What is a "religion"?

Discussion in 'Philosophy' started by iBrian, Sep 2, 2003.

  1. Susma Rio Sep

    Susma Rio Sep Well-Known Member

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    Re-inventing the wheel

    I am thinking of a possibly different understanding of religion. But maybe I might be re-inventing the wheel.

    If people did not continue to think of other ways and means of transportation, the airplane and the bullet train would not have been invented.

    Right now I am working on physiology as the basis of all studies of religion.

    Before anything else, there is physiology; and it is the foundation of all human behavior, whether it be on the purely muscular level, or even the affective and the intellective levels.

    Without a physiology and a smooth operating one, how can any behavior on any level, even the affective and intellective levels be carried out properly?

    Now, the assumption is that religion whatever it be is still within the three levels of human operations which are foundationally physiological:
    muscular, affective, intellective.

    Therefore, my investigation now is into these three levels as approach to the study of religion, and broadly the physiological aspects of religion.

    Susma Rio Sep
     
  2. Susma Rio Sep

    Susma Rio Sep Well-Known Member

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    physiology and physiology alone?

    The more I think about it the more I seem to see the certainty that religion should be studied from the standpoint of physiology.

    Before anything else there is physiology. Proof of that? If your physiology is not working, you won't have anything going, not even religion.

    Consider that when you are sick, do you think that you can function properly and productively or optimally in your affective and intellective life?

    Now, religion is also a phenomenon of life, the organic life of physiology.

    Religion belongs to the levels of affection and intellection, which are physiologically founded and circumscribed within the nervous and the brain components of man's physiology.

    Consider this fact, when you are in a coma, or unconscious from anaesthesia, your affection and intellection functions are suspended at best if not crossed out. Where then is religion here.

    Is this a case of matter over mind, the mind understood as the proper domain of religion. Or body over spirit?

    How do we establish the bridge between the physiology and the religious sectors of the human entity; even though we can know from logic that without a physiology no one has ever founded any religion?

    Susma Rio Sep
     
  3. Susma Rio Sep

    Susma Rio Sep Well-Known Member

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    boon or bane

    To repeat my already tedious definition of religion:

    I have brought in physiology and now consider physiology as the basis of religion, and of course of all human behaviors and endeavors.

    How to bridge physiology over into religion, as by a ladder to climb over to another plane of activity for the human entity?

    But is it necessary to bridge over? Only if one thinks that religion is a level or sphere of activity or human behavior above and even transcendental to other human processes.

    A new word, process. I am viewing all kinds of ideas and all kinds of observations on the phenomenon we call religion, and trying to formulate a definition that will contain every religion that anyone who thinks he knows religion and uses the word, religion, will label the phenomenon as religion; and I have to search for ideas and words, even fashion unfamiliar ideas and words.

    Coming back to bridging over from physiology to religion: Why indeed bridge over? In order to justify the exemption of religion from all the rules whereby the human mind understands all human behavior, namely, and again, from the basis of physiology?

    Let us then restrict ourselves to physiology in our attempts to fashion a definition of religion that will fit all religions whose adherents allow at least themselves to be adnumerated within a religion. For those who don’t allow themselves to be adnumerated within a religion, we will leave them to their disavowal; but it is still incumbent upon us as curious observers to analyze their behavior in their self-claimed non-religion, whether in fact it is religion.

    “Boon or bane” is a phrase I have chanced upon to explain the physiology of religion, as with all human behaviors.

    Every human action and act is susceptible to autopsy, indulging in the use of a very clinical term, to the query what is the boon or bane to his physiology.

    So in every religious so-called action or act, it is very instructive to find the boon to access to or the bane to recess from, that is the end quest of the human entity. The boon or the bane can be all merely in the thought of the agent, but no less real insofar as the agent is concerned.

    Examine now the simple act of going to church on a Sunday: What are the boons and banes involved on the Sunday church-goer? And can they be resolved to the levels of physiology: organs, nerves, and brain, and all their appurtenances: movements, operations, processes, emotions, passions, and mental functions. To put it in figurative terms: boons and banes to accede to or to recede from in regard to one’s body, heart, and mind.

    Another example, the Buddhist in his meditation, what is the boon acceding to him and the bane precluded from him when he is in meditation? He is during meditation out of harm’s way in regard to his body and in a kind of rest and recuperation in regard to his heart and mind – and even expansion of the reaches of his heart and mind.

    Susma Rio Sep
     
  4. Susma Rio Sep

    Susma Rio Sep Well-Known Member

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    Boons and banes of Sunday worship

    What are the benefits of going to Sunday worship?

    Let us imagine that we are not acquainted with the doctrines and commandments and observances as put down in words of the church-goers, and try to see what are the advantages of people going to church on a Sunday, just with our eyes and mental view.

    First, not in the order of importance, those with some new clothing to display, going to church is a good way and occasion to exhibit their latest fashion. Displaying one's new and better acquisitions is satisfying to human nature. Where else can you have the excuse to present your earthly worth to your neighbors: new cars, new couture, new jewels, and even a new girlfriend or wife, boyfriend or husband.

    Second, one gets to meet with other people for the pleasure of social intercourse, which is also satisfying to human nature. Here you can sit back and observe people, get acquainted with new friends and revive old friendships.

    Next, there is good music and singing in the church, which again is satisfying to human nature. There is a lot of arts in the church and in the service, a kind of religious pomp and circumstance.

    I will just mention one more, if on a Sunday you find yourself with time on your hands, and nowhere to go and nothing to do; then go to church. As I said about Buddhist meditation, so also being in church is to be out of harm’s way.

    There are also many advantages in going to church, in the world of words. Ask people going to church and they will tell you all kinds of benefits or blessings as words can describe which they have learned also through words from their religious mentors. But we are just limiting ourselves to boons which are visible even to one without skill of writing words and listening to them.

    What about the banes of going to church on Sundays: loss of time which can be used to more absorbing pursuit, and the trouble and labor of getting there, and the patience and tedium of surviving the function to the last benediction. Look at the congregation and you will see all these banes in a good number of faces.

    And if you will listen to the words of religious ministers, they will tell you all kinds of invisible and future harms that can come your way for not going to worship service on Sundays.

    My point is that in religion there are all kinds of boons and banes to be attained and to be avoided.

    Susma Rio Sep
     
  5. Susma Rio Sep

    Susma Rio Sep Well-Known Member

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    Religion, a system of boons and banes

    Summing up so far and for the present about religion as a human behavior, we can say it is a system of activities where the boons and banes are clearly spelled out and the boons; and banes are an or the essential motivating scaffolding.

    In other human behaviors such as sports, business, marriage, the boons are not dependent upon correlative or reciprocal banes.

    In religion, if the subject does not intend and work for the boons he incurs the banes. For example, in the monotheistic religions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, if you don’t work for the approval of God and His boons, He will visit you with His banes. In Buddhism, if you don’t work for the liberation from suffering in accordance with Buddhistic teachings and methods, you will suffer. (However, with intellectual Buddhists, there is no God character dispensing boons and banes; unless you consider their whole system as their God.)

    We are now in the sphere of fright and flight on the one hand, and zest and quest on the other, an essential inverse or contrarietal reciprocity in religion.

    In there another kind of human behavior where such a contrarietal reciprocity is fundamental? What about law? It seems to be similar to religion in its boons and banes. But in law, the boon is too diffuse: the general well-being of society, but the banes are specific and defined with precision and inexorable. Then also in law the author-enforcer of the whole system is visible to the eye and can be felt in one’s skin from the say bludgeon of the policeman – but more on this aspect of religion later.

    Let us go back to the boons and banes of going to church on Sundays, sparingly enumerated in the previous post. The boons which are factual have no direct bearing with religion, but are incidental. Now, notice however that the really advocated boons and banes are not factual but verbal or conceptual, all in the mind and heart of the subject.

    Susma Rio Sep
     
  6. Vajradhara

    Vajradhara One of Many

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    Namaste Susma,

    hmm...

    well... i have to say that you are incorrect. it really would be a good idea to study up on this whole system before trying to define it.

    you don't experience dhukka if you don't practice... you experience dhukka all the time, even if you do practice. it is the recognition of this fact that may prompt some to begin the practice.

    moreover, i'm very unclear on this vague definitions that you are trying to paint Buddhists with. what is an "intellectual" or "elite" Buddhist? might i be one of those? somehow, i get the feeling that i may be.

    if you considered our system of practice to be God you would be woefully mistaken. remember, we just don't see the need for a God, we didn't replace it with our system of practice.
     
  7. Susma Rio Sep

    Susma Rio Sep Well-Known Member

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    Dispensers of boons and banes

    Who dispenses the boons and banes that are being sought by man in his behavior?

    Our parents, when we are dependent upon them and subject to them. Then we ourselves, when we can take care of ourselves. For boons and banes which are beyond our own resources to attain and to avoid, fellow human beings. And those which are beyond the resources of fellow humans to attain or to avoid?

    What or who else but unknown powers speculated upon by our imagination, which become personalized by us; so that we can implore their favors, negotiate with them on an exchange basis, or simply prostrate ourselves begging for their mercies.

    What are persons but beings who can exercise choices and specially can choose to be arbitrary. Man therefore endows unknown dispensers of boons and doers of banes with the trait of personality, no different from human personality, with preferences and whims, and susceptible to bargaining and cajoling.

    The big essential difference in items which belong to the big basket called religion, making them distinct from items not belonging there, is their relation to the unknown dispenser(s) of boons and banes, whose acquaintance man himself brings about by his imagination.

    When the imagination becomes habitual, it is belief or faith.

    Try this experiment: for every occurrence of the words, belief or faith, substitute the word ‘imagination'. Does it make any essential difference?

    For example, the ‘belief in God’ can be expressed equally well as the ‘imagination of God’; and ‘I believe in God’ can be stated as well with ‘I imagine God’.

    Do I believe in God? Certainly I do; I can imagine God and imagine Him to be a person. The important thing is that you take charge of your own imaginations of God; no need to subscribe to other people’s imaginations, howevef much they claim to be the chosen official storages of imagination, or that their imaginations are more dependable.

    Susma Rio Sep
     
  8. Susma Rio Sep

    Susma Rio Sep Well-Known Member

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    I seem to see people in a system as the masses and the elites. In Islam we have the imams and the ordinary followers of Mohammed; in Christianity we have the clergy and the laity; in Judaism, the rabbis and the ordinary Jews.

    Statistically, the ordinary masses in a religious system can make up 99% of the following; the one percent elites, connoisseurs, intellectuals, and even professionals, they are the ones who can think, and talk, and dissent among themselves on the doctrines and observances of their system.

    Even should you yourself choose to make a disclaimer that you are not an intellectual or elite of Buddhism, you definitely are not one of the masses of Buddhist groupings.

    The masses are uncomplicated, they just go for the boons and banes in Buddhism; and worship Buddha, without distinguishing like Catholics about latria, dulia, and hyperdulia. But the intellectual elites, they are the ones who think and formulate.

    And I suspect that at the end of the day, they are also no different from the masses; otherwise, either the masses of Christians and Buddhists and other religionists are not such, or the elites are not.

    Susma Rio Sep
     
  9. emong

    emong Well-Known Member

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    [edit by I, Brian]unacceptable content[/edit]
     
  10. Susma Rio Sep

    Susma Rio Sep Well-Known Member

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    The difference in religion

    Earlier I said that:

    I think I have clarified my thinking now on the difference in religion that makes it distinct from other human behaviors, like say sports, business, marriage, arts, etc.

    It is the ingredient of imagining a power that can and will respond to the believer like a person as we understand a person to be, subject to whims, likes, prejudices, susceptible to bargaining and flattery.

    Dear Emong, I am now trying to find out whether Buddhism is a religion on that basis of my definition, the peculiar factor of relating to an unknown power that is personified by the believer.

    We find this ingredient in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. In Buddhism I find it among the masses. But with the intellectuals, in their Buddhism, is it present? If not, then do they pray at all? I suspect that for the intellectuals Buddhism is essentially a philosophy of life and society, government, politics, like Rotarians or Lions or neo-Cons?

    I have to read the posts here in this website from Buddhists, whom I see to be elites, intellectuals, connoisseurs, theorists, spokesmen even.

    I know the Buddhism of the masses; they are no different from the Hindu masses and the Christian masses and the Muslim masses.

    Please be patient, if I appear to be without logic or consistency. When you look from afar at least you will see the outline of my thoughts in some conspicuous form.

    Susma Rio Sep
     
  11. iBrian

    iBrian Peace, Love and Unity Admin

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    Susma Rio Sep -

    Sincere apologies for emong's outburst - the post was twice reported to me and I have now removed it. I have also e-mailed emong stating that such behaviour is not acceptable here. I hope that this did not cause too much personal offence, and invite you to consider the matter dealt with.

    Best regards,

    Brian
     
  12. emong

    emong Well-Known Member

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    Dear Susma,

    I am very sorry for my outbust and I must admit that I could be more patient with you. However, since I perceive a clash in personalities, I will no longer reply to your posts.
    I apologise to you and also the other members of this forum.
    I do hope the other members have the patience and understanding to enlighten you on the ways of religion which you wish to generalize so much.

    A long and happy life to you,
    emong
     
  13. Thomas

    Thomas Administrator Admin

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    Well, I'm not a Buddhist, but generally I think this is a somewhat primitive definition of religion, or rather a definition of primitive religious practice.

    The development of belief systems, ordered by Revelation, has moved from an 'unknown power' to a 'known power' and the action of the believer is more an attempt to orientate themselves towards 'it', rather than appease 'it' with regard to themselves.

    You do highlight a point with regard to the masses, who (without offering offence) might not perceive the 'inner' or esoteric meaning implicit in their doctrines and thus petition for an immediate boon (which even so, is not necessarily denied).

    I recall the fad for Buddhist chanting a yew years ago - and one resonably intelligent and educated pop star who proclaimed the benefits of Buddhism because he'd chanted for a new Porsche and got one!

    This is not a dig, by the way, and no doubt there's more than a few Christians who have prayed their novenas in the hope of winning the lottery.

    Suffice to say that any devout Buddhist (or religious of any tradition come to that) regardless of his or her education would have enough common sense to know that this is a contradiction if not a profanity.

    The task of those gifted with insight (not necessarily intelligence) is to pass the fruit of their meditations on to their fellow-believers and it is in the nature of things that some will appear 'intellectuals' and know 'more' or 'deeper' than the majority.

    However, not every theologian is a saint, nor every saint a theologian, and sanctity and wisdom are invariably founded on plain old common sense rather than scholarship.

    In closing I would say a 'sense of the sacred' in which I include a sense of the presence of the Real, or the Divine, is the property of everyman, regardless of their education, but its expression might well appear limited due to the lack of opportunity afforded them.

    Thomas

    ps - afterthought - although the caste system is widely ill-favoured, the Brahmin, the priestly caste, was obliged to beg for his daily bread from the lower, which was a very good method of keeping the brahmin's head in proportion to the rest of his body, and a reminder that while one can have one's head in the theological clouds, one is also required to keep one's feet firmly on the ground.
     
  14. Phyllis Sidhe_Uaine

    Phyllis Sidhe_Uaine Junior Moderator, Intro Moderator

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    Actually, rabbis are merely teachers, nothing more. The Cohanim, on the other hand are the descendants of the high priests (if you want to get "technical".) bananabrain can give you more information if you're interested, since he is a bit more informed about this stuff than I am (he's halachic, I'm not and never was.)

    Phyllis Sidhe_Uaine
     
  15. Susma Rio Sep

    Susma Rio Sep Well-Known Member

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    More on elites and masses

    Is it conducive to know what is really happening in human behavior by just observing and not listening to words?

    Let us imagine that we are babies who still have not attained the skill of language, but with fully functional eyes and a working brain to think and draw conclusions.

    Put it this way, we are deaf and dumb and have not yet been introduced to sign language.

    Now, look at the activities of people, and we can discern a peculiar kind which can go together in a some basket of their own. This kind of activities is observation-wise different from other kinds.

    Pardon the use of words, but for the sake of this exercise we have to use words, otherwise we would not be able to communicate. Nonetheless, for the purpose that I am now engaged in we can indulge ourselves in a deaf and dumb world.

    Coming back to elities and masses in a religion, seeing that they both belong to that basket which we see with our eyes and perceive in our minds to be engaged in activities different and distinct from sports, business, marriage, politics, etc. Let us observe.

    What do we see? and not to be offensive to any parties, but just to be purely academic, even being deaf and dumb, we see that for the elites as opposed to the masses, the formers are living off or living on the latters. The reason is because they are so busy with their religious thougths and acts.

    Religion is good for the elites who do live off or on religion, and specifically on the masses who are instructed and led by them.

    So, we have to study the inner motivation of the elites. With the masses it is clear, they are after favors from the unknown powers they believe in.

    Susma Rio Sep
     
  16. Vajradhara

    Vajradhara One of Many

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    Namaste susma,

    thank you for the post.

    well... i supppose that there isn't another way to say this.

    i fundamentally and wholeheartedly disagree with your characterization of Buddhism and your representation of what you think it is.

    in every possible way, i have tried to communicate to you that you have misunderstood or misapprehended what was being done or being taught. it does not seem as if you have given any creedence to my words here, and why should you? who am i to say?

    which is why i directed to you to several web resources that are authentic and explain what is being done and by whom and for what reasons.

    from your continued explanation of "masses" and "elites" i know that you have not visited those sites. that is fine, if you choose not to visit, however, i cannot engage in a dialog with you in this regard until and unless you are willing to revise your preconceived notion of what Buddhism is.

    you don't have to take my word for it, in fact, i would strongly suggest that you not do so.. and rather, do as the Buddha instructed... "come and see for yourself"

    for basic Buddhist teachings that correspond with the First Turning of the Wheel, please visit www.buddhanet.net
     
  17. Thresher

    Thresher Member

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    I tend to see religion as an organized belief system in supernatural forces. Atheism, science and philosophy as different ways for people to make sense of life and the world. Kind of similar, but no worship of deities.
     
  18. Susma Rio Sep

    Susma Rio Sep Well-Known Member

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    religion, philosophy, science

    Thresher, what do you think of my definition of religion:

    In your few words where you tend to see religion, I think we have the same idea of what religion is all about. Hope you don't find it unpleasant that I encounter in your mind something akin to my own thinking.

    Here is my definition of philosophy:

    And here is my definition of science:

     
  19. Susma Rio Sep

    Susma Rio Sep Well-Known Member

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    Word of words and world of facts

    The world of facts is that founded, for man and all organic life, on physiology, and physics and chemistry. Is there another world out there or in the mind of man that is not founded upon physiology, physics and chemistry?

    Yes, there is. It is the world of religion.

    My suspicion of this world of religion is that it is basically founded upon words and more words. Not that words are of no relevancy to physiology, and physics and chemistry. But words can spin off-tangent into spheres that unless and until we bring them back to their foundational scaffolding in physiology, physics chemistry, we would be living and talking in a world of pure words .

    That is why when we enter into religion, we are asked to accept words and more words. Once these words are accepted and made routine items in our mind, everything makes sense in the area of human activities we call religion.

    The question is do facts dictate words or words dictate facts? Do physiology, physics and chemistry dictate our conception of reality, or does our mind dictate reality or the world of facts.

    Coming back to the masses and the elites in religion -- and we will not talk about Buddhism for the present, because I still have to observe more about their ways and words (and besides, we don't know whether they are a religion or a philosophy, more like a philosophy than a religion as far as the elites are in question), we observe that the elites are in charge of the masses, and how did they manage to attain a poisiton of psychological super-ordination over the masses? By words.

    Did not someone or some people are always going forth to preach, to convince by words? and to accept the world fashioned by words of the preacher and the founders of religion.

    But when we examine the world of words preached by the elites about their religious systems, we are right away again instructed not to connect this world which they are advocating to the world of physiology, and physics and chemistry.

    "Martha, Martha, you are occupied with many things; Mary has chosen the better or the best concern."(?)

    At the end of the day, everyone still has to repair to the kitchen for their physiological need, and ask about the bathroom.

    The challenge is to trace the physiology in every religion. I maintain that it is a legitimate curiosity, and explanation for the phenomenon we call religion.

    Susma Rio Sep
     
  20. Susma Rio Sep

    Susma Rio Sep Well-Known Member

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    elites gravitating to the top

    Primitive is also original, and original can be authentic and genuine as opposed to polished and embossed and modified.

    Unknown is understood as not certain to be present, and not susceptible to prediction on its reaction as to be typical of uniformity and consistency, very like the essential 'person'.

    Insight vs Intelligence, a very good distinction, but for people with intelligence, we must subject insight to intelligence.

    Sense of the sacred, still within the sense just the same, for all its attribution of sacredness.


    About begging for a living, I maintain that true mystics should really work for a living; otherwise, they can be justly accused of the convenience of mysticism for an easy living on the tears and sweats of others, their followers.

    Susma Rio Sep
     

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