A question on God for those who have studied.

Hello all…I just found this board and like it very much…I hope to stick around for awhile and get to know you all. This is my first thread.

I have a question for those of you who have studied the different “God’s” for the major civilizations.

How would you compare the way different cultures have viewed their God to their ordinary way of life?

For example, would you say the God’s acted and lived pretty much like the people who worshipped them in thier everyday activity, desires and mannerisms?

Or would you say that the worshippers looked at the God as more or less comletely different from they…something they could not comprehend?

I hope you understand my question…it is hard for me to form.

I’m trying to understand whether you think that the cultures believed that God made them in “His” image and therefore there were many similarities between the different cultures and their Gods?

Could it be fair to say that most of these cultures made thier God in thier “OWN” image and therefore the different Gods seem to closely resemble the people they rule over, following the same customs and mannerisms etc?

Whatever your opinion, I am very interested to hear it, and if you could please state some specific examples of any cultures down through the ages until now to support your point of view.

Thank you.

It’s certainly a hard question to answer, that’s for sure!

My own view on the whole culture/religion thing is that religions do tend to follow along existing cultures, even ‘invading’ religions can pick up local traditions. Christianity is an excellent example, if you look on how it was adopted in the Far East it is markedly different to Western Europe. There are also huge differences between the Greek Orthodox and Catholic churches. You’ve seen it metamorphise over time to keep up with current culture into the ‘off-the-shelf’ version we have today in ‘modern’ countries where there are so many different sects that you can choose one that fits your particular ideologies rather than having to conform to a strict interpretation.

Even Islam, for which the original text is supposed to be avialable to us, has not been immune to this metamorphising force of culture, in the West moderate Islamics tend to drop all the wife beating passages or at least sanitise them so that it fits witrh the current cultures ideology.

It is also quite obvious looking at the world today that when a culture that has been heavily influenced by religion feels threatened, by so called cultural imperialism [1], it revives a traditional, or fundamental, form of religion to try and hold on to its culture. The two become inseperable.

However religion is like a virus [2], it mutates even without external influence. The more ‘virulant’ the religion is, the more likely it will be believed. Hence the move away from polytheism to monotheism, from the malevolent Gods (Roman/Greek) to the righteous God (Jewish) to the benevolent God (Christian). This is a very broad example and should not be taken too seriously however.

I must admit, as a final point, that I’m heavily influenced by Dawkin’s idea of memes, ideas that replicate themselves in people’s minds. The more attractive the idea, the more likely it will be that it imprints itself on the collective consciousness. Hence the more ‘attractive’ the religion, maybe in terms of post-death benefits or how well it reflects particular moral systems, the more likely it will spread.

This reply is perhaps not what you were looking for, I’ve looked at religion more from the perspective of the idea behind it. My intuition is that a cuilture will only adopt a religion if it mirrors their ideology in some way, though I think the whole process once past a religion’s conception, perhaps the part you were asking about, is reciprocial, culture changes religions and vice versa. That is more how I’ve responded.

But maybe it will bring some more replies on your question, which I must say I thought was a good one, if difficult to answer, especially as it is not my primary area of philosophical interest.

[1] Personally I dislike the connotations of the term imperialism, I have argued in “Iraq poll updated” that there is nothing imperialistic about it all, at least not till the last 5-10 years when it was adopted as American Foreign policy.

[2] I hope I don’t offend too many people. Just take as said that your religion is obviously not like a virus as it is the one true religion and all the others are the virulent evil ones.

Thank you very much for that reply. It is excellent!

I too am trying to investigate a particular idea that I have about the origins of religion in the human mind. IE…why do men feel the need to have a religion in the first place? What desires does it satisfy at a very fundamental level?

The main point of my searching is completed in my mind but I am not ready to completely share it yet as there are some things I would like to get worked out first, this being the main one.

I will do a search for your previous posts. I feel that you may have a good bit to offer me.

Matt, i just wanted to compliment you on putting footnotes in your reply – super sexy! :sunglasses:

anyway, gamut, your question is definetly one that is phrased in a way that points to your opinion. the one aspect that i would suggest looking at is the role of lifestyle in the creation of gods. religions began around the time when people lived off the land; whether they viewed the gods of friendly or jealous seems to mirror the peoples experience with nature. for instance, the greek gods do not seem to be as heartless as the nordic gods – spending winter in greece is a hell of a lot nicer than a winter in iceland. (no offence!) experiences with nature, i think, has a big role on a civilization’s perception of the character behind the forces that rule the earth.

but your question seems more to be along the lines of why does a group need to invent gods anyway? (i’m looking more at the how). i think that a basic human need for self-preservation, that sees everyone look for ways that will best put them at an advantage in their enviornment, and religion is one of the results of this drive.

My view is that religion is just a function of humankind’s racial megalomania, mingled with a reluctance to accept full responsibility for one’s own actions. It is basically a means of avoiding angst (in the classic sense).

Religion Is born from the unknown and fear.
Man’s avatars and gods almost always follow examples of the cultures of the men that create them.
Ocasionaly a avatar or god will be made as that his manurisms and actions are supperior. Supperior in a way that man can only try to mimic but can never fully do as they do.

So are you asking which came first the culuture of a religion or the god of the religion?

Thanks for all your replies!

Exactly, seems like a “chicken or egg” situation eh?

Maybe there was no “first?” Maybe for most people the idea of God is very primal, and has been since the beginning - whenever that means.

Instead of there being a first, could it be that the two are so intertwined as to eliminate the possibility of seperation?

I mean, all of us, it seems, have an ideal of what is the best way to live. Then we, most of us anyway, try to live in that way. After all, we all want to be right about the most basic things in our life.

Like Matt said:

Afterall, what is society and culture? It is the whole of a group of people. Individuals who all see things from a fairly common perspetive, especially where God is concerned.

So then, the whole of the culture develops along certain lines, defined by this loose formation of basic things that are held to be true.

Therefore, the perspective of God and society evolves simultaneously. Intertwined. As society develops, God changes. As God changes, society develops.


This thread has been rather interesting, showing that a society and its religion evolve around each other. It seems funny how people still believe that these religions that were allegedly written right back at the ‘beginning’ still hold as being undisputedly true as the history of all time when they’ve been manipulated into different forms that may well be or at least will be completely different to what they started out as, seeing as how the religion and society that follows it seem to be changing around each other.

Personally I think that religious beliefs were written by man for man - that they were written to explain the seemingly unexplainable (at the time it was written) and at the same time to impose upon the society rules to follow that appear to represent the best model of social living and good reason to follow those particular rules.

However, religions show flaws - supposedly perfect beings show imperfect human characteristics and apparently look the same as them, showing the lack of imagination of a human in the way it is written. Humans only know life and so their imaginations can only exist in the box of manipulating what they already know. There is supposed to be a beginning and an end to all that exists - a theory based on the life pattern of a human because humans cannot comprehend infinity. There are conveniently only rules that apply to the society at the time - ones that would otherwise be broken had we not grown up under its culture. And on top of these sorts of flaws there are factual errors that are slowly being proved wrong with scientific advancements.

The new religion is law. Based on religious guidelines naturally and implemented by fear in the same way. One that threatens familiar unconditional punishment if not obeyed. Not one that can’t be comprehended and that there are doubts about like hell. And thus it is much more efficient and doesn’t soley require belief, but genuine learnt experience. It is slowly replacing religion which is being outphased by science and philosophy. However it does somewhat lack in the hope department that religion possesses. Perhaps its crudeness makes it more followable?

Whatever the religion though, there will always be one as it is necessary for social living.

if we look at things from a social or scientific view. We see apes evolve to learn how to speak. it is from this point society starts, from the point of communication and organization.

But now that man has organized we get the bad apple. Once a society is built up to a degree we get the bad apple effect Somebody with a desperate need or void that must be filled, Like a need for fruit, love, money, housing, that somebody takes a aspect of the unknown and makes people fear it producing religion. Soon people agree with the bad apple. But because not all of the group does so they are marked as with the unknown aspect creating two cultures that disagree.

Thus i say First communication then organization which leads to Society then religion. Religion then warps society transforming it into cultures which leads to today.

I think the idea of how cultures relate to religion is more of a language thing than a “where do religions come from” thing. No description of a thing covers 100%, and what’s left out will be filled in by the listeners background knowledge. If you tell children about Jesus, Buddah, Judy Blume, or whoever, most of them will probably picture that person with the same skin color, language, and dress as what they are used to, if they aren’t told otherwise. Adult do similar, less obvious things.
So we have to expect that even if a religion were 100% true, it would be flavored to some extent by the believing culture, and ideas about the religion would vary some from culture to culture as the religion spread.
Basic ideas about God would be the same way. If it were possible for a person to have a relationship with an existing God, we would expect that their views of God would be tweaked by their cultre. Even if God intervened to explain what He was like and what he wanted (as Jude-Christian religions say), there would always be room for cultural views to add to or modify what was taught, just because of human nature.

Seems most of you are doubting everything, except the non-existence of any God. I’ve been working on this problem (existence/non-existence of God) for over 5 years now, so I would love to know where or how you guys found the truth…

And PLEASE don’t come with empty arguments, for I know them all. (Everything points to it, He would have told me, it does’n’t fit with evolution, etc.)

I don’t think we are doing that here. I don’t see any post above that states “there is a God.”

We are talking about the very real idea of God and the effect this idea has on society and the effect that society has on the idea.

Whether or not there is a God is irrelevant in this question, I think.

The idea that the masses follow is that there is a God, albeit theirs is the only one out there.

Then why are you still looking? There is nothing you can know that can’t be known. There’s nothing you can think that can’t be thought. (ha ha)

I have finally said to myself…“I don’t know, probably never will, and that is enough for me.”

Indeed, there are plenty of previous threads in this forum debating the existence of God, you’d probably find many of them interesting Doubtmore, though some of them are VERY long.

Truth is beauty, beauty truth.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.