Religion 21st Century

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  • Human Nature

    Being a human is challenging. Human life is a journey through time and space with many obstacles: injury, disease, constant uncertainty, and relentlessly difficult interactions with other humans. Each human has a strong sense of voluntary control over his or her actions. There is prevailing sense that I am the center of the universe and what I believe to be true is true always and forever. Each human is the reincarnation of a long lineage of ancestors. Species memory, perceptual skills, needs, drives, feelings, desires and behaviors are built in and begin operating in utero. Humans evolved from primate ancestors and retained features of mind and behavior that have been present in animals for hundreds of millions of years. Urges, desires, designs, feelings cry out from within and often surprise us as if we were the hosts to wild animals and spirits within that refuse to be identified or tamed.

    Rather than viewing society and culture as real things, an observer can recognize that humans live in groups that repeat and modify innate behaviors to produce prolific variations on a few underlying themes that are common to all societies. Stories are created by humans to inform, motivate and control each other. A smart observer will consider the grouping characteristics of humans and discern basic patterns and problems underlying the apparent complexity of modern civilization. The organization of society begins with small local clusters that link family groups into clans that are more or less cooperative units. Clans associate, forming bands that tend to affiliate with other bands forming tribes, looser affiliations that occupy larger geographic areas. The band-tribal structure emerges from ancient animal groupings.

    Human behavior can be understood in relation to the whole spectrum of primate behaviors and social organizations. Humans appear to have an eclectic combination of primate tendencies with elaboration of features such as tool making, symbolic reasoning and spoken language. Linda Stone suggested that: “Primates are a natural grouping of mammals that includes prosimians, tree-dwelling animals such as lemurs and tarsiers, monkeys, apes, and humans. Some of the physical characteristics that distinguish primates from other mammals are binocular vision and the grasping hand with mobile digits and flat nails. Evolutionary trends characteristic of the Primate Order are most pronounced in humans and include prolongation of gestation of the fetus, prolongation of the period of infant care, and expansion and elaboration of the brain. An important feature in the social life of many nonhuman primates is dominance and the formation of "dominance hierarchies."… a dominant animal wins aggressive encounters with others and usually has greater access to resources such as food, water, or sexual partners.“

    In this book, I make frequent references to the local group and emphasize the importance of group activity and group identity. The aptitude and skills required for affiliations and bonding originated with interactions in small groups. Our tendencies developed in small hunter-gatherer groups; with humans who knew each other and depended on each other to find food, protect the young and defend the group from predators. Rather than viewing society and culture as real things, an observer can recognize that humans live in groups that repeat and modify innate behaviors to produce prolific variations on a few underlying themes that are common to all societies. The smart observer will consider the grouping characteristics of humans and discern basic patterns and problems underlying the apparent complexity of modern civilization. The organization of society begins with small local clusters that link family groups into clans that are more or less cooperative units. Clans associate, forming bands that tend to affiliate with other bands, forming tribes, looser affiliations that occupy larger geographic areas. The band-tribal structure emerges from ancient animal groupings.

    Patterns of organization, rules, and institutions that regulate human behavior are in flux and will continue to be unstable. As human populations expand and interactions become increasingly complex, innate abilities are stretched and distorted. The ability of individuals to relate to other humans remains limited and limits the effective management of enlarging groups. Managers and leaders do not become smarter as the organizations they lead become larger. It is axiomatic that organizations that exceed a threshold number become dysfunctional. It is matter of empirical study to recognize group size thresholds, and too little is known about the cognitive limitations of leaders.

    At the level of the largest organizations, small groups decide on policy and procedures that effect many nations, even the fate the entire species. International negotiations often involve numbers of people in crowded assembles such as the United Nations. When crises arise and critical issues need resolution, the best results are often achieved by small groups who intervene above and beyond the complexities of rules and the rituals of large assemblies and work out a deal. Individuals can make deals and settle disputes when other more complex and impersonal negotiations fail.

    The tendency to impose rules and policies from the top down is, however, risky because individuals and small groups cannot understand the needs, values and beliefs of large numbers of local groups. World-wide policies will tend to fail since they emerge from limited understanding and ignore the tendency for humans to relate most strongly to a small local group. At the deepest level, humans discriminate and select only a few humans out of many to trust and share time and space.

    In modern urban communities, humans of many descriptions come together to learn, work, and play. They pass through a common space every day. Strangers are ignored or actively avoided. A ride on an elevator reveals a remarkable innate resistance to interaction with strangers. Most humans feel tense and awkward in an elevator and avoid eye contact with other riders. If you override this strong tendency and say something to your fellow riders, the tension builds, and everyone is focused on getting out of the elevator as soon as possible


  • Religion for the 21st Century is available as printed books and an eBook download. 332 Pages, The book is intended for an educated reader who is interested in a world view of religious expressions past, present and future. The main theme is that each religious group has its own claims and stories and will tend to reject others. A reader committed to one point of view may not accept the egalitarian review presented here. Innate tendencies are expressed as religions and in the past have created conflicts that hinder progress towards the real and true. The book examines paths for religious renewal in the 21st century.

    The author is Stephen Gislason

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    Print Books Read Topics Download
    Human Nature
    The Good Person
    The Puzzle
    The Environment
    The Sound of Music
    Surviving Humans
    Language and Thinking
    I and Thou
    Emotions, Feelings
    Neuroscience Notes
    Human Brain
    Children and Family
    Intelligence
    Religion, 21st

    The Psychology & Philosophy series was developed by Persona Digital Books. All rights to reproduction by any means are reserved. We encourage readers to quote and paraphrase topics from Religion for the 21st Century, published online and expect citations to accompany all derivative writings. The author is Stephen Gislason. Persona Digital is located at Sechelt, British Columbia, Canada.

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