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What is Religion?/the dynamic of religion : This is not about the definition of religion but the entity itself
Posted: 12 October 2012 04:35 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 61 ]
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Okay, just checking. Please continue with your intellectually stimulating discussion. I think you and GdB are onto something here…

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Posted: 12 October 2012 07:03 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 62 ]
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Here is his talk from a conference:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LSfNyGSiRck


He summarizes the premise of his research

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Posted: 13 October 2012 12:53 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 63 ]
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arv13 - 12 October 2012 01:57 PM

...If it turns out that the cultures in China, India,  Japan, Africa etc are infact cultures without religion, the implications are huge for both those cultures, western culture, and social sciences itself…

 


I can see how Confucianism in China could have been a non-religious dominant cultural practice, as could devotion to ancestors in Japan.  But I cannot see how Hinduism can be considered to not be a religion.  It has deities, and supporting scriptures, that many Hindus believe in.  ???


But let’s assume that there have been human civilizations that have for long periods in their history, thrived without belief in a supernatural entity and without the associated dogma.  What are the dramatic implications?  (Other than being a blow to certain religions’ belief in the universality of religion in mankind.  This does not seem particularly dramatic to me, as I recognize, already, that religious dogmas, generally speaking, are a load of crap.)

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Posted: 13 October 2012 09:00 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 64 ]
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This theory has huge ramifications for western culture, here’s why:


both the western intelligentsia and the western-trained intellectuals from other cultures hold firmly that religion is a cultural universal. the claim is not merely that native religions
exist in all cultures but also that religion is constitutive of human cultures.

It argues that religion is not a cultural universal while clarifying at the same time why one believes in its universality. This belief in the universality of religion itself comes religion, namely Christianity. It shows that that the way Western culture and ‘westerners’ (even today) look at human beings and human society is itself rooted in Christian theology.

When examining the ‘enlightenment period’ (when Europe supposedly moved away from the dominance of religion and the church and became secular), you realize that he secular sons of the Age of Reason just extended Christian themes in a secular guise. This continues to this day. Look at economics. Most of the economic theories in the world today (including marxist/socialist theories) make assumptions about human beings that come straight from Christian bible. Same with human rights, nation state, the concept of sovereignty. For example, the theory of rights, as we know them today, emerged in the Catholic church in a debate between the Franciscans and the Dominicans. The majority of the social sciences anthropological “facts” are merely secularised claims from the Bible. For example, the modern notion of ‘person’ and ‘personhood’ (different from the roman concept of persona) is a secularized variant of the “soul”.


So, this theory not only forces us to reexamine and rethink how we look at other cultures, it also reconceptualizes western culture itself.

[ Edited: 13 October 2012 09:22 PM by arv13 ]
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Posted: 14 October 2012 08:22 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 65 ]
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Yeah, that’s an amazing discovery: Christianity has influenced the Western culture! We had no idea…

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Posted: 14 October 2012 01:49 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 66 ]
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ofcourse the claim goes beyond merely saying “christianity influenced the West”. Christianity gave birth to the Western culture, and continues to be the underlying framework through which the secular institutions of today continue to be shaped. The liberal democratic state of today is modeled after Christian normative principles. It applies to political ideologies too. The basic premise of any political ideology (whether it be socialism, capitalism, anarchy) is that society should be founded and built on certain principles. Founding societies on principles itself is a religious phenomenon. The same goes for ethics. By this, I don’t mean every westerner adheres to “christian morality” or “christian ethics”

What i’m saying is basing morality on principles is in fact religious in itself.

all of the principles on which Western society are founded have their origin in judeo christian theological debates.  What is considered a secular state, is in fact, anything but.

Please understand, I’m not trying to denigrate western culture. Western culture is amazing and has produced lot of good things. I’m just saying Christianity produced a certain configuration of learning, certain attitudes and ways of going about in the world, out of which western culture emerged.

For more, read John Gray’s brilliant work ‘Straw Dogs’: http://www.amazon.com/Straw-Dogs-Thoughts-Humans-Animals/dp/0374270937/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1350248308&sr=1-1&keywords=Straw+dogs

Also, see Jakob De Roover’s paper: A kingdom of another world, which goes into more detail than Straw Dogs

https://sites.google.com/site/colonialconsciousness/AKingdomofAnotherWorldY.pdf

[ Edited: 14 October 2012 02:05 PM by arv13 ]
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Posted: 14 October 2012 10:56 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 67 ]
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Arv13,
I think you give Christianity a little bit too much credit. Western culture is based on Greek rationality and politics, Roman law, Germanic clan thinking, and Christianity. All these backgrounds are mixed. So even if you say that e.g. Greek ideas of democracy became influenced by Christianity (or even integrated into Christianity), Christianity without the input of the Greek ideas of democracy would also have been different.

Now the point you are making that Western cultural anthropology is looking through its own glasses is of course true. However I think that already a lot is done to improve that (nobody calls Islam ‘mohammedanism’ anymore). But of course to see our culture through the looking glass of another culture can be a great help!

I think you should give some examples: what activities western anthropologists see as religious, but are not? What ideas in the modern secular state are Christian? And why? And how would this be in other cultures? On what could morality be based other than on principles?

And last bot not least: you seem to have a missionarical energy in propagating your ideas (this might be in part an explanation why some people here thought you were defending some kind of religion): why do you think it is so important for us to understand your ideas?

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Posted: 15 October 2012 04:05 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 68 ]
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arv13 - 13 October 2012 09:00 PM

This theory has huge ramifications for western culture, here’s why:


both the western intelligentsia and the western-trained intellectuals from other cultures hold firmly that religion is a cultural universal. the claim is not merely that native religions exist in all cultures but also that religion is constitutive of human cultures.

It argues that religion is not a cultural universal while clarifying at the same time why one believes in its universality. This belief in the universality of religion itself comes religion, namely Christianity. It shows that that the way Western culture and ‘westerners’ (even today) look at human beings and human society is itself rooted in Christian theology.

Is that not contradictory?

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Posted: 15 October 2012 04:19 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 69 ]
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I really don’t understand where you are getting the ideas about cultural anthropology from. Look at one example of how they define a “family,” for example. A “family” is a unit consisting of a mother and her children. The reason for that is that fathers in most families around the world (excluding the Western civilization) are usually not present.

I could point to other examples, but I am afraid I would be simply wasting my time here…

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Posted: 15 October 2012 10:28 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 70 ]
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I think your statement that “that fathers in most families around the world (excluding the Western civilization) are usually not present” is a generalization that is wrong at many levels. But you are entitled to your viewpoint.

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Posted: 15 October 2012 11:11 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 71 ]
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Glad I discovered this forum, quite a lot of back-and-forth posts on “religion” and what it means.

I am a little familiar with the book that Arv13 refers to, “The heathen in his blindness”, it is indeed ground-breaking in trying to define “religion” in more pinnable terms than “belief in the supernatural”. That said, it is a heavy tome, and needs dedication to read and understand.

From what I understand of the book (which I have not read fully), a “religion” is characterized by this set of beliefs:
1. the belief that the Cosmos (and us) is the creation of a single Agent
2. the belief that this One Agent is separate and distinct from the Cosmos (including humans)
3. the belief that every event that happen in the Cosmos are as per the Plan and Intent of this Agent
4. the belief that the Plan and Intent of the Agent are by themselves the causal actions of the Cosmos

These above automatically lead on to a set of consequential doctrines that are necessary to answer the consequential questions like:
how do we know this (revealation)
revealed to whom? (Saviour)
saves how?
why is it not revealed to each human individually? (Original Sin)

Early history of the Christian church shows that the early Church Fathers hotly debated these questions, and were obsessed with creating a set of consistent doctrines, which then they declared to be the Truth for all time, not to be questioned.

Even a cursory examination of cultures like the Greek, Roman, Nordic, Scandinavian will show that these were not “religions”. Further, other pre-Christian European cultures like Germanic, Celtic, Cornish, Gaelic, Scottish also did not have “religion” as above. Same holds true for the South American cultures (Incan, Mayan) and for cultures in New Zealand (Maori), Australia (Aboriginal), Africa etc. So also, the First Nations of USA and Canada did not have “religion” as described above. This will in general be true worldwide, China, Japan, South-East Asia etc.

Indic traditions and practices also do not constitute “religion”. These are in fact the one set of traditions that are still alive and thriving, unchanged for tens of thousands of years. All the others I have mentioned above are either dead or marginalized to the point of non-existence. So it may well worth a social-scientist’s effort to study the Indic traditions in an attempt to know what is “religion” and what is not “religion”

Keep the dialogue going, thats how I can learn more. smile

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Posted: 16 October 2012 04:51 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 72 ]
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Even a cursory examination of cultures like the Greek, Roman, Nordic, Scandinavian will show that these were not “religions”. Further, other pre-Christian European cultures like Germanic, Celtic, Cornish, Gaelic, Scottish also did not have “religion” as above. Same holds true for the South American cultures (Incan, Mayan) and for cultures in New Zealand (Maori), Australia (Aboriginal), Africa etc. So also, the First Nations of USA and Canada did not have “religion” as described above. This will in general be true worldwide, China, Japan, South-East Asia etc


I recently downloaded Baku’s book and added it to my reading list so I’m only responding to what you posted concerning the criteria for religion, his I presume.

From what I understand of the book (which I have not read fully), a “religion” is characterized by this set of beliefs:
1. the belief that the Cosmos (and us) is the creation of a single Agent
2. the belief that this One Agent is separate and distinct from the Cosmos (including humans)
3. the belief that every event that happen in the Cosmos are as per the Plan and Intent of this Agent
4. the belief that the Plan and Intent of the Agent are by themselves the causal actions of the Cosmos

It appears that he has narrowed the playing field here in a definition of religion and it doesn’t fit the dictionary definition of same.
1. All of those groups you mention have or had a belief in the cosmos; the only exception being that they are pantheistic.
2. Once again, not one but many gods.
3. same but pantheistic.
4.  Same but AGENTS instead of one.

So, it appears that his contention is monotheism trumps polytheism as a definition of “religion” and this concept had the greatest impact on western thought, but I don’t follow this conclusion. Also, Hindu culture, and I assume him to be from that culture, is itself polytheistic. And all of these belierfs had an impact on Western Civilization. Hell, most of the days of the week are named for Anglo-Saxon gods. I will read the book to study his thesis. Like a fellow poster, I’m curious too.


Cap’t Jack

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Posted: 16 October 2012 05:38 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 73 ]
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From what I have read in this forum it appears to me that the researcher is trying to establish the Truth of a God, by analyzing the various techniques employed in religious cultures and their respective influences on each other.
But does understanding human behavior in any way prove the existence of such an entity. Methinks not. The fact remains that all scriptures are factually wrong and themselves are based on analogical accounts of human nature.

IMO, this book would not be scientific except perhaps in the fields of psychology and social sciences.

In the end it comes down to the basic instinct of Fear. Very early on came Fear of the unknown and uncontrollable power, i.e god), later, Fear of hell when you incur the wrath of god or Fear of hell by falling into the clutches of the Devil. And last but not least, the Fear of losing that which has given them “protection” from these fears for thousands of years. This, IMO, is the greatest obstacle in finding a solution. Unless some religions and attendant laws can be modified to be fundamentally unbiased toward other religions and are willing to employ secular law, with equality for all in affairs of state, I can see no peace until all countries have laws based on the protection of individual rights and the exercise of personal freedom without infringing on the freedoms of others.

But none of it has anything to do with the existence of an intelligent prime mover, least of all a prime mover which is selective in who shall live or die. Evolution does a marvellous job, without a helping hand from a farmer in the sky.

[ Edited: 16 October 2012 05:41 AM by Write4U ]
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Posted: 16 October 2012 08:50 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 74 ]
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In the end it comes down to the basic instinct of Fear. Very early on came Fear of the unknown and uncontrollable power, i.e god), later, Fear of hell when you incur the wrath of god or Fear of hell by falling into the clutches of the Devil. And last but not least, the Fear of losing that which has given them “protection” from these fears for thousands of years. This, IMO, is the greatest obstacle in finding a solution. Unless some religions and attendant laws can be modified to be fundamentally unbiased toward other religions and are willing to employ secular law, with equality for all in affairs of state, I can see no peace until all countries have laws based on the protection of individual rights and the exercise of personal freedom without infringing on the freedoms of others.

But none of it has anything to do with the existence of an intelligent prime mover, least of all a prime mover which is selective in who shall live or die. Evolution does a marvellous job, without a helping hand from a farmer in the sky.

I agree with your last statement Write and maybe his book does belong more in the social sciences, although I do take issue with the idea that monotheism is the foundation of all things Western, but from researching history it seems to me that it was curiosity more than fear that created a need for religion. There had to be an explanation for the the environment and what makes things work ie., why the animals behave a certain way and “who am I and where do I belong”? It was after civilization began that the theocrats used religion as a method of control: “do as I ask or Marduk will destroy your crops” kind of thinking. Sharing your thoughts however, I view this as an evolutionary process now that we are discovering the scientific meaning of all things previously unknown; in short we don’t need religion to fill in the blanks as they are now filled in by reason. Religion is rapidly becoming an anachronism at least in the West and even though we won’t see it’s demise, perhaps our progeny will. Meantime it should be relegated to the halls of cathedrals and not the halls of congresses.

 

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Posted: 16 October 2012 04:26 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 75 ]
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It just occurred to me that “exploration” seems to be a western trait.  As far as I know most geographical discoveries where made by western explorers. With discovery of land came the discovery of indigenous cultures and as the bible specifically advocates prostletizing of western religion, it would seem natural that the “conquerers’ would impose western religion wherever they went.

Here is a list of the most famous world explorers and there is not a single Eastern explorer of note.

http://www.elizabethan-era.org.uk/famous-explorers.htm

Is it any wonder that western religion spread around the world and most other religions were isolated from the rest of the world? The spread of religion in the early days was mostly a one way street and where a native religion conflicted with western religion (christianity) it was suppressed and replaced by the occupiers.

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