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Author Topic: Defining "Worship"  (Read 12084 times)
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« Topic Start: October 21, 2009, 02:04:30 pm »

I suppose I should acknowledge that this is spinning off from a certain other thread that might be about redefining atheism.  I don't want to dwell on it too much, because that thread's tangled issues are exactly what I'm trying to get away from here; I think there's a potentially interesting discussion here, but it's getting lost in the "does everyone do it" thing.

So.  Worship.  In the theological sense.

This is a sticky word to talk about.  Different people have different concepts of the idea.  To some people it's a neutral thing, just a way of describing this thing that happens.  To others, it's a good thing and a key part of religion.  To still others, it's so negative that they avoid the word in favor of terms like "work with" or "follow" or "look to" when describing their religion.  What is it to you?  What do you think of when you hear the word?  How do we define what worship is? What is the difference between worship, veneration, honoring, and any of the other terms that get used as an alternative to "worship"?  What separates worship from just loving someone/something a lot or being really respectful?  Etc., etc., etc.

To try to clarify what my intent is with this:  While defining the term "worship" is good, I'm not sure that dictionary definitions will be useful here.  I'm also not intending to start talking about who does and who doesn't worship; there's plenty of that in the other thread.  I just want to get a discussion going about what we, here at TC, see worship consisting of.
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« Reply #1: October 21, 2009, 02:34:12 pm »

  I just want to get a discussion going about what we, here at TC, see worship consisting of.

  For myself... worship is a * conscious acknowledgement * that there is (are) Some-One(s) / Thing (s) / Other(s)  that is (are) greater than myself and deserving of my respect and acknowledgement


   I do not feel the need to grovel, plead or practice helpless dependance in my worship.


 
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« Reply #2: October 21, 2009, 02:38:25 pm »

  For myself... worship is a * conscious acknowledgement * that there is (are) Some-One(s) / Thing (s) / Other(s)  that is (are) greater than myself and deserving of my respect and acknowledgement


   I do not feel the need to grovel, plead or practice helpless dependance in my worship.

Is there any physical activity required, then, or is it enough just to acknowledge the existence of Something Greater (to grab a convenient shorthand for all that, if you don't mind my doing so) and go on with your life just as you were living it before acknowledging It?
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« Reply #3: October 21, 2009, 02:45:32 pm »

So.  Worship.  In the theological sense.

In my mind worship denotes an active participation.  There are things one does: prayer, reverence, sacrifice (however these on their own do not worship make).  But there is also a mindset about it.  That being that the one being worshipped is somehow 'better' than the one doing the worshipping, and that their opinions and decisions are more valid and that their commands are to be followed with out question.

Certainly this a hold-over view of what I have learned from Christianity.  The above is what first comes to my mind when someone says they worship X.  I understand that many people may worship and not follow these practices or hold these views.
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« Reply #4: October 21, 2009, 02:48:48 pm »

In my mind worship denotes an active participation.  There are things one does: prayer, reverence, sacrifice (however these on their own do not worship make).  But there is also a mindset about it.  That being that the one being worshipped is somehow 'better' than the one doing the worshipping, and that their opinions and decisions are more valid and that their commands are to be followed with out question.

I'll add that I think the active participation is the important part of my definition.  I might believe that a God exists, I might even communicate with them, but that doesn't automatically mean I worship them.
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« Reply #5: October 21, 2009, 02:51:09 pm »

Is there any physical activity required, then, or is it enough just to acknowledge the existence of Something Greater (to grab a convenient shorthand for all that, if you don't mind my doing so) and go on with your life just as you were living it before acknowledging It?

I know that for me, I kind of slipped into a form of worship that wouldn't be recognized as such by most outsiders. My worship doesn't outwardly look like a religious act. My main dedication is to Ma'at - my worship of her takes the shape of taking action for justice: I blog about equal rights, I became active within my political party's feminist workgroup, I call people out on their sexism and racism... Most will take that as secular acts, but being devoted to a goddess of justice, they aren't to me. They ARE acts of worship.

I do think worship requires something personified or at least an actual object. I don't think you can worship an abstract concept... But I'm not basing that off anything but my own sense of "that wouldn't work."

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« Reply #6: October 21, 2009, 02:55:09 pm »

I'll add that I think the active participation is the important part of my definition.  I might believe that a God exists, I might even communicate with them, but that doesn't automatically mean I worship them.

Given that you list communication (an active-participation activity) among the alternatives to worship...  Would it be fair to say that the active-participation part of your definition is the expression of the mindset you mentioned?

Trying to phrase that right brought up another point for me:  Does active participation have to be a physical activity (such as participating in or performing a worship service), or could it be a mental one (such as thinking reverent thoughts during the course of your daily life)?
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« Reply #7: October 21, 2009, 02:58:29 pm »

I'll add that I think the active participation is the important part of my definition.  I might believe that a God exists, I might even communicate with them, but that doesn't automatically mean I worship them.

I agree.  I can't quite get my head around unconscious worship.  I'm not even real good with casual worship.  Worship is a full body and brain activity that I don't indulge in 24/7, in spite of acknowledging and believing in gods.  For me, it is a purposed 'mode' of acknowledgment, beyond connection or contact or communication.  When I am being worshipful I am worshiping - when I am doing any of the other stuff I am not worshiping, I am doing other stuff.  Even when my gods are an integral part of the other stuff it is still separate from worship.

I understand 'acts of worship', like what Chabas is talking about, but for me the stress there is on 'acts' rather than on 'worship', which is pretty much an altered state for me.

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« Reply #8: October 21, 2009, 02:59:00 pm »

My main dedication is to Ma'at - my worship of her takes the shape of taking action for justice: I blog about equal rights, I became active within my political party's feminist workgroup, I call people out on their sexism and racism... Most will take that as secular acts, but being devoted to a goddess of justice, they aren't to me. They ARE acts of worship.

So the main thing that makes it worship, for you, would be that your internal purpose in doing these things is to honor Ma'at?
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« Reply #9: October 21, 2009, 03:00:31 pm »

When I am being worshipful I am worshiping - when I am doing any of the other stuff I am not worshiping, I am doing other stuff.  

Hm.  OK, here's another question:  Is it possible to be worshipful, or maybe in a worshipful state of mind, without actually being engaged in worship?  (Or was that what you were trying to say, that you don't think it's possible?)
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« Reply #10: October 21, 2009, 03:02:34 pm »

  For myself... worship is a * conscious acknowledgment * that there is (are) Some-One(s) / Thing (s) / Other(s)  that is (are) greater than myself and deserving of my respect and acknowledgment.


I think qualifies, and is the beginning of all worship.  For me it also includes acts (as Chabas has said) that are in line with what she feels I need to do.  But I have never been asked for much in the way of ritualized worship of any kind.

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« Reply #11: October 21, 2009, 03:07:04 pm »

So the main thing that makes it worship, for you, would be that your internal purpose in doing these things is to honor Ma'at?

Yes, it is.

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« Reply #12: October 21, 2009, 03:08:27 pm »

Hm.  OK, here's another question:  Is it possible to be worshipful, or maybe in a worshipful state of mind, without actually being engaged in worship?  (Or was that what you were trying to say, that you don't think it's possible?)

I have no doubt it is possible - people I believe talk and write about it and I have no reason to doubt them.  It just seems to 'not' be possible for me.  Worship is like ecstasy for me - it sweeps me away and I can't do anything else until it's over.

This most likely does colour my view when i hear and see other people use the word, but I've been aware of this difference for a long time and can usually avoid picturing things like people putting shopping carts away or lighting candles while being totally disconnected from themselves.  I'm thinking there might be a better word for what happens with me (inundation?) but it is a rare enough occurrence that I just stick with worship or adoration most of the time.

It is definitely a state apart from the ordinary for me, though.  Unscheduled, full immersion in a way that my rather casual and transactional religious mode doesn't leave a lot of room for on a day-to-day basis.

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« Reply #13: October 21, 2009, 03:51:30 pm »



Whoa. Good topic. I'm going to start by distinguishing between personal use of the word, which is quite idiosyncratic, and how I understand the word when other people use it.

Quote
To still others, it's so negative that they avoid the word in favor of terms like "work with" or "follow" or "look to" when describing their religion.  What is it to you?  

Some background info: while I've consistently felt connected to, and revered, a transcendent omni-omni-being for years, I've recently started 'working with' a few godforms. After a time, I found that using the words 'god/goddess' and 'worship' in relation to these godforms started obscuring the connected feeling I have with my omni-god. I then restricted the use of those words to my omni-god, which has shaped my concept of worship accordingly.

Because my connection to my omni-god is based on a persistent feeling, and because I've restricted the use of the word 'worship' to that god, the feeling and the word and the god are all closely tied together. The net result is that for me, 'worship' describes an enduring relationship between me and my omni-god.

A relationship-based view of this means that I am never really not-worshipping even if I'm not actually performing acts of devotion. Analogously, if you marry someone you're not suddenly not-married just because you're at work and not thinking consciously about them. To take the marriage analogy further: Partner---Marriage---Partner parallels God---Worship---Worshipper, minus the obvious power differences. Theoretically, there might come a time where I no longer feel connected to my omni-god, in which case the worship-relationship would come to an end.

As part of the worship-relationship, I may perform acts of devotion/adoration/adulation/praise/supplication/etc. These acts aren't exclusive to a worship-relationship, and they occur with the godforms I work with as well as actual people, although I haven't explored whether certain types of acts may need to be similarly confined.

You (as in hypothetical, general you) could argue that I might as well say that I am 'connected' to my omni-god in terms of relationship, and that I should use the word 'worship' in a more conventional verb sense. That's where the background comes in: as I said, I found I needed an exclusive word for my relationship to my omni-god that indicated its very special nature. I find I can't use a more generic term anymore than I might hypothetically replace the word marriage with 'connection'.

Quote
What do you think of when you hear the word?

I go by what I think is a more standard interpretation which implies both a relationship and acts, although focusing primarily on acts. So I'd parse 'Hula worships Hoopla' as 'Hula is a devotee of Hoopla in some religious sense, and as part of that devotion performs devotional acts to which Hula and most people probably attach the word worship'. In interacting with Hula, I'd then only use 'worship' to refer to those devotional acts, rather than her underlying relationship.

Quote
How do we define what worship is?

Oh geez, I don't know! I think a common theme, in all the contexts I've seen it, is that it's veneration of some spiritual being or cause, but other than that it seems pretty elastic.

Quote
What is the difference between worship, veneration, honoring, and any of the other terms that get used as an alternative to "worship"?

In my case, 'worship' is an exclusive relationship at the extreme end of a spectrum of spiritual devotion. The difference lies primarily in the strength and persistence of the feeling I associate with it, and the (arbitrary) confinement of the use of the word.

For other people, I don't know, and my approach is to start out by presuming that 'worship' is the word they use to describe what they do in relation to their god, but this presumption can be displaced by their own terminology where that terminology doesn't fly wildly in the face of broad social usage.

So I'd accept someone saying 'I venerate my god', or 'I flugglebartok my god' because there's no social convention on that word, but I'd be rather disinclined to accept someone saying 'I chew my god' as a description of a typical worship-relationship or worship-activities, unless it actually does have something to do with mastication.

In other words, I don't see there being an inherent or practical difference in the word 'worship' compared to others; it's really a matter of convention and personal distinctions (eg the Catholic 'worship/veneration' distinction, my own distinction, etc.).

Quote
What separates worship from just loving someone/something a lot or being really respectful?

As above, I don't see there being any inherent or practical distinction, only a rather arbitrary terminological one to indicate some types of activities and relationships. So, 'Hula worships Hoopla' brings to my mind, without further information, the idea of a god-worshipper relationship, incense, prayers, etc. whereas 'Hula loves Humbert' brings to mind, say, a boyfriend-girlfriend relationship, walks in the park, romps in the hay, etc. To that end, the different terminology is arbitrary but useful as a shorthand.
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« Reply #14: October 21, 2009, 03:53:15 pm »

I have no doubt it is possible - people I believe talk and write about it and I have no reason to doubt them.  It just seems to 'not' be possible for me.  Worship is like ecstasy for me - it sweeps me away and I can't do anything else until it's over.


I get this, although when it happens I simply use the word 'ecstasy' to describe it.  Smiley
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