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Author Topic: Definition of religion/religiousity?  (Read 5771 times)
Waldfrau
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« Reply #15: January 16, 2008, 11:15:36 am »

I'd think that each religion would judge followers based on the ethical code of the religion.
According to what my ancient history prof has repeated for the umptiest time the religion of the ancient greeks wasn't based on an ethical code. Worship was one thing and ethics another the humans decided for themselves. He called it anthroponomy, meaning humans would rule themselves. There were laws about how the gods and sacret places/things had to be treated, but no laws by the gods how humans should treat other humans. Still the ancient greeks had ethics, though some ones different from our ethics today.

What annoyed me about the discussion with my collegue was that she as a religious person (and a student of theology) didn't respect this example because she thought she was an expert on religion over me. I confess it was partly my fault that she regarded me as an areligious atheist person. I had explained to her that I view the whole universe as something sacred, but apparently I haven't explained enough for her to understand that I view myself as a religious person.

Or maybe I'm not religious? Maybe I'm just esoteric or spiritual? I don't belong to a religious group and have no theology. I just think everything has a soul because that's how I experience my environment. When I'm in a forest, I feel that there are souls of trees around and so on. It may sound crazy. So it isn't even a belief in the hard sense, because it's what I can experience. Does that make sense?

I don't pray to God or Gods because I haven't experienced them and have no incling what I'm supposed to pray to. (That was horrible when I tried to pray to Jahwe during my catholic upbringing.) I often adress earth, the sun, the moon, animals or plants in my mind, but they are not like Gods. They are not 'over' me, it's more a feeling of being related to them that makes me adress them. And I know the moon has no ears and doesn't hear what I whisper or think to it, so my actions are merely symbols to carry something else.

It makes me crazy that I don't know how to explain myself. And I'm afraid most people would have a good laugh at me. Luckily this forum does exist. But is what I do an expression of religion at all or is it something else? I wouldn't call what I experience god or gods, I respect them as archetypes though or even some sort of force made of energy from somewhere else, but I don't see them as independent beings. So it may be a bit too bold to call myself Pantheist or anything else that involves god/gods. I'd rather call what I experience energy, but maybe it's just a matter of naming???

I know normally animism is viewed as a religion, but I'm no tribeswoman and of rituals I've no idea. (Though I'd like to try some.) So call myself an Animist would be a bit bold too?

You can tell I'm slightly confused, eh?

I'm Wiccan. I definitely have an ethical code that prescribes not doing evil... or, at least, not causing harm with forthought and malicious intentions.
I think many religions have ethics, but not necessarily all. And as RandallS hinted, they play a more central role in some religions than in others. (If I interpret his post correctly.)

I also have ethics, but they are not the basis of my 'religion' (if you can call it that) or vice versa. My ethics are made by my culture and myself accepting them (or most of them), humans rights & co. My ethics are compatible to my religion and there may be vague links or parallels, but it would be a stretch to call my religion based on ethics or vice versa. Ethics are abstract constructs  with human emotions on the starting point. But my religion comes from what I feel the universe is made of. Of course those feelings are also just interpretations, but there's less logic and choice involved. Another person may have different experiences and different interpretations, but that wouldn't make the universe different IMO. While ethics are fully human's choice IMO, even if it's a choice between reasonable ethics and unreasonable ones (with different views of what is reasonable).

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Sure, it's natural to judge others by your religious code. But if they are living right by their beliefs, then that has to be acceptable on some level (even if you completely disagree with them).
Basicly my collegue and me have the same ethics and she should have known that since she knows me for 5 years. What annoyed me is that she got all alarmed when I said I don't believe in evil. (I know there are genocides and everything, I just don't believe there's an evil force behind it, more like human failure and bad choices IMO.) I have no problem with everyone else believing in evil, I just get angry when not believing in evil makes me incapable of being a religious person according to my collegue's interpretation of religion.

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I'm rather sorry your ex-friend didn't take the time to understand yours... but people like that aren't worth the headache and drama to keep around in your life. I've had to discard a few myself.

Karen
Thanks, Karen. It was a relief to talk to a sensible person like you. My collegue has apologized for making me an embarrassing scene in the mensa and I talk to her again if I meet her coincidentally, but I'm tired of silly misunderstandings like this (wasn't the first issue) and start to think that she's not worth the trouble. I also don't think it would be wise to tell her what I really do and she doesn't think that in a religious discussion my opinion as an 'atheist' counts. She told me she would discuss differently with a member of another faith like a buddhist or something. But I don't feel it safe to announce that I'm an Animist or Neopagan or something else unusual.  Undecided Can't even imagine the wild imaginations she might have if I tell her I 'pray' to the moon.  Cheesy Grin


RandallS, the wikipedia article is good. I need more time to read it. Thanks for the recommendation. Smiley
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« Reply #16: March 15, 2008, 06:25:16 pm »

Is there a definition of religion and religiousity that would include Pagan religions as well as JCI?
I think of a religion as not to different from Philosophy. To me, religion is simply a measure of devotion to one's philosophy, and to a lesser extent, how much one tries to apply that philosophy to their lives.

So, going from that, religiosity would be a graduated scale on how consistently one applies their religion to both everyday and extraordinary situations.
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« Reply #17: March 15, 2008, 06:48:32 pm »

she doesn't think that in a religious discussion my opinion as an 'atheist' counts.

In my opinion, that's a load of *censored*.  She isn't a politician and I bet she has political views and opinions (everyone does), how would she like it if someone told her that because she's not a politician her opinions didn't matter?

I like having atheists around, it reminds me I chose to follow my religion.  I feel that I didn't have much choice in the matter (when you have a deity tapping you on the shoulder you don't) but I did choose it of my own will.
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Waldfrau
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« Reply #18: March 16, 2008, 06:48:46 am »

In my opinion, that's a load of *censored*.  She isn't a politician and I bet she has political views and opinions (everyone does), how would she like it if someone told her that because she's not a politician her opinions didn't matter?
LOL, I could stop her saying her opinions about teachers because she isn't an expert.  Cheesy

But honestly, I don't see this person anymore, because it isn't really a religious problem, more a problem of how to cope with disagreement on anything. Just our attitudes don't fit together. Maybe I'm too blatant or opinionated, but whenever I disagree on something she thinks is her field of expertise (she studies protestantic theology) she gets really agressive. And I don't like to be lectured. Maybe I should have told her where I'm coming from because she always seems to think I knew nothing of the subject of religion at all. She might have talked differently to me (and not tried to lecture me) if I had made more clear that I have a religion, but I don't feel comfortable to reveal myself to her. It maybe unfair though, because I knew a lot about her viewpoint while she doesn't know much about mine. But then she has never been a good listener, so I don't want to expose what is sacred to me to her quick judgement.

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I like having atheists around, it reminds me I chose to follow my religion.  I feel that I didn't have much choice in the matter (when you have a deity tapping you on the shoulder you don't) but I did choose it of my own will.
Me too, as well as Christians, if they are not of the arrogant sort who want to educate everyone with their divine knowledge. Sometimes I feel even closer to some Christian pantheists than to some other Pagans. They also have a lot of diversity.


I've thought a lot about the subject, apart from the personal issues, and think most religions come down to something that gives sense to life and explains your position in the world. But that's so wide a definition that it would also include communism and all sorts of secular political views/philosophies. (Though with some folks I have met, I have always wondered if communism/feminism/ecology movement etc. aren't really more of a religion than they are usually called by their adherents...)  Wink

The problem might also be, however, that even if we find an unbiased definition that might include all religions, some people wouldn't accept it, because it would be too liberal and allow all kinds of stuff they can't twist their heads around to tolerate (or would include folks that don't want to be included).
« Last Edit: March 16, 2008, 07:13:04 am by Passionfruit, Reason: grammar and spelling » Logged

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SearchingTiger
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« Reply #19: March 16, 2008, 02:02:13 pm »

I'm at a loss for one. I had an argument yesterday with a Christian collegue who thinks all religions center around the question of good & evil.

This is an incorrect statement. I cant help you out (even if its just for future reference!) I have been in a Religion in Society class, I have real academic back up for this...I even have my notes open, so I am not making this up!

Religion essentially is something that refers to an "otherness", and in relation to society, is a critique of society that should be striving for this "otherness", which is usually a better, more perfect situation. In JCI, its about the peace on earth and the whole world living in harmony under God's rule. In pagan religions, its everyone living in harmony on earth. Both employ methods to reach this otherness (a state of well being and harmony in the face of the horrors of this world). A religion is defined on how it it benefits society. At least in a scientific viewpoint. Now, in other definitions, people have said (like Karl Marx) that religion is just the outcry of the oppressed looking for something to save them, and when there is no oppression, religion will dissolve. Most scholars end up saying that religion cannot be defined as a whole, its just too much, there are just too many elements.

Now, getting to this statement that its all about good and evil. Thats wrong. Your buddy is just assuming stuff based off of her Christian up-bringing. No, the whole world does not work like this.

Theodicy is the justification of God, basically, how the religion justifies their deity in the face of all that goes wrong (the "If your god is so great, why does the world still have problems?!")

There are pretty much 4 different paradigms of this justification that most, if not all, religions follow to answer the "why does bad stuff happen":

1. Primitive/Talion Paradigm
The 'lex talionis' - the eye for an eye rule. The whole religion is based on suffering is imposed on people by God when they sin. People who suffer are guilty. Judaism has this.

2. Monistic Paradigm
Only the "good" exists, that which is bad/evil is not real in life. Even if the evil is actual, it is the end of good, so it has no quality of being. Taoism, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Catholicism (Augustine to Aquinas) hold this.

3. Dualistic Paradigm (THIS is what your friend thinks the whole world runs on)
The deities of good and evil are struggling with each other int he world, everything good is from god, everything bad is from anti-god. People are supposed to side with the good. Mithraism, Zorastrianism, Gnosticism, and Jewish and Christians apocalypticism (the final battle stuff) hold this. This Paradigm is HUGELY popular right now...this is basically how Christians justify their God being the only one.

4. Dialectical Paradigm
God is good. The is evil in nature, society, and history...but this ultimately serves the realization of good in the world. The evil will be negated, and the good will come. This is prophetic, messianic, and in Jewish religions.


Do you see how religions have different explanations? So, if you come across this again, now you have the information that is agreed on by sociologists all over! Yay!
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Waldfrau
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« Reply #20: March 17, 2008, 03:59:00 am »

Thanks, neat summary. I haven't seen it from this perspective yet: even though many religions center around morals they don't necessarily view them as good & evil dualism. I suspect that your class concentrated on specific religions with god-given laws though.

The actual problem was the question if there are religions which don't center around moral questions at all, like Greek polytheism, not about different perspectives on moral. I'm searching for more examples of religions where god/ the gods don't give rules to humans how to live among each other. Where humans are supposed to make their own society rules. The god/s may only tell them how to deal with god/s, but not with humans.

But still a neat input, SearchingTiger. If you're interested in more of this stuff, your post reminds me of a book by Peter Garnsey Ideas of Slavery. That gives good examples of how religions influence society or not with a specific subject. He goes a lot into early Christianity, Ambrose, Augustine, Paulus... If I remember correctly it was only about antiquity, but a very interesting book.
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