The conservatives and neo-conservatives are rushing to establish a connection
between “God and Country”. While there have always been some who tried to do
this, there is a more intense desire, it seems, to “prove” that this country was
based on Christian principles, in spite of the statement of John Adams
There is yet the argument that somehow this government is directly founded on Christian principles. Madison, however, saw that in Christianity or in any religion, trying to govern by the “truth of God” was near impossible. As he wrote in “The Federalist”:
“When the Almighty himself condescends to address mankind in their own language, his meaning, luminous as it must be, is rendered dim and doubtful by the cloudy medium through which it is communicated”.
The problem lay in translation and interpretation, as Jefferson commented in a letter to a friend:
“Differences in opinion is advantageous in religion. The several sects perform the office of censor morum over each other”.
It is not that the founders especially believed in Christianity, or in any other religion, as a direct authority for government, but that they saw religion as an agent by which power could be equally divided in the name of conscience. This need to maintain a “balance of power” among factions in government became recognized as the “Madisonian problem” as Madison agonized over in “Federalist #10′:
“The influence of factious leaders may kindle a flame within their particular states, but will be unable to spread a general conflagration through the other states: a religious sect may degenerate into a political faction in a part of the confederacy; but the variety of sects dispersed over the entire face of it, must secure the national councils against any danger from that source: a rage for paper money, for an abolition of debts, for an equal division of property, or for any other improper or wicked project”.
We can conclude that Madison certainly never intended for any religion to represent the elimination of property rights. In fact, we can see from both Madison and Jefferson that both men intended that no “national council” could ever seek to overturn the property rights of people in the several states.
The “separation of church and state” which many claim is represented in the First Amendment, designed, according to Madison’s statement, to maintain property rights and discourage national power to override those rights. Both Madison and Jefferson were less involved with the ‘truth” of religion that with its ability to confound and separate people to the point they could not create “conflagrations” of power by using “paper money, abolition of debts, and for an equal division of property”, all of which we seem to have developed a taste for in recent times, not to mention the outright use of “paper money” with no Constitutional authorization.
The founders understood quite well that no person, especially themselves, had the knowledge or authority to speak for God, but they also intended that the government could, in no fashion, interfere with the free exercise of religion, not because they wished the government to be subject to God, but because they knew that no man could ever prove himself to be a representative of God.
As Madison wrote in the famous “Memorial And Remonstrance”:
“The religion then, of every man, must be left to the conviction and conscience of every man: and it is the right of every man to exercise it as these may dictate”.
While men may be subject to God, the state could never, in any sense, speak for God. None of the statements above show that the founders, in any way, intended for the state to claim power over any person’s conscience. They understood quite clearly that no belief in God could ever be reduced to state-endorsed rules.
While the right to worship God was permitted, it was intended as a counter-measure to the power of the state, but never to be subject to controls other than those chosen by the people themselves as individuals. More than the state, and less than the God in which they believed. Mankind, in the eyes of the founders, consisted of more than rules and laws. Mankind was made in the image of something which he could not define, but had the right to seek and desire.
I recently saw a show on PBS titled “Prohibition”. I’ve always had some interest in this era of history, with the crime and violence resulting from the attempt of the people to do “good”. What I did not know was that Prohibitionists helped usher in the Sixteenth Amendment, allowing the federal government to directly tax people, and avoid tax dependence on alcohol sales. I also did not realize that Prohibitionists encouraged hatred of Germans in WW1 so that German breweries such as Pabst and Schlitz could be demonized as evil on two fronts, being part of the German enemy, and producing alcohol that weakened the resolve and courage of “true” Americans.
If there is such a thing as ‘the purity trap” and societies behave in such a way as to suggest there is, then why do we focus on a system of laws and rules that are impossible to keep, venerate them, offer praise and sacrifice to them, and then regularly violate them?
Human society appears to live in contradiction to itself.
Western religion, mainly Christianity and Judaism, has focused on that very fact, the inability to live by the very standards we set as “absolute” or “perfect”, and then we declare it as a necessity to be “forgiven” so that we can avoid the eternal punishment that comes from trying to do what we cannot do in the first place!
This looks like a game where the dice are loaded, the dealer has stacked the deck, and there is no way to win but to surrender to the inevitable. Why make the rules at all if we know we can’t live up to them?
The main reason I see in terms of evolutionary significance, is that we need to know that there are basic standards that apply, and we must be aware that we aren’t perfect in the obedience to those standards. Why is this useful from an evolutionary perspective?
Because we have the ability, by looking at the desired standards, to know whether we are maintaining those standards both as individuals and as a group. This is basically why we have the Ten Commandments as a venerated set of rules, and why we originally held the US Constitution as the venerated set of rules by which individuals could remain free.
In an evolutionary sense, therefore, we have a way of looking at ourselves while not being dependent on how others view us. This, very idea, in itself, creates detachment from the group, because once we begin actually looking at specific standards, we have the ability to decide for ourselves, how those standards apply to us personally. Instead of following basic patterns of imitations provided by evolution in the form of “mirror neurons”, we can look at a detached code of conduct apart from those who seek to control us by their own standards. There is instantly a new, definable reality apart from simply copying others.
If, for example, the law says ‘thou shalt not kill’, and I have killed no one, I do not need anyone else to judge whether or not I have killed anyone. In each of the Ten Commandments, whether they come from a supernatural entity or not, these laws give us the right and the power to say “prove I did this”. That is, we can maintain innocence by forcing others to demonstrate publicly that we have done anyone harm.
Whatever the law, or however strict it may be, once it becomes a law for all to see and understand, then all are responsible to see that it is upheld in the strictest possible form. In this sense, there are a few of the Ten Commandments that we can declare we have not violated in some sense. Most of us do not steal, most do not kill, most do not bear false witness or lie, most try to honor our parents, etc. As for the first two commandments, this may get a bit tricky, since in trying to define God in some human form, we tend to violate the second commandment.
As a result, we get caught in the “purity trap”, by which we try to perfectly identify ourselves with God, and see ourselves collectively as a group, being the agents of God. We know what happens when groups of people see themselves as agents of God. The Spanish Inquisition would be one example. The Roman Catholic Church would be an example of itself, along with the protestant churches that literally killed neighbors in the search for perfect obedience to God.
Prohibition, like many laws being passed now, are not based on actions in which any citizen can bring charges, but on acts in which no one is harmed, yet an individual can be punished by the state itself, acting as accuser and prosecutor.
Prohibition is the first example. Should any person be punished for simply taking a drink,(or taking a drug) even if he or she has harmed no one? Can the state itself act as witness, prosecutor, and judge of such an offense?
The original understanding from the biblical perspective is that everybody “sins”, everybody breaks the law in some way, so we should not rush to condemn the actions of another, especially when the other has done no harm to us. That is known as the presumption of innocence, and corresponds to Isaiah 54:17, and Isaiah 50:8.
That is, if the group begins to believe it acts collectively in the interests of “God”, then the group itself has chosen representatives to be a witness, prosecutor, and a judge. But Isaiah 50:8 specifically declares that the accused is allowed to challenge the accuser, under protection of God. This would mean that the state, as accuser, is acting as both protector and accuser, with its own interest being the guide in any decision. This means that the state has gone beyond the power to respect one’s right to believe in God, and has also declared itself AS God, on behalf of the people.
The people, seeking to protect society from itself, now sees itself as the humble servants of God, doing “right” for the betterment of society. As Eric Hoffer points out in “The True Believer”:
“The truth is that the surrendering and humbling of the self breed pride and arrogance. The true believer is apt to see himself as one of the chosen, the salt of the earth, the light of the world, a prince disguised in meekness. who is destined to inherit the earth and the kingdom of heaven…he who is not of his faith is evil: he who will not listen shall perish”.
This is where the “purity trap” absolves us of individual responsibility. We can secretly support it, while publicly saying, “What can I do? It’s the will of the people.”
I recently had a judge tell me this when I challenged the seat belt law, on clearly stated principles decided by the Supreme Court. In the interest of protection, he told me, “Your Constitutional rights now take second place to the compelling interest of the state”. He further explained to me that he “had no choice” but to decide as the legislature and higher courts told him. Apparently he had never read Jeremiah 5:26-31. Nor had he read Isaiah 29:21.
It is also apparent that the officer who gave me the ticket had not read Exodus 23:1-2. By the creation of laws, by acting as prosecutor, witness, and judge, the laws themselves are violated! They are violated because they are there for us to know, understand, and apply in our own interest. This is what the Pharisees in Jesus’ day did, and why he accused them of “shutting up the Kingdom of God to men” in Matthew 23:13.
When the state itself becomes both witness and prosecutor, the accused has no right to challenge the accuser, since he is held accountable ONLY to the state. As Hoffer explains:
“Even when men league themselves mightily together to promote tolerance and peace on earth, they are likely to be violently intolerable toward those not of a like mind….When we renounce the self and become part of a compact whole, we not only renounce personal advantage, but are also rid of personal responsibility…The hatred and cruelty which have their source in selfishness are ineffectual things compared with the venom and ruthlessness born of selflessness.”
The great evolutionary step of law was that every person, man or woman, can
claim equality before the law, and have the right to face his or her accusers,
and challenge them to prove the validity of their accusations.
In 1974, just before I left the WCG, I picked up a book called “EarthWalk” by Philip Slater. I had never had such an eye opening experience before that time. “EarthWalk” was one of the most profound books I’ve ever read.
Recently, I was reading from his blog, http://philipslater.wordpress.com and discovered the essay on the trap of purity. It is related to much we have discovered when we left the CoGs. A part of that is quoted below:
“But all cultures have safety valves that help release the tensions
created by this twisting of our genetic makeup. Cultures survive only when
they’re impure–when they accumulate inconsistencies and contradictions like
lichen on a rock.
Slater’s description above opens up the idea that cultures cannot survive by
being totally “pure”. By focusing exclusively on perfect obedience to a set of
rules or laws, they eventually go extinct from lack of adaptation. Slater brings
out a parallel to this idea in “EarthWalk”:
“Cultural systems force living things into boxes. Inconsistencies create
air-holes that allow these living things to breathe. Every cultural system must
have contradictions in order for its participants to remain human, because
human beings are inconsistent and have contradictory needs. We’re active and
passive, organized and impulsive, aggressive and gentle, cooperative and
competitive. Yet every cultural system tends to suppress some part of that
Slater has again pointed out another parallel of cultures and genes. Once a
culture is “informed” with inconsistencies and aberrations, it isolates them
often by putting them in jail, placing them in therapy, putting them in mental
institutions, or ways that isolate the aberration, but maintains the
“information” provided by the aberration or inconsistency. Organisms have this
same tendency by incorporating what used to be called “junk DNA”, which, as Dr
Sharon Moalem points out, are actually former viral DNA, which the organism uses
for future reference. This DNA provides a kind of “database” which the organism
can use in many ways, from “jumping genes” that randomly populate newly formed
brains, allowing greater individuality, to reference of the viral DNA to create
defenses against new viral infections.
“Communist bureaucracies could not have functioned at all without the
system of official bribery carried over from Czarist days, and capitalists who
are most dogmatic about free markets are the first to seek government subsidies
and try to control prices through collusion. Ceremonious Brits adore making fun
of pomposity, and materialistic Americans are addicted to sentimental movies
proclaiming that the best things in life are free. In 1635 the intensely
utilitarian Dutch went mad over tulips–the most useless of plants–paying
astronomical sums for a single bloom and almost destroying their economy. And
while the early 1950's were notoriously obsessed with planning for future
success, the most popular song was “Che Sera, Sera.”
In Jewish history, the Jews were faced with this same problem. They were allegedly commanded to obey the laws of God perfectly, and avoid the “leavening” of other nations. That is, they were not to be “informed” by the inconsistencies and paganism which other nations offered. How could the Jews successfully live among other cultures if they were not permitted to conquer and control those cultures? If they truly had the covenant with God at Sinai, why wouldn’t God have led them to victory over all other cultures, so they could enforce their truth on the world?
The reason, assuming there was a God who did so, is stated above. Had
Israel been successful and enforced “God’s law” all over the earth, the very
purity by which Israel was forced to live would actually destroy the
evolutionary ability to adapt and grow with their environment! Israel’s
“success” could not have depended on the conquest of other nations and a world
ruling kingdom, since that very success would have doomed them to eventual
“The Protestant Reformation in Europe was an attempt to ‘purify’ the
Catholic Church of its contradictions and compromises with paganism. It sought
to suppress the cult of the Virgin Mary and reestablish the supremacy of the
Father–to make Christianity a more perfectly patriarchal religion and
de-sacralize ‘Mother’ Nature.
Slater has correctly analyzed the problem, but the “neo-conservatives” and the evangelicals are trying desperately to “return” to a purity which the United States never possessed, nor was it born of such ideas. The “original intent” of the founders was basic to the paradigm examined above: for those who chose, the Bible could be used as the “germ cell” of future security, but the nation grew and prospered on its “laxity and disorder”.
The creationists think they found evidence for God in the Cambrian Explosion. Because distinct species “suddenly” appear adapted to their environmental niche, creationists argue that surely an “outside” hand organized this life.
The Cambrian Explosion is defined from Wikipedia:
This sudden origin of life resembling today’s over a rapid period has been used by creationists as “evidence” of God. In fact, there is no such evidence, and studies in science are proving more to be so.
In fact, new evidence strongly suggests that this quick formation of species actually come from needs of our immune system, resulting in sexual reproduction as a means of “screening” random genetic mutations.
The idea of sex as resulting from needs of the immune system is called the “Red Queen’s Hypothesis” as stated in this Wikipedia entry:
One of the most widely accepted theories to explain the persistence of sex is that it is maintained to assist sexual individuals in resisting parasites, also known as the Red Queen’s Hypothesis.
“When an environment changes, previously neutral or deleterious alleles can become favorable. If the environment changed sufficiently rapidly (i.e. between generations), these changes in the environment can make sex advantageous for the individual. Such rapid changes in environment are caused by the co-evolution between hosts and parasites.”
“Hosts” and “parasites” are explained simply enough. For example, my body,
“me”, becomes a host for a “parasite” such as a virus or bacteria, which, over
time, actually becomes part of “me.” Continued in Wikipedia, below:
Selection of one system over another, simply by matching pairs of alleles in a genetic system. A majority of one type will gradually select over another type, creating “patterns” that lead to developed species over time. Back to Wikipedia:
“In reality, there will be several genes involved in the relationship between hosts and parasites. In an asexual population of hosts, offspring will only have the different parasitic resistance if a mutation arises. In a sexual population of hosts, however, offspring will have a new combination of parasitic resistance alleles.”
A combination of genes as in sexual reproduction grants more diversity, but
this very diversity actually allows for more protection in our immune system. A
mutation of a “parasite’ such as a virus or bacteria is limited in the damage it
can do, because sexual reproduction causes variations within the gene pool of a
species. A mutated virus may enter our bodies, but the genetic differences
created by sexual reproduction limits the damage done to us as a
Evidence for this explanation for the evolution of sex is provided by comparison of the rate of molecular evolution of genes for kinases and immunoglobulins in the immune system with genes coding other proteins. The genes coding for immune system proteins evolve considerably faster.
…. It was found that clones that were plentiful at the beginning of the study became more susceptible to parasites over time. As parasite infections increased, the once plentiful clones dwindled dramatically in number. Some clonal types disappeared entirely. Meanwhile, sexual snail populations remained much more stable over time.
In 2011, researchers used the microscopic roundworm Caenorhabditis elegans as a host and the pathogenic bacteria Serratia marcescens to generate a host-parasite coevolutionary system in a controlled environment, allowing them to conduct more than 70 evolution experiments testing the Red Queen Hypothesis. They genetically manipulated the mating system of C. elegans, causing populations to mate either sexually, by self-fertilization, or a mixture of both within the same population. Then they exposed those populations to the S. marcescens parasite. It was found that the self-fertilizing populations of C. elegans were rapidly driven extinct by the co-evolving parasites while sex allowed populations to keep pace with their parasites, a result consistent with the Red Queen Hypothesis.
Critics of the Red Queen hypothesis question whether the constantly-changing environment of hosts and parasites is sufficiently common to explain the evolution of sex.”
In other words, sexual reproduction caused a genetic diversity from
generation to generation, but acted to stabilize the species over time,
both limiting random change and protecting against excessive damage from random
Exchanging DNA at a more rapid pace, gradually developed “strategies” that combined to create an overall survival strategy that sought to screen out destructive viral and bacterial agents. Over time, this process of reproduction became sexual reproduction, because genetic information could be passed on and controlled within a species by the male “informing” the egg of the female. The pattern remained generally the same, except now sperm acted as the informing agent, entering the egg, whereas before, a virus entered the cells of less organized bodies, and began replicating itself in order to survive. These replicating processes, over time, became a coordinated “survival strategy’ that worked within a species, with competition among sperm acting in similar fashion to a virus competing to enter a cell.
As you see in the quote from Wikipedia above, cloned systems gradually became
extinct, while sexually producing systems maintained stability in their
generations. In fact, it is that stability that gradually allowed for sexual
selection over cloning.
Sexual reproduction emerged simply as a need for providing a defense against random genetic invasion. Scientists today know that the “germ” cells, those cells that are reproduced through transmission of sexual genetic traits, are not directly affected by viral infection. Germ cells are those cells that pass on information to your children. These, of course, are composed of egg and sperm cells. Another form of cells, however, are known as somatic cells, and the information in somatic cells are never passed on to germ cells. Mutations that occur in the somatic cell cannot be passed on to the germ cells.
This suggests that the germ cells, directly associated with genetic inheritance through sex, “screen” unnecessary changes from the environment.
Females, as the “receiver” of genetic information from men, naturally develop “screening” mechanisms that allow for specific selection of values and cultural traits that tend to forge security among cultures. Socially, this screening process among females has tended to control social arrangements.
From this evolves a selection of related traits in which we progress from religion as a means of securing our collective selves against death, to governments that secure us collectively against threats on earth, and to greater protection of ourselves as members of the group.
Just as rapid exchange of viruses and bacteria was gradually isolated into an immune system over time, so did the social process of animals become locked into protective strategies based on sexual reproduction, such as mating rituals among different species, even species that show very little difference visually to the human eye, which will develop very specific “signals” by which a species selects a proper mate. This allowed each species to adapt strictly to its environment, and to develop resistant genes to external change.
Humans, of course, began to alter this strict behavior when they began traveling extensively and encountering diseases which resulted from viruses and bacteria in foreign climates. In time, rites of passage began to develop, after the models of ritual mating behavior, generally that included fire, as it was discovered fire destroyed the ‘demons” that made the people sick. Food that was cooked with fire destroyed microbes that were harmful, which allowed for a less responsive immune system over time, and ritual behaviors developed that protected groups of humans over time.
What becomes more and more apparent over time, is that all of these basic drives result from the immune system. Sexual reproduction, geared to ritual mating protections, rites of passage, and even religion, over time, served to “immunize” us to the final confrontation of our own death. In many cases, this form of “immunizing” actually was a kind of “numbing” from those aspects of life that were too shocking to face constantly. Religion gradually allowed us to think that the trials and tribulations of this life are nothing compared to what is waiting for us “on the other side.”
Over time, and with exposure to many different religions, it became increasingly complicated to select one that allowed us to ritualize our behaviors and avoid the stress and “overchoice” that culture and technology gradually imposed. Men who weren’t easily convinced by religion needed government, and government began to replace the need of security, the “numbing” immunity that religion could no longer provide.
Marshall McLuhan, the “media guru”, pointed out that the communications medium, whatever it may be, alphabetic text, printing press, radio, TV , etc, is a form of “numbing” of those parts of us that are directly affected by the medium, similar to local anesthesia. The more easily we communicate common feelings and assumptions among ourselves, the more we are “numbed” to the differences that exist among us. Shared “meanings” communicated within our groups, reduced stress within the group by reducing the choices that would have been imposed on us as individuals.
Processes by which early groups formed alliances was also a form of “numbing” by combining social/sexual relations within the tribe, further restricting the genetic interference that would alter collective security. from mating rituals among animals, we developed rites of passage for puberty aged children.
From this, we gradually found ways of “numbing’ our self identity into false-family relations, such as “children of God”, “brotherhood of man”, terms which suggested genetic relations, but were merely conceptions representing such extensions of self. As such, we began looking for more abstract ways of combining collective “immunity” to the point, as Slater writes, that we discovered the “machine-like response”, organizing ourselves in such a way when faced with threat that sacrifice of individuals for the “greater good” allowed us to defeat those cultures less prepared in such mechanical fashion.
In this instance, natural selection became biased toward mechanical processes of organization that led to empires with god-kings and processes of organization that denied individual freedom of choice.
It may be that our deepest dilemmas today are between the immunity of the individual “self” and the collective “self” acting to preserve the “greatest good”. I believe that has always been the underlying argument in civilizations, tracing our decision-making processes to extensions of our immune system. This would also fit with Bruce Lipton’s “Biology of Belief”, and the emergent discoveries in epigenetics.
Government “immunizes’ us against the threat of growing old and having no means of survival, and this can also turn into a war-like “civilizing” influence over other nations, as we see in the US today, with invasions of Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya.
The more that individuals are empowered by communications media, however, the greater the threat of revolt against the evolutionary trends toward centralization. Each person becomes a “whole” rather than a mere “cell” in the body, or “cog in the machine”. This empowerment of individuals actually “re-sensitizes” us to events on a more personal level.
As such, we look for ways to “immunize’ our self against the swallowing up of collectivist ideologies. “Terrorism” is merely the war of evolving communications technology. Each individual begins to exercise power that s/he could only dream of at one time, and could only act collectively to achieve. We are more and more empowered to act as individuals, and this will be the central focus of emergent systems.
This empowerment of the individual against both church and state, however, forces us to develop new relations that transcend geographical isolation, and even local communities. Internet transactions allow us to participate “piecemeal” in many different groups, even as many different persons. The individual of the past becomes a complex set of relationships, and can even pretend to be of the opposite sex, pose as a much younger or older person, and is less and less restricted to the necessary identity imposed by both church and state.
From the biological system that gradually centralized us as living bodies over time, telecommunications now permits us to ‘de-centralize” our very personalities in ways that we never before imagined, and whether you are atheist or religious, “God” will undergo many new definitions.
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