Affluence, not political complexity, explains rise of moralizing world religions
December 11, 2014
The ascetic and moralizing movements that spawned the world’s major religious traditions — Buddhism, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, and Christianity — all arose around the same time in three different regions, and researchers have now devised a statistical model based on history and human psychology that helps to explain why. The emergence of world religions, they say, was triggered by the rising standards of living in the great civilizations of Eurasia.
This is a good example of the way the sociology of religion is completely incompetent and undermined by false and unworkable assumptions. And the result here isn’t even science, just science dull-headedness.
And clearly, along with Robert Bellah, these people are trying to save the world from the author of World History and the Eonic Effect, with its far superior take on the Axial Age, which is what the authors seem to wish to be discussing. It is hard to grasp how such atrocious scholarship could try to explain away the Axial Age data and keep scientific stupidity safe for the Iron Cage.
All the traps of studying the Axial Age are there, one after another. And marxists should take a long look at themselves because this method is a variant of historical materialism and the result doesn’t work.
I can’t think of a more stupid explanation of the world religions that the explanation of affluence. Eh?
The first trap is the failure to include the Axial Age Greece data. The issue of the Axial Age is not about religion, but the transformation in place of a series of civilizational zones. The correct analysis of this is long, and once can only refer to WHEE.
To see the basic flaw in this thinking consider India and buddhism. Buddhism is the next transform in a sequence of ‘buddhisms’ (or jain-style dharma movements) stretching backward probably into the Neolithic. Almost everything in buddhism existed long before the Axial period, decisively falsifying this thesis. The Axial period is really (in some cases) a throughput transmitter of an older source.
And the issues between buddhism and monotheism can’t be reduced to any simple common denominator like morality. It is surely right to see that monotheism tries to reform polytheism and the degenerated versions with corrupt gods. But it doesn’t follow that there weren’t earlier religions with moral components. In any case it is clear the ‘Axial Age’ upgrades various forms of religion. The case of Egyptian religion is especially obscure yet relevant here. And the real birth of religion is probably in the Neolithic, each phase in succession showing a new transformation.
But the decisive case of Greece should reorient thinking to something more at work here. The Axial Age was correlated with emergence of explosive periods of art, philosophy, science itself, and much else including the classic birth of democracy in Athens.
This thinking is another example of the way academic/scientific sociology is incompetent, misinformed, dumbeddown, and muddled along with marxist historical materialism fixated on a perspective singularly barren in explaining anything.
And finally we have the rise of modernity, still another is the series of ‘axis points’ or ‘axial’ transformations.