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  • mistermuse 12:00 am on February 20, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , dogmatism, fanatics, , holy wars, human history, Middle East, Quakers, , secular humanists, tribalism, tribes, true believers,   

    TRIBES AND TRIBULATIONS 

    tribal, adj. Of the nature of, or relating to, a tribe.
    tribe, n. 1. A unit of sociopolitical organization. 2. A political, ethnic, or ancestral division of ancient states and cultures [such as] a. the three divisions of the ancient Romans. b. the 12 divisions of ancient Israel.
    –Webster’s New College Dictionary

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    If anything seems clear from the seemingly endless wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, it is that tribalism and religion are at the heart of the madness. This is not to suggest that tribalism is confined to the Middle East (far from it), or that other forces haven’t played a part. But buried beneath the overlay of foreign intervention in the region (or meddling, if you prefer) are roots with a “history as old or nearly so as that of humanity itself” –Edward O. Wilson, biologist, naturalist and two-time Pulitzer Prize winner.

    In his book THE MEANING OF HUMAN EXISTENCE, Wilson posits that tribalism and religion are inextricably bound together by what he calls “the instinctual force of tribalism in the genesis of religiosity. People deeply need membership in a group, whether religious or secular.” In a chapter titled simply “RELIGION,” Wilson states:

    The great religions are inspired by belief in an incorruptible deity–or multiple deities. Their priests bring solemnity to rites of passage through the cycle of life and death. They sacralize basic tenets of civil and moral law, comfort the afflicted, and take care of the desperately poor. Followers strive to be righteous in the sight of man and God. The churches are centers of community life [and] ultimate refuges against the inequities and tragedies of secular life. They and their ministers make more bearable tyranny, war, starvation, and the worst of natural catastrophes.
    The great religions are also, and tragically, sources of ceaseless and unnecessary suffering. They are impediments to the grasp of reality needed to solve most social problems in the real world. Their exquisitely human flaw is tribalism. It is tribalism, not the moral tenets and humanitarian thought of pure religion, that makes good people do bad things.
    Unfortunately, a religious group defines itself foremost by its creation myths, the supernatural narrative that explains how humans came into existence. This story is also the heart of tribalism. No matter how subtly explained, the core belief assures its members that God favors them above all others. It teaches that members of other religions worship the wrong gods, use wrong rituals, follow false prophets….

    Food for thought — but thought that leaves questions to chew on: if “love makes fools of us all” (to quote Thackeray), does it follow that tribalism makes blind fools of us all? Are we unwitting tribalists to the siren song of political/religious saviors, some of us to the extent of becoming tribal or religious fanatics? Are tribal/religious fanatics born or made (nature vs. nurture)? And, given that all religions are invented by man, does that entitle Wilson to tar them all with the same brush?

    For example, Wilson regards it as a mistake to fold believers of particular religious and dogmatic ideologies into two piles (moderate versus extremist), because “The true cause of hatred and violence is faith versus faith, an outward expression of the ancient instinct of tribalism.”  While that may be true, I question the notion that all religions/tribes wash out equally. For example, in pre-colonial times in North America, there were both peaceful and warlike Native American tribes. And so it is elsewhere. Aren’t secular humanists equally guilty of bad faith who don’t recognize/won’t separate the wheat from the chaff/laissez-faire from doctrinaire? Who and what have incited and fed religious wars and persecutions throughout history? It’s not the likes of the Quakers, nor is it directives from the heavens.

    The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves.

     

     

     

     

     
    • Midwestern Plant Girl 8:33 am on February 20, 2016 Permalink | Reply

      This was a great read!
      I play my drum to a different beat and prefer to not be part of a group or religious. I like to read about these topics tho, as I want to understand it. I don’t feel left out, but sometimes don’t understand why people do things. Maybe it’s my O- blood? 😉

      Liked by 1 person

      • mistermuse 9:09 am on February 20, 2016 Permalink | Reply

        Thank you. I concur, but though I don’t seek to be part of a group, there is one group I can’t help belonging to: the human race. In that sense, we’re all in this together, which is why all the ongoing political and religious extreme dogmatism is a plague on all our houses.

        Liked by 2 people

    • arekhill1 1:49 pm on February 20, 2016 Permalink | Reply

      Well put, Sr. Muse, and undoubtedly true. I’m an agnostic myself, thank God.

      Liked by 1 person

    • mistermuse 2:45 pm on February 20, 2016 Permalink | Reply

      Growing up Catholic put the fear of the Lord in me, Ricardo, so I’m still too chicken to be an agnostic. Some people may think I’m an egghead, so perhaps I’m now an egg-nostic. At least that would solve an age-old question: the chicken came before the egg-nostic.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Todd Duffey Writes on Things 10:06 am on February 21, 2016 Permalink | Reply

      This is the first blog of yours I’ve read, Mistermuse. I feel like there is a LOT more I will be learning from you! Bravo – you have opened this reader’s eyes to a much broader playing field!

      Liked by 1 person

      • mistermuse 1:35 pm on February 21, 2016 Permalink | Reply

        Thanks. I usually write in a more creative, humorous vein, but my art-ery takes a serious turn every once in a while. I only post every fifth day, so your eyes shouldn’t get bloodshot from over-learning! 🙂

        Thanks again.

        Like

    • Don Frankel 10:50 am on February 21, 2016 Permalink | Reply

      Good stuff Muse. A little heavy but sometimes we have to do heavy. I haven’t read Wilson so I wouldn’t want to characterize his stuff but if his basic premise is to blame it on Tribalism well it sort of a non-starter for me. It doesn’t matter what the Tribe says or the Government says or even and this may be heresy but even what the Supreme Court says. You make your decisions in this life and then you have to live with them.

      Liked by 1 person

      • mistermuse 1:46 pm on February 21, 2016 Permalink | Reply

        You make a good point, Don. We tend to think of tribalism as something uncivilized, something they do “over there” — but all you have to do is look at our own politics to see mindless tribal followings (albeit with a modern veneer).

        Liked by 1 person

    • John Looker 2:12 pm on February 22, 2016 Permalink | Reply

      I have a great deal of sympathy with your analysis. Tribalism does appear deep rooted in the human condition — perhaps it is inescapable until societies can find ways of evolving appropriate forms of government. I found myself writing a group of poems on tribal loyalties a year ago. They might not interest you but, just in case, they can be found on my own (poetry) blog at: https://johnstevensjs.wordpress.com/category/looking-at-life-through-work-series/tribal-loyalties/ They also had a place in a book of mine published a year ago, but that’s another story. Congratulations on raising this in a thoughtful way.

      Liked by 1 person

    • mistermuse 4:01 pm on February 22, 2016 Permalink | Reply

      I appreciate your comment and like your tribal poems, especially THE DAWN RAID. I tend to think that the perversion of tribalism (mindless, dogmatic allegiance to its worst forms), more than tribalism itself, is the main problem….and one (skeptic that I am) that I believe will probably always be with us.

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    • John Looker 5:53 pm on February 22, 2016 Permalink | Reply

      Yes. In any society there is going to be a reassuring sense of belonging to a familiar homogeneous group, but it is dangerous (or perverted as you put it) when there is no imagination about or empathy towards others. Such a pressing issue for our times! Glad you’ve raised it in the manner you do.

      Liked by 1 person

    • linnetmoss 6:29 am on February 23, 2016 Permalink | Reply

      Religion is like science–not evil or good in itself, but depending on the use we make of it. (Although Christopher Hitchens made a pretty comprehensive case against it in “God is not Great.”) IMO science has relieved much more suffering than religion ever did. (And of course has caused its share.) As to tribalism, I don’t see much benefit in it.

      Liked by 1 person

    • mistermuse 7:11 am on February 23, 2016 Permalink | Reply

      Thank you for more “food for thought.”

      I suppose, given that “People deeply need membership in a group, whether religious or secular” (as Edward O. Wilson wrote), one could say the same of tribalism–“not good or evil in itself,” but depending on the ends pursued (and the means used to pursue them). Another thought: how widely or loosely to define, or think of, tribalism. In a sense, fraternities, sororities, sports teams — such as the Cleveland Indians 🙂 — any group banded together for common cause, could be considered tribes.

      I own Hitchens’ GOD IS NOT GREAT, but haven’t read it in a long time — though I’m familiar with his arguments in general. It’s too complex to get into here, but I’ve written a few posts on these things before and will probably do so again.

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    • literaryeyes 1:39 pm on February 23, 2016 Permalink | Reply

      H.L. Mencken ripped apart the basic foundations of religion in his book, Twilight of the Gods (I think that’s the title, or maybe that’s a movie-I plead senior memory). Religion started early when tribes were the social construct, so it’s plausible they are inextricably and at this time, irrevocably, intermixed. But to put a little humor in, here’s a quote purportedly from Mencken: “For centuries, theologians have been explaining the unknowable in terms of the-not-worth-knowing.” In other words, the improbable, in his opinion. I’m not as pragmatic as Mencken, by far, and believe we have an inherent spiritual nature that’s connected to our physical selves, and possibly to something outside ourselves.

      Liked by 1 person

    • mistermuse 4:30 pm on February 23, 2016 Permalink | Reply

      Well said. Neither the god(s) of religion, nor the concept of creation without a creator, is convincing to me. To quote from WHY DOES THE WORLD EXIST (by Jim Holt):
      “A scientific explanation must involve some sort of physical cause. But any physical cause is by definition part of the universe to be explained. Thus any purely scientific explanation of the existence of the universe is doomed to be circular. Even if it starts with something very minimal–a cosmic egg, a tiny bit of quantum vacuum, a singularity-it still starts with something, not nothing.”

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    • restlessjo 3:05 am on February 24, 2016 Permalink | Reply

      Sadly, I don’t have an argument. I simply wish it were otherwise, but wishing will never make it so.

      Liked by 1 person

    • mistermuse 5:03 am on February 24, 2016 Permalink | Reply

      The good news is that with a creator, there remains the possibility of life after death for us. The bad news is that with a creator so above all the suffering it has deliberately made the lot of its creatures, what would that bode for our next-life relationship with such a creator? Sadly (to say the least), it’s enough to make thinking people careful what they wish for.
      But, for now, I wish for the best for you and everyone reading this.

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  • mistermuse 5:14 pm on December 16, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , live and let live, meaning of life, , true believers   

    LIVE AND LET LIVE NOT 

    Fundamentalism means uncritical, literal acceptance of the founding doctrines or documents of a tradition. It demands a closed mind and the suspension of rational faculties. The huge allegiances it commands are proof of the strength of the reaction against relativism, evidence of the revulsion people feel from the prospect of a truthless universe. Its power to reassure is irrestible to its adherents….
    –Felipe Fernandez-Armesto, British historian and author

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    If true believers never tire
    Pray/preying to abet their choir
    Should I believe I could forgive
    If they believed in live/let live?

     
    • arekhill1 6:31 pm on December 16, 2014 Permalink | Reply

      People just don’t want to think. I don’t either, but it keeps happening anyway.

      Liked by 2 people

    • mistermuse 7:30 pm on December 16, 2014 Permalink | Reply

      I think if you stop thinking, you’re just breathing. Even heavy breathing doesn’t require much thinking, so I guess sex is the answer (hopefully not entirely mindlessly).

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    • Michaeline Montezinos 10:53 pm on December 16, 2014 Permalink | Reply

      Good posting and poem, mistermuse. “Live and let live” is my motto and I choose to let others believe what ever they feel is right for them. Some may call me a “bleeding heart liberal” but I am truly fed up with fundamentalism istself. Plus all the insidious and mind blogging calls for donations from those who are trapped in this so called religion. Reminds me of the parable of the goats and the sheep somewhere in the holy texts of the Christian Bible. I do not want to be a naughty goat nor a stupid sheep following the crowd of idiots like lemmings headed for the precipice.
      What do you think about my opinion re fundamentalism, anyone?

      Liked by 1 person

    • mistermuse 11:22 pm on December 16, 2014 Permalink | Reply

      Humorously seriously,I think your opinion is “fundamentally” sound, Michaeline.

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    • Don Frankel 8:17 am on December 17, 2014 Permalink | Reply

      Dr. Don thinks adults who think only in a concrete fashion, in the same manner as an adolescent, have fundamental issues.

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    • mistermuse 8:41 am on December 17, 2014 Permalink | Reply

      Don, Jimmy Hoffa is an example of an adult who thought only in a concrete fashion, and that’s exactly where he ended up (some say).

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    • Michaeline Montezinos 10:12 am on December 17, 2014 Permalink | Reply

      Fellow writers and poets, Jimmy Hoffa ended up at the Troy Funeral Center complex where his remains were cremated. So he was the dust in the air. That is the story I heard from one of the Mafia’s long time chaffeuar and ambulance driver. The Kingpins of crime thought that being poured into a concrete pillar was not a viable revenge for Hoffa’s betrayal. And they did not want his body found when reconstruction of buildings and bridges began in the future. Believe or not! Everyone has a theory regarding Hoffa’s final interment.

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    • Don Frankel 12:04 pm on December 17, 2014 Permalink | Reply

      Muse, Jimmy Hoffa is said to be part of the old Giant’s Stadium or the nearby Jersey Turnpike but it sounds like Michaeline’s story makes the most sense.

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  • mistermuse 4:45 pm on July 8, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Socrates. Mike Royko, true believers   

    DO CYNICS CARE? 

    The unexamined life is not worth living.  –Socrates

    I readily admit to being somewhat cynical — to what degree, I can’t be absolute — and I readily submit to being a realist. Really, is it possible to be a realist without being more or less cynical? Perhaps more significantly, is it possible to be a cynic without caring? Let other cynics  speak for themselves; I wouldn’t be cynical if I didn’t care.

    Of course, I wasn’t born cynical. One only gets that way out of an abundance of living in the real world, which usually happens — or begins to happen — soon enough. We were all believing children once. I doubt if children are even capable of being cynical, although God knows, shamefully, that many have reason enough to be.  But what of adult true believers — those who have stopped growing, stopped wanting to know why, even if the answer begs the question?

    Do a search for quotes about cynicism, and you will find many by cynics, as well as many by scoffers of cynics — and if you really think about it, doesn’t that make scoffers cynics too? Here is the mix; you be the judge:

    The power of accurate observation is commonly called cynicism by those who have not got it.  –George Bernard Shaw

    A cynic is just a man who found out when he was about ten that there wasn’t any Santa Claus, and he’s still upset.  –J. G. Cozzens

    Scratch any cynic and you will find a disappointed idealist.  –George Carlin

    A cynic sees little to admire in the world, while the world sees even less to admire in him.  –Evan Esar

    Show me somebody who is always smiling, always cheerful, always optimistic, and I will show you somebody who hasn’t the faintest idea what is really going on.  –Mike Royko

    I’m not ready to let the youthful part of myself go yet. If maturity means becoming a cynic, if you have to kill the part of yourself that is naive and romantic and idealistic to claim maturity, is it not better to die young but with your humanity intact?  –Kenneth Cain

    Every ounce of my cynicism is supported by historical precedent.  –Glen Cook

     

     

     

     

     
    • arekhill1 11:10 am on July 9, 2014 Permalink | Reply

      I long ago gave up cynicism for smart-assism. Doesn’t make you more popular, but it is more fun.

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    • mistermuse 1:46 pm on July 9, 2014 Permalink | Reply

      I think you’re being too modest, Ricardo – you do both, and it’s probably a more effective combination than cynicism and appealing to our better angels, which I haven’t found to be particularly popular either.

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    • Don Frankel 4:10 am on July 10, 2014 Permalink | Reply

      The cynic is the guy who realizes he’s being lied to.

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    • mistermuse 8:22 am on July 10, 2014 Permalink | Reply

      Don, it’s tempting to think that’s why we’re so cynical about politicians, but what worries me more than lying is that too many politicians are “true believers” – they really believe what they say.

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    • Don Frankel 5:16 pm on July 10, 2014 Permalink | Reply

      Muse I believe you’re right. Sometimes they know they are lying but other times they do believe.

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