Originally Posted by Ansar Al-'Adl
They would surely have accepted it if it was the best explanation on offer, and this shared belief of the community would have made individuals feel safer than if it had not been present.
I agree and this is what I think is flawed with your theory. Your theory is supposed to explain ancient civilizations, not "the way we tend to think of religion today". The greeks are one example, but it shows that when people invent myths to explain their universe it normally does not result in organized religion. Also, your theory becomes even more difficult when we examine religious followings that initiated with a revelation.
Woah! I don't think you've grasped the point of what I'm saying. I'm talking about religion long before the ancient Greeks. This is long before any of the revealed religions, and indeed before historical accounts are available. This is why the theory is entirely speculative. It's based on human psychology, which has generally been constant for as long as we know.
First of all, even if that were true, it would be meaningless since no reasonable human being could have foreseen the victories that would be granted to a few tortured slaves and outcasts of Makkan society. Secondly, there are authentic narrations which demonstrate that even when the Muslims attained military supremacy in Arabia, the Prophet Muhammad pbuh used to lived a humble lifestyle. He used to sleep on a strawmat that would leave marks on his back. There were many days when he had nothing to eat. His followers witnessed that whatever he had, he used to give it away.
OK. Two points remain, however.
1. Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) attained a position of some power within his lifetime. However, this is not relevant to my main point because:
2. As I've mentioned, I'm talking about the origin of god-belief, long before Islam,Christianity, Judaism or even the ancient Greeks.
How does your philosophy explain the call of Islam? That called people to the worship of One Sovereign Lord, who created everything. Fear? Power? Community strength? Doesn't seem likely to me.
Islam follows on from Christian and Jewish revelation; the final revelation given to Muhammad (pbuh) adapts and (Muslims say) updates these revelations; all that is common to all three is considered true, all that was mentioned in the previous holy books but is not present in the revelation and sayings of the Prophet (pbuh) is considered false. What I'm saying is that the Muslims are the last in a long line of god-believers. As each religion was developed it took aspects from the one preceding it. For the Christians, whose history I'm most familiar with, persuading the general public to accept Christian doctrine (I'm mainly thinking within the Roman Empire here), it was seen as necessary to "hijack" previous religious festivals and replace the previous god (often Mithras) with the new god. Thus the date of Christmas, for example, has no relevance to the actual birthdate of Jesus, December 25th was simply chosen because it coincided with the Roman festival of Saturnalia.
So, when the Prophet (pbuh) began his mission, belief in god was hardly a new thing.
So you admit then that your theory does not apply accurately to Islam?
Again, it is the theory I subscribe to, but the theory itself is not mine, it is Emile Durkheim's. Since you have largely missed the points I'm making with regard to it, my exposition of the theory can't be very clear. I apologise for this, reminding you that there have plainly been times during our discussions when I have missed the point you were making too. Perhaps I'm missing the point now, but I assure you I'm trying (and struggling) to see the relevance of your questions here.
To see what this theory is about, it would perhaps be useful to look directly at Durkheim's work. Here is a link to the wikipedia entry on him. You can find more links (leading to full etexts) at the bottom of the page.
Hopefully he can explain his ideas more clearly than I can!
Of course just because the idea of God benefits a community does not mean that the idea of God was built for a community. I agree that Godlessness leads to chaos and harms the community, that as always been my view, which is understood clearly within the philosophy of Islam.
It shows that god-belief conferred a survival advantage for primitive communities. We clearly disagree on your second point about godlessness.
Many tribes had their own idols and gods and we have many instances in history of tribal warfare that lasted generations. In fact, even within tribes, families had a personal god. Everyone wanted their own personal agent in the realm of divinites, advocating their needs. So it can easily seperate communities as well. Monotheism, however, can only unite people and communities.
Yes, provided everyone believes in the same god!
I accept your main point about separating communities. This is undoubtedly true, and it continues to the present day as we all know. What I'm talking about, though, is the origination of god-belief. There may well be battles between respective communities, each defending their conception of god, but this all comes after the point I'm referring to.
Of course this is where personal experience comes in.
OK, but it's still not absolutely certain knowledge. Are you familiar with the problem of induction?
I agree, that is why I feel that any conclusions that can be drawn from such a discussion will be inherently limited and of little value.
Any conclusions drawn from a speculative discussion are likely to be of little value? Surely that closes off a huge section of human inquiry to you. Why would you choose to close your mind to so much? Remember that all the sciences were speculative at one stage. When Aristotle invented physics and biology, evidential data was more scarce and unreliable. This is why the vast majority of Aristotle's statements about these subjects turn out to be wrong. However, as better experimental and observational methods were devised, the reliability of these sciences improved. Indeed, any science that you can name was once a part of philosophy, or else had its roots in philosophy. It's only when the findings of a science become testable and repeatable that it becomes an independent science, separate from philosophy. A relatively recent example of this is psychology, which became an independent science in the 19th century, at around the same time as sociology, which was founded by Durkheim. So you see, the theory I'm presenting, which you say is speculative and therefore of little value, has (with other similar theories) actually given rise to an entire scientific discipline.
Hopefully what I've said here clarifies my position a bit. These views are not uncommon in the West - when I was at university, they were the standard position on this question in both the English Literature and Philosophy departments.