Naturally Occurring Atheism?
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29-07-2016, 10:49 AM (This post was last modified: 29-07-2016 11:37 AM by Mr. Boston.)
Naturally Occurring Atheism?
I've gotten into a casual, not at all heated conversation on another forum with a theist who asserts that religion is the basis or at least the driver of culture. That culture developed as the result of groups of people praying together and the rituals surrounding that. Without getting into great depth my contention is that religious practices and even gods and spirits themselves are derived FROM cultures that are already forming in some nascent state. My essential point is that a group first needs to come together in search of sustenance and survive long enough before it occurs to them to create a common god and pray as a group that the herds of buffalo return each year, that the river does not flood, etc. Cultures around the world have some kind of a divine creator or protector they worship - but the way they do it, some by jumping up and down, some by dancing, some by chanting, some by clasping hands and praying, etc. is a byproduct of their culture or "folkways" as it was described in that discussion.

So that's the context, here's the question:
Do you folks know of any documented cases, maybe of small tribal groups which, when discovered by "civilized" Europeans, Vikings, Greeks, Chinese, etc. were found to worship no god(s) at all? Any cultures that were simply naturally-occurring atheists to whom it never occurred that there might be a sky daddy? We've all seen that meme with the picture of a very innocent-looking young baby with the statement that we are all born atheist. I agree with that. But are there any groups on record where people were born atheist and stayed that way?
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29-07-2016, 10:58 AM (This post was last modified: 29-07-2016 11:06 AM by DLJ.)
RE: Naturally Occurring Atheism?
The Pirahã

Quote:the Pirahã have no concept of a supreme spirit or god, and they lost interest in Jesus when they discovered that Everett had never seen him.

But I have to challenge your definition of "culture".

A culture is simply a collection of individual behaviours.

Individual behaviours are a combination of Organisational Ethics and Individual Ethics.

So the principles (and policies and practices) of a religion (the organisation) are one of many factors that influence behaviour.

E.g. the culture of the Scouser (from Liverpool UK), their sense of community & their sense of humour, is as much influenced by Irish Catholicism as it is by Liverpool/Everton football club.

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29-07-2016, 11:09 AM
RE: Naturally Occurring Atheism?
I lived in a remote part of the Sierra's in a cabin in the woods when I was a kid. My dad was an atheist, my mom was a freethinker type. We had no tv or radio and the nearest neighbors were 2 miles down a gravel road. There were no churches nearby. I had no god concept until about the age of 10 when we moved to a town of about 500 people and I discovered these buildings dedicated to some guy named Jesus and people went there every Sunday. Hobo

And I didn't turn out to be a serial killer either.

Shakespeare's Comedy of Errors.... on Donald J. Trump:

He is deformed, crooked, old, and sere,
Ill-fac’d, worse bodied, shapeless every where;
Vicious, ungentle, foolish, blunt, unkind,
Stigmatical in making, worse in mind.
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29-07-2016, 11:20 AM
RE: Naturally Occurring Atheism?
(29-07-2016 10:58 AM)DLJ Wrote:  The Pirahã

Quote:the Pirahã have no concept of a supreme spirit or god, and they lost interest in Jesus when they discovered that Everett had never seen him.

But I have to challenge your definition of "culture".

A culture is simply a collection of individual behaviours.

Individual behaviours are a combination of Organisational Ethics and Individual Ethics.

So the principles (and policies and practices) of a religion (the organisation) are one of many factors that influence behaviour.

E.g. the culture of the Scouser (from Liverpool UK), their sense of community & their sense of humour, is as much influenced by Irish Catholicism as it is by Liverpool/Everton football club.

Thanks! I'll take a deeper look at the Piraha.

Also, I don't think I gave a "definition" of culture - I just tried to rebut the other person's assertion on the origin of culture. His contention (of course) is that the origin is divine and that religion creates culture. I take the opposite view that people create both and that religion is just one slice or expression of a group's culture.
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29-07-2016, 11:33 AM
RE: Naturally Occurring Atheism?
I found this article, but was beaten to it.

The Freethinker:
BARRY DUKE, EDITOR, SAT 8 NOV

How an Amazonian tribe turned a missionary into an atheist
A RIVETING and hugely satisfying report on BBC Radio 4 today tells the story of a missionary who was charged by an American missionary group with taking the Gospel to the little understood Pirahas tribe in the Amazon – only to realise how ridiculous his faith in Christianity was.

Daniel Everett, 57, a linguist in the Departmental Chair of Languages, Literatures and Cultures at Illinois State University, told presenter John McCarthy on the Excess Baggage programme, that he had travelled to the Amazon in the 70s to bring the tribe “the joy of faith” only to discover that they were a deeply contented people. In fact they seemed far better contented than he was.

Tribe members asked the missionary whether he had seen or experienced any of the things he was telling them about. He had to admit that he hadn’t; that he was simply passing things onto them that were told to him by people who hadn’t seen or experienced them either.

The Pirahas, he said
Believed that the world was as it had always been, and that there was no supreme deity.
Furthermore they had no creation myths in their culture. In short, here was a people who were more than happy to live their lives
Without God, religion or any political authority.
Despite Everett translating the Book of Luke into Piraha and reading it to tribe members, the Piraha’s sensibly resisted all his attempts to convert them.
According to a report in the New Yorker:
His zeal soon dissipated … Convinced that the Piraha assigned no spiritual meaning to the Bible, Everett finally admitted that he did not, either. He declared himself an atheist …

According to Wikipedia, Everett “was having serious doubts by 1982, and had lost all faith by 1985 after having spent a year at MIT. He would not tell anyone about his atheism for another 19 years; when he finally did, his marriage ended in divorce and two of his three children broke off all contact.”

Everett’s account of his life among the Pirahas is told in his book Don’t Sleep There are Snakes.
The book concludes with Everett saying:
The Pirahas have shown me that there is dignity and deep satisfaction in facing life and death without the comforts of heaven or the fear of hell, and of sailing towards the great abyss with a smile.
And they have shown me that for years I held many of my beliefs without warrant. I have learned these things from the Pirahas, and I will be grateful to them for as long as I live.
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29-07-2016, 11:35 AM (This post was last modified: 29-07-2016 11:38 AM by DLJ.)
RE: Naturally Occurring Atheism?
(29-07-2016 11:20 AM)Mr. Boston Wrote:  ...
that religion creates culture.
...
that people create both and that religion is just one slice or expression of a group's culture.

And I was just pointing out that these two positions are not contradictory (unless they are saying that "only religion creates culture").

Or to put it another way, if they are say "the driver of culture" they are wrong but if they are saying "a driver of culture", they are right.

But, of course, the divine origin part is nonsense. So focus on that part.

Yes

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29-07-2016, 11:36 AM
RE: Naturally Occurring Atheism?
Interesting topic! Thanks for posing the question.

It took me till I was in my early 20s to come to the realization that I didn't 'have' to believe in a god or gods. Everyone around seemed to so I thought there was something wrong with me that I didn't.

This will be an fun topic to follow. Thumbsup

And a welcome change from guns and the election, and the election and guns...sigh. Undecided

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29-07-2016, 05:00 PM
RE: Naturally Occurring Atheism?
Atheism existed fundamentally as a default for humans, even before the word existed.

Religions are human constructs, like churches.
Lots of humans roamed the world without any gods in their heads. As civilizations developed, people invented ways to help control those populations so anarchy wasn't everywhere.

The powerful and wealthy constructed secular laws.
Those who weren't powerful or wealthy, devised another way to control the masses and even to control those with money and power. Thus, religions were born.

Insanity - doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results
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29-07-2016, 05:12 PM
RE: Naturally Occurring Atheism?
(29-07-2016 05:00 PM)Rahn127 Wrote:  Atheism existed fundamentally as a default for humans, even before the word existed.

Religions are human constructs, like churches.
Lots of humans roamed the world without any gods in their heads. As civilizations developed, people invented ways to help control those populations so anarchy wasn't everywhere.

The powerful and wealthy constructed secular laws.
Those who weren't powerful or wealthy, devised another way to control the masses and even to control those with money and power. Thus, religions were born.

I think there is a lot of truth here but I also see the formation of religious beliefs to be ways to answer things that were not yet understood.

See here they are the bruises some were self-inflicted and some showed up along the way. - JF
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29-07-2016, 11:54 PM
RE: Naturally Occurring Atheism?
(29-07-2016 05:12 PM)Anjele Wrote:  
(29-07-2016 05:00 PM)Rahn127 Wrote:  Atheism existed fundamentally as a default for humans, even before the word existed.

Religions are human constructs, like churches.
Lots of humans roamed the world without any gods in their heads. As civilizations developed, people invented ways to help control those populations so anarchy wasn't everywhere.

The powerful and wealthy constructed secular laws.
Those who weren't powerful or wealthy, devised another way to control the masses and even to control those with money and power. Thus, religions were born.

I think there is a lot of truth here but I also see the formation of religious beliefs to be ways to answer things that were not yet understood.

I agree, when I talked about religions, I suppose I should have said organized religions versus religious ideas or anthropomorphic mental constructs.

I'm sure early man had many ideas about wind, weather, the hot sun, the moon and it's changes, the seasonal shifts from hot to cold and disease.

All of these larger than life things must have been interesting to people who were gaining an insight about the nature of nature through a more complex brain and making connections that might have seemed rational to their minds.

The wind blows and we can blow air from our mouths. Perhaps a great giant that we can't see blows giant winds. I'm sure we all can imagine many more examples of these religious ideas of anthropomorphism.

But really that's what it comes down to, giving mental agency to something you don't understand.

Religions are a bit more advanced and contain rituals, customs, dogma and they typically have gods, instead of a simple invisible giant blowing the wind.

Insanity - doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results
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