[quote]angry chicken wrote:
If I found myself in the unlikely position that I had to rule over, govern and control significant populations, how would I go about keeping the masses in line?
Hmmmm… I MIGHT make up a story about some “entity” that lived in the sky (but could somehow communicate with people on earth, although no one ever saw it) and let people in to heaven or condemn them to hell (even though no one can prove that either) depending on how they behaved. I would kill, burn or crucify anyone who disagreed. That would probably work.
OR on a different part of the planet AROUND the same time (Amazing how the Agricultural Era appeared simultaneously in different world zones creating COMMON problems that were addressed with VERY similar solutions). I MIGHT make up a set of “noble truths” for people to live by so that they may reach “enlightenment” in one of their MANY lifetimes. I would comfort them that if this lifetime sucked, you can always come back as a PRINCE in your NEXT lifetime - as long as you are good…
I think that BOTH of those ideas would be GREAT! I could control the population, coerce them into giving me ten percent of their money (on top of taxes), I could use it as an excuse to exercise ANY policy that I wanted but that might be a little “distasteful”, I could influence marriage and children (and increase my tax/tithe base), I could even have sex with a bunch of little boys and cover it up and not have any consequences!
Did I mention I could avoid paying taxes?
Sounds WIN/WIN to me!
Who want’s to start a religion with me? C’mon, these idiots will believe ANYTHING! Who’s with me?
This is a flawed argument in many, many ways.
First of all the concept of religion first came into existence not as a way to rule, subjugate or coerce any civilization; it simply was a way for people who (at the time) had no contact with anyone outside their “tribes” to explain natural phenomena around them, ie earthquakes, floods, lightning, etc etc.
Secondly, while there certainly have been rulers who used religion to better organize and consolidate their power (Emperor Constantine being perhaps the best example), none of these rulers “invented” a religion. Religions started out as a way to explain things happening around them. As various civilizations sprang up around the Meditarranean basin and the Indian Ocean basins, these religions grew and changed, but in many ways the rulers simply adopted what was popular amongst the people in order to gain more legitimacy in the peoples’ eyes. Different cultures came into contact with one another as trade spread further and further across the continent and this helped introduce new religions that were simply variations of previous religions (Buddhism, Islam and Christianity to name a few).
Of course, there is the example of the concept of a “mandate of/from heaven” that was present during the Song and Tang dynasties in China, but again, this was not an invention of religion. You seem to assert that religion is a tool created specifically for the advancement of totalitarian regimes bent on subjugating those around them.
While religion has been used in this manner more often than not, religions were not created for this purpose whatsoever. The exist because people need to believe in something greater than themselves. But people also inherently need some sort of way to identify themselves and to belong to something. Religion fits this mold for the masses.
Regarding your “Agriculture Era”, this is easily explained and there is nothing “amazing” about it whatsoever. Civilizations grew larger and larger and the need for more advanced agricultural methods (in order to create food surpluses) became necessary. The Agriculture Era simply happened all over the globe at roughly the same time because of the latitudes in which they happened. Look at the areas in the Americas, Europe, the Middle East and Asia that flourished during this time. They all occurred along the same general latitude because these areas were the best-suited to grow a wide variety of crops.
Some people reject organized religion, and this is fine. But I think very little people actually reject the concept of a Higher Power. Even many atheists I talk to aren’t even aware that they are actually agnostics; people who simply accept that they do not understand or comprehend whatever it is that is “out there”. There are some who place more importance on the messenger than the message, but the reality is that these people are not wholly representative of any religion. They may be the most vocal, but they are in the minority. While this minority may be unfortunate, it is even more unfortunate to dismiss the concept of a Higher Power of any kind due to these sorts of people.
Faith is an essential part of being a human, and while this does not have to entail organized religion, it does entail a belief in Something bigger than ourselves. If we are our own Higher Power, than we are doomed, because we are inherently flawed. I don’t think this is a concept that is foreign to anyone. After all, like they say in the Marines: there aren’t any atheists in a foxhole. I think those who deny that there is any sort of Higher Power are being dishonest to a certain extent due to the feeling that a belief in such would lump them in with the crazies who are a part of ANY religion.