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What is Religion?/the dynamic of religion : This is not about the definition of religion but the entity itself
Posted: 19 October 2012 06:09 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 91 ]
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George - 19 October 2012 06:04 AM

No, this conversation is actually very interesting. I had no idea that the Mayas sacrificing virgins was the same thing as us shaking hands.

You forgot the <sarcasm> tags. You keep putting things in my mouth I did not say. I asked a series of questions, and explained what they aim at.

George - 19 October 2012 06:04 AM

And yes, my opinion of cultural anthropology is pretty much the same as what I think of most of philosophy: make stuff up, then spend all your energy and skills at justifying your creativity. Cultural anthropology is not science.

There are many methodological problems in cultural anthropology, having preconceptions of your own culture being the strongest. But saying that it is not science is saying that knowledge about other cultures is impossible.

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Posted: 19 October 2012 06:47 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 92 ]
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Well, anthropology is supposed to study people, not cultures. It can study cultures as well, but focusing solely on cultures is like trying to make sense of evolution without understanding biology—which is precisely what creationism is.

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Posted: 19 October 2012 07:32 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 93 ]
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George - 19 October 2012 06:47 AM

Well, anthropology is supposed to study people, not cultures. It can study cultures as well, but focusing solely on cultures is like trying to make sense of evolution without understanding biology—which is precisely what creationism is.

Last time I looked cultural anthropology was studying different human cultures.

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Posted: 19 October 2012 07:41 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 94 ]
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Anthropology was originally composed of four subfields: physical anthropology, archaeology, social and cultural studies, and linguistics. These days any serious anthropologist will also know a thing or two about genetics. The problem here is that the moment you try to bring all these fields into the same equation, leading you to realize that, say, people are not blank slates (opposite to what most of cultural anthropologists believe), you’ll be accused or racism, fascism, biological determinism, etc. I could go on here and give you concrete explanation of why this had happened, but it would take too long.

So what we get today is “anthropologists” studying cultures, forgetting about all the other tools to help them to understand PEOPLE (!), and instead of doing science they set for personal anecdotes and post hoc rationalization. This thread and the “study” being discussed here is a good example of it. Cultural anthropology is supposed to be noble, not scientific: it can’t be that most of the world is still religious today, since the Europeans have now given up on religion. It’s racist and it must be false.

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Posted: 19 October 2012 08:06 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 95 ]
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I am not an expert in this area, but I’ve picked up enough to know that the understanding of other religions that are quite different from the big Abrahamic religions is not easy, and we take a risk of putting our prejudices in our descriptions of other religions and/or cultures in which they exist.


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), 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.


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Posted: 19 October 2012 08:36 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 96 ]
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George - 19 October 2012 07:41 AM

Anthropology was originally composed of four subfields: physical anthropology, archaeology, social and cultural studies, and linguistics. These days any serious anthropologist will also know a thing or two about genetics. The problem here is that the moment you try to bring all these fields into the same equation, leading you to realize that, say, people are not blank slates (opposite to what most of cultural anthropologists believe), you’ll be accused or racism, fascism, biological determinism, etc. I could go on here and give you concrete explanation of why this had happened, but it would take too long.

Do you think that the only useful knowledge of humans and their behaviour lies in its reduction to genetics?
What would you say to somebody who says the only useful knowledge of genetics lies in its reduction too atomic physics? In the end ‘genes are just DNA, and DNA is made of atoms’.

Of course one can study genetics and evolution without reducing them to the atomic processes. They are disciplines in their own right. One can abstract from the concrete implementation of genes when studying evolution. (Darwin even didn’t have any idea about DNA. Why? Because it is not necessary.) The same holds for cultural anthropology and humans. To study their behaviour and the way they think about it can be done without knowing details about the biological implementation.

George - 19 October 2012 07:41 AM

So what we get today is “anthropologists” studying cultures, forgetting about all the other tools to help them to understand PEOPLE (!), and instead of doing science they set for personal anecdotes and post hoc rationalization.

Again you are saying that is impossible to have knowledge about other cultures. For you understanding of culture is reducing it to biology of humans. My only reaction is the one above: understanding of genetics is reducing it to atomic processes, the rest is of no value.

George - 19 October 2012 07:41 AM

This thread and the “study” being discussed here is a good example of it. Cultural anthropology is supposed to be noble, not scientific: it can’t be that most of the world is still religious today, since the Europeans have now given up on religion. It’s racist and it must be false.

This is you personal prejudice, George. If I think back to your remarks about Ugandese and their poor intelligence, it is clear to me that you have no ideas about the preconceptions we have when using western cultural standards (yes, intelligence tests are cultural artefacts! We measure faculties that are important for western culture) and apply them to people with a different cultural background. It is just extremely difficult to distinguish genetic and cultural influences in real living cultures. And if you do as if you know that all differences between cultures is ‘just genetic’ your believe is premature, not scientifically based, and you are at risk to be seen as racist.

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Posted: 19 October 2012 08:49 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 97 ]
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You know what, GdB? Go ‘fornicate’ a duck.

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Posted: 19 October 2012 10:37 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 98 ]
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George - 19 October 2012 08:49 AM

You know what, GdB? Go ‘fornicate’ a duck.

OK, George. Just to remind you one last time: we have rules about this kind of posting. Failure to follow rules will lead to banning. Thanks.

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Posted: 19 October 2012 01:43 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 99 ]
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Arv;

If you are still active here I apologize for some of the comments people have made.
I am very interested in the arguments you are posting based Balagangadhara’s writing,  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 black and white.

(One of my personal favorites of oriental culture is the concept of Yin and Yang, seeing things as intermixed. cheese )

Scientific study of religion is a very difficult area to get involved in due to the highly emotional state that most all true believers/non-believers enter the discussion with.  The religious can find no fault with their own religion although they may want to destroy all who do not believe as they do.  Most atheists, as I mentioned above, find no good whatever, in any circumstance in any religion.  Very little of what we call scientific rationality or reason here.

The social science are a weak field due to politics and the possibility that scientific based social knowledge normally interferes with the aims of too many interest groups particularly elite interest groups.

Away from your immediate topic, I am currently reading Ways of Forgetting; Ways of Remembering – by John D. Dower.  In it he is criticizing the modernist movement and their analysis of how Imperial Japan entered WWII.  He is very critical of what he considers the cultural biases of the US academic structure.  He mentions Talcott Parsons and Margret Mead, among others by name, and attempts to show how the interpretation put on these events were more to justify the US’s action than an exercise in critical thinking. He has based much of what I have read to this point on the thinking of E.H. Norman a Canadian diplomat and scholar (whose parents were missionaries in Japan) who committed suicide after being accused of being a Communist at the McCarthy hearings, Socrates anyone?

Cultural bias is something that appears in most all social studies, and is something we always need to be aware of if the work is to have any value at all.  It is often intentionally used by the elites to accomplish their own purposes.  For text book bias http://www.economist.com/node/21564554?spc=scode&spv=xm&ah=9d7f7ab945510a56fa6d37c30b6f1709. ( Come on guys you had to know there would be at least one. shut eye )

Arv; Hang in there.  Don’t let this group get you down.
You may want to treat it as a training ground for what you are going to be dealing with if you get serious about any cultural studies.  (This is also one of the reasons I stopped going to school after my Bachelors; professors are insulted when they are questioned by steelworkers.

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Posted: 19 October 2012 05:18 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 100 ]
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If you are still active here I apologize for some of the comments people have made. 
I am very interested in the arguments you are posting based Balagangadhara’s writing,  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 black and white.

Actually, that’s a little inacurate (arg! Evil atheist!) I think I can better explain the mild hostily, as well as explain the inacuracy. Atheism is the rejection of god, and that is the only thing that atheism explains. Period. When you say that “to them all religion is evil”, that is actually anti-theism at work. Just because you deny the existence of a god, does not automatically make you hate religion. Personally, I am both an atheist AND against religion, although I try not to be too vocal about the second part, since it usually creates a lot of controversy and makes both parties angry to some extent. But even after all that, I still believe religion needs to be confronted. I am trying the come up as a mild form of confrontation as a project. Politely confronting the way they view their beleifs in a way that it won’t spring up their defenses as to not even listen.

But anyways, are most atheists both against religion and openly hostile? It’s hard to tell. I see a lot of hostility expressed online, from both sides. But I don’t think they represent a majority on both sides. I think a portion of hostility can be attributed to the fact that until recently, negative remarks about religion was punishable. I think some of the expressions stem from actually being able to do so without immediate penalties. They seem like proper candidates for freedom of expression. But having said that, I think most of them are not taking the right approach.

So that’s that. As far as the rudeness here, the impression I got is this. First it was unclear what the original poster was getting at. A few nudges sort of helped him get to the point, which in the end was merely describing an observation of culture. I think maybe they were just expecting the whole thing to turn into just another new-age wisdom, based on bizarre assertions. Kind of like the same language Deepak Chopra uses. Because he was being long and vague at the start, maybe they though the end result would be the same. There is a lot of crap like that floating around amongst the more rational way of looking at things. I may have misrepresented them though =P

But like you said, don’t leave arv13! lol smile

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Posted: 19 October 2012 07:51 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 101 ]
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TimB - 18 October 2012 08:59 AM
GdB - 17 October 2012 10:31 PM
TimB - 17 October 2012 09:57 AM

Religion may not be a universal trait among human cultures, but a predisposition for the development of religious thinking, I believe, does exist within our species.

The problem is this: how does one know what the other is “thinking”? And how does one know it is “religious” thinking when one has not yet settled upon an empirical description of “what is religion”?

Lets say I object to X smoking in my presence. Observer A can attribute my behavior to “this is a person who is aware of the harms of second-hand smoke” while Observer B may think “what’s the animosity between these two?” or “the objector is a bigot”. The point is, attributing a framework to a behavior or practice, without proper study, is fraught with dangers of going off on the wrong path.

Europeans, at the time they started looking at other cultures and peoples, had already been under the sway of “religion” for over a millennium. Whatever practices they saw that they could not assign to a material outcome, they branded as “religious”.

I had occasion recently to visit a cathedral. While going around, I noticed that there are quite a few large alcoves where statues of saints have been installed. People had lit many votive candles at each of these shrines. One of these struck me, Saint Gerard Majella, “patron saint of expectant mothers”. I come from Indic traditions and this reminded me of the Indic “Devi who protects the womb”.  Now, are these two equivalent? Is Saint Gerard a “Deva”? Is Saint Anne a “Devi”?

My viewing the saints of Christianity as “Deva"s and “Devi"s is the same as Western observers labeling the Indic “Deva"s and “Devi"s as “gods” and Indic practices as sacerdotal worship.

Many modern cultural-social scientists recognize that the Abrahamic faiths are examples of “religion”, and that labeling traditions and practices of other cultures as “religion” is mainly because the observers were looking to prove their presupposition that “religion is a universal”. Such a presupposition is itself a doctrine of the Christian church.

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Posted: 19 October 2012 08:07 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 102 ]
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Suncatcher, I think that you made some sort of error in the quote attributions above.  If you can correct it, maybe I can figure out if it is something meant for me to respond to.

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Posted: 19 October 2012 09:00 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 103 ]
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TimB - 19 October 2012 08:07 PM

Suncatcher, I think that you made some sort of error in the quote attributions above.  If you can correct it, maybe I can figure out if it is something meant for me to respond to.

Yes, my post was in response to your thoughts on “religious thinking”. I was in trying to limit the quoted part to just that one part, and being the newbie that I am, messed it up. smile

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Posted: 19 October 2012 09:04 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 104 ]
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TimB - 17 October 2012 09:57 AM

Religion may not be a universal trait among human cultures, but a predisposition for the development of religious thinking, I believe, does exist within our species.

The problem is this: how does one know what the other is “thinking”? And how does one know it is “religious” thinking when one has not yet settled upon an empirical description of “what is religion”?

Lets say I object to X smoking in my presence. Observer A can attribute my behavior to “this is a person who is aware of the harms of second-hand smoke” while Observer B may think “what’s the animosity between these two?” or “the objector is a bigot”. The point is, attributing a framework to a behavior or practice, without proper study, is fraught with dangers of going off on the wrong path.

Europeans, at the time they started looking at other cultures and peoples, had already been under the sway of “religion” for over a millennium. Whatever practices they saw that they could not assign to a material outcome, they branded as “religious”.

I had occasion recently to visit a cathedral. While going around, I noticed that there are quite a few large alcoves where statues of saints have been installed. People had lit many votive candles at each of these shrines. One of these struck me, Saint Gerard Majella, “patron saint of expectant mothers”. I come from Indic traditions and this reminded me of the Indic “Devi who protects the womb”.  Now, are these two equivalent? Is Saint Gerard a “Deva”? Is Saint Anne a “Devi”?

My viewing the saints of Christianity as “Deva"s and “Devi"s is the same as Western observers labeling the Indic “Deva"s and “Devi"s as “gods” and Indic practices as sacerdotal worship.

Many modern cultural-social scientists recognize that the Abrahamic faiths are examples of “religion”, and that labeling traditions and practices of other cultures as “religion” is mainly because the observers were looking to prove their presupposition that “religion is a universal”. Such a presupposition is itself a doctrine of the Christian church.

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Posted: 20 October 2012 01:06 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 105 ]
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I don’t seem to be able to post a reply right now.

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“Our lives are not our own. From womb to tomb… We are bound to others, past and present… And by each crime and every kindness… We birth our future.”  Sonmi, 2144.

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