Religion?
#1
Dear Nirmuktha members,

this is my first post. I hope we can have a stimulating intellectual discussion


In a forum about religion, in order to make intellectual progress, we have to be clear about the phenomenon we are talking about. In other words, what makes an entity/phenomenon into a religion?


Any discussions about religion fail to make sense in the absence of any theory of religion. What is sorely lacking in today's religious studies is a proper theory of religion.

There are hundreds upon hundreds of definitions of religion floating around. But none of them mean anything without a theory.

A theory of religion, which clarifies its characteristic structure and the relation between its different components and its relation to other phenomena, is an essential prerequisite to any discussion on religion


Feedback would be greatly appreciated. thank you.


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#2
(13-Jun-2012, 06:32 AM)arvind13 Wrote: Any discussions about religion fail to make sense in the absence of any theory of religion.

The dictionary definition of religion represents the general consensus about what the word means. For example, here is the complete entry on 'religion' in the Oxford English Dictionary, http://www.oed.com/view/Entry/161944?red...m=religion&

The scope of this sub-forum is also defined by the dictionary definition.

Can you be more specific about what you mean by 'theory of religion'? Are you alluding to theology? Why is the dictionary definition of the word 'religion' insufficient, according to you?
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#3
Quote:Any discussions about religion fail to make sense in the absence of any theory of religion. What is sorely lacking in today's religious studies is a proper theory of religion.
As far I'm concerned, religion doesn't work like science. at all. Period.
There isn't a provable hypothesis in religion; there is no theory that is worth setting or worth investigating in order to understand religion. Religion is faith-based; you believe hard enough and when that doesn't work, believe harder some more. Therefore there is no 'theory' behind religion for us to understand and thereby to deconstruct.
Consequently, freethinkers have made progress debunking religious nonsense time and again by referencing their own scared texts and appealing to the inanity, violence and megalomania that these texts inspire.

Quote:In a forum about religion, in order to make intellectual progress, we have to be clear about the phenomenon we are talking about. In other words, what makes an entity/phenomenon into a religion?
The factor that leads to a religious belief often evolves from a feeling that something is beyond us in terms of power, knowledge and so forth and this leads to either deism or monotheism.
"It's alright, I rarely meet anyone who's able to read it properly. Although personally, I never thought that it to be an odd of a name. Once I give people the pronunciation, they tend to remember my name by easily associating me with it. A unique face, a unique moniker."
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#4
There is a difference between a definition and a theory. A definition by itself is empty and doesn't give us any knowledge. For example, you might define religion as such and such, i might define it in a different way, how do we know whose definition is correct?

for example, take the example of water: water is commonly defined as any a compound consisting of two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom. This definition is a sound one because it is based on a solid theoretical framework, which exactly details what a hydrogen atom is, what an oxygen atom is, and how a certain combination of those results in this compound called water. It also details the various other properties of water and its effect on the environment.


Now, if we all agree that religion is a phenomena that exists in this world, then a sound theory of religion should be able to identify the underlying framework that outlines the relationship between the different components of a religion and how they form a coherent unit. A definition derived from this theory would be a sound one.


P.S i'm not saying religion is scientific. I'm just saying we need a scientific hypothesis of what a religion is, and what makes an entity into a religion, before we can have a discussion about religion.
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#5
This approach you propose is an exercise in futility and is quite pointless in my opinion.
Even amongst the religious faction, they can't quite agree on what they individually believe in. Examples abound from con- vs -trans-substantiation, to the the conflict between the sects of Islam, to the various denominations and cults in Christianity.
And what indeed is the point of developing a theory of religion as you put it? What can be benefited of it? Anyway which way you dice it, religion simply means a whole bunch of people who pretty much believe in the same story with a few odd men out who believe subtle modifications of it, all without proof and blindly of course.

Of course, the political, socio-economic factors behind the spread of a religion such as christianity by Emperor Constantine is of course eye-opening and relevant, but a theory of what religion actually is is silly since the believers themselves can't get their stories straight.

"It's alright, I rarely meet anyone who's able to read it properly. Although personally, I never thought that it to be an odd of a name. Once I give people the pronunciation, they tend to remember my name by easily associating me with it. A unique face, a unique moniker."
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#6
(13-Jun-2012, 10:12 PM)arvind13 Wrote: P.S i'm not saying religion is scientific. I'm just saying we need a scientific hypothesis of what a religion is, and what makes an entity into a religion, before we can have a discussion about religion.

Let me put it this way: do you want to discuss the issue of which organizations are classified as religions and how this is done? Or is your question about what makes people take up religion?

Please clarify the purpose of your opening post. Can you motivate it with an example? Another starting point for making your arguments clearer is to link to existing literature or outside opinions about the issues you want to discuss.
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#7
Here is a thread comparing religions and cults: http://nirmukta.net/Thread-Religion-and-Cult

arvind13: If, in your next post, you do not clarify how your post is different from the topic of the thread on religions and cults, I will merge them.
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#8
I'm just addressing a simple but important logical issue: if we are discussing and expressing opinions about an object/category (in this case, religion), we need to be clear about what that object is.



Take the example of Christianity. What makes Christianity into a religion?



A scientific theory of what makes Christianity into a religion would have to examine different concepts like God, salvation, damnation, judgment day, Will, faith, worship and the underlying structure that outlines the relationship between these different concepts and how they cohere together to form a unit called Christianity.

This is not about the individual beliefs of the followers of a religion. I'm well aware that there are many denominations within Christianity with differing opinions, but at the same time there is a common structure which make all these denominations Christian.

A calvinist and a catholic may disagree on how a believer attains salvation, but the concept of salvation is common to both

P.S. you requested for outside literature. I would recommend looking at the work of professor S.N. Balagangadhara, who has done extensive research on both religion and cultures (comparative science of cultures),
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#9
(13-Jun-2012, 10:32 AM)karatalaamalaka Wrote:
(13-Jun-2012, 06:32 AM)arvind13 Wrote: Any discussions about religion fail to make sense in the absence of any theory of religion.

The dictionary definition of religion represents the general consensus about what the word means. For example, here is the complete entry on 'religion' in the Oxford English Dictionary, http://www.oed.com/view/Entry/161944?red...m=religion&

The scope of this sub-forum is also defined by the dictionary definition.

Can you be more specific about what you mean by 'theory of religion'? Are you alluding to theology? Why is the dictionary definition of the word 'religion' insufficient, according to you?

Because the definitions provided in the encyclopedias and dictionaries are ad-hoc and not at all clear about what phenomenon they are referring to in the world. They are not based on any scientific research.

That is why you see so many definitions of religion, because of this lack of clarity
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#10
(15-Jun-2012, 12:56 AM)arvind13 Wrote: Because the definitions provided in the encyclopedias and dictionaries are ad-hoc and not at all clear about what phenomenon they are referring to in the world. They are not based on any scientific research.

That is why you see so many definitions of religion, because of this lack of clarity

Using that logic, there are plenty of things which are ad-hoc and not based on any scientific research. Art is one example.

Arguments on definitions are mostly pointless. Just substitute the word with its expanded meaning or a context dependent meaning and you can proceed with abundant clarity.

To cite an example, belief in Karma can be said to be an important part of Hinduism. However if you want to argue that belief in Karma is not the definitive aspect of Hinduism, fine. Let's just drop the word "Hinduism" and concentrate on Karma. It makes testable claims which can be analyzed scientifically.

Religion is just an umbrella term we use for a range of beliefs. We can either keep splitting semantic hairs on what is religion, or we can pick one belief and analyze it scientifically. The latter is a lot more productive undertaking.
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#11
I also agree that arguing over definitions is pointless.

What i'm pointing to is the fact that most academics, religious scholars don't have any idea what object they are referring to when they say religion. In order to do that, you need a testable scientific theory on what makes an entity into a religion.

I have already outlined above what such a theory should look like.


you mention a range of beliefs is grouped under the umbrella term religion. How do we distinguish between religious beliefs and non-religious beliefs? In order to do that, you need to know what religion is.

Look up Dr. S.N. Balagangadhara. he has identified exactly this problem, and has developed a scientific theory of religion
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#12
religion is a word of english language, languages exist for people to help in communicating, more accurate our usage of words and less ambiguous our definitions, more effective communication will be.

definitions do not need a rigorous research, only research on how people percieve that word and what they mean when they say it, there is a consensus among most people what religion means, if you define it any other way ,it won't change a thing unless you can make that usage popular enough to corrupt the word and make it ambiguous.It is when one word can be used to mean several different things that you have to state what you mean for a useful conversation.
Though that has not happened with the word region so far ,when one person says the word religion , we know what they mean, to reduce any chances of confusion as lije said
Quote:Just substitute the word with its expanded meaning or a context dependent meaning and you can proceed with abundant clarity.

theory is different from definitions,a theory is NOT a very elaborate definition a scientific theory is
Quote:is a scientific work, which describes a system behind observations and makes predictions for future observations.
and
Quote:We can either keep splitting semantic hairs on what is religion, or we can pick one belief and analyze it scientifically. The latter is a lot more productive undertaking.

A theory describes an observation, what do you mean when you say theory of religion ?

Do you mean theory of rise of religion which would describe how religion came to being in the first place, and make some predictions on what would cause growth/fall of religions?

A theory has to be about an observation ,the word religion is mostly used as a noun ,not an observation.
An observation would be , existence of religious beliefs, tenancy of humans to hold several contradicting beliefs at the same time, tendancy of humans to ignore evidence contradicting with their beliefs etc.


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