Mythologizing Other Religions

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RichardGarfinkle

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Historically, religions and philosophies have arisen in social contexts dominated by other religions and philosophies. Under those circumstances the new teaching will usually set out to explain its differences from the dominant form. Again historically, such marking out of differences is not often done with what we would call RYFW.

All of which is a delicate way of saying that religions and philosophies often tell stories about other religions and philosophies that are not accurate to those religions.

Philosophical distinctions have commonly been made in the form of attacks on and mockery of the teachers and teachings they are trying to replace. This is easy to see in the treatment of the Sophists in Plato's dialogues, or (if you are interested in being bored to death) the opening sections of Aristotle's Physics where he dismisses many other theories of the universe before laying out his own.

But philosophers arguing with each other lacks sacral character, so we can look back with sardonic amusement while sniping happily away in the same way at other philosophers (It's a hobby).

The situation is more complicated in the case of religion, in which this mythologizing can become fixed as a tenet of the religion and propagate unto the present day.

The problem can exist even where people think they are being respectful to each other, but use the language of their religion in a manner that, without the speaker noticing, is actually insulting.

Let me take a running start with a couple of not-so-hot-button-as-they-might-be examples.

A number of early Buddhist writings were attempts to distinguish Buddhism from Hinduism. In these early texts the Buddha is preaching against the idea that one has to stick to the caste one is born into. It's explicitly stated that a person who acts like a Brahmin is a Brahmin. There's also a story that Brahma was not the creator of the universe, only the first being to come into existence.

Some Hindu writings came back with the idea that the Buddha was an Avatar of Vishnu, but that the Buddha's teachings were meant to mislead demons or other beings.

In the Bible, specifically in the Book of Daniel, there is a mythologizing of the religion of Persia (Mazda worship, or Zoroastrianism as it is now called), treating it as unsophisticated and easily impressed by miracles like surviving a den full of lions. Zoroastrianism is a living, very sophisticated religion.

Expanding this, there is the biblical admonition against idol worship. Anti-idol stories are almost all based on the idea of idols with feet of clay, as if the people who use images in their worship can't tell the difference between the image and the being which is worshiped.

The next example I have is one that I've been dealing with to some extent all my life, the manner in which Christianity mythologizes Judaism. To reiterate, I was raised Jewish, but I'm now an atheist.

The New Testament story of the arising of Christianity places it in the context of two dominant religions and cultures: Judaic and Roman. There are a number of elements in the story that are specifically reactive against these dominant influences.

However, unlike the Buddhist / Hindu stories, Christianity does not, in general, assert that Judaism was wrong, rather that it was incomplete. It does, however, ascribe wrong to the Jewish authorities at the time, particularly the Pharisees, portraying them as at best ignorant, at worst evil.

The thing is, all modern Judaic teaching descends from the Pharisees. They were the forward-looking reformist faction among the rabbis of the time. They also included among their number teachers of the Golden Rule and love thy neighbor as thyself sorts of things.

Islam, when it arose, had to place Judaism and Christianity in its own context. It created the concept of People of the Book, and used its own version of the idea that these religions were mostly correct (except for the divinity of Jesus) and the concept of incompleteness.


It might seem like this kind of mythologizing is a matter for theologians and that people can respect each other person to person without having to deal with it. But there's a subtle process at work that makes things more difficult.

The sacral mythologizing of other religions, it seems to me, gives social permission to casually mythologize other religions. Thus a person seeking to tell a story about another religion might not feel any need to actually find out anything about it.

For a couple of old examples, have a look at the Song of Roland wherein Islam is portrayed as a polytheistic idol-worshiping religion. Or have a read through the Thousand and One Nights where the portrayal of Christian monasticism is not exactly canonical (You don't want to know what the host is made out of).

This casual portrayal continues to this day with the tropes of the Straw _____ (fill in the blank with the religion or non-religion people wish to treat as a religion).

This brings the problem home to AW and a tension in RYFW.

If a person is writing something that comes from that person's religion, one must be respectful of that writer's religion.

But if that person is writing something about another religion, that writer needs to be respectful of the followers of that religion.

We deal with issues of condemnation and respect every day and we offer challenges to preconceived notions and help with understanding every day, but in some ways this is different.

The mythologizing of a religion can sometimes be built into the worldview of another religion. The relation between Judaism and Christianity is paradigmatic here, as is the relation between polytheistic and image-using religions to monotheistic, non-image-using religions.

On a more subtle level there is a mythologizing by faith-based religions into the idea that all ideas, religious or otherwise, must be faith-based. We've already had a thread on that, but the mythologizing premise underlies the concept that science and atheism as must be faiths.

So how do we go about the creation of mutual respect in this circumstance?
 
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Maxx

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In the Bible, specifically in the Book of Daniel, there is a mythologizing of the religion of Persia (Mazda worship, or Zoroastrianism as it is now called), treating it as unsophisticated and easily impressed by miracles like surviving a den full of lions. Zoroastrianism is a living, very sophisticated religion.

Interesting topic. And no obvious connection with Bernini.

The thing is the actual circumstances seem to have been so complex that you really end up with an inconsistant mythologization of an inconsistant mythology.

For example, as far as I can tell, nobody is quite sure how Zoroastrian the Ancient Persians really were at any particular point. At least one whole layer of complexity appears to have been lost in that the Priesthood of Mazda (and quite probably other gods) and the King of Kings formed an elaborate heirarchy and system of rituals that seem to have had little to do with Zoroaster's worldview. It may be that Zoroastrianism is more a matter of what could survive the fall of the King of Kings rather than a complete picture of what the religion of the various Persian Empires was like. The Persian view of religion may have been far more sophisticated even than Zoroastrianism. For example one fundamental policy of the Persian Empires seems to have been to encourage cultic practices in general and as far as I know, all existing cults (including all the temples in Egypt and Mesopotamia) continued to function or even be restored in areas under Persian administration. For example, Cyrus the Great encouraged the building of the Second Temple in Jerusalem and in that context one wonders what the original function of the Magi was in the earliest versions of Christianity.
 

RichardGarfinkle

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The other tricky thing with Zoroastrianism is that as far as I understand it, they did not write down their holy writ until after Alexander the Great conquered Persia. Before that it was memorized.

As for Bernini, there is his work in both Christian and Greek / Roman subjects. One of the intriguing things about that time period is that during the height of the Counter Reformation, Rome and the rest of Italy were awash in pre Christian mythic imagery.
 

Maxx

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As for Bernini, there is his work in both Christian and Greek / Roman subjects. One of the intriguing things about that time period is that during the height of the Counter Reformation, Rome and the rest of Italy were awash in pre Christian mythic imagery.

Oh, back to Bernini. A lucky thing for me since a glance at Wikipedia revealed Zoroastrianism to be a daunting topic.

On the other hand, having started life as an Atheist and raised myself as a Catholic, Bernini and the Counter-reformation seem reassuringly familiar. First -- there was really no way the City of Rome could be cleared of all traces of things earlier than Christianity. There was even a church (and I guess there still is) with Minerva in the name and in that case the temple was not made into a church until 750. And of course lots of pre-Christian rituals (such as the annual squirting of stuff on matrons) went on. if anything the systematic presentation of pre-Christian imagery as "Classical Mythology" represented a serious attempt to clean things up a little.

Hmmm...poking around on Wikipedia we find that the Temple of Vesta was apparently never made into a church and it was totally demolished in 1549. A strange undercurrent there: the place was too non-Christian to mess with, but it wasn't cleaned up til 1549. Of course that might be a technical problem since there may not have been enough tackle to take a big temple appart in the period from say 400 AD to 1549. But I doubt it. It was probably just too scary until some kind of historical relativism allowed people to say the days of temples were over and the goddess was long gone.
 

Siri Kirpal

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Sat Nam! (literally "Truth Name"--a Sikh greeting)

I see this problem in operas: Lakme, L'Africaine and The Pearl Fishers specifically have the most ridiculous view of Hinduism.

I see this happening today as many Sikhs try to insist that yoga is a Hindu thing, and therefore Sikhs cannot practice yoga, because Sikhism never had anything to do with Hinduism. (Our founder was born a Hindu.)

(I practice yoga; I am a Sikh.)

I see this (sorry Richard) on this board, when atheists make sweeping statements about ALL religions, when the statements they're making apply only to certain sections of the Abrahamic family. (It's been better in this room since Richard lay down the law.)

The problem is that all religions that I have any experience with begin as divine visions, a person or a group of people experiencing the divine in a particular way and creating a pathway so that others can have that same most wonderful experience. But humans are lazy and would rather attach themselves to the person or the pathway, rather than what the pathway leads to. That becomes ridiculous and then reformers come in, say "This is nuts!" and make sweeping gestures to get rid of the old path, even though the path itself works just fine, properly used.

Not sure what to do about it. But this is the way I see/experience it.

Blessings,

Siri Kirpal
 

Maxx

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However, unlike the Buddhist / Hindu stories, Christianity does not, in general, assert that Judaism was wrong, rather that it was incomplete. It does, however, ascribe wrong to the Jewish authorities at the time, particularly the Pharisees, portraying them as at best ignorant, at worst evil.

Ah! Pharisees. Perhaps it is best to take Christianity as being a sect (or even just the more authoritarian factions) of the Pharisees at least to start with since it is the Pharisees with which that sect seems to have the most concerns. Several highly speculative points can be made about the later Christian representation (ie in the extant texts derived from whatever the original Quellen {Q} might have been):
1) the Pharisees were not authorities at all before the fall of the Temple. Presenting the Pharisees as authorities presents them as they were in a completely different comtext, ie Post 70 AD when the Jesus traditions stabilized
and were redacted.
2) if the traditions surrounding James are worth considering then it seems that the early Christians were more strongly associated with the Temple than the average Pharisee.
3) Christians have a priesthood. Where did it come from?
4) if you look at the extraordinary text of Letter to the Hebrews, it argues for a Priestly type (note the exegetical pun) of authority for Jesus and his followers
5) Paul seems to have been a Herodian with all kinds of connections with the international elite but -- like James in the Temple -- a well-connected person.
6) so the real gripe of the early Christians against the Pharisees was that the Pharisees were quite popular with most of the people in the countryside and they did not act like the authority-figures that the protoChristian elite already were
7) the upshot (not surprisingly) was that most people in Judea and Galilee and Idumea and Syria and Alexandria were not interested in Christianity, but prefered to follow the Pharisees
8) While Christianity did well in Rome where it could cash in on its international connections (as evidenced in Paul, James and the extraordinary Greek of Letter to the Hebrews)
 
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ColoradoGuy

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The problem is that all religions that I have any experience with begin as divine visions, a person or a group of people experiencing the divine in a particular way and creating a pathway so that others can have that same most wonderful experience. But humans are lazy and would rather attach themselves to the person or the pathway, rather than what the pathway leads to. That becomes ridiculous and then reformers come in, say "This is nuts!" and make sweeping gestures to get rid of the old path, even though the path itself works just fine, properly used.

Not sure what to do about it. But this is the way I see/experience it.

As a Quaker, I generally agree with this, although in our view all persons contain within them the spark of the divine. So we look inward, rather than outward. So I suppose this leads to the conclusion that there is no such thing as an atheist, because denying the divine is denying humanity.

Othering is an old human tendency, and few are interested in understanding the Other. The more strident people are over the rightness of their way, the more uneasy and unsure they are of its rightness themselves.
 

RichardGarfinkle

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Sat Nam! (literally "Truth Name"--a Sikh greeting)

I see this problem in operas: Lakme, L'Africaine and The Pearl Fishers specifically have the most ridiculous view of Hinduism.

I see this happening today as many Sikhs try to insist that yoga is a Hindu thing, and therefore Sikhs cannot practice yoga, because Sikhism never had anything to do with Hinduism. (Our founder was born a Hindu.)

(I practice yoga; I am a Sikh.)

I've noticed that controversy over the Hindu origins of Yoga has been cropping up lately in a number of places. I wonder if it will spread to other practices that arose from various religions.

I'll be curious if people start objecting to the teaching of a number of martial arts that have Taoist or (in the case of Aikido) Buddhist sources.

I see this (sorry Richard) on this board, when atheists make sweeping statements about ALL religions, when the statements they're making apply only to certain sections of the Abrahamic family. (It's been better in this room since Richard lay down the law.)

I actually don't see this as a specifically atheist problem. It's a western culture problem. If you look at how a number of people brought up in Europe or America talk about religion, their base assumptions are not only Abrahamic, but specifically Christian in outline. I've had a heck of a time (I think you have too) trying to get people to understand that not all religions are about faith. So, the fact that European and American atheists pattern their views of religion in the same fashion that European and American theists do is not really surprising.

By the way, I appreciate the endorsement of my modding, but truth to tell I think Colorado Guy was doing a great job before I came along to second chair him. His style is more laid back, but he's a better human being than I am.

The problem is that all religions that I have any experience with begin as divine visions, a person or a group of people experiencing the divine in a particular way and creating a pathway so that others can have that same most wonderful experience. But humans are lazy and would rather attach themselves to the person or the pathway, rather than what the pathway leads to. That becomes ridiculous and then reformers come in, say "This is nuts!" and make sweeping gestures to get rid of the old path, even though the path itself works just fine, properly used.

Not sure what to do about it. But this is the way I see/experience it.

Blessings,

Siri Kirpal

I largely agree with the latter part of your post although I'm tempted to analyze the particulars of which people among the adherents of different religions tend to be most attached to which aspects of the pathway.

However, your post taken as a whole has spurred another question that I'd like to throw into the mix.

Do you think that there are any atheistic pathways that benefit people in the same way that theistic paths do?

My own view, unsurprisingly, is that there are, and I'll be happy to elaborate on that. But my reason for bringing it up is a particular mythology that seems to be common to many religions: the myth that atheists are people who have lost their way, rather than having found another way.

I think that many will accept the idea that conversion from one religion to another is an act of finding, but few will accept the idea that an atheist can have found a way.
 

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There are some theists that are hurtful because they insist their way is the only way--so I tended to like the religions that were more tolerant and accepting of other religions, even pointing to the similarities and thoughts of inclusion rather than separation. (India's Empires actually reflect that the more tolerant that a kingdom was, the longer it lasted. When it became intolerant, it fell quickly.)

Atheism has it's ups--that is the idea that science in of itself is a value of the head and to think before one moves forward. But it also has its intellectual drawbacks which I tend to dislike (with some people). Which is not so much the pathway itself, but the inability for people to see that the heart, and the spiritual, but not necessarily religious self also needs nurturing. (Especially when forced through the Genesis view of it is or it isn't). Which is how the Humanitarians were born... though that also has its drawbacks. Intuition isn't necessarily religion either, and the idea one has to "prove" their intuition is a mixture of the Abraham religions as well as the Atheist tendencies towards mind only.

Pure atheism--if it wasn't so focused on mind only, but also valued the other senses and also saw that religion isn't all bad, just like religious people shouldn't think that religion is all good, would be beneficial, I think, in order to basic understanding of diversity within us all.

Mind you I was raised by Atheists... whereas I don't quite subscribe to one philosophy so I'm not quite Agnostic either... I rather see the value in the way people think and philosophize about the morality of the world--and even if you take away the belief, the understanding that comes from that can be vast and deep. (I also tend to like religions that make me see a different POV, or look at core philosophy rather than focus solely on devotion and faith...)

So those are my pluses and minuses with Atheism. If you did take away the Abraham framework and actually allowed for things like spirituality without the religion, talking of intuition without asking for auto proof, and the strict black and white division... and valuing the heart *sometimes* over the brain, I'd like the idea much, much better. I'd consider that a more pure Atheism free of Genesis thinking (Male and female divisions are also Genesis thinking). Also belief is not so bad sometimes, as shown with disease recovery. (I've seen *some* atheists think that all belief is bad... and then argue that religion itself is a disease... which just defeats so much.)
 

Maxx

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--and even if you take away the belief, the understanding that comes from that can be vast and deep.

Oh I very much agree. As a religious atheist, one thing I notice a lot is that people are so busy having experiences that they never notice anything. Probably only an atheist can fully enjoy all the ins-and-outs of the religious cosmos since they see it as it as a pure structure is rather than as a tool that enables them to have ways of dealing with the divine. If you remove the divine objective and its social froth, then the religious cosmos no longer appears as a thing for your social and self-identifying use, but instead appears as a sublime maze that is good for being lost in but has no purpose other than the aesthetic one of mysterious pleasures that cannot be fully resolved.
 

RichardGarfinkle

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Oh I very much agree. As a religious atheist, one thing I notice a lot is that people are so busy having experiences that they never notice anything. Probably only an atheist can fully enjoy all the ins-and-outs of the religious cosmos since they see it as it as a pure structure is rather than as a tool that enables them to have ways of dealing with the divine. If you remove the divine objective and its social froth, then the religious cosmos no longer appears as a thing for your social and self-identifying use, but instead appears as a sublime maze that is good for being lost in but has no purpose other than the aesthetic one of mysterious pleasures that cannot be fully resolved.

Let's please try to have these discussions without comparatives.

I admit that's an ironic request given the name of the board, nevertheless it's not too hard to say, "An atheist can enjoy..." rather than "Only an atheist can enjoy..."
 

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3) Christians have a priesthood. Where did it come from?

Jews had a variety of priests as well, until the destruction of the temple; s. v. cohanim, the descendants of Aaron.
 

Maxx

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Jews had a variety of priests as well, until the destruction of the temple; s. v. cohanim, the descendants of Aaron.

Letter to the Hebrews suggests that at some point some (proto?)Christian faction had some interest in appropriating some claim to being the heirs to some aspects of Jewish Priesthood. Probably not much really came of that and it seems more likely that Christian priests were based on cults in Rome, where (proto)Chistianity had a lot more social clout. Still it is odd that after the fall of the Temple, one originally Jewish sect ((proto)Christianity) ended up with priests and another (the Pharisees) did not.
 

Siri Kirpal

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I've noticed that controversy over the Hindu origins of Yoga has been cropping up lately in a number of places. I wonder if it will spread to other practices that arose from various religions.

I'll be curious if people start objecting to the teaching of a number of martial arts that have Taoist or (in the case of Aikido) Buddhist sources.



I actually don't see this as a specifically atheist problem. It's a western culture problem. If you look at how a number of people brought up in Europe or America talk about religion, their base assumptions are not only Abrahamic, but specifically Christian in outline. I've had a heck of a time (I think you have too) trying to get people to understand that not all religions are about faith. So, the fact that European and American atheists pattern their views of religion in the same fashion that European and American theists do is not really surprising. True enough.

By the way, I appreciate the endorsement of my modding, but truth to tell I think Colorado Guy was doing a great job before I came along to second chair him. His style is more laid back, but he's a better human being than I am. Colorado Guy is great! It's just that it sometimes takes one to bawl one out, if you know what I mean...and I think you do.



I largely agree with the latter part of your post although I'm tempted to analyze the particulars of which people among the adherents of different religions tend to be most attached to which aspects of the pathway.

However, your post taken as a whole has spurred another question that I'd like to throw into the mix.

Do you think that there are any atheistic pathways that benefit people in the same way that theistic paths do? I don't think atheistic Buddhists are lost. I don't think spiritual atheists of any variety are lost.

My own view, unsurprisingly, is that there are, and I'll be happy to elaborate on that. But my reason for bringing it up is a particular mythology that seems to be common to many religions: the myth that atheists are people who have lost their way, rather than having found another way. I only feel that way when the atheist in question is spouting off a holier than thou attitude about us spiritual types. Though, yes, it's usually a we're more intelligent than you are, rather than holier than thou. But it's the same principle. When an atheist says that religion is dangerous and must be avoided at all costs, yeah, I think the guy is a religious fanatic of the most lost variety.

I think that many will accept the idea that conversion from one religion to another is an act of finding, but few will accept the idea that an atheist can have found a way.

Sat Nam! (literally "Truth Name"--a Sikh greeting)

See comments above.

Blessings,

Siri Kirpal
 
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I've noticed that controversy over the Hindu origins of Yoga has been cropping up lately in a number of places. I wonder if it will spread to other practices that arose from various religions.

I'll be curious if people start objecting to the teaching of a number of martial arts that have Taoist or (in the case of Aikido) Buddhist sources.


I actually don't see this as a specifically atheist problem. It's a western culture problem. If you look at how a number of people brought up in Europe or America talk about religion, their base assumptions are not only Abrahamic, but specifically Christian in outline. I've had a heck of a time (I think you have too) trying to get people to understand that not all religions are about faith. So, the fact that European and American atheists pattern their views of religion in the same fashion that European and American theists do is not really surprising.

It might be interesting to consider the syncretist viewpoint of many east Asian people, where they follow practices from a variety of ideologies.


I largely agree with the latter part of your post although I'm tempted to analyze the particulars of which people among the adherents of different religions tend to be most attached to which aspects of the pathway.

I wonder if it's arguable that there are people who are attached to the thing rather than the pathway. For example, the Japanese view and practice of religion where they apply the beliefs and practices that seem most relevant to the matter at hand. If you look at the interplay of Buddhism, Christianity, and Shinto in Japan, it makes a strong contract to the Western view of how religion functions.

However, your post taken as a whole has spurred another question that I'd like to throw into the mix.

Do you think that there are any atheistic pathways that benefit people in the same way that theistic paths do?

My own view, unsurprisingly, is that there are, and I'll be happy to elaborate on that. But my reason for bringing it up is a particular mythology that seems to be common to many religions: the myth that atheists are people who have lost their way, rather than having found another way.

I think that many will accept the idea that conversion from one religion to another is an act of finding, but few will accept the idea that an atheist can have found a way.


I'd say that you can absolutely argue for atheist pathways, though you'd have to define the goal of religious paths to make a completely convincing argument.
 

Siri Kirpal

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Oh I very much agree. As a religious atheist, one thing I notice a lot is that people are so busy having experiences that they never notice anything. Probably only an atheist can fully enjoy all the ins-and-outs of the religious cosmos since they see it as it as a pure structure is rather than as a tool that enables them to have ways of dealing with the divine. If you remove the divine objective and its social froth, then the religious cosmos no longer appears as a thing for your social and self-identifying use, but instead appears as a sublime maze that is good for being lost in but has no purpose other than the aesthetic one of mysterious pleasures that cannot be fully resolved.

Sat Nam! (literally "Truth Name"--a Sikh greeting)

Uh...no...

Please see Richard's comment.

Blessings,

Siri Kirpal
 

ColoradoGuy

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. . . Probably only an atheist can fully enjoy all the ins-and-outs of the religious cosmos since they see it as it as a pure structure is rather than as a tool that enables them to have ways of dealing with the divine. . .

What? That kind of sweeping (and quite wrong) statement is just what Richard was writing about in his opening post.
 

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Atheism has it's ups--that is the idea that science in of itself is a value of the head and to think before one moves forward.

That doesn't sound a lot like, for example, Friedrich Nietzche, whom I'd consider an atheist (probably).

I don't think there's a single thing that all atheists would agree on, beyond there not being a God (and that will mean different things to different atheists). Actually, the very term "atheist" is disrespectful to atheists (even though they use it themselves), because it suggest that the lack of belief in God is important enough to warrant classification. Atheist beliefs can be rationalist, naturalist, humanist, nihilist, and so on. Example:

Colorado Guy said:
So I suppose this leads to the conclusion that there is no such thing as an atheist, because denying the divine is denying humanity.

A secular humanist, I suspect, would disagree. Me? I have no problem with denying humanity as well as divinity. Life's quite enough for me. I suppose I'm mostly naturalist/materialist. I'm certainly not much of a humanist, though some tendencies are there.

As an atheist, you often find yourself spending more time working out why you don't believe what you don't believe than what it is that you belief, if anything, in the first place. Atheism, on its own, is pretty empty. There's always a positive layer beneath atheism that feeds the arguments against the existance (or value) of God; that layer also feeds other things (and it would feed them much more, if it didn't get sidetracked by God so much).

I'm not sure that atheists, on the whole, rely more on science than theists. That's an interesting topic in itself. I do think the appeal to reason has a lot to do with finding a common ground for communication; and at the same you need to differentiate your position from the default. So you get a rhetoric emphasis on science/reason etc. that is an exaggeration, really.

If an atheist puts a premium on science it could be he's a rationalist who likes the method; a naturalist who thinks it's the best tool to circumnavigate our biases; both of the above. It's probably not because he's an atheist.
 

ColoradoGuy

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I'm not sure that atheists, on the whole, rely more on science than theists. That's an interesting topic in itself. I do think the appeal to reason has a lot to do with finding a common ground for communication; and at the same you need to differentiate your position from the default. So you get a rhetoric emphasis on science/reason etc. that is an exaggeration, really.
(my bold)

I think this is absolutely correct, and I'm a medical scientist. On the other hand, I deplore the statement one occasionally hears from Evangelical Christians that science is a sort of religion.
 

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One of the subtle elements in Mythologizing of Religions is the tendency to treat all members of a mythologized group as interchangeable. This happens with all forms of othering, wherein everyone of a given group is deemed to act and think alike, sharing stereotypical likes, dislikes, proclivities etc.

But religious othering breeds fresh crops of interchangeables.
The distinctions between sects of religions are often invisible outside those religions, so that groups that share little in common are deemed to be all alike.

The statements of individual members of a group are deemed to have been made by all members of that group.

The practices of any member of a group are deemed to have been done by all members of that group.

And, of course, any bad act attributed to a member of that group is attributed to all members. Whereas any good act points out that person as the exception (that applies to almost all othering).
 

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The relationship between atheism, science, and reason is a tricky subject.

Atheism, as many have pointed out, is a world view that lacks an element that many other world views possess. There is no universally applicable word for this element. Most people call it a lack of God or gods, but that only applies to some religions. God isn't a necessary component of Buddhism or Taoism (as two examples), but one can be atheistic relative to those two religions as well.

I tend to think of it as a lack of a supernatural component to the universe.

Science, as I have ranted about repeatedly, is a process for trying to model and test models of the repeatable aspects of the universe.

Reason is a mental discipline of being careful in the creation, destruction, and following of thoughts. It is a step by step discipline for trying to make sure one does not jump to inappropriate conclusions or go haring off after ideas without good cause.

Reason is not the only mental discipline for this purpose. There are a number of meditative practices that keep the mind focused, allowing for a step by step process. There are also prayer, faith, and mystical disciplines that perform similar functions.

There's a picture I remember from an edition of the Bhagavad Gita that I had a long time ago. The picture showed the mind as a chariot being pulled by several horses running wild because the charioteer was not holding the reins.

Reason, like a number of other practices, is useful for gathering the reins and controlling the horses.

The core of reason is logic, but the two are not the same. Logic is a far more stringent practice, the purpose of which is to preserve the truth of what one is thinking about. If one is reasoning strictly by logic, one's conclusions will be as true as one's premises. But logic is not enough to deal with the real world. Reasoning is wider and sloppier than logic.

Herein comes the challenge of reason and the place so many people who claim to reason fail. Once you've done your reasoning, you have to test your conclusions, and you have to test them against something other than what you would like to be true.

One way to tell an honest reasoner is whether they are more suspicious of results that they like than they are of results they don't like.
 

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The relationship between atheism, science, and reason is a tricky subject.

Atheism, as many have pointed out, is a world view that lacks an element that many other world views possess. There is no universally applicable word for this element. Most people call it a lack of God or gods, but that only applies to some religions. God isn't a necessary component of Buddhism or Taoism (as two examples), but one can be atheistic relative to those two religions as well.

I tend to think of it as a lack of a supernatural component to the universe.

Science, as I have ranted about repeatedly, is a process for trying to model and test models of the repeatable aspects of the universe.

Reason is a mental discipline of being careful in the creation, destruction, and following of thoughts. It is a step by step discipline for trying to make sure one does not jump to inappropriate conclusions or go haring off after ideas without good cause.

Reason is not the only mental discipline for this purpose. There are a number of meditative practices that keep the mind focused, allowing for a step by step process. There are also prayer, faith, and mystical disciplines that perform similar functions.

There's a picture I remember from an edition of the Bhagavad Gita that I had a long time ago. The picture showed the mind as a chariot being pulled by several horses running wild because the charioteer was not holding the reins.

Reason, like a number of other practices, is useful for gathering the reins and controlling the horses.

The core of reason is logic, but the two are not the same. Logic is a far more stringent practice, the purpose of which is to preserve the truth of what one is thinking about. If one is reasoning strictly by logic, one's conclusions will be as true as one's premises. But logic is not enough to deal with the real world. Reasoning is wider and sloppier than logic.

Herein comes the challenge of reason and the place so many people who claim to reason fail. Once you've done your reasoning, you have to test your conclusions, and you have to test them against something other than what you would like to be true.

One way to tell an honest reasoner is whether they are more suspicious of results that they like than they are of results they don't like.
See reason and logic in the scope of atheism has a fail attached to it.

If you actually sit and read Genesis with notes from various factions of academia, you'll find that there is the separation of "logic/reason" from "emotional/intuitive" states where one is man and one is woman. It's the black v. white.

If you're attaching that to Atheism, subconsciously you're buying into Abraham's logic.

The short coming I see out of that where people auto-tie science to atheism, as well as logic and reason to atheism, is it fails in other faculties which *should* be considered useful rather than auto-harmful. (And I do tie this to only *some* atheists, since clearly atheism changes by location.)

For the mostly US and British brand, they hold science is more important that religion, but even that delineation wasn't really important until around the 1900's to 1920's in the US, where the religious and the science weren't separated so much as a "war" Also the Bible used to not be taken so literally either... (Taken from Robert Alter, which is good for anyone who wants to understand.)

Reason and Logic don't necessarily account for spiritualism, such as valuing family, making boundaries, making menatal space for oneself, or feelings about the future, anxieties, ways to deal with the world--the very argument itself of how to deal with the world doesn't have to be all logic and reason. Feelings also have to play in. Intuition has to be viewed at some point valid, even if it can't be proven on the second. And this is where I see the Western world failed somewhat. (Not that other places don't have their failings too). The brand of atheism has absorbed the religious rhetoric a little...

And I'll say it again, only *some* are this way.

I kinda feel on edge with people who say they are atheists *because* they believe in science as if they are attached AND (logical and in this case) then further expound that logic and reason is the only way.

But what of intuition and feelings? What about philosophy, limits of understanding and thought? What about the things in the world that are illogical to begin with until you examine them more closely. And what about the things that seem spiritual, and supernatural, don't have a basis in science, but still work despite all the science you throw at it? Is it invalid automatically?

Basically, my distaste for this *brand* of atheism, is the killing of curiosity itself, which is ironic, since it goes against the basic thoughts about science itself--be curious and ask questions. I also dislike *some* atheists that say all religion is useless, the people who believe it are quacks, and so on. At that point I feel like leaning away from the pack. Logic and reason aren't the only basic tenants that run the world. Sometimes the illogical and the things that can't be reasoned with are just as beautiful--such as black holes, human beings, feelings, the theory of string theory itself. And sometimes even if it's not right, the thought in of itself and the exploration of the "wrong" can give you answers you aren't prepared for. (I'll example this.)

For example, for a while, though I really don't still believe in them, I liked collecting tarot cards and doing readings. Mostly I wanted to know for world building purposes. My mom was super distressed at my interest in tarot cards and kept on me on how it was "wrong" and frowned when I reported readings. I learned at a later date that psychology says spiritual things like that only confirm your subconscious. In playing and understanding the history of tarot cards, and thus also playing cards (Jack, spade, etc). I also understood more about myself and still use them to access my subconscious, which is a long way around to do it, but what I pick out as "right" or correct v. incorrect tells me about myself. And a quest for oneself and ones truths, is something that both Atheism and the theists share... (or at least on some level started that way) If I'd quit at the "Wrong" part... I'd have lost a deeper understanding. Shutting down of ideas, even when "illogical" can also shut down other understandings that transcend logic. Sometimes the illogical path teaches you more. "Why not buy bread at the store? It's illogical. Takes too much time." Because sometimes making something, seeing where things came from, taking the long way around teaches you empathy. And empathy doesn't necessarily have logic or reason attached to it, but I think we agree that humans are better humans for empathy.

ETA: Some atheists also have issues with participating in religious ceremonies as if it will offend them or auto convert them or their children, which is about as silly as some theists thinking that exploration of other religions is somehow a "sin" and invites evil... also dislike those specific thoughts in those atheists. I prefer exploring all the religions of the world, the ways people view it, what it means to them, valuing science, reason, logic, illogical, feelings, intuition, philosophy and thinking that the way other people think isn't necessarily auto-invalid or "wrong"--it's just another way in the world. And I think that kicks me out of all the religions and the atheists as far as I know. Also kicks me out of the Agnostics too. I like my world gray and I'm willing to live with the world not so defined because I find it more beautiful that way.
 
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What? That kind of sweeping (and quite wrong) statement is just what Richard was writing about in his opening post.

Well, everyone says that statement is wrong, but what seems to be wrong about is that it suggests that atheists might possibly see religions differently from non-atheists. It way be sweeping (and quite wrong), but there is something plausible to the idea that (as a general rule) something about atheism could offer a different way of looking at religions. What seems to confuse people is that something based in logic seems sweeping (as in all A's have the possibility of seeing X differently from all participants in X) since the nature of the participation (at least logically) is different. Is logic excluded from discussions of atheism because it all-too-clearly defines possible categories?

After all, what if I do see things differently? It seems possible and plausible that I do, even if nothing but bare denials meet my affirmation. Apparently flat out denials of a possibly different atheist viewpoint are not sweeping at all, but arrive from simple necessities deeper than any logic.
 

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The idea that a scientific world view is anti-intuition is one of the myths made up about science.

The development of a scientific idea is a multistage process.

The first stage, development of a hypothesis, is a highly imaginative and often intuitive step. The genius of many brilliant scientists is found in this stage.

Once a hypothesis is created the goal shifts from invention to testing. Science requires that a hypothesis be tested against reality. Here is where reason kicks in. The hypothesis is analyzed and its consequences are discerned. The goal is to find consequences of the idea that can be tested by observation and/or experiment.

Once such consequences are deduced, experiments must be run or data gathered to see if the hypothesis seems to fit reality. If so, good, if not it may be necessary to modify or scrap the hypothesis.


The distinction here is in the question of where intuition is to be used. In science, intuition is a vital part of creation, but is irrelevant in testing. This is important because reality far too often does not fit intuition and therefore intuition is not a useful test for reality.

There's a further complication when talking about reason in this process. There's reason which is a mental process, and there's reasonableness which is a judgement of the quality of an idea. Most of the time the word reasonable has no relation to the word reason. Most of the time reasonable means conforming to the preconceptions of the speaker.
 
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