The Cauldron: A Pagan Forum (Archive Board)
May 07, 2021, 09:18:08 pm *
Welcome, Guest. Please login or register.

Login with username, password and session length
News: This is our Read Only Archive Board (closed to posting July 2011). Join our new vBulletin board!
 
  Portal   Forum   Help Rules Search Chat (Mux) Articles Login Register   *

Welcome, Guest. Please login or register.
May 07, 2021, 09:18:08 pm

Login with username, password and session length
Donate!
The Cauldron's server is expensive and requires monthly payments. Please become a Bronze, Silver or Gold Donor if you can. Donations are needed every month. Without member support, we can't afford the server.
TC Staff
Important Information about this Archive Board
This message board is The Cauldron: A Pagan Forum's SMF Archive Board. It is closed to new memberships and to posting, but there are over 250,000 messages here that you can still search and read -- many full of interesting and useful information. (This board was open from February 2007 through June 2011).

Our new vBulletin discussion board is located at http://www.ecauldron.com/forum/ -- if you would like to participate in discussions like those you see here, please visit our new vBulletin message board, register an account and join in our discussions. We hope you will find the information in this message archive useful and will consider joining us on our new board.
Pages: [1]   Go Down
  Add bookmark  |  Print  
Author Topic: Doing comparative religion well  (Read 2506 times)
BGMarc
Adept Member
*****
Last Login:August 17, 2011, 09:57:32 pm
Australia Australia

Religion: Stoic (with declining druidic/wiccish hangovers and emergent Hellenic/Kemetic affiliations)
Posts: 1525


Blog entries (0)

Marc Larkin 6marc9
WWW

Ignore
« Topic Start: March 22, 2010, 05:24:17 am »

How can we do comparative religion well? I've been thinking about this issue on and off for several years now in a range of different contexts. Variations on the theme have come up within threads at TC over the years, including several that relate recently. In framing the thread, I am hoping to avoid some of the more negative approaches that focus on what happens when religions are compared badly (insensitively, inaccurately, superficially, exploitatively, etc.). I understand that, done badly, comparing, interpreting or reinterpreting elements of different paths (often) taken out of context adds little-to-nothing of value to the total of human knowledge.

(NB: I'm going to use 'path' as a 'neutral' term for tradition/religion/way/practice/philosophy/belief system/etc. - It's easier and it seems the least semanticly laden of any of the ones available. If you prefer something else, I'm happy to use it Smiley)

I thought that the Philosophy and Metaphysics folder might serve to focus conversation more in the direction of the positives. The sorts of questions that I imagine being relevant to the sort of exploration I hope we end up having are: When is it appropriate to make such comparisons, abstractions, interpretations, etc.? How can this be done sensibly? What is the role of the populations and individuals who lay a cultural claim to the paths? How about competing understandings within path communities? How does broad understanding of a path in the context of other paths relate to the (often quite different) experience and understanding of individuals within a path?

So what do people at TC think? How does one do 'comparative religion' well?
Logged

"If Michelangelo had been straight, the Sistine Chapel would have been wallpapered" Robin Tyler

It's the saddest thing in the world when you can only feel big by making others feel small. - UPG

Stupidity cannot be cured. Stupidity is the only universal capital crime. The sentence is death. There is no appeal and sentence is carried out automatically and without pity. Lazarus Long.

BGMarc at the Pub

Welcome, Guest!
You will need to register and/or login to participate in our discussions.

Read our Rules and Policies and the Quoting Guidelines.

Help Fund Our Server? Donate to Lyricfox's Cancer Fund?

Vial
Apprentice
**
Last Login:May 27, 2011, 05:19:09 am
United Kingdom United Kingdom

Religion: Neopagan Druid (not reconstructionist)
Posts: 29

Blog entries (0)



Ignore
« Reply #1: April 14, 2010, 05:42:27 pm »

How can we do comparative religion well?

As you have pointed out so clearly by your example of the term "path", how do we even develop a common language in which to discuss the ideas of differing paths?  This very issue is an ideal problem for philosophers in the sense that (I think) they are in the business of examining language and pointing out its implications and inconsistencies that we might miss in everyday usage.

The problem from my point of view is that "meaning" is located in a relationship between words and remembered perceptions - but that type of meaning is utterly subjective.  Although we may assume that individuals have similar kinds of experiences, there is no way we can assume that they perceive them identically and even if they did, there is no way we can assume that they learn to describe them via the same words.   In a trivial sense it is obvious people use different words for the same thing (e.g. different languages) but even within one language such as English it is easy to find examples where different people use the same word but disagree about which perceptions it relates to.  For example (and it has happened to me) consider a dialog such as:

"Look at that turquoise jewel over there!"
"Where do you mean?"
"Look - over there!" (pointing)
"That's green, not turquoise!"

Some of the words we use for colour are examples where people appear to have slight variations in which perceptions they would relate to them.  My thought is that different words have differing degrees of what I'll call grounding in terms of their meaning, i.e. their meaning is more tightly constrained by a larger set of perceptions that they must describe than some other words.  So the words for physical objects are usually fairly clear and unambiguous, while words for philosophical concepts are usually much more difficult to establish the meaning of.

It seems very clear to me that we have problems establishing a common language for religious experiences and conceptions simply because fundamentally many religious experiences are not shared (e.g. UPGs).  People will tend to explain things to themselves in a language they already share with their main social groups, so if members of an established religion they are likely to use the vocabulary of that religion - but that does not mean they are necessarily describing something different from an experience that a member of another religion describes in utterly different terms.

In order to work well, I suspect that any common language for describing religions would need to be religion-neutral, so probably equally new to all religions.  The advantage of this approach is that it would mitigate against unconscious bias towards the conceptual framework of one existing religion or another.  The disadvantage is that it is equally difficult for people of any religious persuasion to develop such a language.
Logged
HeartShadow - Cutethulhu
Assistant Board Coordinator
Senior Staff
Grand Adept Member
****
Last Login:April 15, 2013, 06:53:07 pm
United States United States

Religion: FlameKeeper
TCN ID: GenevieveWood
Posts: 8627


I am the Pirate Teddybear!

Blog entries (0)

WWW
« Reply #2: April 14, 2010, 06:10:18 pm »


I think one of the most important things involving comparative religion is that the religion needs to be codified well enough to be able to say it IS X and NOT Y.

Any religion that still gets a lot of hand-waving and "sorta like but not really but kinda" descriptors can't really be compared because you don't know what it IS.

To use completely made up examples - if you are talking about Followers of the Cosmic Twinkie compared to the Order of the Radish - you can say that both celebrate food as divine, but one is more interested in vegetables while the other focuses on desserts.  And you can look at them and discuss that, because it's right there.  But without a lot more information, you don't have any idea what they think about hamburger, and can't compare it.  Especially if there IS no real doctrine on hamburger, so you'll get as many opinions as there are religious participants.

And there's a lot of Pagan religions, at least, that don't have doctrine on questions that are often used for comparative religion - it's not what's important.  Or it is important but not really discussed, in some cases.  Without that, you can't compare, because you don't know what's the religion and what's the individual follower.
Logged




FlameKeeping website: http://www.flamekeeping.org
BGMarc
Adept Member
*****
Last Login:August 17, 2011, 09:57:32 pm
Australia Australia

Religion: Stoic (with declining druidic/wiccish hangovers and emergent Hellenic/Kemetic affiliations)
Posts: 1525


Blog entries (0)

Marc Larkin 6marc9
WWW

Ignore
« Reply #3: April 14, 2010, 07:30:31 pm »

And there's a lot of Pagan religions, at least, that don't have doctrine on questions that are often used for comparative religion - it's not what's important.  Or it is important but not really discussed, in some cases.  Without that, you can't compare, because you don't know what's the religion and what's the individual follower.

It strikes me that there is a kernal of an approach in that obesrvation alone. Perhaps it is in comparing abservable facts about what the religion has opinions on, what sort of opinions they are, the degree to which they impact behaviour/social structures/relationships/values/etc., the manner in which they are communicated, their origin, etc. Not sure, but it seems to avoid comments on the internal understanding of the religions in a way that might avoid some of the more egregious abuses to which comparative religion and 'meta-myth' projects have fallen prey.
Logged

"If Michelangelo had been straight, the Sistine Chapel would have been wallpapered" Robin Tyler

It's the saddest thing in the world when you can only feel big by making others feel small. - UPG

Stupidity cannot be cured. Stupidity is the only universal capital crime. The sentence is death. There is no appeal and sentence is carried out automatically and without pity. Lazarus Long.

BGMarc at the Pub
Vial
Apprentice
**
Last Login:May 27, 2011, 05:19:09 am
United Kingdom United Kingdom

Religion: Neopagan Druid (not reconstructionist)
Posts: 29

Blog entries (0)



Ignore
« Reply #4: April 16, 2010, 04:28:57 am »

Perhaps it is in comparing abservable facts about what the religion has opinions on, what sort of opinions they are, the degree to which they impact behaviour/social structures/relationships/values/etc., the manner in which they are communicated, their origin, etc.

The problem as I see it is that you may observe that Followers of the Cosmic Twinkie celebrate the significance of the sacred Doodah, following and honouring its seasonal cycles in annual rituals, while members of the Order of the Radish celebrate the significance of sacred Blimblam in a rather similar fashion.  But could we ever equate Doodah with Blimblam?  That is one of the issues with syncretism in relation to the pagan Gods of course - but it might also apply to other mystical concepts.  Some real examples I have in mind are Odin hung on the World Tree, the Kabbalistic sephira of Tiphereth, and the crucifixion of Jesus.  [I'm not claiming these are equivalent, but I'm noting that there may be points of similarity and some theorists might wish to abstract some generalised notion about all these different paths from the points of similarity.]
Logged
BGMarc
Adept Member
*****
Last Login:August 17, 2011, 09:57:32 pm
Australia Australia

Religion: Stoic (with declining druidic/wiccish hangovers and emergent Hellenic/Kemetic affiliations)
Posts: 1525


Blog entries (0)

Marc Larkin 6marc9
WWW

Ignore
« Reply #5: April 16, 2010, 06:05:53 am »



In the example you give, would it be appropriate to note that both link religious practice/symbolism/teaching to seasonal cycles and to then compare/contrast their understanding of doing so, together with observations on the empirical fact of the commonality?
Logged

"If Michelangelo had been straight, the Sistine Chapel would have been wallpapered" Robin Tyler

It's the saddest thing in the world when you can only feel big by making others feel small. - UPG

Stupidity cannot be cured. Stupidity is the only universal capital crime. The sentence is death. There is no appeal and sentence is carried out automatically and without pity. Lazarus Long.

BGMarc at the Pub
Vial
Apprentice
**
Last Login:May 27, 2011, 05:19:09 am
United Kingdom United Kingdom

Religion: Neopagan Druid (not reconstructionist)
Posts: 29

Blog entries (0)



Ignore
« Reply #6: April 17, 2010, 05:00:47 am »

In the example you give, would it be appropriate to note that both link religious practice/symbolism/teaching to seasonal cycles and to then compare/contrast their understanding of doing so, together with observations on the empirical fact of the commonality?
I think that is certainly a useful approach, perhaps equivalent to an anthropological method of study, but I fear that significant understanding could be lost by avoiding a discussion of the internal concepts of the different religions.  I'm thinking (as a comparison) that behaviourism as an explanatory tool in  psychology seems rather lacking by comparison to cognitive science.
Logged

Donor Ad: Become a Silver or Gold Donor to get your ad here.

Tags:
Pages: [1]   Go Up
  Add bookmark  |  Print  
 
Jump to:  
  Portal   Forum   Help Rules Search Chat (Mux) Articles Login Register   *

* Share this topic...
In a forum
(BBCode)
In a site/blog
(HTML)


EU Cookie Notice: This site uses cookies. By using this site you consent to their use.


Powered by MySQL Powered by PHP Powered by SMF 1.1.21 | SMF © 2006-2008, Simple Machines
TinyPortal v0.9.8 © Bloc
Valid XHTML 1.0! Valid CSS!
Page created in 0.053 seconds with 39 queries.