“Why does everything you know, and everything you’ve learned, confirm you in what you believed before? Whereas in my case, what I grew up with, and what I thought I believed, is chipped away a little and a little, a fragment then a piece and then a piece more. With every month that passes, the corners are knocked off the certainties of this world: and the next world too. Show me where it says, in the Bible, ‘Purgatory.’ Show me where it says ‘relics, monks, nuns.’ Show me where it says ‘Pope.’” –Thomas Cromwell imagines asking Thomas More—Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel
Friday, September 4, 2009
Questioning Tribal Warlords
What if religion is an manifestation of another phenomenon? What if there's another major category under the general rubric of human nature to which religion belongs?
For example: tribalism. I'll define tribalism as embodying two main elements, both of which are seen in our closest ape relatives. The first is intense animosity toward out-groups--the neighboring tribes. The second is intense competition within groups for status and the establishment of hierarchies.
Religion and tribalism aren't necessarily one and the same. Buddhism, for instance, doesn't strike me as especially tribal (though Buddhist oppression in Burma makes me wonder). But many religions, especially monotheistic ones, seem to be piggybacking on our tribal propensities.
Following this chain of reasoning, we can say religion doesn't cause wars; tribalism causes wars. But many religions aren't much more than (biblically, koranically, etc) codified, (church, mosque, temple) institutionalized, philosophically extrapolated (God as ultimate Alpha) tribalism.