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Higgins
09-10-2007, 08:22 PM
The wiki on Arminianism seems pretty through. Do discussions of the fine points of theology make a lot of linguistic and cultural sense? Or are they even more remote from cultural reality than say, particle physics?

For example:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arminianism

ColoradoGuy
09-10-2007, 09:24 PM
Many theological debates are preeminently about language, which to me is a backhanded way of insisting that, since language determines thought, proper language means proper thoughts. I don't think Arminianism is a good example of that, though; the Arminian issue is part of the debate about grace, salvation, and particularly free will. As such it was (and is) more a philosophical debate rather than a linguistic one.

There are several excellent examples where the precise words really were the subject of great debate and controversy. The filioque question (http://mb-soft.com/believe/txn/filioque.htm) of late antiquity and the early Middle Ages is the best of these, I think. Here a single word led to riots in the streets of Constantinople and affected the affairs of state. Folks really took their theology seriously back then.

rugcat
09-10-2007, 09:29 PM
Many theological debates are preeminently about language, which to me is a backhanded way of insisting that, since language determines thought, proper language means proper thoughts.
Isn't that the basic premise of Benjamin Whorf? That the structure of a particular language determines how one views the world, and what ideas one can express?

It's been a while.

III
09-10-2007, 09:36 PM
I think there can definitely be merits to delving the fine points of theology, so long as the big points are being lived. Kind of like it's good to delve into the life-cycles of stars, as long as I remember to get out of the lab and enjoy the sunshine with my family.

ColoradoGuy
09-10-2007, 10:03 PM
Isn't that the basic premise of Benjamin Whorf? That the structure of a particular language determines how one views the world, and what ideas one can express?

It's been a while.
Yep. We've hashed this over a few times. (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showpost.php?p=1406107&postcount=81)

CB Smith
09-21-2007, 01:11 AM
One believes what one needs to believe. If you wish to understand theologies, study anthropology.




The wiki on Arminianism seems pretty through. Do discussions of the fine points of theology make a lot of linguistic and cultural sense? Or are they even more remote from cultural reality than say, particle physics?

For example:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arminianism

ColoradoGuy
09-21-2007, 02:39 AM
One believes what one needs to believe. If you wish to understand theologies, study anthropology.
Sounds a tad facile to me--can you elaborate?

robeiae
09-21-2007, 03:36 AM
Yep. We've hashed this over a few times. (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showpost.php?p=1406107&postcount=81)
*sigh*

Good times...

CB Smith
09-21-2007, 07:51 AM
Facile perhaps and more so exceedingly simplistic because life is after all a complexity inscrutable while not immutable. So an effort at brevity engenders opacity. Very well then, onward…Study Anthropology, the statement. In studying the origins of life, the genome project, the vast multitude of possibilities we arrive at modern mankind. Adaptations at the most basic level occur because a

developmental need was identified. Once identified, adaptation was made to accommodate. From this level we go forward many evolutionary steps to the present. Along the way while man has changed extrinsically, the changes intrinsically have been less profound. Man still struggles to understand his place in the universe, still marvels at that which is beyond understanding, devises methods and practices of socially acceptable behaviors, adding atop these numerous structures upping the religiosity quotient. If man fails to understand he will, as did our earliest ancestors, anthropomorphize and appoint a being greater than himself as the creator. The wind, a god, the moon, a god, the sun, the god supreme, and on and on. The language accompanying any of these shifts alters to suit the purpose.

But at its simplest is simply a perception of subjective reality. Science, anthropology being one, gathers through empirical studies a mass of factors that are sifted sorted and qualified, finally arriving at conclusion. In short, if it can be proven as fact through elaborate permutations then it can be repeated ad infinitum.

The fly in the ointment? What is faith, god, religion. In the final, simplicity. Anthropology displays man at his most basic. Evolution answers pragmatic needs. Reduced to the cellular level our seemingly complex composition is essentially carbon based. Without going into greater detail than necessary, as I admittedly have already done, man devises ways to explain and ultimately dominate seeking to claim the prize as the alpha creature.

History shows through anthropological eyes, that man at every opportunity claimed allegiance with a supreme creator, creating language to shape it, in a grand effort to rise above all. Beyond that I'm afraid it is all semantics. The mythos of our religions have been with us in some shape way or form from the outset. The stories are as old as life, twisted and shaped to suit a pressing need.

Yes, man believes not what he WANTS to believe, but more appropriately what he NEEDS to believe. And while this verbosity sounds like a specious rant, it is in fact only the truth, not A truth, not My truth, but THE truth as borne out by generations of scientific inquiry. Interpretations beyond this are simply opinion. Yet, to each his own....



Sounds a tad facile to me--can you elaborate?

Jacob
09-21-2007, 08:47 AM
Facile perhaps and more so exceedingly simplistic because life is after all a complexity inscrutable while not immutable. So an effort at brevity engenders opacity. Very well then, onward…Study Anthropology, the statement. In studying the origins of life, the genome project, the vast multitude of possibilities we arrive at modern mankind. Adaptations at the most basic level occur because a

developmental need was identified. Once identified, adaptation was made to accommodate. From this level we go forward many evolutionary steps to the present. Along the way while man has changed extrinsically, the changes intrinsically have been less profound. Man still struggles to understand his place in the universe, still marvels at that which is beyond understanding, devises methods and practices of socially acceptable behaviors, adding atop these numerous structures upping the religiosity quotient. If man fails to understand he will, as did our earliest ancestors, anthropomorphize and appoint a being greater than himself as the creator. The wind, a god, the moon, a god, the sun, the god supreme, and on and on. The language accompanying any of these shifts alters to suit the purpose.

But at its simplest is simply a perception of subjective reality. Science, anthropology being one, gathers through empirical studies a mass of factors that are sifted sorted and qualified, finally arriving at conclusion. In short, if it can be proven as fact through elaborate permutations then it can be repeated ad infinitum.

The fly in the ointment? What is faith, god, religion. In the final, simplicity. Anthropology displays man at his most basic. Evolution answers pragmatic needs. Reduced to the cellular level our seemingly complex composition is essentially carbon based. Without going into greater detail than necessary, as I admittedly have already done, man devises ways to explain and ultimately dominate seeking to claim the prize as the alpha creature.

History shows through anthropological eyes, as life, twisted suit a pressing need. that man at every opportunity claimed allegiance with a supreme creator, creating language to shape it, in a grand effort to rise above all. Beyond that I'm afraid it is all semantics. The mythos of our religions have been with us in some shape way or form from the outset. The and shaped tostories are as old

Yes, man believes not what he WANTS to believe, but more appropriately what he NEEDS to believe. And while this verbosity sounds like a specious rant, it is in fact only the truth, not A truth, not My truth, but THE truth as borne out by generations of scientific inquiry. Interpretations beyond this are simply opinion. Yet, to each his own....

Sir, with all due respect, it seems to me here that you are attempting to explain away explanation by using "science" as a pedastool. Science indeed contains" insights" into both the universe and human nature -although the problem is you are speaking from both sides of the spectrum- on one side you have proposed a philosophical idea about the origins and evolution of human nature and called it "fact" On the other you have claimed it as an objective truth borne out of generations of scientific inquiry and claimed that "fact" as well. It seems that even still with all the generations of scientific progress there is at the core of the issue of human nature - a question that remains with answers that fall well out of the range of what the human mind is capable of giving a proper-scientific , answer too.

ColoradoGuy
09-21-2007, 06:58 PM
Thanks for your explanations. They do seem to tread a line between the gnomic and the oracular, with a little Mohammed Ali thrown in ("inscrutable while not immutable"??). I do have a few comments for you, though.

So an effort at brevity engenders opacity.
Not necessarily--sometimes less is more. You know, that old "had I more time I would have written less" thing.

Very well then, onward…Study Anthropology, the statement. In studying the origins of life, the genome project, the vast multitude of possibilities we arrive at modern mankind. Adaptations at the most basic level occur because a developmental need was identified. Once identified, adaptation was made to accommodate. From this level we go forward many evolutionary steps to the present.
This doesn't sound like anthropology to me, more like evolutionary biology. And I'm always concerned when folks imply evolution is driven by some purpose. And who identified this developmental need? Is there a deity hidden in your passive construction?

Along the way while man has changed extrinsically, the changes intrinsically have been less profound.
Really? How do you know that?

Man still struggles to understand his place in the universe, still marvels at that which is beyond understanding, devises methods and practices of socially acceptable behaviors, adding atop these numerous structures upping the religiosity quotient. If man fails to understand he will, as did our earliest ancestors, anthropomorphize and appoint a being greater than himself as the creator. The wind, a god, the moon, a god, the sun, the god supreme, and on and on. The language accompanying any of these shifts alters to suit the purpose.
So we invent God to explain what we don't understand? You seem to be saying humankind has an innate need for religion, which might be another way of saying religiosity is part of our being, which is my definition of what God is.

But at its simplest is simply a perception of subjective reality. Science, anthropology being one, gathers through empirical studies a mass of factors that are sifted sorted and qualified, finally arriving at conclusion. In short, if it can be proven as fact through elaborate permutations then it can be repeated ad infinitum.
I don't know what you mean by this.

The fly in the ointment? What is faith, god, religion. In the final, simplicity.
I don't know what you mean by this, either. Religion can be quite complex, it seems to me.

Anthropology displays man at his most basic.
Not necessarily. My OED defines anthropology as: "The science of humankind, in the widest sense." That seems to ran the gamut from most basic to most esoteric.

Evolution answers pragmatic needs.
Evolution doesn't answer anything; it just is.

Reduced to the cellular level our seemingly complex composition is essentially carbon based. Without going into greater detail than necessary, as I admittedly have already done, man devises ways to explain and ultimately dominate seeking to claim the prize as the alpha creature. History shows through anthropological eyes, that man at every opportunity claimed allegiance with a supreme creator, creating language to shape it, in a grand effort to rise above all.
So you think it is our striving to be top organism on the planet that explains religion, that it is a means to this end? But you said religion was an attempt to explain our place in the universe, not a calculated strategy to dominate all the other carbon-based life forms.

Beyond that I'm afraid it is all semantics.
As you can see, I'm struggling a little with yours.

Yes, man believes not what he WANTS to believe, but more appropriately what he NEEDS to believe.
Nice epigram for a bumper sticker, but what does it mean? I think there is less here than meets the eye.

And while this verbosity sounds like a specious rant,
Yes, it does a little.

it is in fact only the truth, not A truth, not My truth, but THE truth as borne out by generations of scientific inquiry. Interpretations beyond this are simply opinion.
A wee bit grandiose, don't you think? What would an anthropologist say about that?

Distilling all this down, you seem to be saying religion is a social construct that derives from humankind's innate drive to explain our world; that is an old, widely-held notion. But you also seem to be saying that religion somehow is a tool, one selected by an evolutionary process, that has allowed us to run the planet; sorry, but that seems bizarre to me.

CB Smith
09-21-2007, 08:03 PM
Sir, with all due respect, it seems to me here that you are attempting to explain away explanation by using "science" as a pedastool. Science indeed contains" insights" into both the universe and human nature -although the problem is you are speaking from both sides of the spectrum- on one side you have proposed a philosophical idea about the origins and evolution of human nature and called it "fact" On the other you have claimed it as an objective truth borne out of generations of scientific inquiry and claimed that "fact" as well. It seems that even still with all the generations of scientific progress there is at the core of the issue of human nature - a question that remains with answers that fall well out of the range of what the human mind is capable of giving a proper-scientific , answer too.


Well taken. You no doubt realize that the concepts we discuss here have been a proverbial thorn in the side from the outset; belief, survival, dominance, all figuring into the mix. I do not attempt or hope to explain away explanation. As a philosopher a sense of wonder is primary. Nor do I "propose" a philosophy about origins and evolution. Life, all life, begins at the molecular level. This is science. Anthropology, a science, sometimes called philosophical anthropology, studies the origins, physical and cultural development, biological characteristics, social customs and beliefs of humankind.

View this from a distance and the human race is seen as a seemingly endless line interspersed with indiscrete points along its path. This macro view illustrates the clusters of mankind, cultures, generations, etc. Now how does this wide-angle view figure into the picture? Shown, through anthropological inquiry, is man at his most basic, his habits, beliefs, cultures, peregrinations.

Along the way patterns are discerned, patterns which help to explain the habits, beliefs, social customs, as they relate to biological need. Patterns in the cycle of mankind repeat ad infinitum, and like a stone dropped into a pond radiate outward in ever widening concentric circles. Man’s next step at any given point in the macro view is as predictable as the sunrise. The scenes, players, causes may change, but the results are not surprisingly similar.

Man adapts as survival commands he must and despite the changes in "extrinsic" man, the "intrinsic" man operates from essentially the same principles; food, clothing, shelter, mate. The effort to protect the aforementioned results "has" resulted, in predictable and understandable cognizance shifts. So beyond the simple "survival instinct" man adapts his thoughts to incorporate an uber being, a GOD. Now, this has played out that GOD cannot be proven, nor by the same token can GOD be disproved.


An impasse? Science is not so easily dismissed. Nerve clusters in the brain's frontal cortex have been identified as undergoing somewhat extreme synaptic firings during episodes of religiosity and love. A chemical response not unlike the rush of a chocolate overdose. So again our deeply held beliefs are laid on the gurney. If this appears to attempt excising the mystery from life, it is a matter of perspective. Life after all deconstruction retains its wonder, as does romantic love, and passionately held beliefs. So in closing, man believes what he needs to believe.

CB Smith
09-21-2007, 09:29 PM
Well, an intricate puzzle. Your questions and comments beg questions of their own. First off, it is clear neither of us has better things to do than chat, discuss, dissect, puff our pipes and kick up our feet. And this not having better things to do is spoken of course ironically. To your point, I do tend in formal composition toward the oracular. To the questions:




Thanks for your explanations. They do seem to tread a line between the gnomic and the oracular, with a little Mohammed Ali thrown in ("inscrutable while not immutable"??). I do have a few comments for you, though.


Not necessarily--sometimes less is more. You know, that old "had I more time I would have written less" thing. My meaning here was a simple acknowledgement that by attempting brevity with a complex subject my
message had become opaque.

This doesn't sound like anthropology to me, more like evolutionary biology. And I'm always concerned when folks imply evolution is driven by some purpose. And who identified this developmental need? Is there a deity hidden in your passive construction? I do not attempt here either intentionally or unintentionally to imply that some particular "who" identified a developmental need. I simply point out, true to the understanding of science, that life itself, the component parts therein, are self deterministic. Nature. A seed planted will no doubt grow.

Really? How do you know that? Anthropology has shown it is true. Does this explain the cultural and behavioral shifts in accordance? No. Simple biological facts. I appear to be shifting between first person and third person POV.

So we invent God to explain what we don't understand? You seem to be saying humankind has an innate need for religion, which might be another way of saying religiosity is part of our being, which is my definition of what God is. No, I do not claim to understand why man feels driven to have a universal daddy other than the understanding that life is a lonely business when all around you is larger, seemingly more powerful, and scary. As it no doubt was during the primordial soup kitchen era. Man from the beginning needed a protector. If man today has an intrinsic need toward religiosity, genetic antecedents explain it.

I don't know what you mean by this. Here I am unmoored and rambling about scientific precepts. A mini "Science 101" if you will.

I don't know what you mean by this, either. Religion can be quite complex, it seems to me. Ah, and here you answer the question to which I queried. Religion IS complex, a wonderful tool for man to exercise control over his legion, a codified structure with a single end. But faith, FAITH, is as simple as simple can be, as faith is not a matter of seeing is believing, but rather believing is seeing. Not facetious backhand, but a glorious insight into the world of God (Nature) if you will.

Not necessarily. My OED defines anthropology as: "The science of humankind, in the widest sense." That seems to ran the gamut from most basic to most esoteric. Yes, but anthropology is also the study of human beings' similarity to and divergence from other animals. A deconstruction and study of man through study of his component parts. Simple.

Evolution doesn't answer anything; it just is. You're off point here. The evolutionary process is one of adaptation, answers to a developmental need. In this way the evolutionary process answers the needs. This statement was not meant as a thesis or grand unifying theory of determistic philosophy.

So you think it is our striving to be top organism on the planet that explains religion, that it is a means to this end? But you said religion was an attempt to explain our place in the universe, not a calculated strategy to dominate all the other carbon-based life forms. No, striving to be top organism (I limit this discussion to the organism called man) is nothing more than survival of the species. Instinct. In talkiing about faith and religion I have a clear deliniation between the two. Faith is belief. Religion is the codified articles of conducting faith's expression. Two different things. Faith simply does, Religion, very dangerous in its philosphical power, seeks to control the its followers. Religiosity and aggression run hand in hand throughout history.

As you can see, I'm struggling a little with yours.

Nice epigram for a bumper sticker, but what does it mean? I think there is less here than meets the eye. Oh come now. The difference between want and need. You're telling me you don't understand the difference? My quote means exactly what it says, no more, no less. Forget the fallacy that man beleives what he wants to as it relates to his spiritual beliefs or lack thereof. Too minimalist. It is all too clear when one examines motivations that behind man's belief is a deeply held conviction driven by need. A need for what, whom, etc.? Anybody's guess.

Yes, it does a little. Okay, I rant therefore I am.

A wee bit grandiose, don't you think? Not grandiose, a debate closer. Nuff said, that sort of tag. And what would and anthropologist say? What's for lunch? of course.

Distilling all this down, you seem to be saying religion is a social construct that derives from humankind's innate drive to explain our world; that is an old, widely-held notion. But you also seem to be saying that religion somehow is a tool, one selected by an evolutionary process, that has allowed us to run the planet; sorry, but that seems bizarre to me. I do not believe nor will I put about that religion is a tool selected or addressed as answer to a need by the evolutionary process. Faith is faith is faith. Hope springs eternal. Without hope, why rise in the morning? Religion conversely is a political means to an insidious end as history so clearly illustrates.

PS: By the by. I have infinite faith in the power of faith, no matter its origin. I also have faith in the power of codified belief sytems (i.e. Religion) as borne out repeatedly by numerous antecedents, to manipulate the minds and spirits of those constrained within its ossified structures.

ColoradoGuy
09-21-2007, 09:44 PM
So in closing, man believes what he needs to believe.
But, my prolix friend, how is your statement anything more than a stirring, yet content-free, tautology? The question is: where does that need come from? Of course humankind has always striven to explain the observed world, and has used language to do so. Sokal's original question concerned if religious, theological language carries some unique explanatory properties, and, if so, what they might be. Does religion and religious language perform conceptual work that no other means of expression can do? The universality of religious expression suggests this is so.

robeiae
09-21-2007, 10:09 PM
My anthropological senses are tingling...

CB Smith
09-21-2007, 10:34 PM
But, my prolix friend, how is your statement anything more than a stirring, yet content-free, tautology? The question is: where does that need come from? Of course humankind has always striven to explain the observed world, and has used language to do so. Sokal's original question concerned if religious, theological language carries some unique explanatory properties, and, if so, what they might be. Does religion and religious language perform conceptual work that no other means of expression can do? The universality of religious expression suggests this is so.


Okay. If we should proceed to minimalist expression at this point, I will do so. First, I reprint here Sokal's original question:Do discussions of the fine points of theology make a lot of linguistic and cultural sense? Or are they even more remote from cultural reality than say, particle physics?

Do discussions of the fine points of theology make a lot of linguistic and cultural sense? Seems to me respondent relative. Discussion of fine points gross points any points of any kind are dependent upon the participation of those to whom these points have relevance, even if temporal. Or are they even more remote from cultural reality than say, particle physics? A curious question from a curious mind akin to the lone voice crying in the wilderness. As a philosopher, I have often asked questions such as this to come away in counfounded dismay. Remote from cultural reality? As it appears cultural reality is composed of devolutionary pursuits in this culture of the spectacle, it follows that cultural reality is mired in the muck. Remote as particle physics? Is that the name of a new reality show? Cool. When it is on. There, my friends, is the current state of cultural reality, in brief. INMHO

CB Smith
09-21-2007, 10:54 PM
If we are to comment on the universality of religious expression, we return straightaway to the random but applicable tangent with which I entered: Anthropology. Antecedent, evolution, derivation. Religious expression is universal for we all sprang from the same progenitive cell structures, cultural directives and behavioral imperatives. Genetic linkage. Perhaps not academically satisfying, but scientifically accurate. Will this topic forever return to the table? No doubt...

ColoradoGuy
09-21-2007, 11:20 PM
Religious expression is universal for we all sprang from the same progenitive cell structures, cultural directives and behavioral imperatives. Genetic linkage. . .
Really? Are you that deterministic? Is our culture in our genes? Do you really think all humans have the same cultural directives? The Norseman, the Bushmen, the Australian Aborigine, the Tibetan?

Anyway, thanks for your clarifications. It's not that I'm a posting minimalist; I just had trouble sorting out your several thought-threads. As you say, opinions will be respondent-relative. For this respondent, I think an examination of theological language is both fascinating and useful because the language of faith and religion gives us a glimpse into the mind of the person using it. I suppose it’s the bit of Whorf-Sapir-ism lurking inside me, but I do think the actual language matters. As I said above, though, I don't think Sokal's specific instance of Arminianism was a good example of that.

CB Smith
09-22-2007, 12:17 AM
Really? Are you that deterministic? Is our culture in our genes? Do you really think all humans have the same cultural directives? The Norseman, the Bushmen, the Australian Aborigine, the Tibetan?

Anyway, thanks for your clarifications. It's not that I'm a posting minimalist; I just had trouble sorting out your several thought-threads. As you say, opinions will be respondent-relative. For this respondent, I think an examination of theological language is both fascinating and useful because the language of faith and religion gives us a glimpse into the mind of the person using it. I suppose it’s the bit of Whorf-Sapir-ism lurking inside me, but I do think the actual language matters. As I said above, though, I don't think Sokal's specific instance of Arminianism was a good example of that.


The same cultural directives as in identical? No, but root cause the same, with a few addedd or removed embellishments. The question I suppose could turn to what then are these progenetive cultural directives. I will not go into it because...welll...I am given to voluminous verbosity as you have so well noted. Sorry that you had to "sort through" my verbiage to extricate the key points. My only satisfaction there being that extraction was possible and comprehensive. What happens when you graduate the Writing on Both Sides of the Brain school? I believe you have witnessed a primary example. Once in motion, key directive: Don't Stop!

My editing and sculpting (read that slashing) sessions are torturous! Well, glad to make the rounds with you, erudite friend. A scintillating intellectual roundabout is quite a wild ride. Perhaps we will meet again!

CB

ColoradoGuy
09-22-2007, 01:53 AM
Drop by and start a thread or something.

robeiae
09-22-2007, 02:13 AM
I think Wittgenstein is beating Hume to death with a copy of Being and Time.

ColoradoGuy
09-22-2007, 02:30 AM
I think Wittgenstein is beating Hume to death with a copy of Being and Time.
Or Clifford Geertz is wondering why he bothered with all that thick context if cultural imperatives are all the same everywhere.

girlyswot
09-22-2007, 06:56 AM
*smiles with the serene confidence of true faith*

Isn't it fun watching people rearrange their deckchairs on the Titanic?

ColoradoGuy
09-22-2007, 07:22 AM
*smiles with the serene confidence of true faith*

Isn't it fun watching people rearrange their deckchairs on the Titanic?
My irony meter may need new batteries, but just what do you mean? There is sometimes a fine line between serene and smug.

McDuff
09-24-2007, 09:42 AM
Does religion and religious language perform conceptual work that no other means of expression can do? The universality of religious expression suggests this is so.
Problems:

First, racism and bigotry is as widespread and quasi-universal as the broad 'religion' category, and while we can see that this reflects some ingrained tendency in the way we evolved as social creatures we do not have to agree that it is any more useful than an appendix.

Second, "religious expression" in this case seems to cover an almost meaninglessly broad spectrum, from tribal pantheism to the Norse Pantheon through Buddhism and the Eurasian monotheisms.

Third, religious expression in and of itself requires a wilful self-delusion, if not to believe something untrue at least to hold that there are some things "outside human understanding" that we can, nonetheless, understand well enough to argue. Religious expression is only worthwhile to an individual if he is a believer, otherwise it's just mumbo jumbo and probably harmful to boot. The notion of religious expression being worthwhile is, therefore, dependent on the actual existence of God, and the sheer variety of theologies in the world make the chances of any one of them being right, or even right enough, very small indeed.

Whatever it is expressing, therefore, it seems it would be better to find another avenue.

Medievalist
09-24-2007, 09:55 AM
Adaptations at the most basic level occur because a [/COLOR]

developmental need was identified. Once identified, adaptation was made to accommodate. From this level we go forward many evolutionary steps to the present. Along the way while man has changed extrinsically, the changes intrinsically have been less profound.

In my theology, passive voice is heretical.

Medievalist
09-24-2007, 09:57 AM
If we are to comment on the universality of religious expression, we return straightaway to the random but applicable tangent with which I entered: Anthropology. Antecedent, evolution, derivation. Religious expression is universal for we all sprang from the same progenitive cell structures, cultural directives and behavioral imperatives. Genetic linkage. Perhaps not academically satisfying, but scientifically accurate. Will this topic forever return to the table? No doubt...

Who's this "we" grasshopper?

robeiae
09-24-2007, 05:01 PM
Problems:

First, racism and bigotry is as widespread and quasi-universal as the broad 'religion' category, and while we can see that this reflects some ingrained tendency in the way we evolved as social creatures we do not have to agree that it is any more useful than an appendix.

Second, "religious expression" in this case seems to cover an almost meaninglessly broad spectrum, from tribal pantheism to the Norse Pantheon through Buddhism and the Eurasian monotheisms.

Third, religious expression in and of itself requires a wilful self-delusion, if not to believe something untrue at least to hold that there are some things "outside human understanding" that we can, nonetheless, understand well enough to argue. Religious expression is only worthwhile to an individual if he is a believer, otherwise it's just mumbo jumbo and probably harmful to boot. The notion of religious expression being worthwhile is, therefore, dependent on the actual existence of God, and the sheer variety of theologies in the world make the chances of any one of them being right, or even right enough, very small indeed.

Whatever it is expressing, therefore, it seems it would be better to find another avenue.
Good answer, except for the final bit, I think. Religious expression--as you just noted--is a pretty broad category. To reduce its "worthwhile-ness" or lack thereof down to the existence of a god/God/gods seems to be quite a stretch, and more of a shortcut to finding fault than a valid conclusion--imo, of course.

robeiae
09-24-2007, 05:02 PM
Who's this "we" grasshopper?
I have it on good authority that CB Smith was talking specifically about you with that "we."

ColoradoGuy
09-24-2007, 08:54 PM
First, racism and bigotry is as widespread and quasi-universal as the broad 'religion' category, and while we can see that this reflects some ingrained tendency in the way we evolved as social creatures we do not have to agree that it is any more useful than an appendix.
I wasn't demanding that you agree; I was asking if you did, which clearly you don't. Fair enough, but broadly comparing the widepread tendency of humans to have religious urgings with racism and bigotry is needlessly inflammatory and more than a little disingenuous.

Second, "religious expression" in this case seems to cover an almost meaninglessly broad spectrum, from tribal pantheism to the Norse Pantheon through Buddhism and the Eurasian monotheisms.
Why does broadness imply meaninglessness? Lumpers and splitters both have their proper place. I meant religious language as attempts to explain and understand the sublime.

Third, religious expression in and of itself requires a wilful self-delusion, if not to believe something untrue at least to hold that there are some things "outside human understanding" that we can, nonetheless, understand well enough to argue. Religious expression is only worthwhile to an individual if he is a believer, otherwise it's just mumbo jumbo and probably harmful to boot. The notion of religious expression being worthwhile is, therefore, dependent on the actual existence of God, and the sheer variety of theologies in the world make the chances of any one of them being right, or even right enough, very small indeed.
This is simply your own rant, and it makes your other points even more suspect because you belittle the ability of any religious person to think clearly. Spirituality does not require that any theology be "right," any more than the existence of multiple theories of cosmology shows the universe does not exist.

Whatever it is expressing, therefore, it seems it would be better to find another avenue.
Your "therefore," therefore, is misplaced. After so many emphatic assertions, your use of a conditional sentence construction implies you are not sure yourself. Why waffle now?