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Religion1 And Religion2

Perhaps i am this way because i regard religion itself as "bipolar," "schizophrenic." and, perhaps, a little bit "paranoid."  For religion, as i believe 90+ percent of people know it in this world, is a two pronged affair, whose prongs, however connected, seem to be essentially disjointed.

Religion is the human attempt to experience life in the context of a grander scheme than we can perceive with the eye clouded by our experience in the temporal, secular, material world.  Sometimes we try to help each other heighten that experience of "another world" and preaching and praying and meditating and serving are techniques by which we try to do this.  Most of us must find consolation for the disappointments of living in this material world, and however we choose to do that should be nobody elses business unless it intrudes on their ability to make choices or unless we mutually agree to help each other seek that consolation, understanding, and meaning.  This is religion that i never intend to denigrate, and when i do so, i humbly apologize.

Religion's other prong is to provide for society and its other institutions a supernatural mechanism of social control.  The hope of eternal reward and/or the fear of infernal punishment allows the powerful to supplement their other mechanisms of control with one that is especially effective for many people.  Yes, i admit to having problems with authority.  Yes, i admit to being an anarchist.  But i like to believe that if neither of these things were true, i would still have problems with this second prong of religion.  There are many reasons to want to control the behavior of others (just as there are many reasons to lie or kill) and some of these reasons may seem to some to be good or necessary.  But, if someone feels the need to control people, i wish they would not use God or some universal principle to help them do it.  It puts the person being controlled at a really unfair disadvantage.  This is religion that often frightens me, and i sometimes attach labels such as "fundamentalist," "protestant," "Catholic,"
"Islamist," etc, to my fears.

I think most people acknowledge the existence of "spiritual growth."  They also recognize the existence of stunted growth.
Sometimes this process of growth is perceived in terms of "stages".  In the West there are often two, three,  five or siix stages; in the East five, seven, or ten stages, the "highest" stages in the East are probably "beyond" the "highest" stages in the West, e.g. i do not believe that a Christian Saint is the equivalent of a Buddhist Bodhisattva.

One description of "Stages of Faith" is that described by James Fowler.  The two early stages are "preconventional" focusing on the pleasure or pain of the individual believer and seeking consolation for the latter and an increase in the former.  The two intermediate stages (3 and 4) are "conventional,"  focusing on the "moral" and "legal" implications of religion.  Our contracts with God and our obedience to the "will" of God are central.  The final two stages are "postconventional" attempting to acknowledge universal principles and going beyond the ethnocentrism that charactizes most religious faith and practice.  Islam and Christianity call themselves universal religions, but they are not!  There is a difference between particularizing the universal within one's own practice of religion and universalizing the particular which means that everyone elde should  subscribe to one's own particular notions about the universal.  The former is normal and necessary' but the latter is intrusive and, ultimately, i think, violent

Mowt people end up in stage "3" or "4" which means that religion, in practice, is a set of rules, moral and/or legal which they and, especially others, are supposed to follow.  Unfortunalely this tendency is not confined to Christianity and Islam, but pervades the Eastern Religions as well.  The important question for me is not what religion a person espouses, but what level of belief and practice she or he has achieved or is attempting to achieve.  All religions produce Boddhisattva's whether they use the term or not, and all religions have dogmas and rules which hold people back from attaining the spiritual goals that they are capable of achieving.

I would love to be able to avoid all criticism of religion but i cannot.  Because of my relationship to a beloved person, i am probably closer to Catholicism than to other religions.  Yet when i think "Catholic" I do not think of Francis of Assisi, i think of birth control and i think that it is only natural that i do this.  When i think "Islam" i do not think of Rumi, i think of the sharia.  When i think of Protestantism, i do not think of the sermon on the mount, i think of the condemnation of sin.  When i think of Judaism, i do not think of loving God with all my heart and soul and mind and might and my neighbor as myself, i think of Israeli nationalism.  I am this way because that is what i see Christians, Moslems and Jews focusing on.


( 13 comments — Leave a comment )
Aug. 17th, 2012 05:36 am (UTC)
I don't recognize myself in stages 3 & 4 -- which i recognize not from religion but from professional development talks about adult learning and cognitive development -- and feel kinship with the levels of cognitive development that seem aligned to what you describe as "postconventional."

I don't recall being in the "legal" rules phase.

I wonder if there's some type of distress that makes falling into the rules/conventional thought pattern attractive. It always seems to me to be such a fearful space.

My parents gave me lots of mental distress, but i am thankful they let me have a free mind.
Aug. 17th, 2012 06:43 am (UTC)
I sort of garbled the "stages of faith" idea. You can get a better idea by tagging "james fowler" The idea of pre and post conventional is from Kohlberg's "stages of moral development" which i have kind of patched on to Fowler's ideas. Putting Kohlberg and Fowler together there is an idea that in trying to make the transition from "4" to "5" it is possible to abandon one's faith completely and decide it was all a bunch of superstitious nonesense. For example, instead of finding mythic relevance in religious ideas that cannot be taken literally, one might throw out those ideas altogether.

Carol Milligan argued that in Kohlberg's version of the stages, stage 3 is a more nurturing stage, and stage 4 is a more control oriented stage which is in no way an advance over stage 3. Males might be more attracted to stage 3 and males to stage 4. So it would not surprise me that you never experienced stage 4.

Critics have argued that the empirical evidence for stages 5 and 6 are pretty skimpy and this whole scheme may just be a liberal claiming that his notions of morality or faith are superior to a conservative's. Being more of a liberal myself, i can't fairly assess that criticism.

It has also been suggested that people at stage 5 can "regress in the service of the (Freudian) ego" and temporarily think and/or behave like people at stage 2. As you say, this would happen under stress.
Aug. 17th, 2012 07:40 am (UTC)
We're probably at different points in different areas under different levels of stress, and depending on the levels of support we're experiencing. So it may be more like a 3D grid structure than a scale, with us moving around in it. That explanation makes sense in my head, but I don't know if it makes sense when I try to articulate it.

When I'm under certain kinds of stress, I fall back into old patterns because the new, healthier patterns haven't been stress-tested, if you see what I mean.

I've been thinking a lot about the value of doubt. In Britain Yearly Meeting's Advices & Queries, 1.17 says, "Think it possible that you may be mistaken." I'm always tempted to consider the possibility in a very superficial way before tossing it aside and settling back into certainty (which is sort of aligned against faith), but there's a prodding which says, "What if you are wrong? Completely deluded? What if your experiences are just self-made, there's no such thing as the divine, we're not all connected, and life is just nasty, brutish and short?" or "What if the fundamentalists are right?" Those periods of contemplation are really valuable.
Aug. 17th, 2012 06:23 pm (UTC)
For some reason, Voltaire's statement comes to mind: If there were no God man would have to invent one. The phenomenologist in me says man did invent God; and the mystic in me says: so what?

Setting aside the unlikely (in my mind) possibility that God did reveal to us all that we were supposed to know about her/him/it through one or more of the sages, prophets, Buddhas, saviors, etc., the source of being, matter, life, consciousness, and meaning remains mysterious and awesome, and is likely to remain so for the foreseeable future.

Seeking the truth is valuable but it should also be fun. If we really don't know what the destination is, we might as well enjoy the journey. To take the search seriously enough without taking myself too seriously is one of my goals. Doubt is a crucial ingredient in that search.
Aug. 17th, 2012 09:34 pm (UTC)
Happy Birthday Bobby!
Aug. 17th, 2012 10:33 pm (UTC)
Happy Birthday!
Aug. 18th, 2012 11:51 am (UTC)
Laying aside the thoughtful writing of Fowler, there are so many problems with what you write here, Bobby, that it is hard to engage in any helpful conversation because of your personal bias and prejudice which has little to do with an intelligent quest for understanding or knowledge.

I know you take great pride in your intellectual skills, but I read a rather closed mind instead of openness and little quest for insight. God is greater than your terribly limited mind or mine.

Unless you are God Almighty, and you are not, how could you possibily know how 90% of people in a world of billions view religion?

How shallow and actually insulting to masses of people to use words like "bipolar" "schizophrenic" and "paranoid" to make a general description of religion.

What a silly comparison ~ "I do not believe that a Christian Saint is the equivalent of a Buddhist Bodhisattva."

Billions of people come at religion in billions of ways and who are you to even suggest one is right and another is wrong and still another is higher or lower in the quest for God.

You are of course free to rail and spew this unhelpful and non productive mentality but it accomplishes little except to further divide individuals or masses. Where is the peace you often espouse in all of this.

You reach the pinacle of your sweeping and shallow generalizations as well as your failure to understand or appreciate the various religions with: "Yet when i think "Catholic" I do not think of Francis of Assisi, i think of birth control and i think that it is only natural that i do this. When i think "Islam" i do not think of Rumi, i think of the sharia. When i think of Protestantism, i do not think of the sermon on the mount, i think of the condemnation of sin. When i think of Judaism, i do not think of loving God with all my heart and soul and mind and might and my neighbor as myself, i think of Israeli nationalism. I am this way because that is what i see Christians, Moslems and Jews focusing on."

What a crock. You do yourself a disservice with such thinking and words.

I understand the many weaknesses multitudes of people bring to their religious quests and I have no reason or desire to defend my own faith or the faith of others, but, in God's name, I think you would do yourself a service to let go of some of this poison and find at least a little more to affirm and appreciate about how other people express their beliefs.

I have no personal dislike for you. I imagine you are a decent and good man, and I can certainly "live" with the broken record you play over and over again, but, for your own sake, I implore you to let go of as much of the negativity as you can and spend the rest of the precious few years you have left in peace and in appreciation for those who have not taken the particular path you have taken.

Aug. 18th, 2012 06:22 pm (UTC)
Dianne would probably agree with much of what you say.
I am not at my best when i am being critical of others.
At age 79, i have a great deal of growing to do.
I want to ponder what you say before i respond further.
Aug. 18th, 2012 07:02 pm (UTC)
Thanks pal. I value you and your views else I wouldn't take much time to respond from time to time. Hope your weekend is going well.
Aug. 19th, 2012 02:37 am (UTC)
I wonder whether you distinguish at all between faith and religion. I'm wondering because I find it useful to do so.

When I talk about religion, which isn't often, I mean a cluster of social institution that's based around community observance of Something Beyond Individuality. (Civil religion fits right in there.) It may be an understanding of the divine, or some overarching organizing principle felt to have ultimacy or some other juju.

When I talk about faith I'm talking about the much more fundamental, much more slippery area of the convictions, especially relational convictions, people live our lives based on. Based so deeply that we often don't notice them. though when they reach the calling-something-God level they tend to be noticeable on this continent at this time. (Even then, the important ones are way below doctrine.)

Faith is so idiosyncratic and inchoate that as a category I don't find it very menacing. Or so I was going to say. But faiths are socially contagious, especially through religion. I think of the mighty American faith in commodification and commercialization (often and oddly called "the market").

Religion, OTOH, can be terrifying in a plain straightforward way. Or redemptive and grace-filled and socially transformative. At least until we fossilize it and turn it into some sort of idol of maxims.

(The only thing I regret learning in the formal material I encountered at seminary is the true nature of the Indian Festival of Cars. The sadly bigoted representation of it as Juggernaut was so useful.)
Aug. 19th, 2012 03:48 am (UTC)
Religion and Faith
I think a distinction must be made between religion and faith, although they certainly overlap and religion can be defined so that it means faith and faith can be defined so that it means religion.

I am also somewhat inclined to see religion as more social and faith as more individual, but i think i might consign redemption and social transformation to faith rather than to religion.

I'm sure there can be faithless religion and religionless faith.

If i change from somebody who fears God's punishment to somebody who believes in God's unconditional love, i think i have changed my faith. When i change from somebody who practices Christianity to someone who practices Islam, i have changed my religion. It is possible to do either without doing the other.

I am not familiar with the Festival of Cars, but you can be sure that i will have googled it by the time you read this.
Aug. 19th, 2012 01:40 pm (UTC)
Hmmmm. You see, I never talk about redemption in the context of individual faith-- the idea of buying back people and Jesus-died-for-your-sins put me off like whoa. I'm comfortable talking about redemption in a social context-- market relations are definitely social constructs.

I have no problem talking about transformation either individually or socially. And faith certainly transforms individuals, and motivates social actions through which society is transformed. But where personal transformation motivates purely individual social efforts-- it's very unusual for social transformation to come out of the efforts.

The interaction between faith and religion is complicated. Part of the mystery of our "amphibious" nature-- flesh and spirit, individual and community....
Aug. 19th, 2012 06:53 pm (UTC)
Redemption (perhaps it is a poor word to express my meaning) is not something i think of in terms of Christian theodicy or theology, but in a more generic and metaphorical sense. I am certainly in some sense "lost" and must somehow "find myself" or "be found." None of the specific formulations precisely identify my "lostness" or what must be done for my "salvation." I sometimes tell people that i would have loved to have had a personal relationship with Jesus, but i was born about 1930 years late and (to my Mormon friends) in the wrong part of the world.

The social and the individual are inextricably intertwined but i believe that each new life offers a hope for "redemption" that no organizational change could possibly produce. If i think "community" instead of "organization" i might get a different perspective.
( 13 comments — Leave a comment )



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