There is something in the human psyche that seems to need religion. If
it doesn't get it from a church it gets it somewhere else--atheism,
Apple, Communism, etc all seem to push the same button.
People want to cope with he inexplicable.
BTW, the "belief is hardwired" idea is not set in stone.
Disbelieve it or not, ancient history suggests that atheism
is as natural to humans as religion
People in the ancient world did not always believe in the gods,
a new study suggests casting doubt on the idea that religious
belief is a "default setting" for humans.
Despite being written out of large parts of history, atheists thrived
in the polytheistic societies of the ancient world raising considerable
doubts about whether humans really are "wired" for religion a new study
The claim is the central proposition of a new book by Tim Whitmarsh,
Professor of Greek Culture and a Fellow of St Johns College, University
of Cambridge. In it, he suggests that atheism which is typically seen
as a modern phenomenon was not just common in ancient Greece and pre-
Christian Rome, but probably flourished more in those societies than in
most civilisations since.
That's pretty much a "gimme", given:
1) Plato. Refers to to his "daemon", but ignores the local deities. He
may have made the odd reference to "god", but it's never anyone
2) Aristotle. Has a lot to say about the gods -- just not those being
worshipped. No, /his/ gods are the planets plus the sun/moon, which
revolve in circles around the Earth and, being made entirely of the
Fifth Element, are immortal.
and, IIRC, many other ancients. Most of them had the good sense to
keep their opinions to themselves, lest the mob attack them, although
I think the Roman Empire reached a point where those favored by the
Emperor could be more courageous.
Also, such philosphies as Stoicism and Epicureanism should not be
overlooked. These became accepted among the upper classes (if I
understand this correctly) as a form of religion tolerated by the
state, gods or no gods.
Also, the Romans were rather lax: most religions were tolerated, so
long as they tolerated others. Jews were tolerated, despite not being
tolerant themselves, as having a long tradition of being different
from everybody else. Christians were not so lucky. Part of this
"laxness", of course, was political: they sealed their conquests by
importing the defeated peoples' gods, making them supporters of Rome.
3) Christians (and Jews) were regarded as atheists. This is because
the Greek word, atheioi, literally means "godless" -- and referred to
little statues of various deities most people kept in their homes.
Christians (and Jews) had no such statues, and so were (literally)
atheioi. At what point this acquired a more abstract meaning I am not
sure, but I would not be surprised to find it was quite early.
See also: Review of Tim Whitmarsh's "Battling the Gods"
As to state-supported churches, my understanding is:
1) Many colonies had them; some did not.
2) Different colonies that had a state church had /different
denominations/. This may have mostly a New England/Southern States
3) Those that had them did not want a National Church imposed on them
because it might be a different denomination; indeed, /any/
denomination chosen would be different for some of them. Those had
none didn't want one either.
So the point of the amendment was that the Federal Government /could
not/ establish a National Church. The States were left free to
If I have my timing right, it took 40 to 50 years for all of the
Established Churches to be disestablished. This is not actually a
particularly short period of time.
And it produced what I was taught was the longest word in the English
language (this was, of course, before Disney's /Mary Poppins/):
which was a movement opposed to disestablishing the Established
"I begin to envy Petronius."
"I have envied him long since."