Essays on civility

An essential feature of religious experience across many cultures is the intuitive feeling of God's presence. More than any rituals or doctrines, it is this experience that anchors religious faith, yet it has been largely ignored in the scientific literature on religion.

"... [Dr. Wathey's] book delves into the biological origins of this compelling feeling, attributing it to innate neural circuitry that evolved to promote the mother-child bond...[He] argues that evolution has programmed the infant brain to expect the presence of a loving being who responds to the child's needs. As the infant grows into adulthood, this innate feeling is eventually transferred to the realm of religion, where it is reactivated through the symbols, imagery, and rituals of worship. The author interprets our various conceptions of God in biological terms as illusory supernormal stimuli that fill an emotional and cognitive vacuum left over from infancy. 

These insights shed new light on some of the most vexing puzzles of religion, like:

Among the scholars who attempted a very rigorous narrative intended to distinguish between culture and civilization was Émile Durkheim, whose writings were first published in 1893. In trying to come to terms with the complex division of labor and associated behavioral changes that occurred with the industrial revolution in England, Durkheim, argued that inside modern industry, jobs were demarcated and extremely specialized, and while each product was a specialty, it entailed the existence of others in form of the labor they input into its production. As society evolved from agriculture to industry, so did culture of the pre-industrial era give way to civilization associated with the conditions of progress in human societies. Durkheim extended the concept of division of labor from Economics to organisms and society, from which its association with culture was derived, arguing that the more specialized an organism's functions were, the more exalted a place it occupied in the animal hierarchy. For Durkheim, the extent of division of labor in society influenced the direction of the development of the evolution of mankind from culture to civilization (Durkheim, 1984: 3).

It is true; those who maintain, that the goodness of all government consists in the goodness of the administration, may cite many particular instances in history, where the very same government, in different hands, has varied suddenly into the two opposite extremes of good and bad. Compare the French government under Henry III. and under Henry IV. Oppression, levity, artifice on the part of the rulers; faction, sedition, treachery, rebellion, disloyalty on the part of the subjects: These compose the character of the former miserable æ ae originally 'æ'; separated to make searching the text easier ra. But when the patriot and heroic prince, who succeeded, was once firmly seated on the throne, the government, the people, every thing seemed to be totally changed; and all from the difference of the temper and conduct of these two sovereigns. Instances of this kind may be multiplied, almost without number, from ancient as well as modern history, foreign as well as domestic.

Essays on civility

essays on civility


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