Sunday, December 10, 2017

Why there are more theists than atheists?



Why there are more theists than atheists?
For an answer, let us visit the history of theism.
What is theism? What led us to theism? 
The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary says that theism is “belief in a deity or deities, as opposed to atheism.” There are also other definitions that focus on more specific matters. Theism as a belief not in deities but in God that is different from deities. This is a much less universal phenomenon than supernaturalism/superstition. It has a historical particularity; in the Judaeo-Christian-Islamic tradition, we can more or less see where Theism begins. It begins with the writing of the first chapter of Genesis, where the author introduces us to Yahweh, who is not just another heavenly being like the sun or the moon, but the sun and moon’s creator.
“First we should distinguish theism from mere belief in the supernatural. The latter, illustrated by ghost-stories, tales of second sight, rituals and sacrifices to prevent the failure of a harvest or a navy, the consulting of the sacred geese, and the throwing of the salt always over one’s left shoulder, is a human universal, and was known even to our Pleistocene ancestors. A more hostile name for this is superstition.” I don’t think this can be right. These observances are now termed superstition, based on certain arguments which are of significance only now. This is as much a matter of faith as the belief in god presently is. Theism is also is nothing but the belief in the super-natural, except that the nature of the supernatural may mark a change.
This should have been clear to anybody with average intelligence or more.
The difference between Theism as belief in God and theism as belief in deities is that the latter can easily be just another variety of supernaturalism. Especially where the deities are small and local enough, there seems little difference in principle between believing in such deities and believing in fairies or ghosts: think of nature-gods like Iris the rainbow-goddess, or Freya/Persephone of the harvest, or Thor the thunder-god. The classical pagan gods were very frequently of this sort, as were the deities of pagan Norway and Britain and Mexico. In another common pattern, pagan deities arose by apotheosis – by the route from being a human hero to occupying yet another alcove in the cluttered and haphazard pantheon of (say) the Rome of late antiquity. This was a route, indeed, that mortal Roman emperors regularly trod. Even Greek generals sometimes took it too.
Further evolution in this manner could have resulted in the present nature god, the creator of both heaven and earth, a close associate of which being Christianity. Not only that the biblical god became huge, despite his anthropomorphism (humankind was created in his image), it was possible for him to become a metaphysical god. Identifying closely the human, passionate and protective character, the gigantic scale of the Judaic god also allowed him to take on the role of the founder and creator of the cosmic order. 
Besides this ‘gigantism’, it was the “human, passionate, and protective character” of the god that continued to work in theism’s favor, notwithstanding the changes felt everywhere.  This brought in a new meaning to all gods, an absolute and eternal entity that was not a mere principle but a great living being, in short making it very easy to be a theist.

For an answer, let us visit the history of theism.
What is theism? What led us to theism? 
The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary says that theism is “belief in a deity or deities, as opposed to atheism.” There are also other definitions that focus on more specific matters. Theism as a belief not in deities but in God that is different from deities. This is a much less universal phenomenon than supernaturalism/superstition. It has a historical particularity; in the Judaeo-Christian-Islamic tradition, we can more or less see where Theism begins. It begins with the writing of the first chapter of Genesis, where the author introduces us to Yahweh, who is not just another heavenly being like the sun or the moon, but the sun and moon’s creator.
“First we should distinguish theism from mere belief in the supernatural. The latter, illustrated by ghost-stories, tales of second sight, rituals and sacrifices to prevent the failure of a harvest or a navy, the consulting of the sacred geese, and the throwing of the salt always over one’s left shoulder, is a human universal, and was known even to our Pleistocene ancestors. A more hostile name for this is superstition.” I don’t think this can be right. These observances are now termed superstition, based on certain arguments which are of significance only now. This is as much a matter of faith as the belief in god presently is. Theism is also is nothing but the belief in the super-natural, except that the nature of the supernatural may mark a change.
This should have been clear to anybody with average intelligence.
The difference between Theism as belief in God and theism as belief in deities is that the latter can easily be just another variety of supernaturalism. Especially where the deities are small and local enough, there seems little difference in principle between believing in such deities and believing in fairies or ghosts: think of nature-gods like Iris the rainbow-goddess, or Freya/Persephone of the harvest, or Thor the thunder-god. The classical pagan gods were very frequently of this sort, as were the deities of pagan Norway and Britain and Mexico. In another common pattern, pagan deities arose by apotheosis – by the route from being a human hero to occupying yet another alcove in the cluttered and haphazard pantheon of (say) the Rome of late antiquity. This was a route, indeed, that mortal Roman emperors regularly trod. Even Greek generals sometimes took it too.
Further evolution in this manner could have resulted in the present nature god, the creator of both heaven and earth, a close associate of which being Christianity. Not only that the biblical god became huge, despite his anthropomorphism (humankind was created in his image), it was possible for him to become a metaphysical god. Identifying closely the human, passionate and protective character, the gigantic scale of the Judaic god also allowed him to take on the role of the founder and creator of the cosmic order. 
Besides this ‘gigantism’, it was the “human, passionate, and protective character” of the god that continued to work in theism’s favor, notwithstanding the changes felt everywhere.  This brought in a new meaning to all gods, an absolute and eternal entity that was not a mere principle but a great living being, in short making it very easy to be a theist.

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