The general consensus is that language and belief co-evolved as the earliest of modern human traits. It is impossible to know for sure at this point, but the logic of belief and language evolving together is easy to grasp. In order for humans to communicate abstract concepts they would have needed language. Belief, even crude beliefs like animism, are useful in communicating abstract concepts. Stories are excellent containers for transporting concepts over time and space.
The point is, belief seems to have been with us since the beginning, which means it is probably a necessary part of human society. One of the oldest large scale man-made structures is Göbekli Tepe, which was constructed when humans were just beginning to settle into fixed communities. Once we were able to organize ourselves into large, coordinated groups, we build a religious site. Some have argued that human settlement may have been driven by the need to worship.
Whatever the origins, belief plays an enormous role even today. In fact, it can be argued that belief plays a bigger role today than a century ago. Mysterious forces like privilege and institutional racism drive the public debate. These are not things that can be seen or even described. They just exist. Lives are being changed and public policy is being written on the assumption that these things exist. A century ago, everyone agreed heaven was real, but it did not drive public policy.
Not all beliefs are the same, of course. People who think the natural phenomena of the world are controlled by spirits are going to live different lives than people who work from a fixed set of religious doctrines. The spirit gods are fickle and unpredictable, while the book of rules is less so. The unpredictability of the holy book is due to the people holding it, not the book itself. It creates a standard of truth that everyone can understand and, more important, uphold collectively.
This is an important advance in human belief. In a world where the truth is whatever the guys doing magic say it is at the moment is a world of miracles. What was true yesterday can be heresy tomorrow. When the truth is written down and made permanent, the guys doing magic can always be checked against what is written on the stone tablets or the sheets of leather. Life becomes less mysterious and miracles recede to the world of fantasy, legend, and folklore.
Modern societies, despite the explosion of information from the human sciences, seem to be in reverse on the belief scale. The cult of antiracism is a good example. No one bothers to define racism and why it is the forever enemy of man. There is no effort to root it in some source of authority. The closest we get is the claim that the Founders really believed that all men were literally created equal, despite their acceptance of slavery and their writings to the contrary.
Antiracism, like so many beliefs whipsawing the modern age, is the product of the general will, this mysterious force that drives democracy. We get a glimpse of it on occasion during an election or an on-line mob. Even then we cannot know for sure, so magicians and astrologers from the court have to come in and explain how the results of the market explain the general will. You see, sometimes elections go against the general will, while other times they reflect it.
The belief system of democracy, much like communist systems, can have no text or accepted traditions, because those rely on fixed truths. In a world where the truth is fifty percent plus one, the past is always open to debate, so there can be no traditions or even fixed rules. Just as no legislature can bind a subsequent legislature, no general consensus can bind the future consensus. In communism this was perpetual revolution, while in democracy is just called the will of the people.
Interestingly, communists seemed to grasp this. They embraced the idea of perpetual revolution as a way to maintain the revolutionary energy. Even when it had burned itself out, they maintained the language of permanent revolution. Liberal democrats lack the self-awareness to grasp even this tiny bit of reality. They maintain that their revolution is constrained by the abstract principles of liberalism, even as they violate them in the name of some new mystery force like white privilege.
The power of this primitive spiritualism cannot be dismissed. The most powerful people in the world truly believe they are surrounded by dangerous forces. They have surrounded themselves with razor wire barricades and army troops. Fools insist that this is just a show and the people inside those walls know the truth, but that is just a bit of self-deception to avoid facing reality. Thye cling to this deception because they fear what will be required of them in the future.
One other aspect of this is that this new primitivism is taking hold at the time when the human sciences are opening up the natural world like never before. This new primitivism could very well be a reaction to both material prosperity and the further defining the natural world. Maybe humans need the mystery of life to remain and any attempt to unriddle it brings out our primal rage. Perhaps the more we know the more inclined we are to smash the machines and return to the past.
The last great democratic empire was fond of mystery cults. The Ancient Greeks had the Eleusinian Mysteries. which was the cult of Demeter and Persephone. It gets its name from its location at the sanctuary of Eleusis. The origins of this cult are unclear, but it prevailed well past the golden age of Athens. Roman emperors would go to participate in the mysteries. Note that moderns fell in love with things like Buddhism and Kabbala before picking up this new antiracist mystery cult.
Regardless, this is why the modern age sounds so primitive. Without some well-defined moral authority, the believers are left to conjure whatever moral authority they can from what they can observe. Like primitive man observing the winds, liberal democrats look out and try to unriddle the truth from the general will. Like the wind, its direction is ever changing, so the truth is always changing. Life in liberal democracy becomes more mysterious and frightening with each election.
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