Religious Thinking Impacts Discovery and Sustainability

religion-vs-scienceReligious Beliefs Influence Discovery From Science

Rev. Joshua Klaus | Religion in Prehistory | January 28, 2017

Dead End

Religion and Science have been at odds for decades on a variety of questions raised by Paleoanthropologists pertaining to the beginning of when Religion was created, as are Scholars. Religion for this paper is defined as a set of “rituals”.  If Religion and Science cannot find the origin of Religion, what can they agree on? James McClenon is an associate professor in the Department of Social Sciences at Elizabeth City State University. In the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, (1997) he goes into to exploring Shamanic healing. He goes into length with a proposed model portraying religion as the “evolutionary product of therapeutic ritual and language.” He concludes, “evidence supports the models major features; Shamanic rituals increase survival and fertility, in part by hypnotic processes.” (pg. 351, Shamanic Healing, Human Evolution, and the Origin of Religion) We were given another excerpt by Ina Wunn, a German religious scholar and philosopher. She wrote a paper titled Beginning of Religion (2000). Looking at this subject trying to connect Science to Religion she concludes, there is no evidence of early ritual practices nor belief in an afterlife going back to the Palaeolithic period, specifically the middle Palaeolithic period. What I’m lead to question is how their own religious and scientific beliefs impacted their conclusions? I would propose we are walking across the bridge in our modern era nearly connecting two very conflicting communities, in coming together to prepare for our continuance into the future.

As I sit at my desk I can’t help but think of the Shamans of today’s modern era. Depending on your denomination or personal beliefs you will form opinions of Shamans because of the “mythical” rituals your religion has an opinion on. Ever think Shamans wonder the same about other religions? What about Scientist and Paleoanthropologists? James McClenon explores the rituals of Shamans. Is there any linkage to the origin of Religion? He proposes Homo Sapiens practices shamanic healing rituals for a millennia. There are many clear indications that hypnotizable abilities link these rituals to a modern form of religious sentiment. One part of his model goes to say, “Hypnotizability affects the frequency and characteristic of anomalous, paranormal, and religious experience.” He’s referring to the Shamans, but I also feel there is a strong possibility Paleoanthropologists and other members in the Science community can very well likely be influenced by their constant “trance” of study – meaning- what influences them. Either way he concludes Shamanic rituals have a direct impact in their culture for survival because of the hypnotic processes. This would be the exact process he garners credit to for establishing religious ideological development. His hypotheses clearly overtime will be revised or possibly rejected but we shall see.

I personally do not agree with his conclusion. I believe Shamanic rituals exists because of evolution and not looked upon as founding religion nor will it sustain itself for future Millennia. The idea of communicating with life after death so long ago, with chants, drawings, hypnosis etc., I would be safe to hypotheses these practices evolved overtime and likely cultures used their rituals and new teachings to raise their vibration; communicate with the after world.

As for Ina Wunn and her paper on the Beginning of Religion (2000), she starts off her paper with a summary indicating and telling you immediately her conclusion shows “…neither evidence of early ritual practices nor of belief in an afterlife can be endorsed.” So basically, she’s not endorsing anything now because her research came up inconclusive? For discovering where religion began, of course it’s inconclusive. Civilization for thousands of years has been trying to find the answer to the beginning of religion. That’s what makes it probably the most sacred mythical question of all time. Religion and Science, in my opinion, are the closet they have ever been in agreeing how Ecology cannot be ignored of what the future of humanity will be or what direction it will go in. They both agree, very extraordinary steps need to be taken globally for the benefit for all humanity, currently. Well, maybe we can use Ecology to provide clues in the origin of Religion. If Ina Wunn goes onto to explore burial rituals from the Paleolithic period, looking for answers to connect the beginning of Religion to now, and comes up empty handed; like many in the Scientific community, then why not observe how homo sapiens were in their ecosystem? My hypothesis on this matter is the Science community should be closely examining and testing the earth for more clues of which yet have been discovered. People in their respective religions have very differing views about the origin of religion. This is precisely my point. Scholars like Ina Wunn and James McClenon along with the variety of sources they cited in their research, are human. Human, I’m defining as a bodily entity with a belief system. Whether belonging to a specific religion or being an Atheist. Regardless, it’s possible our own beliefs system interfere often with what reality is. What reality was and what reality could, scientifically be proven to have once, have been.

So, I propose both Science and Religion stop looking to find the origin, the beginning of “religion” as time is running out in where humanity will be in thousands of years from now. That is if humans are still around. Why do I say this? Let’s say the “origin of religion” was discovered tomorrow. Will it help humanity survive in the next transition on this planet? One fact is for certain that the Scientific community and nearly all religions agree on is the future is in deep despair. The world we live in, is getting worse and everyone is starting to question our sustainability. We are an intelligent species. The most intelligent species the world has ever had. We are clearly more advance and smarter than we were twenty years ago, whether an Asteroid hits this planet or Mother Nature decides to clear slate and start over again, humans will be ready evolve with great change due to Science and Religious beliefs. Two usually very conflicting communities will come together in my belief to see this world into the next millennia.

I conclude by proposing to religious leaders and scientists, that way too much time is being wasted in tracing back the origin of religion when our concernment about the future of this planet, should be how does civilization prevent catastrophic extinction of all species, from happening.  A million years from now, humans will study their ancestors from 2017 and say out loud, how stupid we were, even though we had evidence indicating catastrophic changes were set to happen because of technology. How stupid? But we’re not! But we are! They will raise the question of why did humans not respond together to save the world? Then the long debate of who is right and wrong will be pinned on the Science and Religious communities, by each other. Once again the debate will continue, millions of years from now on the origin of religion. My point is, we are hypnotizing ourselves from the constant trance of searching for an origin, that put simply…may never be discovered and in current time we are ignoring the warning signs planet earth is yielding us to catastrophic events in our immediate future.


Author: revjoshuaklaus

Current Seminarian of Inter Religious Studies Masters of Divinity; Certificates in Divination and Pastoral Care. Pastor at St. Adele's Universal Life Church and Divine Ministry.