thread: 2006-08-31 : I think my expectations are screwed

On 2006-09-06, Sydney Freedberg wrote:

Vincent, that last one was only 18 paragraphs! I just counted!

1. Polygamy

If everyone involved loves everyone else and knows exactly what he or she is getting into? And nobody's going to power-trip over anyone else because A joined the family before B or because B is younger and prettier than A? And everyone is able to pay adequate emotional attention to everyone else? No problem.

I just don't think most people are up to that. God knows I'm not.

And yes, power-tripping and jealousy and intrigue can all occur in a marriage of two, I know—but every person you add increases the potential for problems exponentially, if only misunderstanding and distraction among well-intentioned and loving people.

2. Religion

This thing you said—the fact that some symbols and traditions survive doesn't show that they have tremendous psychological power, it shows that they have the power to perpetuate themselves. That's all.—I totally disagree with. I'm not saying the symbols and traditions are necessarily benign. But if they didn't have any psychological power, how would they have "the power to perpetuate themselves"?

Compulsion and inertia alone can't explain people actively converting to Christianity, or Islam, in the face of Roman Imperial or Chinese Communist oppression; compulsion and inertia can't explain people deciding they are not merely subjects of the Austro-Hungarian Emperor or the British Crown but actually Czech or American patriots who need to fight for independence. These ideas mean something to people.

They have some positive value in individuals' lives—and, I'd argue, in the history of the world as well. Darwinian logic suggests that phenomena, like religious belief, that show up over and over, often independently, in every human culture I've ever heard of must have some survival value.


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