Ah, spring is here and so the huge debates between me (recovering catholic) and mrsIteki rampant athiest with a delicious bias against christianity and specifically the catholic church So much fun! Anyhow, to my question…
Are there any recorded cases of societies in human histort who did not have “religion”. I realise this is a very vague question since religion is so hard to define, but I am not talking about only “theist” religions (is that a word?), so not only religions with specific gods, but also including worship of nature, ancestors, higher power or whatever other sort of belief systems there might be.
Have there ever been any societys where the people have all (or to an extreme majority) been full-booded athiests, as in “this is all there is, we answer only to ourselves and eachother”.
FTR, I maintain that there haven’t been but there may be in the future, as harshness of life has (imho) a correlation to level of secularity.
Well, the Soviet Union and a lot of other Communist countries attempted to shape society that way. I don’t know that any of them were particularly successful, though, even though, according to the CIA world factbook, 39.8% of the population of the Czech Republic identifies itself as “atheist” (by comparison, 39.2% are Roman Catholic, 4.6% Protestant, 3% Orthodox, and 13.4% “other”)
I think China today is close to fitting this criterion — not just “officially” but as part of everyday life — the “religiosity” of the society seems to come close to meeting your terms.
I suppose your worship of ancestors line was meant to exclude them, but “officially” there only about 200 million religious adherents in China — all being +/- hassled a bit — even if it is 2X that – it still is less than half the population.
I am not sure anyone will want to make the argument that the PRC today isn’t a place that is to a large majority an atheist place as far as religon in folks lives go :
but I know I may corrected by folks actually living there or China Scholars
Well, I don’t know that anybody mentioned Hitler particularly in this thread, but I will say that Hitler’s religion is a matter of debate (and discussing it probably fits beter in GD than here). We’ve discussed it before on the board, and here’s a mailbag report, where our esteemed DavidB discusses it:
What I wonder is if there is any culture or society that can’t recall ever having been religious. Are there any societies out there that haven’t looked to the supernatural to explain what they don’t understand? Has anyone ever stumbled across an isolated tribe in the Amazonian rainforest or the Himalayas or the African plains that said, “We don’t know why the river rises/the snow falls/the sun shines, it just does. People just die, hunts succeed or fail, life happens. Gee, the idea that another person/force/whatever is toying with us, punishing us, or rewarding us never occurred to us.”
Has there every been a group of people that didn’t create a religion to explain the unexplainable?
Iteki, Gr8Kat, I’ll go out on a limb and say, “no”. Since religion to a great extent has to do with explaining man’s place in the universe and how he relates to phenomena that he does not control or fully understand, and at the same time has a lot to do with establishing a basis for morality independent of immediate contingency, it’s hard to avoid appeals to the supernatural unless somehow in a culture’s timeline both the scientific method and a concept of morals based on a social contract sprung full-grown from day one.
Religion may be a social construct, but it may be an inevitable one if those conditions are not met.
Which is not to say religion may not be ditched – the educated classes in Greece and Rome seemed to contain many people who’d rather follow various philosophical schools’ theories of morals and science not derived from the gods.
Iteki wisely encompassed in the definition such things as ancestor-worship and nature-worship, worldviews that do not exclude a “materialistic” vision of the processes of worldly life – you can believe that “s**t just happens” in this world w/o a good explanation yet still believe, for instance, that the shade of dear old Grandpa is somewhere still watching over you, and will one day have strong words with yours over your behavior.