A constant state of tribal fighting, murders, skirmishes, and outright warfare is pretty much the natural state of human beings (where "natural" means what was common over the last few hundred thousand years as humans evolved to our modern form). Jared Diamond, in his Pulitzer Prize winning book, Guns, Germs and Steel, describes his experience a typical such tribe, the Fayu of New Guinea, who were in a constant "kaleidoscopically changing pattern of war and shifting alliances with all neighboring hamlets..." While in New Guinea, he witnessed an anthropologist interview women about their husbands:
Woman after woman, when asked to name her husband, named several sequential husbands who had died violent deaths. A typical answer went like this: "My first husband was killed by Elopi raiders. My second husband was killed by a man who wanted me, and who became my third husband. That husband was killed by the brother of my second husband..." Such biographies prove common for so-called gentle tribespeople...When we discover a behavioral pattern that spans the globe, it's a good bet that our instincts are running the show. Adding to the weight of this theory, anthropologists also find similar behavior in the other great apes that form bands. Although this is not a scientific proof by any stretch of the imagination, I think most anthropologists and behavioral scientists would agree that this pattern of tribal war and murder reflects our instincts.
Guns, Germs, and Steel, p 277, copyright © Jared Diamond, 1999
Thus, we find two key points about religion and morality:
- Most of our morals are really memes that express, in language, knowledge that is hard-wired into our brains, put there by evolution to help us survive.
- Humans are naturally warlike and murderous, again, because it is behavior that helps us survive and procreate.
The logical conclusion from all this is that religion is the "victim" of our instincts. Humans are just doing what we've always done: wage war and murder each other. Modern evolution has equipped us with language, and the "ideosphere" (the meme ecosphere) has evolved memes that support this aggresive behavior.
Tomorrow: Why this is all wrong – religion really does cause harm.
Tags: religion war morals evil atheist atheism christian christianity jew judaism islam muslim philosophy dawkins harris hitchens