Religion - old and bureaucratic priesthood or young and threatening cult?

(Toronto, Canada) WHAT IS A RELIGION anyway? Merely a set of beliefs held dogmatically to be the one right answer? Or must it be concerned with supernatural forces or superhuman powers and forces specifically?

This is something a Jehovah's Witness has never explainged to me. Since most of my understanding of what a religion is officially comes from them, I will probably proceed in my ignorance indefinitely, having as my only alternative the secular sources of the academic. (This latter seems to exclude friends of a more religious nature who are also willing to admit to it.)

Of the secular models, I've always preferred the cult or the mafia model of religion. Both involve groups of people in power hierarchies working together to some end (or a few ends if there are inner and outer circles in the group). Like the many churches, these structures employ some people and treat most of the rest as the "flock". There are the third type - the "in the knowers" - who are fundamental in continuing the agendas of the organization - both inner and outer agendas usually.



Date: Fri, 14 Apr 1995 17:36:48
Subject: Religion

Why bother at all if You're so indifferent about the matter? I mean why stress it at all?

People seem to be comfortable with the Big Bang theory.

I never stopped being curious,who started the big bang and where did he come from.

What does the word void mean?Nothingness? What does eternity mean?

If I was to tell you that I met the man from Galilee in person would you believe that?.How could I make you believe.

If an angel with a silvertrumpet handed over this piece of text?


And so on and on and on.


Date: Sat, 15 Apr 1995 19:52:53
Subject: Re: Religion

Hi Nils-Erik,

Let's see .. where should I begin here? Nice to hear from you again!

>Why bother at all if You're so indifferent about the matter?
>I mean why stress it at all?

I see religion not so much as about a supernatural being so much as about the shape of the culture that various people have. And more broadly, I see religion as a seriously held metaphysical commitment - one which cannot (for one reason or another) be justified or verified in any way. This holds as much for "Being a lawyer is the way to go." as for"God is Good." It also applies, I'd say, to the Big Bang theory. Its the so called best explanation science has provided for the source of all we know. And one has to be a fiedeist to accept that arguemnt. That is, one must believe that rational argument and good evidence (the best we have) leads to an acceptible conclusion - one we should hold to. This is the status of the big bang, as far as I know.

So rather than being indifferent about these things - as a matter of belief I am, but as a matter of methodology, I am certainly not. It is good methodology to practice the pursuit of the best theories even if not true. And this includes the theory that religion plays an interesting role for human civilization even if not that which the religion itself might advocate as the role. To me, the religions seem primarily to instutionalize certain civilizing forces that might not have survived the human condition otherwise. That much authoritarian control was probably in general necessary to produce humans who cooperated in larger than tribe size groups. Noq of course we have other tools to this end, but these are more recent, and religion still acts as one of the major contributors to this.

So although I am not in the least concerned with the state of the various hypothesized metaphysical beings (gods, big bangs, etc), I am intersested in why the f*&k my next door neighbours seem to be living by standards and values of the middle ages. The civilizing / brainwashing tools are a large part of the answer. Where they impede violence they also impede individualism of other sorts - creativity, free thinking, exploration without bounds.

[Gotta go! They're throwing me a surprise party. :) ]



An intelligent and agreeable data point courtesy Mark Nesbitt.

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