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Religion and Spirituality

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  • Religion and Spirituality

    Originally posted by LEtranger
    Religion and what it does to individuals, society and the entire world would be worth a new thread, wouldn't it?
    Let's get started!

    My view is that if people didn't have religion to kill each over, they'd find something else. And the bottom line is generally power and wealth. But religion has been pretty handy for getting the people without power and wealth to join in...

    Originally posted by Doc
    I see spirituality as recognizing your own place in the vast world of unanswerable questions, and finding ways to make peace with that world, those questions, and ultimately yourself.
    Traditionally that would have been the role of philosophy, but maybe that word has become too much associated with academic pedantry...
    \"...an ape reft of his tail, and grown rusty at climbing, who yet feels himself to be a symbol and the frail representative of Omnipotence in a place that is not home.\" James Branch Cabell

  • #2
    Re: Religion and Spirituality

    Do I get to say "I told you so" when this thread ends with a padlock next to it? :)

    Originally posted by Mikey_C
    My view is that if people didn't have religion to kill each over, they'd find something else. And the bottom line is generally power and wealth. But religion has been pretty handy for getting the people without power and wealth to join in...
    I'm no fan of the Church of England, having been raised in their schools from a very early age (as were both my sisters, and now they're atheists, while I remain... well, a trainee Taoist agnostic), but I have to agree. Many disputes which are characterised as "religious" often seem to come down to basic territorial issues, or "class" differences. Many bad things have been done in the name of religion, but many good things have been done in the name of religion too. Would these things have happened anyway? Obviously there's no way to answer that, but I feel I might not be quite as nice a chap as I am if I hadn't been so scared of God punishing me for being rude to my teachers, etc. Of course it also made me scared of being punished for things which really aren't likely to result in lightning bolts from the sky, but you can't entirely blame the Church for my meekness... especially if I do indeed inherit the earth (where would I put it?)

    We'll see how this thread develops, but I might attempt to give my take on existentialism at some point... if only to give the genuine academics here a good chuckle at my expense.
    "That which does not kill us, makes us stranger." - Trevor Goodchild

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by Mikey_C
      My view is that if people didn't have religion to kill each over, they'd find something else.
      Originally posted by Doc in the hypocrisy thread
      I ultimately believe in the goodness of people.
      Interesting to note these two differences in beliefs. Mikey_C appears to take the stance Golding crystallized in Lord of the Flies: that mankind, if not controlled by society, will ultimately find a way to destroy itself with its evil. On the other end, Doc seems to have the Taoist belief that man is inherently good.

      I lean toward the latter, and I find it ironic that those who seem the most to be inherently evil are those who cling most to their dogmatized beliefs (religions). Bush may actually believe that what he is doing is 'right' and 'the will of God' but believing it doesn't make it so. The inquisitors thought they were doing the right thing pouring hot lead into the ears of 'heretics.'

      Originally posted by Mikey_C
      Traditionally that would have been the role of philosophy, but maybe that word has become too much associated with academic pedantry...
      This is precisely why I use the term spirituality. The word philosophy rolls eyes upon being uttered.
      "Wounds are all I'm made of. Did I hear you say that this is victory?"
      --Michael Moorcock, Veteran of the Psychic Wars

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      • #4
        Re: Religion and Spirituality

        Originally posted by Mikey_C
        My view is that if people didn't have religion to kill each over, they'd find something else. And the bottom line is generally power and wealth. But religion has been pretty handy for getting the people without power and wealth to join in...
        I think this is reversed. The idea that the people without the power can overcome the people with power through mere ideas is wishful thinking in my view. Religion is a kind of early form of government, nothing more or less than just that - it descends from power.

        The heretic king Akhenaten discovered to his misfortune that even he, the pharaoh, could not overcome the political power wielded by his own priest class! They had the power and destroyed the heretic king.

        In my view it is the case that the dominating class often claims to be the true underdogs by accusing the other side of playing the victim. This is where the priest class of ancient Egypt tells Akhenaten: "You claim to be the head of a minority religion - but you are the pharaoh of Egypt, it is you that has marginalized us instead. We're going to destroy you and take back what is ours!" In truth, the power was theirs all along and Akhenaten foolishly trusted in the invulnerability of his position as pharaoh to save him. Bad move. While he spent his days worshipping the one god of the Sun, his priests plotted with foriegn powers behind his back and annihilated him in the end. All the political power rested with the priests who proceeded to wipe all memory of Akhenaten from human history. They were so successful that knowledge of him was only rediscovered in this century when Akhenaten's city Tel Al-Amarna was discovered under the sands of Egypt.

        The claim of the underdog is a great technique for gaining political support - everyone loves a victim and wants to help them out, the strategy plays upon common sympathy for the oppressed.

        Getting back to ancient times - do please recall that the dominating class "The Tribes of Israel" (a.k.a. the neutron bomb of the ancient world) came up with a story that it is turning out to be an archeological impossibility: that they were the slaves in Egypt that built the pyramids. See: http://www.truthbeknown.com/exodus.htm (actually from an LA Times article). Why did the ancients fabricate this story? To justify the wholesale slaughter of the people of the conquered lands and to sanctify their domination of same.

        Yeah, so just when you think that those in power are stupid they sort of start to seem selfishly brilliant instead. Religion and the underdog claim - very solid strategies.

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        • #5
          Originally posted by PsychicWarVeteran
          Mikey_C appears to take the stance Golding crystallized in Lord of the Flies: that mankind, if not controlled by society, will ultimately find a way to destroy itself with its evil.
          Well, I did say that the bottom line is power and wealth (unequal wealth, that is). Perhaps if we could do away with those two factors things would be different. But then the wish to do so becomes a source of violence in itself, if not a religion. I don't think humanity is innately either good or evil; it has the capacity for both!
          \"...an ape reft of his tail, and grown rusty at climbing, who yet feels himself to be a symbol and the frail representative of Omnipotence in a place that is not home.\" James Branch Cabell

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by Mikey_C
            ...the bottom line is power and wealth (unequal wealth, that is). Perhaps if we could do away with those two factors things would be different.
            Quite right, Mikey_C. And this flows right into my point in the other thread that great spiritual leaders such as Buddha and Jesus denounced these very things. Both taught a disdain for wealth and power. The Buddha said, "Poverty is your treasure. Never trade it for an easy life." Those are powerful words, especially when you consider his main premise which was that suffering comes from attachment to desire. Jesus' comment about the camel passing through the eye of a needle carries the same idea.

            Yet... the side that commonly utilizes religion -- the (Religious) Right -- is the same side that seems the most concerned with personal wealth being protected.
            "Wounds are all I'm made of. Did I hear you say that this is victory?"
            --Michael Moorcock, Veteran of the Psychic Wars

            Comment


            • #7
              Of course, there's the Marxist POV to factor in also. You remember the quote from
              Urban Dictionary, "Religion is the opiate of the masses," where Marx argued that
              it was in the State's interest to encourage religion since it tended to reconcile the
              Lumpenproletariat to their condition.

              I've always thought Marx's POV, while not devoid of a certain amount of truth, was
              a bit incomplete. It sees the "masses" as a horde of groundlings before whom the
              Machiavellian oligarchy puts on a play to sway them as needed -- with religion
              being one of the carrots or sticks they periodically brandish.

              People not holding the reins of power sometimes jump on the bandwagon as a means
              of furthering their own ends. Here, I think of Pharaiseeism as one example.

              Of course, there are people for whom organized religion fills a genuine need. If they're
              intelligent and aware of the other forces, their situation is extremely problematical.

              ---
              I am not a Marxist. I am no longer a Catholic, either.

              I agree with Duncan that this thread has the potential to become locked, if people
              get out of hand.

              LSN

              Comment


              • #8
                I don't think religion is a problem in itself, it's only when it gets prescriptive and/or institutionalized it becomes a problem. As Psychic notes, Jesus said a lot of nice things, and the Church had to distort it beyond recognition to make it back up something like the Inquisition.

                I read an article by Laurence Gardiner here on the net, which was I think was a sort of synopsis of his Holy Grail book. It was on Nexus' homepage, and that definitely falls into the category of paranoia magazines, if maybe not the crankiest one, so that gives me a bit of wariness about it, but he doesn't argue like a nut-case. And I sort of want to believe some of his claims -- that Jesus lived much longer than the Church says, that he had kids with Mary Magdalena, and that the whole misogynic streak of the Church stems back from it wanting to keep Magdalena out.

                Funny stuff, anyway -- must have inspired Gabriel Knight III (and, from what little I know about it, maybe also "The da Vinci Code" -- haven't read that one, just a hunch it might be.)

                http://www.nexusmagazine.com/articles/holygrail1.html
                "If the environment were a bank, we would already have saved it." -Graffitti.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Some of my quick thoughts. for what they're worth--

                  I agree with Marx's position that religion is a convenient method of social control (I'm glad it was the person with the penchant for numbers, and not the sociologist, who brought it up :) ). In case it matters, I'm not a Marxist, either.

                  Jesus and the Buddha would both probably be apalled if they saw what has been done in their names, or in the names of their teachings. Which also leads me to...

                  Institutionalizing anything can create problems. One size fits all often turns out to fit no one. While we can largely overcome this in institutions like education, religion is oddly much more personal than education, and pushes different buttons.

                  Spirituality vs. philosophy--
                  For me the difference is one of my position, and the strength of conviction with which I hold it. My larger philosphies are like open-ended research questions to me. I can find a certain amount of objectivity in dealing with them. However, my spiritual questions are more like a personal search or sometimes (when I'm lucky) an awakening. I can't be objective or rational about all of them, nor do I think I should. That's where the line is for me, even though both of them demand a great deal of self-reflection.

                  However, I don't fool myself into believing that the line between the two parts of my life is really clear, because my philosphies inform my spirituality, and vice-versa. For example, like the Adlerian, I find a lot of value in some existential thought. I know that this shows up in both aspects of my life in the questions I ask from both. To further complicate things, my humanistic beliefs show up in my philosophical, spiritual, and professional life, but I use them differently in each.

                  Let's take bets on how long it takes to get this thread locked. :lol:

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Does anyone have an informed take on the thesis put forth by Freud in his
                    book, The Future of an Illusion ?

                    I don't disagree radically with his POV, but I thought he engaged in more than
                    a bit of wishful thinking, if my memory is in working order. (It's been about 20
                    years since I read it.)

                    There's a sort of thinking I call to myself "the logical fallacy." This is where we
                    think some idea or notion or movement is doomed because it sits on what
                    seems (at best) shaky ground logically. Logic isn't necessarily that big a part
                    of human thinking and decision-making. Hence, to assert that an idea will
                    succumb to its own lack of logical rigor seems dubious to me, and is itself
                    illogical.

                    My academic training (mathematics) predisposes me to think in something
                    resembling logical terms, so I've had to come to grips with this notion a lot,
                    as in almost every day. ;)

                    Freud's notion that religion was something humans could get beyond strikes
                    me as incomplete, because it leaves out certain aspects of the human psyche.
                    There was an interesting book by the late Ernest Becker, called The Denial of
                    Death
                    , which took up this question in some detail.

                    LSN

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      540


                      Illusions, fallacies, social control, whatever, all true, yet ....

                      While I'm not a member of any religious community - my parents didn't have me baptized so that I could choose whatever I wanted - I also have experienced that religion, or even more, a religious belief has helped very many people through difficult times and severe crisis. I have met many in the course of my job who wouldn't have survived both physically and mentally without the strength they got out of their belief, the sense of not being alone, HOPE ultimately. So religion at one's personal "Ground Zero", if you like, can be a tremendous aid and identity builder which I would not know how to replace ... I don't feel it should be taken away.
                      Frankly, there were moments when I wished I had similar consolation.

                      As soon as "religion" becomes something that excludes, discriminates or even threatens others and is thus turned into an instrument of power, politics or to enrich a questionable clique, or when it becomes a "prison" - then I oppose it.

                      Wish I could contribute more on this topic, but this'll be a very demanding week, so I'll just occasionally "drop by"
                      Google ergo sum

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by LEtranger
                        While I'm not a member of any religious community - my parents didn't have me baptized so that I could choose whatever I wanted
                        My parents also made this choice, however, some flavours of Christianity disapprove of this approach, quoting Mark 10:15:

                        "Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child shall in no wise enter therein"

                        As proof that only childhood baptism is acceptable. It just shows how wide the interpretation of the bible can be.

                        I think a lot of people need the intense Euphoria that they can experience from a religious experience. I think I know the feeling they describe, but I have only felt it in the context of art or music , or love ;-)
                        \"It got worse. He needed something to cure himself. What? he asked. M-A 19 he answered.\"

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Essentially when you get Baptized, youre accepting God, and Christ into your life and making a decision to serve them forever. How can an infant make that decision? To me its pointless to Baptize Babys. Its more a showy display for family and friends than it is a spiritual dedication.

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                          • #14
                            My theology teacher in Jr. High once told me "God is the name that we give to the way we relate to the universe." To expand on this, I think spirituality is the way we personally relate to universe, while religion is the framework for extending that relationship to others. Spirituality without religion is basically your personal beliefs, religion without spirituality ends up caring more about appearances or rewards than it does about bettering oneself.
                            At least that's my take on it.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by L_Stearns_Newburg
                              Marx argued that it was in the State's interest to encourage religion since it tended to reconcile the Lumpenproletariat to their condition.
                              Marx would have had to qualify his "opium of the people" viewpoint if he had been alive to witness the Latin American "liberation theologists" in the 1980s. It just goes to show you can't generalise - but then Marxism itself has been used to keep people in thrall.

                              Christianity always has a tension - it was after all originally a religion of the poor and this still comes through even after the scriptures were sifted through and edited after it became the state religion in Rome. I often think it's as though Rastafarianism were adopted by the British ruling class. Which Bob Marley songs would make it to the canon? "Three Little Birds"? Yes; "Burnin' and Lootin'"? No!
                              \"...an ape reft of his tail, and grown rusty at climbing, who yet feels himself to be a symbol and the frail representative of Omnipotence in a place that is not home.\" James Branch Cabell

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