Volume 1: About
Religion is a bit like air, so ubiquitous that it is almost unnoticed. We notice the air when there is a storm or some other extreme event. We are prone to notice religion under similar conditions. So Reynolds and Tanner, writing on the social ecology of religion, concentrate their attention on the role of religion at the salient points in the cycle of human life, birth, death, disease and so on. Reynolds & Tanner, page 53
Here we give a much broader role to religion. My current feeling is that each of us has a personal religion which is part of the culture we absorb from our environment after birth: spoken and body language, physical and social skills etc etc. Religion thus fits us into the natural and human environment of our birth. From this point of view, religion is part of the nurture which adds to nature to construct a complete human being.
The formal content of religion is thus the psychological equivalent of the biological genome and has a similar function. We can understand the function of religion by analogy with the biological world. analogy, Tracy
From a formal point of view, religion is encoded in the space of all possible configurations of the human mind (call this M), just as biology is encoded in the space of all possible genomes (G). Viewed simply as large objects these spaces are not very interesting. But when we observe the distribution of real genomes in G we begin to notice very detailed structure.
This structure arises from the evolutionary relationships between genomes. These relationships arise, in turn, because genomes are not arbitrary strings of data,but have meaning forged by evolution. When executed by its parent organism, a genome controls the growth and life of that organism and determines, at least to some degree, whether it will reproduce successfully (and so bring a similar genome into existence) or not.
The evolution of religion has led to similar structure in the space of mind, M. Archaeology and paleontology can tell us very little about what people were thinking long ago. We have to wait for the discovery of writing to read ancient thoughts and feelings and see the evolutionary history of the ideas we entertain now. This leads us into the fascinating area of comparative religion, where we observe the vast array of different human mental adaptations to different places, times and conditions. Charles Taliaferro
This abstract formulation of religions both explains and overcomes the sectarian problem, since by definition religion is common to us all. The similarities and differences of religions enables them to be classified in a manner analogous to the classification of biological species. As in biology, similarity points either to common descent, or to the evolution of common solutions to common problems.
The detailed study of life on earth shows that all organisms are fundamentally of one flesh, carbon based systems which have shared some common traits for three or four billion years. The history of religion is much shorter, and religious evolution is much faster than biological evolution. Nevertheless all religions have a common root in the human ability to communicate, to cooperate and to learn.
The natural religion project
The natural religion project begins with theology, where we study the general nature of mind, culminating in the biggest imaginable mind, the mind of God. The goal of such science, as of all knowledge, is application. We learn to act better.
The application of theological insight to human action gives us religion. Theology and religion bear the same relationship to one another as science and technology. Our visible industrial technology is concerned with shaping physical objects. Religion is concerned with shaping ourselves.
Natural religion take the sectarianism out of religion by embracing all religions in a common model of superhuman (supra-individual) structures. More generally, we see religion as the force that binds single individuals into complex systems, and leads the Universe from s simple initial singularity (very similar to the classical God) to its present level of complexity.
Natural religion is something to be discerned, not constructed. It already exists. We just have to learn to see it. When we do see it, it grows within us.
(revised 13 July 2014)
analogy: 1. an agreement, likeness or correspondence between the relations of things to one another; a partial similarity in particular circumstances on which a comparison may be based: >the analogy between the heart and a pump.
2. agreement, similarity.
3. Biology: an analogous relationship.
4. (in linguistic change) the tendency of inflections and formations to follow existing models and regular patterns, as when the common plural brothers replaces the older brethren.
5. Logic: a form of reasoning in which similarities are inferred from a similarity of two or more things in certain particulars.
[Latin analogia, from Greek: originally equality of ratios, proportion] Delbridge
religion: 1. the quest for the values of the ideal life, involving three phases, the ideal, the practices for attain the
values of the ideal, and the theology or world view relating the
quest to the environing universe.
2. a particular system in which the quest for the ideal life has been embodied: the Christian
3. recognition on the part of man of a controlling superhuman power entitled to obedience reverence and worship.
4. the feeling or the spiritual attitude of those recognizing such a controlling power.
5. the manifestation of such feelings in conduct or life.
6. a point or matter of conscience, especially when zealously or obsessively observed. Delbridge back