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April 23, 2006

Update on the Book -- 2

Been book writing a lot. (Don't know if that is apparent from the quality of the blog writing.) Still mostly on the first chapter, which concerns the anthropology of belief. Why religion? Whence religion? Does disbelief proceed belief? Whence disbelief? All this illustrated, since the idea is to tell stories, with tales of various headhunters, shamans and proto-skeptics. Been writing of failed rainmakers, of "naked savages" who were more skeptical than their well-clothed, British interlocutors, and of kings who didn't believe in the local gods.

The fears? That it will seem -- given the number of societies and concepts to be visited -- disjointed. That in painting the background -- religion -- I'll lose track of the foreground -- disbelief. That I'm neglecting to fear some crucial potential error or infelicity.

And then there's the task of thinking out some of what I can't find already thought out. That includes the mindsets that might have led to early disbelief. I suspect the short section in which I have a go at this subject will go through many a rethink, many a rewrite in the next year.

Posted by Mitchell Stephens at April 23, 2006 11:29 PM


I had a thought, which may or not be valid and/or have occurred to you. I see a parallel between the intellectual development of humanity as a whole and that of an individual. Early humans, like children, were dominated by egocentric thinking - the idea that everything happens for a reason that is intimately connected to oneself, and that one can influence events by appealing ("prayer") to a god-figure (parent). It takes a fair amount of intellectual development, both for a person and for humanity, to grasp the idea of a natural, impersonal universe goverened by physical principles rather than being the plaything of some invisible being or beings with anthropomorphic attributes, lust, anger, demand for respect etc.

Posted by: No More Mr. Nice Guy! at April 24, 2006 1:35 AM

interesting. parallels scientific understandings, of course, as in move from us at the center of universe to us at the fring.

Posted by: mitch at April 24, 2006 1:47 PM

Are you familiar with Emil Durkheim's work? He is considered the father of modern sociology.
Wrote, The Elementary Forms of the Religious Life (1912)


Posted by: Jay Saul at April 24, 2006 3:30 PM

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