I have a tentative working hypothesis to run by you all with regards to the evolution of human spirituality/religion; specifically with regards to the nontheistic foundations of Dharmic/Buddhist philosophy. It is based on David Brazier's (a.k.a. Dharmavidya's) interpretation of the 4 Noble Truths which, according to his understanding/research, are as follows:
1) Dukkha - The highly tuned human cognitive capacity to perceive certain aspects of life (ex. the death of a loved one, etc) as less than satisfying.
2) Samudaya - The emotional energy that tends to co-arise with Dukkha.
3) Nirodha - The transmutation/release of Samudayic energies such that they lead to productive/neutral outcomes (rather than outcomes that serve to increase Dukkha).
4) Marga - The life path/basic habits of someone devoted to mastering Nirodha.
My thesis is as follows:
Perhaps due to the inspiration, rest, and comfort that we derive from our (mostly irrational) dream states, there is a component of the subjective human condition that craves experiences that are, by definition, not as "logical" as those rooted in science. Hence, while it is arguable that Buddhism, above all other forms of spirituality, can definitely be affirmed as empirical in nature (i.e. the Buddha encouraged people to form their OWN opinions concerning the applicability of his hypothesis based on their OWN reasoning/experiences/evidence), IMO, by definition, no form of satisfying/lasting spirituality can be definitively called "scientific". Yes, when we put on our "objective" hat, we can reason scientifically. However, IMHO, our lives would not be complete without space for the imaginative/irrational/spiritual.
Unfortunately, as I see it, the current problem is that this space is not as clearly delineated/contained as it could be. As a result, some people's irrational ideas about "God"/"Allah" (who I see as ultimately analogous to a Tantric mediation exercise from which JudeoChristianIslamics simply never wake up), are easily manipulated such that the basic rule of compassion, which is claimed to be the basis of all religion, is often obscured/trampled. Specifically, if the "God" of JudeoChristianityIslam, and for that matter, all "mythical/irrational" religious "characters", were simply viewed as elaborate Tantric-like exercises of the mind (as I believe they actually were originally), we'd be much better off. For, while a space would still be available for the needed irrational aspects of spirituality, that space would be better delineated, contained, applied, and understood. Further, if the fruit of the Buddha's passion for compassion, his profound working hypothesis concerning the basic human condition (i.e. the Four Noble Truths--especially as interpreted by Dharmavidya), were seen as a finding that modern humanity's most ancient founding ancestors could have also managed to intuit/apply (hence, again, truly rendering "God/the gods" as originally being simple meditation/Tantric exercises meant to encourage the productive channeling of our Samudayic energies in order to accomplish Nirodha), we would, agian, be MUCH better off.
Interestingly, there is indeed evidence along these lines that can be seen in anthropological accounts of the spiritual/healing practices of the South African Kung Bushmen (in addition to those of at least one other indigenous African hunter-gathering group). Specifically, the Kung's original, possibly 30,000+ year old (judging by cave paintings), non-theistic tradition bares uncanny resemblance to the key/core aspects of the 4 Noble Truths. Given that all genetic evidence to date suggests that the Kung are the direct descendants of humanity's original founding ancestors, it seems possible that, rather than irrational mythology being our spiritual root (as most people and/or atheists somewhat derisively assume due to our predessessors' material "primitativeness"), the core of our ancestors' religious impulses may have been originally built upon a relatively rational philosophical base (i.e. a compassion for life/harmony that compelled a profound conceptualization of the basic human condition/conundrum (ie "Dukkha+Samudaya"), as well as rituals/Tantric techniques meant to facilitate "Nirodha" and/or the productive containment/ameliorization of "Samudaya"). It's just that, given that there were no written records back then, the philosophy gradually degenerated in most cases throughout the world towards simple focus on the Tantric-like rituals with little to no cultural memory of their original purpose as spiritual/mental exercises. Essentially, most of our ancestors may have simply FORGOTTEN that "Gods" weren't real! Hence NONTHEISM may have been our base. Not the other way around!
IMHO, the implications and applications of this interpretation of humanity's spiritual root are profound with regards to the challenge/inclination that most people feel to both preserve/respect core aspects of our diverse religious/ritual heritage AND to make more rational sense of it such that (with particular regards to JudeoChristianityIslam) it ceases to facilitate our current trajectory towards the destruction of our environment and/or species...
Any input on this idea would be appreciated. :-)
P.S. - For more insight into what IMHO is a novel, coherent, and profoundly applicable interpretation of the Buddha's 4 Nobel Truths, see David Braziers (i.e. Dharmavidya's) books "The Feeling Buddha" and "The New Buddhism".
P.P.S. - Please note that the "Tantra" that I am referring to above should NOT be reduced to simple sexual exercises (as is the stereotype here in the West). It is MUCH more than that. For more insight, see "The Psychology of Buddhist Tantra" by Rob Preece.