Monday, May 18, 2009


Feel like a little religion v science today, Dear Gentle Reader(s)?  Then go to “God Talk, Part 2” by Stanley Fish in today’s The New York Times.

Mr Fish takes on readers who challenged a recent column.  By his account, he successfully parried all thrusts.  And he well may have.

What he, and those who he quoted, did not do,though, is to present the essential point about religion which seems too too seldom mentioned:  religion began as a pragmatic tool for tribal survival.

If the study of the Andaman Islanders in the early 20th century taught anything, it taught that societies will develop taboos which enable it to survive.*  It’s an easy step from a “man” driven taboo to a “god” driven taboo.  It becomes a relatively safe “The other guy did it” as tribal leaders deflect any dissent which might challenge the taboo.

Nice jobs, Mr Fish and Mr Hitchens.  For the rest of us,

Trust, but verify.

*See, for instance, p74 of The Social Anthropology of Radcliffe-Brown

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