Definition of religion

Discussion in 'Linguistics' started by S.A.M., Nov 30, 2008.

  1. iceaura Valued Senior Member

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    Why would you ask what religions "referred to"? Some kind of koan, enlightenment through recognition of paradox?
    The list of practices normally labeled "religions" (by encyclopedias, dictionaries, etc) that do not necessarily involve the "supernatural" so called, is long.

    As is the list of supernatural entities believed in by people who do not incorporate them into any agreed religion.
     
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  3. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

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    Doesn't that miss the important point that religious people believe these supernatural forces or beings have control over the natural world, at least intermittently or at their whim? If a person has a hunch that there is a supernatural universe out there which is completely unobservable by us, and therefore hews to my expression of the underlying principle of science (that the natural universe is a closed system unaffected by external--i.e. supernatural--forces), would you define him as "religious"? Assuming that he got the rest of his science right, I'd be happy to accept him as a proper scientist who had not yet succeeded in proving his favorite hypothesis "true beyond a reasonable doubt" and therefore did not expect anyone else to accept it.

    In my experience our quarrel with the religionists is not focused on their belief in the supernatural, but in their belief that there is evidence for its existence. This evidence is almost invariably in the form of allegedly reliable eyewitness accounts of supernatural creatures tampering in an unmistakable way with the behavior of the natural universe. But sometimes it comes instead with a scatterbrained attempt at reasoning: "Hey, there are butterflies! That's plenty of evidence for the existence of a benevolent god."

    If a person agrees that no extraordinary evidence has yet been found to substantiate his extraordinary assertion, that would put him in a small (but admittedly non-zero) minority of religionists.

    The Abrahamists who comprise the religious population that most of us Westerners come in regular contact with speak proudly of their "faith," but for most of them it is not a totally unreasoned faith. They believe there are at least a few shreds of evidence.
     
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  5. PsychoticEpisode It is very dry in here today Valued Senior Member

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    Do we kowtow to the religious that much? Is it only the atheist that has to be politically correct?
     
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  7. Nasor Valued Senior Member

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    Really? Like what? I'm genuinely curious, because off the top of my head the only example of a belief system that's labeled as a "religion" that doesn't involve the supernatural is Confucianism; and I think one could make good arguments that it is in fact not really a religion.

    As for supernatural entities that people believe in, I would consider them all part of a religion. Although I'm sure some might disagree with me on that.
     
  8. Nasor Valued Senior Member

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    Yes, I would still consider that a religion - although one that would by definition be impossible to ever empirically test.
     
  9. iceaura Valued Senior Member

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    Taoism and Buddhism are the two standard examples - although both incorporate theistic sects, both also incorporate atheistic sects. Apparently Falun Gong is another ? The atheistic sects have millions of adherents - they outnumber the Presbyterians.

    There are also a large number and variety of religions similar to the well-discussed traditional Navajo, in which the "supernatural" status of the various religious entities invoked in ritual is - to say the least - debatable. I have encountered people familiar with both Western anthropology and trad Dine religion who go so far as to deny that the Navajo have a religion at all - simply in response to attempts to describe their rituals as worship of the supernatural. They regard Western attempts to misrepresent their religion that way a form of theistic cultural imperialism.

    If you want to make an argument that these are not religions, make it with the dictionaries and encyclopedias and so forth. I would give you better odds on including things like Soviet Communism or Chinese Maoism among the religions, than booting Taoism from them. Korean Juche has made it.

    Meanwhile, the entire realm of fairies, elves, gnomes, merfolk, etc, in many cases involves nothing that to me resembles worship. They simply exist, or not, in a natural world that can incorporate such critters. Granted as one moves up to witches and angels and devils the distinctions blur and deity looms, but all sufficiently rigorous taxonomy has these boundary problems.
     
  10. disease Banned Banned

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    You keep forgetting that fairies, goblins, demons, angels, witches, magic, lightning and thunder, all inform anthropological mythologies. Religion is a mere subset of a much larger mythological realm (at least, in my almanac).
     
  11. S.A.M. uniquely dreadful Valued Senior Member

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    Because we are defining it? What is the set of concepts that you consider as religion?



    But do you know if the Buddha really said that? After all it was 400-500 years before anyone got together what they thought he said. Maybe the Buddha did believe in God. Maybe he said something else altogether. How would you know?
     
  12. (Q) Encephaloid Martini Valued Senior Member

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    One could ask the same questions of Muhammad? How would you know?
     
  13. S.A.M. uniquely dreadful Valued Senior Member

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    Because we have faith in the Quran. But if you don't believe what is the basis for having confidence in anything?
     
  14. LogicTech Registered Member

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    I should note that in most religions, the authenticity and existence of the main character or prophet doesn't actually matter. They are to be judged by what they preach, not by who said what....
     
  15. (Q) Encephaloid Martini Valued Senior Member

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    Exactly, so you answered your own question. You believe.
     
  16. (Q) Encephaloid Martini Valued Senior Member

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    It's called 'evidence' Sam. Without it, you'd believe in invisible pink unicorns.
     
  17. S.A.M. uniquely dreadful Valued Senior Member

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    If you have evidence you don't need faith. Faith is what you have in the absence of evidence. Its the basis of human endeavor and persistence.
     
  18. LogicTech Registered Member

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    Evidence. You don't necessarily have to believe in anything to establish a baseline confidence in anything.


    "I don't know" is also a perfectly valid position, as are "educated guesses" based on existing evidence/experiences, or logic (e.g. look up String Theory for an example). You don't need to fill your head with assumptions that may very well be wrong.
     
  19. S.A.M. uniquely dreadful Valued Senior Member

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    I agree. But I don't know doesn't take you anywhere, forward or back. You have to believe in the substance of your thoughts before you can make any progress. Even if there is little or no evidence to support it. If you don't believe in anything without evidence, you'd be a poor specimen of a human being. Every discovery or invention begins from a serious of "useless" assumptions. 200 things may be wrong before one is right. But to get through the 200 to reach the one, you must have faith.
     
  20. (Q) Encephaloid Martini Valued Senior Member

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    Then, you should believe in invisible pink unicorns with that logic, Sam.
     
  21. LogicTech Registered Member

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    No, not necessarily. In science, any questions that could have well been answered with "I don't know" are simply left at that, until we either have the knowledge or the equipment necessary to test for them. This is an on going process, and questions such as "Is there a God" might be answerable one day. Or it may never be.

    At least, from what I learned in math, there are such things as provably unanswerable questions.

    Faith in not necessary to believe in the substance of your thoughts, it is entirely possible that, even if there is no evidence, to back it up with logic or mathematics, or both. Indeed, that is how ALL assumptions and conclusion in science and philosophy are formulated.

    The only assumption that you need to have faith in, ever, is that reality exists (Well, this assumption can actually be proven and/or inferred, but there are those who think otherwise... Faith may not be necessary). The details can come later.
     
  22. S.A.M. uniquely dreadful Valued Senior Member

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    Not at all. Science only addresses questions which can be tested and has no role in saying I don't know in faith based questions, because they are outside the purview of science.

    The scientific method, you see, does not prove anything, or provide evidence in favor of. It merely shows that a falsifiable hypothesis has not yet been falsified. This is assumed to be evidence that it is true.
     
  23. LogicTech Registered Member

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    Look up String Theory. That is an example of science addressing questions that can't be tested. And, unless you are willing to admit that "faith based" questions have no basis in reality (or logic, or math, or reason, etc) then "I don't know" is a perfectly valid answer to those types of questions.

    The practice of "leaving God out of it" was only done because back in the day addressing those types of questions could have gotten them killed; it was not really a philosophical standpoint.

    You are right in that it doesn't prove anything, but that's not the point of the scientific method. But, the scientific method is devoted to providing evidence in favor of a given assumption or theory. That's why it was created. Evolution, Big Bang Theory, General Relativity, etc are not strictly proven theories, but there is enormous amounts of evidence in favor of their truthfulness, and some are much more solid than others (e.g. Evolution is a more solid theory than our theories of gravity). And there continues to be an increasing amount of evidence in their favor. The one thing, however that they are all based on is facts about the external reality in which they reside.
     
    Last edited: Dec 9, 2008

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