The ideological cosmology of religion is a powerful tool for transcending differences and creating a meta unity.
I suspect, on some level, differences in ideology are really differences in what is defined as sacred and profane. They demarcate the boundaries of experience, of what is to be explored, and what is to be forbidden. A population of groups with conflicting definitions threatens cosmological disintegration, which results in massive fear and violent reaction.
I’ve been reading about European history recently, and specifically the history of the North Sea, and consequently the origins of Great Britain starting with the invasion of the Romans in 43AD.
Civilization in general has been a fascination, and trying to understand how and why western civilization, beginning with the Babylonians, Egyptians, Mycenaeans, Greeks, and Romans, managed to continually enlarge their reach in ways that no other civilization had done before.
I’ve always had intuitions about the power of religion and the unique role of written language as a vehicle for absorbing tribes and communities into these nation states. When I first learned that the word religion means “to bind together again”, it stuck with me as being having a peculiar role in the formation of institutions, which in turn assimilate populations into an order and structure that serves as an identity.
And I’ve always suspected the fall of the Roman Empire was somehow linked to the decline of their religion. There’s a curious coincidence of secularism, and the fall of the Roman Empire.
What struck about the history of Britain was how conflicted this island had been from the arrival of the Romans, to about 1200AD. Invasions, immigrations, multi ethnic communities populating such a small island, and the enduring violence and bloodshed during that time is astounding.
There was a single central figure, however, King Alfred, who was the catalyst that seemed to rectify this disunity, and create a national identity.
What was most intriguing, was that King Alfred had visited Rome before he became king, and was fully christianized. Apart of this devotion was his potent emphasis on writing and recording history. He was a man of letters, and during his reign, he quite literally began to write the Historical narrative of Britain, which was inseparable from his mission to Christianize the country into a United whole, beginning with his Angle Saxon Chronicle.
Up until then, none of the other tribes had a written language with which to preserve their pagan religion. Some had primitive runes, but there was no literacy.
King Alfred not only introduced Christianity, but he used literacy as a means of recording the historical identity of Britain through his religious vision.
When you look at other countries at the time, such a Denmark, they have no written history. European History began with religion, began with the preservation of sacral text, of symbolism and rituals and rites contained therein. Prior to the introduction of literacy, history is merely an inquisition of piecing archeological fragments together. The narrative is applied retroactively.
Religion is cosmology, and cosmology is identity. Preserving this requires the introduction of a standardized common history which possesses continuity, a living memory.
Buildings and art are as much an expression of this cosmology as text, but text contains the logic that transcends the boundaries of immediate community.