact an entire world and not just some puny hemispheric empire or other, Has our luck finally run out?

We are, after all, sailing uncharted waters. And today, the global village is so small that we know within minutes of a devastating earthquake down in Chile. Also, one lone maniac has the capacity to impact history globally in an instant -- Osama Bin Laden on 9/11. And so on (although in the '90s, we were all still innocent of Al Qaeda, of course).

Suddenly those doctrines that have (sometimes) sparked the better angels of our nature are no longer of merely academic interest. They have now assumed critical importance in our ultimate escape from imminent extinction. Frankly, I concluded back in the early '90s that the extinction of humanity was more likely than not within the coming century (where we are now). And I've seen nothing at all to change my opinion on that.

Chapter #5

My own take is that there is some degree of evidence for any number of things that may be unlikely. But the question in each case is, Is it strong evidence or poor evidence? Not all evidence is automatically strong. At the same time, even if evidence is poor, it can still be counted as evidence. Just evidence for ... what? If certain evidence is duly weighed by peers and found to be lacking in buttressing one particular argument -- argument A -- that only means that that evidence is poor in sufficiently buttressing argument A. It is still useful in buttressing argument B, particularly if argument B convincingly disposes of argument A. It is simply that it is evidence that has been misinterpreted to mean one thing when it more likely meant another. So it is poor evidence in what it may be used to argue for. But it is still evidence, since it is evidence for something else that is being overlooked. That's why it still constitutes evidence. If it's not strong evidence for one thing, it makes sense to determine what it is indeed strong evidence for. One simply interprets it differently than at first. After all, evidence, whether poor or strong, doesn't simply go away -- unless you're George Orwell or Josef Stalin or David Irving, of course. Does it make sense to just dismiss evidence out of hand without proper scrutiny? Of course not. It is still useful evidence down the road for arguing B, even if trying to argue A with it has not panned out.

Now, I'd guess that moral/ethical codes are an inevitable development for any intelligent species that's also dependent on socialization of any kind, the way humanity clearly is. That guess alone got me interested in turn in all countercultural manifestations throughout the ages of socially frowned on expressions of solidarity with the helpless and the left out, as well as non-violence, as a way forward when a society reaches an impasse. Here's a rough rundown of the chief milestones in humanity's attempts at improving stability and community:

1. Mesalim of 3rd-century-B.C.E. Sumeria hearkens to the centrality of peace as the spine to all social values (and he institutes the worship of a deity, Ningirsu, who's conceived as a powerful god who safeguards all peace treaties);

2. Urukagina, the Sumerian reformer, presides over the establishment of protections for the treatment of the socially downscale and the introduction of the concept "freedom" ["amagi", the first known introduction of this term] (and he reconceives Ningirsu as the safeguard of "the widow and the orphan" [the first known use of this turn of phrase], thus instituting a new form of worship);

3. In Exodus, God's exchange with Moses introduces the notion that those who are afflicted and oppressed deserve the most respect and consideration of all (and Exodus signals the worship of a new god, Yahweh, who has "surely seen the affliction of my people .. and have heard their cry .. And I am come down to deliver them" --- in contrast to most other gods of that period who safeguard the mighty instead);

4. The I Ching introduces the fundamental concept of Yin and Yang ([the writer is thought by some to be a certain Wen Wang] --- this text also introduces something called "Tian" [loose translation: "Heaven"] as a metaphysical bulwark of all that is);

5. Hesiod, nicknamed "hearth-founder" for the first conscientiously designed Constitution in the Western tradition, institutes the groundbreaking Constitution of Orchomenus (and he also introduces into literature the classic picture of the cosmos as conceived in ancient Greek tradition, with its pantheon of gods like Zeus, Hera, Aphrodite, and so on, as spelled out in his Theogony);

6. The writer of the Tao-te-king, called Lao-Tzu, establishes conventional wisdom as automatically suspect and the powerful's use of the jackboot (so to speak) as intrinsically antithetical to all nature (and this text also introduces a new form of worship, Taoism, which worships the Dao as [paraphrase] "the mystical source and ideal of all existence: it is unseen, but not transcendent, immensely powerful yet supremely humble, being the root of all things")

7. Buddha/Siddhartha, the originator of the sermons in the Digha-Nikaya, the earliest Buddhist text, introduces the utter repudiation of any and all violence whatsoever and a rejection of a caste system and of any system that imposes any types of discriminatory levels on the human family at all (and these sermons also re-conceive a new Brahma, a deity now "free of anger, pure of mind, free of malice, without wealth and free of worldly cares", capable of union with and inspiration of a sequence of "messengers" who "regard all with mind set free, and deep-felt pity, ... sympathy, ... equanimity");

8. Confucius/Kong-fut-ze introduces the primacy of reining in the arrogance and violence of those in power, at a time when civil violence threatens to destroy all of China for good, advocating a new-minted reciprocal and considerate reform in political life instead, thus shaping the extraordinarily peaceful and stable culture of the Han dynasty (and he also introduced the concept that all moral strength comes ultimately from "Tian", a new wrinkle on the "Tian" of the I Ching);

9. Socrates introduces ethics itself as the most important element in humanity's existence, together with a claimed capacity for anyone, from freeman to slave, to grasp it and master it better through continually sharpening self-knowledge (and he also introduces his conviction that he can sometimes hear God's own voice, when being dissuaded from a course of action that would not be right);

10. Christ/Jesus, as described in Josephus, Tacitus, the Mishnah, the 7 authentic Paulines and the Synoptic Gospels, introduces service to all and living purely for others, even loving one's enemies, in expectation of the last being first and the first last (and these texts also revive a Yahweh concept that is oriented toward the poor and the vulnerable);

11. John Locke introduces the primacy of personal validation using the senses and repeated experiment as the way to knowing, thus introducing Empiricism as the foundational outlook of modern man, alongside the importance of life and liberty as paramount to a just society (and he also, it's sometimes forgotten, is one of the chief expounders of Deism as a way out from organized religion and a new way of understanding God);

12. Baha''u'lla'h introduces a nuts-and-bolts path to total world peace in our modern world, and the first conception, within a combined political/theological context, of our globe as a single village long before other politicians ever take up this idea (and he also re-introduces the modern world to a then-new conception of deity as the inspirer of a sequence of "messengers", thereby introducing a new form of worship, Bahai).

Chapter #6

It's uncanny the way each pioneering altruist here couples his socially risky idea of expanding the social compact with an equally risky and pioneering "take" on the idea of Deity that often earns him the opprobrium of his peers. To properly assess if this pattern is purely coincidental, it's just as important to take the fourth step now and look at the earliest (extant) examples of unequivocal self-centered philosophies overtly deaf to any claim on society by the more helpless among us. The very earliest surviving philosophy of this kind is the ancient Lokayata philosophy in ancient India, ca. the 7th century B.C.E., introduced by the ancient Indian thinker, Brhaspati. No earlier such philosophy can be traced. There may have been some earlier such philosophies, but this is the earliest for which we have a name and a primary source. This philosophy claims, first of all, that resting places and watering holes for travelers are a waste of time and designed only for people who, being indigent, are therefore of no value. It also decries the notion of occasional general dining invitations to people in the neighborhood (a frequent obligation of that time for the wealthy), decrying these invites precisely because they are ultimately of benefit to the indigent only, while inconveniencing those of greater substance and therefore of greater worth. Instead, it should be the interests of oneself only that guides individual behavior. Here is the earliest direct quote of the founder of Lokayata, Brhaspati:

"Chastity and other such ordinances are laid down by clever weaklings; gifts of gold and land, the pleasure of invitations to dinner, are devised by indigent people with stomachs lean with hunger.
"The building of temples, houses for water-supply, tanks, wells, resting places, and the like, please only travelers, not others.
"The Agnihotra ritual, the three Vedas, the triple staff, the ash-smearing, are the ways of gaining a livelihood for those who are lacking in intellect and energy."

Now, an odd coincidence here: Lokayata is not only the earliest overtly self-centered philosophy extant. It is also the earliest extant overtly atheist philosophy as well. Ascertaining the latter gave me, as an atheist, a bit of a shock, I can tell you. At the same time, I still think it very likely that certain primitive theistic assumptions (addressing the how and/or the why of the intricate ways of this universe) should still be viewed with skepticism today. And I have to say that I also view skeptically certain primitive concepts of deity itself that still prevail today.

However, the behavioral tendencies of those counter-cultural figures throughout time who feel a visceral sense of deity around them (such as Buddha et al) and who link this with an equally visceral "take" on altruism/empathy, versus those tendencies of those who counter-culturally articulate both self-centeredness and nonbelief as a linked philosophy (Brhaspati), certainly make one wonder which philosophies are more conducive to a thriving and evolving human species, as described by Gould et al.

This accords with a general pattern for all those pioneers in non-belief down the centuries who also generate a new social ethic. Lokayata is not alone in advocating a self-centered way of life instead of a caring one. The earliest extant overt articulation of self-centeredness in the West comes from Critias, the pioneering leader of the ruthless Thirty Tyrants at the end of the Pelopenesian(sp.?) War, at the end of the 5th century B.C.E. in ancient Greece. Disconcertingly, Critias is also the writer of the earliest extant articulation of atheism in Western culture. The earliest overt expression of atheism in Enlightenment France comes from the early 1700s, from Jean Meslier, who links his posthumously issued atheism with a call to brain everyone who disagrees with him, and a wish that "every noblemen might be strangled with the ripped-out guts of every remaining priest" (evidently a believer in collective punishment........).

Even the introducer of the first thoroughly atheistic philosophy in Western Europe of the second millennium C.E., Matthias Knutzen in the late 1670s, whose ethics happen to be admirably other-centered, still shapes the ethics of his social philosophy around the injunctions of another, the ancient Roman jurist and polytheist, Ulpian, instead of arriving at a new "take" on altruism on his own. Those who are original in this respect (unlike Knutzen) seem to always arrive at a self-centered social ethic rather than an other-centered one (precisely the pattern that researchers like Gould, in scrutinizing cultural/social adaptations in various socialized species, single out as potentially destructive of stability and community).

I was thus disappointed to find that, although there are plenty of atheist social reformers of great altruism -- one thinks of some of the greatest humanitarians like Bertrand Russell, or Mr. Ingersoll, or Baron Holbach -- there does not seem to be a single such altruist who actually introduces both her/his new atheism and her/his own pioneering ethical code at the same time -- symbiotically -- and whose twin introduction of that as a two-part interlinked package results in a "fast-tracked" cultural impact on everyone around her/him and simultaneously demonstrates a clearly new take for its culture on both social ethics and on the supernatural (or lack of same). This contrasts with the picture for counter-cultural theist altruists.
Chapter #7

It's time that readers view the data on all pioneering atheists for themselves. Clearly, ALL atheists as a group have the same mix of good and bad that ALL theists as a group have, as well as the general population. What I survey here instead are the (known, extant) pioneers who first introduce the first known push-back against the prevailing brand of theism of their own time/culture. What these pioneers lack, though, is an originality in both social altruism and in a take on the supernatural combined. They're either genuinely original (for their culture) in a culturally non-dependent altruistic social ethic, while adopting the known atheism of some mentor clearly familiar to them and their reading public. Or they are genuinely original (for their culture) in articulating a culturally non-dependent atheist take on the nature of things, while sincerely adopting someone else's already well-known altruist ethic. Or they are genuinely original (for their culture) in articulating a culturally non-dependent atheist take on the nature of things, while not engaging in any kind of thoughts on a social ethic at all. Or they are genuinely original (for their culture) in articulating both a culturally non-dependent atheist take on the nature of things and a culturally non-dependent self-made social ethic, which is always a self-centered social ethic rather than an altruistic one. They never combine a pioneering atheism with a pioneering altruism.


c.650 b.c.e.: Sarvasiddhantasamgraha (by Samkara); Sad-Darsana-Samuccaya (by Haribhadra Suri); Sarvadarsanasangraha (by Madhavacarya); Brhaspati - Thinker

There have probably been many atheists throughout history -- one might even speculate if the earliest believers predate or postdate the earliest atheists -- but humanity's written paper trail yields the name of one figure earlier than any other (known) writer in presenting an unprecedented, pioneering atheistic construct: an Indian thinker, Brhaspati (not to be confused with a mythical Brhaspati who is a divine figure in the Hindu pantheon), who pioneered the Lokayata philosophy. Brhaspati tied the Lokayata philosophy to an equally pioneering creed of social values. (Prominent in some ancient sources is the popularizer of Brhaspati's ideas, Carvaka.)

I go into Brhaspati in some detail here because he is the very earliest known philosopher who is either self-centered or atheistic, and we can also trace occasional echoes of his thinking in later philosophers (

A century or so before Buddha, but of the same ancient Indian culture, Brhaspati contrasts with Buddha in asserting that there are no gods and no afterlife. But he does share Buddha's distaste for the caste system. An individualism in Brhaspati's creed resonates through later generations, not just the strong assertion by the Greek leader Critias in his Sisyphus that gods were merely invented to prevent people from thinking they could get away with deeds done secretly, but also later assertions for the privileges of the strong from those like Nietzsche and Rand. Brhaspati's own Lokayata Sutra is lost, but the reliability of the two earliest extant summaries of its contents, Sarvasiddhantasamgraha, by a Samkara early in the C.E., and Sad-Darsana-Samuccaya, by the roughly contemporary Haribhadra Suri, seem validated by a contemporary citation from these summaries in another tract, Tattvopaplavasimha, written by an admirer of Brhaspati, a Jayarasi Bhatta. Unfortunately, Tattvopaplavasimha is not a summation of Brhaspati, but merely an original take by Bhatta on the essence of inference, so I don't use it here. The most detailed extant summary of the Lokayata Sutra, with purportedly direct quotes from Brhaspati himself, is Sarvadarsanasangraha, by Madhavacarya. But this dates from approximately half a millennium later than the other two summaries. Still, some scholars (not all) tend to favor it because of its more detailed presentation. I give the first two earliest summaries in their entirety, together with the direct quotes from Brhaspati in Sarvadarsanasangraha.

Sarvasiddhantasamgraha (by Samkara)

The Lokayatikas do not admit the existence of anything but

"the four elements, earth, water, fire and air";

there is none other.
Only the perceived exists; the unperceivable does not exist, by reason of its never having been perceived; even the believers in the invisible never say that the invisible has been perceived.
If the rarely perceived be taken for the unperceived, how can they call it the unperceived? How can the ever-unperceived, like things such as the horns of a hare, be an existent?
Others should not here postulate merit and demerit from happiness and misery. A person is happy or miserable through nature; there is no other cause.
Who paints the peacocks, or who makes the cuckoos sing? There exists here no cause excepting nature.
The soul is but the body characterized by the attributes signified in the expressions, I am stout, I am youthful, I am grown up, I am old, etc. It is not something other than that body.
The consciousness that is found in the modifications of non-intelligent elements [i.e., in organisms formed out of matter] is produced in the manner of the red colour out of the combination of betel, areca-nut and lime.
There is no world other than this; there is no heaven and no hell; the realm of Siva and like regions are invented by stupid impostors of other schools of thought.
The enjoyment of heaven lies in eating delicious food, keeping the company of young women, using fine clothes, perfumes, garlands, sandal paste, etc.;
The pain of hell lies in the troubles that arise from enemies, weapons, diseases; while liberation is death which is the cessation of life-breath.
The wise therefore ought not to take pains on account of that; it is only the fool who wears himself out by penances, fasts, etc.

"Chastity and other such ordinances are laid down by clever weaklings; gifts of gold and land, the pleasure of invitations to dinner, are devised by indigent people with stomachs lean with hunger.
"The building of temples, houses for water-supply, tanks, wells, resting places, and the like, please only travelers, not others.
"The Agnihotra ritual, the three Vedas, the triple staff, the ash-smearing, are the ways of gaining a livelihood for those who are lacking in intellect and energy." -- so thinks Brhaspati.

The wise should enjoy the pleasures of this world through the more appropriate available means of agriculture, tending cattle, trade, political administration, etc.

Sad-Darsana-Samuccaya (by Haribhadra Suri)

There is neither god nor liberation. Merit and demerit also do not exist. Nor is there any fruit of virtue and vice.
This world consists of only as much as is within the scope of the senses. What the vastly learned ones speak of is but similar to 'Oh! Dear! Look at the footprints of the wolf!'
Oh! The one who has become all the more beautiful! Drink and eat. Oh! The one with a charming body! That which is past does not belong to you. Oh! The timid one! The past never comes back. This body is only a collectivity.

"earth, water, fire and air are the four forms of matter".

The only valid form of knowledge is the one produced by the senses.
When there is a collectivity of the forms of matter, the earth, etc., there is production of the body. Just as the power of intoxication from the ingredients of a spiritous drink, so also is determined the presence of the self's consciousness.
Therefore, on the part of the ordinary people, the activity for the obtainment of the unseen, leaving aside the seen, is only extreme foolishness.
The pleasure that is produced in a person due to the obtainment of the desired and the avoidance of the undesired is useless.
The implication of the conclusions is to be critically discussed by the intelligent.

Brhaspati citations in Sarvadarsanasangraha (by Madhavacarya)

"While life is yours live joyously;
No one can avoid Death's searching eye:
When this body of ours is burnt,
How can it ever return again?"

"That the pleasure arising to man
from contact with sensible objects,
is to be relinquished because accompanied by pain-
such is the reasoning of fools.
The kernels of the paddy, rich with finest white grains,
What man, seeking his own true interest,
would fling them away
because of a covering of husk and dust?"

"The Sacrifices, the three Vedas, the ascetic's three staves,
and smearing oneself with ashes-
[T]hese are but means of livelihood
for those who have no manliness nor sense."

"Fire is hot, water cold,
refreshingly cool is the breeze of morning;
By whom came this variety?
They were born of their own nature."

"There is no heaven, no final liberation,
nor any soul in another world,
Nor do the actions of the four castes,
orders, or priesthoods produce any real effect.

"If a beast slain as an offering to the dead
will itself go to heaven,
why does the sacrificer not straightway offer his father?

"If offerings to the dead produce gratification
to those who have reached the land of the dead,
why the need to set out provisions
for travelers starting on this journey?
If our offering sacrifices here gratify beings in heaven,
why not make food offerings down below
to gratify those standing on housetops?

"While life remains, let a man live happily,
let him feed on melted ghee though he runs in debt;
When once the body becomes ashes,
how can it ever return again?

"If he who departs from the body goes to another world,
why does he not come back again,
restless for love of his kinfolk?
It is only as a means of livelihood
that brahmins have established here
abundant ceremonies for the dead-
there is no other fruit anywhere."
Chapter #8

Sociopathic philosophies can still exert a hold of sorts if advanced with enough charisma and cunning. But they don't tend to transform whole cultures for more than -- maybe -- a couple of centuries, at most. Those "ethics" that have longer influence than that are, sooner or later, the more stable ones that effectively include greater numbers within the "social compact" than would a Brhaspati's. Inclusiveness just yields greater long-term stability. Yes, there can be appalling suffering so long as a sociopathic philosophy prevails. And it can last for as long as four or five generations. But it is ultimately self-destructive and unstable through its very cruelty, recalling in a way the self-centered habits of species that don't thrive in the Gould model.

Brhaspati certainly had his many adherents in his day; and it could even be that latter-day nonbelieving "self-centered-ists" like Rand and Nietzsche (and Hobbes, to an extent) constitute vague echoes of what came out of India nearly three thousand years ago, reflecting the same apparent lack of a strongly caring ethic.

In consulting with a Sanskrit specialist at the New York Public Library, I managed to confirm that Brhaspati -- putting his atheism entirely aside -- is, in fact, the first extant espouser of an overtly self-centered (non-communitarian, non-inclusive, if you will) philosophy (in fact, philosophy as a discipline pretty much starts in India, ca. 1000 B.C.E. and then spreads to Greece, Rome, etc.). So it's sobering to think that the first (extant) espouser of such an anti-social philosophy and the first (extant) overt atheist are one and the same. Self-centeredness as a deliberate, conscious and articulately worked out philosophy literally begins with Brhaspati. Sobering that the earliest (known) atheist, Brhaspati, is virtually the earliest (known) social isolationist as well.



Going back to the ancient Greeks, we have the more creditable Leukippos of the 5th century b.c., the ingenious elder pioneer of the ancient Greek Atomist school, the first school to recognize that all life is composed of atoms. Frustratingly, though, it is clear from what little we have of Leukippos's own voice that he himself was solely engaged in the close study of what many term purely as physics, with social justice and ethics and philosophy never an interest of his. In fact, Epicurus appears to have remarked that Leukippos was no philosopher at all. The one direct quote we have from Leukippos is "Nothing proceeds but from necessity".



Now, Democritus was one who explicitly urged that everyone be engaged in public service. Admirable sentiment, of course. The "asterisk" here is that his non-belief is not original with him, since he was an avid student of and proselytizer for Leukippos, somewhat less than twenty years Leukippos's junior.



Diagoras was a poet and a pupil of Democritus who adopted his mentor's skepticism, once an oponent of his in a suit for plagiarism failed to be punished by the gods for the perjury of insisting that a poetic conceit he had stolen from Diagoras was still his own.



d. 403 b.c.e.: Critias's Sisyphus

The ancient Greek leader Critias is the Western World's earliest extant formulator of an overt, unequivocal, comprehensive atheistic stance -- making the Critias fragment of incalculable historic importance. It was preserved, with one lacuna, in Section I of Sextus Empiricus's Against the Physicists and was lifted from Critias's satyr-play Sisyphus. Its historical importance warrants its citation here in full:

A time there was when anarchy did rule
The lives of men, which then were like the beasts,
Enslaved to force. Nor was there then reward
For good men, nor for wicked punishment.
Next, as I deem, did men establish laws
For punishment, that Justice might be lord
Of all mankind, and Insolence enchain'd.
And whosoe'er did sin was penalized.
Next, as the laws did hold men back from deeds
Of open violence, but still such deeds
Were done in secret, -- then, as I maintain,
Some shrewd man first, a man in counsel wise,
Discovered unto men the fear of Gods,
Thereby to frighten sinners should they sin
E'en secretly in deed, or word, or thought.
Hence was it that he brought in Deity,
Telling how God enjoys an endless life,
Hears with his mind and sees, and taketh thought
And heeds things, and his nature is divine,
So that he hearkens to men's every word
And has the power to see men's every act.
E'en if you plan in silence some ill deed,
The Gods will surely mark it. For in them
Wisdom resides. So, speaking words like these,
Most cunning doctrine did he introduce,
The truth concealing under speech untrue.
The place he spoke of as the God's abode
Was that whereby he could affright men most, --
The place from which, he knew, both terrors came
And easements unto men of toilsome life --
To wit the vault above, wherein do dwell
The lightnings, he beheld, and awesome claps
Of thunder, and the starry face of heaven,
Fair-spangled by that cunning craftsman Time, --
Whence, too, the meteor's glowing mass doth speed
And liquid rain descends upon the earth.
Such were the fears wherewith he hedged men round,
And so to God he gave a fitting home,
By this his speech, and in a fitting place,
And thus extinguished lawlessness by laws. . .
- - - - - - - - - - - -[ lacuna ] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
. . .Thus first did some man, as I deem, persuade
Men to suppose a race of Gods exists.

Critias's ethics are, sadly, recorded for all time. He was the chief oligarch among the Thirty Tyrants at Athens, 404 - 403 B.C., instituting policies like abrogating the promise to cobble a new Constitution, executing without trial statesmen like his own friend Theramenes when faced with advocacy for a moderate course between oligarchy and democracy, and summarily executing without trial dozens of private citizens as well, just to facilitate the use of their wealth -- in the process thinning out the population in various pockets of the surrounding countryside. Even if we accept the notion that tyranny of this sort was less frowned upon in ancient times than it would be today, the Athenians of that era, in fact, reeling from such a Draconian reaction to the world’s first democracy, immediately came to regard the brief reign of the Thirty Tyrants as a singularly cruel and bloodthirsty chapter by any standards.



A century or so later, there is Theodorus, another ancient Greek, who is -- unlike Democritus -- an original atheist, but also -- like Democritus -- a reasonable socially responsible philosopher. This could have been the perfect combination. Still, his brand of philosophical hedonism partakes partly of Epicurus's more thoughtful spin on hedonism and more directly of Aristippus's mild hedonism, the latter having pioneered the Cyrenaic school. Thus, these are all essentially borrowed ideas on social justice and responsibility, though admirable, unlike the equally admirable Democritus example, whose social reflections were mostly original with him, while his atheism was not.



Then there is Straton, another upright original atheist and ancient Greek, but seemingly uninfluenced by forebears like Theodorus and/or Democritus and/or Leukippos. His (sincere) ethics, though, constitute a wholehearted adoption of the Socratic model rather than a new paradigm of his own, so he falls within the Theodorus group.



In the C.E., there is even a genuine martyr of freethought, Vanini. His tongue was amputated and he was strangled and burned at the stake. On his way to this ghastly ordeal, he stated he wished to die "en philosophe" -- with equanimity. He was an avid student of Aristotle, whose concept of the Good Life had deeply impressed this brave nonbeliever. At the same time, where Aristotle states that the Good Life resides ultimately in contemplation, Vanini had enthusiastically adopted the then-new variation on that construct, promulgated by a thinker of his own time whom he adopted as his more immediate model, Pomponazzi. Pomponazzi may be the first to advance the notion that all religions contain a kernel of the truth, but Vanini, a nonbeliever, probably had little interest in that. What he did adopt enthusiastically from Pomponazzi -- and lived and died by -- was Pomponazzi's variation on Aristotle: Instead of the Good Life residing ultimately in contemplation, Pomponazzi stated that the Good Life resides ultimately in moral action. Vanini was courageous in abiding by this lofty ethic in his last hour, but his ethics' unoriginality, however steadfast, probably relegates him to the Theodorus group.

Chapter #9


Mathias Knutzen, who described himself as the first "Conscientist" in a series of path-breaking pamphlets written in German in the 1670s, wrote:

"We declare that God does not exist, we deeply despise the authorities and also reject the churches with all their priests. For us Conscientists the knowledge of a single person is insufficient, only that of the majority is sufficient, as in Luke, 24,39: "Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me and see for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have" (because a single person cannot see everything) and the conscience in combination with the knowledge. And this, the conscience, which the generous Mother Nature has given to all humans, replaces for us the bible -- compare Romans, 2, 14-15: (14)"For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves:" (15)"Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another" -- and the authorities; it is the true judge, as Gregory of Nazianzus testifies ("On his Father's Silence, Because of the Plague of Hail," paragraph 5: "Under what circumstances again is the righteous, when unfortunate, possibly being put to the test, or, when prosperous, being observed, to see if he be poor in mind or not very far superior to visible things, as indeed conscience, our interior and unerring tribunal, tells us"), and is valid for us instead of the priests, because this teacher teaches us "to harm nobody, to live in honor and to give everybody what is his". When we fail to do this, I maintain, as this life is for us the only one we have, our entire life will seem like a host of plagues, even as a hell. If, however, we behave in a just manner, it will be like heaven. This, i.e. the conscience, comes into existence with our birth, and it also dies when we pass into death. These are the principles that are innate in us, and whoever rejects them, rejects himself."

When we research these ethical principles of his -- and their nub is (and actually presented in italics in the original German) "to harm nobody, to live in honor and to give everybody what is his" -- we find that Knutzen, in setting this off in italics, is unabashedly and frankly adopting another's code that he sincerely admires rather than conceptualizing an original groundbreaking one of his own. He is borrowing here from the ancient Roman jurist Ulpian, a polytheist whose writings formed the backbone of the Justinian code. It would have been nice if Knutzen had put some individual and original flesh on the bones of the Ulpian injunction. He might have had a bigger impact; but as it is, he's again, essentially, a "Theodoran".



d. ca. 1720 c.e.: Meslier's Mon Testament

There is one more figure who, like Brhaspati and Critias, developed both a thoroughly autonomous apostasy on belief and also a platform of equally autonomous social action: Jean Meslier. At the outset of Meslier's posthumous tract, Mon Testament, he explicitly rejects the veracity of any and all concepts relating to deity, maintaining that all theism is arrant superstition and that all reality is readily observable by the humblest mortals here on Earth. He maintains there is no dimension beyond the temporal, mortal one, and all lives exist strictly within the three-dimensional universe that we already know. In the extract given here, I give a translation of Meslier's call to social action consequent to his initial declaration of non-belief:

Well ! My dear friends, if you knew of the vanity and the foolishness of the nonsense that you are being entertained with under the pretext of religion, and if you knew how unfairly and how shamefully the tyrants that dominate you take advantage of the authority that they have encroached upon you, you would certainly feel nothing but contempt for everything that you are told to respect and worship, and you would feel nothing but hatred and indignation towards all those who deceive you, who govern you so badly, and who mistreat you so shamefully. This reminds me of a wish that was made formerly by a man, who had neither knowledge nor learning. However, that man had apparently enough wisdom and insight to judge sanely all the detestable deceptions and all the detestable ceremonies that I am blaming here. He was brilliant in the way he expressed his thoughts, and he could understand deeply enough the ins and outs of the mystery of iniquity that I have just discussed, since he could see clearly who was involved and who was responsible for that state of affairs. For all those reasons, he wished that all the great of this world and all the nobles be hanged and strangled with the guts of the priests.(1) That expression certainly sounds rude and gross, but one has to admit that it is frank and guileless. It is short, yet expressive, since it expresses in fairly few words all that those people deserve. As far as I am concerned, my dear friends, if I had a wish to utter on the subject and I would certainly make it if only it could come true I would wish that I had the arms and the strength of a Hercules to rid the world of all vice and iniquity, and to have the pleasure of braining all those monsters of nonsense and iniquity, that make all the peoples of the earth groan so miserably. Do not think, my dear friends, that I am prompted here by any particular desire of revenge, nor any particular interest or animosity. No, my dear friends, no passion is giving me those feelings, or urging me to talk and write thus. I am only motivated by my personal zeal for justice and truth that are so shamefully down-trodden, on the one hand, and by my hatred of vice and iniquity which, as far as I can see, rule everywhere, on the other hand. One can but hate and despise those people who are responsible for so many detestable evils, and who deceive their neighbours so universally. Why, would one not be right to ban and chase away from a town and a province some unashamed, deceitful charlatans who, while pretending to charitably give away salutary remedies and efficient medication, would actually sell at a high price harmful drugs and pernicious ointments? Certainly, one would be right to ban them and chase them as infamous deceivers. In the same way, would one not be right to blame openly and severely punish all those crooks and thieves who spend their time robbing, killing and slaughtering inhumanly those who have the ill luck to fall into their hands? Yes, beyond any doubt, it would serve them right to be severely punished, and one would be right to hate and dislike them; and it would even be a crime to bear that they remain unpunished for their robberies. All the more reason, my dear friends, are we entitled to blame, to hate and to dislike, as I do now, all those ministers of nonsense and iniquity who dominate you so tyrannically, using their power either on your consciences, or on your bodies and your assets. The ministers of religion, who dominate your consciences, are the greatest deceivers of the peoples, whereas the princes and the other great of this world, who dominate your bodies and your assets, are the biggest thieves and murderers on earth. All those who have come, said Jesus-Christ, are robbers and thieves. Omnes quotquot venerunt, fures sunt et latrones.(2)

(1) Erganes, King of Ethiopia, had all the Jupiter priests of one of his towns killed, because they had spread their nonsense and superstitions all around the town (Pierre Bayle's Historical Dictionary ). The King of Babylon did the same with the priests of Bel (cf. Daniel, 14:21)

(2) John, 10:8 [KJV: All that ever came before me are thieves and robbers: but the sheep did not hear them.]

This paragraph was circulated ad nauseum in its time, and some scholars view it as the seed for the mentality of the Reign of Terror.


Chapter #10


Finally, there is Karl Marx. Karl Marx emphasized the primacy of life on this world rather than an importance in the metaphysical, and in doing so, indeed provided a new social code -- and, finally, a social code marked by a steadfastly humanist quality that some view as altruistic as well.

Was Marx -- in writing 150 years later or so later than Knutzen -- reintroducing Knutzen's atheism to an altogether innocent reading public, and thus as much a ground-breaker as Knutzen? Not really. In his youth, Marx was an avid reader of Ludwig Feuerbach, who had helped popularize atheism throughout Germany before Marx came along. And even Feuerbach did not literally introduce atheism into the philosophical "bloodstream" of Germany. Feuerbach simply brought it to wider attention. The German intelligentsia were fully aware of atheism as a fully developed philosophy for many decades before Feuerbach. The old Knutzen pamphlets never entirely disappeared from circulation. Thus, Marx emerged from a hyper-intellectual milieu in Germany that was fully aware of atheism as a vibrant and viable philosophy.

Since Marx was already brought to atheism by reading Feuerbach, many of Feuerbach's readers of that time likewise snapped up Marx -- as being an eager follower. In our tracing the German atheist tradition right back to Knutzen, Marx merely reflects a continuing tradition of some standing by the time his own thoughts are published.

Of course, while not literally an atheism groundbreaker, Marx's popularizing of atheism eventually outstripped Feuerbach's, even though Feuerbach was his senior.

As to his original social philosophy, there was a sometimes cold-hearted aspect to it that offsets his apparent humanism to a degree. An occasional "take-no-prisoners" attitude is reflected in his response to Tsar Alexander II. When Alexander was freeing the serfs, Marx remarked --

[paraphrase] "He's still a Tsar and therefore a walking epitome of an evil and doomed order".

And when Alexander was assassinated, Marx openly rejoiced at his death, as constituting a welcome blow to the "ancien regime". His rejoicing at the death of a man whom he knew full well to be a real reformer is fully documented in his own words, and that leaves him as arguably less admirable than, say, a Vanini or a Democritus.

Chapter #11

Now, within the four corners of this phenomenon of linked originality in both altruism and new takes on theism among the theistic founders versus the contrasting written record detailed above on history's pioneering atheists, the strict historical approach would be to ascertain which factor is the variable that causes such a pattern to obtain for one group (countercultural theists) and not the other (countercultural atheists)? If this evolving process for ethical codes comes from nature itself, and I would guess that it does for precisely the reasons provided by Gould et al, then how can the "hallucination" process of deity from specific -- (?)highly attuned(?) -- counterculturalists not come from the same thing, nature? -- particularly since it so frequently has this symbiotic relationship with ethical adaptation?

Before we get too carried away here, though, it remains obvious that ascribing the "hallucination" of deity to the general nature of our species still doesn't automatically make deity real. It just makes the "hallucination" natural and inevitable, which says nothing about any reality behind it. But since the practical value of evolving ethical codes seem all too real and urgent to me, not an illusion at all but an urgent reality without which our species will eventually sink into extinction, I have to ask why an individual direct deity "hallucination" isn't also reality-based after all, given the (apparent) symbiotic relationship between the two -- "hallucination" of deity and insightful countercultural selfless ethics -- throughout history.
Chapter #12

If someone could uncover a peer-bucking atheist who introduced her/his atheism for the first time to her/his own culture, a culture duly ignorant of conceiving of any reality without a god up to then, and who did so in tandem with a profound social reform of that culture of some kind that was equally original to that culture and fully empathically oriented rather than self-centered, the apparent monopoly that countercultural theist "spinners" have on jump-starting this seemingly natural process of evolving ethical codes throughout history would then be broken. There would then be no reason at all for explaining this "hallucinatory"(?) deity phenomenon among the most altruistic and impactful pioneers. I could simply drop this notion of deity as maybe real altogether. But right now, given the historic patterns I've observed, it would seem intellectually dishonest for me to ignore the possibility, at least, of some form of deity being real, though not necessarily the form found in any particular religion.

I should add that I don't think I have any great emotional attachment to my newest conclusions that deity is (possibly) real after all. If this described monopoly pattern were to be broken, I would then calmly conclude that I was originally correct to be an atheist. But right now, since it seems intellectually dishonest for me to stick with my erstwhile atheism, I won't do that. (At the same time, the most extensively documented figures who articulate new and deeply personal "takes" on deity and new "takes" on altruism symbiotically -- Buddha, Socrates, etc. -- are not all agreed on an afterlife. So I still feel an afterlife is unlikely, even though I now view deity itself as a possibility.)

Clearly, atheists as a whole are just as likely to feel the call of the helpless on our conscience as are any believers. The question is not Are all atheists all-good or all-bad? In fact, they show the same mix of good and bad common to the rest of the human family. Instead, the question is, Where do humanitarian atheists like Russell get their inspiration?

The key point here is that the start-ups of pioneering countercultural calls to unalloyed self-centeredness within many historic communities and cultures always seem linked with countercultural expressions of atheism, and vice versa, while the start-ups of pioneering countercultural calls to unalloyed altruism within many historic communities and cultures always seem linked with countercultural conceptions of deity, and vice versa. These curious symbiotic relationships at the start-ups of creeds on either side of the divide appear to hold firm throughout history. It's only later in the history of these creeds that positions sometimes get reversed: Hateful figures like Torquemada sometimes emerge who warp a theistic philosophy of caring (Jesus's) into a savage orgy of blood, even as peaceful and humane figures like Holbach and Ingersoll similarly tend to emerge who then transform an initially callous atheistic philosophy bent only on self-satisfaction (Meslier's) into a gentle warning that the people at large should eat something more than just cake......... (by the way, contrary to some assumptions, Robespierre, one of the most brutal of the French Revolution's leaders, actually singled out atheists for the guillotine[!], along with the royalty and the nobility, being a devout believer himself -- oh yes! -- so it's a canard that atheism was always at the back of the most brutal tendencies of the Fr. Rev. -- unless one blames everything on Meslier, of course.)

This odd symbiotic pattern that we seem to see among _originating_ altruists and theism pioneers versus _originating_ "self-ists" and atheism pioneers could be expressed in this way --


Premise 1 -- any species dependent on socialization, such as humanity, needs an ethic of mutual caring in order just to survive;

Hypothesis 1 -- human history reveals all autonomous altruistic doctrines, advanced to reform occasional human indifference, as a positive for the species;

Datum 1 -- in their primary texts, autonomous altruistic doctrines seem to show a symbiotic relationship to autonomous formulations for the divine [Buddha, Socrates, Christ, etc.];

Hypothesis 2 -- the reason for that symbiotic relationship may be a link of some kind between pioneering altruism and some kind of deity, although indicating nothing re theists in general.


Premise 2 -- humanity sows the seeds of its own destruction if too critical a mass of its members look out only for themselves;

Hypothesis 3 -- all autonomous self-centered doctrines are a negative for the species;

Datum 2 -- in their primary texts, autonomous self-centered doctrines seem to show a symbiotic relationship to autonomous formulations for atheism [Brhaspati, Critias, Meslier, etc.]; and

Hypothesis 4 -- the reason for that symbiotic relationship may be a link of some kind between autonomous "self-ism" and autonomous atheism, although indicating nothing re atheists in general.

My take is that there is some degree of evidence for deity, but the huge question is, How strong is that evidence? After all, even the evidence for deity that we may or may not have is still a "some-degree-of" proposition only. It is not proof. Furthermore, I see no clear evidence at all for deity being specifically Allah, or Yahweh, or Jehovah, or Brahma, or Ningirsu, or Baal, or Jove, or Jupiter, or Zeus, or Tian -- or what/who/ever. Whatever evidence for deity there is -- and again, such evidence is distinct from proof -- is only rooted in huge historic cycles showing cultural transformations within the homo sapiens species among various communities and societies throughout the ages, not connected with any one take on deity within any one region or any one era. Instead, it's what "goes down" in era after era and region after region -- all taken together -- that is ultimately useful to this question.

Chapter #13

Since I view humanity today as staring down the barrel of "perfect storm" conditions for its imminent extinction within one or two generations at most, either through ecological collapse or WMDs run amok or something else even more horrific, it is imperative that all our available brain power be used in ascertaining as accurately as possible each and every comma of whatever was said or done by figures like Buddha, or Jesus -- or Tolstoy, or Gandhi, or Mandela, etc. We must gain a proper understanding of how these ethical insights were arrived at in the first place. Knowing exactly what was said and understanding precisely the mainsprings behind what was said is more important than anything. Knowledge is power. And is there something symbiotic between freshly minted -- or re-minted -- constructs for altruism/empathy and freshly minted -- or re-minted -- constructs for deity? Or is such an impression strictly a delusion?

When we have a closer knowledge of whatever facilitates a Buddha's or a Mandela's transformative impact on a selfish culture, we'll have a better knowledge of how we can trigger the better angels of our nature today without the jackboot (which is already a sell-out right there) and thus stave off the imminent extinction that not only seems highly likely today but totally inevitable under current circumstances within the lifetime of many of us. Wherever biological or chemical or general scientific research into the human brain leads us, that can only be to the good --

Survival of the fittest? Anthropologist suggests the nicest prevail — not just the selfish | Newsroom | Washington University in St. Louis

Can "neurotheology" bridge the gap between religion and science? - By George Johnson - Slate Magazine

-- . What this ongoing research shows is that the frontal cortex of the human brain, which happens to be the most recently evolved sector of the human brain, is heavily engaged in two predominant activities, metaphysical meditation of some kind, as uncovered in studies of Buddhist monks at prayer, and empathicizing with various fellow creatures in distress. In general, if such state-of-the-art brain research leads us to the conclusion that something other than deity is at the back of these altruistic cultural reformers, then that's fine by me. If it confirms my working conclusion that some kind of deity/presence like that described in my preamble may be the common denominator behind these altruistic cultural reformers after all, then that's fine by me too. I really don't care, just so long as we have the answer. This question is worth pursuing today because we have no other choice. The selfishness and the smallness and the violence and the stubbornness of most world leaders today have left us with no choice. We have to pursue this kind of study, whether it be of Jesus or of Urukagina (the earliest known cultural reformer of all [in ancient Sumeria]), without fear or favor. Otherwise, we can kiss our grandchildren's adulthood goodbye.

Chapter #14

Again, I don't necessarily believe in deity as conceptualized in any one creed. If forced to choose, I feel more comfortable choosing particular individuals as models of ethical fitness rather than institutional creeds. And if forced to choose certain individuals, then I'd say that the most closely vetted individuals via modern secular scholarship who appear to have genuine interaction with deity of some kind, and whose ethics also seem to stand up to the strictest scrutiny, are the ones I'd start with in making any choice among different gods. We probably come closer to the essence of any deity that's out there by restricting ourselves to the earliest textual strata on the most closely vetted individuals, courtesy of modern secular scholarship, than we do by adherence to any one creed.

For one thing, I would tend to weigh the individual _human_ factor in each case far more heavily than many others whom I know. This is why one crucial factor that matters most to me is the earliest and least "tweaked" textual stratum and what it indicates about the specific founder involved at each creed's outset.

There is sometimes a lot of heavily tweaked textual material that tends to emerge roughly around four or five hundred years or so after each known founder is long gone. But, though heavily manipulated, that later material (sometimes within each creed's canon for sometimes bogus reasons and sometimes not) often tends to overshadow, in the minds of each creed's believers, the earlier material/information on an original founder duly available in much earlier (and more reliable) strata.

In plain English, since I depend on first knowing what each human founder was personally like and the status of his ethics, social/cultural/personal etc, before viewing any one creed as superseding any other, that means I depend heavily on the most modern, most secular scholarship to determine which texts in a creed's canon _most_ _likely_ reflect the earliest record on that founder's virtues and/or vices. Maybe one can't always be certain that such-or-such a textual stratum is definitively earlier than some other textual stratum. But I still feel it's more sensible to seek out the most up-to-date "guesstimate" on that instead of just swallowing a whole creed's canon and traditions wholesale.

I do deal here with whatever documentary evidence we have as to the various ways in which deity concepts have been introduced by individual human beings through the millennia. Those ways appear to often involve new social norms involving a raising of consciousness/conscience respecting the more vulnerable among us. That's what I basically focus on here. I focus less on the unfortunate fact that "followers" frequently take over at later stages and subvert the concepts from individual human pathbreakers into religious institutions that are wholly geared toward maintaining power and wealth instead. That later stage, though, does not address the context in which counter-cultural "takes" on altruism and theism are first advanced autonomously by some lone individual. It's that earlier stage for which we also have some documentary evidence, and it's now up to the brain researchers of the 21st and the 22nd centuries (if there will be a 22nd century at all) to scrutinize all of this further, with more scientific rigor than has so far been the case. Is the brain -- particularly the frontal cortex, which is the most evolved sector of the brain -- just playing mean tricks on the however well-meaning and path-breaking altruists and founders who strike out in ever-newer "takes" (however delusionally?) for a re-minted empathy of some kind and a re-minted theism of some kind? Or are these founding pathbreakers' brains genuinely awake to something real that others can only dimly glimpse?

We don't know -- yet. But I am definitely one of those who reposes considerable trust in science and in scientific research -- both in analyzing the workings of the brain and in analyzing other pertinent aspects here as well -- to answer these and related questions some day.

In evaluating the founders behind these creeds and the earliest texts on them, my chief parameters are

A) Do we have relatively early accounts about them that come from both "adherents" and "Indifferents"/"opponents" alike?

B) Do we have relatively early accounts that the most skeptical scholars would place no later than two or three centuries, if that, from the time they actually lived?

C) Did these founders introduce brand new ethics paradigms that exerted a maximum culture-changing effect on entire cultures thousands of years later?

D) Did they introduce brand new ethics paradigms that seemed wholly taken up with some basic empathy/compassion for others?

E) Are there a number of accounts about their personal lives that, no matter the perspective, seem to uniformly suggest they really did _walk_ their elevated and pioneering empathy-in-ethics talk 24/7, from the cradle to the grave?

F) Do they show in the very earliest sources on them, as dated the earliest by often non-adherent and rigorous scholars of today, some kind of visceral experience of the divine?

Let's now look again at some of these founders in the light of these six parameters, A through F.
Chapter #15

1. Getting down to cases, The Rigveda is the earliest Hindu religious text -- the bulk of it from the mid-second-millennium b.c.e. It's a series of devotional poems. Author unknown, but a certain Lord Krishna of the late fourth millennium b.c.e. is sometimes reckoned the immediate inspirer of the traditions reflected in the poems. One highly symbolic account of Krishna's life can be found in a much later text, the tenth Canto of the S'rimad Bhagavatam, from the early Mediaeval period, although his story first appears in much sketchier form in the Mahabharata, ca. the middle centuries of the 1st millennium b.c.e. Like many a founder in many a belief tradition stretching back ages, there are countless questions concerning how much of what we read of this figure can be taken at face value. While I don't take all the stories as being history -- since it's clear that highly symbolic myth is also involved -- the actual names of those human players who impact on an entire community might still be partly historical. So I'm ready to accept the possibility that someone like Krishna really played some kind of foundational role ca. 3100 B.C.E., even though the events that swirled around his assuming that role were very likely different from those described in the first-millennium-b.c.e Mahabharata (where the Bhagavad-gita is also found) and elsewhere. Essentially, the Hindu tradition, the oldest tradition still practiced by millions around the world, appears to have been partly inspired by Krishna, and one important detail may possibly be historical: The love Krishna inspired may have been partly due to his having reportedly replaced a vicious tyrant (called Kamsa in Indian tradition). In other words, read this way, Krishna brought freedom to his people (do you recall Urukagina in ancient Sumeria?). Ironically, in the tenth and latest book of the Rigveda, assembled at least a century or so after the bulk of the collection, the Purusha Sukta became a Scriptural justification for the noxious caste system! So we see right here a clear example in which a later text has adversely impacted a creed to its ethical detriment. In addition, the earliest direct description of this creed's founder is a couple of thousand years later than the time he lived, so we may not be on very solid ground in establishing the status of his ethical probity. Given all this, the integrity of this creed, with all its textual imponderables, could be somewhat nebulous, while the stance of its founder is only preserved thousands of years later. This creed, then, falls short on parameters A, B, and E.

2. The earliest extant example of caring for the vulnerable among us comes from the third millennium B.C.E. in ancient Sumeria. Urukagina, the pioneering lawgiver and first (known) social and religious reformer in our modern sense, is the first to coin the phrase "widow and orphan" as symbolic of those unjustly (and/or inadvertently) prey to the powerful and better-off. Urukagina couples that with a solemn claim that his own god, Ningirsu, mandates that he care for the vulnerable above all others. This marks a distinct break with the prior understanding of deity as a safeguard for the mighty instead. It is probably the first instance of someone making any such connection at all. Some scholars today view Urukagina as the precursor for the 2nd-millennium-B.C.E. laws of Hammurrabi and Moses. Not only is Urukagina the first known human being to introduce the concept of "freedom" ("Amagi" in Sumerian), his reforms also include radical measures aimed at relieving families of crushing debts, at leaving humble citizens free to name their own price for goods previously yanked summarily out of their hands by the financial and royal elite, at allowing key resources throughout the realm to be used in common rather than confounding the roles of superviser and owner as had previously been the case, at rebuilding temples where the ministers had strictly pastoral duties and much less power over any properties than they had had previously, and so on. Texts preserving his reforms are found on Sumerian clay tablets of the third millennium b.c.e. It would appear that the textual record for Urukagina is somewhat more reliable than that for Krishna, although there are no extant accounts from "Indifferents"/"opponents". This creed, then, falls short on A.

3. The Ten Commandments remains of incalculable importance to the history of jurisprudence. Whether assembled in its final form by Judaic writers in the first millennium B.C.E. or by Moses himself in c.1300 b.c.e., the achievement itself is significant enough for its author to be included in a survey like this. The only human name associated with this code is Moses, and although the Pentateuch or Torah describes Moses's death, much of the rest of its narrative is traditionally ascribed to Moses. Be that as it may, and however we take the Torah, it remains a superb literary achievement. If Moses was indeed the author of most of it, that is yet another reason to include Moses in this survey of human giants. Finally, of course, he is a foundational figure in Judaism, so his contribution is as much bound in with the spiritual as with the judicial. The earliest stratum of text in both Exodus and the Torah as a whole is generally taken to be the so-called J passages, distinguished chiefly by the term(s) applied to deity. The J passages in Exodus deal with certain aspects of Moses' story, but not all. The E passages -- the next-oldest layer -- provide the full text of the Ten Commandments, for instance. What emerges from these texts, preserved in a collection of books roughly three hundred years after the best "guesstimate" of Moses' dates, is a man who does understand what injustice is but who, as a youth, is not above murder: Horrified by an Egyptian slave-driver's wanton cruelty, he kills him in cold blood. Since this episode is right there in a J passage, we can only infer that this episode was associated with him from the earliest days of the Judaic tradition. If Moses existed at all -- and there are some scholars who question if he did -- then the written record shows that this unfortunate episode was inseparable from his name at a very early stage. But we do not read in the J passages of any such lapse after his encounter with God, and this suggests that God's influence over him was deep and abiding. The one important parameter where, so far, the record appears relatively scant relates to #A.

4. Wen Wang is generally assumed to be the writer of the I Ching, of the 12th century b.c.e., a set of Chinese aphorisms, primarily significant for having introduced the concept of yin and yang and for having helped cement the usage of the term Tian for both heaven and deity interchangeably. There are some vague indications that the I Ching may have been written in prison, although a few scholars have doubted that. Beyond that, the I Ching continued to shape Chinese sensibilities some thousands of years after it was written. Of Wen Wang himself, not much is known beyond his authorship of the I Ching. Thus, this creed falls short on A and E.

5. It's Hesiod, from the eighth century b.c.e., who presents the classic "picture" of the early cosmos as conceived in ancient Greek tradition, his Theogony. In addition to the centrality of his Theogony, Hesiod, according to one account, directly influences the Constitution of Orchomenus, whose designers view him as "hearth-founder". He may thus be the earliest extant designer of a government Constitution who is known by name. But another account places the Constitution of Orchomenus as post-Hesiod, the term "hearth-founder" referencing the place for his ashes instead. Beyond that, his biography is shrouded in uncertainty. This creed falls short on A and E.

6. Zarathustra is an even more shadowy figure. We know he was probably responsible for composing the Gathas central to his creed. But beyond that, scholars are not even sure of his dates, which could range anywhere from the 6th century b.c.e. back to the 12th b.c.e.! Thus, this creed falls short on A, B and E.

7. Matters are practically as murky for Daoism, in which the chief text, the Tao-te-king, is sometimes ascribed to a certain Lao-tze and sometimes not. Here, then, we have a case in which even if there were detailed information on a "founder" (and in Lao-tze's case there isn't), we can't even be sure that that's where the creed is really "coming from". Curiously, there are just a few vaguely "indifferent" references extant on this man (coming mostly from Confucius adherents) as well as positive. But even so, the dates for this figure range widely, from the 6th century b.c.e. to the fourth or possibly even later. So this creed falls short on B and E.
Chapter #16

8. Prince Siddhartha Gautama was called Buddha by his followers -- ca. 560 - 480 b.c.e. -- and is the founder of Buddhism. The number of Buddhist texts are endless. The earliest collection is the Tripitaka in the Pali language. In that collection is a book of sermons, the Digha-Nikaya, that is usually viewed as the earliest and directest record we have of Buddha's own "voice". What sets Buddha apart from his contemporaries is his utter repudiation of any violence, plus the apparent complexity of some of his thoughts. He rejected the caste system altogether. He also is the introducer (for his culture) of the idea "that (from time to time) a Tath¤gata is born into the world, an Arahat, a fully awakened one, abounding, in wisdom and goodness, happy, with knowledge of the worlds, unsurpassed as a guide to mortals willing to be led, a teacher of gods and men, a Blessed One, a Buddha". This suggests an intense and close experience of the divine. Fortunately, we do have occasional early reference to this man from "indifferents" and not just from "adherents". The worst that's said of him in his own era is that he inadvertently made a number of young men lose interest in getting married and raising a family, they were so taken up with the Buddha lifestyle of preaching non-violence and living as a wanderer. And even the most "indifferent" accounts appear to validate his personal probity and genuinely peaceful ways 24/7. The earliest accounts of this man's reflections (in the Digha-Nikaya) seem no later than a couple of centuries, if that, from Buddha's lifetime. So this would be the earliest creed that would appear to check off on all six parameters.

9. Confucius's world was politics. He came up in a particularly violent time -- c. 551-479 B.C.E. -- and there may have been moments, especially toward the end of his life, when he may have thought his lifelong efforts at reining in the arrogance and violence of those in power whom he met had been in vain. But after his death, there was a remarkable resurgence of interest in the reciprocal and considerate way of public life that he had espoused. Confucianism thus arose despite the attempts of some to destroy Confucian texts after his death. The earliest text reflecting his thoughts is now taken to be Chapters 4 through 8 of the Analects, emerging two centuries at most from the time he lived. Considered China's greatest philosopher, as well as a rallying point for political reform, his example may have partly helped foster one of the most stable cultures that humanity has yet seen, starting with the Han dynasty. As with Moses, Confucius's stature as effectively the founder of Confucianism ties him in with a tradition that is as much involved with the spiritual as with the secular, although, unlike Moses, the secular component in Confucius involves the political more than the judicial. Accounts by "indifferents" of this man mainly target an imputed obliviousness to the full depth of Lao-tze's thinking and the Tao-te-king [see above]. These accounts generally come from Lao-tze adherents. But even these accounts do not question his rigorous consistency and integrity in walking his talk at all times. At the same time, he himself, right in the "prime" chapters of the Analects, is careful to stress that his "is the second order of knowledge" in that he has arrived at his philosophy by extensive reading rather than direct experience of the divine like "some great Sage". Ultimately, then, this creed falls short on F.

10. Philosophy itself has sometimes been described (hyperbolically, of course) as "footnotes to Plato". But there would probably have been no Plato at all without Socrates -- 470 - 399 b.c.e. If we're talking of ethics, if we're talking of self-knowledge, if we're talking of right and wrong, if we're talking of the very nature of reality itself, it seems impossible to discuss any of these things without either Socrates or Plato eventually coming up. Socrates is the godfather of the Peripatetic school, and Plato and Aristotle's influence, huge as it has been, owes its (sometimes "Puck-ish") spirit of inquiry to the endless teasing, sometimes in jest and sometimes in deadly earnest, that Socrates initiated 2,500 years ago. That is a loooooooooong time, and for a solitary eccentric to remain a household word for all that time may be a unique accomplishment in and of itself. Most scholars assume that the texts that come closest to Socrates' "voice" are probably Plato's earliest dialogues, when Plato was not yet using Socrates routinely as a mouthpiece for his own ideas. Among those earliest dialogues are the Apology and the Crito, written scarcely a generation after Socrates' death (very possibly sooner), which are usually taken as about the closest we can hope to get at grasping what happened during and immediately after Socrates's trial. The Apology purports to be a direct representation of Socrates's own defense on the very day he was condemned. Another possible source, and one that differs from the Apology and the Crito in various ways, is the account of the trial from Xenophon. "Indifferents" among accounts of Socrates include a satirical playwright, Aristophanes. No serious account of this man, though, seems to throw doubt on his having had tremendous personal integrity at all times, however irritating he may have sometimes been to others. And his experience of the divine, the voice that he habitually heard from childhood on, indicates an experience of the divine that is extremely intense and close. Like Buddhism, this creed too -- and I can appreciate why some readers here may not really view it as a creed, but frankly I do -- checks off on all six parameters.

11. Service/living for others was spotlighted by Jesus -- 4 b.c.e. - 30 c.e. -- more than by anyone else -- even one's enemies were to be loved. Called Christ by followers, his impact led to the founding of Christianity. He also changed the way years are reckoned. Scholars take the three Synoptic Gospels, Mark, Matthew and Luke, as the earliest texts relating to his life, coming approximately a generation after he died. Written from a strongly devotional point of view, they contrast with the somewhat more noncommittal Josephus, whose recollections include two references to a Christ: one that may reflect later tampering -- the form we have it in and a quote of it in Arabic diverge -- and another that refers to Jesus's brother James and that seems better confirmed by a less divergent quote elsewhere. "Indifferents"' accounts of him also include less than flattering references in the Mishnah and in Tacitus, although none of these "Indifferents"' accounts suggest that he was personally lacking in integrity. In the three Synoptics, while Mark seems the earliest, there appear to be fragments of an even earlier sayings tradition, sometimes termed "Q", embedded in Matthew and Luke. Jesus's Sermon on the Mount/Plain seems largely drawn from the earliest "Q" material. This early material also appears to confirm that Jesus Christ personally claimed to be Son of God, although there is controversy as to what precisely that is supposed to mean. Since, though, this personal claim of his appears in the very earliest textual strata and is not a later add-on, in contrast to things like the Virgin Birth and the bodily Resurrection appearances which seem to appear later in the tradition, one must conclude that his experiential claim for closeness with the divine was as intense and close as Buddha's or Socrates'. Like those other two creeds, this one too appears to check off on all six parameters.

12. Mohammed -- 570 - 632 -- prophet and founder of Islam, the most recent faith tradition to be adopted by millions, was an extremely influential political and military leader. Reckoned the author of the Koran, he, like Buddha, advanced the idea of recurrent sages with special wisdom, although Islamic tradition characterizes them specifically as "prophets of God". Mohammed started as a simple believer and propounder of a new creed, but when family members were threatened, he withdrew to Medina, where he became a military chieftain. Rough raids by his followers immediately outside Medina alternated with acts of uncommon kindness on his part. His is a checquered odyssey, ethically, until he becomes the chief peacemaker of his time. Before then, he would even agree, at one point, to one lowly soldier's dying request that all the defeated combatants in a victorious battle at Qurayza(sp.?) be summarily executed! He eventually journeyed back to Mecca to talk with his biggest enemies, journeying there with no weapons, successfully starting a peace process involving all the area's feuding tribes. But soon after his death, strife resumed, even though the ecumenical idea of many "prophets of God" did bear fruit in tolerant places like the surprisingly pluralist Andalusian Spain in the Middle Ages. This man certainly made himself some enemies in his lifetime, although it is surprising just how many of them would later became his friends once he initiated his peace-making odyssey. Still, some later accounts from those whom he had offended make it clear that he could be very tough and ruthless on certain occasions. Accounts of him in the Hadith, compiled within our two-century mark, present a man of some complexity, ready to be amazingly generous and forgiving on occasion, but also recognizably a military chieftain above all else when needed. This creed falls somewhat short, then, on E.

Chapter #17

13. Bahá’u’lláh -- 1817 - 1892 -- was the founder of the Bahai faith and an advocate for world peace. He conceived of the entire globe as a single village long before others took up the idea in the political realm. For this alone, he has to be reckoned one of the most far-sighted sages of the past few hundred years, even though his impact so far has not matched the cultural impact of others in this retrospective, and thus this creed's record is incomplete on C. Check back in a thousand years or so............ The fundamentals of the Bahai faith are preserved in two written books written by Bahá’u’lláh himself and issued in his lifetime, the Kitáb-i-Aqdas and the Kitáb-i-Íqán. There are contemporary accounts of him from a number of different perspectives, and they all seem to show a person of great forbearance and insight. Thus, this creed only falls short on C.

From this retrospective, Siddhartha Gautama Buddha, Socrates and Jesus Christ emerge as possibly the nearest to God -- or whatever this "presence" is that slowly nudges/prods social conscience along. The others all have varying question-marks over them. If you want me to further rate the various levels of those remaining ten, I'm not afraid to attempt that and let the chips fall where they may. But this is already too long, so I'll only do that by invitation.

Chapter #18

In the meantime, whatever ingredients Buddha, Socrates and Christ agree on when it comes to their "ingredients" in "God", those are the only "ingredients" that I might provisionally ascribe to God myself. To begin with, there are certain "ingredients" I would _not_ ascribe to "God" --

You see, Buddha says that God is not a creator, so I'd put the creator notion to one side.

You see, Socrates never makes a strong claim for there being an afterlife, so I'd also put the afterlife claim to one side.

And so on and so forth.

What all three of these figures seem to agree on is what I stressed in my preamble: consciousness-raising -- or conscience-raising, if you will -- God purely as a mental prod to our social conscience, in other words. That makes God neither male nor female; it makes God neither spirit nor body. It does make God, though, an active presence in our most evolved brains.

And this could hark back to the three web-pages that I cited earlier, and also the focus on the prefrontal cortex, the most evolved part of our brains, and the part that modern research shows is the most engaged part in both the act of A) empathizing with our fellow creatures in distress and the act of B) Buddhist meditation.
Chapter #19

As far as I'm concerned, any figures with "keys" to ultimate divine understanding remain primarily the three I've singled out. Yes, I'm aware that very few others may view things in quite this way, but for me, the texts associated with these three appear to deal with reasonably concrete, multiply attested events clearly situated in an identifiable milieu fully recognizable in other chronicles of their period. Their texts seem to come closest to being straightforward historical accounts of phenomena directly related to deity and its essence. The texts that nondenominational and secular scholars of today have most recently singled out as the earliest on Buddha, Socrates and Jesus are: the fifteen or so sermons judged the earliest in the Digha-Nikaya for Buddha, Plato's Apology and Crito for Socrates, and the Vaticanus/Sinaiticus mss. of Mark and the Q passages in Luke for Jesus.

All other texts for all other faiths around the world are certainly worth study and respect as genuine reflections of the divine in some way or other, and their adherents are deserving of the same respect, but their traditions simply do not strike me as being so immediately useful in assessing the ultimate essence of the deity phenomenon itself, whatever that is. And my assessment of such texts extends also to all the many, many other texts in the Buddhist, Socratic and Christian traditions as well that lie outside and beyond the specific texts that scholarship has now isolated as the earliest of all in each of these three traditions and that I've singled out here.

Certainly, the later Mahayana texts on Buddha, for instance, have this kind of branch relationship to Buddhism, rather than a direct one -- in my view -- and are thus worthy of respect but not as inherently useful as the earliest texts. Now, human beings living according to the Mahayana faith are emphatically worthy of just as much respect as human beings living strictly by the earliest Buddhist texts. After all, we simply have no way of knowing who among us today is the closest to deity. We shouldn't even try. Thus, all among us must be given total respect. In the end, all we can do is make a personal judgement on which texts seem the closest -- to us -- to a direct deity experience. This has no bearing on how we should judge all those we encounter today on this globe.

One can certainly experience and live in the grace of the divine no matter one's faith. And -- if deity does exist -- I do accept that it is possible to live in just as much a state of grace being a Hindu or a Zoroastrian or whatever, as it is being a Buddhist or a Christian. But the state of grace of a Hindu or a Zoroastrian would be primarily -- in my view -- due to that individual's innate faith having already unlocked some door in addition to whatever that adherent may have read or practiced, whereas the earliest texts on Buddha, Socrates and Jesus -- in my view -- provide a more direct path to immediate encounter with the divine.

Someone once remarked that all philosophy is really "footnotes to Plato"; well, I've come to feel -- rightly or wrongly -- that all practicing creeds, even various dependent forms of Buddhism, or philosophy, or Christianity, are "footnotes to all we really know of deity", as contained in the three sets of texts cited above.

Chapter #20

My provisional conclusion today, that a random series of social doctrines -- often driven by this or that one's equally random social conscience -- have now brought us to a point where we seem to glimpse the possibility of a finer social norm than currently prevails, is strictly that: provisional. Likewise, my perception of an uncommon coincidence, the coincidence that -- when first advanced -- the earliest self-centered philosophies tend to come first out of equally pioneering doctrines of materialism/atheism, while the earliest altruistic philosophies tend to come first out of equally counter-cultural "takes" on deity, is also provisional. It should be theoretically possible to show that these patterns don't always obtain. Surprisingly, after having assembled the originals of all these opposing doctrines for 20 years or so, I've yet to see this apparent pattern broken. Now I don't rule out coincidence. But since I'm dealing with probabilities only -- for now -- the probabilities seem to point in the direction of a conclusion that a 5,000-year coincidence like this is more unlikely than not. There seems, more likely than not, to be no coincidence at all here but some kind of direct symbiotic relationship of some kind between _originating_ "self-ism" and equally _originating_ materialism/atheism, on the one hand, and _originating_ selflessness and equally _originating_ theism of some general kind, on the other. Could the "organizer" of these selfless insights, then, indicate a very real presence that is divine? Could such a divine presence be a God of some kind, even though this God may not necessarily conform to every parameter in every religion?

Some may respond, "So what if the most path-breaking altruistic doctrines coincide invariably with the most path-breaking "takes" on deity? It's all a series of coincidences." At the same time, shouldn't one ask if such a high degree of coincidence can so easily be written off that glibly ........ a 5,000-year coincidence? If it can be written off so easily, I'd frankly like to know the nuts and bolts of such an argument. So far, no one has bothered to show me those.

We're faced with two possible answers, either one flouting the principle of Occam's Razor. To suppose a deity is to suppose an entity with certain attributes that might equally well be attributed instead to the cosmos as a whole -- i.e., if one can suppose a continually present and uncreated god, then why not just accept a continually expanding and crunching cosmos instead, something we all know, and just get rid of a middle man?

On the other hand, to suppose no deity at all is to suppose a coincidental pattern among the most egalitarian cultural revolutionaries that has prevailed for 5,000 years, a pattern complemented by the rather consistently disconcerting contexts of the most self-centered social doctrines during the last 3,000. There is _probably_, instead, more of a likelihood that what the Urukaginas and the Buddhas and the Jesuses are responding to is more real than not, particularly in light of the disconcerting pattern from pioneering materialists advancing precisely in the opposite direction. From this, I conclude that some form of deity may be likely, though still hardly certain.

While I still don't believe that there is anything purposive to the process whereby altruistic counter-culturalists sometimes arrive at a vague -- or not so vague -- sense of deity, I do now guess that a tendency is innate in all of us, depending on random conditions, to grow more aware of an altruistic alternative through a higher awareness of some presence (deity?) as well, once certain dire environmental or social pressures are applied. That awareness does not happen through prior "design" but through a stumbling, random process whereby social and altruistic consciousness is sometimes raised barely in time to forestall social disaster, as in the case of Confucius, or not at all, as seems likely to be the case in this century, possibly humanity's last century on Earth.

I recognize that the notion that human beings come at the discovery of "deity" -- or whatever this "presence" really is -- through the individual initiative of pioneering path-breakers under random conditions that have nothing to do with a "design", or with any purposive plan from that deity at all, may offend both atheists and theists alike. But hey, I can't help that.

My thanks to those here with the persistence to slog through this whoooooooole thing!

My thanks to those here with the persistence to slog through this whoooooooole thing!


If you would have posted a link, I actually might have dl'd and read it....

as it is....this is all I got to until I see some comments by others that indicate a need....
If you would have posted a link, I actually might have dl'd and read it....

as it is....this is all I got to until I see some comments by others that indicate a need....

Fair enough -- not surprised. <shrug>


Greymare -
I also believe God exists as everything, so I am fully in agreement that you can talk to God whenever and wherever you are. When I have seen beautiful sunsets, I have often said, "God, you really do great stuff." I speak to God as if He is my beloved friend, which He is.

It is important to consider that God is so Infinite and there are numerous ways to feel His presence. I think a danger exists when one specific religious tradition believes that it has the only true religion. IMy feeling is that however you can experience God in a positive way, then that is the way you should go.

There are many paths to God.
Initially i was an athiest, believing science and reason was a better way to explain things. Then I became interested in why people had a faith and believed in God etc. First I looked into Taoism and Buddhism because the idea of there being a God seemed wrong. I think this is because I grew up with an idea of God being a all controlling being who messes around with everything. Of course this put me off. I decided to try to understand as many religions as possible by reading the holy texts that belonged to each. This has led me to a wise and centred place were I believe that there is truth in every religion, but non are THE truth. All are entitled to their beliefs. None are right, they are only right for you. There is a power that underpins everything, some call it God, other Tao, other Brahman. All is one, and there are no boundaries between things, eccept those we create ourselves. Compassion and forgiveness lead to happiness.
Initially i was an athiest, believing science and reason was a better way to explain things. Then I became interested in why people had a faith and believed in God etc. First I looked into Taoism and Buddhism because the idea of there being a God seemed wrong. I think this is because I grew up with an idea of God being a all controlling being who messes around with everything. Of course this put me off. I decided to try to understand as many religions as possible by reading the holy texts that belonged to each. This has led me to a wise and centred place were I believe that there is truth in every religion, but non are THE truth. All are entitled to their beliefs. None are right, they are only right for you. There is a power that underpins everything, some call it God, other Tao, other Brahman. All is one, and there are no boundaries between things, eccept those we create ourselves. Compassion and forgiveness lead to happiness.

Religion is one thing but Christianity offers a love relationship with God.