Rational Religion

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Who We Are; and Why.


Remember this! 


Culture is all invented; made up out of whole cloth and the exigencies of the moment over hundreds and thousands of years.  It endures because we have memory.


It's customs and habits, passed from generation to generation.  That's all it is.  It is as ephemeral as snow.   Your culture depends entirely on where and how you were raised.  Transported at birth to another place on the globe, raised in that language and tradition, you would be quite a different person.


This is not to say that the instinct for culture is not inherent. 


Groups of otherwise normal children isolated from the rest of society by chance or pathology are said to behave in recognizably "human" ways, including the invention of a "private”, sometimes fairly sophisticated, spoken language.  Noam Chomsky and his disciples maintain flatly that language, including its basic forms of grammar and syntax, is part of everybody's original equipment.   


It is logical that in its later stages, within the last million or two years, the animal evolved biologically in the presence of its own proto-human cultures, necessary in order to maintain a large enough group of cooperating creatures to survive and evolve at all.


In that connection, think of all the individual cultures which must have disappeared completely, as their adherents, for one reason or another, simply didn't make it!


Much closer to our own time, think of the cultures we know of which are gone.    Even great cultures, as well-studied as the Egyptians, remain largely a mystery to us.  We can "read" their language, for example, but we have really no idea how they pronounced their words; or even how literally they believed in their gods.


The Etruscans?  All we have are their tombs, art and artifacts.  We can guess, extrapolating from what we "know" of their contemporary civilizations and what we think we know of human nature.    Transported in time to the middle of living Etruria, we would have no idea where we were or how to act.  We would likely trample enough taboos and shibboleths to get us killed before we learned to communicate beyond elementary gestures. 


It is the conceit of most religions to fancy that they are "eternal;” that the belief system would continue even if the last believer were to die.  God, after all, is immortal; so his precepts and the specifics of his worship must live forever, as well. 


I'm sure the Etruscans believed so.


But then, I can't be sure of anything about the Etruscans, can I?