International Auxiliary Languages and early Christianity

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Marcion (natus circa annum 85 in Sinope in Ponto; obiit anno 160) fuit theologus. Ecclesiae christianae theologiam eius hereticam putant, quia inter cetera Marcion Vetus Testamentum ut a demiurgo et non a Deo concitato recusavit. Theologia Marcionis prope illam gnosticorum est, ergo materiam et corpus (inter urinas et faecas nascimur) signa mali putat.

I'm reading Bart Ehrman's Misquoting Jesus right now, and so far it's as interesting as I had hoped. Most interesting about the first part is the depiction of Christianity from the very beginning up until about the 4th century when it suddenly became mainstream, as it looks almost exactly like the IAL movement right now. I'll summarize a few points he makes, in no particular order:

Literacy at the time was extremely low, so written texts were always meant to be read out loud in groups by people that could read them. Because Christianity was an underground religion during the beginning it lacked official support by any nations and thus the people that promoted it mostly had to do so in their spare time. That meant that the people behind Christianity in the beginning were mostly non-professional people that wrote and copied texts as a labour of love as opposed to being paid to do so because they were professional scribes.

In the IAL movement: same thing. It's also composed of people that are mostly working out of their free time because they see the goal they are working toward as something the world would be much better off with than without. As of yet there aren't all that many people that are capable of making money off of IALs, with the exception of a very few people in the Esperanto movement that perhaps make money from writing and selling books, traffic to their sites, or some other way that hasn't occurred to me.

This discussion came up on another forum because of this article (the part I'm quoting here is more interesting than the actual study, which I see as a bit limited since it only involved brain scans of people looking at simple sentences as opposed to people actually involved in religious experiences):

Grafman says that probably means religions appeared as humans evolved the ability to handle complicated social interactions during the past 60,000 years or so.

Joseph Bulbulia, an expert on the cognitive psychology of religion at Victoria University in New Zealand, says most evidence of religious behavior only dates back about 10,000 years, raising questions about why humans didn't become religious sooner.

But he agrees that religious belief probably had a role in human evolution because it has helped societies survive and thrive for thousands of years.

Religion As A Social Behavior

Without religion, Bulbulia says, "large scale cooperation, which now spans the world, would be impossible. He adds that humans differ from other species in their ability to cooperate in very large groups.

Religion can help foster cooperation because it ensures that people share the same set of rules about behavior, and think they'll be punished if they don't follow them, Bulbulia says. Religion also unites people, especially in times of great uncertainty.

I think there's some truth to that, but it's a bit too simple: I would say that perhaps new religions or new branches of religions (plus new schools of thought outside religion) contribute a lot to large-scale cooperation, as was the case with early Christianity above. When a religion becomes more established it can often have the opposite effect though as people begin to enter the movement that probably wouldn't have been interested without the long-term benefits (a steady job, that is), and don't care so much about propagation and debating new ideas so much as retaining the status quo. Apparently this was the case with the publication of the Greek New Testament in the 17th century, which took quite a few years to get papal support even though it was ready to be published, and the church at that time looked down on Greek Orthodox followers, even though they were the ones that were most capable of reading and understanding the New Testament the way it was written, as opposed to a less authentic Latin translation.


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