Re: Religion and narcissism

From: Dace (
Date: Mon 23 Jan 2006 - 21:26:40 GMT

  • Next message: Keith Henson: "Re: Religion and narcissism"

    Michelle writes:

    > "...The point of religion is bind oneself to divinity, to forge a link
    with a power greater than oneself.For this reason, the essence of religion is humility...."
    > But, (pls correct me if I'm wrong), isn't this inate desire of forging a
    link with a power greater oneself is the "product" of the fear of the nature from our hunter-gatherer ancestors?
    > Mic

    Barbara Ehrenreich makes an excellent case for this in her 1997 book, *Blood Rites.* Human societies were so accustomed to periodically losing someone to animal predation that the inevitability of human sacrifice became ingrained in our worldview. So successful was this meme that it lived on long after animal predation ceased to be a major factor in human life. Prior to this time, attack by wild animals, especially lions, tigers and bears, was so common that our ancestors experienced rising anxiety until the dreaded event occurred, after which survivors could breathe a sigh of relief. In other words, the victim is sacrificed that others may live. But even with the decline in the number of predators following the end of the last Ice Age, the cycle of anxiety and release, so ingrained in our collective psyche, continued unabated. The priest was invented who could sacrifice a human and offer the corpse to the new, invisible predator. Thus was God born as the memetic echo of the blood-thirsty predator beast. Ehrenreich argues convincingly that the Old Testament God reveals the same characteristics of predators.

    But there's another side to God, which seemed to develop later on. Like DNA, religion is double-stranded. The two strands of thought are coiled so tightly that teasing them apart can be quite difficult. The other God, rather than demanding ritual sacrifice, became itself the ultimate sacrifice, the Lamb, in order to demonstrate its love for humankind. I think what this God represents is the collective psyche, the shared mind out of which individual minds rise and fall like waves on the ocean. Heaven is simply the loss of the individual psyche as it gets reabsorbed into the living collective. Hell is the purification that occurs to "unrepentant sinners" in the process of reabsorption. If you hate and and torture and kill, then you're not going to have a very pleasant time of it as your individuality is stripped away and the gap between you and your victims closes in. You discover that you're actually one with your victims, that their agony is now yours as well.

    So one God is born of fear, the other of love. One is merely a meme in the pool of human mentality, the other an expression of the pool itself.

    Jerry writes:

    > On Jan 21, 2006, at 5:47 PM, Dace wrote:
    > > Ben writes:
    > >
    > >> A man believes he's the reincarnation of Elvis Presley. He's utterly
    > >> convinced of it. He brings his two young children up to believe he's
    > >> Elvis too, and demands that they address him as "The King". Every
    > >> Sunday, he takes them to the local music hall and subjects them to a
    > >> horrendous karaoke rendition of his favourite Elvis classics. He then
    > >> offers them each a fried peanut butter and banana sandwich, in
    > >> commemoration of his past incarnation. He tells them that as long as
    > >> they stay true and believe in the Power Of The Quiff, they'll all go
    > >> to Elvis-land when they die and make some great rock-and-roll music
    > >> together.
    > >>
    > >> It's a relatively harmless belief, just like Christianity, and just
    > >> like your faith in Christianity, it's a belief that is based on the
    > >> man's subjective personal experience.
    > >>
    > >> OK, it's a hypothetical situation (I hope), but do you think this
    > >> man's behaviour is ethical?
    > >
    > > I hope Kate doesn't mind me jumping in here.
    > >
    > > It is absolutely unethical for this man to impose his delusion onto his
    > > children.
    > He doesn't know this is an illusion. It's ethical in his case; he's
    > acting in good faith. If we think something is true, we tell the kids.

    Hitler thought he was the savior of Germany. Does that make the holocaust ethical?

    > > But this says nothing about religion. The word "religion" is
    > > derived from the Latin "ligare" meaning to bind. The point of
    > > religion is
    > > bind oneself to divinity, to forge a link with a power greater than
    > > oneself.
    > And to the nation-state

    As Ehrenreich observes, the institution of human sacrifice evolved into warfare. Instead of the priest slaughtering the victim, he must only
    "sanctify" the battlefied, at which point the victims can slaughter each other. The nation-state is the modern predator beast and therefore the modern God, always seeking new prey to satiate its blood-lust. The US
    "founding fathers" insisted on separating church and state, in part, so as to create a new religion built around the state, a distinctly unChristian creed in which the new God, while commanding allegiance at home, is free to prowl the earth in search of new victims. Seems their project is coming along quite nicely!

    > > For this reason, the essence of religion is humility. To the extent
    > > that
    > > religion teaches humility and respect, there's nothing unethical about
    > > cultivating this belief in children.
    > No doubt, Daddy was teaching children to be humble before him.

    That's not humility. That's humiliation.

    > > The Elvis man is doing exactly the opposite. Essentially, he's stolen
    > > the
    > > divine and incorporated it into his own inflated ego. This
    > > hypothetical
    > > example, strange as it seems, isn't very far removed from what actually
    > > happened with L Ron Hubbard and the "church" of Scientology. Hubbard
    > > made
    > > himself into the god around which his church revolves. While
    > > evangelical
    > > Christians aren't quite as bold as Hubbard, they tend to treat God as
    > > sort
    > > of an alter ego.
    > Need examples here; I didn't see this as I grew up fundamentalist.

    President Bush's biggest backers in the invasion and occupation of Iraq are fellow fundamentalists. In identifying themselves-- to the exclusion of nonbelievers-- with God, both the righteousness and the success of their cause are guaranteed. As Bush says, God told him to invade. He wanted to invade for personal and geopolitical reasons but justified it through his association with God. On his own he's puny and weak, but through his altar ego, you might say, he's mighty and unstoppable.

    > > The infantile need to be all-powerful is institutionalized
    > > in the form of cultlike churches in which humility is brushed aside in
    > > favor
    > > of taking pride at one's special relationship with the Almighty.
    > > Those who
    > > don't belong to the only true church are to be despised and cast into
    > > hell
    > > rather than being respected as children of God who took a different
    > > path.
    > Some do, some don't. Frex, most Christians recognize those of
    > different denominations as Christian--just a little off-track. As for
    > that "special relationship with the Almighty," that's what brings
    > everybody to the same level. There is a difference between narcissism
    > and the positive self-image that comes from this relationship of God
    > and each human. And proper Christians will tell everybody that
    > relationship is open to all.

    As I say, religion is double-stranded.


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