Religion and God
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To meet their homeostatic requirements, human organisms have developed complex internal models of their external world. These models enable them to interact effectively with that world to sustain their lives. To meet a person's individual needs, the models need to be as factual and complete as possible for all situations they will face. However, some aspects of the world are simply unknown, and not supported by factual data. To complete these unknowable parts of their internal models, humans have developed elaborate concepts and stories. These sets of memes are usually shared by members of local their communities, where they become formalized into requirements for communal participation.


The Need for Control
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Most human organisms live within a protective and nurturing environment that is provided by their nation-state superorganism. To live within this environment, each human organism must maintain his own condition of homeostasis, where his life functions are sustained within required limits. This is the environment within which he must interact to obtain nourishment and energy, while protecting his internal conditions from ever-changing situations.
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As with other organisms, a human's governance capability is physically manifested in his brain and spinal column. The human's governance structure has developed within a particular environment to reflect its unique conditions. Within the resulting governance structure, an internal model incorporates those aspects of his external world where knowledge is needed for health and survival. It is this model that provides his ability to recognize and evaluate incoming stimuli, by drawing on his memories of how similar stimulus patterns previously affected his wellbeing.
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Humans are instinctively driven to accumulate factual information to make their internal models as accurate and complete as possible. But they are also faced with certain kinds of situation where factual data are not available, leaving gaps in their internal models. Throughout their evolution toward greater understanding of the world, humans have been faced with a set of unknowable factual gaps, regarding such things as the forces of nature, illness, and death, for which non-factual explanations must be found.
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Providing Answers to Unknowables
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Early tribal leaders recognized that they could exercise great authority over their members, but had little control over natural phenomena, and other unknowables. To maintain authority and give confidence to their tribal members, they needed to project a strong image of being in control of all situations, including unknowables. With the help of shamans or priests, the leaders fabricated explanations and rituals to be performed by members when they suffered harsh disruptions or adversity, such as the death of a family member or disruptive natural phenomena. These invocations sometimes called for individual actions to be performed by the victim or shaman, and sometimes ceremonies shared by families or the whole tribe. Typical situations involved birth, treatment of severe illness or injury, unexpected changes in weather or crops, death, and treatment of a deceased person's body.
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As tribal structures grew and evolved, its members became more knowledgeable and began to question the authority of their chief to make such pronouncements about the unknowns. After all, they had lived with him before he became chief, and recognized the inherent limits of his knowledge. On whose authority was the chief taking it upon himself to dictate their beliefs and actions in these situations?
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Development of Religion and God
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In tribal days, there were so many unknowables and uncertainties that little distinction was made between factual information and fabricated explanations. Both were part of seamless internal models, which were shared by members of the tribe. Their chief, with the help of his shaman, could cover unknowable bases through sacred stories, rituals, and assignment of human-like entities to the uncontrollable forces of nature.
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As the human-based superorganisms increased in size and complexity, their treatment of unknowables became more demanding and more sophisticated. This led to formalized mysticism that required careful study by acolytes devoted to its meaningful interpretation. For all others, the interpretations were to be taken on faith.
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 The Concept of "God" Provides Authority for Beliefs Regarding Unknowables. 
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As cultural belief systems continued to evolve, sacred stories evolved into formal belief systems with attendant high priests, who usually came under control of the chief or monarch. In many of today's western religions, humanized figures from ancient times evolved into specialized supernatural gods. More recently, most of these situation-dependent divine entities coalesced into belief in a single all-powerful and all-knowing God, from whom knowledge about unknowns could be received, and to whom prayers for blessings and forgiveness could be directed.
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Acknowledgement of Superorganisms
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As superorganisms grew in size and complexity, their component human organisms became increasingly predisposed to rigorously carry out the specialized work required by its higher-level life functions. From the human citizen's view, this was manifested in man's pursuit of "selfless" purposes, with a focus on prescribed "appropriate" behavior performed for "the good of all." In times of war, this could be seen as a willingness to sacrifice one's self "for God and country."
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There is an striking similarity between sacrificing one's life "for the will of God," and "for the good of Country." Both involve elements of selfless cause and duty that are deeply embedded in the cultural propensities of today's nation-state citizens. Both God and Country are usually viewed as "higher-level" controlling entities to which citizens have implicit obligations. In the context of the Living System Model, such recognition of responsibility to a "higher authority" can be interpreted as an unconscious acknowledgement that the lives of human organisms are being orchestrated for the well-being of a higher-level living system, namely a nation-state superorganism.
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Separation of Church and State
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As superorganisms developed into larger and more encompassing nation-states, their body of component organisms often came to include diverse cultures, each with its own particular religious beliefs. To accommodate this diversity, the emphasis of government shifted toward the secular issues of business and commerce, allowing markets to function and local cultural differences to persist in harmony. Under this arrangement, powerful government leaders sometimes found their authority being undermined by prophets who constructed demanding belief systems for the spiritual interests of their adherents. Some leaders relinquished part of their authority on unknowables to contemporary religious leaders. In many advanced nation-states this has been accomplished by a formal separation of church and state, while in others it occurs through unstable alliances with a vague sharing of power.
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This split of authority between state-sponsored rules of behavior and church tenets has helped some nation-states to grow in scope and size by accommodating people of widely differing belief systems. It has allowed compartmentalization of different behavioral rules about unknowables, while sharing common knowables regarding work and commerce. This separation paralleled the growing distinction in the western world between an individual's work within a formal organization and his personal self-maintenance efforts. In his work mode, a person's actions are based on business and commerce knowables, and are externally organized and directed through the managerial structure of a superorganism's organization units. In his self-maintenance mode, where most of the unknowable events take place, he is able to receive community direction and religious guidance.
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A person's community provides norms and mores for how to interact with others, and well-developed traditions for how to deal with unknowables. This includes a combination of social networks for help with daily activities, and formal religious organizations for "spiritual" assistance with unknowns. These communal groups embody foundations of established memes that can be applied to the person's individual life function events. Acceptance of these memes and their ongoing support from others simplifies a person's day-to-day decision making, and fills the unknowable voids in his internal model. For one who seeks an authoritative source for this kind of understanding, such adherence produces increased confidence it his ability to deal with all of life's situations.

Note: Even those nation-states whose governments embrace only a single set of religious beliefs must adhere to certain secular rules of behavior for conducting business and commerce with members of other nation-states.


The next section Genes, Memes and Culture provides additional insight into how control is carried out within the three-level living systems architecture.


©1995-2012 Ackley Associates   Last revised: 7/20/11
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