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Trash and Death


There are two points I'd like to make about those four ways.

First, all four are fairly obvious responses. Even if I hadn't told you about them, all you'd need to do is throw away a few familiar things and see the problem for yourself and then you'd naturally reinvent the same solutions. In other words, the ideas can be spontaneously generated.

Second, the exact same psychology applies when the familiar thing is a dead body. That's an ugly thing to say, I know, but the correspondence is too striking to ignore. When someone dies, what do we do with the body? Well, we wrap it up in a coffin; we take it to a special place that we don't normally visit; we perform a ceremony; and then we hide it under the dirt. Or, rather, we get someone else to do all that for us and that suggests a fifth way.

  • You can get someone else to throw the thing away for you.

Now let's see how the two points fit together. Imagine a group of people who are nearly blank slates children marooned on a deserted island, say, in kind of a Lord of the Flies / Blue Lagoon scenario. I claim that after a few years and a few deaths, the survivors will have developed some obvious ideas about how to deal with dead bodies, and also that their ideas will be essentially the same as ours. But, ideas about how to deal with death constitute an important part of religion, so what we have here is another example of how weak forms of religion arise spontaneously!


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@ November (2008)