Robert C. Priddy

Writings on diverse themes from philosophy, psychology to literature and criticism

  • Robert Priddy


    In this blog I post information and critical views concerning ideologies, belief systems and related scientific materials etc. I am a retired philosophy lecturer and researcher, born 1936.

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The origins of worship – and now

Posted by robertpriddy on May 7, 2014

Religion usually tries to impose an orderly pattern on the chaotic appearance of reality, while science aims to discover what order and regularity are to be found in reality. Science has established without any doubt whatever that reality is ordered according to predictable laws wherever it can be observed.

The beginnings of religion certainly lie in mankind’s inability to predict very much due to the lack of knowledge of the causes of natural events. The emerging belief in good and evil spirits, deities and gods was a way of explaining what one did not understand as the actions of such entities, and also provided a focus for ways of trying to influence those imaginary entities: offerings to them from food and valuables to animal and even human sacrifices, from expressing thanks for perceived gifts and prayer and onwards to all manner of activities designed to propitiate these spirits. Many of these elements are still found in differing forms in all the mainstream religions, their sects and ‘spiritual cults’. Belief – as opposed to the urge to learn facts about reality as represented by the sciences and related enterprises – leads to a personal deprivation of reality, of being in touch with the world as it is, not as it is wishfully imagined it is or may become. In this era the need to rid human society of all unfounded beliefs and false practices they encourage is pressing, as the world is faced with the greatest challenges to the continued security of humanity, challenges of climate change and overpopulation, scarcity of resources and much more that can only be hindered by false beliefs and advanced by determined worldly action on the basis of knowledge.

This viewpoint is among the central themes on a website entitled ‘god is imaginary’ which takes a standpoint on a large number of issues concerning the validity of prayer, belief, scripture and science. By clicking on the headings below one finds a wide range of arguments refuting religious beliefs.

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One Response to “The origins of worship – and now”

  1. dns12008 said

    @Priddy:
    Sir,
    Another reason why even people who had earlier rejected or were indifferent to religion/God etc. turned to religion is the ir encountering miracles. I am not talking about quackery or tricks performed by self-proclaimed godmen or over-enthusiastic proselytizers. Rather, I am talking about seemingly supernatural abilities (albeit manifested on a few occasions) of some genuine saints/monks/sadhus/ascetics – by “genuine,” I meant these people were true ascetics who never sought fame and led very austere lives, often staying in solitude, meditating on God/Absolute/equivalent. I have heard of some Oriental saints/ascetics ()Ramakrishna Paramhansa, Ramana) going into a state of “samadhi” for long time, not caring about their physical discomfort. I’ve also heard of several accounts of Oriental “yogis” who wandered alone but on few occasions when they got to interact with laymen demonstrated supernatural psychic abilities (clairvoyance, prophesying events that turned out to be true etc.) even though these ascetics had nothing to gain out of it (they didn’t seek fame or wealth or followers) . Has any extensive scientific study been done on such ascetics? Repeating what I said earlier just to make sure I’m clear – I am *not * talking about fame-seeking fake ascetics/monks

    Reply by Robert:
    The scientific studies of miracles, yogis, ascetics has not progressed anywhere near as much as have the sciences which are already making huge advances towards explaining such phenomena as you mention. Telepathic and similar abilities are a fact, though science has so far been unable to penetrate the physical basis and nature of these phenomena. One complicating factor is that all the arts of misdirection, hypnosis, deception and trickery (as often called ‘magic’) make investigation extremely difficult, even though a great many of these techniques are constantly being exposed. Scientists who master both neurology, parapsychology plus the techniques of illusionists have so far not appeared to my knowledge. This fact increases the scepticism of most scientists towards such paranormal claims, making professionals less likely to risk their reputations in becoming ‘parapsychologists’ etc.

    As to Ramakrishna Paramahamsa and Ramana Maharshi – whose lives and teachings I have studied deeply along with dozens of other ‘fantastic’ Indian yogis regarded as saints – no objective study of the claims about them has ever been possible. That extreme bodily and mental states are achievable is without doubt, but there is much evidence emerging that virtually identical states are achievable in many ways other than meditation, prayer – by non believers and God-worshippers alike. Further. anyone who has experienced under optimal condition what natural agents like opium, morphine, mescaline, psylocybin and the substances known as LSD-25 and DMT among many others attest experiences that are virtually indistinguishable from the reports of so-called ‘mystics’ and ascetics. Read ‘The Blissful Brain’ by top neurologist and meditation researcher Dr. Shanida Nataraja (see some pages here). None of these states are more than temporary, and Ramakrishna seems to hold the record of nearly 28 days without any awareness of the world. Moreover, the human brain has utterly phenomenal capacities, as intimated by its creation of extremely vivid dreams and also of ‘mystical’ experience when affected by strokes (search for ‘Jill Bolte Taylor, neurologist who experienced ‘samadhi’ for months after a stroke) and injuries or poisoning (search for ‘Wren Lewis’).

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