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Christopher Hitchens, Religious in Spite of Himself?
Posted: 10 February 2010 04:39 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 31 ]
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A lot of needless talking past each other goes on, here and elsewhere, because people insist that words mean only what they think they mean, or want them to mean. Religion means different things to different people. This encompasses more than formal dictionary definitions. Religion in particular invokes a set of associations, which vary widely from person to person. For some people, those associations are mainly positive, for others mainly negative. Therefore, it is completely unreasonable, and simply not true, that “religion” means x and not y, when in fact it means x to some people, y to others z, to others, etc.

I understand that people come to these discussions with their agendas but as is often pointed out, we are not entitled to our own facts.

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Posted: 10 February 2010 06:58 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 32 ]
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PLaClair - 10 February 2010 04:39 AM

A lot of needless talking past each other goes on, here and elsewhere, because people insist that words mean only what they think they mean, or want them to mean. Religion means different things to different people. This encompasses more than formal dictionary definitions. Religion in particular invokes a set of associations, which vary widely from person to person. For some people, those associations are mainly positive, for others mainly negative. Therefore, it is completely unreasonable, and simply not true, that “religion” means x and not y, when in fact it means x to some people, y to others z, to others, etc.

Speaking of invoking a set of associations to you consider football to be a religion?
[“is football becoming the religion of the masses?”] {he means soccer}

[“The Cult of Football: A Religion for the 20th Century and Beyond”] {hmm he means soccer too}

 

[ on-line petition to have football declared a religion] {hmm he also means soccer..}

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Posted: 10 February 2010 07:11 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 33 ]
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PLaClair - 10 February 2010 04:39 AM

A lot of needless talking past each other goes on, here and elsewhere, because people insist that words mean only what they think they mean, or want them to mean. Religion means different things to different people. This encompasses more than formal dictionary definitions. Religion in particular invokes a set of associations, which vary widely from person to person. For some people, those associations are mainly positive, for others mainly negative. Therefore, it is completely unreasonable, and simply not true, that “religion” means x and not y, when in fact it means x to some people, y to others z, to others, etc.

I understand that people come to these discussions with their agendas but as is often pointed out, we are not entitled to our own facts.

Fine, I see secular humanism as a sport. This forum is a gymnasium and the moderators here are the referees. Can’t wait for the Super Bowl between Shermer/Harris v. Chopra/Houston next month.  cheese

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Posted: 10 February 2010 07:17 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 34 ]
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Jackson - 10 February 2010 06:58 AM

Speaking of invoking a set of associations to you consider football to be a religion?

Looks like we were thinking the same thing.  wink

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Posted: 10 February 2010 11:18 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 35 ]
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Jackson - 10 February 2010 06:58 AM

Speaking of invoking a set of associations to you consider football to be a religion?
[“is football becoming the religion of the masses?”] {he means soccer}

[“The Cult of Football: A Religion for the 20th Century and Beyond”] {hmm he means soccer too}

[ on-line petition to have football declared a religion] {hmm he also means soccer..}

maybe in texas.

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Posted: 10 February 2010 05:04 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 36 ]
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PLaClair - 10 February 2010 04:39 AM

A lot of needless talking past each other goes on, here and elsewhere, because people insist that words mean only what they think they mean, or want them to mean. Religion means different things to different people. This encompasses more than formal dictionary definitions. Religion in particular invokes a set of associations, which vary widely from person to person. For some people, those associations are mainly positive, for others mainly negative. Therefore, it is completely unreasonable, and simply not true, that “religion” means x and not y, when in fact it means x to some people, y to others z, to others, etc.

I understand that people come to these discussions with their agendas but as is often pointed out, we are not entitled to our own facts.

well if we start calling everything a religion, where will it end….

[ Kim Stanley Robinson’s talk at Duke on Science, Religion, and Ideology]which presses the concept of science as a ‘competing’ religion…

So there, to end, and this is the only time I’ll mention it, you get science as a religion. It’s a religion in the sense of religio, it’s what binds us together. It’s a form of devotion: the scientific study of the world is simply a kind of worship of it, a very detailed, painstaking, and often tedious daily worship, like Zen….

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Posted: 10 February 2010 10:01 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 37 ]
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Jackson - 10 February 2010 05:04 PM
PLaClair - 10 February 2010 04:39 AM

A lot of needless talking past each other goes on, here and elsewhere, because people insist that words mean only what they think they mean, or want them to mean. Religion means different things to different people. This encompasses more than formal dictionary definitions. Religion in particular invokes a set of associations, which vary widely from person to person. For some people, those associations are mainly positive, for others mainly negative. Therefore, it is completely unreasonable, and simply not true, that “religion” means x and not y, when in fact it means x to some people, y to others z, to others, etc.

I understand that people come to these discussions with their agendas but as is often pointed out, we are not entitled to our own facts.


well if we start calling everything a religion, where will it end….

[ Kim Stanley Robinson’s talk at Duke on Science, Religion, and Ideology]which presses the concept of science as a ‘competing’ religion…

So there, to end, and this is the only time I’ll mention it, you get science as a religion. It’s a religion in the sense of religio, it’s what binds us together. It’s a form of devotion: the scientific study of the world is simply a kind of worship of it, a very detailed, painstaking, and often tedious daily worship, like Zen….

I bolded the statement that I think is most revealing? Just what is your concern, Jackson? Can you identify it?

Besides, I didn’t say “we” should call everything a religion. I merely pointed out that there are many conceptions of religion, and that we do not have the power to change that. Our ethical obligation, in my opinion, is to respect differing viewpoints as much as is consistent with our other core commitments, and to look for dignity in each person’s religious expressions. I see nothing to be gained in the strategy you seem to be suggesting.

In another post you asked whether I considered football a religion. I do not because it does not address life’s most central concerns. If we didn’t spend so much of our time focusing on supernaturalist ideas, the broader parameters of religion might come more clearly into view.

I would also not say that science is a religion but it most certainly is a part of my religion - but then so are politics, art, music and football, though not each to the same degree.

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Posted: 11 February 2010 04:07 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 38 ]
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PLaClair - 10 February 2010 10:01 PM

I bolded the statement that I think is most revealing? Just what is your concern, Jackson? Can you identify it?

The word “concern” means different things to different people. 

I thought this was a pretty good interview and it shows a side of Hitchens which is a little friendlier and a little less condescending than usual {not a lot—but some}.  I think his comment that “everyone has experiencs of the numinous” was more aligned with trying to have a kinder, gentler interview style and not a carefull thought out assertion.  The interview is interesting because Marilyn Sewell is a unitarian who considers herself a Christian but does not believe in any of the literal teachings of the Bible - her ‘religion’ is more philisophical and the Bible is used as a metaphor to guide her life {she obviously chooses the good parts} . Hitchens is very aggressive in the first part of the interview and notes that she really isn’t a Christian.  She doesn’t over-react and eventually they are having a discussion.

It may be that a growing portion of folks are more metaphorical Christians who do not act as there is any literal truth in the Bible but use it a a metaphor and primarily use religion for its aspects of community not for its ability to explain stuff.

However, generalizing the term ‘religion’ to secular political philosophies just seems odd to me.  Maybe it’s just me…

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Posted: 11 February 2010 04:27 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 39 ]
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Jackson - 11 February 2010 04:07 AM

However, generalizing the term ‘religion’ to secular political philosophies just seems odd to me.  Maybe it’s just me…

It’s not just you. Many non-theists do not wish to be identified with religion or even use the word in connection with themselves. But quite a few of us see ethical Humanism (which is not just a philosophy, but also a way of life, encompassing action and feeling as well as thought) as a religion. I don’t claim to know the percentage but from what I can see it’s substantial enough not to be eccentric. It is the only religion I have ever encountered in which there is no separation between religion and life. It is about all of life’s concerns.

Think about the contradiction in reacting against that. We non-theists represent less than one-fifth of the population. We have a view that more than 80% of the population rejects. I think we are making a very important point. In fact, one of the key observations in scientific naturalism is how, very often, important ideas begin with a small group of people, or even one person. Quite often, the majority doesn’t get it at first, and resists it strongly, sometimes to the point of violence.

People like me are of the view that the religious quest is noble and important: the attempt to bring life’s concerns together into a complete framework around a universal ethic. This provides a sense of orientation and meaning, much like a theory in science. And because ethical Humanism includes skepticism, reason and open-mindedness among its core values, it has a self-imposed check against dangerous dogmatism and other forms of fanaticism.

In fact, the radicalism comes from opposing views. By reacting not merely against theism but against all forms of religion, we paint ourselves into a corner of isolation, leaving ourselves very little room to find common ground, even with people who share our commitments to reason and scientific naturalism - like me, for example. That, I believe, is why so many among us are so deeply frustrated by religion and come across as the stereotypical angry atheist. Too many of us act like it.

There is a jimungous thing called religion, which influences every aspect our lives. Along with others, I see a way in which we can gain entry into it and become an important part of it, changing the “thing” in the process. Some people are concerned that this implies a compromise of our values, such as reason. It does not. It is a different way of looking at a behavior that is as old as the human species, and which in many ways characterizes it. If we fight against that when we don’t have to, then we are making an enormous and costly mistake.

I do not envision the overthrow of theistic religion by criticism, though criticism has its place. I envision the gradual replacement of theism with a naturalistic world view. There isn’t a reason in the world why that cannot include a religious attitude, as expressed by Einstein and many others. It is essentially the vision expressed in John Lennon’s song “Imagine.” Yes, he said “no religion too.” That’s one way of framing it; there are others. I keep hearing the dire warnings and seeing the reactions against this but I have yet to see them fleshed out, which is why I asked you what your concern was if everything was (or more things were) called a religion.

This is a minority view but I don’t think it’s odd.

[ Edited: 11 February 2010 04:45 AM by PLaClair ]
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Posted: 17 February 2010 02:32 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 40 ]
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It’s definitely a minority view, PLaClair, but I don’t think it’s odd, either. I agree completely. Well said!

I’ve long been dismayed at how thoroughly the western, especially the American, concept of “religion” has been so thoroughly overtaken by the personalized god of the monotheisms. I believe that if the subtler, more tolerant visions of philosophy, transcendence, emmanence, and most importantly the personal, individual search for meaning were more prevalent than the straight-jacketed, dogmatic monotheistic approach, we’d see a vast reduction in the tensions so prevalent in society surrounding these issues.

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Posted: 17 February 2010 07:39 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 41 ]
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skuld - 10 February 2010 11:18 AM
Jackson - 10 February 2010 06:58 AM

Speaking of invoking a set of associations to you consider football to be a religion?
[“is football becoming the religion of the masses?”] {he means soccer}

[“The Cult of Football: A Religion for the 20th Century and Beyond”] {hmm he means soccer too}

[ on-line petition to have football declared a religion] {hmm he also means soccer..}

maybe in texas.

And definitely by the Mayans who would play a form of soccer, where the loser was sacrificed to the gods.
http://www.socialstudiesforkids.com/articles/worldhistory/mayanballgame.htm

[ Edited: 17 February 2010 07:41 PM by Write4U ]
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