What is the meaning of religion

Discuss philosophical questions regarding theism (and atheism), and discuss religion as it relates to philosophy. This includes any philosophical discussions that happen to be about god, gods, or a 'higher power' or the belief of them. This also generally includes philosophical topics about organized or ritualistic mysticism or about organized, common or ritualistic beliefs in the existence of supernatural phenomenon.
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Alias
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Re: What is the meaning of religion

Post by Alias » October 1st, 2017, 10:10 pm

Dark Matter wrote: Societies need some kind of structure in order to function.
A system of ethics and laws, yes. I would prefer them to be based on the actual needs of actual people than on magical thinking.
The statement, “Every impulse of every electron, thought, or spirit is an acting unit in the whole universe” is reasonable in terms of both religion and mathematics.
Except the spirit part. You snuck that one in from magic-land.

On the other hand, statements like "Just don't foist it on others" speaks of a deep-seated fear of having to answer to a higher authority, power, or reality.[/quote]
A deep-seated fear of Inquisitions, yes. Seemed reasonable enough to me.
It's a way of saying “I don't want to listen to anyone, much less the music coming from the abyss because I believe what's good for me (or my group) is good for the world and the universe.”
No, it isn't a way of saying that - whatever that is. If that's what you're hearing, you're listening to the abyss, not me. But I sure as hell don't want to be ruled by "interpreters" of the music inside their own heads, when it comes to deciding whether to stab my daughter to death for wearing the wrong dress or sacrificing bullocks, or blowing up perinatal clinics.
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Evil gravity? Really?

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Re: What is the meaning of religion

Post by Atreyu » October 1st, 2017, 10:28 pm

Steve3007 wrote: This would suggest that you wouldn't rule out the creation of artificial consciousness by a conscious agent like a human being?

There really isn't any "artificial consciousness". Consciousness is "natural". But certainly conscious entities could create imitation conscious entities (computers, robots).
Steve3007 wrote: The only thing you seem to rule out for sure is the spontaneous emergence of consciousness. So, much like Ranvier's "conservation of of purpose" law, you postulate a kind of "conservation of consciousness" law. I can't really argue against that because it's simply an assertion of something that you believe to be true. The only thing I would point out is that other conservation laws (such as "conservation of energy") are arrived at by Inductive generalization from specific cases. i.e. they stand or fall by our ability to verify or falsify them.

The evidence available so far seems to me to falsify "conservation of consciousness". i.e. the only place in the universe where we know consciousness to exist is the surface of the planet Earth. And we have a lot of evidence that at some point in the past the surface of the Earth did not exist. You've said in the past that life (and therefore consciousness?) could have been carried here on asteroids/meteors/whatever. I've pointed out that those objects also didn't exist at some point in the past.
I don't postulate any kind of "conservation of consciousness" law. A living organism can become more conscious, all I'm saying is that it would be impossible if there were no help from a consciousness which is greater than the organism in question. A machine, on its own, cannot learn how to become conscious. If there's any hope of a machine becoming conscious, it could only come about due to the help and direction of an already existing consciousness.

So consciousness can grow, i.e. the Universe can become more conscious, only this growth cannot begin from absolute zero, that's all.

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Re: What is the meaning of religion

Post by Burning ghost » October 1st, 2017, 10:51 pm

Count Luncanor -

What does this mean:
It's not religion's pursuit of values, but man's pursuits shaping his values according to his concrete conditions of existence, which can take the form of religion. These institutions are not tied to the religious impulse; in fact, religiosity is another institution of which we can find the origin in social life, which is determined by the material conditions of existence.
What are the "concrete conditions of existence"? What is your general view and reply to the OP?
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Re: What is the meaning of religion

Post by Dark Matter » October 2nd, 2017, 1:11 am

Alias wrote: A system of ethics and laws, yes. I would prefer them to be based on the actual needs of actual people than on magical thinking.
The statement, “Every impulse of every electron, thought, or spirit is an acting unit in the whole universe” is reasonable in terms of both religion and mathematics.
Except the spirit part. You snuck that one in from magic-land.
:lol: I deliberately said that knowing you'd latch on to the "spirit" part and dismiss the larger message.

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Re: What is the meaning of religion

Post by Alias » October 2nd, 2017, 1:24 am

Dark Matter wrote: :lol: I deliberately said that knowing you'd latch on to the "spirit" part and dismiss the larger message.
So, you didn't want "the larger message" noticed? Odd. To whom is this large message addressed? And why's it in code?

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Re: What is the meaning of religion

Post by Burning ghost » October 2nd, 2017, 2:00 am

Count Lucanor wrote:The best account of what religion really means:

"The foundation of irreligious criticism is: Man makes religion, religion does not make man. Religion is, indeed, the self-consciousness and self-esteem of man who has either not yet won through to himself, or has already lost himself again. But man is no abstract being squatting outside the world. Man is the world of man – state, society. This state and this society produce religion, which is an inverted consciousness of the world, because they are an inverted world. Religion is the general theory of this world, its encyclopaedic compendium, its logic in popular form, its spiritual point d’honneur, its enthusiasm, its moral sanction, its solemn complement, and its universal basis of consolation and justification. It is the fantastic realization of the human essence since the human essence has not acquired any true reality. The struggle against religion is, therefore, indirectly the struggle against that world whose spiritual aroma is religion.

Religious suffering is, at one and the same time, the expression of real suffering and a protest against real suffering. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.

The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is the demand for their real happiness. To call on them to give up their illusions about their condition is to call on them to give up a condition that requires illusions. The criticism of religion is, therefore, in embryo, the criticism of that vale of tears of which religion is the halo.
"
From where by whom? I see quotations without any reference to who the author was?

Besides, there is very little in the way of your own expression of what this means to you. In what context am I meant to take this as any kind of an explanation?
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Re: What is the meaning of religion

Post by Steve3007 » October 2nd, 2017, 3:06 am

Dark Matter:
Why should it surprise you? Comments like "Just don't foist it on others" is a defensive stance against values, not beliefs. It raises the question why the only ones who interpret religious beliefs to be truth-statements are critics and fundamentalists.
If I look around at the real world, it doesn't generally seem to be about that. It seems a lot more tied to the specifics of individual cultures. People who say things like that mostly appear to be annoyed about various aspects of the culture in which they live, such as not being allowed to hold political office unless they make various utterances, like "I believe in God" or ", God We Trust" and such-like. There appears to be a huge range of opinion as to what such utterances might mean. But the objection doesn't seem to be about that question. It just seems to be about the requirement to make the utterances and similar concrete issues.
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Re: What is the meaning of religion

Post by Dark Matter » October 2nd, 2017, 3:57 am

Burning ghost wrote:
Count Lucanor wrote:The best account of what religion really means:

"The foundation of irreligious criticism is: Man makes religion, religion does not make man. Religion is, indeed, the self-consciousness and self-esteem of man who has either not yet won through to himself, or has already lost himself again. But man is no abstract being squatting outside the world. Man is the world of man – state, society. This state and this society produce religion, which is an inverted consciousness of the world, because they are an inverted world. Religion is the general theory of this world, its encyclopaedic compendium, its logic in popular form, its spiritual point d’honneur, its enthusiasm, its moral sanction, its solemn complement, and its universal basis of consolation and justification. It is the fantastic realization of the human essence since the human essence has not acquired any true reality. The struggle against religion is, therefore, indirectly the struggle against that world whose spiritual aroma is religion.

Religious suffering is, at one and the same time, the expression of real suffering and a protest against real suffering. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.

The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is the demand for their real happiness. To call on them to give up their illusions about their condition is to call on them to give up a condition that requires illusions. The criticism of religion is, therefore, in embryo, the criticism of that vale of tears of which religion is the halo.
"
From where by whom? I see quotations without any reference to who the author was?

Besides, there is very little in the way of your own expression of what this means to you. In what context am I meant to take this as any kind of an explanation?
I think CL is embarrassed to say it was Karl Marx.
Alias wrote:
Dark Matter wrote: :lol: I deliberately said that knowing you'd latch on to the "spirit" part and dismiss the larger message.
So, you didn't want "the larger message" noticed? Odd. To whom is this large message addressed? And why's it in code?
There's no code or hidden message. The larger message is easily discerned by anyone who is not myopic. If you agree that “Every impulse of every electron or thought is an acting unit in the whole universe” (I omitted the word "spirit"), then, in order to be logically consistent you must also agree with Joseph de Maistre who wrote:
Man in harmony with his Creator [or the Whole] is sublime, and his action is creative; equally, once he separates himself from God and acts alone, he does not cease to be powerful, since this is the privilege of his nature, but his acts are negative and lead only to destruction.
That is to say, a system of ethics and laws based solely on "the actual needs of actual people," being imposed without reference to the larger order, is negative and leads only to destruction." (Of course, I fully expect you to question the logic without making a counterpoint.)

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Re: What is the meaning of religion

Post by Steve3007 » October 2nd, 2017, 4:39 am

Dark Matter:
statements like "Just don't foist it on others" speaks of a deep-seated fear of having to answer to a higher authority, power, or reality. It's a way of saying “I don't want to listen to anyone, much less the music coming from the abyss because I believe what's good for me (or my group) is good for the world and the universe.”
I generally don't read as much into it as that. I think it's a way of asking a particular bunch of people not to foist something on another particular bunch of people. I haven't noticed the people who make this complaint being anarchists, who reject all concepts of authority and refuse to listen to anyone (quite the reverse), or abysal music haters or anything. (Although, to be fair, I don't know what an abyssal music hater would look like.)
“Every impulse of every electron, thought, or spirit is an acting unit in the whole universe”
Is this statement from that article you cited? I can't find it. If not, is it supposed to be understood in its own right? If so, my language skills are letting me down again. I don't know what it's meant to mean. I must be one of those myopic people about which I've heard tell! It looks like it's saying something like: "Every little bit of the universe is a little bit of the universe", but in a more vague and waffly way. But it can't be saying that, because then it wouldn't be saying anything.
a system of ethics and laws based solely on "the actual needs of actual people," being imposed without reference to the larger order, is negative and leads only to destruction."
This part, I think I understand better because it appears to actually say something. We're back to moral absolutism versus moral relativism. It says: "moral absolutes that exist independently of the people to whom those morals apply are negative and lead to destruction.". i.e. it's a declaration of the importance of moral absolutes.

I may not agree with it, but I do at least understand what it's trying to say. That's a start.

-- Updated Mon Oct 02, 2017 10:08 am to add the following --

Correction of a pretty stupid typo, on my part. I meant to say:

It says: "moral absolutes that don't exist independently of the people to whom those morals apply are negative and lead to destruction."

-- Updated Mon Oct 02, 2017 10:20 am to add the following --

on the article about the parallels between religious/spiritual ideas and mathematics:

I agree with the author that the question of whether science and religion can co-exist is not very interesting. They clearly do co-exist.

The main body of the article seems to be about a metaphor which is similar to the ancient philosophical concept of "the music of the spheres".

What I don't understand is why anybody would think that because science is a useful tool it is the only thing in life. It's a useful tool. Life isn't all about tools. That doesn't automatically have anything to do with religion, as I understand that word.
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Re: What is the meaning of religion

Post by Count Lucanor » October 2nd, 2017, 8:12 am

Burning ghost wrote:
Count Lucanor wrote:The best account of what religion really means:

"The foundation of irreligious criticism is: Man makes religion, religion does not make man...
The criticism of religion is, therefore, in embryo, the criticism of that vale of tears of which religion is the halo.
"
From where by whom? I see quotations without any reference to who the author was?

Besides, there is very little in the way of your own expression of what this means to you. In what context am I meant to take this as any kind of an explanation?
That quote is one of the most well-known in the history of philosophy. Ignorance of it allows me to assess the competence in Philosophy of potential debaters.

Secondly, I already ellaborated on the subject in support of such view. Feel free to argue as you wish.

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Re: What is the meaning of religion

Post by Alias » October 2nd, 2017, 9:08 am

Dark Matter wrote: That is to say, a system of ethics and laws based solely on "the actual needs of actual people," being imposed without reference to the larger order, is negative and leads only to destruction." (Of course, I fully expect you to question the logic without making a counterpoint.)
I never question the "logic" of people who get their values from singing holes.
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Re: What is the meaning of religion

Post by Burning ghost » October 2nd, 2017, 10:23 am

Count -

You've not really elaborated, that is why I asked. All quotes should be cited correctly I believe.

As for my ignorance, I am more than happy to show it and proud I can do so without feeling ashamed about it :)

I will assume you were offering a compliment for now and deem me competent.

I'll ask again ... in what context are we supposed to appreciate your view of religion as institution and/or, as a human endeavor?
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Re: What is the meaning of religion

Post by Dark Matter » October 2nd, 2017, 1:39 pm

Steve3007 wrote:
“Every impulse of every electron, thought, or spirit is an acting unit in the whole universe”
Is this statement from that article you cited? I can't find it. If not, is it supposed to be understood in its own right? If so, my language skills are letting me down again. I don't know what it's meant to mean. I must be one of those myopic people about which I've heard tell! It looks like it's saying something like: "Every little bit of the universe is a little bit of the universe", but in a more vague and waffly way. But it can't be saying that, because then it wouldn't be saying anything.
My bad. It comes from The Urantia Book. I sometimes forget to follow excerpts with "UB" in parentheses. What it says is nothing at all different that what science and the higher religions say: the universe is one vast web of interconnected relationships. People don't see it, but a leaf cannot turn or a thought stir without simultaneously affecting the most distant star. Indra's Net illustrates this better than science's dry and colorless idea of non-locality.
a system of ethics and laws based solely on "the actual needs of actual people," being imposed without reference to the larger order, is negative and leads only to destruction."
This part, I think I understand better because it appears to actually say something. We're back to moral absolutism versus moral relativism. It says: "moral absolutes [don't] exist independently of the people to whom those morals apply are negative and lead to destruction.". i.e. it's a declaration of the importance of moral absolutes.

I may not agree with it, but I do at least understand what it's trying to say. That's a start.
Yes. And this is where what Joseph de Maistre said (post #98) becomes important in understanding the human condition and religion's role. Man's estrangement from the whole creates for him a dual-existence. It's not moral absolutism verses moral relativism, but moral absolutism and moral relativism. The challenge is harmonize our finite nature with the nature of the Whole.

For example (and this is a very touchy subject), animal husbandry uses eugenics to breed faster horses, different temperaments in dogs (pit bulls bred for fighting vs. golden retrievers, for example) and more productive cows. It's to the point now that no one seriously doubts the role genes play in human behavior, but, at the same time, the mere mention of using eugenics to curb crime sends people into an apocalyptic shock. But human beings are not above the same rules they use in breeding animals.
What I don't understand is why anybody would think that because science is a useful tool it is the only thing in life. It's a useful tool. Life isn't all about tools. That doesn't automatically have anything to do with religion, as I understand that word.
I think it's a wonderful parable illustrating the interaction between science and religion and how they meet at the abyss. I think the final paragraph sums it up quite nicely:
...those that understand the eternal mystery best impulsively lean over the railing into the abyss because they know in their bones that there is something out there. Whether they encounter something depends on factors that elude many of their less imaginative peers. This is a deeply religious impulse: one that goes beyond science, but not one without motivation.

-- Updated October 2nd, 2017, 1:43 pm to add the following --

For those who missed it, here's the link: Mathematics and the Religious Impulse

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Re: What is the meaning of religion

Post by Steve3007 » October 2nd, 2017, 2:52 pm

Dark Matter:
What it says is nothing at all different that what science and the higher religions say: the universe is one vast web of interconnected relationships. People don't see it, but a leaf cannot turn or a thought stir without simultaneously affecting the most distant star. Indra's Net illustrates this better than science's dry and colorless idea of non-locality.
OK. Now I understand. It's what Douglas Adams called the "fundamental interconnectedness of all things" (in one of his books) and it was the basis for the idea of the Total Perspective Vortex in which the entire universe is extrapolated from one small piece of fairy cake (in another of his books).

In order to manage the complexity of the world we compartmentalize. Not just when we're "doing science" but in every aspect of our lives. We assume that most of the strands of this web of connectivity, for most purposes, can be ignored. We have to do this to function at all. The question of when this method of making sense of the world does and does not work - its pros and cons - is at least a whole topic in itself.
Yes. And this is where what Joseph de Maistre said (post #98) becomes important in understanding the human condition and religion's role. Man's estrangement from the whole creates for him a dual-existence.
No, I still don't get this connection yet. As I said, the subject of Reductionism versus a more holistic approach to understanding the world is an interesting one. But we're all Reductionists, regardless of whether we hold any religious views.

(Joseph de Maistre, post #98):
Man in harmony with his Creator [or the Whole] is sublime, and his action is creative; equally, once he separates himself from God and acts alone, he does not cease to be powerful, since this is the privilege of his nature, but his acts are negative and lead only to destruction.
It's not moral absolutism verses moral relativism, but moral absolutism and moral relativism. The challenge is harmonize our finite nature with the nature of the Whole.
Again, I'm not getting this yet. It still seems to be that what you're talking about is moral absolutism, as I understand that term. My understanding:

Moral absolutism = the belief that our morals are underwritten by a universal morality which exists independantly of humans and is therefore unchanged by individual humans' views of what is right and wrong.

Moral relativism = the belief that morals come from some form of humans consensus and that they can therefore change if humans want them to.
For example (and this is a very touchy subject), animal husbandry uses eugenics to breed faster horses, different temperaments in dogs (pit bulls bred for fighting vs. golden retrievers, for example) and more productive cows. It's to the point now that no one seriously doubts the role genes play in human behavior, but, at the same time, the mere mention of using eugenics to curb crime sends people into an apocalyptic shock. But human beings are not above the same rules they use in breeding animals.
I think you're confusing two completely different usages of the word "rule". It's very commonly done. We're not above the descriptive rules of genetics and evolution. But those are not the same thing as the prescriptive rules that we make with the purpose of running our societies. We, being humans, afford more rights to humans than we do to other animals which we use as livestock. That's why treating humans in the same way that we treat livestock is unacceptable to most people.

That and the fact that eugenics obviously got an extremely bad name when this same mixing up of the two meanings of the word "rule" was done by the Nazis in order to incorrectly try to use (a misrepresentation of) the Theory of Evolution as a prescription rather than as a description.
I think it's a wonderful parable illustrating the interaction between science and religion and how they meet at the abyss. I think the final paragraph sums it up quite nicely:
Yes, I appreciate the poetry of it. As I say, it reminds me very much of the music of the spheres. It's interesting how captivating that idea was. Perhaps, in science, the most famous example of a person who was captivated by it was Kepler when he tried to fit the orbits of the planets into the circles which the ancient Greeks had told him they should fit in order to harmonize.
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Re: What is the meaning of religion

Post by Dark Matter » October 2nd, 2017, 5:57 pm

Steve3007 wrote:
But we're all Reductionists, regardless of whether we hold any religious views.
Some more than others. The quote below is from the movie Lucy. The whole script seems to have been written around the idea of getting the statement out to an audience.
“Humans consider themselves unique, so they've rooted their whole theory of existence on their uniqueness. 'One' is their unit of measure. But it's not. All social systems we've put into place are a mere sketch. 'One plus one equals two.' That's all we've learned. But one plus one has never equaled two. There are, in fact, no numbers and no letters. We've codified our existence to bring it down to human size, to make it comprehensible. We've created a scale so we can forget its unfathomable scale.” — Lucy
Then there's this:
Evolution is, therefore, a transition from the potential to the actual, wherein the new powers and qualities constantly acquired are derived, not from the potential, but from a superior type of life which already possesses them. -- Alan Watts, Behold the Spirit
I find the symmetry between these two ideas, involution and evolution, quite beautiful, much the same way I imagine a mathematician finds beauty in an equation.
Now, I can't see into the abyss or "black box," but its output is such that what's inside it makes the wonder and mystery of the universe pale in comparison.
Man in harmony with his Creator [or the Whole] is sublime, and his action is creative; equally, once he separates himself from God and acts alone, he does not cease to be powerful, since this is the privilege of his nature, but his acts are negative and lead only to destruction.
Again, I'm not getting this yet. It still seems to be that what you're talking about is moral absolutism, as I understand that term. My understanding:

Moral absolutism = the belief that our morals are underwritten by a universal morality which exists independantly of humans and is therefore unchanged by individual humans' views of what is right and wrong.

Moral relativism = the belief that morals come from some form of humans consensus and that they can therefore change if humans want them to.
Correct, but the reality is twofold, both of them put together. We have to embrace our finitude and therefore moral relativism as part of our daily existence, but it is not an absolute. Relativism by itself amounts to little more than intellectual conformity and passive assent to the values of those around us. Religion is the impetus to move beyond that.






"law" to which we must answer. In other words, everything about the human condition is relative to reality-as-it-is-within-itself -- reality as Lucy described in the movie.

For example (and this is a very touchy subject), animal husbandry uses eugenics to breed faster horses, different temperaments in dogs (pit bulls bred for fighting vs. golden retrievers, for example) and more productive cows. It's to the point now that no one seriously doubts the role genes play in human behavior, but, at the same time, the mere mention of using eugenics to curb crime sends people into an apocalyptic shock. But human beings are not above the same rules they use in breeding animals.
I think you're confusing two completely different usages of the word "rule". It's very commonly done. We're not above the descriptive rules of genetics and evolution. But those are not the same thing as the prescriptive rules that we make with the purpose of running our societies. We, being humans, afford more rights to humans than we do to other animals which we use as livestock. That's why treating humans in the same way that we treat livestock is unacceptable to most people.

That and the fact that eugenics obviously got an extremely bad name when this same mixing up of the two meanings of the word "rule" was done by the Nazis in order to incorrectly try to use (a misrepresentation of) the Theory of Evolution as a prescription rather than as a description.
I think it's a wonderful parable illustrating the interaction between science and religion and how they meet at the abyss. I think the final paragraph sums it up quite nicely:
Yes, I appreciate the poetry of it. As I say, it reminds me very much of the music of the spheres. It's interesting how captivating that idea was. Perhaps, in science, the most famous example of a person who was captivated by it was Kepler when he tried to fit the orbits of the planets into the circles which the ancient Greeks had told him they should fit in order to harmonize.

-- Updated October 2nd, 2017, 5:59 pm to add the following --

Ignore everything after "Religion is the impetus to move beyond that." I had a brain fart and clicked the wrong button.

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