Saturday, March 12, 2016

Our Religions: Are they the Religions of Humanity Itself? by By Daniel Quinn author of Ishmael

by Gary Berg-Cross

Author Dan Quinn takes the animist point of view as being our real roots in a reverent way of looking at the world. We humans belong in our places (wherever our early tribes were)  because they  are special niches which we call "sacred". 

"Not sacred in a special way, not more sacred than anything else, but merely as sacred as anything else--as sacred as bison or salmon or crows or crickets or bears or sunflowers."

As a run up to Big Religions sweeping this early idea away Quinn provides and interesting interpretation of a range of stories from Genesis.

See for the full story which includes the fall from Innocence.

What knowledge tempted Man?  Was it the discovery of agriculture? 
Quinn explores the conventional Cain and Abel story to find - "the elder, Cain, a tiller of the soil, and the younger, Abel, a herder. The improbability that two members of the same family would embrace antithetical lifestyles should tip us off to the fact that these were not individuals but emblematic figures, just as Adam was (Adam merely being the Hebrew word for Man).

If we understand these as emblematic figures, then the story begins to make sense. The firstborn of agriculture was indeed the tiller of the soil, as Cain was said to be the firstborn of Adam. This is an undoubted historical fact. The domestication of plants is a process that begins the day you plant your first seed, but the domestication of animals takes generations. So the herder Abel was indeed the second-born--by centuries, if not millennia....Another piece of background that needs to be understood is that in very ancient times farmers and herders had radically different lifestyles. Farmers were by the very nature of their work settled villagers; but herders (by the very nature of their work) were nomads, just as many present-day herding peoples are. The herding lifestyle was in fact closer to the hunting-gathering lifestyle than it was to the farming lifestyle.

As the farming peoples of the north expanded, it was inevitable that they would confront their Semitic herding neighbors to the south, perhaps below what is now Iraq--with the predictable result. As they have done from the beginning to the present moment, the tillers of the soil needed more land to put to the plow, and as they've done from the beginning to the present moment, they took it.

As the Semites saw it (and it is of course their version of the story that we have), the tiller of the soil Cain was watering his fields with the blood of Abel the herder."

As we know farmers need land and so the conquest is on and tribal mores are swept aside.

Quinn Delivered October this talk 18, 2000, as a Fleming Lecture in Religion, Southwestern University, Georgetown, Texas

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