Religion?
#13
Quote: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.

Well it does not matter what categorisation you employ, to maintain uniformity ,law dictates what is recognised as religion and what is not.

The Supreme Court has interpreted religion to mean a sincere and meaningful belief that occupies in the life of its possessor a place parallel to the place held by God in the lives of other persons.

Common broad (imprecise but precise enough) characteristics which can distinguish between religious and non-religious set of beliefs (it is useless to use the word for a belief,it is has to be used for a set of beliefs)

  1. Belief in supernatural beings.
  2. A distinction between sacred and profane objects.
  3. Ritual acts focused on sacred objects.
  4. A moral code believed to be sanctioned by the gods.
  5. Characteristically religious feelings (awe, sense of mystery, sense of guilt, adoration), which tend to be aroused in the presence of sacred objects and during the practice of ritual, and which are connected in idea with the gods.
  6. Prayer and other forms of communication with gods.
  7. A world view, or a general picture of the world as a whole and the place of the individual therein.
  8. This picture contains some specification of an over-all purpose or point of the world and an indication of how the individual fits into it.
  9. A more or less total organization of one's life based on the world view.
  10. A (large enough) social group bound together by the above.

Ofcourse religion does not have to be correct on all these characterised for example budhism,scientology do not have a belief in god but they do have beliefs in supernatural
Atheism and secular humanism or not a religion because
1)Law does not recognise them as that
2)Even for practical purposes they are not as they lack the belief in supernatural,have no sacred objects or rituals connected to supernatural.
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#14
(15-Jun-2012, 02:30 AM)LMC Wrote: 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.

Yes, very good point. A theory describes a system behind a set of phenomena and it's link with other phenomena (one small objection: it doesn't have to be observable. many of the psychological theories about human beings are not observable, beliefs aren't observable either).

I'm talking about the phenomena of religion. not just a word.

I used the example of Christianity. A scientific theory of what makes Christianity into a religion would postulate a system that is both able to explain the different concepts/phenomena one encounters in Christianity AND identifies the underlying framework that link these together into one unit.







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#15


one more point: the descriptions you used to distinguish between religious and non-religious beliefs are loaded with terminologies like God, supernatural, sacred/profane, worship. It is important to note that these terminologies first emerged within Judeo-Christian theology and that there is a systematic framework that gives structure and coherence to these terms.


These are not self-explanatory concepts. For example, what is 'supernatural'? something not proven by science or discovered by science? or something that cannot be proven by science? there are many things that the sciences couldn't explain 100 years ago that they can explain today. This will be the same case 100 years later.


so these are important things to consider and not just semantic hair splitting.

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#16
Quote:what is 'supernatural'?
something not natural.
Quote:something not proven by science or discovered by science?
not discovered to be natural.
Quote:r something that cannot be proven by science? there are many things that the sciences couldn't explain 100 years ago that they can explain today. This will be the same case 100 years later.
Then it would become natural at that time, but in any case don't hold high hopes.
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#17
(15-Jun-2012, 12:18 PM)LMC Wrote:
Quote:what is 'supernatural'?
something not natural.
Quote:something not proven by science or discovered by science?
not discovered to be natural.
Quote:r something that cannot be proven by science? there are many things that the sciences couldn't explain 100 years ago that they can explain today. This will be the same case 100 years later.
Then it would become natural at that time, but in any case don't hold high hopes.


that didn't really answer or address the problem smile What is "not natural"? It is interesting to note that the pagans in Rome and Greece did not have the concept of "supernatural". There were many people even during that time that denied the existence of the Greek deities, but they didn't assign to them to a separate ontological realm that was separate from nature. If these deities existed, they existed within nature. Or they don't exist. that's it. they were not regarded as "supernatural", The greek deities were considered as part of nature. In fact the greek word 'Physis' (nature) refers to all there is. same with the Indian deities like Ganesha, Shiva, Durga etc. they are regarded as part of nature, as part of the universe, if at all they exist.

and the 'supernatural' thing is just the tip of the iceberg. there is a host of other problems with the way most of us conceptualize religion and religious phenomena.

Take the example of God. In Christianity and Judaism and Islam, God refers to a very specific entity.
He is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He is the creator and sovereign of the Universe, and the cosmos (all there is, was, ever will be) is an expression of his plan and purpose. Christianity/Judaism/Islam each claim to be the revelation of this plan or purpose.

No such entity exists in the pagan traditions of Greece and Rome or India. The hindu 'devas' don't even remotely resemble the Biblical 'God' in any way possible. they are two completely different entities. and yet, we assign them under the same category, "God" or "gods". What criteria do we use to put Zeus, Thor, Ganesha, and the biblical "God" under the same umbrella?

and this is also just one of many problems. words like "worship", sacred/profane, only make sense within a judeo/christian/Islamic theological framework.

so in final analysis, we need to do a complete overhaul and need to reconceptualize religion completely. What do we mean when we say religion? And more importantly: do all those cultures we say have religion, actually have religion? Is it a cultural universal?
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#18
The definition of natural may seem circular at first glance. But every human knowledge system is built on assumptions and some of them bamboozle us to an extent where the assumptions aren't clear. It is only because a scientific worldview makes its assumptions crystal clear that the seemingly circular nature of "what is natural" manifests itself.

So the distinction between natural and supernatural has to be seen in context of those assumptions. What will happen if you jump off a building? If you say that you will float in the air, then that is a supernatural claim. Religion is rife with such claims.

Despite starting a discussion about a theory of religion, it seems to me that you have come to the discussion with your own set of presumptions. The distinction between Judeo-Christian god and pagan gods isn't as simplistic as you make it to be. Plenty of Christians pray to their god hoping that their wishes/desires are fulfilled. Plenty of Hindus pray to Ganesh/Shiva/Vishnu etc.. hoping that their wishes/desires are fulfilled. In that way, there isn't any difference between those two types of god, and hence no question of there being a "problem".

And that is why I say these definitions arguments are pointless. Dissolve the definition into simpler parts and you can have a good enough theory.
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#19
(17-Jun-2012, 05:56 AM)Lije Wrote: The definition of natural may seem circular at first glance. But every human knowledge system is built on assumptions and some of them bamboozle us to an extent where the assumptions aren't clear. It is only because a scientific worldview makes its assumptions crystal clear that the seemingly circular nature of "what is natural" manifests itself.

So the distinction between natural and supernatural has to be seen in context of those assumptions. What will happen if you jump off a building? If you say that you will float in the air, then that is a supernatural claim. Religion is rife with such claims.

Despite starting a discussion about a theory of religion, it seems to me that you have come to the discussion with your own set of presumptions. The distinction between Judeo-Christian god and pagan gods isn't as simplistic as you make it to be. Plenty of Christians pray to their god hoping that their wishes/desires are fulfilled. Plenty of Hindus pray to Ganesh/Shiva/Vishnu etc.. hoping that their wishes/desires are fulfilled. In that way, there isn't any difference between those two types of god, and hence no question of there being a "problem".

And that is why I say these definitions arguments are pointless. Dissolve the definition into simpler parts and you can have a good enough theory.

It is not a supernatural claim. It would simply be an untrue claim. You could say the event is not possible, given what we know about gravity. It would be same as claiming I met Sherlock holmes. It is simply an untrue claim. The distinction between natural and supernatural is a theological distinction. It first originated within Judeo-Christian theology, it is not a scientific term. So when we use words like supernatural, we are unconciously doing theology

Secondly, just because someone asks for/directs their desires towards two entities (one turns to God, the other to Ganesha), doesn't make both the same being or the same class of beings.

Therefore, my statement about the biblical 'God' not being in the same category as these pagan deities was not a presupposition at all. The biblical "God" refers to a specific person with specific properties. "God" and Ganesha/Zeus/Thor are not members of the same class.



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#20
Look, this is not some simple semantics/definitional issue that can just be swept under the carpet. The definition of religion found in the dictionaries tells us nothing about the structure of religion.

This is an important issue, which has HUGE implications in terms of how we view and conceptualize different cultures and their practices.

Researchers like S.N. Balagangadhara and Timothy Fitzgerald have spent years researching this problem, and have written books about this issue.


This is a very simple barebones version of what they are saying:

Let us take the example of India

In India there are certain behaviours and practices like going to temple, doing puja etc When Europeans came to India , they classified these behaviours as religious behaviours or practices

Why?

1. They used a certain framework to classify these behaviours as religious.

2. This framework was derived from Christian theology

3. Their framework stated that all peoples must have religion, because biblical theology states that God gave religion to all of humanity, however this religion has been corrupted by the devil and his minions into many false religions.

4. So when they encountered Indians, Chinese, Native American Aborginals etc they assumed that these people MUST have religion.


. Christianity, Islam, and Judaism share a common framework that allows us to put them in the same category (religion).

The 'pagan' traditions have a structure that is *completely different* from Christianity, Islam and Judaism. The pagan traditions and semitic religions are not variants of one phenomenon, but different phenomena altogether.

In conclusion, Christianity, Islam, and Judaism are at present the only religions that we know of today.

This is a controversial theory for sure, but there is research to back it up.

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#21
(17-Jun-2012, 07:03 AM)arvind13 Wrote: It is not a supernatural claim. It would simply be an untrue claim. You could say the event is not possible, given what we know about gravity.

Call it whatever you want. I couldn't care less about what syllables are used to say it. What I care about is what is signifies. I used gravity just as an example. There are siddhis which are supposed to grant one that "untrue" claim. Applying the same terminology, Karma, Brahman, Rta, some aspects of Dharma are also "untrue".

I'll make a wild guess. It seems you are using some post-modernist clap-trap combined with post-colonialism to make excuses that Hinduism and pagan religions are not religions and hence modern day critiques of religion don't apply to them. Again, I don't really care about word you use to describe something. Karma being used to justify caste discrimination is as despicable as some equivalent idea in Judeo-Christian philosophy. I don't need semantic hair-splitting to realize Karma is supernatural. Hence a Dawkin-esque naturalistic critique of super-naturalism applies to it too.
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#22
I'm not making a value judgement on either religion or the pagAn traditions. Im just objectively trying to understand the structure of religion. And u're right. Definitions are pointless in trying to understand what religion is. What we need is a theory that gives us insight into the structure of religion. Nothing to do with postmodernism
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#23
Neither dawkins nor anyone else in this world has any clue on how to distinguish between natural and 'supernatural'. They just use it whenever and wherever they feel like it.


If all you are saying is that every society has certain 'irrational' beliefs, that's fine. that's true. But then again, i can provide examples of beliefs that most of us would not consider "religious", but are still irrational:

1. If we all work hard, we can achieve whatever dream we want.

2. For every person, there is a perfect "soulmate" out there, and that person can only be happy with that soulmate.

3. Women are not good decision makers

See these IMO are irrational beliefs, but they are not religious in anyway. so we can't label whatever belief we want as a religious belief.

For that, we need to know what religion is.

and most people decipher beliefs from actions. They think certain practices embody the beliefs of an individual or group. but that's another story....
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#24
(22-Jun-2012, 05:18 AM)arvind13 Wrote: Neither dawkins nor anyone else in this world has any clue on how to distinguish between natural and 'supernatural'. They just use it whenever and wherever they feel like it.

A bold assertion. And how do you support it?

(22-Jun-2012, 05:18 AM)arvind13 Wrote: 1. If we all work hard, we can achieve whatever dream we want.

2. For every person, there is a perfect "soulmate" out there, and that person can only be happy with that soulmate.

3. Women are not good decision makers

See these IMO are irrational beliefs, but they are not religious in anyway. so we can't label whatever belief we want as a religious belief.

Like I said, I don't give a damn what label is used to describe something. The label religion happens to cover some set of beliefs and that is a good enough definition to work with when studying those beliefs. Ultimately it all comes down to our cognitive biases. Again, natural and supernatural stand for something. If you don't like those words, use something like ooga and booga. The words aren't important. The underlying concepts are. Dawkins et al understand these concepts and use ooga and booga as convenient placeholders. That is all there is to it.
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