On "Religion"

Discussion in 'Religion' started by Tiassa, Jun 4, 2020.

  1. Tiassa Let us not launch the boat ... Staff Member

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    Scholar Karen Armstrong, considering questions of what people mean by "religion", starting from a proposed contrast of Buddhism as a secular philosophy:

    Here we come to the heart of the problem. Buddhism is certainly not a religion as this word has been understood in the West since the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. But our modern Western conception of "religion" is idiosyncratic and eccentric. No other cultural tradition has anything like it, and even premodern European Christians would have found it reductive and alien. In fact, it complicates any attempt to pronounce on religion's propensity for violence.

    To complicate things further, for about fifty years now it has been clear in the academy that there is no universal way to define religion. In the West we see "religion" as a coherent system of obligatory beliefs, institutions, and rituals centering on a supernatural God, whose practice is essentially private and hermetically sealed off from all "secular" activities. But words in other languages that we translate as "religion" almost invariably refer to something larger, vaguer, and more encompassing. The Arabic din signifies an entire way of life. The Sanskrit dharma is also "a 'total' concept, untranslatable, which covers law, justice, morals, and social life." The Oxford Classical Dictionary firmly states: "No word in either Greek or Latin corresponds to the English 'religion' or 'religious'." The idea of religion as an essentially personal and systematic pursuit was entirely absent from classical Greece, Japan, Egypt, Mesopotamia, Iran, China, and India. Nor does the Hebrew Bible have any abstract conncept of religion; and the Talmudic rabbis would have found it impossible to express what they meant by faith in a single word or even in a formula, since the Talmud was expressly designed to bring the whole of human life into the ambit of the sacred.

    The origins of the Latin religio are obscure. It was not "a great objective something", but had imprecise connotations of obligation and taboo; to say that it was a cultic observance, a family propriety, or keeping an oath was religio for you meant that it was incumbent on you to do it. The word acquired an important new meaning among early Christian theologians: an attitude of reverence toward God and the universe as a whole. For Saint Augustine (c. 354-430 CE), religio was neither a system of rituals and doctrines nor a historical institutionalized tradition but a personal encounter with the transcendence that we call God as well as the bond that unites us to the divine and to one another. In medieval Europe, religio came to refer to the monastic life and distinguished the monk from the "secular" priest, someone who had lived in and worked in the world (saeculum).

    The only faith tradition that does fit the modern Western notion of religion as something codified and private is Protestant Christianity, which, like religion in this sense of the word, is also a product of the early modern period. At this time Europeans and Americans had begun to separate religion and politics, because they assumed, not altogether accurately, that the theological squabbles of the Reformation had been entirely responsible for the Thirty Years' War. The conviction that religion must be rigorously excluded from political life has been called the charter myth of the sovereign nation-state. The philosophers and statesmen who pioneered this dogma believed that they were returning to a more satisfactory state of affairs that had existed before ambitious Caltholic clerics had confused two utterly distinct realms. But in fact their secular ideology was as radical an innovation as the modern market economy that the West was concurrently devising. To non-Westerners, who had not been through this particular modernizing process, both these innovations would seem unnatural and even incomprehensible. The habit of separating religion and politics is now so routine in the West that it is difficult for us to appreciate how thoroughly the two co-inhered in the past. It was never simply a question of the state "using" religion; the two were indivisible. Dissociating them would have seemed like trying to extract the gin from a cocktail.

    In the premodern world, religion permeated all aspects of life … a host of activities now considered mundane were experienced as deeply sacred: forest clearing, hunting, football matches, dice games, astronomy, farming, state building, tugs of war, town planting, commerce, imbibing strong drink, and, most particularly, warfare. Ancient peoples would have found it impossible to see where "religion" ended and "politics" began. This was not because they were too stupid to understand the distinction but because they wanted to invest everything they did with ultimate value. We are meaning-seeking creatures and, unlike other animals, fall very easily into despair if we fail to make sense of our lives. We find the prospect of our inevitable extinction hard to bear. We are troubled by natural disasters and human cruelty and are acutely aware of our physical and psychological frailty. We find it astonishing that we are here at all and want to know why. We also have a great capacity for wonder. Ancient philosophies were entranced by the order of the cosmos; they marveled at the mysterious power that kept the heavenly bodies in their orbits and the seas within bounds and that ensured that the earth regularly came to life again after the dearth of winter, and they longed to participate in this richer and more permanent existence.


    (4-6)

    If I describe those paragraphs as some manner of introductory subject matter, they are quite literally an excerpt from the introduction of a history book about religion and violence. In a marketplace given to focus on considerations of religion, there are always questions of vector. For the faithful evangelist, a promotional attitude, bearing witness in hope of propagating new fellowship, or securing and even advancing established relationships. Critics, meanwhile, aim for retort and even revolution. But there also remains a question of what actually happened, or what anyone is talking about.

    To wit, perhaps an answer really is, two, even if the question isn't one plus one. And maybe someone over there says the answer is seven, and the difference is consequential. But if a critique of what went wrong requires the answer be three, that critique is itself wrong.

    History is a bit more complicated than math, in this context, but the problematic circumstance remains. Historical criticism can be validated within its context, and the imposition of fallacy is as affecting and, thereby, invalidating as requiring a wrong mathematical answer in the course of criticizing another wrong answer.

    The well-prepared religious evangelist can bring a library of propaganda to bear; a critic might claim expertise in other people's critiques against religion, but what would be most helpful is some understanding of the religion, the object of criticism, itself. Or, perhaps, this returns us to the question of vector; the most obvious response to the proposition that some understanding would be helpful is to suggest that is not what one is after. Thus, sure, religious people, as such, do this thing or that, and other people say it's wrong, but that wrongness isn't itself necessarily a problem if the point is just to have someone to complain about.

    Still, having a clue helps, because, as I suggested last year↗, I never have understood what so confuses ostensibly enlightened people about the idea that if you disarm the device then it cannot continue to do its damage. Nor can I reiterate↗ this aspect↗ enough↗. However, if pretenses of care about the detrimental impacts religious people visit onto others, or even the harms they bring unto themselves, aren't really the point, then the proposition of a simple idea that renders the word, "God", a rhetorical convenience, might feel unsatisfying compared to the satisfaction of, say, fallaciously contrived judgment.

    To the other, that old question of rhetorical convenience, reaching back some fifteen years, is a bit simplistic, itself symptomatic of "our modern Western conception of 'religion'", which, in turn, "is idiosyncratic and eccentric".

    Nonetheless, panentheistic isness is a strange simplification at the end of a long process of complication. It is a rhetorical corner, pompously and monotheistically painted into. And it's a far different outcome than insisting on a simplified definition of religion describing the one thing it is not, which in turn is a political simplification.

    If the well-prepared religious evangelist can bring a library of propaganda to bear, then the best way to deal with it is to brush aside the fannings and set the terms of discussion according to the historical record. To the other, this route will be problematic for those who disdain the prospect of a psychoanalytical meaning of history, or pretend psychohistorical considerations are already woven into historical assessments that have, for their lack of pathos, been so wrong about so many things. When we stop to take stock of what we know about what we criticize, it helps to actually know what we are criticizing.

    The upshot is, religion is a fascinating story. That, too, requires pathos.
    ____________________

    Notes:

    Armstrong, Karen. Fields of Blood: Religion and the History of Violence. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2014.
     
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  3. Michael 345 New year. PRESENT is 70 years old Valued Senior Member

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    So we don't know what we are talking about unless we define what we are talking about every moment we talk about something???

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  5. Tiassa Let us not launch the boat ... Staff Member

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    The point at which that is actually true is as obscure as the observation is self-defeating. As I said, in a marketplace given to focus on considerations of religion, there are always questions of vector. All that really means, in effect, is, where are you coming from, and where are you going, with any particular argument. It's one of those aspects or valences people don't generally discuss unless circumstance requires. The most obvious counterpoint is to pretend a different vector.

    To wit: Where is one coming from?

    • There's this guy, y'know, who said something to me, recently, about the detriment religious behavior can bring to others, and even the harm believers themselves can suffer. And, sure, I can believe him or not, but, as it happens, if I don't know where he's going with it, well, turns out neither does he.

    • I once had a difficult exchange with someone, and as near as I can tell, where he's coming from is that some religious person or people once hurt him or his feelings, and where he's going with it seems to be some manner of revenge in the form a perpetual quick-fix of self-gratification obsessed with theists that doesn't actually help anything even per his own living need.

    • I can think of someone who is coming from some approximate complaint about the way religious people behave, and the example we had at hand was pretty clear. And I get it, I really do. But where he's going with it is approximately what Sartre described in his etiology of hate.​

    As much as I might be able to sympathize with any of them according to these pretenses of concern about religious belief and behavior, I can't say any of them are actually helpful toward dealing with those concerns. To the other: Where is one going? It is easy enough to dispense with pretenses of concern. Some even make the point of excusing themselves by saying they don't take the site or themselves or whatever they are doing seriously, and in those cases, a marketplace given to focus on considerations of religion is more like a catbox, or the living room carpet, as such—i.e., they pretend a different vector.

    Nonetheless, some would at least attempt to attend something akin to care toward the harms religious belief and behavior can bring to self and others. And within that context, it is not unimportant or insignificant that what Armstrong describes, that "our modern Western conception of 'religion' is idiosyncratic and eccentric" translates to a common error at Sciforums, and also at large, in critical discourse about religion.

    That is to say, in a marketplace given to focus on considerations of religion, attending some rational response according to some rational purpose or priority, critical discourse will be more effective if it has some functionally rational understanding of what it criticizes.

    Indeed, this seems so straightforward the chief reason for the number of words required to explain it has something to do with failing to understand why the idea is so confusing or controversial.

    Still, presupposing rational purpose and response can itself be problematic; if, to the other, the argumentative vector describes cheap, vicious self-gratification, then narrowly-constructed boxes flimsily tacked together with fallacy serve whatever purposes they do. If the point has to do with a functional pretense, such as caring about the harms religious belief and behavior can bring, then, yes, something better than fallacious self-satisfaction is necessary. If pretenses about what is wrong with religious belief and behavior are mere façades, and perpetual, pointless, blustering balbutive fighting it out with fellow potsherds, then, sure, fallacious, even dumbed-down definitions eventually become essential tools in the kit.

    And in consideration of definitions, sure, there is rational discourse about history to be undertaken.

    Meanwhile, consider the idea of an overarching thread; "one thread to rule them all", as we've said, around Sciforums, now and then. A reason that might not work out so well is if it demands extraordinary limitation, to wit, a fallacious construction within an idiosyncratic and erratic reductive fallacy. Indeed, on the occasion I'm thinking of, the mulligan ran even deeper into hazard.

    It is not, as your proposition runs, "unless we define what we are talking about every moment we talk about something", but, rather, something considerably more straightforward: The relative value of an argument is measured according to a stable comparative basis; a grab-bag of convenient fallacies is not a good basis for evaluation.
     
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  7. Michael 345 New year. PRESENT is 70 years old Valued Senior Member

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    Might be within any discussion destination is non existent, with no intention of having one. Just an exchange of ideas. Gauge each other's point of view

    Any discussion with the parties holding some idea of a destination should be an attempt to define said destination and an agreed route to said destination

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  8. Xelasnave.1947 Valued Senior Member

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    This is going over my head....are you talking about a bus trip?
    Alex
     
  9. Michael 345 New year. PRESENT is 70 years old Valued Senior Member

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    That could be a destination up for discussion. I'm referring to destinations more in the abstract

    Things like
    • how to get (re)elected or
    • best way to kill virus or
    • kick start economy
    Trying to pin down original post might be another. Think I am on path with

    but have no idea of threads destination since the original post made a cryptic comment which I posted, in reply, my reply was not
    • confirmed or
    • rejected but
    • answered via
    • another cryptic missive
    which I again think I deciphered but not sure

    Have a vague suspicion something to do with various discussions about numerous religious threads. This thought bubble is somewhat relient on James "One definition to rule them all" (in which, while there were a few starters, but no winner declared)

    Have I lowered it to eyeball level or sent it higher above head?

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  10. Xelasnave.1947 Valued Senior Member

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    Thank god , I can use him at times, that I am stupid...it is me..please say its me that is stupid...Do I even need to know...sometimes I think I see the point but upon reflection no..if there is a point I am stupid to have missed it..I will go with that. Once ..... never mind I probably missed the point even back then...I am thinking of getting a powerful sports car as I figure that with a pulley system I can lower myself in..maybe take up racing..that is not too silly is it? With no after life I need to really do everything...should I start another family..would kids make me young again..it worked last time...and is mercury a passage to eternity..er long life..didn't work for that Chinese Emperor..but maybe he did not take enough....just want to exhaust all the stuff before I go down the Christian road...you know they must be right..please ..forget the problems with the plot as this bit about after life must be right..you are into medical...more mercury or less?
    Hang on..I just figured it all out...only 144000 can got to heaven so we are stuck for accommodation there but this place hell no limit it seems..now that is why god let us be sinners...he needs to restrict numbers for heaven..there is a 144000 limit after all but seems hell has room for all...but think of the energy bill...all that heat..maybe it's inside the Sun..yes that makes sense...this damn desire for an unending life merely reflects they did f..k am in this one..me I need a break.

    Are you home yet..in Darwin..or is home now over there?
    Alex
     
  11. Michael 345 New year. PRESENT is 70 years old Valued Senior Member

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    Yes get sports car. Try a swivel seat in the car

    Still Bali. Current girlfriend is pleased as is her sister since her sister has a food court and we are her most consistent regular customers. Inul is opening a branch shop soon. We do general shopping about every 4 days, me as passenger Inul motorbike

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    Today we were given a complementary packet of Tim Tams, Inul holding

    Good luck with sports car

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  12. Xelasnave.1947 Valued Senior Member

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    I do like the Caterham, I think that is it, a lotus super seven concept..but it's seems their latest has a power to weigh ratio second only to that crazy Buggatti...so much power only a 73 year old will have enough wisdom to control it..I expect..of course I will need to hot it up to be even more exceptional cause that is what we do with cars but choosing the colour is a problem...I like an absence of all colour but I dont think they have that option....perhaps a simple purple with orange and green stripes...on the track they will think I am a crazy old fool and yes they better believe it..afraid of dieing..not at all..do you really want this corner?

    That's what it is about showing the opposition you want it and all will die if you don't get it taking them with you in a glorious bloody mess..do you think they should have some sort of mental health type assessment for just fun racing. But funny sometimes I think that mentality is why I never face opposition...is..let me win or die unreasonable.

    But getting a tank and playing Mr Magoo has a certain appeal.

    Hmmmm a sister eh...can support herself...probably no time to look after a cripple..any cousins ..strong ones capable of lifting bodies..mine..perchance...send photos of bank balance please.

    I don't know how you have managed your ordeal..a true Aussie ..well done..we are proud.

    Alex
     
  13. Michael 345 New year. PRESENT is 70 years old Valued Senior Member

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    No bank balance

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    Inul sister's house

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    Inul sister

    Has a 17 year old son

    Hope these two photos help you make up mind

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  14. arfa brane call me arf Valued Senior Member

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    When Western scholars look at Eastern religions, is that what they really see or is what they see defined by a Western notion of religion?

    Although India is the home of the Buddha, Buddhism doesn't seem to have changed Indian culture all that much. Usually instead of religion or cult, there is a tradition and various saintly figures. For instance, India is where the guru tradition is from.
     
  15. Xelasnave.1947 Valued Senior Member

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    Make up my mind about what exactly?
    Alex
     
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  16. Xelasnave.1947 Valued Senior Member

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    Certainly a attractive human and a nice character..I can tell everything from the eyes.
    Alex
     
  17. arfa brane call me arf Valued Senior Member

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    Ahem. The Sikh religion appeared after the Islamic religion occupied Northern India.

    It was initially based on the teachings of Guru Nanak, a man who, in my reading of it, sought to find a balance or a common ground between Islam and Hindu tradition.
    Before the appearance of the Sikh tradition, Nanak was an ascetic or holy man, the word guru is a Sikh word, and the intent was that the new Sikh following established a canon of saints, starting with Nanak.

    But this is India, Guru Nanak also had teachers, mystic poets and other holy men, including probably Islamic scholars.

    Don't get me started on the influence of the Christian missionaries on Australian and New Zealand indigenous people. But one big difference is the way the two different cultures approached the, ah, problem. The Australian aboriginal people largely didn't understand it or think it was an interesting story; they didn't need what was being offered, and in the end, what was imposed on them by an "advanced" culture.

    Nonetheless, I conjecture that the appearance of Christianity was similar to what happened later in India after the rise of Islam. Two cultures, the Romans and the Jews, with different religions were eventually reconciled, there was an ascetic, a healer and preacher, the whole story revolves around. He is subsequently canonised as the first martyr. . .
     
    Last edited: Jun 11, 2020
  18. Hapsburg Hellenistic polytheist Valued Senior Member

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    It's been pretty well-accepted in the social sciences, anthropology especially, to define religion in terms of a confluence of worldview and ritual that contextualizes the Sacred-- whether that's deity, an object, a place, a time, or whatever is dependent on the specific example.
     
  19. Tiassa Let us not launch the boat ... Staff Member

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    Scholar Jeffrey Russell Burton°, on relativism:

    If no absolutes exist that transcend humanity, then nothing exists that could possibly be drawing humanity in any particular direction. Without a goal, motion is meaningless. If Portland is your goal, you can make progress by driving down the road toward Portland, but if you have no goal, then driving a mile in the direction of Portland or in any other direction is meaningless motion, not progress. That "man sets his own goals" is an evasion, because human goals shift frequently and radically. One may make progress in terms of this or that limited goal, but unless there is a general and final goal, it is not possible to speak of progress overall.

    (21-22)

    Moreover, what if, for instance, we're looking at years worth of nearly ritualized buttsniffing gauging?

    The old Russell quote really does suit the occasion: it's one thing to agree on a destination, but does the agreed route actually go there? Also, what if the destination isn't a real place, so to speak? That is, Portland, as a metaphor, is one thing; Valhalla is another.


    _____________________

    Notes:

    ° cf. "Scholar Says …"↗; as I said, "Of course it was Russell!" In this case, his particular point about getting to Portland is more memorable because of an old Kliban cartoon, but never mind that. He's not wrong about defining progress, nor the question of absolutes versus a relativism, even if a presumption of inherent relativism is itself faulty; then again, we can also easily doubt his notion of absolutes, because, indeed, that presumptuous attitude verging on Hobbesian arrogance is a perpetual pretense of his narrative.​

    Russell, Jeffrey B. Lucifer: The Devil in the Middle Ages. Ithaca: Cornell Univ. Press, 1984.
     
  20. Michael 345 New year. PRESENT is 70 years old Valued Senior Member

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    So friend is going to chat about theist and I am going to chat about atheists to explain each other's views

    We don't have a destination in mind to covert each other. More to clear up each other's misconceptions

    So he finds out the sliding scale of non belief in god has, for atheists, a range from definitely no god to perhaps somewhere in the Universe not a anthropomorphic god but some entity which kick started the Universe

    For me that would be physics and for life the main contender would be random chemistry

    I learn during the chat his versions of some aspects of religion

    Destination (exchange of points of view put forward and misconceptions eliminate) reached

    Strange we never mapped out a route to get there, my guess - planning any route for a free range exchange would be futile

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  21. Tiassa Let us not launch the boat ... Staff Member

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    I don't disagree, but one thing that does stand out is the effort you go to in order to miss the point.
     
  22. Michael 345 New year. PRESENT is 70 years old Valued Senior Member

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    Please explain point

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  23. Tiassa Let us not launch the boat ... Staff Member

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    (#startmakingsense)

    Well, as I said at the outset, in a marketplace given to focus on considerations of religion, there are always questions of vector.

    It's not that I disagree with your example in #17↑, but that you managed to find one that doesn't really have much, if anything, to do with this particular marketplace. To the one, we're kind of talking about something else; to the other, I suspect you already knew that. Your performance throughout has been pretty clear on that point.
     

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