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Old 12-11-2006, 10:06 AM   #46
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while i can understand the need to differentiate between religions, doesn't this do more harm than good and cause people to act in ways precisely opposite to the teachings of whatever religion?

also, doesn't this, again, underscore the similarities of all religions? they all insist on fundamental differences (since all religions have their fundies) and insist that these differences are justification for believing that one group is wrong (the damned) and their own group is right (the saved).

it's all such a product of human thought. and human insecurities.
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Old 12-11-2006, 10:22 AM   #47
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From a theological standpoint, differentiation is necessary; you can't very well study any one particular religion without making conceptual distinctions between its worldview and that of others, any more than you could study a particular culture anthropologically without doing the same. As far as what that has to do with who gets "damned" and who gets "saved," that sort of thinking is not by any means part of "all" religions.
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Old 12-11-2006, 10:31 AM   #48
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From a theological standpoint, differentiation is necessary; you can't very well study any one particular religion without making conceptual distinctions between its worldview and that of others, any more than you could study a particular culture anthropologically without doing the same. As far as what that has to do with who gets "damned" and who gets "saved," that sort of thinking is not by any means part of "all" religions.


i can understand the need for differentiation from an intellectual standpoint -- for how do we understand except through comparison.

the point i'm making is that the insistence upon differentiation, the need to highlight differences instead of similarities, and the use of said highlights to maintain boundaries and borders and thereby exclusivity (the "damned" vs "saved" is of course not shared by all religions, i threw it into a western/Christian context) is yet another way in which "all religions" are built from the same all-too-human blueprint.
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Old 12-11-2006, 01:35 PM   #49
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I think one can highlight similarities between religions without resorting to minimalist reductionism, which may strike some as offensive. (I also think that really digging in to an avowed belief and exploring its underpinnings is a good thing. It's part of why I hang out in places like FYM so much.)
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Old 12-11-2006, 01:37 PM   #50
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I think one can highlight similarities between religions without resorting to minimalist reductionism, which may strike some as offensive. (I also think that really digging in to an avowed belief and exploring its underpinnings is a good thing. It's part of why I hang out in places like FYM so much.)

yes, of course.

i'm just pointing out claims of exclusivity as a general shared characteristic of the major religions, so much so that it might be a defining characteristic of any religious system of thought.

or is it offensive to think of religion as a system?
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Old 12-11-2006, 02:04 PM   #51
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yes, of course.

i'm just pointing out claims of exclusivity as a general shared characteristic of the major religions, so much so that it might be a defining characteristic of any religious system of thought.

or is it offensive to think of religion as a system?
I think it depends on how people use it. I think many people are looking for a system. The problem with a religious system is that people can move so far down the track that they forget where they started from (over-politicized Christianity, for example). This is why I'm not a big fan of organized religion. Most people want to be told what to believe when it comes to faith -- perhaps because the check-out factor is easier. (The unexplored life or faith may not be worth living, but it's sure a lot more difficult.) Systems or rituals keep us from having to reflect too deeply on the underlying philosophy/worldview. People gloss over items of importance with a casual "it's all the same thing," never realizing that perhaps they aren't...and the ramifications for what they believe. (For example, how would modern conservative Christianity change if its adherents started to see themselves as ministers not of morality first but of grace?)
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Old 12-11-2006, 02:15 PM   #52
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I think it depends on how people use it. I think many people are looking for a system. The problem with a religious system is that people can move so far down the track that they forget where they started from (over-politicized Christianity, for example). This is why I'm not a big fan of organized religion. Most people want to be told what to believe when it comes to faith -- perhaps because the check-out factor is easier. (The unexplored life or faith may not be worth living, but it's sure a lot more difficult.) Systems or rituals keep us from having to reflect too deeply on the underlying philosophy/worldview. People gloss over items of importance with a casual "it's all the same thing," never realizing that perhaps they aren't...and the ramifications for what they believe. (For example, how would modern conservative Christianity change if its adherents started to see themselves as ministers not of morality first but of grace?)


but i'm not talking about the organization of religion, or religion as an organization, i'm talking about religion as having a blueprint fundamentally rooted in the human ability to process and analyze knowledge. that it is a "Thought System" and abides by its own human-created rules and, like all institutions, is primarily concerned with it's continued existence.
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Old 12-11-2006, 04:04 PM   #53
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Well, religion is a human institution, and human life and thought do inevitably entail borders and boundaries, so I'm not sure how it could really be otherwise. Culture and philosophy are also "exclusivist" institutions, using the definition you seem to be employing; does that likewise make them "too" human (whatever that means)? In my opinion, you're expecting religion to be something it isn't and can't be if you're faulting it for failing to yield a universally agreed-upon, irreducible set of "ultimate" truths about the life, the universe and everything. Religious or not, there will always be the reality of divergent perceptions, whether dangerous or benign, to contend with; syncretism can certainly be one way of doing that, though it hardly guarantees peaceful results--that depends on which ideas you're trying to reconcile and how you go about doing that.

But perhaps I'm not fully understanding you, because I don't understand why the unsurprising fact that different religions entail different worldviews is something to get upset about in and of itself. There's only one world in an empirical sense, but there is never going to be one common human way to experience living in it, in religion as in other areas.
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Old 12-11-2006, 05:20 PM   #54
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Well, religion is a human institution, and human life and thought do inevitably entail borders and boundaries, so I'm not sure how it could really be otherwise. Culture and philosophy are also "exclusivist" institutions, using the definition you seem to be employing; does that likewise make them "too" human (whatever that means)? In my opinion, you're expecting religion to be something it isn't and can't be if you're faulting it for failing to yield a universally agreed-upon, irreducible set of "ultimate" truths about the life, the universe and everything. Religious or not, there will always be the reality of divergent perceptions, whether dangerous or benign, to contend with; syncretism can certainly be one way of doing that, though it hardly guarantees peaceful results--that depends on which ideas you're trying to reconcile and how you go about doing that.

But perhaps I'm not fully understanding you, because I don't understand why the unsurprising fact that different religions entail different worldviews is something to get upset about in and of itself. There's only one world in an empirical sense, but there is never going to be one common human way to experience living in it, in religion as in other areas.


when a religion holds itself up as the one, true way, it becomes something more than human, that there is something essential and eternal about it, that it was handed to man by the divine.

my problem is when people think their religion is exempt from the same rules that we use to understand (as you mention) culture and philosophy. i understand religion as actually an interesting intersection of culture and philosophy, a means of understanding the human condition (as it were), but i then must reject claims of exclusivity of that religion as anything other than a claim that is likewise governed by the same rules we use to understand culture and philosophy.

when we talk about a personal relationship with God the Father, and notions of Grace, and how there is no way to get to the Father but through Christ, we are exempting ourselves from the very human-ness of religion; we are not, as you say in the first paragraph, understanding religion as a human institution. we are making claims to it's eternal everlasting nature that transcends not just culture and language but human-ness itself.

this is what i'm trying to get at. i think religion is what it is; it's other claims about religion that, i think, are making religion into something it isn't, which is something more than a human system of understanding, that bears the same blueprint of any other human "system" of expression or thought.
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Old 12-11-2006, 06:19 PM   #55
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Quote:
Originally posted by Irvine511


when a religion holds itself up as the one, true way, it becomes something more than human, that there is something essential and eternal about it, that it was handed to man by the divine.

my problem is when people think their religion is exempt from the same rules that we use to understand (as you mention) culture and philosophy. i understand religion as actually an interesting intersection of culture and philosophy, a means of understanding the human condition (as it were), but i then must reject claims of exclusivity of that religion as anything other than a claim that is likewise governed by the same rules we use to understand culture and philosophy.

when we talk about a personal relationship with God the Father, and notions of Grace, and how there is no way to get to the Father but through Christ, we are exempting ourselves from the very human-ness of religion; we are not, as you say in the first paragraph, understanding religion as a human institution. we are making claims to it's eternal everlasting nature that transcends not just culture and language but human-ness itself.

this is what i'm trying to get at. i think religion is what it is; it's other claims about religion that, i think, are making religion into something it isn't, which is something more than a human system of understanding, that bears the same blueprint of any other human "system" of expression or thought.
Because religion deals with the fundamental human questions about the nature of reality -- who we are, why we're here, where we're going, what it all means -- you probably can't avoid empirical statements. It probably would have been much more convenient for Jesus not to make empirical statements about who he was, but he did. Mohammed was no less empirical in his own formation of Islam; God's command to the Israelites that "You shall have no other gods before me" was also pretty empirical, as is Buddhism's negation of gods and focus on enlightenment. Each one of these statements has ramifications for all other world systems, because they deal in a perceived reality.

Religions deal in the fundamentals of our world -- and does not merely content itself with what is visible (which to me makes it fundamentally different than sociology or philosophy), but focuses on the invisible as well. If we start with the presupposition that there is a spiritual reality, and that we are (though human) at least somewhat composed of spirit, then religion is the study of how these two realms intersect -- where our fundamentals meet the world's.

You raise the question of validating the truth-claims of various religions. I personally think contemporary practices should be evaluated in relationship to the earliest followers. (For example, I see an awful lot of love, generosity, and grace in the early Christian church, and not an awful lot of anger and condemnation.) But experience is helpful too. It's hard to validate one's teachings until you follow them. Jesus said, "A man must follow me. Then he will know whether my wisdom comes from me or my Father." A friend of mine who came to faith in Jesus put it very poetically; he believes in the God of the Bible because "I see my life in its pages." It comes back to experience: I experience something I can't explain, and my life becomes a quest to understand what that was.

Ultimately, what I hear you saying is that we need to remember our humanity in the midst of our spiritual quests, and I think that's right on.

Sorry for the epistle.
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Old 12-11-2006, 06:32 PM   #56
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Old 12-11-2006, 08:07 PM   #57
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Just a bit of trivia, but both "God" (in many languages) and "Devil" originate from the same Proto-Indo-European root word, *deywos. This is due to a quirk in Indian Hinduism and Iranian Zoroastrianism, where the good Hindu gods (*daivas) and the bad Hindu gods (asuras) are exactly reversed in early Zoroastrianism.

Now where I say "most languages," regarding "God" is because the word "God," in itself, isn't related. However, for Romance languages, the word for "God" derives from the Latin, "Deus," which, in itself, is derived from *deywos.

The specific word, "God," has an even more interesting etymology, as it derives from the Proto-Germanic word, *ǥuđánaz. Where this gets interesting, however, is that this word originated with a mythical tribal ancestor to the Scandinavian Geats ("Gautar"), Goths ("Gutans"), and Godlanders ("Gutar"), and refers to the Norse god, Oðin ("Gautr" in Old Norse; "Godan" in Lombardic, and, yes, "God" in Old English).

For some reason, I find these kinds of quirks of history to be quite interesting.
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Old 12-11-2006, 08:16 PM   #58
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Because religion deals with the fundamental human questions about the nature of reality -- who we are, why we're here, where we're going, what it all means -- you probably can't avoid empirical statements. It probably would have been much more convenient for Jesus not to make empirical statements about who he was, but he did. Mohammed was no less empirical in his own formation of Islam; God's command to the Israelites that "You shall have no other gods before me" was also pretty empirical, as is Buddhism's negation of gods and focus on enlightenment. Each one of these statements has ramifications for all other world systems, because they deal in a perceived reality.


the enitre post was very eloquent, and there's not too much to disagree with, but i do want to comment on this point as i round out the circle of my anti-fundamentalist stance. the various dictates you've outlined above are mediated through humanity -- we don't know what God said to the Israelites; we just think we know what they claim he said to them. we don't know what Jesus said; we only have some accounts of what people said that he said. none of this would be admissable in a court of law. thus, we cannot use these statements as facts in the way that we can say that water freezes at 32 degreese Farenheit.

thusly, the stance that "there is only one way to the Father and that is through me" (paraphrased) is a very poor basis to explain the belief that, properly extrapolated, 800m Hindus are going to be mighty upset when they die -- what will happen? will Jesus stand there and wag a finger and say, "you chose ... poorly." (points to whomever gets the movie reference).

anyway, there was also this:

[q]A friend of mine who came to faith in Jesus put it very poetically; he believes in the God of the Bible because "I see my life in its pages." It comes back to experience: I experience something I can't explain, and my life becomes a quest to understand what that was.[/q]

i've seen myself in the pages of "Hamlet;" in the music of "Achtung Baby." but i don't take such things as literal truth, but as a means to help me understand what is my own truth, to shine a light onto my own experience and to name what once you couldn't name or describe what once couldn't be described.

and that might be a beautiful way to look at life, as you've noted above: a quest to understand what can't yet be known, to see what can't yet be seen.

and i don't see how any one religion, necessarily, helps us do this better than others.

i strongly believe that if you had been born in India, you might well be as strong in your Hinduism as you are in your Christianity. my best friend's father, who's a very devout Hindu, might well be a strong Christian had he been born in the US or Europe.

i think what draws us all to religion, however, is fairly fundamental to human nature (though A_W might disagree), but it is our cultural cirucmstance that ultimately decides how we respond (and are practically able to respond) to this fairly innate attraction to the devine.
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Old 12-11-2006, 09:56 PM   #59
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Wow, awesome post, ormus! It's very informative. I had no idea that "God" and "Goth" were cognate.
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Old 12-12-2006, 12:00 AM   #60
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In order to understand Jesus you must understand the culture he was living in. As discussed, trade routes, pilgrimages, etc. led to themes, philosophies, ideas, and religions to become more readily available to a variety of audiences. That the Roman empire had roads greatly influenced philosophy and religion.
If you don't understand that Jesus was a Jew, you will never understand him. As a Jew he was an individual within an oppressed group of people. There were several factions within that group that held different beliefs about how they ought to deal with the Roman oppression. The Pharisees believed that God was punishing them because of their wickedness, thus, by purifying themselves and obeying all the rules God would save them; the sauducees believed that "God" was not coming to save them, so they should just try to figure out a way to live within the Roman world by participating in Romanness and leaving Jewish-ness behind; the zealots believed in physically fighting the Roman empire; and, the essences believed (similar to the pharisees) that society was corrupt and the only way to be free of oppression was to leave society behind and engage in spiritual warfare (not physical).

Jesus was anti-violence, anti-making-a-million-and-one-rules-just-to-feel-better-and-more-religious-than-others, anti-roman establishment, and anti-leaving society behind. No wonder so many hated him; his vision was truly remarkable.
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