Religion Vs. Rewilding

Do hunter-gatherers have religion? That question makes about as much sense as asking if hunter-gatherers had language, science or art. Of course they did. Although their religions looked vastly different than the religions (and science & art) that we see today in civilization.

Like any cultural descriptor, the word religion evokes all kinds of emotions and images. When I think of the word religion I see a cross. I see big buildings and cathedrals. I see a man with a long white beard sitting in a throne in the clouds, looking down at us with a scrutinizing eye. I remember going to church as a child and never really understanding just what the fuck people did there. I hated singing the songs in church because I couldn’t read them out of the bible because I couldn’t read. So I would rock back and forth in the pews and fidget around like a lion in a cage until my mom would ask me to sit still. The words the preacher said made no sense and sounded totally boring. Not to mention the stink of the mold in the old churches. Eventually I would get a headache and begin to hate life. I never believed in god. I never had an incline to stay at church. I stopped going to church at eleven because I wanted to play video games.

As with everything civilization creates, the more recent the more destructive. Science, the latest, greatest Religion follows suit. Science supposedly separates itself from religion by allegedly basing itself on observations of the natural world and not mythology, made sense. I loved Science. In school, I always did well in Science. I didn’t learn until later that the institution of Science also bases itself in the same mythological roots as any other civilized religion. Sciences that actually project a more accurate perception of reality (the ones that point to a living world) get put in the little box of “quantum physics” or if they can’t measure it with machines they call it “pseudo science” and place them high on the shelf where we can forget about it!

Funding for Science (which really means investing in building more machines that can measure things we don’t trust our own senses to measure for their inherent subjectivity) only goes into projects that lead to furthering civilization. Though Science masquerades as “objective inquiry,” you can only fund scientific projects that somehow further the progression of civilization and therefore, the extraction of more “resources” and more interesting ways of killing people. Science refers to the funded exploration of the world through the belief that the world has no life, that it all exists for our taking.

Now a few sciences like quantum physics reveals some of the gaps in previous scientific thought. For those who believe in the mythology of Science, we can use these gaps to change more peoples minds. You can similarly find verses in the bible to support rewilding and dismantling civilization. Of course mainstream Christians justify the devouring of the earth through the bible; the very first chapter describes humans as above animals and the earth. Of course mainstream Scientists use this same myth to torture monkeys and build atom bombs. Trying to rewild the institution of organized religion proves just as difficult as trying to change the institution of Science; they came about through civilization. We cannot rewild civilization since it never had wildness to begin with. Religion and Science just describe words that civilization has twisted for its own purposes. We can rewild these things.

In order to rewild religion we have to see what myths civilization uses to domesticate it members. Salvation and sky-based gods (or GOD) come only exist in civilized cultures, or in cultures already assimilated into civilization. In civilized religions, we must struggle in this life so that God will award us with eternal bliss in the afterlife. I can’t think of a better way of convincing a slave-class from not revolting (…Um, aside from more modernly convincing people that a slave-class no longer exists).

Animism refers to the religions of indigenous peoples around the world. In a general sense it means ‘all religions that believe everything has a spirit, even inanimate objects.’ Using a blanket term to describe thousands of religions sounds rather obnoxious to me, though it does say something about the evolutionary value of religion; it would make sense that in order to survive in the long-run people who treat everything in the world as sacred. What more a sacred way of living in the world than ‘seeing’ a spirit in everything. Hunter-gatherers to not tread on this lightly. If you don’t truly value life, even inanimate objects, than you will not respect them.

From an animist perspective, Gods live among us not above us. They live as our parents, not ‘rulers’ in the same sense that we see hierarchy. They make up an extension of our family. Some gods live as our parents, “father sun,” while some live as our siblings; “sister corn.” Living in this world, in this time, experiencing this world, not disassociating yourself from it or living in an afterlife.

The literalism that which modern civilized people experience mythology looks astounding. Most Christians actually believe that Adam and Eve lived as real people. The same way that scientists worship “facts” (or even perceiving theories as laws). This probably stems from speaking English for a few thousand years, a language with no built-in metaphor, layering of archetypes or fluidity.

I generally refer to these two perceptions as “animist religions” and “civilized religions.” But “civilized religions” does little to explain just how religion and Science share the same mythology. We need a blanket term for religions that do not see things as animate, but inanimate. A word like Inanimism. If animism refers to the belief that all things have a spirit, than inanimism refers to the belief that either only humans have spirits or nothing at all.

Many people conflate the Institution of Science, with the inquiry called science, that I generally use the term “tracking” (as in following tracks and sign) to refer to the animist form of inquiry. Similarly I hardly think of Animism as a “religion” in the institutional way we think of religions and see it more as a way of perceiving the world; “spiritual, not religious.” Tracking connects you to spirit, whereas civilized science dissociates people from spirit and gives you the world of “meat space.” The civilized have an easier time devouring the world when they can convince themselves it never had its own life. This shows us why a subjective science, one that does not see inanimate objects as inanimate objects but living spirits with their own lives, came about through millions of years of human evolution.

I have heard many people refer to the physical world as “meat space.” That at once you can split reality into two parts, a physical one and a spiritual one. I can only see one point in doing this, and that involves objectifying something in the physical world. If I can take the spirit out of something, it doesn’t feel as bad when I objectify it. I always feel highly offended when I hear the words meat space. I never really put my finger on it until Willem (who also takes offense to the words) said that it reminded him of the objectifying slang term “meat curtains” which refers to a womans vagina.

Meat, a piece of flesh that no longer resembles the animal it came from, quite literally has no more spirit, because the animal that it came from no longer lives. From an animists perspective of the world, flesh and spirit do not exist as a duality but as one. Meat still holds the spirit of the animal, and will become part of your spirit when you eat it, just as the flesh will become part of your flesh.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals offered a 1 million dollar reward for the first scientist who can clone meat. Apparently meat grown in a petri dish has no nerve endings and no way to scream and obviously in PETA’s eyes, no soul, and therefore, growing meat in a petri dish and eating meat from a petri dish does not violate their animal ethics (excuse me while I turn away to vomit). Though the petri-meat may have the label “cruelty-free,” the world view and culture that would even think to invent such a thing can’t and never will stop abusing the planet. The complete disconnection from reality, the complete disconnect from taking responsibility and honoring the things that die for us to live, looks completely and utterly insane. I wish I could offer a 1 million dollar reward for the first person to bring me the head of the first scientist who clones meat.

How long before some perverted scientist clones a vagina to have sex with it? Does it count as rape if the vagina has no brain and mouth and cannot scream? If we say that cloned meat has no life, do we define having sex with a cloned vagina as necrophilia? Does a cloned vagina count as dead, or something else? This example shows exactly the kind of psychotic disassociation from reality that feeds science and projects the duality of flesh and spirit. You don’t learn to live in the world through objectifying it, you learn by subjecting yourself to its terms and courting it.

Though I even have a hard time using the term science as defined as “objective inquiry” because no such thing exists. If you remove variables, you will get false information because things do not have their own essences but define themselves through their environment and interactions. Even people could remove their own perceptions (which frame their inquiries and make them subjective) we would still receive false information because our perceptions define how we interact with the environment, which defines us. Even if we built a robot with no heart, it would still give us false information because the framing of no-heart still has subjectivity of “no-heart.” Things without hearts, or people who shield their own so they can feel nothing by building nukes and torturing labrats have the subjectivity of perceiving the world in a false light, or at least in one that does not serve life. Objectivity means seeing things objectively, apart from what gives them life. It sees them as inanimate.

If we take out our senses and experiences and perceptions as humans shaped by the environment, than we take out the very things that make us human. We take out the humanity rendering information useless to humans and only useful to machines. When we no longer trust our own bodies and senses and experiences as a measure for what we see as “real” than we don’t really have anything “real” at all.

For some, including myself, rewilding religion may look like walking away from any and all inanimist-religions and starting over with animism. Since I have never participated in a culture of civilized religion or Science, I find it easier to build something new than fix something old and falling apart that I don’t understand. For those who do have deep cultural ties to civilized, inanimist-religions, rewilding them will look like rewilding the English language; it will happen very slowly over time… and those who don’t change their perception will die. Animism shows us religions that stand the test of evolution. Civilization’s religions will die with it unless they fundamentally change through re-animating. You will need to act as a Re-Animator.

Religions, whether Science, science, Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Scientology, Inanimism, or Animism dictate the majority of our choices as a culture. These religions give us reasons to justify the way we interact with the world. Civilization uses the perception of the world as dead to justify its destruction. Animism sees the world as alive and treats it accordingly. Weather you personally believe in spirits or not, in order to create a new way of life that does not destroy the planet, we need to at least pretend, with sincerity, as though everything has a spirit.

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11 Comments on “Religion Vs. Rewilding”

  1. I just the other day started a Livejournal community that this essay reminds me of:

    This and a few other essays of yours will definitely make their way to the community.

    Even in civilization, animist beliefs and tendencies held on for a long time, albeit primarily on the periphery. Take the Asatru religion for example, which is basically a continuation of various northern European pre-Christian beliefs: various nature spirits, or land wights, are recognized as existing and having personalities. Laws were even passed in Iceland about removing dragon-head images from ships before coming too close to shore, as to not offend the local spirits and scare them off. In Greece, there was a philosopher (forgot the name) who said “All things are full of gods”. What really fucked everything up, at least in the sense of religion, was when one group decided their patron god was better, and extended their dominating of others to their worship. Then he was suddenly the “only god”. Then an empire got involved, and we were all screwed. Now we have masses of people whose mental schemas are so based on singularity of truth that they can’t even imagine anything else but what they’ve been force-fed. Even the word we use to describe the wholeness of existence, ‘universe’, limits our understanding, which is why I prefer the term ‘multiverse’.


    Oh, and you might like this:

  2. Hey Scout,

    “things do not have their own essences but define themselves through their environment and interactions.”

    This here is almost straight from the Buddha’s mouth.. check it out! He was a Tracker of direct human experience..

    I read a similar observation the other day in Plato’s Timaeus.. oh wait actually that was different he was talking about only being able to speak of “things” as “having” qualities not as “being” something solid and unchanging.

    check it out!



  3. I like this article, though you make the same mistake that creationists use when you talk about scientific theory. Overall I thought you had a problem with the organization of the church. that it is hypocritical to establish and place of worship and put up structures, the elevate the “learned” from the unwashed masses. I agree with this, since I never liked church, really hate Lutheranism, and above all, feel that nothing should get between a person and the spirit.

    keep the fath bro

  4. Hey Willem,
    Thanks for getting the reference!

    Hey Peter,
    Can you say more about this “mistake” you think I have made?

    I don’t have a problem with places to worship, such as sacred places or organized rituals. I just want to make it clear that their ideas destroy the planet.

  5. Separating “science” as a concept from “science” as a practice, often leads to arguments.

    Science isn’t a monolith, however, through objective observation of the endeavors – as promulgated and employed in the context of institutional science – you might think otherwise (even if you were to apply scientific method in your observations interestingly enough).

  6. I think I understand where Peter is coming from. People who don’t know much about science (I’m not saying you, I mean in general) speak of theories in terms of “only a theory.” They conflate theory and hypothesis; they think “theory” means “guess,” when actually that’s what “hypothesis” means. But you get a theory from first making a guess (hypothesis) and then gathering data to see if the guess is right (experimenting and/or researching). If you can back up your hypothesis with data, then it becomes a theory. But creationists and certain other ideological groups don’t seem to understand that.

    Not that you don’t have a very good point about some supposedly science-minded people trying to make a religion out of science. I see it all the time and I’m not even a scientist. Man, don’t EVEN take aim at anybody’s sacred cows, no matter how much evidence you have to back yourself up. It’s scary.

  7. Oh, and my thinking’s really jumbled on the religion thing; I need to just sit down and hash it all out one of these days and do a writeup. But I think that organized religion tries to take on the role of what would be just ordinary human culture in the wild. Because if you look at indigenous tribes living in a traditional way, they have all manner of rules about “we do this” and “we don’t do that,” just like organized religion does. But instead of it being oral rules passed down from parents to kids, it got externalized into writing, hence the presence of scripture. And organized religion didn’t start out being universalist, either–it evolved into that over time.

    Leonard Schlain wrote The Alphabet Versus The Goddess to posit that Goddess religion was destroyed by the changes in the human brain that came about with the introduction of writing–all of a sudden we learned in a very different way. But the Goddess-religion theorists don’t go back far enough. It’s like animism isn’t even religion to them, which is really weird. I think the presence of writing destroyed animism as well as the later Goddess cults, because writing became part of the domestication process. Hell, it still is today. What’s the first thing a Christian missionary does to convert the unwashed heathen masses? Right. Teaches them to read and write. It abstracts their thinking, among other things. Civilization is based heavily on abstraction.

    Anyway, that’s some of it, for what it’s worth.

  8. This makes great sense, Scout!

    I especially like the little ‘Inanimism’ twist – sounds like a scorn- or pity-filled word storytellers will use to thrill the children in centuries to come. It occurs to me that you could also use ‘death-worship’ (death as fixed end point rather than transition to another form of life) to describe the civilised religious experience. This contrasts nicely with the ‘life-worship’ of animism (‘serve life’ as you say – indeed, that’s the only kind of service I’m comfortable with these days :)) and makes it especially clear where the civilised trip is headed.

    What clicked this for me was realising just how dead everything is in our religious buildings. The only non-human life that played a part in any church I ever went to were the fully domesticated offerings of harvest day and maybe the flowers at weddings. And bread and wine? More like grain and grape … Quinn’s distinction of ‘Farmer’s religion’ seems particularly apt in this respect. Funny how few signs of life were observable in the people too (my involvement was mostly with the Best-of-British Anglican tradition). I’m reminded of Luke Rhinehart’s description (in ‘The Dice Man‘ which I’ve just finished reading for the third time) of post-adolescence as an extended period of early-onset rigor mortis – with which he begs to differ. So do I.

    Anyhow thanks. My appreciation of this slant of analysis has been a long time coming, but it’s been worth the wait!