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View Diary: New Paper Gives Insight Into How Religion Developed (165 comments)

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  •  And this is a tremendously (0+ / 0-)

    important political point:  There is nothing personal about religion.  Religion is and has always been a way of organizing groups and the political sphere.  Anyone who suggests that religion is a "personal matter" (and therefore should be immune from critical scrutiny) is not arguing in, pardon the pun, good faith.

    •  blatant nonsense. (1+ / 0-)
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      Are you arguing that there is no subjective religious experience other than as mediated by the institutional structure of the religious hierarchy via its influence on the culture?

      To quote the physicist Wolfgang Pauli, that's not right and it's not even wrong.  

      It's obviously, blatantly, and provably false.  Ultimately it's based on what could be called the "social monist theory of mind," that the individual mind (and hence, subjective experience) only exists as an outcome of social interaction.  The entire history of neurophysiology and cognitive science disprove that idea conclusively.  

      The only way to sustain the "social monist theory of mind" is with recourse to a kind of "god of the gaps" arguement that is ultimately unfalsifiable and hence unscientific in itself.  

      Your statement is a paradigm case example of how political theory is very often wholly ignorant of psychology and cognitive science, not to mention the physical sciences that are related.  

      Pardon me for being a hardass about this, but blatant nonsense needs to be rebutted in the strongest terms.  If you phrased your posting in terms of speculation and hypotheses and "what-ifs", it would not be unreasonable; but stating it in terms of declarative sentences as if established fact, is equivalent to stating that all UFOs are interstellar space ships.  

      •  No, I am not arguing that there (1+ / 0-)
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        is no subjective component to religion, though I do think that the percentage of those that have such experience are pretty small.  I am arguing that religion is deeply connected to our social and political fabric and is not simply a private affair.  Religion is one of the basic institutions by which social relations re-produce themselves and by which the political is organized.  It is not uncommon to hear people say "religion is merely a matter of the heart."  Far from it.  Religion is institutional, social, political and is one of the ways in which large bodies of people are organized.  Anyone who has studied ethnography or anthropology knows this.  Why you would infer, from my statement, that I deny that people have subjective experiences in relation to religion is beyond me and speaks, I believe, to your own simplistic view of these issues.  You seem to have the rather facile belief that if something is collective, political, and social it has no psychological component to it.  One need only glance at one of Hitler's rallies to see how idiotic such an opposition is.  There we witness both intense psychological experiences and a collective, social, and political phenomenon.  Incidentally, I happen to be a psychotherapist, so I know a thing or two about these issues.

        •  OK, that's entirely reasonable. (0+ / 0-)

          Though, as to "why (I) would infer, from (your) statement, that (you) deny that people have experiences in relation to religion...", the answer is that this is what the actual words of your statement said.

          For example, "There is nothing personal about religion."   That and the rest of your earlier statement are entirely unequivocal.  


          Re. the percentage of people who have such experiences:  

          It probably follows something like a skewed normal curve, where a small number have highly intense and more frequent religious experiences, and an increasing number have less intense and less frequent religious experiences, and so on.  The peak of that curve would describe the central tendency of mainstream religion.  

          "Not simply a private affair," sure that's entirely reasonable.  Religious experience as with other subjective experience, is partially a result of wholly individual factors (such as the characteristics of the individual's brain) and partially the result of social factors (such as learned interpretations of experiences).  Though from time to time there are interesting counterexamples, such as pediatric NDEs that often include elements from other cultures not known to the children (e.g. a child raised in an American Christian family, having an NDE with strongly Muslim elements).  

          Sure, religion is largely a social organizing mechanism, and intense experiences can be shaped to serve social goals.  Megachurches are obvious cases in point.  

          'Twas your own statements that indicated an either/or, rather than an and/both.  

          •  The charitable interpretation (0+ / 0-)

            on your part would  have been that I was treating the "personal" as equivalent to the "private" and opposing it to the social; not that I was making the absurd claim that people don't experience various emotional and psychological states when something is social.  Such would be a completely bizarre claim that no reasonable person would make and I can't say I care much for your tone in the post of mine you were responding to.  The point is that people often talk about religion as if it were outside the social and political and it decidedly is not.  I will say that I just don't think the psychological realm can be separated from the social realm in the way so many of your comments seem to presuppose.  From birth on our emotions, desires, and reactions to the world are being molded by the social world in so many ways that there's no way to completely separate what is collective and social from what is purely psychological.  And if you investigate actual religious rituals, as I have done, you discover how they actively form and promote various psychological states, constantly suggesting how they are being interpreted, coercing the lay to have certain experiences in relation to certain rituals, and structuring rituals in such a way as to produce certain affective states.  

            •  there wasn't much room to interpret... (1+ / 0-)
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              ...statements that were unequivocal.  I very frequently give benefit of the doubt in cases where there is any room for equivocation or alternative interpretation.  But I wouldn't call that "charitable," so much as just assuming that the zone of possible interpretation is wider.  That's difficult to do with regard to blunt declarative sentences.  

              There are people around who claim that subjective experience is either outside the realm of science or is irrelevant.  It wasn't too long ago that strict behaviorism was the dominant paradigm in Western psychology, and some still adhere to it.

              Agreed, people talk about religion as if it's entirely outside the social realm, which is also clearly absurd.  Some of that may come from the idea that the deity is the a-priori creator and thus stands above its creation to the degree that all beliefs about the deity have the same status.  

              Agreed, difficult to parse the innate from the learned.  And admittedly I ran into this a couple of times when writing comments in this diary, where I could easily enough operationalize the variables for hypotheses about the present state of an individual's beliefs and experience (e.g. religious/atheistic as the independent variable, degree and depth of self-reported mundane trance states as the dependent variable), but I couldn't see a way to parse the innate from the learned in terms of scoping out a causal relationship one way or another.  

              And agreed, religious rituals produce various states of consciousness that are positively reinforcing of religious belief (otherwise those rituals would be replaced by others that do).  

              Though I wouldn't necessarily agree with "coercing" except in so far as that certain religions (admittedly most) depend on obtaining a degree of uniformity of belief among their members.  I find it truly odd that large numbers of people can in some way deny the reality of their own experience in order to conform to a social expectation.  It's one thing to deliberately and consciously set aside an opinion in order to get along with others, but another entirely to deny that one ever thought or felt something.  


              I have never found a way to just accept religious teachings of any sort as a-priori truth without exception.  For example Buddhism figures heavily in my overall scheme of things, and yet the statement that "all suffering is caused by desire" runs into trouble where primary physical pain is concerned: pain is suffering, and is also an innate response to a physical injury. "Desire" is not needed as an explanation for physical pain, so pain would appear to be a counterexample.  In this case, suffering (pain) causes desire (to be free of pain).  So I would say that "suffering is caused by desire, and the reverse is also true."  (I engage in similar heresies with respect to the other threads of religion that are involved in my overall worldview.)

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