Log in

No account? Create an account

March 2018



Powered by LiveJournal.com
Not Responcible

About Religion, Again.

It has always struck me as particularly illogical to talk about group behaviors without accounting for the motivations of the individuals who make up the group.

Religion is both something humans do and something that exists within the human mind. What exists within the individual is not the same thing as what exists outside the individual.

It's like language. You need to understand both the internal (personal) and the external (social) structures and functions.

A group of people can all speak the same language. But individuals within that group can disagree about what a particular word or sentence means, even though conveying meaning is the primary social function of language.

Language originates in the minds of individuals, and it has functions within the mind, but it also exist outside of the individual in the social world, where it has social functions. Both these facts influence how language operates within individuals and in a social context.

So it is with religion. Religion originates in the minds of individuals where it performs specific functions. But it also exists externally in the social world where it performs social functions, and is subject to social forces.

Religion consists of:
1. Ontology and Efficacy, a theory that explains why things that you experience happen the way that they do. (What is the purpose of existence? What does it mean? Why does anything happen? What matters and why does it matter?)
2. Mythology, a supporting narrative justifying the theory.
3. Ritual and Taboo or customary practices based on the theory.
4. A system of Morality and/or Ethics based on the theory.

Religion isn't primarily the stories people tell (mythology) it is the beliefs people hold. Are all beliefs religious? I honestly can't think of a single belief that can't be traced back to the ontological premises of the person who has it. All beliefs go back to values (What the individual thinks is valuable or important.) Is this the best ice cream flavor? Is this the best route to the store? Where should we have dinner? In order to answer these questions you need to know what exists, what doesn't exist, what you value, and what you do not value. These are the questions that are answered by traditional religion. Although clearly some beliefs are more central to the ontological premiss than others.

People don't believe things because of the stories, they tell stories to explain what they believe. That is why some people consider particular stories to be compelling while other people are not moved by them at all. Mythologies are stories that people use to explain their beliefs. The stories don't need to be literally true to serve their function, allegorical stories work best because metaphors are how the human mind processes abstract thoughts. We manipulate abstract ideas through a process of analogy with concrete experiences. (See :Moral Politics by George Lakoff.)

But humans are also constantly updating their beliefs with new experiences. A good story can change what people believe if it causes them to reevaluate what is possible or what they value. Which is why people are most likely to change their beliefs when they are having an emotional crisis. If, during a crisis, a persons' beliefs comfort them and help them deal effectively with the experience, then the crisis will just reinforce their faith in their beliefs. If, however, they feel that their beliefs have failed to help them deal with the experience they will be open to finding alternative beliefs that might be more effective to meet their needs.

The primary need religion fills for the individual is the need to have some basis for making decisions about what is important (valuable) and what is the most effective path to acquiring those things of value.
Matthew 16:26 And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul?
Is a statement about values based on an ontological premiss. If you don't accept the ontological premiss that the soul exists you will obviously prefer to gain the world and lose something you don't believe you even have. That is why believing that the soul, or God, or Atlantis don't exist is just as much a religious belief as believing that they do exist.

The thing believed in is not what makes a belief religious. It is the fact of having any belief at all that is the substance of religion.