Hoover's Tom Moore, who is vacationing in the mountains of Greece
(presumably on Mount Olympus), responds thus to the memo on religion:
"I think the most interesting aspect of religion is why it exists and why its
is ubiquitous among humans. Neither our nearest relative, chimpanzees, nor our
nearest deceased relative, Neanderthals, showed any convincing signs of
religion. In fact early Homo Sapiens before around 30,000 to 40,000 years ago
did not leave any remains that appear to be religious.
I would hypothesize that religion was important as a means of holding
groups of non-related individuals together. A larger group could not only
hunt more effectively but could defend itself against predators, the main
other humans. Most groups that stay together have elaborated a number of
mechanisms to make joining the group costly and hence costly to leave. There
is always the problem of "free riders", but humans have become very good at
spotting cheats. One important way is to make it costly to show loyalty --
fast, give gifts, alms, follow certain rituals, etc -- all of which are
reflected in religious practice.
Jewish practices, whether religious or secular, are good examples of a tribal
religion designed to hold the group together even in the face of the Jewish
diaspora. Christianity appealed to another group: the poor and the
downtrodden, although it was subsequently hijacked by the rich and affluent.
Islamic practices and beliefs hold the group together and allow it to fight
A friend of mine reported after visiting Yugoslavia recently and talking
to a priest and then to a nun, one was Roman Catholic and the other was
Orthodox. He asked each why they and their people were fighting the others.
Both gave the same reason: "Revenge." All ethnic groups exhibit their own
religion as they wage war.And the Te Deum was sung in both camps."
My comment: The old habit of singing a Te Deum after victory (e.g.
Handel's Dettingen Te Deum) continued the Old Testament tradition of the
God of Hosts, rather than the New Testament message of peace. Gott mit uns.
Ronald Hil;ton - 08/30/