The following is a closer version of the finalized draft of Chapter 6 of my upcoming book. I’ll likely be using Amazon to distribute it and I will try to make Kindle and physical copies available at around the same time period. I wanted to show how this chapter has developed from the previous post. When writing a book, it’s as much of a learning process and a growth / discovery process for me, because I want to be sure that I’m making clear and precise arguments while tackling the key issues that are important to people. I’m also struggling with perfectionist tendencies that do more to hinder than help, since perfection isn’t real and does more to harm than assist in growth and self-betterment. I’ve added the citations for this chapter below in the Notes section and tried to keep the parts in which I’m quoting other books or articles as clearly defined. I want to show how much research I’ve done and how important this is to me. Unfortunately, the format differences from Microsoft Word text to copying and pasting on blog text and visual might make certain portions of the text look out of place or seem deformed. I’ve done a quick scan, and I hope that I edited enough to avoid such issues.
Please let me know in the comments what you thought of this and please enjoy:
Chapter 6: Original Sin, the failure of Abrahamic morality
Isaiah 45:7 King James Version (KJV)
7 I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the Lord do all these things.
If you believe in morality, then you should honestly consider Original Sin to be the ultimate mockery and subversion of morality. Cloaked under the veneer of religious piety and goodness, this belief allows for all forms of savagery: genocide, organized rape, torture, mass bombing campaigns, and every other horrific atrocity to be viewed as an inevitable part of the human experience. Humans who observe such occurrences from the outset through television, or through the internet, use such anecdotes as a justification that violence is an inescapable part of humanity. People use such events as evidence to believe that our biology is evil. They believe that evil is merely a fact of life because we observe stories of street violence, rapes, wars, and genocide through the constant bombardment of negative news on social media. People may believe that without religious morals that they will go into sprees of murder, rape, and other forms of violence. They might be led to believe that sinfulness and the capacity for absolute evil is just waiting to be acted upon but strictly controlled through the guidance of an absolute good from religious teachings. Original sin teaches people to believe humans are imperfect and so falter into sinfulness. As a consequence, we observe atrocities around the world through the lens of apathy or indifference while believing the victims are in heaven for our own comfort. Yet, on any given day, it is impossible to know why each specific tragedy happened unless we individually fact-check them; it is easier to simply believe that all people have some evil in them since it gives a quick and coherent worldview of such events. Yet, if the perpetrator was raised as a Christian, Muslim, or Jew – or was taught Abrahamic value of sinfulness in religious schools that disseminate such values around the world – then what stops them from believing that their actions were simply inevitable because of their humanity? In fact, why wouldn’t the perpetrator of a crime just perceive their acts as an unavoidable aspect of being human after committing human rights atrocities? The human body would be like a cage where carnal pleasure was misunderstood to be evil intent and acts of rape and murder would be viewed by the perpetrators as simply a product of their humanity. Relying strongly upon the religious precept of sinfulness would mean that you must believe that you are capable of child murder, child rape, the torture of children, and you are likely to believe that these are aspects of humanity that can never be changed because murder, rape, and torture are intrinsically part of human nature. It is unalterable and all humans; you, your spouse, your children, your friends, your caretakers, and every human on the planet is simply born with a deep malice that predisposes them for crimes such as murder, rape, torture, and genocide. God created conditions that allowed everyone to be capable of these horrors. Thus, the belief in original sin provides a convenient excuse to ignore morality because acts of evil are somehow intrinsically part of human nature. The following is an examination and repudiation of this self-harming belief system.
Sin is an Entity Theory
Sin is an entity theory; it is a concept about ourselves that we believe to be intrinsically part of our behavior. That is, if you believe in sin then you believe it is fixed, unalterable, and you may believe that no amount of cultural or social change can create a shift to decrease violent behavior. That is dangerous and it has consequences for how we act towards others. Sin is an unsubstantiated entity theory. It has no scientific and psychological basis to be considered true about our species. The apologists for sin primarily use tragic events or horrible human actions to argue in favor of sin being an objective truth about human existence. However, utilizing tragic events to prove the objectivity of sinfulness anchors too much focus upon events that aren’t the norm of the majority of the human species. Moreover, any terrible deed conducted by people who grew up within Abrahamic cultures or Abrahamic communities could justify their violence through the belief in sinfulness. Sinfulness could become circular reasoning, because the perpetrators believe that an intrinsic part of their humanity, the concept of sinfulness, allows them to conduct horrific crimes and the observers of terrible crimes use those specific events as proof of sinfulness. That is, the perpetrator views their violent actions as part of an innate human norm of sinfulness and the observers who watch the news and read the papers see the perpetrator’s actions as proof of innate sinfulness in humanity.
That may seem silly, but it is psychologically true that what we believe about ourselves and what we believe that we’re capable of has consequences on the actions that we choose to pursue. A mundane example given in research is a person’s attitude towards mathematics. If you believe that you’re just not good at math after struggling with the subject during your schooling, then you will be disinclined to pursue the subject matter and may believe yourself to be incapable of learning the advanced mathematical topics. This is actually a self-delusion and results in a self-fulfilling prophecy, people who believe that they’re “not a math person” or “not good at math” have overemphasized the difficulty and closed off a possible academic future for themselves as a result. These people can improve their math skills by emphasizing efficacy and incremental effort in attaining math skills from their studies but they sincerely believe that they are incapable of achieving mastery in mathematics because of an intrinsic flaw. The belief has a lifelong consequence on their future and they don’t realize it.
Now, consider the concept of sin and what the concept of sin encourages people to intrinsically believe about themselves and the actions that they’re capable of committing. Do you see the problem?
Sinful Thoughts or Intrusive Thoughts?
A principal reason for the belief in sinfulness may derive from the concept of sinful thoughts. Certain personal thoughts and beliefs are categorically labeled evil to even think about and such a distinction leads to constant self-blame and weariness with ourselves for having the “evil” thoughts. The belief that being good means you must have good thoughts isn’t healthy or rational because it’s a misunderstanding of how thoughts actually function. Believing that being good means that you must only have “good” thoughts is mental self-torture because you would constantly need to try to “expunge” the “evil thoughts” from your mind. Under the distinction between good and evil thoughts, violent thoughts aren’t what good people should have. It may not seem normal to you to have thoughts of throwing people down a flight of stairs, jumping out of a moving car, shouting something blasphemous during religious ceremonies, or other deplorable activities. These offensive thoughts would instill people with unease or anxiety because people may worry why such thoughts even entered their mind. We would be looking for some deep “cause” for why these thoughts were circulating in our minds. It may seem reasonable to view these thoughts as sinful and believe that you must constantly fight against such thoughts to maintain purity and moral goodness. These terrible thoughts become a “proof” of sinfulness because people don’t know why they have them and fear that there is something evil or criminal within them that are the cause. Many people begin to avoid situations that trigger violent thoughts and feel too ashamed to speak of them with loved ones.
There is an important element in this subject matter that most people don’t seem to be aware of: violent or blasphemous thoughts aren’t a reflection of you or your inner desires. Unless these thoughts make you feel pleasure or happiness, they aren’t what you would want to do to your loved ones or others. Assuming you have such unsettling thoughts, which you do because every human being has them, your feelings of unease and anxiety are your personal reflections on any violent or blasphemous thoughts that you may have. You are not crazy and it doesn’t mean that you have the capacity of inflicting violence upon others. The thoughts themselves are just ideas that you gain from your environment or your imagination; ironically, monitoring your thoughts to make sure the bad thoughts will go away will only cause them to become more frequent thus increasing the unease and anxiety. Prayer sessions could become a self-fulfilling prophecy in which the frequency of attempts to remove the bad thoughts from your mind could increase the frequency of the thoughts returning. This is because our minds need to check on the unsettling image when we try to monitor our progress of not thinking about the bad thoughts. Psychological studies have shown that trying to ban ourselves from thinking certain thoughts will only increase the frequency of the thoughts occurring in our mind. They were never a reflection of you as a person or what you may think you’re capable of committing upon others. They’re just thoughts that come to your mind. The increased fear and anxiety from the violent ideas or images probably comes from our honest dread of harming our own loved ones because we don’t understand why these thoughts are occurring. The increased frequency and misunderstanding can lead to self-hate, a deep fear of ourselves, self-blame, shame, and depression because of an overemphasis on trying to understand some deeper meaning behind why we have these bad thoughts and fear of what others will think of us. Rest assured, it is entirely normal to have these thoughts. They’re labeled intrusive thoughts by modern psychology, they’re not a sign of mental illness (unless you feel pleasure from the idea of committing them, which is probably the opposite of what you feel), and everyone has them. They’re not a reflection of you and they’re not a desire of what you secretly want to do to others. They’re thoughts that come and go in your mind; similar to thinking about breakfast or thinking about another route to work. Having intrusive thoughts isn’t a reflection of how good or evil you are as a person.
What are more important are your feelings towards these thoughts than the thoughts themselves. It is also possible to obsessively think about such intrusive thoughts but that isn’t a reflection of you, it just means that you have an obsessive compulsive disorder regarding your thoughts. That doesn’t mean you’re crazy; it means that you have an OCD regarding your thoughts and it’s possible that it developed because human behavior is habit forming. What people believe to be “normal” is really just people going through various forms of mild psychological issues every day through the habits that they form. It only truly becomes an issue when habitual behavior becomes excessive or it is a behavior that is objectively self-harming such as smoking or physically harming one’s body. If you have had anxiety because you misunderstood what intrusive thoughts meant, then please learn to relax. Let them come and go, and recognize they’re not a deep personal reflection of you as a human being.
Sin is Nihilism
The belief in sinfulness is the belief in ubiquitous nihilism. I am not referring to nihilism that is defined by lack of belief in a God or Gods. It would be more apt to refer to it as nihilism as defined by the belief that existence is senseless and useless, a belief that destroys all forms of objective morality from the basis that humanity is insufficient to ever create everlasting objective morality, that all forms of human progress are arrogant and useless in the end, and the implicit belief that all human constructions of morality will lead to total failure because humanity isn’t intelligent enough to know God’s will. The argument by the pious in favor of objective moral values implodes under the belief in sinfulness; it’s a complete self-contradiction that Abrahamic believers seem to have cognitive dissonance towards. Human progress itself is seen as futile and self-depreciating despite people having modern conveniences like cars, surgeries, cell phones, the internet, and educational institutions. The nihilism is disguised as morally necessary to make people concede to religious doctrines; all human expression, all human inventions, and all forms of human happiness are to be under constant suspicion because humans are always prone to sinfulness everywhere. If you truly believe in sinfulness then you must always feel regret for the crime of your existence to God, you must always feel regret for failing to curtail your biological desires of reproduction because you find others attractive and God judges that to be sinful, you must feel regret for the mutual act of lovemaking if it isn’t specifically under the terms of marriage that God defined as the only acceptable form, you must feel ashamed of lovemaking because it’s a sinful act regardless of if it’s under marriage because God deemed sex to be sinful, and people who don’t make these concessions are arrogant because they insult God by not believing in Him. There are obvious detriments to this belief that create a harmful standard: you may believe that everyone around you is predisposed to acting evil because they’re born sinful, you may believe that anyone who doesn’t go through these concessions for the one true God is immoral, you may view the failure to uphold the moral code as a form of humility in accepting that you’re an imperfect human being compared to the perfect creator deity, and yet you may not see the circular reasoning in believing that your failure is a humility but that others who fail, who aren’t part of your in-group of Abrahamic religions, are perceived as evil by the precepts of your religious faith. People outside of your religious faith are automatically assumed to be more evil because they don’t seek redemption and forgiveness from God like you and your community. People who commit atrocities but have the same religious faith as you are assumed to have either misinterpreted the faith, used reasoning that is completely different from the tenants of your faith, or are imperfect human beings who are sinful. In the case of non-violent offenses such as adultery, the people of the same religious faith as you are simply assumed to have been an imperfect human being and their failure is seen as an admittance of humility. A non-believer or person of another religious faith is perceived to be conducting similar behavior out of evil or self-delusion in believing a false religion that led them astray because they lack your exact religious faith. Yet, no matter what they do, they’re viewed as repulsive because they refuse to accept the one true God as the irrefutable truth, they don’t seek redemption for their sinfulness as you probably do, and they should be awaiting the end of the world as prescribed in all the Abrahamic holy books. No matter what, your view of them is antagonistic to a certain degree because that is what the belief in sinfulness requires you to believe. You aren’t allowed to perceive outsiders as anything but less significant than your in-group under the belief system of sinfulness.
If the argument seems extreme, you should consider that many religious believers within Judaism, Islam, and Christianity still believe and advocate these positions when acting as missionaries in foreign countries and many Christians and Muslims are conducting forced conversions. Even in a first world country like the United States, there are over 50 million people who believe in this interpretation of their religion and proudly believe in the literal truth of their religious books. However, even if you don’t agree with the extremist version of sinfulness, through open interpretation you may believe in degrees of sinfulness and you may still believe the teaching of sinfulness has worthwhile merits for instilling moral values. Yet, does it truly have moral value? If anything, sin is a belief that promotes the destruction of all morality under a fatalistic concept that morality will be destroyed because of human nature. There is a pernicious presumption that humans will always harm each other because it is human to destroy each other with no regard for the wellbeing of other humans. It allows for a circular reasoning that makes humanity synonymous with rampant destruction, rampant brutality, and rampant cruelty upon our own species and everything else in the world. It is a self-fulfilling prophecy that uses sin as a justification for violence: when we justify bombing campaigns that slaughter foreign civilians, when we see people riot in our streets, and when we act out of anger upon others. These acts are justified by sinfulness from both observers and perpetrators through a rash generalization that all humans are capable of horrors because of innate human imperfection. Sinfulness is a self-fulfilling prophecy because it’s also a coping mechanism to understand violence: when we see news of sectarian wars in foreign countries, when we learn of cruel criminal behavior conducted upon children by pedophiles and rapists reported in the news, gang rapes in third world countries, beheadings, genocide, child slavery, and indoctrinated child soldiers. Sinfulness means it is all unalterable because that is the expected outcome of human nature. It is always the expected standard of human interaction within our own communities and outside of it to view wars, bombings, genocide, the torture of children, and less offensive wrongdoings to be common occurrences because of an innate faultiness in humanity. We just expect people to fail in keeping up with the tenants of their faith and the failure of keeping with the tenants is just a form of humility for our group and evil for the outside group. We give violence a total pass because horrific atrocities are an expected norm of sinfulness; violent events in the news serve as anecdotal “proof” of sinfulness.
These attitudes and expectations of sinfulness in humanity are dangerous. It creates apathy towards horrific atrocities, indifference towards our own country bombing civilians in a foreign country, and presumes evil intent from the victims before they have actually done anything against us. There is an insidious and disgusting implication that the innocent victims killed would kill us because it’s the due course of human nature so we need to harm them before they can hurt us – a pathological form of self-delusion and circular reasoning to justify mass murder. Consider this: if sinfulness is true, then humanity is simply expecting failures and catastrophes to be the norm throughout the world because of an unalterable and intrinsic defect within human nature. If all forms of good actions eventually lead to failure, then why should any wealthy person donate to charity? If they sincerely believe everything will eventually fall apart, then why bother doing anything to help other people? They would be predisposed to believe that their charity will fail, they would be inclined to believe that their own success would eventually turn to ruin, and that everything in life is just waiting to fall into ruination because of an intrinsic and unalterable aspect of their humanity. In terms of nation-states, we should just expect a nuclear catastrophe to occur and to wipe out the human race because sinfulness means that we’re predisposed to evil actions and that we will falter in keeping to the tenants of the faith because of our intrinsic defectiveness. For all the so-called goodness of the Abrahamic traditions, each of them believe that the world will end and that the world ending is the expected outcome of human actions; such a belief justifies nuclear catastrophe as the conclusion of our species. Islam and Christianity convert non-believers for the explicit purpose of awaiting the end of the world. Pointing the theological basis for conversion usually causes embarrassment, denial, and attempts to avert the inquiry but it remains the theological underpinnings of the Abrahamic traditions. They can be verified in the holy books and the reason it’s embarrassing to discuss in public is because of how untenable the belief is and how delusional people appear when voicing their beliefs.
Sin is Misanthropy
Sin is sanctified hatred for the human race. Two of western culture’s most noteworthy philosophers, Immanuel Kant and Friedrich Nietzsche, pointed out that if you believe there is an innate defectiveness with humanity that causes evil actions then you are more predisposed to committing evil actions because you may feel it is the unavoidable norm of your humanity. If evil is ingrained within you, if it is an unalterable part of human habit and you perceive your failures with humility, you might be justifying your wrongful acts by using sin as a coping mechanism instead of accepting responsibility. Moreover, you may emphasize events when people hurt your feelings or disappoint you because you expect negative actions to be a natural consequence of your daily interactions with other human beings. You may perceive your own love for your friends and family as a constant struggle because you have implicitly overemphasized the idea that evil actions are natural occurrences within humanity as a result of sinfulness. As such, you may have a biased focus on their negative actions and less focus on their positive qualities. Humans already have a negativity bias ingrained within our psychology to defend from life-threatening danger and the belief in sinfulness may increase the emphasis on negative events in our lives.
Is sinfulness healthy to believe in? Please consider the following: if you have a child, do you truly consider your own child to be born sinful? Do you truly believe that, in some deep level of our humanity, that your child will go murdering, raping, and torturing other people? Do you believe that, within you, there is a sinful part that will cause you to murder, rape, and torture your own family, friends, and strangers? As stated before, having thoughts of such actions doesn’t mean that you want to do them; thoughts just come and go in your mind and that is normal. It should be considered an utterly absurd belief about our loved ones but the ubiquitous concept of sinfulness in all forms of human interaction may cause such negative beliefs about our behavior and the behavior of our loved ones. As a result, you may be predisposed to despise or see evil in your own children’s actions when they act out and may find it easier to discipline them with force. You may see forgiveness and passiveness as a constant struggle while harboring the expectation that everyone else in the world and you yourself will always partake in evil actions during moments of weakness. This is a pernicious view of other human beings; sin has the constant expectation of disappointment, failure, and evil as the only truism of life itself. How can such a belief be either healthy or rational for your mental health?
Sinfulness, in combination with the binary ideology of good and evil, makes it easier to convince us to hate others. The belief that all humans are sinful would fundamentally promote the dehumanization, otherness, and disgust for people perceived as out-groups. When the news media gives you anecdotal examples of violence from the out-group, you’ll more likely to feel disgust, anger, and superiority toward the out-group because you would be inclined to believe that your society has proudly kept their sinful impulses in check compared to the out-group. The repeated exposure to negative events from the specific out-group would make people more inclined to judge the out-group more strictly and harshly than usual through pattern recognition and grouping people by race, religion, social class, or country as the same. From anecdotal events quickly mentioned in the news media, people’s minds would be framing a coherent and negative view of the out-group. This type of thinking is self-centered and delusional because it frames a binary worldview in which we compare doing our menial tasks everyday as a success and proof of our superiority over the perceived out-group. Sinfulness helps ignore the actual conditions that caused horrible events: famine, oppressive governments, mass poverty, certain first world countries selling weapons to governments that sell to terrorist groups (terrorist groups throughout Africa, the Middle East, and South America get weapons manufactured from Western countries), unsafe working conditions, and the political reality that first world countries need third world countries to stay in poverty to keep manufacturing cheap commodities. Crimes such as rape and murder are misconstrued to be the values that foreign cultures or that peoples perceived as out-groups somehow ubiquitously enjoy without thinking deeply about the other societies diverse peoples, crime-ridden areas, and other social conditions.
An example would be the rape crimes in the US. As shocking as it is to accept, Native American women living within reservations had no legal right to sue their rapists until 2012 thanks to federal laws that circumvented their rights and that the violence of rapes upon Native American women were so terrible and ubiquitous by US citizens that mothers had to teach their children what to expect when an American citizen raped them because they had no legal rights to send the child rapists to jail, it is untrue that these conditions are normal for the average US citizen. Although there are cases in poor counties of South Carolina in which the police don’t arrest men who beat and rape their wives, because of the counties strong Christian convictions that men are in charge of the household, and that very little legal action has been undertaken even in situations where men chased after and murdered their ex-spouses or ex-girlfriends; it is untrue that these situations are a reflection of US culture and US citizens. The same should be noted for rape crimes in India, despite being more common, the United Nations has found that in terms of per capita crime rates, the rape crimes in India are actually far lower than what would normally be expected for one of the largest population sizes in the world. Mass poverty, lack of adequate police protection (police exist only to protect the wealthy in India), lack of police training in forensics, communalism, lack of judicial institutions to handle legal proceedings, lack of education, discrimination against women, and extremely sluggish court system create conditions of enmity, despair, hatred, and violence. Wealthy and middle class Indians would probably perceive the violence as happening in poverty zones and would desire to keep such violence out of their communities. It is a widespread issue but it isn’t socially different from views of crime-ridden areas such as Camden, New Jersey in the United States or the apathy towards Native American rape victims in US courts. Awful people, opportunists, and deplorable social conditions create these situations and the mass protest movements that follow to create legal changes show that they are not tolerated in any culture or democratic nation-state. Yet, sinfulness and the availability heuristic give us an automatic and negative generalization of US culture and India’s culture without learning more deeply about each country’s social issues and the contexts in which these crimes occur.
The belief in sinfulness is intrinsically dangerous to us and others. If we accept that sinfulness is ubiquitous part of life, if we accept that we can pick and choose the teachings of the Abrahamic holy books, and that we should view our failure with humility because we’re only human; we create mental conditioning that allows us to kill others who are different from us. That may seem ridiculous, but the belief in sinfulness itself presupposes that we’re capable of murder, rape, and torture deep within ourselves. It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that those three beliefs, combined and inculcated for warfare, could create social conditioning that sent people to kill others who are different from them. The belief that they’re more prone to acting evil, our suspicion toward their behavior, and patronizing superiority towards people deemed different from us makes it easier to dehumanize them. The dehumanization campaign of perceiving foreigners within the connotations of evildoers would make it easier for those with simplistic moral sensibilities to kill foreigners. The overlap of sinfulness and good versus evil makes violence easier to conduct for people who believe in these concepts. Sinfulness along with good and evil explicitly ignores and obfuscates attempts at understanding different people. Perhaps more dangerously, it explicitly obstructs us from viewing their opinions and lives as meaningful like we do for people within our in-group of friends, family, and community. Wars occur, not just because of racist and other types of discriminatory caricatures of opposing sides, but also because people ignore and demonize other people’s culture, lives, and human rights. We view their lives as less important than the emotional issues of ourselves and our in-group. Absolute good and absolute evil are concepts that would create a catalyst for egregious human rights crimes. For the foreigners, reciprocity and the desire for justice for the fallen victims soon create conditions of enmity and more warfare because people will seek justice for any civilians wrongfully killed through our bombings or war campaigns. Religious extremism and justice for innocent civilians killed blend together to create prolonged warfare against us because we don’t recognize their lives as meaningful or having equal value to our in-group. Religious extremism and sometimes increased terrorist activity occur as a consequence of war-torn people seeking meaning for the horrible deaths of their loved ones.
Yet, when we observe violence in their communities (usually because of increased religious extremism as a way to cope with the loss of their loved ones and the West’s attempts at creating violence between two groups to distract from the West’s own interests in taking natural resources as per the realist theory of international relations), it makes it easier to have patronizing attitudes in support of our own society under the veneer of humility. We celebrate ourselves as having calmed our sinfulness and view outsiders as being ignorant, crazed, or believe in a radical version of a false faith. We ignore the fact that Western governments sell weapons to many of the terrorist groups including African war lords, al Qaeda, and ISIS. We ignore the fact Western governments place extreme political leaders in power who close off hospitals, schools, political participation, and jobs from a specific subset of their own community in their countries; political realities that the Western nation-states believes to be for their own self-interest only to deal with worsening problems in the future that jeopardize the safety of Western civilians and national interests.
Sin and the World
The belief in sin seems to be the true cause for economic destruction, political folly, and human genocide. It overlays every human act with the idea that we inevitably have an impulse to do evil upon others. Expunging the belief in sin and the theories of political realism in international relations would mean less human violence, a less dangerous world, and less mental self-torture for humanity. Sin can overlap with fatalism, jingoism, racism, xenophobia, Otherness, and any other form of human belief and human interaction. It’s probably why rationality is predicated upon the concept of doing evil upon others because that is what original sin makes people believe about themselves, about other human beings, and about morality itself. Sin preaches physical and mental fatigue against our own humanity as a form of eternal goodness, teaches that every great human creation is utterly meaningless, and that the most important part of life is awaiting the coming of a Messiah, or the coming of Jesus, or the coming of Jesus and Mohammed together to bring about mass world genocide and global annihilation so the true believers move on to the perfect world. Sin has had an enormous impact and history upon politics, philosophy, psychology, human biology, and people’s conceptions of human interaction. It has utterly poisoned and caused misapplications on all of these subject matters such as the denunciation of sex taught throughout the world by Christian missionaries. When combined with different forms of in-group/out-group dynamics, sin promotes the worst human atrocities. Sin is an extremist concept because it makes people believe that they’re only capable of abject evil from their own human desires. Thus, sin is the most egregious form of mental self-torture.
The arguments about how freedom from the idea of sin will only lead to massive violence, mass rapes, and death seems to be a form of self-delusion. The veneration of sin is often patronizing because Abrahamic believers truly think that some sacred warning from God would be destroyed and that acts of savagery would happen without them. An important issue to highlight: it was the belief in original sin itself that taught them to believe that humans are rampantly destructive; historically, the other parts of the world were peaceful under Buddha, Mahavira, Confucius, Lao Tzu, and these teachings didn’t require the stubborn notion that God needed to ordain them. Were there problems within the ancient East? Of course, but such acts weren’t full of savagery, mass death, and tribal wars that the West was thoroughly engaged with itself for a large part of its ancient history and particularly during the Crusades. Original sin teaches deep cynicism towards human desires and that maintaining such resentment, cynicism, and suspicion is morally good. It’s a mischaracterization to state the West became more peaceful during the 1800s to 1900s, because they brought brutal acts of colonial oppression upon the rest of the world and then subjected themselves to World War twice after that. Would all of that have occurred without the deep theological belief in original sin being the driving force of mass conversions and human actions? Would radical Islam be able to justify violence against the West today without the belief in the sinfulness of non-Muslims who aren’t seen as pure specifically due to being non-Muslim?
Sin, Psychology, and International Relations
The belief in sinfulness creates a destructive system of reciprocity that is justified as rational and intelligent in politics. In Political Science, the Realist Theory of International Relations, the prevailing theory of Western politics since ancient Greece, operates under the assumption that strong nation-states must weaken other nation-states for its own self-interest. It assumes self-interest to mean harming other nation-states with the underlying assumption that harming other human civilizations is rational. Bombing campaigns, counterfeit money operations, embargos, sanctions, and human genocide are presumed to be rational and the Realist theory is the only international relations theory that is “neutral” to events such as the Holocaust. This assumption that harming others is rational is unfounded and discredited in modern psychology through the reciprocity principle. The Realist theory of international relations conceptualization that harming other civilizations and human genocide were rational actions came from the Melian dialogue of Thucydides in which he argued the genocide of Melos by Athens was due to human nature. Political scientists and philosophers since then have only expounded upon the Realist theory of international relations because of the belief in original sin and the belief that rational actions are synonymous with evil. Strong nation-states usually harm other nation-states, national leaders lie to their public about the supposedly humane actions – especially in foreign wars – for the sake of keeping a positive image of their country so that the citizens serve as apologists by ignoring the atrocities, and the citizens only care to celebrate the positives of their country. Many citizens choose to ignore the negative actions conducted upon foreigners in another country who have been dehumanized by their news media. This creates circular reasoning that international events will always lead to tragedy and it is all uncontrollable when in truth, it is because politicians genuinely believe that harming foreign nation-states is an intelligent course of action for maximizing their nation’s power.
The reciprocity principle has shown that individuals and groups will react positively to positive actions and negatively towards negative actions; this is because of the belief in equality. We want to repay kind actions for people who do nice things for us, out of our desire for equality. We feel it’s fair to do destructive actions upon people who commit a crime or harm us because of our desire for equality. As a result, the psychological and scientifically verified belief in reciprocity creates a state of perpetual warfare in which entire countries who believe in sinfulness go into endless warfare by minimizing the violent atrocities conducted upon the out-group in our press and venerating the goodness of the in-group to fight the generalized cartoon caricature of evil depicted as the out-group. By ignoring the atrocities that we commit, they ignore the atrocities that they commit upon us, and each group feels that it is justified in creating future harm. Worse than that, prolonged violence makes people and entire countries more extreme, thus sinfulness is used to justify our violence upon others by generalizing the entire out-group as the same instead of understanding different political groups, their racial diversity, socioeconomic differences, and the general plurality of their civilization. War itself creates psychological issues that result in heavy stress, a plethora of mental trauma, and outbursts of violence related to trauma for soldiers and civilians. It is a perpetual state of negative reciprocity and it is morally reprehensible when we’re told that committing to wars that have massive bombing campaigns is somehow “humanitarian” intervention. Wars of humanitarian intervention are very few and often cause deaths of civilians regardless of good intentions.
When the United States was hit by the attacks on the twin towers on September 11th, 2001, one of the most critical arguments was that there was something deeply nefarious about Muslim people and Islamic culture to conduct such violence. Suspicion and psychological pattern recognition between Muslim extremists and Muslim Americans began to be seen by a significant portion of the US public. The paranoia that Muslim Americans were prone to harming US society or potentially hiding terrorists became a popular fear for the US public. The US government never issued the real reasons why terrorism happens and stoked the paranoia by insisting that terrorists hated US freedoms. Various States of the US began to impose anti-Sharia laws under the mistaken belief that Islam was trying to force Westerners into conversion through violence. Violence upon Muslims, Sikhs, and other minorities increased and were ignored by the US media. Incidentally, the US drone strikes upon seven Middle Eastern countries that resulted in thousands of civilian deaths created a surge of Islamic extremism, an increase in terrorist recruitment against the US, and the persecution and mass killings of Christians within their countries under the critical belief that Christians had some deeply nefarious aspect of their culture because the supposed greatest Christian country in the world was relentlessly bombing them and were utterly indifferent to civilian deaths – including children. Bomb droppings upon homes, hospitals, schools, and other areas are even more difficult to discern for uneducated people in third world countries and thus pattern recognition of a Christian nation and the Christian peoples within their own communities occurred. The fanciful ideas that removing the externalized “evil” people will somehow remove the foreign bombing campaigns are simply more violent methods than the West’s laws imposed upon minority groups. It’s just as important to understand that the West conducted the same type of violence within its history upon Catholics, Protestants, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Jews, and racial minorities (such as Blacks, Hispanics, Asians, Native Americans, and the Irish) under the belief that they were somehow evil and that the good people needed to defend their culture from an evil incursion. The difference in responses seems to be based upon the difference in education level; college education generally helps people understand that there is more so-called “out-groups” than generalizing them through rash codifications but violence against minorities always happen to “cleanse” the in-group community of “evil” from the out-group.
The persecution is an inevitable part of perceiving our in-group in danger of annihilation, seeing every member of a perceived out-group as suspicious and potential perpetrators, and championing the innate goodness to do away with the corrupting evil influence can lead to draconian laws; the belief in sin is used as a coping mechanism whenever draconian laws lead to the deaths of innocents. During wars, when civic institutions functioning as social support mechanisms deteriorate then religious extremism becomes rampant, people begin to have rash judgments, and form scapegoats for why horrible events are happening. Persecutions inevitably follow because of the belief in good and evil in conjunction with sinfulness. A desire for self-preservation of the in-group supersedes rational discourse because the threat seems so imposing and there is no explanation for why it is happening so they find fanciful causes during times of desperation.
In regards to violence in third world countries that the wealthier nations see on the news: it is easy to believe an entire country is responsible for mass violence and gang rapes while more difficult to believe the credible facts of the lack of police power, lack of hospitals, lack of jobs, and overall mass poverty leading people to desperation and extremism as being the true cause. Another deeply important, but ignored, facet is that the majority of jobs in third world countries have no safety regulations such as in first world countries. People of the third world can die of poisoning from inhaling noxious gases, be forced to work well over twelve hours a day for something as miniscule as twenty cents an hour, and can be in danger of factory explosions that kill thousands of workers whenever they occur; such fear and paranoia would obviously frighten people about working and cause chronic stress when on the job. It isn’t simply a matter of laziness and being unwilling to modernize when there are honest questions people in third world countries have to ask themselves about their own welfare before taking a job. Safety at a job is a privilege that first world countries take for granted. Sadly, even if reform is made, corporations just shut down plants to move to other third world countries to rinse and repeat this process; thus mass poverty increases when trying to institute honest reforms and another third world country is savagely abused through corporate indifference for their wellbeing for the sake of keeping product prices low. Religious extremism always follows as a crutch when institutions fail people because religion becomes all that people in poverty can rely upon. Yet, the belief in sinfulness and oversimplified understandings of entire countries make people believe that everyone in the world will always have “evil” because everyone is inherently sinful. It disconnects the real issues with pernicious perceptions that all people in other countries are more evil because they lack a specific religious faith and then we first-world denizens content ourselves with the belief that sinfulness will happen regardless of our help; to ignore the billions who suffer under extreme poverty, who are scorned for being uneducated, and who never had a choice in the matter because they had no social support mechanism like the first world countries. Yet, we always want cheap products and ignore all of the factory explosions in third world countries which occur as a consequence of low product prices. If that statement has struck a negative chord, it shouldn’t. Perhaps it is past the time that we concern ourselves with hurt feelings when our purchasing power determines the lives of human beings who were born less fortunate than us.
Original Sin and the History of Human Nature
Biblical history is filled with accounts of the Abrahamic God ordering people to rape and murder with obedience to him as the sole justification. The belief in the Biblical accounts of history as the sole authority of how all human life was in the past gives a bleak view of human affairs. However, when comparing the history of the Middle East to the histories of the contemporary civilizations of India and China at the time, the picture looks far less bleak. While what we’d consider today to be sexism and human rights violations surely happened, that was not all there was. In India, the development of several schools of thought arguing from inference and testimony would debate each other over matters such as spiritual growth, non-violence, war philosophies, and the relevance of a nation-state. They had codified laws on the duties of citizens and gender disparities, makeshift healthcare facilities, Gurus who took apprentices to teach subjects about deities and spiritual matters, and an array of philosophical debates which included atheism and culture movements like the Bhakti movement. India and China had the very best of medicine and surgical procedures during their golden eras of civilization back when the Middle East was a hovel of war, genocide, torture, and organized rape. Essentially, the third world that our current times sees Asia and other countries to be, was precisely how China, India, and possibly many other countries saw the Middle East during the supposed Old Testament times. Obviously, this sounds ridiculous to you, because of this presumption that everywhere else in the world was exactly like the Middle East of the supposed Biblical time period. Unfortunately, if that were so, then neither the teachings of the Buddha, the non-violent principles that make-up the core of the theology of Jainism, the teachings of the Tao Tie Ching of China which focused on efficacy, or the precepts of Orthodox Hinduism’s basis of inference and knowledge would have ever formed. Teachings of non-violence and positive actions abounded in both India and China, which were the two best countries of culture, resources, and philosophies comparable to the Ancient Greeks.
Unfortunately, Islam saw to the cultural genocide of much of this history with an emphasis on erasure if it was not Islamic. When Europe finally developed after the Middle Ages, and began its conquest of the world . . . much was further destroyed through mass murder, organized rapes via forced marriages, plundering, and forced conversions in the name of Christianity; proving no different in ethics from the Islam that preceded it in violence. Christianity and Islam both had worldwide slave trades, discriminated against Jews, and preached the civilians they conquered that they needed to accept the Abrahamic God or be made a slave or even killed. Cultural erasure and violence was justified by making technology that the indigenous populations were hardly ever allowed to use. The justification of which could justify any level of barbarity and violence. To say violence can be justified because of modernity is to have no real moral beliefs at all. As a hypothetical example to understand the core of what I mean, any Islamic conquest in which young girls were raped and male children were beheaded could then be justified by building a large bridge. There’s no moral difference between that and how Christian Europe justifies genocide, torture, gang rapes, and plunder. It’s how the British justified their four genocides in India; just replace the words “large bridge” with the words “train track” as the only difference. Justifications about benefitting the Dalits of India are empty of meaning and any factual basis in history when both Christian and Muslim conquerors practiced both labor slavery of men and the sexual slavery of women throughout their conquest of India. Moreover, the starvation and disease that ran rampant under European conquests and subsequent British rule effected the lower castes of India the most brutally. In China, there was not only widespread starvation and disease, but the gang rapes of adult women and small female children by every stripe of European Christian and US Christian soldier after the Boxer Rebellion was physically suppressed.
However, all of that being said, there is little evidence to suggest that human barbarism is innate and unchangeable when looking at the full scope of human history. Many laypeople may have the wrongful impression that civilization has contributed to making us less barbaric and that our ancient past was far more violent than the near-past of hundreds of years ago during Europe’s colonization of the world. The evidence strongly suggests otherwise.
Erich Fromm, a reputed psychoanalyst and sociologist, delved deeply into researching the origins of human violence through archaeological and anthropological studies of the ancient Middle East, ancient America, ancient civilizations in certain island colonies, and ancient Europe from his contemporary colleagues in those fields of study and his own personal study into the human psyche to conclude that ancient humans were actually peaceful. He found that the formation of primitive nation-states, which slowly grew to be more powerful and thus the self-domestication of humans more thorough, is what led to the violence we see in civilized humanity.
In chapter 8 of his seminal work, The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness, Erich Fromm provides the details of this extensive research and what the overarching evidence shows:
Although defensive aggression, destructiveness, and cruelty are not ordinarily the cause of war, these impulses manifest themselves in warfare. Hence some data on primitive warfare will help to complete the picture of primitive aggression.
Meggitt gives a summation of the nature of warfare among the Walbiri of Australia, which Service states may be accepted as an apt characterization of warfare in hunting-gathering societies generally:
‘Walbiri society did not emphasize militarism—there was no class of permanent or professional warriors; there was no hierarchy of military command; and groups rarely engaged in wars of conquest. Every man was (and is still) a potential warrior, always armed and ready to defend his rights: but he was also an individualist, who preferred to fight independently. In some disputes kinship ties aligned men into opposed camps, and such a group may occasionally have comprised all the men of a community. But there were no military leaders, elected or hereditary, to plan tactics and ensure that others adopted the plans. Although some men were respected as capable and courageous fighters and their advice was valued, other men did not necessarily follow them. Moreover, the range of circumstances in which fights occurred was in effect so limited that men knew and could employ the most effective techniques without hesitation. This is still true today even of young bachelors. There was in any case little reason for all-out warfare between communities. Slavery was unknown: portable goods were few; and the territory seized in a battle was virtually an embarrassment to the victors, whose spiritual ties were with other localities. Small-scale wars of conquest against other tribes occurred occasionally, but I am sure that they differed only in degree from intra-tribal and even intra-community fights. Thus the attack on the Waringari that led to the occupation of the water holes in the Tanami area involved only Waneiga men—a few score at most: and I have no evidence that communities ever entered into a military alliances, either to oppose other Walbiri communities or other tribes.’ (M. J. Meggitt, 1960.)
Technically speaking, this kind of conflict among primitive hunters can be described as war; in this sense one may conclude that “war” has always existed within the human species, and hence, that it is the manifestation of an innate drive to kill. This reasoning, however, ignores the profound differences in the warfare of lower and of higher primitive cultures15 as well as the warfare of civilized cultures. Primitive warfare, particularly that of the lower primitives, was neither centrally organized nor led by permanent chieftains; it was relatively infrequent; it was not war of conquest nor was it bloody war aimed at killing as many of the enemy as possible. Most civilized war, in contrast, is institutionalized, organized by permanent chieftains, and aims at conquest of territory and/or acquisition of slaves and/or booty.
In addition, and perhaps most important of all, is the frequently overlooked fact that there is no important economic stimulus among primitive hunter-gatherers to full-scale war.
‘The birth-death ratio in hunting-gathering societies is such that it would be rare for population pressure to cause some part of the population to fight others for territorial acquisition. Even if such a circumstance occurred it would not lead to much of a battle. The stronger, more numerous, group would simply prevail, probably even without a battle, if hunting rights or rights to some gathering spot were demanded. In the second place there is not much to gain by plunder in hunting-gathering society. All bands are poor in material goods and there are no standard items of exchange that serve as capital or as valuables. Finally, at the hunting-gathering level the acquisition of captives to serve as slaves for economic exploitation—a common cause of warfare in more modern times—would be useless, given the low productivity of the economy. Captives and slaves would have a difficult time producing more than enough food to sustain themselves.’ (E. R. Service, 1966.)
The overall picture of warfare among primitive hunter-gatherers given by Service is supported and supplemented by a number of other investigators, some of whom are quoted in the following paragraphs.16 D. Pilbeam stresses the absence of war, in contrast to occasional feuds, together with the role of example rather than power among the leaders in a hunting society, and the principle of reciprocity and generosity, and the central role of cooperation. (D. Pilbeam, 1970.)
- H. Stewart comes to the following conclusion concerning territoriality and warfare:
‘There have been many contentions that primitive bands own territories or resources and fight to protect them. Although I cannot assert that this is never the case, it is probably very uncommon. First, the primary groups that comprise the larger maximum bands intermarry, amalgamate if they are too small or split off if too large. Second, in the cases reported here, there is no more than a tendency for primary groups to utilize special areas. Third, most so-called “warfare” among such societies is no more than revenge for alleged witchcraft or continued interfamily feuds. Fourth, collecting is the main resource in most areas, but I know of no reported defense of seed areas. Primary bands did not fight one another, and it is difficult to see how a maximum band could assemble its manpower to defend its territory against another band or why it should do so. It is true that durian trees, eagle nests, and a few other specific resources were sometimes individually claimed, but how they were defended by a person miles away has not been made clear.’ (U. H. Stewart, 1968.)
- H. Turney-High (1971) comes to similar conclusions. He stressed that while the experiences of fear, rage, and frustration are universal, the art of war develops only late in human evolution. Most primitive societies were not capable of war because war requires a sophisticated level of conceptualization. Most primitive societies could not imagine an organization necessary to conquer or defeat a neighbor. Most primitive wars are nothing but armed melees, not wars at all. According to Rapaport, Turney-High’s work did not find a very friendly reception among anthropologists because he stressed that secondary accounts of battles written by professional anthropologists were hopelessly inadequate and sometimes downright misleading; he believed that primary sources were more reliable, even when they were by amateur ethnologists generations ago.17
Quincy Wright’s monumental work (1,637 pages including an extensive Bibliography) presents a thorough analysis of warfare among primitive people based on the statistical comparison of the main data to be found among six hundred and fifty-three primitive peoples. The shortcoming of his analysis lies in the fact that he is more descriptive than analytical in the classification of primitive societies as well as of different kinds of warfare. Nevertheless, his conclusions are of considerable interest because they show a statistical trend that corresponds to the results of many other authors: “The collectors, lower hunters and lower agriculturalists are the least warlike. The higher hunters and higher agriculturalists are more warlike, while the highest agriculturalists and the pastors are the most warlike of all.” (Q. Wright, 1965.) This statement confirms the idea that war-likeness is not a function of man’s natural drives that manifest themselves in the most primitive form of society, but of his development in civilization. Wright’s data show that the more division of labor there is in a society, the more warlike it is, and that societies with class-systems are the most warlike of all peoples. Eventually his data show that the greater the equilibrium among groups and between the group and its physical environment, the less war-likeness one finds, while frequent disturbances of the equilibrium result in an increase in warlikeness.
Wright differentiates among four kinds of war—defensive, social, economic, and political. By defensive war, he refers to the practice of people who have no war in their mores and who fight only if actually attacked, “in which case they make spontaneous use of available tools and hunting weapons to defend themselves, but regard this necessity as a misfortune.” By social war he refers to people with whom war “is usually not very destructive of life.” (This warfare corresponds to Service’s description of war among hunters.) Economic and political wars refer to people who make war in order to acquire women, slaves, raw materials, and land and/or, in addition, for the maintenance of a ruling dynasty or class.
Almost everybody reasons: if civilized man is so warlike, how much more warlike must primitive man have been!18 But Wright’s results confirm the thesis that the most primitive men are the least warlike and that war-likeness grows in proportion to civilization. If destructiveness were innate in man, the trend would have to be the opposite.
A view similar to Wright’s has also been expressed by M. Ginsberg, who writes:
‘It would seem that war in this sense grows with the consolidation of groups and economic development. Among the simplest peoples we ought to speak rather of feuds, and these unquestionably occur on grounds of abduction of women, or resentments of trespass or personal injury. It must be conceded that these societies are peaceful by comparison with the more advanced of the primitive peoples. But violence and fear of violence are there and fighting occurs, though that is obviously and necessarily on a small scale. The facts are not adequately known, and if they do not support the view of a primitive idyllic peace, they are perhaps compatible with the view of those who think that primary or unprovoked aggressiveness is not an inherent element of human nature. (E. Glover and M. Ginsberg,’ 1934.)
Ruth Benedict (1959) makes the distinction between “socially lethal” and “non-lethal” wars. In the latter, the aim is not that of subjugating other tribes to the victor as masters and profiteers; although there was much warfare among North American Indians,
‘The idea of conquest never arose in aboriginal North America, and this made it possible for almost all these Indian tribes to do a very extreme thing: to separate war from the state. The state was personified in the Peace Chief, who was a leader of public opinion in all that concerned the in-group and in his council. The Peace Chief was permanent, and though no autocratic ruler he was often a very important personage. But he had nothing to do with war. He did not even appoint the war chiefs or concern himself with the conduct of war parties. Any man who could attract a following led a war party when and where he would, and in some tribes he was in complete control for the duration of the expedition. But this lasted only till the return of the war party. The state, according to this interpretation of war, had no conceivable interest in these ventures, which were only highly desirable demonstrations of rugged individualism turned against an out-group where such demonstrations did not harm the body politic.’ (R. Benedict, 1959.)
Benedict’s point is important because it touches upon the connection of war, state, and private property. Socially non-lethal war is to a large extent an expression of adventurousness and the wish to have trophies and be admired, but it was not invoked by the impulse to conquer people or territory, to subjugate human beings, or to destroy the basis for their livelihood. Benedict comes to the conclusion that “elimination of war is not so uncommon as one would think from the writings of political theorists of the prehistory of war… It is a complete misunderstanding to lay this havoc [war] to any biological need of man to go to war. The havoc is manmade.” (R. Benedict, 1959.) Another outstanding anthropologist, E. A. Hoebel (1958) characterizes warfare among early North American Indians in these terms: “They come closer to William James’s Moral Equivalents of War. They release aggressions harmlessly: they provide exercise, sport and amusement without destruction; and only mildly is there any imposition of desires by one party on the other.” (E. A. Hoebel, 1958.) He comes to the general conclusion that man’s propensity to war is obviously not an instinct, because it is an elaborate cultural complex. He gives as an interesting example the pacifistic Shoshones and the violent Comanches who in 1600 were still culturally and racially one.
The Neolithic Revolution19
The detailed description of the life of primitive hunters and food gatherers has shown that man—at least since he fully emerged fifty thousand years ago—was most likely not the brutal, destructive, cruel being and hence not the prototype of “man the killer” that we find in more-developed stages of his evolution. However, we cannot stop there. In order to understand the gradual development of man the exploiter and the destroyer, it is necessary to deal with the development of man during the period of early agriculture and, eventually, with his transformation into a builder of cities, a warrior, and a trader.
From the emergence of man, approximately half a million years ago to about 9000 B.C., man did not change in one respect: he lived from what he gathered or hunted, but did not produce anything new. He was completely dependent on nature and did not himself influence or transform it. This relationship to nature changed radically with the invention of agriculture (and animal husbandry) which occurred roughly with the beginning of the Neolithic period, more precisely, the “Protoneolithic” period as archeologists call it today—from 9000 to 7000 B.C.—in an area stretching over one thousand miles from western Iran to Greece, including parts of Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Israel, and the Anatolian Plateau in Turkey. (It started later in Central and Northern Europe.) For the first time man made himself, within certain limits, independent of nature by using his inventiveness and skill to produce something beyond that which nature had thus far yielded to him. It was now possible to plant more seed, to till more land, and to breed more animals, as the population increased. Surplus food could be slowly accumulated to support craftsmen who devoted most of their time to the manufacture of tools, pottery, and clothing.
The first great discovery made in this period was the cultivation of wheat and barley, which had been growing wild in this area. It was discovered that by putting seed of these grasses into the earth, new plants would grow; that one could select the best seed for sowing, and eventually the accidental crossing of varieties was observed, which produced grains very much larger than the seeds of the wild grasses. The process of development from wild grasses to high-yielding modern wheat is not yet fully known. It involved gene mutations, hybridization, and chromosome doubling, and it has taken thousands of years to achieve the artificial selection by man on the level of present-day agriculture. For man in the industrial age, accustomed to looking down on non-industrialized agriculture as a primitive and rather obvious form of production, the Neolithic discoveries may not seem comparable to the great technical discoveries of our day, of which he is so proud. Yet the fact that the expectation that seed would grow was proved correct by results gave rise to an entirely new concept: man recognized that he could use his will and intention to make this happen, instead of things just “happening.” It would not be exaggerated to say that the discovery of agriculture was the foundation for all scientific thinking and later technological development.
The second discovery was that of animal breeding which was made in the same period. Sheep were already domesticated in the ninth millennium in northern Iraq, and cattle and pigs around 6000 B.C. Sheep and cattle-raising resulted in additional food supply: milk and a greater abundance of meat. The increased and more stable food supply permitted a sedentary, instead of a nomadic form of life, and led to the construction of permanent villages and towns.20
In the Protoneolithic period tribes of hunters invented and developed a new settled economy based on the domestication of plants and animals. Although the earliest remains of domesticated plants do not yet much antedate 7000 B.C., “the standard of domestication reached and the variety of crops grown presupposes a long prehistory of earlier agriculture which may well go back to the beginning of the Protoneolithic, about 9000 B.C.” (J. Mellaart, 1967.)21
It took about 2000 to 3000 years before a new discovery was made, necessitated by the need to store foodstuff: the art of pottery (baskets were made earlier). With the invention of pottery, the first technical invention had been made, which led to the insight into chemical processes. Indeed, “building a pot was a supreme instance of creation by man.” (V. G. Childe, 1936.)22 Thus one can distinguish within the Neolithic period itself one “aceramic” stage, i.e., a period in which pottery had not been invented, and the ceramic stage. Some older villages in Anatolia, such as the older levels of Hacilar, were aceramic while Çatal Hüyük was a town that had rich pottery.
Çatal Hüyük was one of the most highly developed Neolithic towns in Anatolia. Although only a relatively small part has been excavated since 1961, it has already yielded the most important data for the understanding of Neolithic society in its economic, social, and religious aspects.23
Since the beginning of the excavations, ten levels have been dug out, the oldest dated c. 6500 B.C.
‘After 5600 B.C. the old mound of Çatal Hüyük was abandoned, for what reasons is not known, and a new site was founded across the river, Çatal Hüyük West. This appears to have been occupied for at least another 700 years until it also was deserted, without, however, any obvious signs of violence or deliberate destruction.’ (J. Mellaart, 1967.)
One of the most surprising features of Çatal Hüyük is the degree of its civilization:
‘Çatal Hüyük could afford luxuries such as obsidian mirrors, ceremonial daggers, and trinkets of metal beyond the reach of most of its known contemporaries. Copper and lead were smelted and worked into beads, tubes and possibly small tools, thus taking the beginnings of metallurgy back into the seventh millennium. Its stone industry in local obsidian and imported flint is the most elegant of the period; its wooden vessels are varied and sophisticated, its woolen textile industry fully developed.’ (J. Mellaart, 1967.)
Make-up sets for women and very attractive bracelets for men and women were found in the burial sites. They knew the art of smelting copper and lead. The use of a great variety of rocks and minerals shows, according to Mellaart, that prospecting and trade formed a most important item of the city’s economy.
In spite of this developed civilization, the social structure seems to have lacked certain elements characteristic of much later stages of evolution. Apparently there was little class distinction between rich and poor. While, according to Mellaart, social inequality is suggested by the sizes of buildings, equipment, and burial gifts, “this is never a glaring one.” Indeed, looking at the plans of the excavated section of the city one finds that the difference in size of the buildings is very small, and negligible when compared with the difference in later urban societies. Childe notes that there is no definitive evidence of chieftainship in early Neolithic villages, and Mellaart does not mention any evidence of it from Çatal Hüyük. There were apparently many priestesses (perhaps also priests), but there is no evidence of a hierarchical organization. While in Çatal Hüyük the surplus produced by new methods of agriculture must have been large enough to support the manufacture of luxuries and trade, the earlier and less-developed of the Neolithic villages produced, according to Childe, only a small surplus and hence had an even greater degree of economic equality than that of Çatal Hüyük. He points out that the Neolithic crafts must have been household industries and that craft traditions are not individual but collective. The experience and wisdom of all the community’s members are constantly being pooled; the occupation is public, its rules are the result of communal experience. The pots from a given Neolithic village bear the stamp of a strong collective tradition, rather than of individuality. Besides there was as yet no shortage of land; when the population grew, young men could go off and start a village of their own. Under these economic circumstances the conditions were not given for the differentiation of society into different classes, or for the formation of a permanent leadership whose function it would be to organize the whole economy and who would exact their price for this skill. This could happen only later when many more discoveries and inventions had been made, when the surplus was much greater and could be transformed into “capital” and those owning it could make profits by making others work for them.
Two observations are of special importance from the point of view of aggression: there is no evidence of any sack or massacre during the eight hundred years of the existence of Çatal Hüyük so far explored in the excavations. Furthermore, and even more impressive evidence for the absence of violence, among the many hundreds of skeletons unearthed, not a single one has been found that showed signs of violent death. (J. Mellaart, 1967.)
One of the most characteristic features of Neolithic villages, including Çatal Hüyük, is the central role of the mother in their social structure and their religion.
Following the older division of labor, where men hunted and women gathered roots and fruits, agriculture was most likely the discovery of women, while animal husbandry was that of men. (Considering the fundamental role of agriculture in the development of civilization, it is perhaps no exaggeration to state that modern civilization was founded by women.) The earth’s and woman’s capacity to give birth—a capacity that men lack—quite naturally gave the mother a supreme place in the world of the early agriculturalists. (Only when men could create material things by intellect, i.e., magically and technically—could they claim superiority.) The mother, as Goddess (often identified with mother earth), became the supreme goddess of the religious world, while the earthly mother became the center of family and social life.
The most impressive direct evidence for the central role of mothers in Çatal Hüyük lies in the fact that children were always buried with their mother, and never with their father. The skeletons were buried underneath the mother’s divan (a kind of platform in the main room), which was larger than that of the father and always had the same location in the house. The burial of children exclusively with their mother is a characteristically matriarchal trait: the children’s essential relationship is considered to be to the mother and not to the father, as in the case in patriarchal societies.
Although this burial system is an impressive datum in favor of the assumption of the matriarchal structure of Neolithic society, this thesis finds its full confirmation with the data we have on the religion of Çatal Hüyük and other excavated Neolithic villages in Anatolia.24
These excavations have revolutionized our concepts of early religious development. The most outstanding feature is the fact that this religion was centered around the figure of the mother-goddess. Mellaart concludes: “Çatal Hüyük and Hacilar have established a link … [whereby] a continuity in religion can be demonstrated from Çatal Hüyük to Hacilar and so on till the great ‘Mother-Goddesses’ of archaic and classical times, the shadowy figures known as Cybele, Artemis and Aphrodite.” (J. Mellaart, 1967.)
The central role of mother-goddess can be clearly seen in the figures, wall paintings, and reliefs in the numerous shrines that have been excavated. In contrast to findings in other Neolithic sites, those of Çatal Hüyük do not entirely consist of mother-goddesses, but also show a male deity symbolized by a bull or, more frequently, by a bull’s head or horns. But this fact does not substantially alter the predominance of the “great mother” as the central deity. Among forty-one sculptures excavated, thirty-three were exclusively of goddesses. The eight sculptures in which a male god is symbolized are virtually all to be understood in reference to the goddess, partly as her sons and partly as her consorts. (On one of the older levels figurines of the goddess were found exclusively.) The central role of the mother-goddess is further demonstrated by the fact that she is shown alone, together with a male, pregnant, giving birth, but never subordinate to a male. There are some shrines in which the goddess is giving birth to a bull’s or a ram’s head. (Compare this with the typically patriarchal story of the female being given birth by the male: Eve and Athene.)
The mother-goddess is often found accompanied by a leopard, clothed with a leopard skin, or symbolically represented by leopards, at the time the most ferocious and deadly animal of that region. This would make her the mistress of wild animals, and it also indicates her double role as the goddess of life and of death, like so many other goddesses. “Mother earth,” who gives birth to her many and receives them again after their individual life cycle has ended is not necessarily a destroying mother. Yet she sometimes is (like the Hindu goddess Kali); to find the reasons why this development should have taken place requires a lengthy speculation which I must forgo.
The mother-goddess of the Neolithic religion is not only the mistress of wild animals. She is also the patroness of the hunt, the patroness of agriculture, and the mistress of plant life.
Mellaart makes these summarizing remarks on the role of women in the Neolithic society, including Çatal Hüyük:
‘What is particularly noteworthy in the Neolithic religion of Anatolia, and this applies to Çatal Hüyük as much as to Hacilar, is the complete absence of sex in any of the figurines, statuettes, plastic reliefs or wall-paintings. The reproductive organs are never shown, representations of phallus and vulva are unknown, and this is the more remarkable as they were frequently portrayed both in the Upper Palaeolithic and in the Neolithic and Post-neolithic cultures outside Anatolia.25 It seems that there is a very simple answer to this seemingly puzzling question, for emphasis on sex in art is invariably connected with male impulse and desire. If Neolithic woman was the creator of Neolithic religion, its absence is easily explained and a different symbolism was created in which breast, navel and pregnancy stand for the female principle, horns and horned animal heads for the male. In an early Neolithic society like that the Çatal Hüyük one might biologically expect a greater proportion of women than men and this is indeed reflected in the burials. Moreover, in the new economy a great number of tasks were undertaken by the women, a pattern that has not changed in Anatolian villages to this day, and this probably accounts for her social pre-eminence. As the only source of life she became associated with the processes of agriculture, with the taming and nourishing of domesticated animals, with the ideas of increase, abundance and fertility. Hence a religion which aimed at exactly the same conservation of life in all its forms, its propagation and the mysteries of its rites connected with life and death, birth and resurrection, were evidently part of her sphere rather than that of man. It seems extremely likely that the cult of the goddess was administered mainly by women, even if the presence of male priests is by no means excluded…’ (J. Mellaart, 1967.)26
The data that speak in favor of the view that Neolithic society was relatively egalitarian, without hierarchy, exploitation, or marked aggression, are suggestive. In fact, however, that these Neolithic villages in Anatolia had a matriarchal (matricentric) structure, adds a great deal more evidence to the hypothesis that Neolithic society, at least in Anatolia, was an essentially unaggressive and peaceful society. The reason for this lies in the spirit of affirmation of life and lack of destructiveness which J. J. Bachofen believed was an essential trait of all matriarchal societies.
Indeed, the findings brought to light by the excavation of Neolithic villages in Anatolia offer the most complete material evidence for the existence of matriarchal cultures and religions postulated by J. J. Bachofen in his work Das Mutterrecht, first published in 1861. By the analysis of Greek and Roman myths, rituals, symbols, and dreams he had achieved something that only a genius could do: with his penetrating analytic power he reconstructed a phase of social organization and religion for which hardly any material evidence was available to him. (An American ethnologist, L. H. Morgan, [1870, 1877] arrived independently at very similar conclusions on the basis of his study of North American Indians.) Almost all anthropologists—with a few notable exceptions—declared Bachofen’s findings to be without any scientific merit; in fact, it was not until 1967 that an English translation of a selection of Bachofen’s writings was published. (J. J. Bachofen, 1967.)
There were probably two reasons for the rejection of Bachofen’s theory: first, that it was almost impossible for anthropologists living in a patriarchal society to transcend their social and mental frames of reference and to imagine that male rule was not “natural.” (Freud, for the same reason, arrived at his view of women as castrated men.) Second, the anthropologists were so accustomed to believing only in material evidence like skeletons, tools, weapons, etc., that they found it difficult to believe that myths or drama are not less real than artifacts; this whole attitude resulted also in a lack of appreciation for the potency and subtlety of penetrating, theoretical thinking.
The following paragraphs from Bachofen’s Mutterrecht give an idea of this concept of the matriarchal spirit:
‘The relationship which stands at the origin of all culture, of every virtue, of every nobler aspect of existence, is that between mother and child; it operates in a world of violence as the divine principle of love, of union, of peace. Raising her young, the woman learns earlier than the man to extend her loving care beyond the limits of the ego to another creature, and to direct whatever gift of invention she possesses to the preservation and improvement of the other’s existence. Woman at this stage is the repository of all culture, of all benevolence, of all devotion, of all concern for the living and grief for the dead. Yet the love that arises from motherhood is not only more intense, but also more universal… Whereas the paternal principle is inherently restrictive, the maternal principle is universal; the paternal principle implies limitation to definite groups, but the maternal principle, like the life of nature, knows no barriers. The idea of motherhood produces a sense of universal fraternity among all men, which dies with the development of paternity. The family based on father right is a closed individual organism, whereas the matriarchal family bears the typically universal character that stands at the beginning of all development and distinguishes material life from higher spiritual life. Every woman’s womb, the mortal image of the earth mother Demeter, will give brothers and sisters to the children of ever, other woman; the homeland will know only brothers and sisters until the day when the development of the paternal system dissolves the undifferentiated unity of the mass and introduces a principle of articulation.
The matriarchal cultures present many expressions and even juridical formulations of this aspect of the maternal principle. It is the basis of the universal freedom and equality so frequent among matriarchal peoples, of their hospitality, and of their aversion to restriction of all sorts… And in it is rooted the admirable sense of kinship and fellow feeling which knows no barriers or dividing lines and embraces all members of a nation alike. Matriarchal states were particularly famed for their freedom from internecine strife and conflict … The matriarchal peoples—and this is no less characteristic—assigned special culpability to the physical injury of one’s fellow men or even of animals… An air of tender humanity, discernible even in the facial expression of Egyptian statuary, permeates the culture of the matriarchal world.’” (J. J. Bachofen, 1967.)27
Prehistoric Societies and “Human Nature”
This picture of the mode of production and social organization of hunters and Neolithic agriculturalists is quite suggestive in regard to certain psychical traits that are generally supposed to be an intrinsic part of human nature. Prehistoric hunters and agriculturalists had no opportunity to develop a passionate striving for property or envy of the “haves,” because there was no private property to hold on to and no important economic differences to cause envy. On the contrary, their way of life was conducive to the development of cooperation and peaceful living. There was no basis for the formation of the desire to exploit other human beings. The idea of exploiting another person’s physical or psychical energy for one’s own purposes is absurd in a society where economically and socially there is no basis for exploitation.
The impulse to control others also had little chance to develop. The primitive band society and probably prehistoric hunters since about fifty thousand years ago were fundamentally different from civilized society precisely because human relations were not governed by the principles of control and power; their functioning depended on mutuality. An individual endowed with the passion for control would have been a social failure and without influence. Finally, there was little incentive for the development of greed, since production and consumption were stabilized at a certain level.28
Do the data on hunter-gatherers and early agriculturalists suggest that the passion of possessiveness, exploitation, greed, envy did not yet exist and are exclusively products of civilization? It does not seem to me that such a sweeping statement can be made. We do not have enough data to substantiate it, nor is it likely to be correct on theoretical grounds, since individual factors will engender these vices in some individuals even under the most favorable social circumstances. But there is a great difference between cultures which foster and encourage greed, envy, and exploitativeness by their social structure, and cultures which do the opposite. In the former, these vices will form part of the “social character”—i.e., of a syndrome to be found in the majority of people; in the latter, they will be individual aberrations from the norm which have little chance to influence the whole society. This hypothesis gains further strength if we now consider the next historical stage, urban development, which seems to have introduced not only new kinds of civilization but also those passions which are generally attributed to man’s natural endowment.
The Urban Revolution29
A new kind of society developed in the fourth and third millennia, B.C. which can best be characterized in Mumford’s brilliant formulation:
‘Out of the early neolithic complex a different kind of social organization arose: no longer dispersed in small units, but unified in a large one: no longer “democratic,” that is, based on neighborly intimacy, customary usage, and consent, but authoritarian, centrally directed, under the control of a dominant minority: no longer confined to a limited territory, but deliberately “going out of bounds” to seize raw materials and enslave helpless men, to exercise control, to exact tribute. This new culture was dedicated, not just to the enhancement of life, but to the expansion of collective power. By perfecting new instruments of coercion, the rulers of this society had, by the Third Millennium, B.C., organized industrial and military power on a scale that was never to be surpassed until our own time.’ (L. Mumford, 1967.)
How had it happened?
‘Within a short period, historically speaking, man learned to harness the physical energy of oxen and the energy of the winds. He invented the plough, the wheeled cart, the sailing boat, and he discovered the chemical processes involved in the smelting of copper ores (to some extent known earlier), and the physical properties of metals, and he began to work out a solar calendar. As a consequence, the way was prepared for the art of writing and standards and measures. “In no period of history till the days of Galileo,” writes Childe, “was progress in knowledge so rapid or far-reaching discoveries so frequent.’” (V. G. Childe, 1936.)
But social change was not less revolutionary. The small villages of self-sufficient farmers were transformed into populous cities nourished by secondary industries and foreign trade, and these new cities were organized as city states. Man literally created new land. The great cities of Babylonia rose on a sort of platform of reeds, laid crisscross upon the alluvial mud. They dug channels to water the fields and drain the marshes, they built dykes and mounds to protect men and cattle from the waters and raise them above the flood. This creation of tillable land required a great deal of labor and this “’capital in the form of human labor was being sunk in the land.’” (V. G. Childe, 1936.)
Another result of this process was that a specialized labor force had to be used for this kind of work, and for cultivating the land necessary to grow food for those others who were specialized in crafts, public works, and trade. They had to be organized by the community and directed by an elite which did the planning, protecting, and controlling. This means that a much greater accumulation of surplus was needed than in the earlier Neolithic villages, and that this surplus was not just used as food reserve for times of need or growing population, but as capital to be used for an expanding production. Childe has pointed to another factor inherent in these conditions of life in the river valleys—the exceptional power of the society to coerce its members. The community could refuse a recalcitrant member access to water by closing the channels leading it to his field. This possibility of coercion was one of the foundations upon which the power of kings, priests, and the dominant elite rested once they had succeeded in replacing or, ideologically speaking, “representing”—the social will.
With the new forms of production, one of the most decisive changes in the history of man took place. His product was no longer limited to what he could produce by his own work, as had been the case in hunting societies and early agriculture. It is true that with the beginning of Neolithic agriculture man had already been able to produce a small surplus, but this surplus only helped to stabilize his life. When, however, it grew, it could be used for an entirely new purpose; it became possible to feed people who did not directly produce food, but cleared the marshes, built houses and cities and pyramids, or served as soldiers. Of course, such use could only take place when technique and division of labor had reached a degree which made it possible for human labor to be so employed. At this point surplus grew immensely. The more fields were ploughed, the more marshes were drained, the more surplus could be produced. This new possibility led to one of the most fundamental changes in human history. It was discovered that man could be used as an economic instrument, that he could be exploited, that he could be made a slave.
Let us follow this process in more detail in its economic, social, religious, and psychological consequences. The basic economic facts of the new society were, as indicated above, greater specialization of work, the transformation of surplus into capital, and the need for a centralized mode of production. The first consequence of this was the rise of different classes. The privileged classes did the directing and organizing, claiming and obtaining for themselves a disproportionately large part of the product, that is to say, a standard of living which the majority of the population could not obtain. Below them were the lower classes, peasants and artisans. Below those were the slaves, prisoners taken as a result of wars. The privileged classes organized their own hierarchy headed originally by permanent chiefs—eventually by kings, as representatives of the gods—who were the nominal heads of the whole system.
Another consequence of the new mode of production is assumed to have been conquest as an essential requisite to the accumulation of communal capital needed for the accomplishment of the urban revolution. But there was a still more basic reason for the invention of war as an institution: the contradiction between an economic system that needed unification in order to be optimally effective, and political and dynastic separation that conflicted with this economic need. War as an institution was a new invention, like kingdom or bureaucracy, made around 3000 B.C. Then as now, it was not caused by psychological factors, such as human aggression, but, aside from the wishes for power and glory of the kings and their bureaucracy, was the result of objective conditions that made war useful and which, as a consequence, tended to generate and increase human destructiveness and cruelty.30
These social and political changes were accompanied by a profound change in the role of women in society and of the mother figure in religion. No longer was the fertility of the soil the source of all life and creativity, but the intellect which produced new inventions, techniques, abstract thinking, and the state with its laws. No longer the womb, but the mind became the creative power, and simultaneously, not women, but men dominated society.
This change is poetically expressed in the Babylonian hymn of creation, Enuma Elish. This myth tells us of a victorious rebellion of the male gods against Tiamat, the “Great Mother” who ruled the universe. They form an alliance against her and choose Marduk to be their leader. After a bitter war Tiamat is slain, from her body heaven and earth are formed, and Marduk rules as supreme God.
However, before he is chosen to be the leader, Marduk has to pass a test, which may seem insignificant—or puzzling—to modern man, but it is the key to the understanding of the myth:
‘Then they placed a garment in their midst; To Marduk, their first-born, they said:
“Verily, O lord, thy destiny is supreme among the gods,
Command ‘to destroy and to create,’ (and) it shall be!
By the word of thy mouth let the garment be destroyed;
Command again, and let the garment be whole!” He commanded with his mouth, and the
garment was destroyed.
Again he commanded, and the garment was restored.
When the gods, his fathers, beheld the efficiency of his word
They rejoiced (and) did homage, (saying) “Marduk is king!’” —A. Heidel, 1942
The meaning of this test is to show that man has overcome his inability for natural creation—a quality which only the soil and the female had—by a new form of creation, that by the word (thought). Marduk, who can create in this way, has overcome the natural superiority of the mother and hence can replace her. The biblical story begins where the Babylonian myth ends: the male god creates the world by the word. (E. Fromm, 1951a.)
One of the most significant features of the new urban society was that it was based on the principle of patriarchal rule, in which the principle of control is inherent: control of nature, control of slaves, women and children. The new patriarchal man literally “makes” the earth. His technique is not simply modification of the natural processes, but their domination and control by man, resulting in new products which are not found in nature. Men themselves came under the control of those who organized the work of the community, and hence the leaders had to have power over those they controlled.
In order to achieve the aims of this new society, everything, nature and man, had to be controlled and had to either exercise—or fear—power. In order to become controllable, men had to learn to obey and to submit, and in order to submit they had to believe in the superior power—physical and/or magic—of their rulers. While in the Neolithic village, as well as among primitive hunters, leaders guided and counseled the people and did not exploit them, and while their leadership was accepted voluntarily or, to use another term, while prehistoric authority was “rational” authority resting on competence, the authority of the new patriarchal system was one based on force and power; it was exploitative and mediated by the psychical mechanism of fear, “awe,” and submission. It was “irrational authority.”
Lewis Mumford has expressed the new principle governing the life of the city very succinctly: “’To exert power in every form was the essence of civilization; the city found a score of ways of expressing struggle, aggression, domination, conquest—and servitude.” He points out that the new ways of the cities were “rigorous, efficient, often harsh, even sadistic,’” and that the Egyptian monarchs and their Mesopotamian counterparts “’boasted on their monuments and tablets of their personal feats in mutilating, torturing, and killing with their own hands their chief captives.’” (L. Mumford, 1961.)
As a result of my clinical experience in psychoanalytic therapy I had long come to the conviction (E. Fromm, 1941a) that the essence of sadism is the passion for unlimited, godlike control over men and things.31 Mumford’s view of the sadistic character of these societies is an important confirmation of my own.32
In addition to sadism, the passion to destroy life and the attraction to all that is dead (necrophilia) seem to develop in the new urban civilization. Mumford also speaks of the destructive, death-oriented myth to be found in the new social order, and quotes Patrick Geddes as saying that each historic civilization begins with a living, urban core, the polls, and ends in a common graveyard of dust and bones, a Necropolis, or city of the dead: fire-scorched ruins, shattered buildings, empty workshops, heaps of meaningless refuse, the population massacred or driven into slavery. (L Mumford, 1961.)
Whether we read the story of the Hebrews’ conquest of Canaan or the story of the Babylonians’ wars, the same spirit of unlimited and inhuman destructiveness is shown. A good example is Sennacherib’s stone inscription on the total annihilation of Babylon:
‘The city and (its) houses from its foundation to its top, I destroyed, I devastated, I burned with fire. The wall and the outer wall, temples and gods, temple towers of brick and earth, as many as they were, I razed and dumped them into the Arakhtu Canal. Through the midst of that city I dug canals, I flooded its site with water, and the very foundation thereof I destroyed. I made its destruction more complete than that by a flood.’ (Quoted by L. Mumford, 1961.)
The history of civilization, from the destruction of Carthage and Jerusalem to the destruction of Dresden, Hiroshima, and the people, soil, and trees of Vietnam, is a tragic record of sadism and destructiveness.
Several significant facts should be taken from this shocking history of the peaceful existence of primitive humankind: human violence is influenced far more by conditioning than any innate aspect; that is, just because humans can be violent doesn’t mean that we always will become violent in the end. To believe our capacity for violence means violence within our species is inevitable is a slippery slope argument. That is, it forms a extreme hypothetical on human behavior without demonstrating any causal link on why just because violence is possible would necessarily mean that humans will always choose the violent option in their decision-making. Our peaceful history for thousands of years proves that Original Sin is wrong, violence is not fixed within us. We, as a species, can create more peaceful coexistence with each other. Another relevant fact about human violence is that it didn’t begin to spread to such extreme lengths until we domesticated ourselves as a species and added the most divisive concept when we began living in primitive nation-states: social status. Social creeds of differences from race, religion, and especially income distribution began to be cages to corrupt our innate selfless nature. The first social status among them to create such a problems was the formation of the concept of slavery. This social concept eventually shifted to mean allegiance to a particular country. Moreover, unlike humans in hunter-gatherer societies or the Neolithic period, humans in post-Neolithic societies could no longer feel their skills recognized and acknowledged by ignorant rulers who had no knowledge of how useful their talents were; unlike in the earlier societies where the most knowledgeable or most skilled among the tribe dictated what to do for gathering, hunting, or for religious ceremonies like marriages. In concomitant with such a horrible concept as slavery came the emergence of the Father God; selfishness, human exploitation, sexual abuse in domestic quarters, war rape, and mass genocide became the rule under a strict, authoritarian command of unquestioned obedience. In hunter-gatherer and Neolithic periods, men and women were happily monogamous; but in the primitive nation-states under the Father God, men began taking women as multiple concubines or wives as spoils of victory in warfare or through social compulsion by the new group ranks of society. Kings could take as many slave women as they pleased. All of which coincide with their celebrations in the Bible for the desecration and rampant destruction of other tribes. Father Gods facing Father Gods in endless war campaigns, subjugating other tribes and taking women as spoils of war, and destroying the peaceful existences of societies that still held onto the belief in Mother Goddesses which tried to live in peace and harmony with the world. The empathy and rationalism living in harmonious tandem within Mother Goddess societies were destroyed through war rape, genocide, and slavery by those who held the belief in Father Gods which required unquestioned obedience and authoritarian social hierarchy. It was belief in the Father God that brought authoritarian violence such as suppressing rebellions, social status of superiors and inferiors of slaves and rulers, subsequently forcing women into obsequious roles through male-dominated violence and threats, and – in the Abrahamic quarters of the world – spread ignorance, fear of freedom, and fear of humans living in nature. All so that the individual would serve as a tool for the nation-state.
A nation-state is a system that has humans utilizing fellow humans as tools for social cohesion. The ones ruling the top quintile of influence and/or monetary wealth determine the lives of the bottom in some significant ways. Humans brought-up in a nation-state typically judge their self-worth on the basis of societal values and norms. How successful you are in the society of the nation-state by those values and norms determines your social status and you may gain a sense of belonging from that. Equally important is what you’re allowed to accomplish and your sense of fulfillment in a nation-state generally determines your personal happiness. In effect, humans exist to be manipulated and used by their nation-states. As a citizen of a country, your existence is tethered to how useful you are to your nation-state’s interests. You exist to be manipulated and used by your country. The nation-state determines everything about your existence: your religion, your “race”, your income level, your personal safety, and the history they decide to teach you to make you feel connected to your country in your schooling. Our history is based on the nation-state needing citizens to be loyal in order to feel loyalty to the national interest. Whether it is war, dominance over another social group, or the destruction of certain outliers that are seen as a endemic to the norms and values of society. We learn to hate others of a social group for the purposes of war or human exploitation by having repeated exposure in our media to anecdotes of personal testimonies to horrible crimes done by one member of a foreign social group. We homogenize and generalize in this manner by forming instant judgments of entire groups based on a few criminals; we see our history as significant and mostly benign, while the others we know nothing about are barbarous and hateful based on specific periods of history that have nothing to do with modern times. We are given ahistorical anecdotes to justify our violence upon them as self-defense. We may judge other peoples history based on some horrible past of our own history and believe the less developed countries must exist in the same way, despite the fact that we know nothing about them and don’t look for new information on what their history actually is. The higher a person’s social status is in the nation-state, the more useful they are to the nation-state because of the money and skills they contribute. This is often compared to those feeling unremarkable or useless for being below in either personal qualities of skill or social status; the group often marginalized. You may feel maligned because you are treated as unworthy or useless in your nation-state. By wanting success and status, the nation-state teaches us to intrinsically desire power and celebrate being a manipulated tool by those predecessors who held the reins of power until bestowed upon us. We can help change and shape our nation-states, the more we are valued and given the ability to make significant decision-making about our lives within the nation-state.
A key to that is the heart of a nation-state; its economic productivity. However, the concept of Original Sin has disoriented and confused what is innate in human nature to create pernicious problems that are entirely avoidable. Capitalism has been misused and misunderstood. A manager will find far more value in an employee who has an intrinsic interest in serving the needs of the company versus one in which inducements are utilized to curry favor. The innate nature of humans is the desire to be selflessness for their perceived in-groups, to have their sense of significance valued in support by their peers, and to feel like their actions have meaningful consequences in a higher purpose for either the majority of other people or for their loved ones. Capitalism’s idea of animal spirits is a flawed one that is untenable when compared to the evidence of humans living in wild nature or in prehistoric civilizations. Preaching selfishness as the innate nature of humanity is simply untenable theocratic nonsense and it is not based on ancient history or our sense of rationality. Capitalism must acknowledge that humans are far more selfless by nature and only conditioned by the nation-state into degrees of selfishness. Recent research has helped to reorient managers to these new modes of thought on human behavior such as the book Drive by Daniel H. Pink. For that matter, consider the possibility that the concept of evil and original sin may have sprung forth as justifications by civilizations to collectively punish themselves for letting even one innocent life end under horrible circumstances. Perhaps, in some way under the barbarous ignorance of Father God societies, original sin was a self-punishment through hatred for our entire species and collective guilt for the deaths of all innocent lives lost. Nevertheless, all it does now is prevent us from feeling motivated to help the innocent lives that we can still work to save in the present.
Free Will and Original Sin
I’ve struggled with the topic of free will on a personal level. To clarify, it wasn’t in the Abrahamic context, but rather the current neuroscience debate over whether people have free will or not, which I had been observing for several years due to my morbid fascination with the subject matter, that caused me to have pause. Part of the struggle was trying to properly articulate the faultiness of the Abrahamic context of free will compared to the studies in neuroscience. The Abrahamic context is too simplistic and never covered the nuances that modern philosophy and neuroscience have invigorating discourses about. There was no way to broach this subject without becoming pedantic in writing the reasons why and potentially going off-topic from the discussion of original sin’s failings. Furthermore, throughout the process of learning and writing for this book, I genuinely struggled to have a clear view of the topic and having the confidence to pick a side on free will, determinism, or the varieties of compatibilism. I still hold a healthy amount of doubt for my current belief, but as a consequence, I was struggling with forming up the confidence to write it out. I’m no neuroscientist, I don’t want to be misrepresenting their work, and I understand that it’s a controversial topic within the neuroscience and philosophy community. This portion will just be my own layperson opinion on the matter of free will. I cannot in good conscience argue this without mentioning my crippling doubts on the matter. I don’t have any doubts about original sin being a horrible belief system based on the evidence, but I certainly have doubts with respect to the free will debate.
Based on the definition, the facts of cause and effect, and how our assumptions and personal contexts are formed as human beings: I am of the opinion that free will doesn’t exist. I use to move between the ideas of compatibalism and determinism, but I’ve since discarded compatibilism as incoherent when viewing the evidence. Going into full details on why would be beyond the scope of this book since the entire topic of free will is worthy of its own books and spans several different disciplines of college curriculum. As such, I can only give an overview based on brief snippets of information from various neuroscientists and psychologists for the purpose of debunking the archaic original sin model of free will that can no longer be substantiated with our current knowledge of human behavior. I would recommend several books that delve far more deeply into understanding the biases of the human mind and how our subjective experience forms the axioms for our beliefs. These books provide fascinating insights into the human mind and if your interest is piqued, I’ve added a further reading section for the books that much of Part 1 and Part 2 of this book uses as a reference in citations.
Before listing my reasons against free will, I’d like to explain what ultimately convinced me that determinism was true and how I came to that conclusion. This is an anecdote and can be dismissed as such, but for those curious as to my thought process for this may find it useful. This will be a bit lengthy so if you’re not interested then please skip to the reasons listed below. I had first become acquainted with the argument of free will versus determinism in high school when considering different regions of the world and what it would mean to be an accident of birth. As a list of examples, I thought about how in India, the vast majority of people who are born are raised Hindu; while in the United States, the vast majority were born and raised Christian; In China, the vast majority would be atheist, and in most of the Middle East, it would be Islam that they are born and raised in. Their language, religious affiliation, their ethnic background, and their nationality were all an accident of birth that wasn’t of their own choosing; this is something internet atheists who were supportive of the New Atheist movement had pointed out in various internet forums in early 2000 and it stuck with me throughout high school. I had looked-up the Christian justification for this upon seeing staunch Christians trying to defend their position that they would remain Christian regardless of where they were born; most of them just did a poor job asserting all they know is Christianity and that therefore they would only ever be Christian. In effect, Christians on the internet completely ignored the argument and made an appeal to ignorance; from looking at comments and blogs from Christians, this was one of the main consistencies of the argument and showed how woefully inept they were in taking these questions seriously. I had thought that the vast majority of people had this same line of questioning when assessing the world and their place in it, but to my surprise upon growing older, I realized I was wrong and most people simply didn’t think about it. That honestly struck me as odd behavior. Over time I had grown acquainted with the free will debate through Sam Harris’s lengthy video about it and looked up several articles of research, Daniel Dennet’s review of Sam Harris’s book on Free Will, and Friedrich Nietzsche’s pro-deterministic views of it in the book Twilight of the Idols further influenced me to question assumptions about free will. After postgraduate studies, I delved further into reading various books on different aspects of human psychology that fascinated me and of which I’ve placed in the Further Reading list as references and due to my curiosity about free will, I couldn’t help but apply the knowledge written in the books to the question of free will. However, what fully convinced me was not abstractions or the psychological research, which greatly paved the way but didn’t fully change my views on compatibilism. What changed my mind was working in a temporary position as a Health Unit Coordinator for a veterans home. In particular, this veterans home was for veterans who had dementia or other similar afflictions related to memory loss.
Before I continue further, I feel it is best to mention that working at the veterans home was one of the most difficult, but satisfying, experiences and it was a pleasure to provide my own small contribution in assisting in the welfare of veterans of the United States armed forces. People may homogenize military folk as hard-nosed, gritty types whose life revolves around talking about war as per Hollywood stereotypes, but those stereotypes do a complete disservice to the array of personalities and personality quirks that make-up veterans of both World Wars, the Korean war, and the Vietnam war. For the most part, if I was forced to try to make a generalization of my experiences, they were either gentle and compassionate people or some of the wittiest jokesters with all kinds of fun humor. Of course, even that is an oversimplification for each of their personalities. Unfortunately, I can’t specify identifying information as that is against HIPAA laws and their privacy rights. Of the ones I spoke with, none had any interest in discussing war time unless prompted; this is less surprising when one considers that war was just one small component of their lives and doesn’t define who or what they are as individuals. For the most part, they preferred to talk about how their day was going, their families (especially children), what was on the scheduled menu for the day, what they thought of current events, or what they thought of any particular topic in general. I would talk to them when I wasn’t busy with paperwork or getting supplies for the unit. It had occurred to me only after meeting and speaking with several of them that they didn’t seem to hold their time during war as a major part of their lives or a sense of who they were; it was merely an experience that took up a portion of their lives and didn’t define them as human beings. A rather troubling idea formed in my mind and so I asked a few of them, all of whom were happy to be asked, if they thought the war themes or events about war perhaps brought back bad memories that they would otherwise like to forget. In the duration of my work there, I had come to realize that wars neither defined them as people nor would it have been anything that most of them wanted to relive. After all, if it was truly a horrifying time in which their life was always at risk, then why would they want to remember that? Why would any of them want to be defined by that? Mass media taught us to take it as a given, and the celebratory events for them were absolutely about appreciating all of their hard work and sacrifice for our country in times of crisis, but wouldn’t constantly being thanked every year or every military holiday for a harrowing time in one’s life get tiresome and make one relive bad memories? The ones whom I asked, one of whom said it was a good question and that they appreciated it, seemed to give the same general response. The answers seemed to be practically unanimous: the people caring for them were nice and they appreciated them, so they didn’t mind and it didn’t bother them since they liked how well they were being treated. In effect, the everyday hard work and compassion of the staff made them appreciative and they liked the people who were taking care of them. The benign treatment mattered more to them.
It wasn’t difficult to ascertain why they were so appreciative and consequently what made me acknowledge that free will couldn’t possibly exist. Most people who research the free will debate know of the infamous incident of a man who had a tumor in his brain that caused him to have pedophilic tendencies until the tumor was removed and for the pedophilic tendencies to return again when the tumor had grown back. I’ve seen that story circulated in a few books and youtube channels. However, most people wrongly attempt to dismiss that story as an outlier. When working at the veterans home, I was forced to consider: what about more mundane conditions like dementia? Dementia was different depending on the individual, parts of the brain slowly degenerated over time and fully grown adults became the same as helpless children in need of care. Moreover, what about other illnesses that I hadn’t even the reference or that I didn’t have the conscious awareness to consider? It was understandable why dementia would become frustrating to live with as simple tasks like getting oneself a cup of water require help from others. Some people can’t stand the change; to go from a self-made individual to a person in a constant state of helplessness being forced to wait while others are attended to before it’s your turn. The constant state of helplessness can be difficult to adjust to; for some they become demanding, likely because their sense of significance has been reduced due to a lack of autonomy. It is possibly also because of a desire for instant gratification and possibly a comparison for when they could do it on their own time, but for others they become complacent and adapt by accepting a state of learned helplessness likely because they see the struggle as pointless since it’s a fact that they won’t get better. Needing to be pushed via wheelchair to other locations, being forced to adapt to other people’s schedules without being able to simply take actions with one’s own volition, and slowly forgetting yourself and your loved ones can all be painful and people adjust differently depending on their personalities. Sometimes, personalities themselves will radically change. Information becomes more important instead of the opposite from what I’ve observed; people always like to know what is going on and in my time there, I made sure to share as much information as possible because I knew that it was a way of helping them reclaim a sense of control from the state of helplessness. For some people, I would have to introduce myself everyday and answer the same questions, for others it was to repeat what was on their schedule if they had any planned trips outside the facility whenever they forgot, and familiarizing myself with their unique forms of sarcasm. My effort in responding to their questions was appreciated by all of them. My time there made me think of how woefully inept Hollywood was at portraying the US armed forces; it made me question if the superhuman qualities given to actors playing soldiers on screen was its own type of dehumanization. US culture constantly propagated this idea of a self-made individual with superhuman qualities who could overcome everything through sheer willpower. Often, the stereotype involved the brave people in military garments able to overcome all obstacles. They never consider old age; old actors give way to new ones, where the same hubris of god-like feats is constantly churned out for profit. Few think of what it means to become old and fewer still prepare for such a time in their life. Seeing soldiers mutilated on screen for gore porn is one aspect, but how many ever consider the care delivered in treating such grievous wounds, the painful emotions the families endure, and who knows how many other complications as a result of war?
A pernicious issue which bothered me when working there was the concept of original sin and what it would mean for their relationships with their loved ones. I had been told of cases where people with certain degenerative states of dementia became unable to distinguish when something was sexually inappropriate or became more likely to commit sexually inappropriate acts due to their condition through no fault of their own. How much worse would it feel for an honest victim of such tendencies to attribute it to some innate sinfulness as a result of free will when it was something they honestly had no control over? How often did people misattribute the cause of their action to something innate about their psyche, instead of something they truly couldn’t control? How many people believed that these veterans being unable to control their inhibitions would be perceived as their “real” or “inner” self instead of a horrible condition that they couldn’t control? How much more awful would they feel by misunderstanding the cause to be something they were consciously capable of? How much self-hate would they cast upon themselves believing it to be something about willpower that they could have changed, but failed to because they believed they were being sinful? How much more strained would their relationships with their loved ones be, if their loved ones thought it was some imminent truth about them that they hid because the loved one believed in original sin? For instance, how torturous would it feel if something similar to the infamous case of a man with pedophilic tendencies due to a brain tumor was attributed to an individual who genuinely had no control over their actions and could be proven as such by examining their brain? It was perturbing to think of how one horrid concept could possibly destroy the lives of veterans who were suffering. The suffering would maximize to further emotional grief; all because of a hateful, misanthropic concept like original sin. All because people had no other reference point besides the Bible teaching them to hate themselves through a misanthropic concept that did nothing but cause pain and misery. Thankfully, professionalism of the highest order was maintained and any who would believe in such a concept had never shown it. The general idea was always that it was the condition and that was simply stating the truth. It was the condition that they had no control over and not something innate as a result of free will to display of some violent truth about humanity.
The staff of the veterans home were from diverse backgrounds of all kinds in different staff departments. The Nurse Managers, Doctors, Nurses, Certified Nursing Assistants, and Health Unit Coordinators were an assortment of varied ethnic backgrounds and religious beliefs. Avidly pious Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindus, and Sikhs worked in tandem with coworkers who were Agnostic, Atheist, scientifically-minded but not altogether irreligious people, and even a gentleman who professed his own unique multi-spiritual beliefs during a lengthy conversation I had with him in the parking lot. To my knowledge, everyone was open to liberal values such as respect and equality for homosexuals and treating their fellow coworkers with the utmost dignity and respect. As mentioned, the ethnic make-up of the workforce was just as diverse; within both the Nurse Managers, Nurses, and Doctors; there were White, Black, Hispanic, Indian, and potentially other ethnic Asian workers. All of whom diligently followed the rules and held everyone accountable to the demanding standards for the sake of care for the veterans and keeping all veteran’s rights protected in compliance with the law. Many Haitian and Hispanic CNAs and housekeepers were fluently bilingual. It made me think that while the American Dream may be something one must fall asleep to believe in, the American ideal was most certainly expressed well in that care facility.
For my part, I felt honored to have made my own small contribution to helping veterans and I recommend working or volunteering at your local veteran’s homes as the staff assistance is likely to be sorely needed and every little bit of assistance really does add-up; both the veterans and staff are appreciative of all such efforts. Unfortunately, due to the demanding nature of the work environment, very few have the patience and perseverance to handle working at a veteran’s home. As a result, due to the sensitive nature of meeting the needs of veterans, a culture of hard work and correcting mistakes was built around selfless in-group cohesion. The demanding nature of the various jobs; whether Nurse Manager, Certified Nursing Assistant, Doctor, Med Nurse, Charge Nurse, or Health Unit Coordinator called for such a work ethic and it was most certainly built around selflessness for the sake of making veteran’s lives as comfortable and safe as possible. For those who are unaware, groupthink is actually beneficial for the cohesion of an organization, but only so long as groupthink is focused primarily on the goal of an organization and not misused to place higher value on the personal feelings of certain individuals or the entire group because that both distracts from the goal and thereby undercuts the chief aim of the group in attaining the goal. In other words, groupthink works well when people are held accountable for not meeting the expectations of the group. Equally as important is showing proper appreciation when a person conducts proper effort in fulfilling their assigned duties or going beyond those assigned duties when qualified and asked to do such for the organization. In effect, everyone enjoys being appreciated for the effort that they give to an organization that they care about. Within the veteran’s home; the hard work, dedication, and in-group trust that was always patient and willing to give a helping hand for any difficulties formed a culture of high-competence because everyone was both held accountable for their failures and taught how to correct those failures through careful guidance, explanations on what actions to do and not to do, and the reasons why. Questions were valued and answers readily given; early on, I failed to fulfill key monthly goals, but learned from my mistakes and worked to better my modus operandi within the scope of the tasks assigned to me and took lessons from those who were far beyond my skill level. I felt I learned a lot from the people there; in particular, the importance of saying no to others when you were expected to follow guidelines. This came from observing hyper-competent people like the doctor of the unit I worked in, learning the Charge Nurse was the one who was really in charge of the unit, and helping out the CNAs (Certified Nursing Assistants) who did their utmost to provide care for the veterans of the unit. I decided to utilize several psychology and work productivity books to put my best effort in fulfilling the needs of the demanding work environment; it was actually surprising to realize most people didn’t prepare for demanding workloads by utilizing such resources beforehand and I had come to the conclusion I had overestimated competence and effort in most other environments I had worked within based on the hyperbolic beliefs of the high school I attended and my own parents. By the time the contract for my work ended, I was given a hefty amount of praise and well wishes; many said I had done a great job and that I had indeed been able to keep up with one of the more demanding units to the satisfaction of organization goals. I was able to keep-up with the Doctor, Charge Nurse, CNAs, and many of the veterans wished me well saying they enjoyed meeting me and thanked me for my work and dedication. As you may imagine, at this current moment in my life, the veterans home stands as the best job I’ve ever had the pleasure of being a part of.
For those who don’t live in the US and have kept an interest in this personal account, I’d like to thank you for your interest and appreciation for the lives of people outside of your own country as I imagine it gets stifling to hear only about the most influential Western countries if you live outside of them. If the aforementioned has made you interested in helping veterans in your own country, I would suggest thinking over ways in which any suffering they endure can be alleviated or working to help correct any potential injustice done to people who’ve served your government; of course, that is assuming the military and potentially specific military personnel in question within your country serves the public good of your nation-state and people.
With all that being stated, here is my explanation for why I don’t believe in free will:
In his book Deviate, neuroscientist Beau Lotto mentions that assumptions are inculcated as a person grows up in their environment. We tend to attribute this to our preferences in taste, but the assumptions run far more deeply than that. The assumptions we inculcate from intuitive life experience determine our religion, our nationality, and our language. It even determines our social perception of “race” since race is merely a social construct according to scientists. Similarly, where and how we grow up determines our self-theories of who and what we are in relation to the world around us. There are all prior causes that most of us may not even be consciously aware of assessing as assumptions that we’ve grown up with. Our assumptions about the world and preferences therein are a statistical distribution; which means we would first generally have to learn why a particular belief is wrong before we accept another one to be right, especially if it is a strong belief of ours. In other words, we can’t jump from a set of beliefs like creationism to a new set of beliefs that are diametrically opposed like evolution without first understanding the basics of evolution, which would require slowly disentangling our assumptions about creationism. Within the scope of evolution itself, organisms are adapting to their environment through a lengthy process of ridding a species of useless traits and attaining more useful traits to keep alive in their habitat. Oftentimes, it’s a mix of positive and negative qualities in a mostly positive set of traits. Beau Lotto tries to argue in his book that free will could still exist because we form new meanings from our past. However, the past is something we can’t change and our shifting interpretation still wouldn’t change the fact a past event remains an axiom that we base meaning itself on and crucially, still forms a starting point for the acceptance of new beliefs.
In the book, Stumble on Happiness, Harvard professor and Social Psychologist, Daniel Gilbert explains how we humans mistakenly feel our personal perspectives and what we imagine about how the world operates are always objective. However, all we really do is fill in what we think living in a particular situation is like with our own imagination and we believe what we imagine about that situation to be representative of the objective reality. This is a natural human tendency and oftentimes occurs unconsciously without us fully recognizing our belief about something is just our personal interpretation and not objective reality itself. As such, our belief that we intuitively see reality for what it is only functions as a detriment to both our understanding of the world and of our own experiences. To better understand why this is, consider the fact that atoms, microbes, single-celled organisms, radio waves, and microwaves are all just as real as you or I, but they can’t be seen by the human eye. Furthermore, consider the fact that so much of our personal feelings and subsequent actions oftentimes depend on how good or bad the weather is, how much we’ve eaten, what we’ve eaten, what microbes are in our bodies, and so forth. What we see, as many of these psychologists have written assert, is just our subjective experience in the world. We don’t see reality for what it is, but we have the illusion of objectivity. The only way for us to become closer to being objective about the world is through scientific experimentation utilizing our scientific instruments to understand the world around us. Yet, even then, some interpretation might be necessary once we understand what the facts are. Finally, near the end of Stumble on Happiness, Gilbert explains that we as humans implicitly overemphasize our uniqueness and the uniqueness of other humans because our everyday experience is trying to find qualities that differentiate people to find the people that we want to spend our lives with; we try to find people who will be the most valuable of friends or whom we should marry or the best people to work with at a job. This biases us towards focusing only on differences and we tend to skim over or simply don’t register the normalcy of our experiences. We also try to rate ourselves as having more qualities that make us unique from the average person in surveys . . . even when we are the representative average. Gilbert provides a compelling argument in his book where he explains you can predict your future happiness before undergoing a particular experience (going to a specific amusement park, a holiday in a particular foreign country, or choosing between two high-quality jobs as a lifelong career path) by looking up the personal testimonies of any random person or set of people who has undergone that experience. Of course, the testimony would have to be an honest account and not simply one manufactured by an organization on its website that makes one to push a narrative. Nevertheless, honest accounts of particular sets of experiences will suffice as an accurate account of information you neglected to consider and will be a useful measure for your feelings about materials you hadn’t considered regarding the experience that you wanted to know more about.
Now, to digress a bit, for those who wish to immediately argue that these two books could apply to the existence of a deity because humans aren’t good at seeing reality in any objective sense, please keep advised of the following: first, there is no central definition of what such a deity even is or what it would comprise itself of, or where it would originate from. It’s been 2000 years and the Abrahamic faiths have found nothing to prove the existence of the Abrahamic God. Second, there is no basis for beliefs in spiritual worlds and afterlives as none of that can be corroborated by any physical evidence and none has ever come forth to lend credence to the existence of any afterlives resembling anything the Abrahamic faiths have argued in support of. Finally, and most tellingly, you’re just trying to use your own ignorance as a basis for making an open-ended assumption that has no evidence; in short, it’s baseless and we have hard evidence that is demonstrable of what we can prove so we have to judge based on the evidence and not our personal feelings with matters of scientific inquiry. Insinuating from the basis of human ignorance would lower the level of credibility to the point where you could make-up anything such as the assertion that an invisible, translucent, spiritual pink polka dotted elephant flies across the universe faster than the speed of light. If you wish to say that there is evidence for the Abrahamic God, then please first try to show that your belief in your God can be separated from the scenario of the imaginary elephant that I made up just now. If your arguments can support both the Abrahamic God existing and the imaginary elephant that I just made-up existing then you’ve failed. This is not an attempt at an insult; I’m pointing out that you have to demonstrate this belief in a deity has to be founded on more than just anything you can make-believe like my ridiculous and fictitious idea of the elephant.
In the book, Thinking Fast and Slow, by legendary psychologist and Princeton professor Daniel Kahneman, details how we form coherent structures of how the world works through associations we make in our minds. This often makes us find causes for different subject matter that are entirely unrelated to each other. As such, we may form patterns to make up a coherent cause for why an event happened. When, in actuality, the cause could be something entirely unrelated or we could even be confusing cause for the effect or a correlation that isn’t specifically the cause. For instance, in the United States, many of the Right-leaning public blamed the violent protests in Baltimore to Black youth listening to rap music; trouble is, rap music is beloved by various ethnic groups across the United States and isn’t solely exclusive to what Black youth listen to and most youth (including Black youth) who listen to such music don’t go out of their way to commit violence. By contrast, the Baltimore police were known to give large payouts in court trials that they lost on a yearly basis with the demand that families and victims couldn’t go to the national media to speak on the violence conducted upon them by the Baltimore police. Thereby, violating their first amendment rights and treating them as second-class citizens. If any family members or the victim of police brutality spoke out to the national media, then the local government could stop paying for the treatment of physical damages their officers caused. That would most certainly be a direct causal link, especially since four years of peaceful protests were ignored. To continue about free will. We also have hindsight bias; that is, we remember placing more confidence that an event was going to happen after it has already occurred despite the actual evidence showing we report very low confidence that a particular event was going to happen before it actually happened. We substitute what we thought of the past based on outcomes of the present that change our perception of what we believed. Many surveys regarding major political events show this; such as the percentage of US citizens who report they had lower confidence in the Iraq War of 2003 than what they actually reported back in 2003 or in the example given in Daniel Kahneman’s book, the confidence that people in the US had of Nixon’s trip to China.
From all I’ve learned through these and other psychology books, it has become clear to me that a lot of our memory and our actions are derived from situational contexts that we’re often unaware of. Original Sin thereby confuses cause and effect by deliberately misattributing everything to an unalterable, intrinsic biological state that is scientifically unfounded. This is a powerful form of fundamental attribution error. Context matters, but the concept of original sin would posit without any credible evidence that everything horrific and violent is inevitable because humans have free will. Original Sin ignores everything relevant in uncovering why certain events happened and by doing so, provides a convenient moral shield for the worst offenders of war crimes like torturing children into becoming child soldiers, war rape, and genocide. How does the concept of original sin do that? It treats those egregious acts of violence as inevitable and thereby ignores any call to form corrective measures to hold perpetrators responsible as juvenile and idealistic. The reason for that is because of the pervasive belief that any human is capable of such behavior as a result of feeling too much freedom which allows them to be selfish and hateful. As mentioned prior, original sin promotes the idea that such devastating atrocities are never going to be able to be corrected, that there is absolutely nothing we can do to help others suffering in those situations, and that we can’t stymie or decrease these acts of egregious violence through any social changes. Just because events of human violence in the past went unchecked shouldn’t mean that we ignore events happening now from continuing that route. Yet, the original sin version of free will would have us believe that there is nothing we can do because humans will spontaneously behave in cruel and horrific ways. Abrahamic religious groups use free will as the objection in an almost synonymous notion with original sin; attributing every free act as an act closer to committing human violence or activities a religious group finds socially unacceptable. Social censure towards transgenders or homosexuals are widely scrutinized, but not the underlying belief that freedom of actions and freedom of thought will cause people to be selfish, cruel, and commit violence. It’s fundamentally an undemocratic belief.
Human violence is not inevitable, it is not unalterable, and much of the statistical evidence proves that humans have gradually become less prone to violence. Consequently, technology has become more thorough in uncovering wanton acts of human violence and state-sponsored violence that goes unchecked. That’s a valuable first step, because it means we’re treating the lives of every innocent that we see perish as significant, but our reaction can’t be this meaningless ascetic notion that human free will makes it unavoidable to change circumstances for the better. Even if we can’t stop a massive war or help everyone who is harmed; we should consider what small contribution can we make to alleviate the suffering, misery, and pain of people currently being harmed. The statistical information on human violence worldwide and the charities which hold themselves accountable show that contributions do help others and that every little bit helps to make a better life for people who are suffering.
Redefined Free Will
In fairness to the detractors within the neuroscience and philosophy departments that argue in favor of free will, there has been research that challenges the idea that humans don’t have free will at this current period of time. However, if we acknowledge this redefined version of free will to be scientifically valid about how the human brain operates, then it renders the Abrahamic concept of original sin as thoroughly untenable and obsolete.
In the article “Neuroscience and Free Will are Rethinking their Divorce” on The Cut by the journalist Christian Jarrett, he explains what new research in Germany has found with respect to free will:
For years, various research teams have tried to pick holes in Libet’s original research. It’s been pointed out, for example, that it’s pretty tricky for people to accurately report the time that they made their conscious decision. But, until recently, the broad implications of the finding have weathered these criticisms, at least in the eyes of many hard-nosed neuroscientists, and over the last decade or so his basic result has been replicated and built upon with ever more advanced methods such as fMRI and the direct recording of neuronal activity using implanted electrodes.
These studies all point in the same, troubling direction: We don’t really have free will. In fact, until recently, many neuroscientists would have said any decision you made was not truly free but actually determined by neural processes outside of your conscious control.
Luckily, for those who find this state of affairs philosophically (or existentially) perplexing, things are starting to look up. Thanks to some new breakthrough studies, including one published last month in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences by researchers in Germany, there’s now some evidence pointing in the other direction: The neuroscientists are backtracking on past bold claims and painting a rather more appealing account of human autonomy. We may have more control over certain processes than those initial experiments indicated.
The German neuroscientists took a different approach from past work, using a form of brain-computer integration to see whether participants could cancel a movement after the onset of the nonconscious preparatory brain activity identified by Libet. If they could, it would be a sign that humans can consciously intervene and “veto” processes that neuroscience has previously considered automatic and beyond willful control.
The participants’ task started off simply enough: They had to press a foot pedal as quickly as possible whenever they saw a green light and cancel this movement whenever they saw a red light. Things got trickier when the researchers put the red light under the control of a computer that was monitoring the participants’ own brain waves. Whenever the computer detected signs of nonconscious preparatory brain activity, it switched on the red light. If this preparatory activity is truly a signal of actions that are beyond conscious control, the participants should have been incapable of responding to these sudden red lights. In fact, in many cases the participants were able to cancel the nonconscious preparatory brain activity and stop their foot movement before it even began.
Now, there was a point of no return — red lights that appeared too close (less than about one-quarter of a second) to the beginning of a foot movement could not be completely inhibited — there simply wasn’t time for the new cancellation signal to overtake the earlier command to move. But still, the principle stands — these results suggest at least some of the activity identified by Libet can, in fact, be vetoed by conscious will.
“A person’s decisions are not at the mercy of unconscious and early brain waves,” the lead researcher, Dr. John-Dylan Haynes of Charité – Universitätsmedizin in Berlin, said in the study’s press release. “They are able to actively intervene in the decision-making process and interrupt a movement. Previously people have used the preparatory brain signals to argue against free will. Our study now shows that the freedom is much less limited than previously thought.”
This new finding comes on the back of research by French neuroscientists published in 2012 in PNAS that also challenged the way Libet’s seminal work is usually interpreted. These researchers believe that the supposedly nonconscious preparatory brain activity identified by Libet is really just part of a fairly random ebb and flow of background neural activity, and that movements occur when this activity crosses a certain threshold. By this account, people’s willful movements should be quicker when they’re made at a time that just happens to coincide with when the background ebb and flow of activity is on a high point.
And that’s exactly what the French team found. They recorded participants’ brain waves as they repeatedly pressed a button with their finger, sometimes spontaneously at times of their own choosing, and other times in response to a randomly occurring click sound. The researchers found that their participants were much quicker to respond to the click sounds when the sounds happened to occur just as this random background brain activity was reaching a peak.
Based on this result from 2012 and a similar finding in a study with rats published in 2014, the lead researcher of the 2012 study, Aaron Schurger at INSERM in Paris, and two colleagues have written in their field’s prestige journal Trends in Cognitive Sciences that it’s time for a new perspective on Libet’s results — they say that their results call “for a reevaluation and reinterpretation of a large body of work” and that for 50 years their field may have been “measuring, mapping and analyzing what may turn out to be a reliable accident: the cortical readiness potential.”
And like their counterparts in Germany, these neuroscientists say the new picture is much more in keeping with our intuitive sense of our free will. When we form a vague intention to move, they explain, this mind-set feeds into the background ebb and flow of neural activity, but the specific decision to act only occurs when the neural activity passes a key threshold — and our all-important subjective feeling of deciding happens at this point or a brief instant afterward. “All this leaves our common sense picture largely intact,” they write.
I’ll leave you to decide whether to believe them or not.
The reason why this redefined concept of free will would thoroughly repudiate original sin is because free will could only occur in circumstances in which we held back from taking an action or stopped ourselves from conducting a potential action that we were planning to do. This is an abject contradiction to the Abrahamic concept of free will. If this redefined concept of free will true, then people who aren’t able to quit smoking, who aren’t able to stop compulsory eating, or from using drugs like heroin aren’t practicing free will. It means the people who are able to stop themselves from those impulsive actions are the ones with free will. If you’ve ever attended a religious service and know of a family member, acquaintance, or friend who is unable to quit drinking, smoking, or can’t stop themselves from engorging on food to an unhealthy extent then you have to acknowledge that they haven’t built up the free will to challenge that habit. If you’ve either never had such habits or have successfully quit a bad habit, then it would be because you successfully exercised your free will to overcome that bad habit. If this sounds ridiculous, then consider what this redefined concept of free will would mean for those struggling with the aforementioned addictions. They continue to smoke cigarettes, drink alcoholic beverages, or inject heroin to fulfill a need for instant gratification against their better judgment; this is not the freedom to choose against a temptation, it’s the struggle to overcome a mode of behavior that has become normalized, made habitual, and is painful for the addict to fight against. The fact they have to fight against such a self-harming temptation contradicts the notion that they can freely choose to behave in a self-destructive manner. They know better, but don’t have the power to choose a new path for themselves because the impulse overwhelms the willpower to change. To have freedom of choice to abstain from such acts would require sturdier willpower to choose differently. As such, the freedom of choice and the will to make that choice could only happen by pushing themselves away from something that has been repeatedly noted by those who’ve successfully quit to control people’s lives in a revolving habit of self-harm. As such, those who abstain and those who have overcome such self-harming habits of addiction are the ones with free will.
If this redefinition of free will is true, then it means that the Abrahamic notion of free will and potentially of original sin is disproven. People are not choosing to behave as addicts and don’t have the ability to stop. They lack the willpower to stop themselves from a self-harming habit that is destroying their lives. If those who stopped themselves from the bad habits are the ones with free will, then the Abrahamic concept of the term no longer has any coherence. The Abrahamic faiths built the notion of original sin on the basis that people were using free will to choose away from the Abrahamic God, but if stopping oneself from conducting an action is free will then people who attend Mosques, Churches, and Synagogues and stop themselves from conducting bad habits of addiction are the people with free will. By preventing yourself from conducting a harmful action, you are the one with free will and by following religious guidelines to abstain from harmful habits, you are practicing that free will. Those who aren’t falling into temptations are the ones with free will and those who are falling into temptation don’t have any free will to stop themselves. The belief that the temptations are a free choice is made completely incoherent under this redefinition of free will. If any of the Abrahamic faiths were to acknowledge this redefinition than 2000 years of history and the very basis of converting people to an Abrahamic religious faith would have to be thrown out, because it would mean that nobody is freely choosing to be away from the Abrahamic God, but instead they don’t have the free will to choose the Abrahamic God. The Abrahamic theology becomes untenable and incoherent with modern neuroscience.
The redefinition of free will shatters the ethical justification for converting people to abstain from sin and the lack of free will under determinism disproves the very foundation of the Abrahamic faiths. In either scenario, Abrahamic theology collapses into incoherence and falsehood.
The Misogyny of Sinfulness
To conclude this chapter, I’d like for you to consider this metaphor with respect to how sinfulness is overtly misogynistic. This metaphor is a generalization of women with two definitive forms of belief systems; it is a generalization because it should obviously go without saying that half the human species has far more diversity in their plethora of beliefs. Encompassing each different denomination within just the Abrahamic tradition would be a monumental task that is beyond the scope of this book. As such, I’ve devised this metaphor pertaining to women who had faith in the Abrahamic God in ancient times to women of faith living now to compare with women who lived in equality among ancient hunter-gatherer societies and the Neolithic period of early civilization to the secular-leaning and scientifically minded women of modern times. They’re referred to as the Woman of God and the Woman of Nature to express their respective modus operandi and beliefs. The primary purpose of this is to show the impact the concept of sinfulness has on women.
The Woman of God is obedient and servile throughout her life to her father, her grandfather, sometimes her elder brother (usually if they are learned in the religious tradition), and her husband. She embodies Eve from the story of the Garden of Eden as her servility is in service to God. Her life of subservience to her father and then her husband is through her strong faith in God. She is inculcated to be meek and humble in order to avoid scathing insults of being called promiscuous or labeled a whore for her disobedience to patriarchy. Her family and friends denigrate nude female protestors and nudity by women in pop culture by asking how their fathers feel about such behavior. She learns to accept sex abuse and rape by men as an expectation of society upon her and all women because traditional gender norms teach that men can’t stop themselves from raping women when near them because of the tautology that boys will be boys. She is taught that women should know better than to trust in or befriend men in any platonic relationship because it is simply a given that men would rape women when near them. Rape is considered innate within men and therefore women must cover-up so men won’t rape them. Her father, brothers, and husband who support this traditional role and demand respect from her by ordering her to stay covered. They reinforce this lesson by agreeing with arguments that men can’t stop themselves from committing rape; essentially teaching her that they too would rape women if near any unmarried women that isn’t their family. Neither men or women who practice traditional roles believe that men and women who aren’t family can have any platonic relationship. The patriarchal structure incidentally teach that any rape or sex abuse that she receives is because she didn’t wear clothes that covered herself enough to protect her purity or that her discomfort and confusion over the situation was somehow consent when she simply didn’t know how to handle being violated.
The Woman of God is taught that she has no agency throughout her life. At purity balls, they teach her that God is her Father and her biological father is akin to a boyfriend. Her faith in God commands that she must honor her father by treating her virginity as a prize to be won only by her future husband. Her body is like candy and she must not unwrap her lower garments to avoid spoiling herself. She acts as her father’s personal dog; she is to be kept near the family home and not outside to socialize for fear she’ll be doing something embarrassing or dangerous without supervision, she is to behave like a neutered animal without any explanation or assistance for her sexual development of puberty, she is not to lose her dog collar – her virginity – or she’ll be considered wild and rabid by her conservative society, and she is to smile and behave in a constant state of silliness and happiness for being thoroughly domesticated by strict, unequal standards towards women. She is only to express a constant state of appreciation, affection, and celebrate of her obedience to patriarchy as proof of honoring her family and her society. The social status of her male family members reinforces what God has ordained for her life.
The Woman of God is celebrated for accepting her role as property of her father and later to be transferred as property of her husband. She will rear her husband’s children to be obedient to their father; her life is one of cooking, cleaning, and conditioning herself to always sexually please her husband when he commands it of her; that is, to use her body as he sees fit with her having no opinion on how he uses her. Often beatings and rape cannot be considered a crime because the husband does it. Her religious community and religious leaders all herald her conceding her autonomy and body to her husband as fulfilling the role that God gave her. Euphemisms of “respecting” the husband are used to pressure her into giving up her autonomy. She is to embody the ideal of servility and humbleness with her dutiful submission to her husband and piety towards God. She is to be seen, not heard; she is not to speak out of turn or embarrass the men of her household so that their social status to their community isn’t negatively impacted. She is taught that this has always been the role of women, that this role is innate in all women throughout human history, and that she must avoid sinfulness at all costs. She must remain servile in service to God for all of her life; this celebration of her purity comes from ancient times when God ordered women to be converted through rape as spoils of war for the chosen people. These rape conversions are celebrated as morally benevolent to this day because God commanded it. Thereby, the Woman of God is historically derived from conquered women who suffered war rape at the behest of the Abrahamic God. The more literally that you believe in the Bible or the Quran, the more you should accept that as the unequivocal truth of history.
The Woman of Nature speaks and acts independently from her family with confidence and views herself equally to men. She expresses her sexuality through independent choices of picking her own clothes or forming her own intimate relationships; nobody in her family is to have privilege in deciding who she has sexual relations with upon adulthood. She practices contraceptives and safe sexual behavior to maximize her own pleasure in sex. She sees past the ideals of traditional gender norms that create misogynistic disparities on the treatment of women; she rebukes back that such disparities are systems of oppression formed by rape culture in which women are to act passive to being raped to protect men’s egos. She is viewed as a wild, rabid dog by men and women who hold traditional gender roles because she refuses to submit to patriarchy. Her raw indignation comes from the intrinsic desire to be seen and heard as a person and not as property of men. Instances of men raping women causes her to demand change; after all, why should she have to suffer and be held back by the stupidity of others? Why should she have to wait, and wait, and wait for change to come in some imaginary future instead of having enlightenment now? Why should she and other women have to wait for more rape victims because others refuse to change traditional norms due to their circular reasoning of “boys will be boys” and “women should know better” that she easily sees through with her intellect? If she is labeled a rabid dog that is diseased and unwelcome back into the family and society, then is she simply expected to suffer for the crime of personal autonomy and independent thought? In fact, sometimes the Woman of Nature is even put to death for the crime of independent thought and personal autonomy; whether by angry husbands, angry family, or angry boyfriends because they refuse to see her as a person and kill her for not acting as property of men.
The Woman of Nature embodies Lilith. She seeks sexual satisfaction by trying various sexual positions such as being atop her significant other regardless of if God allows it or not. She is open to different sexual positions, self-pleasure, research into understanding and loving her body instead of feeling wretched for being born a woman, and doesn’t loathe herself for the natural process of having a period. She journeys into the moral abyss to find satisfaction for her cravings in the carnal world of humanity. She rejects the existence of God as a falsehood due to lack of evidence for God and sees the theology as a tool of misogynistic oppression. She gains the pleasures of the carnal world; art, music, books, video games, other electronic devices, political freedoms of free speech and free expression, and reforming systems of man-made government to value her life equally to any male counterpart through a right to protection by the law. The Woman of Nature who pursues skeptical inquiry and scientific studies is utterly condemned as the natural enemy of God for all her life; this is because she finds immense pleasure and satisfaction in studying, researching, and disseminating her lifelong love for the carnal world above the spiritual capitulation to God as commanded by patriarchy.
The Scientific Woman of Nature, even when she wants no part in the discussion of religion versus science because she has no interest, will always be condemned for the crime of independent thought, will find her love for research shut down or reviled by those who act with the sincerest faith in God, and will be the first to be murdered in service to God because she is labeled as God’s truest enemy by extremists when they gain power. Due to ignorance of religious teachings, the Scientific Woman of Nature will be confused by she is being reviled and condemned when she has abstained from criticism and has no desire to be part of any discussion on religion because she sincerely doesn’t care. She doesn’t understand why her love for research and fact-finding studies is faced with a surge of ignorant contempt, she tries to find peaceful measures to stymie the tide of hatred through calls of peace but confuses the intrinsic misogyny of religion for some extremist elements co-opting a religion to push a narrative, she is blamed by some of her colleagues and boss for the crime of pursuing research that doesn’t conform to some arbitrary religious ideal that she has no interest in and is not part of, and genuinely tries appeasement as a last resort and it only causes the destruction of her research, her peace of mind, and leads to bitterness and indignation at the vat of reactionary ignorance that is thrust upon her for no discernible reason. What she fails to understand is that these loud, obnoxious religious zealots don’t view her as a person, but rather as property by men to be chided and owned. They don’t wish to be appeased by meeting in the middle; they wish to destroy her ability to research and question. They wish to destroy her social safety net to prove the appeasement to faith in their God as the ultimate deciding factor in society even when it doesn’t make sense. They wish to destroy her livelihood, her ability to pursue her own interests as an individual capable of independent thought, and to kill her or drive her to suicide; if that fails, then to destroy her career and her children’s future. All they believe is that she must conform to their religious patriarchal structure because of their complete faith in God’s unquestionable morality.
Therefore, the only way to engage on an equal field when being vilified is to attack the assumptions of their religious faith as the falsehood that she knows it to be. To defend and protect the carnal pleasures of enlightenment values of free speech and free expression against the misogynistic tyranny of God. The Woman of Nature must rebuke their hatred with genuine criticism by expressing her independent actions and opinions against the belief that her ability to be an independent person is sinfulness. Most of all, the Woman of Nature should come to understand that there is no intrinsic value in religious teachings that are espoused by revealed wisdom. The ancient Hebrew Bible depicts instance after instance of rape of women after war conquests, the Sermon on the Mount is the origin of the Male Gaze through thought crimes based on how men should view women, and the Quran practiced and spread slavery including the sexual slavery of women. All in the name of purity culture so that women remain faithful to God.
The Woman of Nature should consider what the Woman of God was derived from:
The Abrahamic God ordered his chosen people to conquer other lands through violence, the violence of God’s chosen people was justified through dehumanization campaigns about their culture, and upon winning the chosen people of God were ordered by God to rape women who didn’t believe in him. These women were forced into believing in the Abrahamic God through conquest after being raped by God’s decree; this was forcible conversion through rape by the tens of thousands as written in the Bible and the Quran.
The teachings of purity culture are derived from decrees of rape by the Abrahamic God. A holistic examination of the conservative religious values imposed upon women shows this.
- A Woman of God is taught to be servile to her husband: the origin of this is the conquering victors of war ordering the women they raped into being obedient to them, so the male rapist that just took ownership of her will have an easier time controlling her through “marriage” which back then was simply ownership of women.
- A Woman of God is taught to not speak out against the husband or father: this comes from male rapists ordering women they raped and married to shut up about their family having been butchered and wiped out by the chosen people of the Abrahamic God. They are to be seen and not heard because no one wants to deal with her emotional anguish at losing her entire family and no one wants her foreign opinions in their in-group of primitive civilization.
- A Woman of God is taught to cover-up her body or men will rape her: this comes from a male having raped and married his victim having to then worry that other men might try to rape and marry her or act out with such behavior accidentally upon her when he’s already taken ownership and raped her. To stymie this possibility, he orders her to cover-up to avoid getting raped by his compatriots who are raping other women. Men rape women all the time in their primitive civilizations, unlike in hunter-gatherer and Neolithic societies where she use to be a Woman of Nature.
- If a Woman of God expresses her views like a Woman of Nature, then she is denigrated for devil worship and sinfulness, unreliable rumors of her sleeping around are made-up to justify violence upon her person, and she is stoned to death because the Abrahamic God decrees that she is to remain property and not a person in ancient Abrahamic society of primitive civilizations. There is no tolerance for her opinions and if she expresses opinions like an equal, then she will be stoned to death for the crime of wanting equality. This is because she is decreed property, not a person by the Abrahamic God.
- Bazelon, Emily. “We’ve Been Measuring Rape All Wrong.” Slate Magazine, Slate, 19 Nov. 2013,
- Berman, Mark, and Samantha Schmidt. “He Yelled ‘Get out of My Country,’ Witnesses Say, and Then Shot 2 Men from India, Killing One.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 24 Feb. 2017, http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2017/02/24/get-out-of-my-country-kansan-reportedly-yelled-before-shooting-2-men-from-india-killing-one/?utm_term=.87088ce6c874.
- “BibleGateway.” Bible Gateway, Bible Gateway Blog, http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Isaiah 45:7&version=KJV.
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- Cialdini, Robert B. Influence: Science and practice. 4th ed., 21st Century Bks, 2002. Chapter 1: Weapons of Influence (1-16), Chapter 2: Reciprocation (19-50), Chapter 3: Commitment and Consistency (52-95), Chapter 4: Social Proof (98-140), Chapter 6: Authority (178-200).
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- Gilbert, Daniel. Stumbling on Happiness. Random House, 2006. For reference: Chapter 4: In the Blind Spot of the Mind’s Eye (75-95) and Chapter 11: Reporting Live For Tomorrow (212-233).
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- Green, Hank. “Determinism vs Free Will: Crash Course Philosophy #24.” YouTube, Crash Course / PBS Digital Studios, 15 Aug. 2016, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vCGtkDzELAI.
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- “History of Hate: Crimes Against Sikhs Since 9/11.” The Huffington Post, TheHuffingtonPost.com, 7 Aug. 2012, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/07/history-of-hate-crimes-against-sikhs-since-911_n_1751841.html.
- “India Is Third in Rape Cases, Second in Murder in the World.” The Hindu, The Hindu, 23 July 2014, http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/india-is-third-in-rape-cases-second-in-murder-in-the-world/article6242011.ece.
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- Jarrett, Christian. “Neuroscience and Free Will Are Rethinking Their Divorce.” The Cut, 3 Feb. 2016, http://www.thecut.com/2016/02/a-neuroscience-finding-on-free-will.html. For reference:For years, various research teams have tried to pick holes in Libet’s original research. It’s been pointed out, for example, that it’s pretty tricky for people to accurately report the time that they made their conscious decision. But, until recently, the broad implications of the finding have weathered these criticisms, at least in the eyes of many hard-nosed neuroscientists, and over the last decade or so his basic result has been replicated and built upon with ever more advanced methods such as fMRI and the direct recording of neuronal activity using implanted electrodes.These studies all point in the same, troubling direction: We don’t really have free will. In fact, until recently, many neuroscientists would have said any decision you made was not truly free but actually determined by neural processes outside of your conscious control.Luckily, for those who find this state of affairs philosophically (or existentially) perplexing, things are starting to look up. Thanks to some new breakthrough studies, including one published last month in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences by researchers in Germany, there’s now some evidence pointing in the other direction: The neuroscientists are backtracking on past bold claims and painting a rather more appealing account of human autonomy. We may have more control over certain processes than those initial experiments indicated. The German neuroscientists took a different approach from past work, using a form of brain-computer integration to see whether participants could cancel a movement after the onset of the nonconscious preparatory brain activity identified by Libet. If they could, it would be a sign that humans can consciously intervene and “veto” processes that neuroscience has previously considered automatic and beyond willful control.The participants’ task started off simply enough: They had to press a foot pedal as quickly as possible whenever they saw a green light and cancel this movement whenever they saw a red light. Things got trickier when the researchers put the red light under the control of a computer that was monitoring the participants’ own brain waves. Whenever the computer detected signs of nonconscious preparatory brain activity, it switched on the red light. If this preparatory activity is truly a signal of actions that are beyond conscious control, the participants should have been incapable of responding to these sudden red lights. In fact, in many cases the participants were able to cancel the nonconscious preparatory brain activity and stop their foot movement before it even began.Now, there was a point of no return — red lights that appeared too close (less than about one-quarter of a second) to the beginning of a foot movement could not be completely inhibited — there simply wasn’t time for the new cancellation signal to overtake the earlier command to move. But still, the principle stands — these results suggest at least some of the activity identified by Libet can, in fact, be vetoed by conscious will.“A person’s decisions are not at the mercy of unconscious and early brain waves,” the lead researcher, Dr. John-Dylan Haynes of Charité – Universitätsmedizin in Berlin, said in the study’s press release. “They are able to actively intervene in the decision-making process and interrupt a movement. Previously people have used the preparatory brain signals to argue against free will. Our study now shows that the freedom is much less limited than previously thought.”This new finding comes on the back of research by French neuroscientists published in 2012 in PNAS that also challenged the way Libet’s seminal work is usually interpreted. These researchers believe that the supposedly nonconscious preparatory brain activity identified by Libet is really just part of a fairly random ebb and flow of background neural activity, and that movements occur when this activity crosses a certain threshold. By this account, people’s willful movements should be quicker when they’re made at a time that just happens to coincide with when the background ebb and flow of activity is on a high point.And that’s exactly what the French team found. They recorded participants’ brain waves as they repeatedly pressed a button with their finger, sometimes spontaneously at times of their own choosing, and other times in response to a randomly occurring click sound. The researchers found that their participants were much quicker to respond to the click sounds when the sounds happened to occur just as this random background brain activity was reaching a peak.Based on this result from 2012 and a similar finding in a study with rats published in 2014, the lead researcher of the 2012 study, Aaron Schurger at INSERM in Paris, and two colleagues have written in their field’s prestige journal Trends in Cognitive Sciences that it’s time for a new perspective on Libet’s results — they say that their results call “for a reevaluation and reinterpretation of a large body of work” and that for 50 years their field may have been “measuring, mapping and analyzing what may turn out to be a reliable accident: the cortical readiness potential.”And like their counterparts in Germany, these neuroscientists say the new picture is much more in keeping with our intuitive sense of our free will. When we form a vague intention to move, they explain, this mind-set feeds into the background ebb and flow of neural activity, but the specific decision to act only occurs when the neural activity passes a key threshold — and our all-important subjective feeling of deciding happens at this point or a brief instant afterward. “All this leaves our common sense picture largely intact,” they write.I’ll leave you to decide whether to believe them or not.
- Jentleson, Bruce W. American foreign policy: the dynamics of choice in the 21st century. 4th ed., Norton, 2010. Chapter 1: The Strategic Context: Foreign Policy Strategy and the Essence of Choice (2-26), Readings for Part 1 Power by Hans J. Morgenthau (198-201)
- Kahneman, Daniel. Thinking, fast and slow. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2015. For reference purposes: The Introduction (1-17), Chapter 4: The Associative Machine (50-58), Chapter 5: Cognitive Ease (59-70), Chapter 6:”Norms, Surprises, and Causes” (71-78), Chapter 7: A Machine for Jumping to Conclusions (79-88), Chapter 8: How Judgments Happen (89-96), Chapter 12: The Science of Availability (129-136), Chapter 13: Availability, Emotion, and Risk (137-145), Chapter 19: The Illusion of Understanding (199-208), Chapter 20: The Illusion of Validity (209-221), Chapter 22: Expert Intuition: When Can We Trust It? (234-244), and Chapter 38: Thinking About Life (398-407).
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- Lotto, Beau. Deviate: the Science of Seeing Differently. Hachette Books, 2017. For reference: Chapter 5: The Frog Who Dreamed of Being a Prince (1356 – 1670), Chapter 6: The Physiology of Assumptions (1671 – 2121), and Chapter 7: Changing the Future Past (2122 – 2429).
- “MAZE OF INJUSTICE .” Amnesty International USA, Amnesty International, http://www.amnestyusa.org/pdfs/mazeofinjustice.pdf.
- Moxham, Roy. The Theft of India: the European Conquests of India, 1498-1765. HarperCollins, 2016. Chapter 1:Spices, Christianity and Extreme Violence (1-21), Chapter 2: Conquest, Horticulture, the Church and the Inquisition (22-43), and Chapter Five: Religious Freedom and Peaceful Trade (88-120).
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- “Study Tackles Neuroscience Claims to Have Disproved ‘Free Will’.” NC State News The Difference Between Baking Soda and Baking Powder Comments, 12 Mar. 2018, news.ncsu.edu/2018/03/free-will-review-2018/.
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