by Angel, 12/20/2013
There was a time, not so long ago, when the internet was not yet even a dream, except perhaps among the most insane of dreamers...
There was a time, quite recently in fact, where you had to look in dictionaries and encyclopedias -- weighty constructions of paper and smelling of ink and must -- when you wanted to know a thing.
It was only a short time before that, in even a moderate idea of time, that there were no dictionaries, no encyclopedias, no books or magazines. Printed works were rare or even unknown; and most couldn't read anyway.
That time without written sources -- that time of simply living in the moment and verbally sharing your stories of the past -- lasted for much longer. In the currently known span of human history, more than 99% spent without ready access to books for the vast majority of people. 99.9% was spent without the internet.
15,000 years * current idea of history
120 years books are common
15 years internet
1% of 15,000 150
.1% of 15,000 15
(* Human history is actually much older than this small number, but 15,000 is the current idea among "scholars" so I'll use it here.)
Imagine, if you will, two small children talking about things children might talk about. One asks the other, say, "Why is the sky blue?", "What's it mean to play doctor?", or "Where do babies come from?"... A question, among the tens of thousands of questions an average human child asks when it is growing.
As horses represent speed, eagles clear vision, otters play, and beavers and ants industry... So humans represent learning. Humans are the learning animals of the world. Learning is more natural and more fun than any other activity a young child engages in. It is an interesting indictment of society and the schooling systems that in a few short years learning becomes one of the most painful and unpleasant processes a human can undergo.
The first thing our imagined children might do is speculate, that is, guess. They'll make up reasons and explanations. "The sky is blue because of bird farts!" "Babies come from doctors, who grow them on baby farms." But sometimes they'll disagree. Sometimes they'll want a better answer than what they can make up on their own.
Increasingly, in the last 10 years, our representative children won't ask any human, they'll run to that mighty information avatar "Google." Is it coincidence that Gooogle is Go-ogle, since ogle means to look intently? Go look intently for it. Possibly.
Before that time, maybe 100 years ago, they'd have run to mom and asked, "Mom, why is the sky blue!?" And many moms, unsure themselves and busy with their work, might have said something like, "Look it up." I heard that one a lot as a child. "Look it up. You'll remember it longer that way."
That answer, however, -- "look it up" -- has only been available to a small part of the world, and only for less than 1% of known history. Which means that the vast majority of culture, history, and tradition, are based in an even older approach.
Ask your dad.
All the toughest questions were handled that way. In older, tribal cultures, it might have been "Ask the shaman" or "Ask the elder." It always began, however with "Ask your father." Unless you are under 20, you probably have used that same method of asking your dad when you wanted an answer. Mom was always there for the good stuff: the hugs, the snacks, the reassurance. But the tough questions went to dad.
"So what?", you might ask. "Why does this matter?" Studies show that the habits people have, even as children as young as one year old, influence their behaviour the rest of their lives. You likely know from your own experience that many things in your childhood affect your attitudes today. The ways you were taught to seek learning change you, and everyone else in the world. They change the way you raise your own children. They affect the laws and culture of your country. They shape your religions and mythologies. In short, they affect every part of your life.
So what? Well this idea you probably had as a very young child that your dad knew everything and you could ask him anything... this idea is still buried deep inside. For those who had a dad figure around, that dad was huge. He could pick you up and throw you in the air. He could do anything. "My daddy can beat your daddy!" is a childhood line most everyone has heard. A 'much larger than you' father figure who knows everything and can do anything. An almighty omniscient and omnipotent father figure...
It should. Almost anyone who believes in a God today describes their God in just that way. It's no coincidence that people pattern their idea of God on the largest and most amazing image they know.
Why? Because when dad was amazing, everything in life was GOOD! He could fix anything. He knew everything. He was so big and strong you always felt safe.
The most difficult time in the life of a young person is that moment when they discover their father is only human.
It's devastating. The strongest, most stable, most wise, most powerful being in your universe is only human. Just like you. He can make mistakes. He can get angry at you or hurt you even when it's not your fault. He fails to understand things that are important to you. He's not there when you need him. He doesn't have all the answers... The Rock that stood at the center of your universe, making everything stable, proved to be just a dust mote -- among billions of others -- blowing briefly in the wind and then gone.
What can you do? Then along comes someone who describes to you an all powerful, all wise, all knowing, loving father figure who'll always be with you and never leave you or fail you. Of cours you jump at it. This idea of God -- the univezse-sized loving father figure -- naturally takes the place of your own sadly fallen father... and everything's alright again.
As a side note, it may be interesting to notice the timing of the rise into awareness of a "Mother Goddess." (I know this idea is deeply disturbing to some people... Get over it. Any God big enough to deserve the name can look like whatever it wants to.) At least in the US, it was in 20s that this idea started to rise. After world war I when so many fathers did not come home and children were raised only by mom. It may well be the same in Europe and Russia, altho I don't have the data at hand to support it. Again, with the hippies in the 50s and 60s, the Mother Goddess idea grew into prominence. This next rise was just a few years after World War II when, again, so many homes were without fathers.
In short, the cultural perceptions of that infinite force that some call God, is shaped by the loss of the father figure. And so a God is created who is everything that father figure should have been, but failed at.
AND NOW, with the Internet...
If you're under 20 or 25 and had internet access, you probably learned pretty early that almighty Go-ogle knew much more than your dad. It likely even proved him wrong on occasion. Go-ogle. That vast, amorphous, distribution of knowledge and awareness. That almighty web which connects and includes everyone and everything. That was your source of information. That was the almighty, all-knowing image from your childhood.
Where does this lead you? Simple. Many people still want a God in their life. But with the youngest among humans, the star kids (many of whom are now young adults), their image of God will have changed. They will describe it as "The almight IS", "The Universal Force", "The all-knowing", "The collection of all awareness", "The energy of everyone and everything woven together"... They will say "We are all God" or "We are all part of God" and their elders will look on them baffled and wonder where such nonsense came from.
As more and more children are raised with the internet, the old paternalistic ideas of God will fade and be replaced with an "internet image of God." Religions that insist "God is this and only this...", this small-minded omniscient and omnipotent male figure, will begin to fade away. They will lose power and position and eventually hold no more influence in the world than, say, Greek mythologies.
Religions and meta- perspectives that embrace the "God in everything" or "God in all of us" idea will grow in prominence as the old ways fade. And 100 years from now, when all of the current older generation are dead, only a very few stubborn "die-hard" believers will remain in the old religions. 300 years from now, Christianity and Islam, among others, will be corpses, buried with their holy symbol above their tomb. Jesus and Allah will have gone the way of Zeus and Woden... Busloads of tourists will visit those tombs and say, "Remember that one? That one was once great."