Thursday, 23 February 2017


No philosophy or religion would be complete without a detailed list of the punishments we feel other people deserve. "Give life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot" to punish offenders (Exodus 21:23) or the Buddhist hell (Naraka) where the anti-social will be brutalized for hundreds of thousands of years (cf, Devaduta Sutta) due to karma or the eternal punishment taught by the mono-theists.

It could of course be true that people though the ages have seen this hell in visions, but many modern thinkers have assumed that there is no hell but rather humans project their subconscious desires on the world and imagine hell. For example, the philosophers Hume (171176) and Hobbes (15881679) suggested that belief in gods arose when primitive people personified nature and offered worship in an attempt to placate them.
Likewise Feuerbach (180472) argued thatGodrepresents humans qualities which they regard as ideal and the sociologist Émile Durkheim (18581917) thought religion provided a mythological representation of social structures whereby affirming the values and rules of society in a quasi-objective form.

Freud (18561939) suggested that the idea of God is a magnified version of the image of the human parent unconsciously produced as hope in a rough and unjust world. [11; 25] The modern cognitive science of religion has similar projection theories whereby humans to project agency onto inanimate objects and see supernatural beings that don't exist.

So, hells in Buddhism exist either as an insight into what will happen to people for their transgressions or as a human projection of their human obsession with punishment, but either way it is clear, I think, that the desire to see others punished is very human (we see it in our society past and present such as 'Crime Stoppers' TV shows and 'lock-em-up' documentaries and 24 hour TV news showing the latest crime, the latest high speed chase, the latest indictment, and the latest ruling or prison sentence.) We call it justice - punishment is beneath us, of course - but whatever we call it it is clear we as a species love it. That punishment is limited in this imperfect world means we project our desire onto a cosmological scale and assume God, or karma will do our bidding for us and punish those people we feel deserving, or on the other hand the cosmos could really share our desire to punish.

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