A precursor of religion?
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21-02-2013, 11:24 PM
A precursor of religion?
We discussed what the oldest recorded god might have been in a previous thread. Several people (including myself) speculated that the first type of religion was animism. But what about before we started to think in terms of us vs. them (humans vs. animals)? I'm currently reading a book for my biological anthropology class on chimpanzee culture. It mentions a very strange practice of male chimpanzees that borders on spirituality. This practice is called "waterfall displaying" or "waterfall dancing," and it involves males rhythmically swaying or somersaulting through tree vines whenever in the presence of a waterfall. Jane Goodall suggests they might be doing it because they are awed by the waterfall itself. They also do this stuff during thunderstorms. The book refers to it literally as a "rain dance." Every culture has some sort of storm god, so I could see their actions possibly mirroring that of our ancient ancestors. It's almost like some type of fearful reverence for the elements. What do you guys think?



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22-02-2013, 10:48 AM (This post was last modified: 22-02-2013 10:55 AM by ghostexorcist.)
RE: A precursor of religion?
It's important to point out that not all chimps live in territories near waterfalls, so this behavior is influenced by the environment. It's the same for chimps of other communities. For example, the chimps of western Africa live in an environment that greatly differs from their eastern counterparts. Instead of living in dense jungle forest, they live in sparsely wooded grasslands. They exhibit very man-like behavior, such as sleeping in caves, lounging in springs, and (occasionally) hunting with spears. So, it's possible that the environment played a role in the development of our spirituality.

This is a good article that describes the waterfall display and gives anecdotal evidence that "chimps have the capacity to contemplate and consider (even revere) both the animate and inanimate."

http://www.janegoodall.org/chimp-central...l-displays
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07-06-2013, 11:00 AM
RE: A precursor of religion?
Frans de Wall discusses this briefly in his book The Bonobo and the Atheist (2013). Although he likes Goodalls explanation, he posits that the chimps could possibly have developed some type of superstition that displaying during rain showers will cause it to stop (they hate being cold and wet like us). I found this suggestion interesting because the Golden Bough, a 19th-century work of anthropology, states that superstitions gave way to religion and that this eventually gave way to science.
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07-06-2013, 11:03 AM
RE: A precursor of religion?
Turned on by ions and rhythmic dancing releases Seratonin to the brain to strengthen the effect ions have?

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07-06-2013, 11:07 AM
RE: A precursor of religion?
(07-06-2013 11:03 AM)Dom Wrote:  Turned on by ions and rhythmic dancing releases Seratonin to the brain to strengthen the effect ions have?

I don't know. That's a good question. A lot of religious groups sway rhythmically while praying. The sway of the chimps way induce the same chemical stimulants.
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07-06-2013, 11:11 AM
RE: A precursor of religion?
(07-06-2013 11:07 AM)ghostexorcist Wrote:  
(07-06-2013 11:03 AM)Dom Wrote:  Turned on by ions and rhythmic dancing releases Seratonin to the brain to strengthen the effect ions have?

I don't know. That's a good question. A lot of religious groups sway rhythmically while praying. The sway of the chimps way induce the same chemical stimulants.

Well swaying is a comforting motion as it is reminiscent of being in the womb. That's why rocking a baby calms it while your preheating the oven.

(31-07-2014 04:37 PM)Luminon Wrote:  America is full of guns, but they're useless, because nobody has the courage to shoot an IRS agent in self-defense
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07-06-2013, 11:12 AM
RE: A precursor of religion?
It's well known that praying, chanting, meditating, singing, repeating rhythmic things etc releases dopamine and beta-endorphins , (similar to Morphine Sulfate).

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07-06-2013, 11:12 AM
RE: A precursor of religion?
It seems to me that the immediate precursor to religion must have been fear of ghosts. Belief in ghosts coming "naturally" from people dreaming about dead people they knew.

Nonsense is nonsense, but the history of nonsense is a very important science.
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07-06-2013, 11:19 AM
RE: A precursor of religion?
(07-06-2013 11:12 AM)Abdul Alhazred Wrote:  It seems to me that the immediate precursor to religion must have been fear of ghosts. Belief in ghosts coming "naturally" from people dreaming about dead people they knew.

I would argue that it was more likely to be naturalism or shamanism (spirits of nature) A huge thunderstorm over the Savanna in Africa is terrifying and a much more common thing than the death of a close loved one. The step from natural spirits to ghosts is an easy one and probably followed very soon.

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07-06-2013, 11:33 AM (This post was last modified: 07-06-2013 11:45 AM by ghostexorcist.)
RE: A precursor of religion?
(07-06-2013 11:12 AM)Abdul Alhazred Wrote:  It seems to me that the immediate precursor to religion must have been fear of ghosts. Belief in ghosts coming "naturally" from people dreaming about dead people they knew.

Chimps know what death is. Various papers have been written on their response to it and their ability to grieve. Since we also share these traits, it's reasonable to assume that our last common ancestor had them as well. Fearing ghosts seems like something that would come later after our brains began to grow and abstract subjects came more easily to us. As I and Revenant77x have stated, I think a fearful reverence for the elements would come before this:



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