No, what’s strange is the input from an historian and atheist called @KevinAthans.
The image is the cover of a book that is an examination of atheism through the ages and the associated spiritual, political, ideological and philosophical issues that go with it. And it has a semi-jokey title. I’ll offer you the benefit of the doubt that you don’t need me to explain it to you.
Sadly it would appear that not every atheist does get the joke, neither do they read the book before offering their opinion, as shown by this tweet from Kevin:
It would appear that he made an assumption about the subject of the book and that is religious beliefs arose in conjunction with evolution of humans from our earliest ancestors (proto-humans if you will).
When asked to make his point, he came back with:
As far as I know, and I freely admit that I’m not an expert, but the earliest examples of art are the cave paintings found in Indonesia’s Maros and Pangkep regions, dated approximately 40,000 years old. They are human hands stencils and animals of the time. I would suggest that there is nothing religious about these images, instead I would say that they are decoration and representations of things of importance around them. After all, what could be more important than your food supply? I saw nothing to suggest that any form of worship was involved.
The oldest known text is the Dispilio Tablet, it has yet to be deciphered, so to state that it is a religious text is presumptuous to say the least. The oldest texts for which we have a decent amount of material to work with are Sumerian, Ancient Egyptian and Akkadian. Whilst some of these texts are religious in nature, most are concerned with such things as:
- Funerary texts
- Commemorative texts
- Autobiographical texts recounting the careers of prominent administrative officials.
It strikes me as the ultimate arrogance to state that writing and art rose through a need for spiritual fulfilment, and rather ridiculous that religion should be held as the reason for the invention of both.
However, there’s more to this. After some discussion, he then came back with:
My response is, don’t be ridiculous, of course it isn’t. Atheism must pre-date religion for the simple reason that religious belief is a product of higher brain functions and isn’t part of the animal brain. Any and all myths are based on what the ancients saw and/or experienced and were early attempts to explain them.
You cannot support atheism came first. You also, incorrectly, assume their myths are based on first hand counters and that they understood them. Your argument is the same argument ancient astronaut theorists make.
First of all, that’s putting words in my mouth. I made no mention of aliens or astronauts. My point was simply that atheism must pre-date religion for the simple reason that natural occurrences happen and must be observed before any attempt can be made to explain them.
For example, the ancients must have watched the sun and moon rise, travel across the sky and set before they came up with a sun god in his chariot chasing the moon goddess through the heavens.
I propose that our earliest ancestors wouldn’t have thought too much about the sun at all, beyond appreciating the heat and light it produced.
To suggest that the sun god is invented (yes, invented) before the sun is observed in the sky is, to my mind at least, beyond stupid!
He also had this to say:
Really? That’s the most basic question, is it? I put forward that much more basic questions that early humans would have are questions such as:
- Where can I find food?
- Where can I find shelter from the cold and sabre-tooth tigers?
- Where are all the hot girls at?
Metaphysical questions are a privilege reserved for those who have systems in place for their basic survival and procreative needs, and come fairly low in the hierarchy of needs.
I agree that the myths did attempt to answer the ‘where did I come from?’ question, but I find it difficult to believe that Dryopithecus came down from the trees and then started pondering philosophy rather than avoiding an instant and bloody death from predators or looking for food of his own.
Another point he tried to make was that atheism cannot exist without religion.
A lack of belief in gods before any gods were created is called atheism because there isn’t a word for non belief in supernatural deity figures who are yet to be created.
The fact that the dictionary definition of atheism doesn’t cover this situation is an issue with the language rather than the concept. So we either need a new word to cover lack of belief in yet to be created gods, or we need to add the situation to the current dictionary definition. He was indulging in word play, which is something I usually expect from theists.
Atheism is that which exists when there is no religious belief in a supernatural deity. Gods are required for theism, but not for atheism.
To be honest, I was disappointed that an atheist and academic of all people would come out with such obtuse and fatuous reasoning, but then, if nothing else, it shows that professing atheism and having an education isn’t a cure for stupid… Sadly.