Religion?
#25

Furthermore, when criticizing 'irrational' or superstitious beliefs, there is a problem with how this whole notion of superstition/irrational is characterized:

what makes a belief a superstitious belief or an act of believing a superstitious act? It is here that many, many problems come to the fore. One easy way out is to use science and scientific theories as the contrast set: any belief that is not countenanced by the scientific theories of today is a superstitious belief. Of course, this is too broad: on this account, every belief that displaces the current scientific beliefs (i.e., the new scientific theories) becomes superstitious. If you try and circumvent this problem by speaking about ‘scientific theories’ in the abstract (i.e., do not circumscribe them in time), the danger is that every belief (almost) escapes the net.

You see, one way out of these sets of problems is to take a dogmatic stance: any and every belief that the scientific theories of today do not countenance is superstitious and irrational. Not only is such an attitude dogmatic, it is also anti-knowledge. Does science recognize the existence of moral agency, the will, or the bearer of human rights? It does not. So, is one to believe that all claims about them are superstitious?


This same critique applies to supernatural.

Lastly, are all irrational beliefs religious beliefs? or only some? if the latter is true, which ones are religious?
Reply
#26
Again, as I understand it, your hypothesis is this: "making explicit, the philosophical distinction between religion and other forms of irrational beliefs is relevant and important."

I agree completely with Lije that this is a pointless discussion to have, regardless of the appeal to the authority of the two philosophers you speak of in your last comment. If there is a point to it, i.e., if drawing this distinction does have any consequences, you are not articulating it.

(23-Jun-2012, 10:13 AM)arvind13 Wrote: what makes a belief a superstitious belief or an act of believing a superstitious act?
Again, we are arguing about definitions! The dictionary meaning of superstition is sufficient for defining what that term means. http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/superstition

Quote:Lastly, are all irrational beliefs religious beliefs? or only some? if the latter is true, which ones are religious?

Lije has already addressed this issue. Your arguments about why you think it is a big deal whether we call a particular irrational belief as religion or 'ooga booga' or Isha Philosophy of Jaggi Vasudev or 'manasE relax please'ism (pardon the Kannada) of Swami Sukhobodhananda. This classic 'we are not a religion' disclaimer has been used by various vested interests in the past to propagate pernicious dogma. (At the risk of affirming Godwin's law) Is Nazism a religion? Obviously not, in the strict sense of the term. Yet it was founded on completely irrational views of racial supremacy. I hypothesize that the successful implicit branding of 'Nazism' as 'we are not a religion' won them many converts among the non-churchgoing crowd. But the consequence was the same- a bunch of people strongly united under a common cause. Whether it was a religion or not is hardly consequential to what followed from the growth of Nazism. The same can be said of Stalinism, Maoism, and the Khmer Rouge- all non-, even anti-religious movements that were nevertheless, pernicious.

Are you, by any chance trying to get to the definition of 'atheism' by way of defining religion, and subsequently, defining atheism as 'belief that religion and supernatural is wrong'? It has been stated countless times that this 'dictionary meaning' of atheism is meaningless.

There is scope for quibbling over the definition of 'religion' in jurisprudence, but I don't think that's your point.

I repeat my call for you to clarify the consequence of arguing about the definition of religion. Can you please provide some concrete examples? You vaguely refer to the work of two philosophers, but can you please cite relevant articles or quote from their work?
[+] 2 users Like karatalaamalaka's post
Reply
#27
(23-Jun-2012, 10:13 AM)arvind13 Wrote: You see, one way out of these sets of problems is to take a dogmatic stance: any and every belief that the scientific theories of today do not countenance is superstitious and irrational. Not only is such an attitude dogmatic, it is also anti-knowledge. Does science recognize the existence of moral agency, the will, or the bearer of human rights? It does not. So, is one to believe that all claims about them are superstitious?

The method of science itself is not a dogmatic stance. Reminds me of something someone asked me in an interview long ago. It goes something like this: Suppose your grandma tells you that marigold is good for healing wounds. How would you go about checking whether this is true? Now, science may not necessarily have information about how every chemical in marigold affects the healing process. This body of knowledge may not exist simply because no one ever tried finding it out. But if you are the first to seek out whether marigold helps heal wounds faster, then you'd conduct carefully designed experiments, whether by testing each component in it, or by empirically applying crushed marigold to a hundred wounds, in double blind tests, etc. Only after you convince everyone that your experiment and its results are trustworthy will the theory make the transition from superstition to science. I have no obligation to believe in what my hypothetical grandma said about marigold. The point here is that, scientific method is not some weird philosophical construct that only the cult of scientists follows. It is a viable, highly effective way of understanding nature, and subsequently, it should also be a personal endeavor that each of us should incorporate in our own lives.

In a sense, there is plenty in the form of empirical evidence and logical arguments that codes of ethics, recognition of an individual's fundamental rights (not to be conflated with 'the will' as you do), human rights are a good thing for the society. The failure of dozens of autocratic regimes over the thousands of years of human history bear testimony to this. Further, I'd imagine (with the caveat that common sense can be wrong) that experiments can be easily designed to demonstrate how individual freedoms, basic human rights, morals, etc. are beneficial to individuals and to the society. What is beneficial you ask? There can be many (possibly nonexclusive) ways of defining 'beneficial', such as: enabling human creativity and ingenuity, keeping people happy, reducing unfairness, etc. While such values were 'self-evident' in Thomas Jefferson's time, over the years with all the tools we have, experiments have been conducted to demonstrate that codes of ethics, human rights, etc. are generally good for the society and for individuals. The very fact that the method of science has been applied to study political science, sociology, human behavior, psychology, etc. is evidence that science does indeed recognize morality, ethics, human rights, etc.
[+] 2 users Like karatalaamalaka's post
Reply
#28
(23-Jun-2012, 10:13 AM)arvind13 Wrote: You see, one way out of these sets of problems is to take a dogmatic stance: any and every belief that the scientific theories of today do not countenance is superstitious and irrational. Not only is such an attitude dogmatic, it is also anti-knowledge. Does science recognize the existence of moral agency, the will, or the bearer of human rights? It does not. So, is one to believe that all claims about them are superstitious?

karatalaamalaka has already addressed most of the points very well. I just want to add one point explicitly.

The above comment by arvind13 uses a false dichotomy. There is a difference between "scientific theory" and "scientific method". So one needn't have superstitious and irrational defined on the basis of a "theory" because that ofcourse would become anti-knowledge, but we can have a very decent segregation based on scientific method. And that too again doesn't need to be set in stone. All you need is scientific temper, and if evidences start pointing against some basic Science tenets (I have given some example here), then Science can always make emends.

[+] 2 users Like Kanad Kanhere's post
Reply
#29


you misunderstand. When you label belief as 'irrational' or superstitious, it is a completely subjective exercise. What is 'irrational' to one person, might be completely 'rational' to the other.

I suppose you could say if something is disproven by a scientific method, or scientific evidence against a belief, then believing that is irrational. Then most of the beliefs (religious/otherwise), that are being criticized as "irrational" would escape this criteria.

ithere is a much bigger issue I'm addressing here. This is not about definitions at all. infact, my point is exactly the opposite. Using defintions to understand the phenomena of religion is completely useless.

Because as i mentioned, the definitions don't really provide any insight into the framework and makeup of religion. they are completely unclear about what object they are referring to. A definition can't be a substitute for a theory. I used the example of Europeans coming to Asia and labelling certain practices as 'religion'. They said that such and such practice embodied a belief system. What criteria did they use?



Anyways, i've posted a youtube link to this talk given by Dr S.N. Balagangadhara (whom i've been referring to), and he explains it much better than me. This was given at an academic conference called "Rethinking Religion in India". It's about an hour long, but you don't need to watch the full one hour, just the first four parts is his speech. He has developed a scientific theory of religion:






This is the link to the university website which provides a brief overview of the research program (comparative science of cultures):

http://www.cultuurwetenschap.be/pages/introduction



Reply
#30
(23-Jun-2012, 08:38 PM)arvind13 Wrote: you misunderstand. When you label belief as 'irrational' or superstitious, it is a completely subjective exercise. What is 'irrational' to one person, might be completely 'rational' to the other.

I suppose you could say if something is disproven by a scientific method, or scientific evidence against a belief, then believing that is irrational. Then most of the beliefs (religious/otherwise), that are being criticized as "irrational" would escape this criteria.

My wild guess was indeed correct. There is nothing subjective about calling not-believing-that-you-will fall-down-after-jumping-off-a-building as irrational.

There is nothing "western-imposed" about calling caste system as immoral because there is such a thing called intersubjective morality.

But let me play your pointless game to see what you are really here for. So what if Hinduism isn't a religion? Does that make the caste system moral?


Reply
#31



i'm here just to stimulate discussion and get a clearer idea on what religion is.

Yes, you're right about the jumping off the building analogy. but the discussions on this forum (as far as I can observe), aren't about stupid beliefs or irrational beliefs in general. It specifically focuses on religion and religious beliefs. If we want to critically think about and examine religion (which i think is definitely important, as do most members in this forum), we need to first know what religion is. that is all. that is the main motivation behind the posts.



And so far, i've provided explanations as to why definitions are useless in trying to understand the structure of religion. because the definitions are arbitrary and are not based on any scientific research.

regarding the questions about hinduism, i would just request to watch that talk i provided a link to whenever you have the time. it's about 40 min long. not very long. and then we can discuss

I'm not here to defend 'religion', 'hinduism' or the 'caste system'. Such defenses doesn't help us make intellectual progress.

one last thing regarding beliefs. there is an implicit assumption that all human practices embody their beliefs. but this is an unproven assumption.

Reply
#32
(23-Jun-2012, 11:26 PM)arvind13 Wrote: Yes, you're right about the jumping off the building analogy. but the discussions on this forum (as far as I can observe), aren't about stupid beliefs or irrational beliefs in general. It specifically focuses on religion and religious beliefs.

Yes, we do focus a lot on religion. Do you think we shouldn't focus on religion? Are you implying that just because those beliefs are called religious beliefs (a "Western" label), they don't cause much harm, are relatively benign when compared to other beliefs and hence shouldn't be criticized?

Reply
#33
I'm merely saying that one should understand what religion is, when critically examining it.

Western culture was shaped in large part by religion (Christianity), when they started traveling around the world and arrived in India/China/Japan, the first thing the early travelers and missionaries did was they set out to find the religion of the natives. It didn't even occur to these guys that maybe these cultures don't have religion.

They assumed that every culture MUST have religion, because the bible says God imbued each human being with a sense of divinity i.e every culture has a religion. The bible also says that in most of these places, the true religion has been corrupted by the devil and his minions and has become false religion/s.

The early European travelers accepted these biblical claims as facts, and assumed that there MUST be religion in India. So when one makes that assumption, automatically one will start seeing and labeling certain practices as "religious", even if it has nothing to do with religion.

At the time the first European travelers arrived in Asia, the protestant reformation was going on in Europe. One of the important ramifications of the protestant movement was that the protestants postulated a very strong connection between practices and beliefs. To the protestants (especially Calvinists), actions and practices embody one's beliefs, or ought to embody one's beliefs.

So when the protestants came to China and India, they started seeing certain practices and rituals as expressing certain beliefs. for e.g they observed a person doing puja to Ganesha, and they immediately thought this puja embodied the beliefs of the performer, as in he is doing it because "he believes in Ganesha", "he believes Ganesha exists and will help him" etc etc.

We still use this protestant framework when looking at these practices. We think of all these practices as expressions of belief-states. to be sure, there are Indians who 'believe' that rama or krishna existed.


But that doesn't change the fact that the pagan traditions of India have little to do with belief. Unlike the semitic religions, beliefs aren't the foundation of these practices, and what beliefs one holds is irrelevant to continuing a tradition, furthermore, there is no obligation to follow a tradition.
Reply
#34
(11-Jul-2012, 08:04 AM)arvind13 Wrote: I'm merely saying that one should understand what religion is, when critically examining it.

No. What you are saying is harmful beliefs (or practices or whatever you want to call them), which are what are criticized here, albeit under a convenient label called religion, a label which is immaterial to the amount of harm those beliefs cause, aren't worthy of our attention because you think religion is a Western idea. You've just been beating around the bush without saying as much using post-modernist mumbo-jumbo.
Reply
#35
(11-Jul-2012, 09:10 AM)Lije Wrote:
(11-Jul-2012, 08:04 AM)arvind13 Wrote: I'm merely saying that one should understand what religion is, when critically examining it.

No. What you are saying is harmful beliefs (or practices or whatever you want to call them), which are what are criticized here, albeit under a convenient label called religion, a label which is immaterial to the amount of harm those beliefs cause, aren't worthy of our attention because you think religion is a Western idea. You've just been beating around the bush without saying as much using post-modernist mumbo-jumbo.



I'm not 'beating around the bush' at all. i addressed exactly this point of "harmful beliefs" in my previous post.

Most people assume that these traditions and practices in India, or among American aborginal communities for example, are expressions of beliefs. This assumption (human actions embody belief states) is not based on any scientific understanding of human beings. This assumption comes from Christian theology.

Furthermore, "harmful beliefs" is such a subjective category. What makes a belief 'harmful' in the first place? That which causes harmful actions? Two people can hold the same beliefs and their actions can be completely different.

I suppose one could just focus on individual actions/practices themselves (widow burning, for example), and say that these actions are immoral or harmful. but that's such a trivial and obvious point. There are many actions in this world that are immoral and harmful like murder, rape, torture etc There is nothing inherently 'religious' about these activities.

Anyways, this article about a tswana tribe's 'rain dance' elaborates more on the concept of linking practices to beliefs.

http://xyz4000.wordpress.com/2011/03/01/...lem-derde/

Reply
#36
(15-Jul-2012, 11:08 PM)arvind13 Wrote: This assumption (human actions embody belief states) is not based on any scientific understanding of human beings. This assumption comes from Christian theology.

'Theory of Mind' is treated as a legitimate scientific subdiscipline in the cognitive sciences. For instance, it is an active track of research at MIT's CoCoSci ( Computational Cognitive Science group). From this publication : The explanations we come up with for the observed behavior of another person, derive from taking the intentional stance: treating the person as a rational agent whose behavior is governed by beliefs, desires or other mental states that refer to objects, events, or states of the world. (emphases mine)
No Indic faith is wholly devoid of beliefs that refer to objects, events or states of the world (For instance, Yajna to bring rain is a case in point), and therefore no exemption from critique on this account is warranted, neither is the applicability or otherwise of the term 'religion' at all germane to such critiques.
Reply


Possibly Related Threads...
Thread Author Replies Views Last Post
  This is WHY people wont leave religion Freethinker 0 3,045 04-Dec-2016, 08:27 PM
Last Post: Freethinker
  Religion in the abattoir arvindiyer 28 28,011 07-Sep-2014, 03:23 PM
Last Post: garrethdsouza
  Religion and Cult ayyawar 5 6,659 03-Feb-2013, 09:22 AM
Last Post: EndAllDelusionsOfH8
  God exists, take religion back to school shrihara 8 6,645 13-Sep-2010, 02:21 PM
Last Post: shrihara
  Religion and Culture ayyawar 12 7,385 04-Sep-2010, 07:07 AM
Last Post: Swati



Users browsing this thread: 1 Guest(s)