Posted by I'm the penguin | Posted in | Posted on Sunday, December 12, 2010
There's this imaginary article I once read. It was an essay discussing how religions were at first shaped by the geographic surrounding of the culture where it developed. It is somewhat obvious that the geographic circumstances alter the lives of the human populations, given that the way of living is determined by it, how easy is to get water, food, shelter, which resources can they trade. But it would also be important to notice that these things are the bases of a culture, and thus of its costumes, traditions and of course, their religion. And so, in a way it is a cycle, there the environment shapes the culture of the populations, and later the populations shape the environment in the way their culture in conformed.
In regions with vast biodiversity and rich in natural resources there was a common occurrence of animal-like deities, as well as a wider conscience of nature and respect towards the environment. This can be seen in India, America, east Asia, central Africa and so on. Their ancient cultures (previous to colonization) were based on natural deities, and in general there is a deep concern in those cultures towards the well being of the environment, because having so much abundance, the human populations developed a strong bond. Also, it opened their perspective towards the world, noticing, perhaps, how small is the human kind compared to a rich natural surrounding, thus making these cultures not very anthropocentric.
Not very? Compared to who, you may ask.
Well, now let's talk about arid regions. Focusing our gaze on the middle East. The natural conditions are very arid, there's no considerable biodiversity, civilizations developed even in scarcity. Deities developed to be very human-like, perhaps, because there was not many other things to see. Also, there wasn't such a strong bond towards the environment because it wasn't very favorable, they got no blessings from the earth. Instead they had to survive on their own merit, domesticating the feedstock and farming. It is simple to understand how would they rather favor and worship human like figures, since it was themselves who provided with the wealth. Giving this circumstances we can observe a more clear anthropocentric view of the world.
Just observe religions in the Middle East, they are rather anthropocentric, without many regards to their environment or strong bonds to nature.
So what happens next? Civilizations expand, trade begins, cultural cross breeding begins and eventually, due to special circumstances and political interests the ruling empire spreads throughout the western world the new edition of Judaism (religion first developed in the Middle East)
Fast forward some thousands of years, now the western world is ruled by Christianity and economic development, the ideas surround everything that implies development, development, development. (Of whom?). There's not point in denying western culture is very anthropocentric, and getting a tad honest, individualistic. Now, of course I'm not crediting all of our culture to religion, that'd be a paradox, but there's something to it. But back to our current culture of self centered individuals, we have to admit that in no other way could we sustain a system that allows such environmental exploitation and inequity without being outraged every other day.
But anyway, it's been long since those mythical times where spirits cohabited with humans and legends were born. Yet, this religion thing, being a cultural trait, could not possible remain static, even if some people wished so. We have huge changes, and I would love to tell you about many examples that I know of, but I don't really. I can just tell you that in general we can observe that cultures have adapted their many interpretations of religion according to their previous history, their socio-economic and politic background and so on.
Let's just observe Mexico for a second. Virgen de Guadalupe, dia de muertos, nacimientos navideños. It's all some chaotic kitsch-melange of precolumbine-revolutionary-western Christianity concepts. And let's not even start with the Santa Muerte, a figure made for those who can't ask help from Jesus or V. de Guadalupe, because the endeavors are illegal. Even outlaws need their saints.
These are all changes we need to make to our gods so they fit us right. That's why as they say, people always have the government they deserve, but also the god. Our need for greater significance and feeling there's something bigger and better is there, we can't deny it. But will we let it rule our culture, once being able to see that we affect out gods more than they affect us? Or will it still be easier to just nod and pray?