Pseudoscience & Religion

Heretics, Rebels, Reformers And Revolutionaries – Introduction

In this series of articles, we will study the stories of heretics, rebels, reformers and revolutionaries who attempted to overthrow organized priestly religions all over the world. In the first article of this series we will study how the first great revolution against ‘Brahmanic’ religion was launched in Egypt in 14th century B. C.

Priest-Kings And Temples

In the dawn of ancient civilizations, such as Mesopotamia and Egypt, priests were practically the rulers of the land by virtue of their skills in magic, medicine, astronomy, temple architecture, literature, and knowledge of various gods, which they created to represent some aspect of nature. Temples were their power bases. They held sway over people in a given community, and established rules of social conduct within that community. They deluded common people into believing that their gods would fulfill their desires and protect them from evil forces. They gave the society the internal stability, and by means of great personal sacrifices, they safely conveyed civilization from one generation to another. In the process they earned much gratitude of common people, and became wealthy and powerful. Before secular kings came on the stage of history, there were the priest-kings.

Kings And Palaces

The Intellectual priestly class in ancient civilizations suffered from two great weaknesses:

1. They just could not subdue their jealousies of other priests in charge of temples dedicated to other gods, which led to chronic conflicts among them.

2. They were not able to effectively fight off barbaric tribes marauding their lands.

These two problems required creation of secular kingships. The fighting men chosen to be kings built an army of able-bodied men who could protect the society from external aggression, and wage war on other lands to increase their wealth, power, and territory. In the language of Brahmanism, they were both Dhananjaya (Conquerors of Wealth) and Paranthapa (Enemy Burner). However, with the kings came their palaces. Now palaces became the second center of power in the ancient societies. As secular kings became more powerful, they began to hold sway over people’s lives by virtue of their muscle power and wealth. However, the priestly class did not totally surrender to the kings. Instead they manipulated kings into believing that their rule must be shown to the public as granted by the grace and will of the gods, who just happened to reside in their pockets. Hammurabi (1792-1750 B.C.), the founder of the first Babylonian empire, acknowledges the supremacy of Sumerian gods by beginning one of his inscriptions, “When Anu and Bel entrusted me with the rule of Sumer and Akkad…” (H. G. Wells). Conflict between priestly class and kings is a universal theme in the history of all civilizations. As we read in my earlier articles, Upanishadic revolution to overthrow Brahmanism was led by Kshatriya sages.

God-Kings Of Egypt

In Egypt, however, Pharaohs, as the kings were known, with the connivance of the priests, declared themselves as the earthly manifestation of various Egyptian gods such as Osiris, Hathor and Amun Ra. Due to the enormous power derived from their purported divinity, and authority over people derived from their prowess in war and public service, they were able to muster enough manpower to build colossal monuments to their glory such as pyramids, temples and Sphinx. To prevent diluting their divine blood, they married only immediate relatives of opposite sex, such as sisters or cousins. Anyone marrying outside the ‘divine clan’ was subject to social ostracism, which, of course was in the domain of priestly class. Even though the power and authority of the Pharaoh living in relative isolation of their palaces was seemingly absolute, the priests of great temple-casino complexes such as the ones in Karnak and Luxor, held considerable amount of stranglehold on the Pharaohs as well as the populace. As long as the Pharaohs toed the line drawn by the priests, their power base was secure. If they crossed that line, they would do so at their own peril. Inevitably, such a delicate balance of power would certainly receive a jolt sooner or later.

Seeds Of Revolution

An incident happened during the rule of Amenhotep III, a Pharaoh of 18th Dynasty who ruled from 1386/88 -1349/50. He fell prey to his lust for a beautiful damsel of Syrian/Semitic extract by the name of Tii (“Tee”), and made her his principle wife. This did not sit well with the priests of the chief god Amun Ra. The priests did not hide their dislike for Tii or her offspring. Amenhotep III did another thing to offend the priests. He took an obscure sun god known as Aten, and elevated it to the position of the chief god, while tolerating other gods side by side. (We read in my articles on the Bhagavad Gita how Upanishadic sages took the mysterious spirit Brahman invoked by Brahmins at Yajnas and elevated it into ‘all-pervading Universal Soul Brahman’; and Bhagavatas promoted prince Krishna of Mahabharata epic to the status of Parameshwara.) Thus provoked by Amenhotep III, the priests of Amun Ra became angry, vengeful and turned on his entire family. They did not treat the offspring of Tii well, particularly her second son who came to power later on as Amenhotep IV. Hate for the priests of Amun Ra grew in the heart of Amenhotep IV. It is said that Tii further fuelled the fire of hate in the heart of her son. Now a struggle began between the priests of Amun Ra and the family of Amenhotep III.

Amenhotep

Pharaoh Amenhotep IV Launches Monotheism

Amenhotep IV succeeded his father upon his death, following two years of co-regency. He set out to destroy the entire priest-dominated Egyptian polytheistic religion, which had evolved over at least two thousand years. Realizing that the only way to undermine the power of the priests was to take their gods away from them, he rejected Amun Ra as the supreme god, and elevated Aten the Solar Disc to the position of the Only Supreme God as declared in the hymn, “O Sole God beside whom there is none!” This declaration of One Supreme God –monotheism- has echoed through the centuries in Jewish, Christian and Islamic religions. It has been speculated that Moses got the idea of monotheism from Akhenaten as evidenced by his First of Ten Commandments, “You shall have no other gods before Me,” and in Islam’s oft-repeated utterance, “There is no god but God.” In fact, its echo could be heard even in the monotheistic Bhagavata creed as uttered by Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita, “Surrender unto Me alone” (18:66) and “Worship Me alone” (9:22).

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Amenhotep IV Becomes Akhenaten And Attacks Old Religion

Amenhotep IV changed Amun in his name into Aten, his Supreme God, and called himself Akhenaten. He named his son Tutankhaten, whom we now know as Tutankhamen (king Tut). Akhenaten built many huge temples for Aten in Thebes and systematically knocked down old temples dedicated to Amun Ra as well as other gods. He abolished all different quarrelling sects. Disgusted by the narrow-mindedness and oppressive atmosphere created by the priestly class, which completely dominated his capital city Thebes, he built a new capital at Amarna, 180 miles north of Thebes. He named his new capital Akhetaten. He banished priests from his capital and banned their ancient religious ceremonies. In his religion, one could relate to Aten directly, without brokers. He dictated that his statues should be as realistic as possible so that his subjects would see him as he is rather than as an awe-inspiring phony figure as dictated by the priestly rules of sculpturing. Defying the priestly tradition, he portrayed his wives and children with him in the carvings so that his subjects would see him as having a family life just like them. He made sure that the Sun Disc with radiating rays was depicted in all his portraits. Thus he became the first king in history to initiate a revolution to overthrow the ancient polytheistic religion mediated by hoards of corrupt and powerful priests, and establish a monotheistic religion without priests.

The Priestly Backlash

Akhenaten did not live long. He died around 1334 B. C. after ruling Egypt for seventeen years, and his revolution died immediately thereafter. As Ashoka the Great did, he underestimated the weed-like power of priests rooted in two thousand years of Egyptian history. The priests had merely bent with the wind. As soon as the winds blew away, they came back to power and immediately began to destroy every temple and palace Akhenaten had built so lavishly. They used the debris of the demolished buildings as the filler material for the foundations of their new temples built for Amun Ra. Akhenaten’s successor Tutankhaten was about eight years old when he was put on the throne, and he could not rule the country without the guidance of experienced priests. The priests renamed him Tutankhamen to reflect his renewed allegiance to Amun Ra, and made him a puppet in their hands. Like Brahmins did to Ashoka the Great after his death, they wiped out the names of Akhenaten and his family from the history of Egypt. Thanks to their thoroughness, Tutankhamen’s tomb remained intact till Howard Carter discovered it in the early part of twentieth century. Grave robbers did not know such a king existed and so they did not look for his tomb!

Why Akhenaten’s Revolution Failed

Ordinary people, who had been bewildered by the new religion of Atenism, reverted back to the comfort of worshiping their old animal-headed gods by means of their traditional rituals and festivals conducted by their trusted priests, no different than 21st century Hindus finding solace in worshiping elephant-headed god Ganesha or monkey god Hanuman. They could better relate to these gods in their cool stone temples than to the Sun Disc in the burning desert. The concept of a Sun Disc as the Supreme God was too abstract for their simple minds, just as people of post-Vedic period found it difficult to relate to the concept of all-pervading, invisible Brahman as replacement for various anthropomorphic Vedic gods. Besides, unlike Ashoka the Great, Akhenaten did not appoint a huge cadre of emissaries to spread the message of his new religion far and wide. Ashoka’s incessant effort resulted in Buddhism becoming the dominant religion of India for a thousand years, and one of the great religions of the world to this day. Besides, unlike Ashoka, Akhenaten did not undertake great community projects such as building wells, tree-lined roads, hospitals, etc. to serve the public and enhance his own stature. Some historians say that because of Akhenaten’s preoccupation with his religious revolution, he neglected his kingly duties; did not wage war against potential enemies as expected of Pharaohs, nor maintained proper diplomatic relationship with his neighbors. Others have provided evidence to contradict these claims by quoting correspondence in the clay tablets unearthed at archeological sites in Amarna. In any case, the truth is whereas in the beginning of his rule Egypt was very prosperous, by the time he died, decline had already set in. Thus ended the first great revolution against ‘Brahmanism’ of Egypt.

Lessons From Akhenaten’s Failed Revolution

Akhenaten was a revolutionary, but unlike Ashoka the Great, he was not a visionary. It is clear from all the available evidence that Akhenaten attempted to overthrow the old religion of Egyptians by brute force rather than by means of clever set of strategies and tactics. He did not understand the limitation of power of even God-Kings, and the extent of power of priests over the minds of common people. He did not understand the reality that to reform or overthrow a well-established priestly religion, he needed to take small steps, and carry people with him by means of reasoning, education, sympathy and support. He did not realize that for a new ideology to take roots and spread, he would need the services of thousands of dedicated emissaries and selfless volunteers. He underestimated the power of priests over the minds of simple folks, which they had gained over two thousand years by means of great personal sacrifices. He seemed driven more by hatred for the priests than by genuine desire to reform Egyptian religion. Besides all this, he failed to understand that the new ideology or religion must be so down-to-earth that even common people should be able to relate to it.

Atheists should note that Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity, and Islam took deep roots only because thousands of dedicated missionaries sacrificed their lives to promote them. No one can convert another person to his way of thinking without making great personal sacrifices. Modern day Atheists dedicated to enlightening common people about stupidity of religion will do well to take note of the lessons from the Story of Akhenaten’s Revolution.

(To be continued)

Read Dr. Kamath’s complete series on Heretics, Rebels, Reformers and Revolutionaries here.

Read Dr. Kamath’s series on The Truth About The Bhagavad Gita here.

Dr. Prabhakar Kamath, is a psychiatrist currently practicing in the U.S. He is the author of Servants, Not Masters: A Guide for Consumer Activists in India (1987) and Is Your Balloon About Pop?: Owner’s Manual for the Stressed Mind.

About the author

Prabhakar Kamath

Dr. Prabhakar Kamath, is a psychiatrist currently practicing in the U.S. He is the author of Servants, Not Masters: A Guide for Consumer Activists in India (1987) and Is Your Balloon About To Pop?: Owner’s Manual for the Stressed Mind.

Links to all articles in Dr. Kamath's earlier series on Heretics, Rebels, Reformers and Revolutionaries can be found here. Dr. Kamath' series on The Truth About The Bhagavad Gita can be found here.

11 Comments


  • The Intellectual priestly class in ancient civilizations suffered from two great weaknesses…
    These two problems required creation of secular kingships.

    DrK,
    1) Are you saying that kingships came later than priests?
    I think there were always kings/sole leader in human society, from its earliest days as small groups of hunter-gatherer, to later on non-nomadic small settlements. priests as challengers to kings must have come later.
    OR is your emphasis on ‘secular’? which I doubt.. coz secular kings must have been a rarity back then.

    • @Astrokid.nj:

      You asked: 1) Are you saying that kingships came later than priests?

      My reply: Yes: I recommend that you read history books by two eminent historians: 1. H. G. Wells: The Outline of History: Gods and Stars , Priests and Kings; page 185. 2. Will Durant: The Story of Civilization: Our Oriental Heritage: Government: page 126.

      You said: 2. I think there were always kings/sole leader in human society, from its earliest days as small groups of hunter-gatherer, to later on non-nomadic small settlements. priests as challengers to kings must have come later.

      My reply: Your conclusions seem to be logical, but have not been accepted by eminent authorities. What are your sources on which you base your conclusion? PK

  • Following from Astrokid, I’d have to say that citing H.G. Wells and Will Durant as historical authorities when Wells was born in 1866 and Durant in 1885 leaves something to be desired.

    The study of history itself has come a long way since then, but also I think that any attempt to work out how societies evolved grows more and more speculative with the lack of documentation. The roots of societies stretch back into pre-historic times and there isn’t one pattern that is seen everywhere.
    Also, phrasing like … “They deluded common people into believing that their gods would fulfill their desires and protect them from evil forces.”…gives an impression that these priests were in possession of a greater psychological maturity than the average person. That religion was ‘intelligently designed’ by more cunning humans, with an eye on controlling the masses who weren’t taken in themselves. Yet there is no historical evidence I know of that shows this. Rather it is more a conspiracy theory of history and pretty fringe at that.
    Just because we have good evidence for cynical people such as L. Ron Hubbard inventing religions out of whole cloth in modern times, we can’t justifiably hold the same happened millenia ago.
    It is probably more parsimonious to think that the priest shared the exact same tendencies towards magical thinking of their milieu and that religions emerged from this. That the priestly classes believed just as strongly in the gods as the people they ministered to.
    I admit to being only an amateur myself, but my impression is that a strong consensus is building around a position that belief in spirits and gods naturally arises from the neurology, the structure, of the human brain and mind. From aspects such as hyperactive agency detection. That the perceived differences between agents and objects gives rise to a sense of a vital force, like that at the root of animism, that is present to a greater degree in agents, etc.
    However compelling these hypotheses are they still don’t hold anything like the security of other scientific theories.
    It seems to me that one is on very shaky ground when one moves from an overview of the development of religions and civilizations to speaking of priests deluding others and and establishing rules of social conduct. Especially when the evolutionary evidence is that morality has its roots in our primate ancestry. Mainly I would object that you appear to concede to religionists that religion is a source of morality. Rather than it just being the result of codifying already existant taboos and magical rituals. It could very well be that priesthood arose out of a class of people with a talent for inventing just so stories to explain things such as why we all seemed to share an inborn moral sense, as can be seen in infants. That they merely helped direct our moral sense through their narratives rather than establishing them. And not in a way that we can say they were consciously aware of doing so.
    No more than a believer is consciously aware that the likes and dislikes of their chosen deity just happen to accord with their own likes and prejudices.

    • URMENSCH Said: Following from Astrokid, I’d have to say that citing H.G. Wells and Will Durant as historical authorities when Wells was born in 1866 and Durant in 1885 leaves something to be desired.

      My reply: Both these historians give hundreds of references in their books to back up their claims and they have been universally quoted by all newer historians. Therefore, the dismissive statement about their work is entirely inappropriate. You should certainly give names of newer historians who refute these claims before you dismiss them as antiquated. It has become a style in India for people to simply dismiss every western historian and cook up history to suite their political agenda, as we can see among Hindutva people.

      You said: The study of history itself has come a long way since then, but also I think that any attempt to work out how societies evolved grows more and more speculative with the lack of documentation. The roots of societies stretch back into pre-historic times and there isn’t one pattern that is seen everywhere.

      I reply: Please give examples.

      You said: Also, phrasing like … “They deluded common people into believing that their gods would fulfill their desires and protect them from evil forces.”…gives an impression that these priests were in possession of a greater psychological maturity than the average person.

      I reply: Absolutely!The shamans of all religions came to possess control over people simply because they were smarter than the dumb masses. Look at the “highly educated” dumb scientists, doctors, engineers and the like have been deluded by very smart and psychologically savvy Swamis, Babas and Gurus in modern India.

      You said: That religion was ‘intelligently designed’ by more cunning humans, with an eye on controlling the masses who weren’t taken in themselves. Yet there is no historical evidence I know of that shows this.

      I reply: What do you mean there is no historical evidence? Look at every great civilization -Egypt, Mesopotamia or even Aryan society. Priestly class held sway over the masses as well as the elite.

      You said: Rather it is more a conspiracy theory of history and pretty fringe at that.

      I say: To deny the above said fact about priestly control over the masses due to their higher cerebral powers is to deny the obvious.

      You said: It is probably more parsimonious to think that the priest shared the exact same tendencies towards magical thinking of their milieu and that religions emerged from this. That the priestly classes believed just as strongly in the gods as the people they ministered to.

      I say: Now you are on purely speculative grounds. Give me some references in history.

      You said: I admit to being only an amateur myself, but my impression is that a strong consensus is building around a position that belief in spirits and gods naturally arises from the neurology, the structure, of the human brain and mind. From aspects such as hyperactive agency detection. That the perceived differences between agents and objects gives rise to a sense of a vital force, like that at the root of animism, that is present to a greater degree in agents, etc.

      I say: Again, you are speculating big theories after admitting you are not an expert in this field. If there is a consensus building, please give us some references.

      You said: However compelling these hypotheses are they still don’t hold anything like the security of other scientific theories. It seems to me that one is on very shaky ground when one moves from an overview of the development of religions and civilizations to speaking of priests deluding others and and establishing rules of social conduct.

      I say: Again, you are just speculating, whereas the above two authors are actually giving references of ancient documents.

      You said: Especially when the evolutionary evidence is that morality has its roots in our primate ancestry. Mainly I would object that you appear to concede to religionists that religion is a source of morality.

      I say: Morality was never discussed in the above article.

      You said: Rather than it just being the result of codifying already existant taboos and magical rituals. It could very well be that priesthood arose out of a class of people with a talent for inventing just so stories to explain things such as why we all seemed to share an inborn moral sense, as can be seen in infants.

      I say: This talent is known as intelligence. Obviously, the priests were able to do stuff ordinary people were not able to.

      You said: That they merely helped direct our moral sense through their narratives rather than establishing them. And not in a way that we can say they were consciously aware of doing so.

      I say: Morality has to do with the idea of right and wrong. In the above article I did not discuss this issue at all.

      You said: No more than a believer is consciously aware that the likes and dislikes of their chosen deity just happen to accord with their own likes and prejudices.

      I say: I have no idea what you are implying with this statement. If a person believed that their chosen Deity has certain attributes, obviously someone taught them about it. If one thinks that Ganesha is a Deity who prevents evil, obviously someone taught him to think like it. No one can dispute the fact that Ganesha was an invention of Brahmins of ancient times.

  • Dr Kamath,

    Both these historians give hundreds of references in their books to back up their claims and they have been universally quoted by all newer historians.

    Without any concrete examples of what you refer to I am at a loss to answer this. Which claims? Universally quoted by all newer historians? Rather a strong claim without any specifics.
    In fact, I can’t tell what might be your personal interpretation of these men’s writings from what they themselves said without citation.
    One thing I do know is that as intelligent as Wells was, and as far ahead he was in some ways from the society of his time, he still flirted with eugenics and was obsessed with ideas of societal degeneration and others of his views reflect the prejudices of his day.
    When talking of his World State he said:
    “If the Jew has a certain incurable tendency to social parasitism, and we make social parasitism impossible, we shall abolish the Jew; and if he has not, there is no need to abolish the Jew.”

    By this I don’t mean to poison the well. Just that he was a man of his time and his claims need to approached on a case by case basis to compare them with the best contemporary understandings.
    He was also a supporter of women’s suffrage and all for sexual liberation. In other words a complex figure.
    I certainly had no intention of being dismissive of either of these men’s writings. Rather that they need to be seen in their proper context.

    It has become a style in India for people to simply dismiss every western historian and cook up history to suite their political agenda, as we can see among Hindutva people.

    This has no bearing on my situation as I am a Westerner (Irish), an atheist, and someone who tries to judge arguments on the basis of evidence.
    It is many years since I read Durant’s ‘Story of Civilization’ but what I remember of it was a very engaging approach to writing history but with a very specific point of view. I also remember that it was criticised by more academic historians of the time as being the work of an amateur, someone without the credentials of a professional historian. It is very entertaining and good for checking dates and such but is certainly dated. And he was first and foremost a philosopher.

    Absolutely!The shamans of all religions came to possess control over people simply because they were smarter than the dumb masses. Look at the “highly educated” dumb scientists, doctors, engineers and the like have been deluded by very smart and psychologically savvy Swamis, Babas and Gurus in modern India.

    It doesn’t follow that because someone can fool another they are smarter than them. Once someone is outside their field of expertise they are prey to all the same cognitive biases and emotional needs as other humans.
    And again I would say that it is a fallacious generalization to point to some people today who we can be certain are knowingly swindling to then say all shamans of the past did so.
    While some might have been swindlers, most could just have easily deluded themselves as to their privileged access to occult powers. When they failed to get the results they sought they could have fallen back on the same excuses we see used by people who approach James Randi for his $1,000.000 challenge. That the presence of sceptics can negatively influence their powers, etc. But in the case of ancient shamans they would have scapegoated some member of the community as having broken some taboo that incurred the wrath of the spirits, ancestors, or gods.
    Either way we cannot have access to the inner workings of the minds of people as outside observers and not suspect we are merely projecting onto them.

    Morality was never discussed in the above article.

    Here I admit to misunderstanding.
    When you said…

    established rules of social conduct within that community.

    …I took this to mean moral conduct. Though if you aren’t speaking of morality but just social etiquette I think it is a much weaker claim to make when trying to show control of the masses by a priestly class.

    When I said there is no historical evidence for ‘intelligent design’ of religion you replied –

    What do you mean there is no historical evidence? Look at every great civilization -Egypt, Mesopotamia or even Aryan society. Priestly class held sway over the masses as well as the elite.

    It doesn’t follow that because priestly classes held sway over the masses that it came about by human design. Nature is full of examples of self-organisation. The emergence of order and apparent design without a designer. This intuition of a designer is the basis for tales of gods creating, yet we know as with the evolution of species that this intuition can be false.
    I am merely proposing that it is just as probable that religion is a product of self-organisation, of emergence, as the evolution of species. That it is only much later that humans are self-aware enough to consciously exploit these social structures and human blind-spots.

    You say: Again, you are speculating big theories after admitting you are not an expert in this field. If there is a consensus building, please give us some references.

    In response:
    http://www.amazon.com/Religion-Explained-Pascal-Boyer/dp/0465006965
    “That gods and spirits are construed very much like persons is probably one of the best-known traits of religion. Indeed, the Greeks had already noticed that people create gods in their own image…. All this is familiar, indeed so familiar that for a long time anthropologists forgot that this propensity requires an explanation. Why then are gods and spirits so much like humans? ”

    http://www.amazon.com/Belief-Instinct-Psychology-Destiny-Meaning/dp/0393072991/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1280282229&sr=1-1

    “A surprising new take on why we believe in God—and how this belief ensured the survival of the human species. God is not merely an idea to be entertained or discarded based on the evidence. Nor is God a cultural invention, an existential Band-Aid, or an opiate of the masses. Instead, Jesse Bering argues, belief in God evolved in the human species as an “adaptive illusion.” Drawing on groundbreaking research in cognitive science, The Belief Instinct unravels the evolutionary mystery of why we grapple for meaning, purpose, and destiny in our everyday lives. Bering argues that the strangely deep-rooted sense that some intentional agent created us as individuals, wants us to behave in particular ways, observes our otherwise private actions, and intends to meet us after we die would also have been felt by our ancestors, leading them to behave in ways that favored their reputations—and thus saved their genes. But in today’s world, these psychological illusions have outlasted their evolutionary purpose, and Bering draws our attention to a whole new challenge: escaping them. ”

    While this is only a small sample and only hints at the direction research is going.

    I would just like to clarify that I enjoy your general perspective on history and am only taking issue with your specific thrust that religion is a consciously elaborated system to deceive and control the populace. I find there are compelling arguments that this aspect of religion came much later, after religious forms had arisen to serve other needs.
    I am certainly not some creationist or Hindutva or whatever.


    • And again I would say that it is a fallacious generalization to point to some people today who we can be certain are knowingly swindling to then say all shamans of the past did so.
      While some might have been swindlers, most could just have easily deluded themselves as to their privileged access to occult powers.

      Urmensh,
      I found your comments quite informative (especially HADD), and the above argument is quite compelling. Based on some findings in nueroscience, I also think that the early establishers of religions were themselves deluded. .
      1) Robert Sapolsky talks about how the shamans most probably were schizotypals, and Martin Luther was an OCD.
      http://ffrf.org/legacy/fttoday/2003/april/index.php?ft=sapolsky
      2) There was another nueroscience finding about a region in the brain that made certain people think that they are experiencing/seeing God. The nueroscientist went on to build a physical device, a ‘God Helmet’, that could often trigger a God sensation on those who wear it.
      And this brain region is impacted by epilepsy/injury. IIRC the founder of the Seventh Day Adventists apparently had this affliction.

  • I apologise that my blockquotes haven’t appeared making it harder to distinguish where I quote you and then answer myself.

    • I read several five star reviews of Pascal Boyer’s Book on evolutionary psychology of religion. First of all it is a tall claim for Boyer to say he has “explained” religion. His theories seem quite plausible -for now. That is someone else comes along and claims he has better explanation. All he can claim is that he has a thesis.

      Secondly, comparing works such as Boyer’s and Durant’s is like comparing apples and oranges. The latter simply draws upon available ancient archeological and scriptural materials to reach his conclusion, however incorrect that might seem to modern evolutionary psychologists. Both have to indulge in much speculative exercise to fill the gaps in their knowledge of how religions evolved.

      That aside, based on all the evidence we have from scriptures and ancient historical documents, and observing the state of affairs with religions all over the world today, we cannot but conclude that the priestly class always had all of us by our balls.

      • At least with Boyer’s claims, they should be experimentally testable.
        I offered those two references because while they have different conclusions, they both concur on the basic idea that religion emerges from the structure of the human mind.
        A weakness with Berings proposal about the adaptive value of religion for me would be the Piraha people of South America, who have no believe in spirits or gods at all. I would be interested in how that is explained. Until recently the idea seemed to be that religion was a universal phenomenon.

        As things stand, a lot more work needs to be done.
        I would certainly tend to agree with you that priesthoods have had us by the balls, and think that whether or not religion had any adaptive value in the past the time has come to consign them to the junkheap.

  • With regard to this discussion, I would like to ask a question. Dr.Kamath, do you think that almost all the godmen in India parading as Avatars and Yogis do so with full knowledge that they are cheating people? Or is it that a sizeable proportion is schizophrenic or at the least deluded? For example, someone like Anirudha Joshi (Bapu) who is a trained rheumatologist proclaims himself as someone with great “spiritual” knowledge and has made some completely ridiculous claims. I am interested in knowing whether such an educated person assumes this role of an ‘Avatara’ with full knowledge of his deception and is a classical conman or whether he suffers from some psychiatric disorder?

    • most cases i feel its a combination of phychiatric disorder most probably extreme NPD and conman however the only latter could not be ruled out as was the Satya sai baba.

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