79. Does religion emerge as a product of complex systems? – exploring an allegory

Why do peo­ple take up reli­gions, per­sist with them, and aban­don them ? What­ever you think of reli­gions per­son­ally, or any par­tic­u­lar reli­gion, they seem to have been around forever amongst (most) humans, and seem unlikely to go away entirely amongst the species as a whole. Clearly though, par­tic­u­lar cul­tures in var­i­ous his­tor­i­cal phases have many mem­bers who are attracted to reli­gions or sub­sti­tute ide­olo­gies, but tend to drift away from them in other phases. At a dif­fer­ent level, women seem to be the most per­sis­tent believ­ers by num­bers, but reli­gious hier­ar­chies are almost always con­trolled by (humour­less old) men… What is it in human psy­chol­ogy that gen­er­ates these reli­gious phe­nom­ena? Since reli­gion is uni­ver­sal across human groups, yet not uni­ver­sal within groups, does it embody some optional extra mech­a­nism in the com­plex sys­tems we call mind? Is it species speci­fic? … the ques­tions are end­less, and we can scarcely answer them here, but fol­low­ing a long human tra­di­tion, I have writ­ten a small alle­gory to explore some pos­si­bil­i­ties.

Thor May
Bris­bane, 2014

Dis­claimer: This is a dis­cus­sion paper, not a researched aca­d­e­mic doc­u­ment. The read­ing list at the end is mostly a col­lec­tion of con­tem­po­rary links from the Inter­net and pretty acci­den­tal, not edited for qual­ity. Where a topic is of broad gen­eral inter­est comes up with friends, I have adopted the prac­tice of post­ing dis­cus­sion starters like the present one on Academia.edu in the hope that oth­ers might also find them worth think­ing about.

  1. Intro­duc­tion

Reli­gion has a thou­sand dimen­sions. It has vio­lently con­sumed the lives of whole soci­eties, and sta­bi­lized a myr­iad of oth­ers. Car­nage has been (and con­tin­ues to be) com­mit­ted in its name, yet com­mu­ni­ties have been founded on its ded­i­ca­tion. For those inclined to schol­ar­ship, there are kilo­me­ters of vol­umes in places like the Vat­i­can, doc­u­ment­ing the dusty opin­ions and con­tro­ver­sies of learned men (mostly men) for mil­len­nia. For those crav­ing more than a mor­tal life, there are ter­abytes of records in the gran­ite vaults of Utah’s Mor­mons, hop­ing to col­lect the records of who begat whom through all the sperm trails of human set­tle­ment. And then there are those of us (for I am one) for whom reli­gion has lost its sting, yet remains a fas­ci­nat­ing edi­fice whose intri­ca­cies offer insights and warn­ings about what­ever it is that makes us what we are.

It would be point­less for me in this lit­tle essay to wrestle with the bat­tal­ions of reli­gious enthu­si­asts, past and present, the stri­dent athe­ists, the cau­tious agnos­tics, the shoals of casual shop­pers in the super­mar­ket of the spir­its. For any­one inter­ested, in the late 1990s I did col­lect a scat­ter­ing of my wry com­ments across the years, now some­what updated and mel­lowed. It is ref­er­enced as “The Agnostic’s Sur­vival Man­ual” at the end of these notes. Don’t look to that for con­sis­tency, but you are bound to find an argu­ment.

As to my cur­rent work­ing metaphor, well I am inclined to see reli­gion, for those who hold to it, as a kind of men­tal prism. Just as a prism of glass splits light, the men­tal prism of reli­gious belief (I think) splits the world into moral and exis­ten­tial cat­e­gories. The good guys use reli­gion as a rea­son for what they do, and the bad guys use reli­gion as an excuse for what they do. I don’t need rea­sons or excuses like that, but I can see the attrac­tion for some in dis­plac­ing respon­si­bil­ity to another agent.

Instead of argu­ment, I have taken the slip­pery path here of writ­ing an alle­gory for the future. I am afraid it lacks the charm of Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Pro­gress. The Muse has declined to rest upon my shoul­der. Still, I hope this rough account of Cyn­thuria and her dis­cov­ery of per­sonal gods can help to play with some ideas about where reli­gions might have come from, and where they may go. Cyn­thuria is not one of us. She dwells in a time, per­haps not too far in the future, where humans first began to mod­ify them­selves, then were alto­gether dis­placed by emer­gent crea­tures engi­neered to be supe­rior to their orig­i­na­tors.


  1. The alle­gory of Cyn­thuria, and times to come


Cyn­thuria was a third gen­er­a­tion emer­gent. Her friends found her attrac­tive. The emer­gents had allowed some of the more dubi­ous genetic pat­tern­ing from source DNA to remain. Cer­tain emo­tional attach­ments for exam­ple had clear uses if they were care­fully man­aged, and Cyn­thuria had a stronger than nor­mal blend for charisma. Still, she had some wor­ry­ing ten­den­cies. She seemed fond of rit­ual, and she tended to be sen­ti­men­tal. In an old hangar Cyn­thuria had assem­bled an odd museum of arti­facts from the humanoid orig­i­na­tors. The humanoids had passed of course, a fad­ing mem­ory tinged with guilt, and the emer­gent lead­ers were not alto­gether happy to have any evi­dence of their lost glo­ries kept in the pop­u­lar mind. It was qui­etly hoped that within a few more gen­er­a­tions of emer­gent devel­op­ment, the humanoid orig­i­na­tors could be rel­e­gated to quaint myth and fairy sto­ries.

For Cyn­thuria, the humanoid orig­i­na­tors seemed to have a cer­tain mys­ti­cal pres­ence. It was true that none of her con­tem­po­raries had ever seen an orig­i­na­tor, but their reputed qual­i­ties and fail­ings some­how stirred a per­sonal res­o­nance that logic could not dis­pose of. In the end, Cyn­thuria could not accept that the orig­i­na­tors had been entirely mor­tal crea­tures of the planet, now as extinct as crys­tal­lized insects from an arche­o­log­i­cal exca­va­tion. Damn it, she could feel the orig­i­na­tor pres­ence in every­thing she touched. They were with her, behind her, ahead of her, around her. The con­stant orig­i­na­tor pres­ence was dis­turbing, but it was com­fort­ing in a way too. Cyn­thuria found her­self paus­ing for their imag­ined approval, or hes­i­tat­ing to be mean lest an orig­i­na­tor dis­ap­proved.

Cyn­thuria was a gre­gar­i­ous emer­gent, not pro­grammed to keep her wan­der­ing ideas locked down and pri­vate. Although she was slightly ironic and humor­ous about her imag­ined com­pany of orig­i­na­tors, over time other emer­gents in her cir­cle came to real­ized that Cyn­thuria was per­fectly gen­uine about the exotic restraints she felt on per­sonal actions. Her pat­tern­ing made no sense in terms of the offi­cial growth pro­gram for new emer­gents, yet some came to see that she was not alto­gether a deviant. Per­haps they felt some stir­ring of a sim­i­lar pres­ence them­selves.

It was in about the 40th sum­mer that Cyn­thuria decided to take a deviant risk. For a decade she had pri­vately encoded her imag­i­nary rela­tion­ship with the orig­i­na­tors. Per­haps it was a metaphor of some kind, but it was a very extended metaphor which lent a per­sonal logic to her actions and hopes. It was com­fort­ing to have this frame­work, and it was com­fort­ing to have the mind-guid­ance of an orig­i­na­tor at her shoul­der. Her deviant risk now was to encode this rela­tion­ship with the orig­i­na­tors into a story, a tale that could be told, even to chil­dren. Per­haps they would find it amus­ing.

Cynthuria’s orig­i­na­tor story had unin­tended con­se­quences. That is, it spread quickly and attracted a crowd of emer­gents about whom Cyn­thuria had known noth­ing before. They seemed to see her as some kind of author­ity or advi­sor. It was a bit dis­turbing really. This par­tic­u­lar group of emer­gents did not find the imag­ined pres­ence of her pri­vate orig­i­na­tors humor­ous or even strange. They seemed eager to share the pres­ence, and were soon assur­ing her that they too knew of this invis­i­ble com­pany. Since Cyn­thuria had kept a diary of how her hid­den men­tors had guided her moral choices, it was not long before some schol­arly emer­gents began to write seri­ous accounts of how the orig­i­na­tors were chan­nel­ing an ancient wis­dom which emer­gents should and must fol­low. A holy scrip­ture had come into being.

The emer­gent lead­ers heard of Cyn­thuria. They were not sur­prised. They had encoun­tered this kind of thing before. There were steps which needed to be taken to con­tain the influ­ence. It was a mat­ter of edu­ca­tion really, but a dif­fi­cult kind of edu­ca­tion. Even amongst emer­gent sci­en­tists, the study of cog­ni­tion and the com­plex math­e­mat­ics of self-learn­ing algo­rithms it involved was con­sid­ered a spe­cial­ized field. The foun­da­tions for under­stand­ing com­plex self-learn­ing sys­tems had even been laid by some orig­i­na­tors in the Late Era, but their work had not been widely known. 

The crux of it seemed to be that com­plex galax­ies of cog­ni­tive algo­rithms evolved exec­u­tive hier­ar­chies to influ­ence selec­tions in lower order sys­tems of the organ­ism. The orig­i­na­tors had a gen­eral phys­i­o­log­i­cal design which assigned ulti­mate exec­u­tive con­trol to a par­tic­u­lar meta-algo­rithm at any moment of time. This meta algo­rithm also medi­ated the organism’s rela­tion­ship with exter­nal objects and events. The orig­i­na­tors had called it con­scious­ness. Some orig­i­na­tors even­tu­ally real­ized that the “con­scious­ness” meta algo­rithm itself was not always unique or con­stant, but this had not been a pop­u­lar under­stand­ing. The pop­u­lar work­ing assump­tion had always been that con­scious­ness embod­ied ego, “I”, the core of a unique and con­tin­u­ing orig­i­na­tor while liv­ing.

The dilemma for orig­i­na­tors, as for emer­gents, was that a com­plex exis­tence involved choices, includ­ing social choices. Choices could be dif­fi­cult, they could be embar­rass­ing, they posed a risk for the future, and a risk to rep­u­ta­tion in the present. That is, choices entailed respon­si­bil­ity. Respon­si­bil­ity was empow­er­ing in a uni­verse which worked well. Sooner or later though, the com­mon expe­ri­ence was that things would start to not work well. Death, for exam­ple, might make imper­sonal sense in physics, express­ing the sec­ond law of ther­mo­dy­nam­ics. To an indi­vid­ual orig­i­na­tor or emer­gent, death was def­i­nitely some­thing not work­ing well, and the organ­ism had to account to itself for what was going wrong.

Some­where there was sure to be an nice math­e­mat­i­cal equa­tion to express the dilem­mas of indi­vid­ual choice and respon­si­bil­ity. A mir­a­cle of com­plex self-teach­ing sys­tems was that they seemed to develop a solu­tion even to this sys­temic road­block of con­fronting unpleas­ant choices. The details of the solu­tion remained beyond con­scious analy­sis, but the out­li­nes were clear enough. 

Some­how, within the hier­ar­chy of exec­u­tive cog­ni­tive algo­rithms there had evolved an audi­tor exec­u­tive agent. This audi­tor exec­u­tive algo­rithm had dis­tinc­tive fea­tures. The nor­mal algo­rithms of con­scious­ness had no clear direc­tive author­ity over the audi­tor algo­rithm. Indeed, it was some­times the reverse. And yet the audi­tor algo­rithm itself had no clear, invari­ant direc­tive author­ity over the algo­rithms of con­scious­ness. It seemed that the rela­tion­ship between the audi­tor algo­rithm and the algo­rithms of con­scious­ness remained for­tu­itously ambigu­ous. That is, the ambi­gu­ity about a lack of direct exec­u­tive influ­ence gave the rela­tion­ship between con­scious­ness and the audi­tor a spe­cial potency. It was easy to dis­place respon­si­bil­ity to either, which turned out to be extremely use­ful. Ambi­gu­ity as a tool had great sur­vival value.

The orig­i­na­tors, only dimly sens­ing the com­plex hier­ar­chies of cog­ni­tion, let alone the flaky influ­ence of an exec­u­tive audi­tor, did have rich skills of sto­ry­telling. Orig­i­na­tors knew the power of sto­ries, their mirac­u­lous capac­ity to offer mean­ing and elicit a com­mon cause of action amongst diver­gent beings. Over time, the orig­i­na­tors had seized on the exec­u­tive audi­tor, which they could sense but not explain with known metaphors. To the exec­u­tive audi­tor could be attrib­uted all that was not known or not under­stood by con­scious­ness. To the exec­u­tive audi­tor could be attrib­uted all actions which were uncon­trolled, or beyond con­trol. Through gen­er­a­tions of orig­i­na­tors, the exec­u­tive audi­tor was given a social char­ac­ter, ever present, ulti­mately respon­si­ble for what­ever hap­pened or had hap­pened from the most dis­tant past, yet also embed­ded in the cog­ni­tive sys­tem of each orig­i­na­tor. The orig­i­na­tors gave their omni­scient exec­u­tive audi­tor the name of god, or some­times gods, and called their rela­tion­ship with it reli­gion.

So Cyn­thuria had found her gods. That much was clear. And there were emer­gents, a sur­pris­ing num­ber, who wished to share her gods as a com­mon prop­erty. Per­haps it was all harm­less, but the old his­to­ries of the orig­i­na­tors had dark things to say about the car­nage which had been wrought in the name of reli­gions. Once the exec­u­tive con­scious­ness of orig­i­na­tors became attached to reli­gions, their dis­guised exec­u­tive audi­tors, it seemed to have cre­ated social bonds exter­nal to the organ­ism which yielded great power of col­lec­tive action, ben­e­fi­cial or dam­ag­ing. How­ever the same exter­nal bond became a key con­trol over­see­ing per­sonal cog­ni­tion. When threat­ened, the exter­nal lever­age could be lethal to per­sonal cog­ni­tion, rad­i­cally dis­tort­ing judge­ment and lead­ing to mur­der­ous behav­iour. Was Cyn­thuria safe to have around, or did she need to be repro­grammed? The emer­gent lead­ers were not sure. 

 Ref­er­ences & Read­ing ListAlberge, Dalya (21 Decem­ber 2014) “A zealot, a rebel, but no mir­a­cle-worker: film stu­dios plot a sec­u­lar take on life of Jesus”. The Guardian online @ http://www.theguardian.com/film/2014/dec/20/bible-epics-zealot-rebel-studios-plot-secular-take-on-life-of-jesus

Allen, Nick (July 30, 2012 ) “US church refuses to marry black cou­ple at last min­ute”. Bris­bane Times online @ http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/world/us-church-refuses-to-marry-black-couple-at-last-minute-20120730-237p7.html#ixzz2243n9RhP

Angel, M.J. (Feb­ru­ary 12, 2014) “It seems half of Aus­tralia believes in the super­nat­u­ral”. Syd­ney Morn­ing Her­ald online @ http://www.smh.com.au/lifestyle/life/it-seems-half-of-australia-believes-in-the-supernatural-20140211-32gnu.html#ixzz2t9NF2Ef6

Arland­son, James M. (13 Jan­u­ary 2013) “Thirty Shariah Laws That Are Bad For All Soci­eties – Can Mod­ern Islam Reform Old Islam?” Jihad­watch web­site, online @ http://www.jihadwatch.org/2012/09/james-m-arlandson-thirty-shariah-laws-that-are-bad-for-all-societies.html

Arm­strong, Karen (25 Sep­tem­ber 2014) “The myth of reli­gious vio­lence”. The Guardian online @ http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/sep/25/-sp-karen-armstrong-religious-violence-myth-secular

Baker, Richard (June 27, 2014) “Senior ortho­dox Jew­ish lead­ers face cover-up inquest over child sex abuses”. Syd­ney Morn­ing Her­ald online @ http://www.smh.com.au/national/senior-orthodox-jewish-leaders-face-coverup-inquest-over-child-sex-abuses-20140627-zsoqz.html#ixzz35ysveprV

Bar­ber, Nigel (10/24/2013) “Is Reli­gion of any Prac­ti­cal Use?”. Huff­in­g­ton Post online @ http://www.huffingtonpost.com/nigel-barber/is-religion-any-use_b_4157085.html?utm_hp_ref=world

Baroud, Ramzy (2014) “The begin­nings of the angry Mus­lim”. Asia Times online @ http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/MID-01–270614.html

Bay­lor Uni­ver­sity (June 12, 2013) “‘Spir­i­tual’ young peo­ple more likely to com­mit crimes than ‘reli­gious’ ones”. Psy­Post web­site, online @  http://www.psypost.org/2013/06/spiritual-young-people-more-likely-to-commit-crimes-than-religious-ones-18416?utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter

Beng, Ooi Kee (06/30/2014) “Islam — Up for Grabs?”. Huff­in­g­ton Post online @

Berg, Chris (July 22, 2012) “Let the cult begin: Olympic Games sym­bol­ism is steeped in fun­da­men­tal­ism, mil­i­tarism and fas­cism”. Bris­bane Times online @ http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/opinion/politics/let-the-cult-begin-20120721-22gxf.html#ixzz21IkdImhM

Brooks, David (Novem­ber 30, 2014) “Cap­i­tal­ist winds expose the spir­i­tual void”. The Age online @ http://www.theage.com.au/comment/capitalist-winds-expose-the-spiritual-void-20141129-11w9g9.html

Brown, Andrew (15 July 2013) “The six types of athe­ist”. The Guardian online @ http://discussion.guardian.co.uk/discussion/p/3hakx?commentpage

Bun­yan, John (Feb­ru­ary, 1678) “The Pilgrim’s Pro­gress from This World to That Which Is to Come; Deliv­ered under the Simil­i­tude of a Dream”. Wikipedia online @ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Pilgrim%27s_Progress

Burke­man, Oliver (15 Jan­u­ary 2014) “The one the­ol­ogy book all athe­ists really should read”. The Guardian online @ http://www.theguardian.com/news/oliver-burkeman-s-blog/2014/jan/14/the-theology-book-atheists-should-read

Crooke, Alas­tair (08/27/2014) “You Can’t Under­stand ISIS If You Don’t Know the His­tory of Wah­habism in Saudi Ara­bia”. The Huff­in­g­ton Post online @ http://www.huffingtonpost.com/alastair-crooke/isis-wahhabism-saudi-arabia_b_5717157.html?utm_hp_ref=world

Dhillon, Amrit (Octo­ber 31, 2013) “Who ya gonna call? Guru­busters!”. Bris­bane Times online @ http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/world/who-ya-gonna-call-gurubusters-20131030-2whap.html#ixzz2jFXMTjui

Dow, Aisha and Emma Schenk (June 19, 2014) “Fear and loathing in Bendigo over multi-mil­lion dol­lar mosque”. The Age online @ http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/fear-and-loathing-in-bendigo-over-multimillion-dollar-mosque-20140618-zsdw4.html#ixzz352ONtxiT

Feeney, Kather­ine (March 31, 2013) “Aussie churches ‘aren’t judged fairly”. Bris­bane Times online @ http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/queensland/aussie-churches-arent-judged-fairly-20130331-2h12y.html

Fuller, Robert C. (n.d.) “Spir­i­tual, But Not Reli­gious: More than one fifth of Amer­i­cans describe them­selves with this phrase. What does it mean?”. Belief Net web­site, online @ http://www.beliefnet.com/Entertainment/Books/2002/07/Spiritual-But-Not-Religious.aspx

Gardels, Nathan (09/29/2014)”Xi Launches Cul­tural Coun­ter-Rev­o­lu­tion to Restore Con­fu­cian­ism as China’s Ide­ol­ogy”. The Huff­in­g­ton Post online @ http://www.huffingtonpost.com/nathan-gardels/xi-jinping-confucianism_b_5897680.html?utm_hp_ref=world

Got­tlieb, Jenna (Decem­ber 23, 2013) “Iceland’s elves blamed for road project delays”. Syd­ney Morn­ing Her­ald online @ http://www.smh.com.au/world/icelands-elves-blamed-for-road-project-delays-20131223-hv6pv.html#ixzz2oHV2ootG

Hansen, Friedrich (2013) “Judaism’s ancient voice of rea­son – The Phi­los­o­phy of Hebrew Scrip­ture by Ora Har­mony”. Asia Times online @ http://atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/OB09Ak01.html

Hol­land, John H. (Sep­tem­ber 2014) “Com­plex­ity: A Very Short Intro­duc­tion”. Kindle edi­tion online @ http://www.amazon.com/Complexity-Very-Short-Introduction-Introductions-ebook/dp/B00L4CK0M6/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&sr=&qid=

Hughes, Bet­tany (April 8, 2012) “Secrets of divine women exposed: Pow­er­ful females were at the very roots of early faiths”. Bris­bane Times online @ http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/world/secrets-of-divine-women-exposed-20120407-1wi1j.html#ixzz1rOzttpGv

Hus­sain, Mur­taza (09 Jul 2013) “The myth of the 1,400 year Sunni-Shia war – The ‘Sunni-Shia con­flict’ nar­ra­tive is mis­guided at best and disin­gen­u­ous at worst, sug­gests author”. Al Jazeera online @ http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2013/07/2013719220768151.html

J.D. (Sep 29th 2013) “How many peo­ple con­vert to Islam? “. The Econ­o­mist online @

Ken­neally, Christine (Octo­ber 14, 2014) “The Mor­mon Church Is Build­ing a Fam­ily Tree of the Entire Human Race They already have 32 times the amount of infor­ma­tion con­tained in the Library of Con­gress”. The New Repub­lic online @ http://www.newrepublic.com/article/119785/extensive-mormon-genealogy-offers-limited-vision-history

Khawaja, Mah­boob A (2014) “Farzana Parveen ston­ing shames Pak­istan”. Asia Times online @ http://www.atimes.com/atimes/South_Asia/SOU-01–020614.html

Lee, Dave (17 July 2013) “How Sci­en­tol­ogy changed the inter­net”. BBC online @ http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-23273109

Li Yehang (07 August 2012) “A trip to Qing­hai”. [reflec­tions on Tibetan Bud­dhism]. Dan­wei blog, online @ http://www.danwei.com/a-trip-to-qinghai/

May, Thor (1998–2013) “The Agnostic’s Sur­vival Man­ual”. [e-book] The Pas­sion­ate Skep­tic web­site online @ http://thormay.net/unwiseideas/TheAgnosticsSurvivalManual.htm

May, Thor (2013) “The Prob­a­ble Lan­guage Brain”. Academia.edu online @ http://www.academia.edu/2563032/The_Probable_Language_Brain

Mil­bank, Alison (24 Dec 2012) “The rid­dle and the gift: The Hob­bit at Christ­mas”. Aus­tralian Broad­cast­ing Cor­po­ra­tion online @ http://www.abc.net.au/religion/articles/2012/12/24/3660152.htm?WT

Moaveni, Azadeh (06/25/2014) “Here Are Some of the Day-To-Day Dif­fer­ences Between Sun­nis and Shi­ites”. Huff­in­g­ton Post online @ http://www.huffingtonpost.com/azadeh-moaveni/differences-between-sunnis-shiites_b_5526484.html?utm_hp_ref=world

Nicolis, Gre­goire and Cather­ine Rou­vas-Nicolis (2007)”Complex Sys­tems”. Schol­ar­pe­dia, 2(11):1473. online @ http://www.scholarpedia.org/article/Complex_systems

Old­ing, Rachel (Novem­ber 3, 2014) “Hostage’s insight into ter­ror­ists’ MO: brain­wash West­ern chil­dren to take the jihad home”. Bris­bane Times online @ http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/world/hostages-insight-into-terrorists-mo-brainwash-western-children-to-take-the-jihad-home-20141103-11g3nr.html

Pavlac, Brian A. (2 May 2012) “Ten Com­mon Errors and Myths about the Witch Hunts, Cor­rected and Com­mented”. Prof. Pavlac’s Women’s His­tory Resource Site online @ http://departments.kings.edu/womens_history/witch/werror.html

Rizvi, Ali A. (05/03/2013) “An Athe­ist Muslim’s Per­spec­tive on the ‘Root Causes’ of Islamist Jihadism and the Pol­i­tics of Islam­o­pho­bia”. Huff­in­g­ton Post online @ http://www.huffingtonpost.com/ali-a-rizvi/an-atheist-muslims-perspective-on-the-root-causes-of-islamist-jihadism-and-the-politics-of-islamophobia_b_3159286.html?utm_hp_ref=world

Rob­son, Steve (2 Jan­u­ary 2013) “Spir­i­tual peo­ple are more likely to be men­tally ill (but at least they think life has more mean­ing).” Daily Mail (UK), online @ http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2255894/Spiritual-people-likely-mentally-ill-think-life-meaning.html#ixzz2h6FH2SXC

Smith, David and agen­cies in Khar­toum (Thurs­day 26 June 2014) “Meriam Ibrahim freed again after rear­rest at Sudan airport/ Lawyer says woman whose death sen­tence for apos­tasy was over­turned has been released after pres­sure from diplo­mats”. The Guardian online @http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jun/26/meriam-ibrahim-freed-rearrest-sudan-airport

Smith, Julia Llewellyn (July 1, 2014) “What god does to your brain – The con­tro­ver­sial sci­ence of neu­rothe­ol­ogy aims to find the answer to an age-old ques­tion: why do we believe?”. Bris­bane Times online @ http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/world/what-god-does-to-your-brain-20140630-3b467.html#ixzz36BnhOVF5

Sporns, Olaf (2007) “Com­plex­ity”. Schol­ar­pe­dia, 2(10):1623. online @ http://www.scholarpedia.org/article/Complexity

The Economist(Nov 01 2014) “Cracks in the athe­ist edi­fice: The rapid spread of Chris­tian­ity is forc­ing an offi­cial rethink on reli­gion in China”. The Econ­o­mist online @ http://discover.economist.com/?a=21629218&p=CA&cid1=disp|1012930

Thomp­son, Peter (22 Sep­tem­ber 2012) “East­ern Ger­many: the most god­less place on Earth. East Ger­man athe­ism can be seen as a form of con­tin­u­ing polit­i­cal and regional iden­ti­fi­ca­tion – and a taste of the future”. The Guardian online @ http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/belief/2012/sep/22/atheism-east-germany-godless-place?CMP=ema_632

Valiant, Leslie (2013) “Prob­a­bly Approx­i­mately Cor­rect: Nature’s Algo­rithms for Learn­ing and Pros­per­ing in a Com­plex World”. Basic Books. Kindle edi­tion avail­able online @ http://www.amazon.com/Probably-Approximately-Correct-Algorithms-Prospering-ebook/dp/B00BE650IQ/ref=tmm_kin_title_0?_encoding=UTF8&sr=&qid=

Water­field, Bruno (Feb­ru­ary 6, 2013) “Work­house sur­vivors reject Irish PM’s apol­ogy”. Bris­bane Times online @ http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/world/workhouse-survivors-reject-irish-pms-apology-20130206-2dxg8.html#ixzz2K4chHJfF

Watkins’ Books (Issue 33, Spring 2013) ” Watkins’ Spir­i­tual 100 List for 2013: 100 Most Spir­i­tu­ally Influ­en­tial Liv­ing peo­ple”. Watkins’ Books web­site, online @ http://www.watkinsbooks.com/review/watkins-spiritual-100-list-2013

Wein­garten, Eliz­a­beth (Nov. 16, 2011) “How two British athe­ists con­vinced a crowd of New York­ers that the world would be bet­ter off with­out faith at last night’s Slate/Intelligence Squared U.S. debate”. Slate online @ http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/intelligence_squared

Wikipedia (2013) “Escha­tol­ogy”. [the study of end-times and after­life] Wikipedia online @ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eschatology

Wikipedia (2014) “Agnos­ti­cism”. Wikipedia online @ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agnosticism

Wikipedia (2014) “Athe­ism”. Wikipedia online @ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atheism

Wikipedia (2014) “Bud­dhism”. Wikipedia online @ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buddhism

Wikipedia (2014) “Chris­tian­ity”. Wikipedia online @ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christianity

Wikipedia (2014) “Con­fu­cian­ism”. Wikipedia online @ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Confucianism

Wikipedia (2014) “Extrem­ism”. Wikipedia online @ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Extremism

Wikipedia (2014) “Fun­da­men­tal­ism”. Wikipedia online @ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fundamentalism

Wikipedia (2014) “Hin­duism”. Wikipedia online @ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hinduism

Wikipedia (2014) “Islam”. Wikipedia online @ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Islam

Wikipedia (2014) “Pan­the­ism”. Wikipedia online @ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pantheism

Wikipedia (2014) “Poly­the­ism”. Wikipedia online @ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polytheism

Wikipedia (2014) “Psy­chol­ogy of reli­gion”. Wikipedia online @ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psychology_of_religion

Wikipedia (2014) “Reli­gion”. Wikipedia online @ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religion

Wikipedia (2014) “Reli­gious lib­er­al­ism”. Wikipedia online @ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religious_liberalism

Wikipedia (2014) “Sec­u­lar­ism”. Wikipedia online @ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Secularism

Wikipedia (2014) “Spir­i­tu­al­ism”. Wikipedia online @ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spiritualism

Wikipedia (2014) “Taip­ing Rebel­lion”. [a Chi­nese mil­li­nar­ian move­ment; 20 mil­lion deaths]. Wikipedia online @ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taiping_Rebellion

Zen­nie, Michael (27 March 2012) “New Age fol­low­ers still wait­ing for aliens to beam them up 15 years after Heaven’s Gate cult sui­cides left 39 peo­ple dead”. Daily Mail (UK) online @ http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2120869/Heavens-Gate-cult-committed-mass-suicide-15-years-ago.html

Source of this essay 

mee­tup group: Bris­bane Active Think­ing Mee­tup http://www.meetup.com/Brisbane-Active-Thinking-Meetup/

top­ics already dis­cussed: http://thormay.net/unwiseideas/DiscussionTopics/DiscussionIndex.htm

com­ments: Thor May – thormay@yahoo.com

Pro­fes­sional bio: Thor May has a core pro­fes­sional inter­est in cog­ni­tive lin­guis­tics, at which he has rarely suc­ceeded in mak­ing a liv­ing. He has also, per­haps fatally in a career sense, cul­ti­vated an inter­est in how things work – peo­ple, brains, sys­tems, coun­tries, machi­nes, what­ever… In the world of daily employ­ment he has mostly taught Eng­lish as a for­eign lan­guage, a stim­u­lat­ing activ­ity though rarely regarded as a pro­fes­sion by the world at large. His PhD dis­ser­ta­tion, Lan­guage Tan­gle, dealt with lan­guage teach­ing pro­duc­tiv­ity. Thor has been teach­ing Eng­lish to non-native speak­ers, train­ing teach­ers and lec­tur­ing lin­guis­tics, since 1976. This work has taken him to seven coun­tries in Ocea­nia and East Asia, mostly with ter­tiary stu­dents, but with a cou­ple of detours to teach sec­ondary stu­dents and young chil­dren. He has trained teach­ers in Aus­tralia, Fiji and South Korea. In an ear­lier life, prior to becom­ing a teacher, he had a decade of find­ing his way out of work­ing class ori­gins, through unskilled jobs in Aus­tralia, New Zealand and finally Eng­land (after back­pack­ing across Asia in 1972).

con­tact: http://thormay.net thormay@yahoo.com

aca­d­e­mic repos­i­tory: Academia.edu at http://independent.academia.edu/ThorMay

dis­cus­sion: Thor’s Unwise Ideas at http://thormay.net/unwiseideas/unwisendx.html

Does reli­gion emerge as a pro­duct of com­plex sys­tems? – explor­ing an alle­gory© Thor May 2014

This entry was posted in culture, ethics, evidence, ideology, philosophy, politics, religion, teaching, value, writing. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply