I think this fits the Advent season:
Roy Rappaport – anthropologist – wrote a book titled, “Ritual and Religion in the Making of Humanity” In it he said ritual and religion is part of what makes us human, and defined god as the “unfalsifiable supported by the undeniable”.
Let’s take each term separately.
Unfalsifiable: god cannot be investigated using ordinary scientific methods and therefore cannot be disproved.
Undeniable: individuals and groups have experience of transcendence/ a “god experience” therefore they have the choice of denying their own experience, which leads to a kind of insanity, or of accepting that there is something beyond their ordinary experience, which for convenience we, and they, might call god.
Rappaport’s notion is that the beginning of language made it possible for people to lie. That created dissonance in the group. Ritual made possible the “setting straight” of that dissonance.
In addition, ritual serves an ecological purpose, as he shows in his book “Pigs for the Ancestors”. People raise sweet potatoes and pigs, when the pigs get too numerous, and raid gardens, it is time to slaughter the pigs and have a feast honoring the ancestors. This acts to keep the population of pigs under control and redistributes meat amongst the population.
If the ritual has outlived its’ usefulness then it is maladaptive. The evolution of ritual and of god is necessary for groups to maintain their adaptation to their ecology; if their notion is maladaptive the people either change their notions or perish.
The Christian year provides an example of religion and ritual being adaptive. (Note: I start with Halloween even though the church year starts with advent since it precedes a time of fasting)
Halloween is the day before All Saints day (a high holy day). It coincides, more or less, with harvest. Halloween predates Christianity. It is a day of redistribution – when poor people can demand tribute from the rich. The poor are in masks so that the rich cannot punish them for their demands – “trick or treat” – is a kind of protection scheme. “If my demands aren’t met I will play a “trick”” (which may be quite destructive).Then comes a season of moderate fasting – Advent – food is still plentiful, but it needs to be conserved since it is only the beginning of winter.
Advent is followed by Christmas, and Epiphany, which, again requires the rich to give to the poor.
Following that is Lent – a season of heavy fast – since food is becoming scarce. It is the time when people and animals are most likely to die of hunger. And it is preceded by redistribution day – Mardi Gras – a masked holiday where the rich are to give to the poor.
Then comes Easter, which is a celebration of the first fruits. Once people get to Easter they will be able to survive. They must work throughout “ordinary time” after Pentecost. Ordinary time lasts through harvest and Halloween and the whole thing starts over.
Therefore, the Christian year is a northern European ecological ritual that keeps the poor alive.
We, with our abundance, have (with the exception of the Salvation Army Santas and a few churches) translated poor into children; so we give candy to kids on Halloween, presents to kids on Christmas and have wild parties with plastic money and jewels for Mardi Gras.
The authority of religion forced the rich participate in the various redistribution holidays and to fast – conserve food – during the seasons of penitence.
Now let’s go back to the fist part of the original question, “If humanity can change the concept of God throughout history and cultures because he is humanity’s creation,”.
Truly, we observe that humans have different concepts of god. However this does not necessitate that god is humanity’s creation.
As a thought experiment let us assume that there is (not god) but some kind of “god experience”. That experience is, of necessity, expressed in the language, and with the concepts, that are situated in a particular culture (I take culture to include time – England of today is different from England of the 13th century or of the 3rd century BCE)
Therefore, the only way the person who has the “god experience” can express him/her self is with the thoughts, words, and metaphors of that particular culture. Therefore it would be surprising it the notion/concept of god hadn’t changed since language and culture are different over time and in various cultures.
Next, god’s existence or non-existence may or may not be dependent on humanity’s recognition, since, as we said above, god doesn’t have the kind of existence that can be falsified.
Finally, it may be that we can live without religion and without god, but then we have to decide how to maintain our ecological balance and how we can account for the “god experience” of people and groups.
Humans create institutions to keep themselves in check – governments, laws, regulations and religions. How does a complex, secular, culture, keep itself in check, fit in with its ecology, and care for the poor?
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