Monday, April 2, 2007

Technology and Religion

Early in his article, Dale Guthrie points out that the common approach to interpreting paleolithic art is to impose some sort of shamanistic or magical symbolic code onto it, but this is not necessarily a justified interpretation. Indeed, I think there is value in this perspective, in that most certainly this art was not made for us, but for the artists or their contemporaries. Of course, the art could reflect magical thinking, but to assume that it does is completely unfounded.

There are countless speculations about what paleolithic art might represent, but we can be fairly certain that it was made by early humans for early humans. If we allow these early humans to act as a model for human nature, this would indicate that artists create art for themselves, or humans create metaphors for themselves. Religion, held as a personal metaphor, is created and understood for the benefit of the humans who believe it.

But how does this account for the social communities that form around religions? The notable difference between what we assume of paleolithic communities and modern communities, is connectedness. Today technology allows humans to live in dense population, and in the last century, to communicate with other individuals a world away. Lacking technology, early humans could not communicate or travel great distances, and their society was not stratified. Symbols could easily have uniform meaning in small groups. The size that modern society has grown for leaves room for drastically different upbringing and symbolic interpretations, creating the religious conflicts we know today. Technology, in effect, "ruins" religion. Technology is yet another reflection of our ability to create. This raises many interesting questions as to similarities between religion/art and technology.

1 comment:

Melody said...

You write very well.