Early Man was Religious
We have very little facts about prehistoric beliefs. This is a problem.
“The first semblance of religious practices began in the Paleolithic period, which occurred roughly from 2.6 million years ago and lasted until 10,000 years ago… it was during this expansive time period that the first ancestors and relatives of modern humans began to bury their dead. Specifically, around 300,000 years ago. The practice of burying the dead indicates a belief in or fascination with the concept of an afterlife.”
So it seems that with the advent of humanity, there is certainly evidence of a belief in an afterlife. However, there are massive problems with trying to make further assertions one way or another during this time period.
This is a great overview of a failed hypothesis.
Hamza Tzortzis first distinguishes a difference between academic and popular discourse on this topic. Though there are arguments on the popular front as to why and how science has killed religion and that atheism is inevitable, Hamza explains that on the academic front the answer is very different: No – science does not necessarily lead to Atheism.
“Why are we surprised our children become secular-minded after a secular education?” (See 0:27:54)
And so begins Daniel Haqiqatjou, Director of Religion and Scientism for the Yaqeen Institute for Islamic Research, in his lecture, ‘Decoding the Matrix: Restructuring Muslim Thought for the Modern World’.
“Part of your success as a… student in general in the college system is your ability to internalise certain … conceptual schemes… in the process of analysis [of] different texts… so for example, Islamic studies – as Islam is studied in Western nations, we’re assuming a certain conceptual language and we’re asking… ‘what is Islam?’ ‘what is Islamic?’ ‘how much does Islam respect minority rights?’ ‘how much does Islam respect women rights?’ ‘to what extent does Islam respect freedom, equality, and democracy?’… In asking those questions you’re deploying certain concepts – namely, what is a minority? What is freedom? What is democracy? What is power? What is authority? What is equality? These are the terms that any graduate student will understand intuitively. Those questions, however, are never in question. What’s in question is Islam. What’s in question is the Islamic conceptual universe…
And so my recommendation… is that we need to turn the tables in a sense, that we need to assume, as Muslims devotionally, we need to assume the Qur’anic conceptual landscape and interrogate the modern structures and the modern conceptual landscape in those terms… if we do that and have that kind of prioritisation in mind and exercise a little bit of skepticism and critique, that is going to in shaa Allah help us to live in the modern world succesfully, constructively and peacefully.” (See 0:44:08)
There is a view of the world that designates ‘culture borrowing’ as the sole explanation as to why a later culture may contain features that mirrors or matches a pre-existing culture. Often this is the most probable or plausible explanation. Let us call this the ‘Negative-Material-Contingent’ explanation of cultural continuity, which utilizes solely secular or empirical evidences, attempting to find patterns and then make general deductions based on the material evidence available. Its blind-side is with the dearth of material evidence its generalisations will become wider and, therefore, more likely to be off-the-mark. Another blind-side is not only its delimitation to material evidence but its insistence to deny any explanation involving ‘genuine’ revelation. Such an explanation will never be factored-in as plausible, because this approach has no measuring tool to assess the veracity of such a truth-claim and its possibilities. (See ‘The Challenge of the Qur’an‘ for an example of an attempt to demonstrate in ‘Open’ secular terms, material evidences for revelation.)
What is the challenge of the Qur’an?
Well, traditionally – that is to say – qur’anically, the challenge was literary or perhaps one of orality, because the culture the Qur’an came into was a time where the poets were esteemed and would hold sparring verbal competitions like modern day spoken word slams and rap battles; spontaneity and immediacy was the order of the day.
However, putting the spontaneity aside to make things easier for the challengers, the Qur’an itself says, a number of times with slight differences of emphases each time, the following:
Ten Surah Challenge: ‘Or do they say, “He invented it”? Say, “Then bring ten surahs like it that have been invented and call upon [for assistance] whomever you can besides Allah, if you should be truthful.”‘ (Qur’an 11:13)
Theo Hobson identifies that though there is a stronger secular liberalism, which he acknowledges as more aggressive, he does spell out the existence of a softer, more inclusive one too. He asks the Muslim panel if they recognise and acknowledge the latter, softer type. I sense it is this question that is perceived as being (apparently) ‘skirted’: an accusation from the non Muslim party. The way the Muslim panel respond is as though this softer type of secular liberalism either doesn’t exist or doesn’t matter even if it existed. Presumably, this is because of soft liberalism’s perceived irrelevance given the current context of tighter measures around freedom and self autonomy ostensibly against terrorists but actually against mainstream practicing British Muslims. I sense the non Muslim cannot fathom the motivation for the Muslim panel’s defensiveness. They are accused of ‘playing the victim’. They respond: they’re merely representing reality.