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What is Religion?/the dynamic of religion : This is not about the definition of religion but the entity itself
Posted: 20 October 2012 01:07 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 106 ]
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Maybe now.

Suncatcher,Sometimes I like to make general statements, that from my perspective, have some internal valididty, as a way of eliciting discussion.  I fully agree that it would be less confusing if we were to have operational definitions for key terms.  Sometimes it is I, that is calling for such.  But it rarely happens in these discussions.  Probably because we are just having discussions and not trying to produce a scientific paper. 

But by “religious thinking” I was generally referring to superstitious thinking, also to our tendencies to need to come up with explanations and thus fill in the blanks with unknowns and accept them, to some extent, as knowns, and also our necessary reliance on our very language which, now, has lots of religious references. So, I could be under the sway of some or all of these kinds of “religious thinking” and not necessarily be religious, depending on our definition of religion.  (We really should all try to agree on some operational definition of “religion” if we want to have a more fruitful discussion.

My definition of religion would be pretty broad.  It would include a persistent belief in some supernatural entity, with some systematic form of reverence being expressed toward or due to that entity.  (Off the top of my head I don’t know what else is needed to call something a religion, but there may be other necessary elements.)

Anyway, the assertion that “religion is a universal” is a doctrine of the Christian Church, may be true. (I don’t know. I went faithfully to a Christian church for 12 years and was not taught that.). But, if it is true, I really don’t think that it is some foundational element, which, if proven wrong, would undermine Christianity.

Now, I certainly agree with your, or others assertions, that people of any given culture are likely to view foreign cultures in terms of what they know about their own.  But that is just a way people generally try to understand things.  It is natural to use what you do know to try to understand something that you don’t know.  And, yes, this can lead to misinterpretations. sometimes.  So, sure, we should take measures to guard against such misinterpretations

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As a fabrication of our own consciousness, our assignations of meaning are no less “real”, but since humans and the fabrications of our consciousness are routinely fraught with error, it makes sense, to me, to, sometimes, question such fabrications.

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Posted: 20 October 2012 03:44 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 107 ]
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This is total bullshit.

Call it religion, philosophy, life stance, cultural artifacts, whatever -  it’s just postmodernism dressed up as something else.  We know what is being talked about here; metaphysics. 

The social sciences will never ever be on the same level as the natural sciences, so arv13 and his ilk are idiots who should be dismissed with extreme prejudice.

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Posted: 20 October 2012 06:32 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 108 ]
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TimB - 20 October 2012 01:07 AM

But by “religious thinking” I was generally referring to superstitious thinking, also to our tendencies to need to come up with explanations and thus fill in the blanks with unknowns and accept them, to some extent, as knowns, and also our necessary reliance on our very language which, now, has lots of religious references. So, I could be under the sway of some or all of these kinds of “religious thinking” and not necessarily be religious, depending on our definition of religion.  (We really should all try to agree on some operational definition of “religion” if we want to have a more fruitful discussion.

My definition of religion would be pretty broad.  It would include a persistent belief in some supernatural entity, with some systematic form of reverence being expressed toward or due to that entity.  (Off the top of my head I don’t know what else is needed to call something a religion, but there may be other necessary elements.)

Anyway, the assertion that “religion is a universal” is a doctrine of the Christian Church, may be true. (I don’t know. I went faithfully to a Christian church for 12 years and was not taught that.). But, if it is true, I really don’t think that it is some foundational element, which, if proven wrong, would undermine Christianity.

Now, I certainly agree with your, or others assertions, that people of any given culture are likely to view foreign cultures in terms of what they know about their own.  But that is just a way people generally try to understand things.  It is natural to use what you do know to try to understand something that you don’t know.  And, yes, this can lead to misinterpretations. sometimes.  So, sure, we should take measures to guard against such misinterpretations

I strongly recommend that you read at least the first three chapters of “The Heathen In His Blindness”.

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Posted: 20 October 2012 06:54 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 109 ]
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mid atlantic - 20 October 2012 03:44 AM

This is total bullshit.

Call it religion, philosophy, life stance, cultural artifacts, whatever -  it’s just postmodernism dressed up as something else.  We know what is being talked about here; metaphysics. 

The social sciences will never ever be on the same level as the natural sciences, so arv13 and his ilk are idiots who should be dismissed with extreme prejudice.

Curiosity about the phenomenal world around us plus the coming of Christianity with its need to establish “truth” were the driving forces that brought in the “scientific revolution”, “scientific method” and a tremendous growth in the natural and physical sciences. The industrial revolution and advancements in technology followed in due course.

The one area or facet or aspect that I am deeply interested in is: what is our sense of “entityness” of our own self? Experiments with animals (natural sciences, by the way) have shown that some animals can and do possess this awareness of self-hood. But it is only in the human that this sense is so strongly developed. As far as we know today, animals do not exhibit an awareness of space and time. A dog probably does not have thoughts like “I went to the beach yesterday” or “Spring is here, and I can start chasing butterflies in the park, like I did last year.”

Others before me have said it and I believe it: this understanding of of our “awareness of self” is probably the last frontier and probably the most important one.

What must be understood is that it is an on-going discovery, and it is highly individual: one man’s discovery is not necessarily true for another.

And therein lies the problem of organized religions: they declare that they have the “One Truth”, which they claim is universal for all humans and true for all time.

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Posted: 20 October 2012 07:57 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 110 ]
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suncatcher - 20 October 2012 06:54 AM

Curiosity about the phenomenal world around us plus the coming of Christianity with its need to establish “truth” were the driving forces that brought in the “scientific revolution”, “scientific method” and a tremendous growth in the natural and physical sciences. The industrial revolution and advancements in technology followed in due course..

Some other form of cultural organization may have done just as well or better than the Christian Church in promoting the development of science.

suncatcher - 20 October 2012 06:54 AM

The one area or facet or aspect that I am deeply interested in is: what is our sense of “entityness” of our own self? Experiments with animals (natural sciences, by the way) have shown that some animals can and do possess this awareness of self-hood. But it is only in the human that this sense is so strongly developed. As far as we know today, animals do not exhibit an awareness of space and time. A dog probably does not have thoughts like “I went to the beach yesterday” or “Spring is here, and I can start chasing butterflies in the park, like I did last year.”

1) If you think that “our sense of emptiness” is so worthy of understanding, you should have an operational definition of it.
2)  Don’t be too quick to assert what animals sense.  e.g., migratory animals seem to have some sense of the seasons. But you are probably correct that dogs don’t have the actual thoughts that you presented, as they don’t seem to have the complex verbal behavior that we do.

suncatcher - 20 October 2012 06:54 AM

Others before me have said it and I believe it: this understanding of of our “awareness of self” is probably the last frontier and probably the most important one.


I doubt that the understanding of our “awareness of self” is the last and most important frontier.  But if you do want to understand it, then develop an operational definition. And I strongly suggest that you think of it as behavior (with corresponding neurlogical correlates) and that it is a product of physiological and environmental contingencies, as is any other behavior, and that it;s development is intimately connected to our complex verbal skills.

suncatcher - 20 October 2012 06:54 AM

What must be understood is that it is an on-going discovery, and it is highly individual: one man’s discovery is not necessarily true for another.

This sounds like old new age B.S.  If you think that no objective understanding can exist, then why bother to discuss coming to understand it, unless you are, perhaps striving to be a kind of a guru for others in their “individual discovery”?

Of course, currently we don’t have the technology to directly experience someone else’s senses and covert verbal behavior that probably comprises “awareness of self”.  And of course, one’s self awareness is highly individual to some extent, because it is that of an individual who is responding to their own phylogeny, and their own history of and current exposure to their particular salient environmental contingencies.

suncatcher - 20 October 2012 06:54 AM

And therein lies the problem of organized religions: they declare that they have the “One Truth”, which they claim is universal for all humans and true for all time.

That is, indeed, “a” problem with many organized religions, but I wouldn’t say “the” problem.  Another, of many problems, is the reliance on faith, which is a subjective deciision to believe something without objective evidence.

[ Edited: 20 October 2012 08:08 AM by TimB ]
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As a fabrication of our own consciousness, our assignations of meaning are no less “real”, but since humans and the fabrications of our consciousness are routinely fraught with error, it makes sense, to me, to, sometimes, question such fabrications.

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Posted: 20 October 2012 09:16 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 111 ]
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garythehuman - 19 October 2012 01:43 PM

I am afraid that what you have run into is a Dennetonian blind spot that many atheists have.  To them all religion is evil and unlike many of the cultures we call Oriental we westerns tend to see things in back and white.

Two things: I am afraid it is not a blind spot, it is more of a sore toe. It is as if when you are studying religion (in other cultures or in our own), you are already suspect. And that brings me to the second point: why do you call the blind spot Dennetonian? I think Dennett would have nothing against studying religions. But as a natural phenomenon (the subtitle of his book!). To understand what we mean with our ‘self’, or ‘free will’ is trying to understand how these concepts are used in our behaviour and discourse.

The same one can do with religions, western or non-western. I don’t know where all this hick-hack against studying culture comes from. It is as if some people here cannot distinguish between doing a serious study of religion as a cultural phenomenon, and taking the contents of the religions serious.

And where it is true there are overlappings between post modernism and cultural anthropology, that does not mean that all of cultural anthropology is nonsense or not a serious scientific undertaking. One post modern error is reducing everything to culture: if e.g. the cultural position of a modern medical doctor in our society is the same as a shaman in another culture, some of the p-m extremists conclude that a doctor and a shaman are essential the same. They do not see the difference in content. And that is nonsense of course.

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Posted: 20 October 2012 09:31 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 112 ]
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Thevillageatheist - 19 October 2012 08:06 AM

I understand your point GdB but aren’t you confusing religion with tradition? yes religion was formed from customary acts that placate or plead. the examples you have given, ex. shaking hands (which BTW was a gesture to ensure that you weren’t holding a weapon),

Then watch out for me, I am left handed! (And what was that killing thingy the Joker had in his right hand in the the Batman movie with Jack Nicholson? Watch out!)

Thevillageatheist - 19 October 2012 08:06 AM

or saying “enjoy” to someone at dinner as a gesture of politness to a guest are traditions, while passing a Stupa on the left denotes respect for the temple, and saying bless you after a sneeze so that you don’t lose your soul through the mouth are religious in nature. I’m no expert either and have a tertiary knowledge of the hindu religion but it does fit into the catagory of religion when gods or supernatural entities are deified. religion is an indelible part of a culture whether you worship a diety or a concept like an oversoul IMO.

That’s fine, but in Hinduism you will not find one god existing for all Hindus. But I think you find some kind of common way of how Hindus feel and act. For them there is more a connection with the factual circumstances, and what you have to do in these situations, not because some moral dogma, but because it is just the way to do things. It is difficult to explain, but for the Hindu the law of Karma is a natural law. The rules of cause and effect they believe in has inherently moral character, and even the gods have to deal with the law of Karma. They are no moral law givers. arv13 undoubtedly could say much more about this, but he seems to have left the place. A pity that he seems to feel pissed off.

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Posted: 20 October 2012 10:38 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 113 ]
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Of course Karma is a natural law to them. But just because they are ignorant and primitive, it doesn’t make them not religious. The Bible also described natural laws until science showed it was all nonsense, and faith (as opposed to evidence) became extremely important to the Christians. The concept of faith vs. facts is less than hundred years old.

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Posted: 20 October 2012 11:40 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 114 ]
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TimB - 20 October 2012 07:57 AM
suncatcher - 20 October 2012 06:54 AM

The one area or facet or aspect that I am deeply interested in is: what is our sense of “entityness” of our own self? Experiments with animals (natural sciences, by the way) have shown that some animals can and do possess this awareness of self-hood. But it is only in the human that this sense is so strongly developed. As far as we know today, animals do not exhibit an awareness of space and time. A dog probably does not have thoughts like “I went to the beach yesterday” or “Spring is here, and I can start chasing butterflies in the park, like I did last year.”

1) If you think that “our sense of emptiness” is so worthy of understanding, you should have an operational definition of it.
2)  Don’t be too quick to assert what animals sense.  e.g., migratory animals seem to have some sense of the seasons. But you are probably correct that dogs don’t have the actual thoughts that you presented, as they don’t seem to have the complex verbal behavior that we do.

I said “our sense of E-N-T-I-T-Y-N-E-S-S ....”.

Operational definition….. I will try to find something that fits the term you have used. What I do have is a description and an understanding of the “awareness of self”, but that will be a different topic, not this one.

Migration, hibernation etc. are generally thought to be instinctual behaviors that are genetically programmed in the species, and it is true that the behavior is triggered by the animal/bird sensing the onset of the seasonal changes. It is interesting that you brought up a different viewpoint that this may be related to self-awareness.

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Posted: 20 October 2012 12:41 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 115 ]
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I should have said that faith became important to the Christians within the past hundred years. It is obviously much older than that. I misspoke.

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Posted: 20 October 2012 01:00 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 116 ]
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suncatcher - 20 October 2012 11:40 AM
TimB - 20 October 2012 07:57 AM
suncatcher - 20 October 2012 06:54 AM

The one area or facet or aspect that I am deeply interested in is: what is our sense of “entityness” of our own self? Experiments with animals (natural sciences, by the way) have shown that some animals can and do possess this awareness of self-hood. But it is only in the human that this sense is so strongly developed. As far as we know today, animals do not exhibit an awareness of space and time. A dog probably does not have thoughts like “I went to the beach yesterday” or “Spring is here, and I can start chasing butterflies in the park, like I did last year.”

1) If you think that “our sense of emptiness” is so worthy of understanding, you should have an operational definition of it.
2)  Don’t be too quick to assert what animals sense.  e.g., migratory animals seem to have some sense of the seasons. But you are probably correct that dogs don’t have the actual thoughts that you presented, as they don’t seem to have the complex verbal behavior that we do.

suncatcher - 20 October 2012 06:54 AM

I said “our sense of E-N-T-I-T-Y-N-E-S-S ....”./quote]

TimB - 20 October 2012 07:57 AM


Sorry, my brain saw the term as “emptiness”, as it has never before seen the term “entityness”.  Why not just say a sense of self?

[ Edited: 20 October 2012 01:40 PM by TimB ]
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As a fabrication of our own consciousness, our assignations of meaning are no less “real”, but since humans and the fabrications of our consciousness are routinely fraught with error, it makes sense, to me, to, sometimes, question such fabrications.

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Posted: 20 October 2012 01:19 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 117 ]
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GDB;

why do you call the blind spot Dennetonian?


Here is the quote and Dennett was speaking particular of the study of religion.
One of the surprising discoveries of modern psychology is how easy it is to be ignorant of your own ignorance.  You are normally oblivious of your own blind spot . . . .  Breaking the Spell Daniel Dennett Breaking the Spell Pg. 31

One post modern error is reducing everything to culture.

IMO you cannot study humans without studying their culture.  Humans are individuals imbedded in culture.

the cultural position of a modern medical doctor in our society is the same as a shaman in another culture, some of the p-m extremists conclude that a doctor and a shaman are essential the same. They do not see the difference in content. And that is nonsense of course.

I agree that that “theory is nonsense” I have never seen anyone who supported that.  A doctor’s role is heal the ill; a shaman more similar to a priest that claims healing powers as Jesus and many others did. Not the same role at all.

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Posted: 20 October 2012 01:20 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 118 ]
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Or self-awareness? smile

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Posted: 20 October 2012 01:24 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 119 ]
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George - 20 October 2012 10:38 AM

Of course Karma is a natural law to them. But just because they are ignorant and primitive, it doesn’t make them not religious. The Bible also described natural laws until science showed it was all nonsense, and faith (as opposed to evidence) became extremely important to the Christians. The concept of faith vs. facts is less than hundred years old.

Remember the Bible was never intended as a scientific document, it is a collection of ancient political documents.  It only became “a science text” to some from the campaign of the fundamentalist movement in the US approx. 1900.

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Posted: 20 October 2012 01:29 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 120 ]
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suncatcher - 20 October 2012 11:40 AM
TimB - 20 October 2012 07:57 AM
suncatcher - 20 October 2012 06:54 AM

The one area or facet or aspect that I am deeply interested in is: what is our sense of “entityness” of our own self? Experiments with animals (natural sciences, by the way) have shown that some animals can and do possess this awareness of self-hood. But it is only in the human that this sense is so strongly developed. As far as we know today, animals do not exhibit an awareness of space and time. A dog probably does not have thoughts like “I went to the beach yesterday” or “Spring is here, and I can start chasing butterflies in the park, like I did last year.”

1) If you think that “our sense of emptiness” is so worthy of understanding, you should have an operational definition of it.
2)  Don’t be too quick to assert what animals sense.  e.g., migratory animals seem to have some sense of the seasons. But you are probably correct that dogs don’t have the actual thoughts that you presented, as they don’t seem to have the complex verbal behavior that we do.


Migration, hibernation etc. are generally thought to be instinctual behaviors that are genetically programmed in the species, and it is true that the behavior is triggered by the animal/bird sensing the onset of the seasonal changes. It is interesting that you brought up a different viewpoint that this may be related to self-awareness.

Actually, it was you who related animals “not exhibit(ing) an awareness of space and time” to them not having a strongly developed sense of self.  (I think that we do not know whether any animals can conceptualize themselves or even dream about themselves in past or future circumstances.  It does seem that none, that we know of, posessesses the advanced verbal behavior skills to communicate such. Although, I would not quickly rule out dolphins being able to do so, and perhaps even some of the great apes, or even some insects that have highly developed social systems.)

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As a fabrication of our own consciousness, our assignations of meaning are no less “real”, but since humans and the fabrications of our consciousness are routinely fraught with error, it makes sense, to me, to, sometimes, question such fabrications.

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