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Thread: What is Religion?

  1. Top | #21
    Contributor ruby sparks's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by abaddon View Post
    Maybe "relate to the cosmos" sounds too abstract and you'd prefer more specific material causes. But it comes to the same thing. Would saying "society" or "environment" instead of "cosmos" make it seem less abstract?

    You either relate well or the tribe starves. The shaman figures out what offset the balance or you remain sick and maybe die. You either relate well or climate change happens.

    Religions start with a tale of the cosmos - their creation story. That's where the rest derives from, down to all the little details about breeding and material conditions. It's why creationists are always on about origins. They feel the whole world and their individual life comes apart if their story about where they came from (and thus who they are and what they exist for) isn't true.
    I think you're touching on another important aspect of religion. For the record, I don't think it's an either/or situation between, say, alleviating suffering and relating to....well I won't say the cosmos, because that's quite different from saying society, or even the environment. In fact, relating to the cosmos and relating to society might be two 'different but interwoven strands', among many, of the religion rope.

    It's true that creation myths can be found in nearly all known religious traditions (I checked, and wiki says so).

    And we are a deeply social, tribal species, so some sort of social function is almost bound to be involved in religion too. In fact, it has been famously defined almost exclusively in sociological terms, by Durkheim.

    And as rousseau says, there's likely some sort of underlying reproductive function, in the biological and evolutionary sense. That's profoundly and fundamentally important in almost everything about human behaviour, as it is for any other species.

    And then there's alleviation of suffering.

    How many strands is that so far?
    Last edited by ruby sparks; 07-19-2019 at 10:56 PM.

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    Contributor ruby sparks's Avatar
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    How about if we took all the religions that have ever existed, well the ones we know about, or at least a big sample of them and including all the known major ones at least, and then draw up a list of, say, 100 of the most common features that are present, and then make a sort of league table of features according to how many religions they are features of. Maybe a very very good definition of religion could be made up of, say, the top 10 features of that league table.

    We might need weightings, to allow for the relative popularity of the various religions. Hypothetically, something like 'belief in tree demons' might be in a large number of very small, short-lived religions and be higher up the league table if we didn't do weightings according to relative size (or durability) of religions. Similarly, 'belief that when you drink magicked wine, you're really, actually drinking the blood of one of your deities' might be low on the league table for only being in one (arguably very odd but quite large and longlasting) religion.

    Or is that too empirical, or has someone already done it?

    The answer to the first question is probably no. The scientists here will surely know I am obviously no scientist, or statistician. Lol.

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    Veteran Member skepticalbip's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ruby sparks View Post
    ... snip...

    Or is that too empirical, or has someone already done it?
    Joseph Campbell's career was pretty much dedicated to studying the common themes in the world's religions and myths and wrote several books on the subject. However, he didn't, as far as I know, make a concise list.

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    Quote Originally Posted by abaddon View Post
    Religions start with a tale of the cosmos - their creation story. That's where the rest derives from, down to all the little details about breeding and material conditions. It's why creationists are always on about origins. They feel the whole world and their individual life comes apart if their story about where they came from (and thus who they are and what they exist for) isn't true.
    At this point I don't think we're saying fundamentally different things, but creation stories are a part of it.

    The universal condition of the human mind is that we're a seer of problems, and that we like to resolve them. And the most fundamental problem is 'why do I exist'. A creator resolves that problem with an easily digestible answer that makes life make sense.

    Does the creation story exist because we have a need to truly understand and relate to the universe, or because it feels good to have an answer? I'd assume the latter.

    Quote Originally Posted by ruby sparks View Post
    And as rousseau says, there's likely some sort of underlying reproductive function, in the biological and evolutionary sense. That's profoundly and fundamentally important in almost everything about human behaviour, as it is for any other species.

    And then there's alleviation of suffering.

    How many strands is that so far?
    Proximate and ultimate causes work here I think. There are some different threads running through various religions, ultimately those threads help people survive.

    Biology terms.

  5. Top | #25
    Contributor DBT's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by T.G.G. Moogly View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by DBT View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by skepticalbip View Post
    What is Religion?

    A firm belief that the absurd is reasonable, the impossible is common, and that believing makes it so.
    Perfect. Can't get better a definition than that.
    But how does that happen if not by emotion alone. Is it rational to think there is an invisible thing living in the sky watching how we use our sex organs? No, that's an emotional experience. It really doesn't rain 725 feet everyday for almost six weeks. That isn't a rational belief to hold. The absurd only becomes reasonable to believe when the emotions are involved.
    Hope, fear, desire.....filling the unknown, the vast incomprehensible universe with comforting stories.

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    Religion for a lot of people gives a faux-profound answer to the ambiguities and quandaries of life. It's the allspice or the universal antidote for that fatigued feeling the brain gets...that feeling you get when you're reading a piece on climate change, or trying to understand your health insurance, or reading Shakespeare and you hit 'Time hath, my lord, a wallet on his back, wherein he puts alms for oblivion'....Religion (TM) takes all that away when you're confronting the big scientific, cosmic, moral, philosophic concepts.

  7. Top | #27
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    Quote Originally Posted by T.G.G. Moogly View Post
    The simplest explanation I could find is "the belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, especially a personal God or gods." Notice that it says "a superhuman controlling power" so that covers a very broad range. But I don't think that's what religion is at its fundamental level. I think religion leads a person to that behavior but I don't think that captures the religious experience entirely or properly.

    Based on the religious people I've observed religion is more of an emotional experience than anything else, so I think religion has a very strong and foundational emotional component. In another thread I stated that a religious person experiences an emotion and mistakenly believes they have made an observation. This to me is the religious experience and defines what religion actually is for an individual.

    Many of us here were raised in religious environments. Many of us actually experienced religion as I've just defined it. But many of us were simply miming those around us and following instructions. This is not really religion to me. Those of us who learned religious behavior by wrote and dictum were never religious. We never had that emotional, revelatory experience as a foundation. In short we never experienced religion.
    Good summary.

    The question for me is framed as what is the difference between a secular philosophy or ideology and what we today call religion.

    The difference would seem to be belief in a god or deity. but there are also things like animism.

    Today the fivide appears to me as theist beliefs vs secular philosophy based on rteadon. logic. and scince. One can have a secular philosophy and believe in supernatural.

    A witch you believes he or she can control forces of nature.

    I'd just go with belief in duties with associated ritual's and scripture vs secular philosophy and ideology.

    To me Buddhism is more psychology and philosophy than religion. Spirits and demos are metaphors.

    What religion does is provide a way of emotionally dealing with reality. I knew an educated Christian engineer usually rational and logical. He said without faith he would be constantly plagued with questions.

    Rituals proved socialization and community and group order.

  8. Top | #28
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    Quote Originally Posted by steve_bank View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by T.G.G. Moogly View Post
    The simplest explanation I could find is "the belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, especially a personal God or gods." Notice that it says "a superhuman controlling power" so that covers a very broad range. But I don't think that's what religion is at its fundamental level. I think religion leads a person to that behavior but I don't think that captures the religious experience entirely or properly.

    Based on the religious people I've observed religion is more of an emotional experience than anything else, so I think religion has a very strong and foundational emotional component. In another thread I stated that a religious person experiences an emotion and mistakenly believes they have made an observation. This to me is the religious experience and defines what religion actually is for an individual.

    Many of us here were raised in religious environments. Many of us actually experienced religion as I've just defined it. But many of us were simply miming those around us and following instructions. This is not really religion to me. Those of us who learned religious behavior by wrote and dictum were never religious. We never had that emotional, revelatory experience as a foundation. In short we never experienced religion.
    Good summary.

    The question for me is framed as what is the difference between a secular philosophy or ideology and what we today call religion.

    The difference would seem to be belief in a god or deity. but there are also things like animism.

    Today the fivide appears to me as theist beliefs vs secular philosophy based on rteadon. logic. and scince. One can have a secular philosophy and believe in supernatural.

    A witch you believes he or she can control forces of nature.

    I'd just go with belief in duties with associated ritual's and scripture vs secular philosophy and ideology.

    To me Buddhism is more psychology and philosophy than religion. Spirits and demos are metaphors.

    What religion does is provide a way of emotionally dealing with reality. I knew an educated Christian engineer usually rational and logical. He said without faith he would be constantly plagued with questions.

    Rituals proved socialization and community and group order.

    A good summary (or introduction) to religion, faith, atheism, agnosticism, irreligion and what-have-you, past, present, and future, is here with plenty of links if you need them:

    http://www.bbc.com/future/story/2019...re-of-religion

    A worthwhile read.

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