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What is a religion?

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What is a religion?
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SparhafocPosts: 2521Joined: Fri Jun 23, 2017 6:48 am

Post Re: What is a religion?

Myrtonos wrote:
Sparhafoc wrote:Did you mean to say that something in one of those articles supported something you had previously said? If so, why didn't you quote it? A label alone doesn't actually convey much of an argument. Also, I wasn't aware that a random site on the internet is meant to be authoritative. Have you decided these sites are valid authorities? Or are they just some dude's soapbox?


I didn't think I needed to quote it, and as for that page on secular Buddhism, it's quite long and I don't think I can find anything to quote.


Well yes, that's rather the point. You linked to a very long article presumably in support of your point. But how am I to divine what that support is if you don't tell me? It can't be the whole article as the majority of the article has nothing to do with anything we've discussed.

Further, if you can't find anything to quote, doesn't that mean you were just citing it because of the title?

How then did we get to this being an example of 'pure Buddhism'? I am more than a little lost as to what you're saying.



Myrtonos wrote:
Sparhafoc wrote:With regards to their role in supporting your argument, a cursory glance suggested nothing of the sort to me, not least because 'Secular Buddhism' is like 'Secular Christianity' as in, not really Buddhism at all. The clue for that would be in the fact they need to add an additional adjective to show their belief is distinct from just plain old Buddhism.


"Plain old" Buddhism is more common and better known. The word 'secular' is needed to show that it's not the same as the Buddhism more widely practiced. But indeed the teachings of "secular"


Ergo, not 'pure Buddhism' as it's got a bunch of predominantly post-19th century political ideals in it?



Myrtonos wrote:
Sparhafoc wrote:Do you actually believe these articles to be 'true' in terms of them being 'pure Buddhism' as per your wording?


Oh yes, one mentions Buddhism in its pure form.


So let me just clarify here.

Some article you found by typing in 'pure Buddhism' to Google contains the words you typed in... and that was the entirety of your point?

Someone said these words, so job done?

As I said after you posted these:

Sorry to be difficult here, but you've added no more actual information with all those words.


The point still stands. There's no real meat to your argument here. You could type in just about any combination of 2 words and find a link on the internet, but that doesn't then mean that the content of the search engine justifies an argument.

So one of these articles mentions Buddhism in its pure form, and that's that? What about the 99.9999% of Buddhists who don't share the same belief as the espouser of this and would consider him to be the one adulterating their religion?

Further, for your contention to make any sense at all, you must be agreeing with the writer that this represents a 'pure form of Buddhism' - so can you please specify what it is in the article that you found convincing in that respect?



Myrtonos wrote:
Sparhafoc wrote:And why are we to believe that 'Secular Buddhsim' is the 'pure form of Buddhism' when secularism is a phenomenon 2500 years after the death of Buddha?


It actually depends on what secularism really means. It may have not been called Secular Buddhism, but it seems it did exist.


One never needs to wonder about what a word means unless the person using it expressly defines it as something else. Everyone knows what the word 'secular' means, it's not ambiguous in the slightest.

But please actually address my question. Buddhism predates secularism by thousands of years, so how can 'secular Buddhism' be 'a pure form of Buddhism'? Surely logic alone negates that argument?

Further, if you look at the history of Buddhism it has *never* been secular - the very people who maintained Buddha's teachings sufficiently long so that the chap writing that article could even have heard of Buddhism were all clergy in one of the oldest religions in the world!



Myrtonos wrote:
Sparhafoc wrote:As I said, there's not much meat here to your arguments. Can you point to something specific in either of those articles that you found convincing?


Not really but I have found a better description on one of the sites.


Are we playing hide and seek? :|

Can you cite this better description, please? You've linked me to the front page of a website with dozens of internal links, so I have no idea what it is you read that you are citing for me to read.



Myrtonos wrote:
Sparhafoc wrote:Plus, as I've pointed out before; your notion of 'superhuman' here is a bag that catches too much and too little. The fundamental forces are 'superhuman', ergo science is a religion?


I didn't define 'religion' let alone a superhuman order.


I already addressed this. You are defining religion as being fundamentally based (no less) on a 'superhuman system' - that IS a definition of a religion.


Myrtonos wrote:A superhuman order alone is not a religion, but a religion must be founded on belief in one.


MUST is what you're supposed to be arguing and expressly what I am contesting, not something that is taken here as an axiom. You cannot support your argument by repeating your argument numerous times and using words that mean 'must' - that doesn't even amount to begging the question.


Myrtonos wrote: Nobody in their right mind would claim it is forbidden to torture, murder or steal simply because it violates any law of science.


Another completely different argument, coupled with an appeal to incredulity.

We never talked about moral proscriptions prior to this, and your argument so far has not entailed science, religion, ideology or anything else needing to be able to define right and wrong.

So does your argument now entail that religion is about justifying the prohibition of certain behaviors?



Myrtonos wrote:
Sparhafoc wrote:Also, your argument's changed dramatically. You've now moved onto a particular agent, and as an agent they can move, change, and evolve over time. Any believer in a god would allow their god to change their mind on a whim, and that contradiction would now be 'good' - so there's no actual 'superhuman system' there at all, just a supernatural agent.


Well, okay, let me make myself clearer; Gods, according to theists, have power not only over flesh-and-blood beings (over machines too), they also have powers over nature, they can control the weather, for example. They can reward or punish flesh-and-blood beings even after they die, that is beyond the capabilities of any flesh-and-blood ruler.


Well, this is even further away from being universal to religion as a phenomenon.

Again, to me you're just extrapolating the Abrahamic religions and pretending their theologies are necessary formats for all religions. This I reject completely and I would doubt very much you could persuade me otherwise when I could list dozens of religions both past and extant which do not posit such a god.



Myrtonos wrote:There have been numerous cases throughout history of people of chiefdoms revolting against repressive chiefs, by the way, just so you all know, chiefs ruled many non-Eurasian societies before colonisation by European powers.


Ok. Can you cite some, please?


Myrtonos wrote:Similarly, people of state societies have revolted against repressive monarchs.

Probably the most famous example of such a revolt is the French revolution, where the people of France revolted against a repressive King, and upon executing their royal family, they were a republican democracy with elections.*

But anyway, humans who believe in a common God cannot revolt against a God, no matter how repressive that God may be.


And yet in exactly the same way, there have been dozens of historical examples of this.

For example, the fact that Europe was once not Christian but then became Christian and is now becoming not-very-Christian-at-all.

You could take literally thousands of examples of populations changing religious beliefs - in your analogy, revolting against their sanctioned God. I struggle to believe you have never heard of ANY of these events - history is rife with them. Look at a map. Anywhere you see Christianity or Islam - that happened. People who were previously pagans or polytheists or Zoroastrians or any number of other religions revolted against their own belief system and installed new ones.



Myrtonos wrote:
Sparhafoc wrote:You've moved your goalposts. You declared there was no such thing, yet here is an example which shows that there is such a thing; ergo, your initial contention was in error.


Yes but no human can change a superhuman order.


Manifestly untrue and trivial to show. The environment is a 'superhuman order'. Humans can change it by disrupting the contents of that environment.

I would perhaps rather too familiarly suggest you either change the degree of confidence you have in these erroneous assertions, or at least acknowledge your omission when shown wrong. No disrespect to yourself, and if I offend then please say and I will be happy to leave you in peace, but it's beginning to be like nailing jelly to a wall here. You can't support your confident declarations, then when I really drill down and try to get you to follow through, your argument changes direction dramatically and you make yet more confident declarations which are also trivially shown wrong. Sorry if I am being an arse here, but for me an idea has to be able to stand up to criticism or it's probably not an argument worth lending credence to; it's not personal.


Myrtonos wrote:
Sparhafoc wrote:Also, you're contradicting yourself in another way, because you've already noted that to the religionist, it's their God (magic man) who makes the decrees, so now we're talking about an agent, not about a 'superhuman' system. That God could change their mind too, at least as far as believers are concerned.


Yes but that God could conceivable change any natural phenomena, even ones that flesh-and-blood beings can't, Gods can control the weather, perhaps depending on their mood.


But you've just contradicted yourself, and as I've said, you are now appealing to agency which is not just 'a superhuman system' as per your original argument; you're now positing a very particular format of god belief: a theology.


Myrtonos wrote:Humans of a given society can revolt against a ruler, but believers in a common god can't revolt against that god, that god being all-powerful, which human rulers aren't.


And yet, as I've said, we've seen that happen throughout human history, which is why a map of modern religion is not an exact copy of the geographical religions of the ancient world. In fact, they have nothing in common.



Myrtonos wrote:
Sparhafoc wrote:Before you claimed that social stability couldn't exist without the ideology, now the argument is 'more'?


What does the part after the comma mean?


It means exactly what it says. Previously you were arguing that religions must provide social stability via their 'superhuman systems'. Then when I challenged it, your argument evolved to saying that they provided 'more' social stability. The word 'more' is in quotes because you used that word in the quotation of yours I was citing.



Myrtonos wrote:
Sparhafoc wrote:Still doesn't make it a religion, though, because all humans across the world are obliged to follow numerous laws, rules, and customs which produce social stability yet aren't deemed to be components of religion.


But there has to be a superhuman legitimacy to laws, rules and customs in order for them to be perceived as beyond challenge, and this perception ensures social stability.


Has to be?

That's really the only argument you've formulated: must, needs to be, has to be... but you can't show that it's right, just repeat your assertion that it is.

No, there doesn't have to be a superhuman legitimacy to laws, rules, and customs in order for them to be perceived as beyond challenge, nor does a superhuman legitimacy necessarily ensure that people consider them as beyond challenge. Both of these ideas have already been explored in this thread.


Myrtonos wrote:
Sparhafoc wrote:So you are arguing that chemistry is a religion/ideology?


Chemistry is neither of those, see below.


Except of course, according to your own argument, it is - that's why I am using it to contend your argument: it's called reductio ad absurdum - I take your claim beyond where you wanted it to be seen as relevant to see whether it does actually work coherently with other things.

So, when you add something more to your argument then Chemistry is not a religion, but if you leave your argument as per your previous statements then there's no way to exclude Chemistry from it. That's exactly what I've said to you, what Nesslig has said to you, and what perhaps the only other person in this thread has said to you: your contention doesn't really work; it's flawed.

A belief based on a 'superhuman order' is not necessarily a religion, and a religion does not necessarily posit a 'superhuman order'. Sometimes these may be the case, but one cannot use them as a guiding principle towards understanding 'what is a religion?'.


Myrtonos wrote:
Sparhafoc wrote:I refer you back to a previous thread of discussion where you said that the 'laws of nature' were not 'superhuman' as per your paradigm. If 'superhuman system' just means things not caused by humans, then can you explain why/how physics cannot be a religion.


I think I have explained why physics is not a religion, and that is because no rules, laws of customs are founded on belief in laws of physics.

Nothing to say on your guess.


I believe in physics, and my much-practiced custom is not to throw myself out of a 3rd floor window based on my belief that the laws of physics operate in such a way as to produce undesirable repercussions for contravening them.


Myrtonos wrote:
Sparhafoc wrote:What an odd definition. Can you cite where it says that because it's not on the actual link you gave.


It's actually mentioned in Sapiens in the chapter called Law of Religion.


Citation, please? The link you gave was to the home page, not to the article you're appealing to.


Myrtonos wrote:
Sparhafoc wrote:Scanning through other humanist pages, I see nothing that employs any notion of 'sacred'.


They might not word it like that but that's the belief the really express, but not in those words.


No, it's exactly the opposite as they very clearly say.


Myrtonos wrote:I assume this means rejection of theist religions.


I would say that's irrelevant.


Myrtonos wrote:
– Collins Concise Dictionary

A non-religious philosophy, based on liberal human values.


This is liberal humanism, also known simply as liberalism.


No, it's not. Liberalism is about protecting the rights and the freedoms of the individual, whereas they are clearly espousing an ideal greater than the individual. Liberal, in the sense they are using it, is about being open to new opinions, discarding traditions, broadening knowledge and experience.

Liberal humanism =/= liberalism


Myrtonos wrote:
Are you religious, Myrtonos?


Does this have anything to do with it? I am agnostic.


I believe I am entitled to ask you - it's hardly rude, is it? - just as you are not obliged to answer if you don't want to.

For me personally, it is beginning to look like 'it' has something to do with it because many of the forms of your arguments are most commonly espoused by theists, particularly at least in my experience, by Protestant Christians. To me, it seems like you are mired in a confusing system of beliefs that is obscuring your ability to see clearly as to why your arguments are not finding traction.



Myrtonos wrote:
Sparhafoc wrote:You've repeated it again. Please add more clauses explaining why it 'needs' to be or 'must' be. Just saying it a lot isn't very persuasive. If you can't offer any substantiation as to why it must be, is there a possibility that the argument isn't standing up to skeptical inspection because it's flawed?


Do you acknowledge that this isn't me speaking, Dr. Harrari has said this.


Wait.

What?

No, it's you speaking. Unless you're channeling 'Dr Harrari', which I assume not. You are writing these arguments in response to my words.

You wrote this:

Being founded on a belief in a superhuman order is something a religion needs to be to ensure social stability in large groups of humans, see that series by Dr. Harrari where he explains why this is so.

I replied regarding your use of NEEDS TO BE as you can see from my reply you cited.

What Dr Harrari said or didn't say is wholly irrelevant.

Incidentally, by Dr Harrari do you mean Yuval Noah Harari?

And by 'series' do you mean one of his books / online course on human history?

Incidentally, is this what this thread is about? Discussion on Harari's Homo Deus? If so, this might become a lot clearer to everyone - certainly to me.




Myrtonos wrote:
Sparhafoc wrote:The term 'breast' doesn't mean boobies, but rather means a mammary gland which is what produces the milk, and factually all female mammals have this gland. It may be larger or smaller between different species, but it's necessarily there as it's what produces the milk.


No, breasts are protruding parts with nipples, such as those of a human female. I've never heard of a mammary gland as a "breast".


Breasts are specifically apocrine glands.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Breast#Gl ... _structure

The breast is an apocrine gland that produces the milk used to feed an infant. ... The basic units of the breast are the terminal duct lobular units (TDLUs), which produce the fatty breast milk.


Yes, there is varying amounts of tissue and a layer of subcutaneous fatty deposits (no requirement of protrusion) around the mammary gland, just as there tends to be a nipple but neither nipple nor specific quantities of tissue or fatty deposits are 'the breast'.[/quote]

If a woman possesses no tissue whatsoever (micromastia) other than the gland, they're still called 'breasts' in medical terms because she still possesses the apocrine gland and can produce milk.

Similarly, one can have a subcutaneous mastectomy (breast removal surgery) which spares the nipple, but the retention of the nipple does not then mean she's still got a breast as that tissue was removed.

Neither quantity of tissue nor nipple make a breast.


Myrtonos wrote:But surely monotremes are still have mammalian skeletons.


A list of differences would necessarily include:

Elongated rostrum - bird-like skulls
Formation of an egg-tooth
Lack of teeth in adults
Wholly different jaw anatomy as per Nesslig's point
Fused inner ear bones
Splayed pelvic girdle (reptilian gait)
Epipubic bones
Different number of bones in the shoulder, such as the anterior coracoid and interclavicle


So no, they don't have 'mammalian skeletons' - but both obviously share the majority of gross skeletal features as they do with all other bilateral tetrapods


Myrtonos wrote:*A gorilla or chimpanzee band can revolt against their alpha male (this being the leader of band of Gorillas and common Chimpanzees) but then another male band member automatically becomes the alpha male, they cannot declare that all band members will be treated as equals upon the alpha male being overthrown.


This just says: Gorillas and chimpanzees aren't humans, nothing more. It's actually a point about cognition, not about what a religion is.
"a reprehensible human being"
Beliefs are, by definition, things we don't know to be true.
Wed Oct 10, 2018 3:52 pm
SparhafocPosts: 2521Joined: Fri Jun 23, 2017 6:48 am

Post Re: What is a religion?

*SD* wrote:Just wondering... what's the central point here? What are you actually arguing for? Or is this purely as per the thread title and you just want to discuss what constitutes a religion and what does not? Is there more to it? Where are you heading?



I think I understand now.

Perhaps I am wrong, but I think Myrtonos may have just read Homo Deus: a Brief History of Tomorrow by Yuval Noah Harari and is seeking to discuss something he's read therein.
"a reprehensible human being"
Beliefs are, by definition, things we don't know to be true.
Wed Oct 10, 2018 4:05 pm
Nesslig20User avatarPosts: 280Joined: Wed Mar 16, 2016 6:44 pm Gender: Male

Post Re: What is a religion?

Myrtonos wrote:
Nesslig20 wrote:Also, FYI, monotremes don't have nipples. They sweat milk.

Yes, but at least the give milk as other mammals do.


Again: REPEATED:
Well of course the people who used that word to apply to the mammals that they knew about didn't think that they all had two pectoral breasts with large amounts of adipose tissues, like that of humans. Perhaps they thought that having nipples counted as "breasts", I don't know for sure and that isn't the point. You said that the word "mammals" meant "milk" or something. It doesn't [mean milk], that's the point.
And also, as sparhafoc clarified, "breasts" doesn't only apply to "big boobies" on the chest. But that is beside the point.

Myrtonos wrote:
Nesslig20 wrote:I explained that in the fossil record, it is very difficult to identify whether a species ever produced milk or not. So systematics now, for convenience sake, defined mammals based on the articulation of the jaw joint, a trait that is much more easier to see in fossils, just so they don't have to bother making difficult inferences on whether it had milk glands or not. We know of some very primitive mammals (by the definition in the previous sentence) and we don't know for sure whether they produced milk. One called "Sinoconodon" is actually inferred to lack the ability to lactate.

But surely monotremes are still have mammalian skeletons.


How do you define "mammalian" skeleton? If you use the current definition of mammals, all that requires to qualify as having a mammalian skeleton is a particular articulation of the jaw joint, then yes, monotremes are mammals, but still have very different skeletal features compared to the marsupials and the placentals (see Sparhafoc's list of traits). And I clarified that I wasn't talking about the current definition, but the old definition of mammals, that didn't include monotremes. By that definition, monotremes didn't have mammalian skeletons, since they wouldn't be mammals.

But we weren't really arguing about taxonomy of mammals. I just brought up the point as an analogy to what you are doing.
Analogy: what you are doing is defining mammals (religion) such that Dimetrodon (capitalism) counts as one. And you are justifying this next step by pointing out that we have broaden de definition to include monotremes (non-theistic religions) before.
"Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge: it is those who know little, and not those who know much, who so positively assert that this or that problem will never be solved by science."
Charles Darwin
Wed Oct 10, 2018 6:07 pm
MyrtonosPosts: 73Joined: Sun Dec 11, 2011 9:23 am Gender: Male

Post Re: What is a religion?

Your post is quite long, and it's hard for me to reply to it all.

Sparhafoc wrote:One never needs to wonder about what a word means unless the person using it expressly defines it as something else. Everyone knows what the word 'secular' means, it's not ambiguous in the slightest.

Most people think that secularism has grown and that religion has lost centrality and importance. But according to Yuval Noah Harrari (in Sapiens, not Homo Deus), it is theist religions that have lost that and many religions without gods have emerged and gained centrality and importance.

Sparhafoc wrote:But please actually address my question. Buddhism predates secularism by thousands of years, so how can 'secular Buddhism' be 'a pure form of Buddhism'? Surely logic alone negates that argument?

I did explain, it is called secular Buddhism to distinguish what is actually the teachings of Buddhism incorporated into other religions such as Hinduism.

Sparhafoc wrote:Further, if you look at the history of Buddhism it has *never* been secular - the very people who maintained Buddha's teachings sufficiently long so that the chap writing that article could even have heard of Buddhism were all clergy in one of the oldest religions in the world!

I'm not quite sure what this means but it is secular as in being without gods and founded purely on belief in natural law, as is the case with poltical ideologies.

Sparhafoc wrote:Can you cite this better description, please? You've linked me to the front page of a website with dozens of internal links, so I have no idea what it is you read that you are citing for me to read.

I linked to the wrong page. :( This is the right page.

Sparhafoc wrote:Plus, as I've pointed out before; your notion of 'superhuman' here is a bag that catches too much and too little. The fundamental forces are 'superhuman', ergo science is a religion?

But I have explained countless times why science is not a religion, yes the laws of science are superhuman, but no rules, laws or customs could conceivably be derived from them.

Sparhafoc wrote:I already addressed this. You are defining religion as being fundamentally based (no less) on a 'superhuman system' - that IS a definition of a religion.

Listen, I am not defining religion at all, just only accepting definitions that include being founded on a belief in a superhuman order, not just because all religions are founded on a belief in such order, but because belief in such and order and deriving rules, rights and customs from them ensures social stability in large groups.

Sparhafoc wrote:MUST is what you're supposed to be arguing and expressly what I am contesting, not something that is taken here as an axiom. You cannot support your argument by repeating your argument numerous times and using words that mean 'must' - that doesn't even amount to begging the question.

I use it hoping others won't argue against it.

Sparhafoc wrote:So does your argument now entail that religion is about justifying the prohibition of certain behaviors?

Yes, religion is about giving a superhuman justification to prescriptions and proscriptions.

Sparhafoc wrote:Again, to me you're just extrapolating the Abrahamic religions and pretending their theologies are necessary formats for all religions. This I reject completely and I would doubt very much you could persuade me otherwise when I could list dozens of religions both past and extant which do not posit such a god.

No, I'm just explaining how belief in god ensures social stability among believers in a common god. I'm not saying they need to believe in a common god to ensure it, that's just one way to ensure social stability among a large group.

Sparhafoc wrote:Ok. Can you cite some, please?

No, but it is mentioned in Jared Diamond's most well known book.

Sparhafoc wrote:You could take literally thousands of examples of populations changing religious beliefs - in your analogy, revolting against their sanctioned God. I struggle to believe you have never heard of ANY of these events - history is rife with them. Look at a map. Anywhere you see Christianity or Islam - that happened. People who were previously pagans or polytheists or Zoroastrians or any number of other religions revolted against their own belief system and installed new ones.

They did change their beliefs, yes, Europeans were converted to Christianity by the missionaries, one big factor is that the Romans became Christian and imposed it wherever they conquered.

But remember that different European cultures followed very different pagan faiths, but converted to a common monotheist religion.

But what I am saying is that believers in a common god can't revolt against that god as long as they aren't converted to a different religion.

Sparhafoc wrote:Manifestly untrue and trivial to show. The environment is a 'superhuman order'. Humans can change it by disrupting the contents of that environment.

In that case, the contents of the environment are not superhuman. The laws of science are superhuman, but cannot be a basis for any rules, rights, rituals or ceremonies. The law of god (in Abrahamic religions), the law of karma (in Buddhism), and the law of history (in communism) are all superhuman according to followers of the respective religions or political ideology.

Sparhafoc wrote:But you've just contradicted yourself, and as I've said, you are now appealing to agency which is not just 'a superhuman system' as per your original argument; you're now positing a very particular format of god belief: a theology.

It is still just an explanation of how belief in a common god ensures social stability.

Sparhafoc wrote:And yet, as I've said, we've seen that happen throughout human history, which is why a map of modern religion is not an exact copy of the geographical religions of the ancient world. In fact, they have nothing in common.

What has indeed happened is large groups of people have been converted from one religion to the other.

As for Europe becoming not-very-christian, this happened after the scientific revolution, and it is due to the discovery of many facts about the world that are left out of the christian tradition of knowledge (such as knowledge about what lies in the oceans deep below the surface of the water), and even some things stated in Christian scriptures (such as the creation myth) being proven wrong as scientific knowledge progressed.

Sparhafoc wrote:Before you claimed that social stability couldn't exist without the ideology, now the argument is 'more'?

Without any religion or ideology, there would basically be no more social stability among any large group of humans than among a large group of non-human primates, see below.

Sparhafoc wrote:No, there doesn't have to be a superhuman legitimacy to laws, rules, and customs in order for them to be perceived as beyond challenge, nor does a superhuman legitimacy necessarily ensure that people consider them as beyond challenge. Both of these ideas have already been explored in this thread.

So how could it be beyond challenge if there is no superhuman order?

Sparhafoc wrote:So you are arguing that chemistry is a religion/ideology?


Chemistry is neither of those, see below.

Sparhafoc wrote:A belief based on a 'superhuman order' is not necessarily a religion, and a religion does not necessarily posit a 'superhuman order'. Sometimes these may be the case, but one cannot use them as a guiding principle towards understanding 'what is a religion?'.

Yes, a belief based on a superhuman order is not necessarily a religion, it is only a religion if rules, rights and customs can be derived from it.

Sparhafoc wrote:I believe in physics, and my much-practiced custom is not to throw myself out of a 3rd floor window based on my belief that the laws of physics operate in such a way as to produce undesirable repercussions for contravening them.

But physics doesn't explain what happens to you or your soul after you die from the injuries, nor could anyone in their right mind claim that it is forbidden to throw someone else, or your pet or anyone else's pet, or a suitcase, out that window simply because it violates the law of gravity.

Sparhafoc wrote:Citation, please? The link you gave was to the home page, not to the article you're appealing to.

Just read the book or watch the series of videos on the history of humankind.

I'll leave discussion on humanism for another thread.

And yes, I do live in a confusing system of beliefs, and also on the autism spectrum.

Sparhafoc wrote:You've repeated it again. Please add more clauses explaining why it 'needs' to be or 'must' be. Just saying it a lot isn't very persuasive. If you can't offer any substantiation as to why it must be, is there a possibility that the argument isn't standing up to skeptical inspection because it's flawed?


Sparhafoc wrote:Incidentally, is this what this thread is about? Discussion on Harari's Homo Deus? If so, this might become a lot clearer to everyone - certainly to me.

There is nothing to do with Homo Deus as fas as I know.

Sparhafoc wrote:If a woman possesses no tissue whatsoever (micromastia) other than the gland, they're still called 'breasts' in medical terms because she still possesses the apocrine gland and can produce milk.

I didn't know that mammary glands were called "breasts" in medical term.

Sparhafoc wrote:This just says: Gorillas and chimpanzees aren't humans, nothing more. It's actually a point about cognition, not about what a religion is.

Yes, non-human primate co-operation isn't as flexible as human co-operation, and they don't even have the mental capacity to co-operate in groups nearly as large.

Bring together even a few hundred chimpanzees or a few hundred Gorillas, and they would basically fight with each other. Non-human primates tend to fight with strangers, at least of their own kind. But amazing co-operation does occur among millions of humans.

You could never convince a non-human primate, or any non-human animate being, anything by telling them something like "There's a god watching you and if you kill that chimp, god will punish you after you die", it doesn't make sense to them. Nor do chimpanzees believe in some universal set of chimpanzee rights.

Some insects do co-operate in larger groups than any non-human vertebrate, but even less flexibly than any non-human primate.

Here is Yuval Noah Harari himself explaining why human groups where most are complete strangers to each other needs myths and legends to survive.

Thu Oct 11, 2018 2:37 am
SparhafocPosts: 2521Joined: Fri Jun 23, 2017 6:48 am

Post Re: What is a religion?

Don't have time to respond in full right now as it's excessive meetings day, but this...


Europeans were converted to Christianity by the missionaries, one big factor is that the Romans became Christian and imposed it wherever they conquered.


Rome never imposed its religious beliefs onto those it conquered, not its Roman religion, nor its Emperor Cult, nor Christianity.

Charlemagne's conquest of Saxony and northern Germans entailed forced conversion - was that what you were thinking of?

Aside from some notable exceptions like the Saxons, Christianity wasn't forced onto populations of Europe, they converted - both ruler and ruled.

That means your previous contention that religions are superhuman orders and consequently humans cannot revolt against a superhuman order, or change a superhuman order isn't correct. This clearly happened numerous times.

Perhaps it's good to be restricted to addressing this one point as it may give you the opportunity to actually acknowledge an error.
"a reprehensible human being"
Beliefs are, by definition, things we don't know to be true.
Thu Oct 11, 2018 3:02 am
SparhafocPosts: 2521Joined: Fri Jun 23, 2017 6:48 am

Post Re: What is a religion?

Myrtonos wrote:Your post is quite long, and it's hard for me to reply to it all.


Apologies. It happens as conversations go on without any points being accepted, because each iteration necessarily calls back previous points.

Ill try to be brief, but as you may be able to tell, that's not exactly my strong point! ;)


Myrtonos wrote:
Sparhafoc wrote:One never needs to wonder about what a word means unless the person using it expressly defines it as something else. Everyone knows what the word 'secular' means, it's not ambiguous in the slightest.


Most people think that secularism has grown and that religion has lost centrality and importance.


Well, it's true. Secularism both indicates an indifference to religious considerations, and also the separation of social institutions, particularly political or governmental ones, from religious authority. Either way, secularism has grown dramatically in the past century, and to a lesser extent, for the 2 prior centuries before that. Of course, secularism hasn't 'grown' so much as that religion has lost dominance over society and the apparatus of government - in the same way that cold doesn't grow, it's just a function of a decrease in heat.


Myrtonos wrote: But according to Yuval Noah Harrari (in Sapiens, not Homo Deus), it is theist religions that have lost that and many religions without gods have emerged and gained centrality and importance.


Actually, if you read Homo Deus, I think you'll find he expands further on that in the second book.

From a historical perspective, looking at the relative importance of various human phenomena, then I agree with that claim. To religionists, it's obviously not true because for many of them their religion is still central to their thoughts about many things and to them would/should affect every aspect of society. However, in terms of comparisons of percentages of people suffering under such religious afflictions, then it's safe to say that the modern world is startlingly different in those terms. We no longer are entrained by a religious narrative.

Of course, a question still remains as to whether we've replaced it with something genuinely different, or whether we've just revised the details of the story while maintaining the psychologically satisfying narrative structure. For example, there are many non-religionists who accept scientific knowledge with what is basically blind faith, never checking the explanations they've uncritically accepted, and actively filtering out any information that contradicts the narratives they've brought into. It's something of a human psychological dilemma.


Myrtonos wrote:
Sparhafoc wrote:But please actually address my question. Buddhism predates secularism by thousands of years, so how can 'secular Buddhism' be 'a pure form of Buddhism'? Surely logic alone negates that argument?


I did explain, it is called secular Buddhism to distinguish what is actually the teachings of Buddhism incorporated into other religions such as Hinduism.


To explain my problem here. There's a central claim one must buy into here which I think is very dubious, and that is the notion that the followers of self-declared 'Secular Buddhism' are really rediscovering some uncontaminated version in its original pristine state, or whether they're just cherry-picking and employing idiosyncratic interpretations based on the knowledge they've accrued in other areas of life which Buddha and his contemporaries knew bugger all about.

From what I know of Buddhism - and while far from an expert on Buddhism my academic background includes both ancient history and anthropology, plus I've lived in a Buddhist nation for the majority of my adult life - I would suggest that their position wouldn't stand up to scrutiny. Perhaps I am wrong, but I know enough of the early texts and beliefs of Buddhists to be fairly confident in saying that they'd have to provide some powerful evidence to convince me that theirs is 'pure' or more aligned with the original formulations of Buddhism.


Myrtonos wrote:
Sparhafoc wrote:Further, if you look at the history of Buddhism it has *never* been secular - the very people who maintained Buddha's teachings sufficiently long so that the chap writing that article could even have heard of Buddhism were all clergy in one of the oldest religions in the world!


I'm not quite sure what this means but it is secular as in being without gods and founded purely on belief in natural law, as is the case with poltical ideologies.


For clarity, at least in a Western tradition, the concept of 'natural law' is more typically used in theology rather than a philosophy. There is, of course, liberal secularism's idea that individual rights are justified by appeal to specific aspects of human nature or nature in general... but to me at least there's a form therein which is ironically religious in quality, a psychological hold-out mentioned before.

What I meant is that whoever wrote the article about Buddhism only knows of the existence of Buddhism in the first place because of the religious structure of Buddhism which both made it so central to the populations which maintained it throughout that time, and which allowed it to be conserved down the ages. The person interpreting Buddhism as 'not-a-religion' has a hard row to hoe here justifying their contention. And that's leaving aside the only source materials which are replete with points that contradict the notion that it is 'secular'.


Myrtonos wrote:
Sparhafoc wrote:Can you cite this better description, please? You've linked me to the front page of a website with dozens of internal links, so I have no idea what it is you read that you are citing for me to read.


I linked to the wrong page. :( This is the right page.


Ok, thanks.

Please allow me to explain to you how my mind works so you can see between the lines of my thoughts.

Here's what I see when I look at this website.

I see a website written in English. Strange? Possibly not as it's the lingua franca, but it's not like one intrinsically connects Buddhism and English given that the vast majority of practitioners of Buddhism both past and present didn't speak English. But it's something that comes to mind.

Then I look at the article you cited; it's written by Dana Nourie, presumably a practitioner of Secular Buddhism. Fortunately, there's a hyperlink to look at her profile:

http://secularbuddhism.org/author/dana-nourie/

Dana Nourie

Dana is Technical Director of the Secular Buddhist Association. She learned Buddhism through a DVD course on Tibetan Mahayana Buddhism, followed by a two-year course in person. She then studied Theravada Buddhism through the Insight Meditation South Bay with teacher Shaila Catherine. She has been a practitioner now for over a decade.


Which makes me think... hmmmm, so she studied Tibetan Mahayana Buddhism for a couple of years - something that clearly is a religion - and then studied another form of Buddhism with someone else in a place called 'Insight Meditation South Bay' which, google shows me, is in the California area of the USA:

https://www.imsb.org/


Now the hmmm from before, adds some more m's to the end of it.

Laying aside a massive screed I might launch into here through respecting your criticism of me waffling on endlessly, I will attempt to make this succinct with respect to your argument.

Is it really believable that a bunch of Westerners with their cultural preconceptions can, after watching a DVD and telling each other things, somehow alight on the 'pure form of Buddhism' that somehow all those millions of traditional native practitioners failed to achieve after thousands of years of practice?

To me, the suggestion is quite the contrary - what it looks like to me is the New Agey type Buddhists who are basically counter-culture people of their respective nations who have latched onto something, projected their own ideas onto it while abandoning much of what genuinely makes it Buddhism, then congratulate each other on the depths they're plumbing.

If nothing else, it seems rather like ideological colonialism to me, and is probably the version furthest away from the original intent.

Then you have Barnum statements in the article:

To define a secular Buddhist is not easy, and anything we come up with that may fit one person is not going to apply to many others. One thing we can say with accuracy is that secular Buddhists are a diverse bunch.


So to define it, it depends on who you are? :lol: And even those who self-label are sufficiently diverse as to make it the most compelling aspect of the definition of that label?

Finally, in order to keep my response brief, Dana says this:

It’s impossible to say a secular Buddhist is this.


Kind of makes it hard to employ towards an argument of anything when even the cited author strongly declares they don't know what it is they believe.


Do you see where I am coming from?



Myrtonos wrote:
Sparhafoc wrote:Plus, as I've pointed out before; your notion of 'superhuman' here is a bag that catches too much and too little. The fundamental forces are 'superhuman', ergo science is a religion?


But I have explained countless times why science is not a religion,...


You have attempted to, yes. But the problem is that your argument still entails it. So when you make a different argument as to why science is not a religion, it's actually your own previous argument that you are defeating.


Myrtonos wrote:... yes the laws of science are superhuman, but no rules, laws or customs could conceivably be derived from them.


A statement of incredulity on your part, that is once again trivial to show wrong.

Flammable liquids are either forbidden or their quantities restricted from being brought onto a plane: a rule/rule derived from scientific laws
Quickening is the outdated term for when a foetus starts becoming mobile, and this state was used both customarily and as the basis of laws regarding abortion, personhood and homicide, derived from scientific knowledge of embryological development.

For example, the British jurist William Blackstone wrote in the 17th century that:

Life... begins in contemplation of law as soon as an infant is able to stir in the mother's womb. For if a woman is quick with child, and by a potion, or otherwise, killeth it in her womb; or if any one beat her, whereby the child dieth in her body, and she is delivered of a dead child; this, though not murder, was by the ancient law homicide or manslaughter.



I would hazard a guess that we could come up with dozens of rules, laws, and customs that are derived from science.



Myrtonos wrote:
Sparhafoc wrote:I already addressed this. You are defining religion as being fundamentally based (no less) on a 'superhuman system' - that IS a definition of a religion.


Listen, I am not defining religion at all, just only accepting definitions that include being founded on a belief in a superhuman order, not just because all religions are founded on a belief in such order, but because belief in such and order and deriving rules, rights and customs from them ensures social stability in large groups.


Ok, but no one else agrees, so where do we go from here? We can only really do 3 things as far as I can see. Either you produce more compelling arguments to convince us, you drop the argument and try something else, or we just say 'we disagree' but then allow it as an 'if it were true then...' so that you can follow up with your next idea. I am perfectly happy to engage in the latter; I don't need to agree with something to inspect what follows from it. But of course, I can't be obliged to agree with you, regardless of how confident you are that you're correct.


Myrtonos wrote:
Sparhafoc wrote:MUST is what you're supposed to be arguing and expressly what I am contesting, not something that is taken here as an axiom. You cannot support your argument by repeating your argument numerous times and using words that mean 'must' - that doesn't even amount to begging the question.


I use it hoping others won't argue against it.


Then may I suggest a new grammatical approach? :) The Second Conditional.

If your argument were true, then what would follow?

I'm happy to aspire to the Aristotelian ideal of educated minds being able to entertain thoughts without necessarily accepting them.


Myrtonos wrote:
Sparhafoc wrote:So does your argument now entail that religion is about justifying the prohibition of certain behaviors?


Yes, religion is about giving a superhuman justification to prescriptions and proscriptions.


As mentioned, this then becomes an entirely different kettle of fish. If you look back at my earlier response to Aron Ra's cited explanation, I added some more points and one was the conceptual division of the sacred and profane.

In most cases, it's actually historically a fact that the cart here goes before the horse. Cultures and societies already had prescriptions and proscriptions against particular practices prior to possessing the religion which then set those pre and proscriptions into the cosmic plane.

The consumption of pork is a fascinating one because pork is just bloody delicious, pigs are incredibly easy to rear, and it seems counterproductive to pass up such a useful food source. But set in the geographical region which later spawned those religions, the people had already encountered the pre-refrigeration problems of porcine parasites and consequently came to a cultural belief in pigs being unclean before such ideas were co-opted by religions, ironically in a way to justify themselves.

To put it another way: do you think that people didn't know not to shit where they eat before the Bible told them so, or do you think it more likely they had pre-existing knowledge (and presumably some kind of internally coherent set of ideas around that knowledge) which meant they knew not to do it?

In this way, the 'structure' you are talking about is best - imo - seen as a narrative; a way for a population of humans to convey information generationally. Religions, for a while, became better (in a memetic sense) way of conveying that information in a holistic way because more developed institutions around this practice ensured that their version was recorded and passed down more faithfully than previous versions which contained the same information.


Myrtonos wrote:
Sparhafoc wrote:Again, to me you're just extrapolating the Abrahamic religions and pretending their theologies are necessary formats for all religions. This I reject completely and I would doubt very much you could persuade me otherwise when I could list dozens of religions both past and extant which do not posit such a god.


No, I'm just explaining how belief in god ensures social stability among believers in a common god.


Except, of course, when it doesn't.


Myrtonos wrote:
Sparhafoc wrote:Ok. Can you cite some, please?


No, but it is mentioned in Jared Diamond's most well known book.


Which one is his most well known book? Guns, Germs and Steel? As far as I recall, he discusses confrontation between different tribes, not revolutions against one's tribal leader.

Again, quick insight into my brain. I am not saying you're wrong here. Just looking to see what it is you're intellectually calling up when you make that claim.


Myrtonos wrote:
Sparhafoc wrote:You could take literally thousands of examples of populations changing religious beliefs - in your analogy, revolting against their sanctioned God. I struggle to believe you have never heard of ANY of these events - history is rife with them. Look at a map. Anywhere you see Christianity or Islam - that happened. People who were previously pagans or polytheists or Zoroastrians or any number of other religions revolted against their own belief system and installed new ones.


They did change their beliefs, yes, Europeans were converted to Christianity by the missionaries,...


Ergo, what you previously said about not being able to revolt against a 'superhuman system' you now amend?


Myrtonos wrote: one big factor is that the Romans became Christian and imposed it wherever they conquered.


Addressed in other post.


Myrtonos wrote:But remember that different European cultures followed very different pagan faiths, but converted to a common monotheist religion.


This doesn't seem to have anything to do with anything you've previously argued.


Myrtonos wrote:But what I am saying is that believers in a common god can't revolt against that god as long as they aren't converted to a different religion.


Yet converting to another religion is clearly an absolute revolt against that common god, so for me, it really does make your argument nonsensical.

Next up we could look at schisms, such as the Protestant revolution whereby the same 'superhuman system' was maintained, but they revolted against many of the shared tenets held near uniformly between believers in a common god, but I think I've made my point.


Myrtonos wrote:
Sparhafoc wrote:Manifestly untrue and trivial to show. The environment is a 'superhuman order'. Humans can change it by disrupting the contents of that environment.


In that case, the contents of the environment are not superhuman.


Then your definition of superhuman is questionable.

We can also change physical forces using technology, therefore physics is not 'superhuman' etc.

Again, I would suggest that this shows that the argument is false rather than meaning that ad hoc explanations need to be contrived to save it.


Myrtonos wrote:The laws of science are superhuman, but cannot be a basis for any rules, rights, rituals or ceremonies.


Explained above why this is false.


Myrtonos wrote: The law of god (in Abrahamic religions), the law of karma (in Buddhism), and the law of history (in communism) are all superhuman according to followers of the respective religions or political ideology.


The first two may be, although the second's form is quite different than the first.. but the third is a different kettle of fish altogether as history is wholly human in every applicable manner, therefore it is not just changed by humans but actually created by humans and can't therefore be taken as being 'superhuman' in the same sense as either of the previous ones.


Myrtonos wrote:
Sparhafoc wrote:But you've just contradicted yourself, and as I've said, you are now appealing to agency which is not just 'a superhuman system' as per your original argument; you're now positing a very particular format of god belief: a theology.


It is still just an explanation of how belief in a common god ensures social stability.


And with respect, that's still nothing to do with anything relevant. It's not your initial argument, and it's not being challenged.


Myrtonos wrote:
Sparhafoc wrote:And yet, as I've said, we've seen that happen throughout human history, which is why a map of modern religion is not an exact copy of the geographical religions of the ancient world. In fact, they have nothing in common.


What has indeed happened is large groups of people have been converted from one religion to the other.


Have been converted.... you use a passive voice as if it happened to them. Surely, there is usually an active element to this - the subject changes religion, the second religion doesn't somehow automate the mind of the adherent to cause them to change, it happens under the subject's volition. Ergo, it's in contradiction with your prior argument about them not being able to change.


Myrtonos wrote:As for Europe becoming not-very-christian, this happened after the scientific revolution, and it is due to the discovery of many facts about the world that are left out of the christian tradition of knowledge (such as knowledge about what lies in the oceans deep below the surface of the water), and even some things stated in Christian scriptures (such as the creation myth) being proven wrong as scientific knowledge progressed.


In part, but I don't think it really happened after the scientific revolution, or at least not the majority of it. Most scientists even remained Christian up until the last century. I would say if there's any preceding historical event that seems causally related, it's actually the World Wars and the effects they had are complex and numerous, but not least of which is the increase in social and legal individualism.


Myrtonos wrote:
Sparhafoc wrote:Before you claimed that social stability couldn't exist without the ideology, now the argument is 'more'?


Without any religion or ideology, there would basically be no more social stability among any large group of humans than among a large group of non-human primates, see below.


Ok, this is my field, so you'll understand that I am going to struggle with naive formulations.

In what way are non-human primates less socially stable? Factually, they're not. Humanity as a whole, and separate human groups undergo vast structural and social upheavals, whereas non-human primates have remained nearly the same in this sense for aeons. So clearly, in this comparative landscape, religion and ideology do NOT produce social stability - the absence of them would actually result in MORE social stability.

So please pay attention here: you are using false 'facts' to support your arguments. To me, this doesn't mean your argument is necessarily wrong, but there's clearly a problem with the formulation of it when the best support for it offered is manifestly false.


Myrtonos wrote:
Sparhafoc wrote:No, there doesn't have to be a superhuman legitimacy to laws, rules, and customs in order for them to be perceived as beyond challenge, nor does a superhuman legitimacy necessarily ensure that people consider them as beyond challenge. Both of these ideas have already been explored in this thread.


So how could it be beyond challenge if there is no superhuman order?


Trivially: by rejecting it. I would warn against combining confidence and incredulity as it's more likely to cause you to overlook elementary aspects which contradict your position.


Myrtonos wrote:
Sparhafoc wrote:So you are arguing that chemistry is a religion/ideology?


Chemistry is neither of those, see below.


Well, I know it's not. I am not saying it is. I am saying that it is a consequence of your argument. It's called 'reductio ad absurdum'

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reductio_ad_absurdum

In logic, reductio ad absurdum (Latin for "reduction to absurdity"), also known as argumentum ad absurdum (Latin for "argument to absurdity") or the appeal to extremes, is a form of argument that attempts either to disprove a statement by showing it inevitably leads to a ridiculous, absurd, or impractical conclusion...


Your argument, which I have contested on the grounds that it both says too much and says too little, has a number of flaws which I've tried to explain to you. As you've not seemed really to engage with the substance of my counters then I instead opted to use a reductio ad absurdum to show you that your own argument necessarily leads to a position you yourself do not agree with.


Myrtonos wrote:
Sparhafoc wrote:A belief based on a 'superhuman order' is not necessarily a religion, and a religion does not necessarily posit a 'superhuman order'. Sometimes these may be the case, but one cannot use them as a guiding principle towards understanding 'what is a religion?'.


Yes, a belief based on a superhuman order is not necessarily a religion, it is only a religion if rules, rights and customs can be derived from it.


Then all beliefs based on what you call a superhuman order are necessarily religions as rules, rights and customs can all be derived from them. That's just what follows.


Myrtonos wrote:
Sparhafoc wrote:I believe in physics, and my much-practiced custom is not to throw myself out of a 3rd floor window based on my belief that the laws of physics operate in such a way as to produce undesirable repercussions for contravening them.


But physics doesn't explain what happens to you or your soul after you die from the injuries,...


Nor does it have to under the previous argument you made, but now you are moving the goalposts.


Myrtonos wrote:... nor could anyone in their right mind claim that it is forbidden to throw someone else, or your pet or anyone else's pet, or a suitcase, out that window simply because it violates the law of gravity.


But it doesn't violate the law of gravity. It's the obligatory obedience of gravity that produces the undesirable outcome.


Myrtonos wrote:
Sparhafoc wrote:Citation, please? The link you gave was to the home page, not to the article you're appealing to.


Just read the book or watch the series of videos on the history of humankind.


Which book or series? Yuval Noah Harari?

Already done that, although I didn't 'watch' the series, I viewed his course https://www.coursera.org/instructor/~1804614 a few years ago to see whether it was something I wanted to set my students as required coursework. It wasn't, but it was very good.

Anyway, it's not much of a citation. You can't point to an entire book or hours of video to support a point. It's not reasonable to expect me to go and do that solely to find the thing you have in your mind. How would I know what it is you are thinking about to support your argument?


Myrtonos wrote:I'll leave discussion on humanism for another thread.


Ok, but I wouldn't use Harari as your basis for that, as a recommendation. I think other sources might offer a better historical picture.


Myrtonos wrote:And yes, I do live in a confusing system of beliefs, and also on the autism spectrum.


Ahh I see, then please accept my apologies as I may have phrased things a little more sensitively in the past was I aware of that.

For the former, I think that's just fine, and should really be seen as the usual state of affairs of a reasonably well-informed Homo sapiens. The more we know, the more confusing it all becomes.


Myrtonos wrote:There is nothing to do with Homo Deus as fas as I know.


Ah... if you haven't read it, then I think you're going to enjoy it. I would maintain the recollection throughout though that much of what he's saying is speculative albeit in a very creative way. It's a way of slicing the world and exposing it from that cut. But it's not the only way of slicing things up.



Myrtonos wrote:
Sparhafoc wrote:This just says: Gorillas and chimpanzees aren't humans, nothing more. It's actually a point about cognition, not about what a religion is.


Yes, non-human primate co-operation isn't as flexible as human co-operation, and they don't even have the mental capacity to co-operate in groups nearly as large.


The latter is concerned with something called Dunbar's Number, and it's based on comparative neocortex sizes among mammals. It's not about mental capacity, rather it's about stress felt by a population when they routinely encounter individuals they are unfamiliar with. As there's a limit to the number of individuals a baboon can interact with (groom) in a day, purely based on time restraints, so there's a harder mechanical layer here too. In fact, some studies have shown that Dunbar's Number is more to do with other factors than neocortex size, but that behaviors can make that social number increase or decrease. For example, humans talk to each other, so it's much cheaper and easier to maintain more relationships, but in reality, most of us get nowhere near our upper limit anyway.


Myrtonos wrote:Bring together even a few hundred chimpanzees or a few hundred Gorillas, and they would basically fight with each other.


Only because they wouldn't be blood related.

But the sad fact is that it's probably the case with humans too.


Myrtonos wrote:Non-human primates tend to fight with strangers, at least of their own kind. But amazing co-operation does occur among millions of humans.


While I agree with the latter, the former clause is all too sadly descriptive of the preponderance of human history. However, the cooperation between millions of humans tends to happen on a more abstract layer. If they were all in close proximity to one and other, then things would be different.


Myrtonos wrote:You could never convince a non-human primate, or any non-human animate being, anything by telling them something like "There's a god watching you and if you kill that chimp, god will punish you after you die", it doesn't make sense to them. Nor do chimpanzees believe in some universal set of chimpanzee rights.


Well of course it doesn't make sense to them: they can't speak, they don't understand language, they don't employ human cognition etc.

It's like saying that you can't breathe underwater; it's obviously the case and for far more mundane reasons than you're employing.

But you would still need to explain how it is that chimpanzees LACKING these supposedly requisite comprehension of superhuman orders still have rules they clearly follow, and don't all set about murdering each other, but actually live in long-term socially stable groups. All primates do. In fact, all social animals do! They may have scuffles (as do we) but it's not like they're all engaging in rules unique to every individual and there's just as much social price to pay for their actions as there is with human societies.


Myrtonos wrote:Some insects do co-operate in larger groups than any non-human vertebrate, but even less flexibly than any non-human primate.


Flexibility is another addition which isn't part of what was being discussed previously. In reality, ants would exhibit far greater social stability, cohesion, and co-operation than any human group ever, in vastly greater numbers... without any conceived 'superhuman order'. So once again, it's shown to be superfluous.


Myrtonos wrote:Here is Yuval Noah Harari himself explaining why human groups where most are complete strangers to each other needs myths and legends to survive.


Sorry, your link doesn't work for me, but it's not too important really as I teach a course on exactly this subject (called Homo narratus) so I expect I know the details, I just may differ in what I conceive as being the most useful way of explaining those details.
"a reprehensible human being"
Beliefs are, by definition, things we don't know to be true.
Thu Oct 11, 2018 11:18 am
Dragan GlasContributorUser avatar
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Post Re: What is a religion?

Greetings,

Myrtonos wrote:I'm not quite sure what this means but it is secular as in being without gods and founded purely on belief in natural law, as is the case with poltical ideologies.

I think this is where you're getting confused.

Secular refers to, as Sparhafoc explained in his last post, the separation of institutions, particularly church (religion) and state.

It has nothing to do with the lack of gods - that's atheism.

What you mean when you say "secular Buddhism" is "atheistic Buddhism", also known as Theravadan Buddhism, the earliest existing, and most conservative, form of Buddhism.

Mahayana Buddhism is a theistic form, which is a Christianized form of Buddhism where a belief in a deity - with the Buddha as God - has been added.

It has to be said that "secular Buddhism" is a more recent, Westernized form, with little to do with Buddhism itself.

Kindest regards,

James
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"The Word of God is the Creation we behold and it is in this Word, which no human invention can counterfeit or alter, that God speaketh universally to man."
The Age Of Reason
Thu Oct 11, 2018 1:55 pm
MyrtonosPosts: 73Joined: Sun Dec 11, 2011 9:23 am Gender: Male

Post Re: What is a religion?

Sparhafoc wrote:Ill try to be brief, but as you may be able to tell, that's not exactly my strong point! ;)

I'm not saying you should be brief, just that it was quite long, and wasn't even sure what to say on all of it.

Sparhafoc wrote:Well, it's true. Secularism both indicates an indifference to religious considerations, and also the separation of social institutions, particularly political or governmental ones, from religious authority. Either way, secularism has grown dramatically in the past century, and to a lesser extent, for the 2 prior centuries before that. Of course, secularism hasn't 'grown' so much as that religion has lost dominance over society and the apparatus of government - in the same way that cold doesn't grow, it's just a function of a decrease in heat.

According to Dr. Harari, it is theist religions that have lost dominance over society and natural law religions have gained ground, which is the case if you count political ideologies as religions. In the end, I am aware of the differences between religions and political ideologies, I'm just saying that definitions of religion that include political ideologies are quite acceptable and that such ideologies do have the same dominance over society than religion once had.
And "secularism" is not in fact an indifference to ideological considerations.

Sparhafoc wrote:Actually, if you read Homo Deus, I think you'll find he expands further on that in the second book.

I had no idea.

Sparhafoc wrote:From a historical perspective, looking at the relative importance of various human phenomena, then I agree with that claim. To religionists, it's obviously not true because for many of them their religion is still central to their thoughts about many things and to them would/should affect every aspect of society. However, in terms of comparisons of percentages of people suffering under such religious afflictions, then it's safe to say that the modern world is startlingly different in those terms. We no longer are entrained by a religious narrative.

Actually, we no longer believe in a tradition of knowledge that holds every vital piece of information for human prosperity and salvation.

Sparhafoc wrote:Further, if you look at the history of Buddhism it has *never* been secular - the very people who maintained Buddha's teachings sufficiently long so that the chap writing that article could even have heard of Buddhism were all clergy in one of the oldest religions in the world!

I'm not quite sure what this means but it is secular as in being without gods and founded purely on belief in natural law, as is the case with political ideologies.

Sparhafoc wrote:For clarity, at least in a Western tradition, the concept of 'natural law' is more typically used in theology rather than a philosophy. There is, of course, liberal secularism's idea that individual rights are justified by appeal to specific aspects of human nature or nature in general... but to me at least there's a form therein which is ironically religious in quality, a psychological hold-out mentioned before.

And what you say is liberal secularism's idea of individual rights is as much of a religious idea as the idea that suffering results from craving.

Sparhafoc wrote:What I meant is that whoever wrote the article about Buddhism only knows of the existence of Buddhism in the first place because of the religious structure of Buddhism which both made it so central to the populations which maintained it throughout that time, and which allowed it to be conserved down the ages. The person interpreting Buddhism as 'not-a-religion' has a hard row to hoe here justifying their contention. And that's leaving aside the only source materials which are replete with points that contradict the notion that it is 'secular'.

I have a hard time grasping this.

Sparhafoc wrote:I see a website written in English. Strange? Possibly not as it's the lingua franca, but it's not like one intrinsically connects Buddhism and English given that the vast majority of practitioners of Buddhism both past and present didn't speak English. But it's something that comes to mind.

I'm not following this, same with the parts I didn't quote.

Sparhafoc wrote:Flammable liquids are either forbidden or their quantities restricted from being brought onto a plane: a rule/rule derived from scientific laws

No the rule is because of the impact of these liquids catching fire on planes. Think of the impact it would have on the aviation business.

Sparhafoc wrote:Quickening is the outdated term for when a foetus starts becoming mobile, and this state was used both customarily and as the basis of laws regarding abortion, personhood and homicide, derived from scientific knowledge of embryological development.

But the right to life is also part of it too, and that clearly has a superhuman legitimacy.

Sparhafoc wrote:I would hazard a guess that we could come up with dozens of rules, laws, and customs that are derived from science.

Maybe we could come up the rules that might seem to be derived from science, but there would have to be more than that, if you know what I mean.


Sparhafoc wrote:In most cases, it's actually historically a fact that the cart here goes before the horse. Cultures and societies already had prescriptions and proscriptions against particular practices prior to possessing the religion which then set those pre and proscriptions into the cosmic plane.

But at that time, all cultures and societies had religions, and in fact theist ones.

Sparhafoc wrote:The consumption of pork is a fascinating one because pork is just bloody delicious, pigs are incredibly easy to rear, and it seems counterproductive to pass up such a useful food source. But set in the geographical region which later spawned those religions, the people had already encountered the pre-refrigeration problems of porcine parasites and consequently came to a cultural belief in pigs being unclean before such ideas were co-opted by religions, ironically in a way to justify themselves.

Maybe some ate pork and got infected and this was interpreted as a punishment from god for eating the flesh of a swine.

Sparhafoc wrote:To put it another way: do you think that people didn't know not to [defecate] where they eat before the Bible told them so, or do you think it more likely they had pre-existing knowledge (and presumably some kind of internally coherent set of ideas around that knowledge) which meant they knew not to do it?

Of course, first of all, they did have an oral tradition before the Bible was written. Also, I'm sure even plenty of other animals know this.

Sparhafoc wrote:Except, of course, when it doesn't.

But it does ensure much greater stability among billions of humans then there could ever be among even a few hundred Gorillas, or few hundred Chimpanzees.

Sparhafoc wrote: As far as I recall, he discusses confrontation between different tribes, not revolutions against one's tribal leader.

But in one chapter he does mention but not discuss revolts against repressive chiefs.

Sparhafoc wrote:We can also change physical forces using technology, therefore physics is not 'superhuman' etc.

But we can't change the laws that describe them. No technology can exert a force on an object without that object exerting and equal and opposite force.
For example, almost every helicopter has at least two rotors. No technology can change the fact that a helicopter with only one rotor, turned by an engine inside the fuselage, and no tail-thruster (usually a tail rotor but not always), would spin round in the air in the opposite direction to the rotor.

Sparhafoc wrote:The first two may be, although the second's form is quite different than the first.. but the third is a different kettle of fish altogether as history is wholly human in every applicable manner, therefore it is not just changed by humans but actually created by humans and can't therefore be taken as being 'superhuman' in the same sense as either of the previous ones.

But how is communism "a different kettle of fish altogether"? It is founded on belief in the law of history, also check out Marx and Inevitability.

Sparhafoc wrote:In part, but I don't think it really happened after the scientific revolution, or at least not the majority of it. Most scientists even remained Christian up until the last century. I would say if there's any preceding historical event that seems causally related, it's actually the World Wars and the effects they had are complex and numerous, but not least of which is the increase in social and legal individualism.

Well, the last century is after the scientific revolution. There is a reason to believe that science did indeed take away the power of the gods, and that is the discovery of many crucial secrets of the world left out of all prior religious traditions of knowledge. Also, a lot of religious belief, like legends of how the human race originated, got proven wrong as knowledge progressed.

Remember that it wasn't until Charles Darwin wrote about the theory of evolution (19th century, some time after the launch of the scientific revolution) that there even was a scientific explanation of how life on earth originated, let alone how the human race originated. Until then, many people, as far as I know, still thought the religious tradition of their society held the definitive answer to how the human race originated.

Sparhafoc wrote:In what way are non-human primates less socially stable? Factually, they're not. Humanity as a whole, and separate human groups undergo vast structural and social upheavals, whereas non-human primates have remained nearly the same in this sense for aeons. So clearly, in this comparative landscape, religion and ideology do NOT produce social stability - the absence of them would actually result in MORE social stability.

I didn't say that non-human primates are less socially stable, I said that religions and ideologies ensure social stability, not in just any human group, but in one large enough that most humans in that group are complete strangers to each other. Non-human primates cannot be that socially stable in groups that large.

In such large human groups, there needs to be a common set of rules, rights and rituals in order for people to know how to encounter strangers without attempting to fight with each other. And in order to keep these consistent throughout that human group and keep them from changing too often, people in that group need to be under the impression that they are beyond challenge, and so there needs to be a way to give a superhuman legitimacy to them.

Sparhafoc wrote:Then all beliefs based on what you call a superhuman order are necessarily religions as rules, rights and customs can all be derived from them. That's just what follows.

I have explained why laws of science are not religious in nature, but you keep coming up with rules, rights and customs which you claim are derived from them.

Sparhafoc wrote:Nor does it have to under the previous argument you made, but now you are moving the goalposts.

What "goalposts"?

Sparhafoc wrote:But it doesn't violate the law of gravity. It's the obligatory obedience of gravity that produces the undesirable outcome.

Gravity just produces the natural outcome, nothing supernatural, and therefore doesn't determine what happens to (the soul of) someone after they die from the injuries. Not does gravity make the outcome undesirable.

Sparhafoc wrote:Already done that, although I didn't 'watch' the series, I viewed his course https://www.coursera.org/instructor/~1804614 a few years ago to see whether it was something I wanted to set my students as required coursework. It wasn't, but it was very good.

But you previously commented as if you hadn't heard of it.

Sparhafoc wrote:Ok, but I wouldn't use Harari as your basis for that, as a recommendation. I think other sources might offer a better historical picture.

But he does appear to be one of the smartest and wisest scholars.

Sparhafoc wrote:The latter is concerned with something called Dunbar's Number, and it's based on comparative neocortex sizes among mammals. It's not about mental capacity, rather it's about stress felt by a population when they routinely encounter individuals they are unfamiliar with. As there's a limit to the number of individuals a baboon can interact with (groom) in a day, purely based on time restraints, so there's a harder mechanical layer here too. In fact, some studies have shown that Dunbar's Number is more to do with other factors than neocortex size, but that behaviors can make that social number increase or decrease. For example, humans talk to each other, so it's much cheaper and easier to maintain more relationships, but in reality, most of us get nowhere near our upper limit anyway.

Yes, the maximum size of a human group where all humans know each other is already larger than a non-human primate band, our own kind can also co-operate with countless strangers, other primates don't have this capacity.

Sparhafoc wrote:Only because they wouldn't be blood related.

But the sad fact is that it's probably the case with humans too.

And yet homo sapiens has the ability to control the world to a large extent with animals of other kinds kept on farms or locked-up in zoos.

Sparhafoc wrote:While I agree with the latter, the former clause is all too sadly descriptive of the preponderance of human history. However, the cooperation between millions of humans tends to happen on a more abstract layer. If they were all in close proximity to one and other, then things would be different.

What "abstract layer" and what does "close proximity" mean in this case?

Sparhafoc wrote:Well of course it doesn't make sense to them: they can't speak, they don't understand language, they don't employ human cognition etc.

Believe it or not, apes can be taught to understand human language, they can even learn sign language and use it. They even reward co-operation and punish freeloaders, but they just don't have a sense anything like the idea that freeloaders will be punished after they die.

Sparhafoc wrote:But you would still need to explain how it is that chimpanzees LACKING these supposedly requisite comprehension of superhuman orders still have rules they clearly follow, and don't all set about murdering each other, but actually live in long-term socially stable groups. All primates do. In fact, all social animals do! They may have scuffles (as do we) but it's not like they're all engaging in rules unique to every individual and there's just as much social price to pay for their actions as there is with human societies.

Chimpanzees within the same band don't because they all know each other intimately and they can co-operate very well with those they know intimately, just not with strangers.

Sparhafoc wrote:Flexibility is another addition which isn't part of what was being discussed previously. In reality, ants would exhibit far greater social stability, cohesion, and co-operation than any human group ever, in vastly greater numbers... without any conceived 'superhuman order'. So once again, it's shown to be superfluous.

Yes, but ant co-operation is very rigid, and only with close relatives. Specimens of homo sapiens can co-operate much more flexibly, not only with countless strangers, but even strangers not closely related by either birth or marriage.

Dragan Glas wrote:Secular refers to, as Sparhafoc explained in his last post, the separation of institutions, particularly church (religion) and state.

Yes but political ideologies (which Dr. Harari claims are religions, and for a good reason) do effect the state just as theist religions used to do in most state societies.

Dragan Glas wrote:It has nothing to do with the lack of gods - that's atheism.

If you count political ideologies as religions, "secularism" actually does have more to do atheism than most people think. Modern natural law religions like capitalism do effect the laws of places that claim to have separation of church and state, and indeed in communist countries, their religion, communism, was the state, as is still the case in Cuba. As do humanist faiths like liberalism. In fact Nazi Germany was another case of the church being the state, their state religion being Nazism, and form of evolutionary humanism.

Dragan Glas wrote:What you mean when you say "secular Buddhism" is "atheistic Buddhism", also known as Theravadan Buddhism, the earliest existing, and most conservative, form of Buddhism.

And and apparently some don't accept this as a religion anymore than they would accept political ideologies as "religions".
Fri Oct 12, 2018 1:50 am
SparhafocPosts: 2521Joined: Fri Jun 23, 2017 6:48 am

Post Re: What is a religion?

Well, I am not sure we're getting anywhere, and each new post seems to add new trails of discussion premised on questionable notions.

Let's just try out what I mentioned before...

Aristotle wrote:It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.


Supposing your initial contention was taken as granted - 'all religions are founded on a belief in an order that is not signed or legislated by humans or any animate beings, this being called a super-human order' - so what follows from that?
"a reprehensible human being"
Beliefs are, by definition, things we don't know to be true.
Sat Oct 13, 2018 5:36 pm
MyrtonosPosts: 73Joined: Sun Dec 11, 2011 9:23 am Gender: Male

Post Re: What is a religion?

The first thing that follows is that professional sport games are not religions. Also, because religions do include rules and customs derived from that belief in such an order, at least some of those rules and customs are beyond challenge according to followers of that religion. This ensure social stability among followers of a common religion, even if most are complete strangers to each other.

Look at Catholicism, the most successful theist religion ever. There seem to be about a billion Catholics, and social stability among them all is ensured by any rule or law against anything God thinks is evil being seen as beyond challenge.
Sun Oct 14, 2018 3:05 am
SparhafocPosts: 2521Joined: Fri Jun 23, 2017 6:48 am

Post Re: What is a religion?

So...

Sparhafoc wrote:Supposing your initial contention was taken as granted - 'all religions are founded on a belief in an order that is not signed or legislated by humans or any animate beings, this being called a super-human order' - so what follows from that?
"a reprehensible human being"
Beliefs are, by definition, things we don't know to be true.
Sun Oct 14, 2018 9:37 am
MyrtonosPosts: 73Joined: Sun Dec 11, 2011 9:23 am Gender: Male

Post Re: What is a religion?

See above. Belief in a superhuman order and deriving rules and customs from it ensures social stability in large groups of people.
Sun Oct 14, 2018 9:51 am
SparhafocPosts: 2521Joined: Fri Jun 23, 2017 6:48 am

Post Re: What is a religion?

Myrtonos wrote:See above. Belief in a superhuman order and deriving rules and customs from it ensures social stability in large groups of people.



The above didn't even amount to a non-sequitur.

The thread's question and your argument isn't 'what ensures social stability in large groups of people?'

And it's not like anyone ever argued that sports are religions because they're based on rules and customs derived from a belief in that order.

As there's no serious question, suggestion or argument that sports actually are religions, then an argument against that is irrelevant.

We could spend the rest of our lives listing things that aren't religion; while I suppose that might eventually result in the remaining things actually being an answer to 'what is a religion?' it seems a rather long-winded way to go about it.

So again, given that I've said I will take your initial contention as granted, and given that it is a thread supposedly about what religion is, then what exactly follows from your proposition?

Look back at your first post. Imagine everyone said 'agree'. Now what would you have written as a follow up to that?

Basically, what's the point here?
"a reprehensible human being"
Beliefs are, by definition, things we don't know to be true.
Sun Oct 14, 2018 12:06 pm
*SD*User avatarPosts: 342Joined: Sat Mar 30, 2013 1:00 amLocation: Wales, UK Gender: Male

Post Re: What is a religion?

Sparhafoc wrote:Basically, what's the point here?


I asked him that earlier because I knew this thread would go exactly the way it has. Heard it all before :)

SD wrote:Just wondering... what's the central point here? What are you actually arguing for? Or is this purely as per the thread title and you just want to discuss what constitutes a religion and what does not? Is there more to it? Where are you heading?


I didn't get an answer.
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Sun Oct 14, 2018 1:00 pm
WWW
MyrtonosPosts: 73Joined: Sun Dec 11, 2011 9:23 am Gender: Male

Post Re: What is a religion?

Sparhafoc wrote:The above didn't even amount to a non-sequitur.

How could it not even be a non-sequitur, that reminds me of not even wrong.

Sparhafoc wrote:The thread's question and your argument isn't 'what ensures social stability in large groups of people?'

Sure, but everything conventionally accepted as a religion is founded on a belief in a superhuman order, such as the law of God, or the law or karma. Also, I noted that belief in a superhuman order and basing the rules of society on it ensures social stability.

How on earth could there be social stability among billions of people if they don't perceive at least some rules of society as beyond challenge?

Sparhafoc wrote:And it's not like anyone ever argued that sports are religions because they're based on rules and customs derived from a belief in that order.

Yes, but there has been discussion elsewhere.

Sparhafoc wrote:As there's no serious question, suggestion or argument that sports actually are religions, then an argument against that is irrelevant.


See:
Pray tell me: Is football a religion?
Is football the universal religion?

I've looked up 'football religion' (not in quotes) in google and have found more results than just those two.

Sparhafoc wrote:So again, given that I've said I will take your initial contention as granted, and given that it is a thread supposedly about what religion is, then what exactly follows from your proposition?

It is about what a religion is, it was actually inspired in large part by Sapiens: A brief history of humankind. In that book a definition of religion was given and that definition did include political ideologies. Though it is noted later in that same book that creeds conventionally accepted as religions do have interest in afterlife while political ideologies don't.

Sparhafoc wrote:Look back at your first post. Imagine everyone said 'agree'. Now what would you have written as a follow up to that?

I'm not sure what to say on this.

And yes, I did want to discuss what constitutes religion with whoever is prepared to discuss it with me.
Sun Oct 14, 2018 1:39 pm
SparhafocPosts: 2521Joined: Fri Jun 23, 2017 6:48 am

Post Re: What is a religion?

And I typed in 'kangaroo algebra' and got 794,000 results.

I'm out of this non-discussion.

All the best.
"a reprehensible human being"
Beliefs are, by definition, things we don't know to be true.
Sun Oct 14, 2018 2:24 pm
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