The Comanche, Pirahã and Greek Mindset
Terrific post. Genuinely enlightening.
The Pirahá seem like they do not possess memory, collectively or individually. Scary to see the effects. "Remember God".
Interesting article. Thanks.
The Normans, it seems, were kick-ass aristocrats like the Comanche but also built cathedrals and had a connection to certain popes. They invaded England while another branch drove out the Greek Christians, Muslims and various local Christian lords in southern Italy and Sicily. I just visited a massive fortification they built in Naples. They seemed to possess all three material/spiritual/moral conditions. My guess is they were half pagan Northmen who acquired a patina of Christian civilization in the 100 years or so they lived in France. They had the right balance at the right time in the right place. Kismet.
I think this is more enlightening about the strange features of the western European atheist mindset more than anything else. I'm guessing that each form of atheism is unique to each culture, and it can be tracked quite easily through comparative history when and where it emerges.
As you have mentioned, the Buddhist movement in ancient India and the Legalist/Confucian movements in ancient China are clearly quite similar to the Enlightenment, Marxist and Atheist movements in Western Europe.
Western atheism to me is very obviously descended from the Protestant belief systems. You can see all the Calvinist and Puritan thought lines in atheism of the West if you look close enough.
I'm guessing the Piraha, Comanche or ancient Greeks would find a modern western atheist intolerably abstract in their thought.
When I see something very unusual like what is said about the Piraha my first reaction is to doubt the truthiness of the account. Are there multiple credible sources about them?
Fascinating read. Do you intend to post about how the Bubonic plague was not just a massively lethal virus, but was also systemically racist?
The Piraha sounds like they actually live in the moment, present.
I think it is rather interesting if you consider the moral assumptions that atheists have since they align with Christian moral assumptions about how the world should be, not what it is.
Religion is not prior, so neither is atheism raised in reactions to it. Been writing on this today https://whyweshould.substack.com/p/re-wheeling-invention
Secularism is prior I suspect, and we were 'worlding' before we were religious, which is a type of world-building (the 'more complex' doubling down you refer to but rejected by Pirahã & Comanche when offered). One is still worlding when one rejects or accepts or critcises (as one should) world-building (religion, systems of morality, government, empire -- religions are merely imperial government departments gone rogue or become zombified by history).
Secularism is prior, but we may need a better word.
I propose worlding.
except that people who've gone back there have found that they *do* have creation myths, store food etc. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IPDwx2wVGV0).
But this still gets spruiked.
Which is a partial explanation for why atheists are looked down on; this sort of intellectually dishonesty is no better than creationists, who are also looked down on.
can't wait for you next book man
Interesting stuff as always. The bit on the Comanche I find particularly interesting. After reading your "Metaphysics of Aztec Violence" (and ordering the book reviewed) I found myself thinking about this understanding of the world and of violence in relation to Cormac McCarthy (as, for me, most though not all roads lead to McCarthy) and whether McCarthy had a similar understanding of this metaphysics. I think not only of Blood Meridian but also, and perhaps especially, of The Crossing. The man read nonfiction at an incredible rate so if the research was out there in english or spanish he probably encountered it. Now, to bring it back to the Comanche- is their religious understanding so different from the metaphysics of the aztecs as presented in the Maffie book? If so, is there something of a clash of the two world-pictures in Blood Meridian and the Border Trilogy?
Your introductions are always so wonderful at setting the stage. Most bloggers don't seem to do that, but I'm trying to move in that direction. I suspect you simply have a gift for it - I have a very hard time getting the right tone in an opening paragraph the way you seem so effortlessly to do in post after post.
Tom Wolf wrote a very good book titled “The Kingdom of Speech”.
It relates the story of Everett’s battle with Chomsky over the language of the Pirahã.
Wasn't there also some really small and barely known Asian tribe that was atheist