Humanity dawned 200,000 years ago at the first (known) homo sapiens existence. 1,800,000 years before that homo Erectus was here on the earth. Homo erectus were not mindless apes wandering the savanna. They knew how to use fire in a controlled manner to clear areas. They could defiantly communicate, they could laugh, play, fight, kill, love and live in established groups.
The most likely cause of the extinction of homo Erectus is the rise of homo sapiens. Our ability to share a common narrative and clearly explain situations within the physical world through metaphor and geographical placement seems to be vastly superior to anything before us. There were, of course, other factors to the extinction of homo Erectus, such as climate change, but as far as the evidence seems to suggest, homo sapiens was far more versatile at adapting to the environmental changes – and we are still here, for now.
We know that from very early on homo sapiens has created myths to explain phenomenon within the world. There are a lot of examples within the book ‘Sapiens’ by Yuval Noah Harari that I am currently re-reading (book review to follow in a few weeks). What should be noted is the seeming reality that humans create narratives to enable themselves to share understandings and cultures, which in turn has helped the survival and expansion of the human race.
We know that the Bible, in the form we have it today, wasn’t how it always was. Take the Torah as an example, the first five books of the Old Testament. This collection of books didn’t start as books, they started as narratives that various ancient groups of people told to each other, which become refined and drawn together over a long period of time. Eventually, they were collated and became preserved within the text as different groups came together, though arguably they will have shifted and adapted even after this happened through copying, amending and adding.
It seems unrealistic to me to assume that we hold the definitive word of God. We know humans crave narratives, meaning and shared myth. We know that people will change these narratives to enable a specific group to more easily understand something, to make us more effective because we are all on the same page about something.
We also know that humans have been around for at least 200,000. We believe that the Torah was written down 3,500 years ago at around 1,500 BCE. Let’s say the oral tradition was going for a thousand years before that (highly unlikely – but let’s give this as much time as we can) so let’s say 2,500 BCE. Well, that means that humanity has only been aware of Yahweh for 2.25% of its time on earth (4,500 years) and for Jesus, it is only 1% of human history (2,000 years).
Jesus, who has been a ‘thing’ for 1% of our history, has taken up a lot of our attention.
So, do we then also believe that God only cares and communicates with a species able to utilise narratives for its advantage. Rather than wondering if a species that use narratives for its advantage could have created a narrative to enable itself to unify.
You are only able to have around 150 important and meaningful relationships within your life. For every single one added after that, others drop away, it isn’t possible for an individual to hold more than that. Narratives enable us to do hold more as a unified collective. Take the commonly held myth of ‘mammon or money’, money in and of itself isn’t anything, but it enables you to engage with and have a real interaction with most of the world because we all share the myth of mammon.
Why am I saying all of this?
In short, as I could genuinely go on all day:
I don’t think homo sapiens are special, rather we are different. This difference has enabled us to take over (and probably ruin) this planet. We know we have destroyed ecosystems and destroyed countless species in our ‘tidal-like-wave’ advance through our tiny history. We then think that a God talked to a group of homo sapiens about 4,500 years ago and then again more specifical in human form 2,000 years ago, when we fully understood the revelation that God had given in Jesus. We believe that we are special, that we are called, that we have a purpose and that we have an eternal destiny.
When are we going to wake up? We have created a shared myth to enable us to work together. The many generations that came and went before 2,500 BCE believed a whole host of things. Maybe homo Erectus believed and understood stories to a certain level – we can’t and don’t know for certain what their cognitive functionality was, but they defiantly had something greater than the ‘apes’ people often claim them to be. Did they believe in Gods? Did they think themselves special?
What gives us the right to claim we are the pinnacle of God’s existence? The truth is, absolutely nothing. We just want to be. It’s the same narrative that has unfolded throughout the last 200,000 years. Humans find a new area or species, and within a very short time, it is completely changed or extinct. We adjust what we find for ourselves, we create narrative and myths to enable ourselves to act together, and then we make the world fit around us.
I will leave you with a quote from the book Sapiens that I mentioned above, as it sums up where we are today. Much to my sadness and shock.
‘Ever since the Cognitive Revolution, Sapiens have thus been living in a dual reality. On the one hand, the objective reality of rivers, trees and lions; and on the other hand, the imagined reality of gods, nations and corporations. As time went by, the imagined reality became ever more powerful, so that today the very survival of rivers, trees and lions depends on the grace of imagined entities such as the United States and Google.’ Harari, Yuval Noah. Sapiens (p. 36). Random House. Kindle Edition.
_End of Blog Blurb_
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When Belief Dies #53 – 'Contours of Hope' with Jim Thring – When Belief Dies
- When Belief Dies #53 – 'Contours of Hope' with Jim Thring
- When Belief Dies #52 – 'An Old Perspective' with John Goldingay
- When Belief Dies #51 – 'Manuscripts and Ancient History' with Bart D. Ehrman
- When Belief Dies #Bonus – 'An Inquisition' with Daniel Kelly & David Ames
- When Belief Dies #50 – 'Magnifying Glasses & Big Pictures' with Esther O'Reilly