How Does a Religion Die?

If a religion is born, and did not exist before, it only makes sense that someday it will die.  Why are there are more stories about births of religions than deaths?

One related question revolves around how a god is kept alive.  It is hard to have a religion if its god has died.  So, is a god kept alive because a significant number of people believe the god exists, or, is it kept alive by ritual, a significant number of people praying to it?

An interesting metaphor of the god business is provided in the link.  It is that there is a desert covered with gods all crying for attention.  Those that get prayed to grow, the others die away.  Do gods need to be prayed to to exist?

On the North and South American continents, gods have disappeared or died in recent centuries.  These are gods of the people Christians conquered.  There seems little if any remnants of the various Aztec gods following the Spanish conquests.  Could we say the gods never existed, did exist but died or still exist but are not prayed to?

I would agree with the link that the biggest competitor of any religion probably is another god, not rationality.  Gods seem to push aside rationality in most minds.

History tells us Christianity, like all other religions over time, has a shelf life and will be gone someday.  Just what will happen to its god and why we don’t yet know.

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/sep/30/how-do-religions-die

Avatar of Jon Lindgren

About Jon Lindgren

I am a former President of the Red River Freethinkers in Fargo, ND, a retired NDSU economics professor and was Mayor of Fargo for 16 years. There is more about me at Wikipedia.com.
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51 Responses to How Does a Religion Die?

  1. entech says:

    Do gods need to be prayed to to exist?

    It would certainly seem to be the case. You start with a polytheistic religion, all so confusing that you have a god for everything, a little more sophistication and the many remain but one is ascendent, one is the Boss. So much is this so that “the top dog”, through his loyal servants can say You shall have no other gods before me. The more people that accept this then the more people that reject the other gods, and as the others are sharing the reducing amount of prayer between them it is easy for them to simply fade and die. As the strength and dominance of the belief in any given god depends on the followers who pray to him we must wonder how much comes from belief alone, how much is actual and how much imagination.

    We must conclude that the dominant god of any period does not even need to exist to be great. Now how much superiority does that lend to a religion, not only is my god greater than yours by reason of his non-existence, but my imagination is greater than yours. As Anselm said if there is an entity greater than which we cannot imagine then that entity must exist or we would imagine something greater – one of the proofs for the existence of god.

    • wolfy32 says:

      What if we’re an experiment to God. He tried the old testament, didn’t work out the way he wanted, had to erase us and ban us a couple times and have us start over…

      Now, he’s trying something new with the New Testament. That doesn’t work out, maybe he’ll try Greek mythology again as cumbersome as it was to be a 100 different things, it catered to the diversity of people..

      It’s funny now that I think about it… We haven’t changed much from Greek mythology.. All the denominations or off shoots of Christianity could simply be various parts of greek mythology. Each one believes slightly differently and they all stem off of a central being. Zeus or “God”…. Maybe we’re designed to have a diverse belief system on purpose. Much like robots are programmed… Studies have shown that our brains seem to have a portion dedicated to religious belife, e.g. a predisposition to something greater. Well, maybe that something greater disposition was preprogrammed in us, and it’s o.k. in the eyes of the true being for us to have different belief systems that cater to our needs. Just as the Greek and roman mythologies did.

      • Avatar of Jon Lindgren Jon Lindgren says:

        Wolfy32 “Maybe we’re designed to have a diverse belief system on purpose.”

        I haven’t repeated this for a while, but belief in the unseen in included in some views of evolution. When people spent all their time looking for food to stay alive, individuals, or groups, who could be optimistics and keep looking when food was not available, were the ones who survived. Pessimistic ones gave up and died out. Minds that gravitated to the spiritual realm could hear good news and it made them optimistic. We are decendents of people who had this kind of brain.

        Several years ago, I saw a documentary that followed a group of aboriginies as they wondered about looking for food. They were being very unsuccessful. One night around a camp fire, the elders discussed the problem. “Why are the gods not giving us food?” They concluded they were doing specific things to anger the gods. They resolved to not do those anymore and went to bed confident they would find food the next day.

        On the variety of gods, there has to be variety so everyone, and every group, can get what they want. Different cultures, sub cultures, individual personalities within the subcultures, etc. The Christian god has to be all things to all people otherwise different gods move in to the market.

  2. Henry says:

    Jon: “How Does a Religion Die?”

    By beating, stabbing, stoning, feeding to lions, and crucifying. Right?

    Or rather, how about man deciding to work his own way to his own salvation?

    I’d say the latter.

    • entech says:

      how about man deciding to work his own way to his own salvation
      And following that path, wherever it leads, sounds like the birth of a religion not the death.
      Actually as you don’t seem to be offering any books and preconceived ideas just working your own way sounds like a religion even I could consider.

    • Avatar of Jon Lindgren Jon Lindgren says:

      Henry 1:44 “how about man deciding to work his own way to his own salvation?”

      Sounds good to me. I’m quite satisfied with my afterlife options.

  3. Michael Ross says:

    Christianity will be gone one day? What will take its place? Rationality? I Just read this article about human “rationality”:

    http://www.infowars.com/school-apologizes-for-propagandizing-students-to-love-obama/

    We humans, you included, are incurably religious. We will worship.

    • Avatar of realist realist says:

      And yet only 37% attend worship services. Don’t equate belief and worship. Not the same thing. And this crazy idea that people “worship” or are encouraged to “worship” Obama is just nuts. Reverence toward the President has been a long-standing feature of the respect that office deserves. Today there are many that will focus on this as somehow unhealthy. Guess why that is? Do you think that somehow the 18% of Americans that believe Obama is an illegitimate president has something to do with it, even though he was elected twice by huge electoral college majorities? If you get your evidence from YouTube, you have just gotten more of a response from me than you deserve.

  4. Wanna B Sure says:

    Back to the base for a quick swish and flush, then off again. Nothing new here. Same old, same old. Interesting though that the topic is posited almost in it’s entirety in the form of speculative questions. Much like a few TV, (Discovery and History Channels ) , shows by the likes of Simcha Jacobovici and others, regarding ancient aliens building the earliest pyramids, Land sculptures in Peru,( Erich Von Daneken), the ossuary of Jesus, the papyrus of Mary, and others. Sensational and shallow, but popular. Jon purposefully ignores the fact that the narrative of the Christian faith goes back thousands of years before the year zero AD. The rebuttals will be the same as we’ve heard before, and they have become quite boaring.

    I’m off again. Talk amongst your selves. You will reinforce each other. And—enjoy.

    • Avatar of realist realist says:

      Boaring, Wanna? I see you like your swine uncastrated.

      • Wanna B Sure says:

        It was intended. But you did make my point,—–kinda. Not surprising you didn’t pick up on it.

        • Avatar of realist realist says:

          Of course it was intended. Even I realize you never make mistakes :) .

        • Wanna B Sure says:

          Good for you ! I have used it before. Something any self respecting pig herder would understand.

          BBFN That’s B’by for now, just in case you fail to understand. Don’t want to confuse you.

          Grinning face.

          Off to ” labor in the vineyards of the Lord.”

    • wolfy32 says:

      Wanna, a very very very simple question. No politics, no swashbuckling….

      Is God from earth? Assuming the God of the universe is not from earth, he is an alien being.

      The defination of alien is anything not from around here. So, at least one alien being may have had input on the pyramids, or other early human enterprises. If you believe in God.

      Or to simplify Alien = someone not from the location of origin. God = not from Earth, our origin . God is synonymous with Alien. Process of reasoning… :)

    • entech says:

      a quick swish and flush
      A brilliant bit of self analysis and most appropriate to the value of your contributions.

      Year zero does not exist in the Anno Domini system usually used to number years in the Gregorian calendar and in its predecessor, the Julian calendar. In this system, the year 1 BC is followed by AD 1. However, there is a year zero in astronomical year numbering (where it coincides with the Julian year 1 BC) and in ISO 8601:2004 (where it coincides with the Gregorian year 1 BC) as well as in all Buddhist and Hindu calendars.
      Tell us again how the “Christian faith goes back thousands of years before the year zero AD”.

      • Wanna B Sure says:

        Re. last sentence @ 10:56. I did not say that. Key word- narrative. To misquote by omitting ellipsis reveals a high degree of dishonesty, lack of reading comprehension, or both.

        Oh, and by the way, your first paragraph is irrelevant. More on the line of Pharisaic legalism.

        • entech says:

          Jon purposefully ignores the fact that the narrative of the Christian faith goes back thousands of years before the year zero AD.

          I see no ellipsis, just admit you were wrong all this wriggling is bad for your bad back.

          Irrelevant? it is most relevant, to match your vulgarity, it indicates to me that you admit you are full of wind and piss.

          • Wanna B Sure says:

            When you quoted my : “Jon purposefully ignores the fact that the NARRATIVE of the Christian faith goes back thousands of years before the year 0 AD.” I had no ellipsis. In the process of quoting my statement, you omitted them, changing the content and intent of my post. A common practice performed her by you, and Jon. Did I mention dishonesty? You do know what ellipsis are for, and their purpose in quoting.? The Jehovah’s Witnesses too use this technique quite often when quoting someone to seek false validation. You sure have a fixation on vulgarity, and you do it so well. I expect profanity next from you.

          • Wanna B Sure says:

            Oops: No such thing as profanity in your vocabulary. Vulgar is all you can do, apart from obscenity .

          • entech says:

            I had no ellipsis. In the process of quoting my statement, you omitted them,

            Pray tell me how I could omit what was not there to start with.
            The whole point is that there is no year zero in the calendar, that the narrative, the story goes back long before the birth of Yeshua is beyond doubt, even though the tale could not include him in it as he was not born.

            Some claim that some things written before him predicted that he would come, but terrible stretching and distortions are involved.

            Never read much of the JW stuff, but the creationists with their quote mining are notorious for leaving out anything that doesn’t make their case. Your accusation of deliberately misquoting is not true, I am sure you know this and the accusation is a dishonest way of diverting from the fact that you were wrong to say year zero and that your ego will not permit you to admit it.

            @ 2:49 you speak of the vineyards of the Lord, are you sure you haven’t done a Noah and sampled a little to much of the product?

          • entech says:

            Oh well, my bedtime down here, I will go to sleep with a smile. Trying to imagine your dilemma to defend the indefensible and look stupid, or, admit to being wrong and look fallible.

          • Wanna B Sure says:

            You clearly are out of touch. Looks like you are having a mental block on this ellipsis thingie. This is actually funny. Go back to the start of the thread, @ my 1:52. You can’t be this ignorant, or can you? Looks like it.

          • Wanna B Sure says:

            Entech: So, your technique is to take something someone said, start in the middle of what he said, (with quotation marks), omitting the rest of what was originally said in the statement. Changing content, context and intent. Dishonest in the extreme. If this is what you have to do, (and you did), to win a debate, you lost the debate, in spite of your personal delusions. If you have to resort to this kind of practice, your cause is also void.

          • Wanna B Sure says:

            @ 2:55: “Pray tell me how could I omit what was not there to start out with.” Hmmmm. Think about that a minute. It is your responsibility to include ellipsis when you only partially quote a sentence. Especially when it changes the content/context of the original statement. The original statement would not have ellipsis, (which it didn’t). The absence of them in your quotation of my statement reveals a dishonest person at best. One with no integrity.

          • Wanna B Sure says:

            @ 4:50: “The absence of them in your PARTIAL quotation of my statement reveals a dishonest person at best.” Thought I needed to add the word PARTIAL so you couldn’t squirm so easily.

            Have a nice morning.

          • Wanna B Sure says:

            Entech: I can use your technique. Your @ Oct. 2 213, at 12:50- – - ” all the good things claimed by the religious we get such things as the smallpox vaccination.” Works for me.

          • entech says:

            I am now completely at a loss.

            Back to the base for a quick swish and flush, then off again.
            Quite obviously a toilet reference unless there is some aspect of English usage in your dialect of which I am unaware.

            Jon purposefully ignores the fact that the narrative of the Christian faith goes back thousands of years before the year zero AD.
            Whether Jon deliberately, purposefully or in any way ignores, denies or otherwise puts down the idea that the Christian faith goes back thousands of years before the birth of Christ is not really relevant. It is a fact that Christianity derived from or began with Judaism is not and cannot be ignored, is not ignored.
            I only used the part of your sentence that was relevant to my critique, everything else has no effect on the fact that the year zero AD is not a valid date in any Christian calendar.

          • Wanna B Sure says:

            So you admit you left out the first part of the sentence, which had significance. The omission of the 1st part of the sentence makes your falsified quote an irrelevant critique. The remainder of your comments are equally irrelevant.
            Looks like someone got up on the wrong side of the crib.

          • entech says:

            Poor Wanna still can’t accept that he was wrong to say zero AD. The rest is diversion you were wrong.

          • Wanna B Sure says:

            The 0 Ad- – live with it. Again Pharasaic legalism on your part.

            The rest is your inability to accept it. History is written after the event. Sometimes long after. They still write books on the Viking era. A thousand years later does not mean there were no Vikings. There are also the Sagas from the 13th century, that give us a glimpse. Society didn’t change much back then.

          • Wanna B Sure says:

            Barbed wire was not invented until 1867, but in the narrative of it, wire was made, first in gold, in ancient times, sometimes using the same methods, with stone beads, later with other metals, including soft iron wire as in barbed wire. Barbed wire didn’t just happen. Neither did cannon barrels, or gunpowder.

          • Avatar of realist realist says:

            Well done, Entech. Thoroughly enjoyed this display.

          • Wanna B Sure says:

            Realist: So I see you agree with misquoting and false representation. Interesting to know in the future. I will take that into consideration as to your credibility.

          • Wanna B Sure says:

            Not to mention diminished objectivity on your part.

          • Avatar of realist realist says:

            A case of center-of-the-worlditis, wanna? Take a few deep ones….

          • Wanna B Sure says:

            Good term. I’m observing it in the both of you. The cheerleader, and his cheerleader.

          • entech says:

            Realist, thanks for the comment. Wanna is so persistent in his own version of what is going on (mainly between his ears) that I “almost” doubt reality and succumb.
            Time to give up now, life is to short to spend too much time on futility even though it is fun. It is the amusement factor that keeps making me forget my reminder to myself to ignore it (actually now I think about it he must do it for fun, he couldn’t possibly be serious, could he ? :lol: )

          • Wanna B Sure says:

            Oh you bet’cha. Even our children when they were young, could see through your delusion. I know what I said, and you have the gall to tell me I don’t by misquoting, and spinning. “No soup for you”.

  5. Candyman says:

    I’m laughing so hard right now I can’t stand up or sit down and type!… The fool says in his heart that there is no God! Psalms 14:1 Albert Eistein claimed to have only used 10% of his grey matter between his ears. He has also stated that the avg man only uses about 2% of their gray matter. Let me ask you?…how much do you suppose you use? I’ll give you the benefit-of-the-doubt and say 5% + or – 1%. So, out the the 95% or so of the gray matter you have that you have no idea how to utilize, what is the percent you have no idea what how uneducated you sound rite now?
    also trying to justify that our “ancestors” had more “positive brain power” is just funny! Saying a lie has done more good than the truth is the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard! Just think about the logic in this? a lie over 2000 yrs ago has spread thoughout the centuries has given hope to millions of millions, billions. Come on fellas, your smarter than this! or are you?…

    • Avatar of Jon Lindgren Jon Lindgren says:

      Candyman 8:33 There is written evidence in caves that is 30,000 years old that humans attributed spiritual powers to animals. As time went on, they kept their belief in invisible beings, they just shifted to location around to different things and different locations. By the time written material came along and was preserved, we see the Greeks worshipping, not animals on the ground, but human-like gods in the sky. Currently, our Christian gods are also sky gods. Native peoples gods remain mostly not in the sky.

      It’s my view that an emotional attachment to the invisible and unverifiable prevents treating information in a rational and abstract way. It’s certainly all right with me if you find some significance in Psalms or any other of the ancient material written unknown wealthy goat herders. I don’t happen to assign any importance to it.

    • entech says:

      That the story has spread and survived for so long is an indication of how little of our potential brain power we use.

      • Avatar of Jon Lindgren Jon Lindgren says:

        entech 10:37 “That the story has spread and survived for so long is an indicatin of how little of our potential brain power we use.”

        Good one, I can almost hear Candyman say “Ouch!” If he was using even a little of his brain power, he would not equate longivity of a religion to its truth. He would know he had lost that argument before it began. Hinduism is older than Christianity.

        I remember a Candyman-like Hindu talking to Freethinkers a few years ago. He is a young scientist here at NDSU. He said the spiritual truth of Hinduism has been “scientifically verified”. The implication was the case for the gods of Hinduism actually existing is far superior to anything Christians can offer up. So, like Candyman laughing at us, that fellow is laughing at Candyman.

        • entech says:

          Don’t forget Mazda came before them both and is named as having a big influence on both. Vehemently denied by Hindu and Christian Holy Men.

          • Avatar of Jon Lindgren Jon Lindgren says:

            entech 11:04 “Don’t forget Mazda came before them both and is named as having a big influence on both, vehemently denied by Hindu and Christian Holy Men.”

            If religion is like wine and wiskey, getting better with time, there is one “belief system” that is older than any god that ever was worshipped. That is skepticism and nonbelief. Surely there have been individuals for hunreds of thousands of years who did not buy the god of the day.

  6. Michael Ross says:

    “How does a religion die?”

    One possible explanation:

    http://www.chick.com/bc/2013/shallow_churches.asp

    • Avatar of Jon Lindgren Jon Lindgren says:

      Michael 4:29 “One possible explanation.”

      That is one possible explanation. Lots of the kumbya chruches are doing well. But, lots of denominations that might have this going on in them are not.

    • entech says:

      … Seeker-friendly churches, preaching easy believeism have failed to teach the awfulness of eternity in fiery torment. …
      Don’t give them a way out they may take it. Catch them young and frighten them into permanent belief.

      • Candyman says:

        where’s the hope in Hinduism? over 300,000 gods to pray to. When you die you are reincarnated to a higher cast? very simple here boyz… there has never in the history of mankind been a person like Jesus of Nazereth. You need proof right? or am I being too uneducated? look at your phone, what time is time? The time and date that is set around the is timed in the birth of who? AD, year of our Lord. BC, before Christ! another uneducated guess for you boyz, have you ever personally witnessed another healed before? if so, I would like a time, place and date? You can’t, can you? or have you personally witnessed one pocessed by a demon before? I’m sure you haven’t, because if you have you would have never forgotten the experience. The is only one name under heaven where by this type of authority exists “Jesus Christ” in Him and Him alone people or instantly healed and set free!

        • entech says:

          Before you talk of Hinduism don’t you think you should learn at least the basics?

          there has never in the history of mankind been a person like Jesus of Nazereth.
          You certainly got that right, at least. Certainly there was a Yeshua, but the character you talk about and is described in your books is an amalgam, lots of bits and pieces cobbled together, with bits dropped and added to try and make the story semi-coherent.

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