June 30, 2012

Rasputin - A Profligate Christian Who Changed The Course Of Russian And European History

Just finished this 500 page tome. Could hardly wait for him to get bumped off. Too long, yes, but if you want insight into what happened in Russian +/- 1900 re. the downfall of the last of the tsars, Russian religious mysticism of that period, Russia's role in WW I, and the major factor prompting the Bolshevik revolution in 1917, Rasputin himself, check this one out. The man was vile to the core, a demented debaucher who had the tsar Nicholas and, more so, tsarina Alexandra in his pocket, so to speak.... Only $1.05, used, on Amazon.com. Here are a couple of quotes from the book:

"It had come to pass by the end of 1916. It was neither the bullets of revolutionary terrorists, nor the shells of Germans at the front, but the existence of a single person that was threatening to destroy one of the greatest empires in the world. The opposition, society, the court had all struggled in vain against the illiterate peasant with the awful name from an unknown village."

"Just who was that man (Rasputin) who appeared in the fire of the first revolution (1905) and perished on the eve of the second? He was undoubtedly a deeply religious person. And at the same time a great sinner. With the simplicity of a century of uneducated, ignorant Russian peasantry, he tried to combine the mysterious passions of the body with the teachings of Christ. And he ended up a sectarian, a 'Khlyst,' a profligate, yet at the same time remaining a deeply religious person. He was the epitome of the Russian's staggering ability to live upright within while enveloped in unceasing sin."

See also Rasputin in Wikipedia.

June 25, 2012

Religion - Its Origin And Evolution

Why Did Religion Evolve? by Nigel Barber, Psychology Today, June 13, 2012

The origins of religion are to be found neither in its boost to reproductive fitness and fecundity, as the article above alleges, nor in religion's explanatory power and comfort.

Religion evolved along with other social structures and functions such as leadership (politics) and the distribution of wealth (economics). Primarily it emerged in the earliest stages of Homo's cultural evolution as a means of exerting social influence and control.  It agents for establishing such control were its practitioner's who proclaimed their possession of superhuman abilities to understand and control superhuman beings and supernatural processes they alleged existed.  They called these supernatural beings gods and their activities the various workings of Nature and the cosmos.

Ancient leadership, from early Homo into the earliest agrarian and urban civilizations, wasted no time in bringing religious cosmology under its firm control as an adjunct to brute force for maintaining control of the group (band, tribe, city, empire, civilization).  Since those distant times, for the most part, human leadership has succeeded in maintaining its control over religion.  However, today one finds leadership sometimes subordinating itself to religion when it is expedient or otherwise useful for leadership to do so, and one sometimes finds religion touting itself as liberated from leadership and as an empowering worldview of the individual.

Regardless, politics and religion have always been and will remain comfortable bedfellows.

Look for the origins of religion in our early cultural evolution as a form of social control, not in it's Darwinian fitness, solace, or explanatory power. The latter approach, as the above article exemplifies, is a biased speculative glance into our imagined ancient past using the worldview of the present.

As for species' future, the key for human progress, and very likely our and the Earth's survival, is to transform religion away from a focus on the supernatural to a reverence for a secular-scientific, factual understanding of Humankind, Nature, and the cosmos.

June 16, 2012

Are We Nearing A Planetary Boundary?

Disappointed EU Cites Rio+21 Bright Spots, UPI, June 25, 2012
Progress On The Sidelines As Rio Conference Ends by Simon Romero and John M. Broder, The New York Times, Americas, June 23, 2012
Scientists Urge Rio Moves On Population And Consumption by Richard Blac, BBC, June 13, 2012
Are We Nearing A Planetary Boundary? by Justin Gillis, The New York Times, Environment, June 6, 2012

"....the planet is nearing a "state shift," or tipping point, after which a "bubble" of population and economy will be unsustainable...."

Is this the beginning of the global disaster it appears must happen before Homo sapiens will put nationalism and supernaturalism second to science and the needs of all of Humankind, including accepting full responsibility as stewards of the Earth?