In order to go to University as an adult I had to go back to High School and get some University level courses. My English class was a mix of other returning-to-school adults and high school students who struggled with conventional school. It was a great opportunity. One of the things the made a big impact on me was how the English teacher promoted his own agenda. I noticed that a disproportionate number of students were doing their assignments on Buddhism. When I asked the teacher about it (in a nice way since this was the man who would be marking my assignments) he said in his defense, since it is not right to proselytize in the class room, that Buddhism is a ‘Philosophy’. My gluteus maximus it’s a philosophy. However, he brings to light a good question, where exactly does a religion become a philosophy? True, from what I’ve heard, Buddhism is atheistic. Does a philosophy need the supernatural to be a religion? If Karl Marx had claimed God told him to write Das Kapital would Communism qualify as a religion? Counter wise, if Christians said everything is the same except we believe that the unknown writer of the Bible was just kidding about the supernatural stuff, would we be allowed to teach Christian philosophy in secular schools and if we could what would be that philosophy?
I believe the philosophy of the Bible is civilization. Pretend for the moment that the liberals are correct and the Hebrew scriptures are not inspired but just a collection of mostly borrowed stories assembled by some Jews to defend their culture against Hellenistic assimilation. Jesus came along and through shrewdness and luck he appeared to fulfill some Messianic prophecies and therefore took the Jewish philosophy in a new direction. Like I said let’s just pretend. So what did those writers have in mind when they wrote those stories about the Garden of Eden and such? I believe it was all about civilization.
A few points to consider:
• The Garden of Eden. The story starts with the beginning of agriculture and with it civilization. Up until agriculture men made their living by making pointed sticks and running after things. Everything was fine until people killed all the big animals. Now to make a living a man had to be able to think ahead and plant crops in spring and harvest in autumn. It was the end of the advantage for ADD people.
• ‘Thou shalt not steal’. Stealing is fine in a hunter-gatherer culture. It is the same as hunting. For agriculture and with it civilization to work people need to be able to keep what they produce therefore ‘Thou shalt not steal’.
• ‘Thou shalt not commit adultery’. Civilization requires long term investments in children. Skills need to be passed on. The family unit needs to be strong so this is possible. Men are not going to invest in children that are not their own just like farmers are not going to plant crops if they think someone is going to steal the harvest.
• ‘Thou shalt remember the Sabbath’ is perhaps the most civilized commandment of all. It assumes that one is working and storing up food so that you can take the day off on occasion. Compare that to hunter-gatherers who hunt when they are hungry and then don’t until the animal they just killed is gone.
• ‘Thou shalt not kill’. Hunter-gatherers have short life spans. They tend to die at the same age as professional atheletes are forced to retire. Also according to research I’ve read, about 25% of hunter-gatherers are murderd. People are not going to invest in the future if they don’t think they are going to be there to enjoy it. Also in a civilized world wisdom and knowledge are more important than the ability to run down a deer. Hunter-Gatherers kill to defend hunting grounds. In a civilized world you are expected to make your living not just claim it.
• What about the commandments about God? Is it civilized to ‘Have no other Gods before me’? Well it is sort-of. Remember that we are just pretending here. I believe that commandment is there because there really is only one God. It is also civilizing because a civilization should all worship the same god. Think of god here as a prime value. If parts of a civilization worship a different god they may start fighting each other and that would be the end of the civilization.
By the way do you remember those smart guys who used to ask ‘who did Cain marry?’ well in this ‘the Bible is about civilization’ world, Cain walked off and got himself a hunter-gatherer woman.
Does this idea raise some serious issues? Oh yes. Stay tuned.