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More About Me

Still have any Gods? If so, who or what?

Found 10 results

  1. A few notes from Huston Smith's lecture Religions of the World: The world's religions divide themselves into 4 groups or families- The Western family or Abrahamic religions: Judaism, Christianity, Islam South Asain- Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism. East Asian: Taoism, Confuciansim, East Asian Buddhism, Shinto Primal (or tribal or oral) religions: no writing or sacred texts. How religions view time- Western: time is linear. Asian: time is cyclical. Primal: time is eternal or timeless. What religions emphasize: South Asian religions concentrate on the psychological question. East Asian religions concentrate on the social problem. Chinese religion compared to Western exclusivity: "Let me mention a third point that illustrates the Chinese social emphasis. And this has to do with the way they fitted their religions together. If we think of our major religions in the west- Judaism, Christianity, and Islam- they are all exclusive of one another. If we were going to diagram them, why we might think of Judaism as a square, Christianity a circle, and Islam as a triangle. Well, you can put these together so they touch one another but they don't integrate. Whereas traditions in China- Confucianism, Taoism and Buddhism as they imported it- fit together very differently. They fit together more like a jigsaw [puzzle] so they really do fit together. Traditionally every Chinese was a Confucianist, a Taoist, and a Buddhist at the same time... There was no conflict because on state occasions... everybody was a Confucianist. When disease fell they would turn to the Taoists... And then when death comes, that's the time for the Buddhist priest." Judaism's underdog beginnings: "...the Western idea of progress as having derived from the Jews who in their formative period were underdogs. As I say, neither of the other two families of religions had their formative outlook forged by underdogs. In the case of India, the outlook was forged by Brahmans who were at the top of the social heap. And in China it was the literati- those who could read- and the scholars who likewise were at the top of the social heap. ... If one is a member of the ruling class ...then there is no great urge to look to the future because things are already rather satisfactory... But with the Jews, as I mentioned, it was quite otherwise. They were always in a state of expectation, one of the symbols being they wanted to cross over into Jordan. ... It was this expectation of a better future, which as I say in Jewish theology crystalized in the doctrine of Messianism - the coming of a Messiah." Primal religion and porous divisions: "What distinguishes Primal religion is the absence of sharp divisions within the world and their experience of it. It is as if the lines that divide one thing from another... are perforated. They are not so severe, so sharp in dividing as we tend to make them...." For example, "the dividing line between the human and the rest of nature is perforated... humans can turn into animals and vice versa."
  2. A Short History of Myth by Karen Armstrong copyright 2005 page 10: "A myth, therefore, is true because it is effective, not because it gives us factual information. If, however, it does not give us new insight into the deeper meaning of life, it has failed. It is works, that is, if it forces us to change our minds and hearts, gives us new hope, and compels us to live more fully, it is a valid myth." commentary: A great point about how myths and religions are not about factual information. However, when the author says "a myth is true because it is effective" I get what she means but can't help wanting to replace or fine-tune the word "true". Some possibilities: a myth is "perceived as true" or "true in a sense" or ? page 106-108: "But unless a historical event is mythologized, it cannot become a source of religious inspiration. A myth, it will be recalled, is an event that - in some sense - happened once, but which also happens all the time. An occurrence needs to be liberated, as it were, from the confines of a specific period and brought into the lives of contemporary worshipers, or it will remain a unique, unrepeatable incident, or even a historical freak that cannot really touch the lives of others." ... "By ritual practice and ethical response, the story [the Exodus] has ceased to be an event in the distant past, and has become a living reality. St. Paul did the same with Jesus. He was not much interested in Jesus's teachings, which he rarely quotes, or in the events of his earthly life. ... What was important was the 'mystery'... of his death and resurrection. Paul had transformed Jesus into the timeless, mythical hero who dies and is raised to new life." ... "Jesus was no longer a mere historical figure but a spiritual reality in the lives of Christians by means of ritual and the ethical discipline of living the same selfless life as Jesus himself. ... They knew that this myth was true, not because of the historical evidence, but because they had experienced transformation." commentary: I like the idea that "an occurrence needs to be liberated from a specific period" in order to be a source of religious inspiration. This emphasizes to me that religions should not be taught literally as historical fact. If the Jesus myth is true or valid for a Christian because it is effective, because they have experienced transformation, then by the same token I can say: this myth is not true or valid because it did not "work" for me. It was not inspirational, it did not transform me or infuse me with hope.
  3. The results of believing that your religion is the exclusive "Word of God": "... Humans develop myths, each generation adding or subtracting details... There is no particular harm in all of this -- until the point is reached at which such creative interweaving of fact and fantasy, history and dreams becomes codified and perceived... as the Word of God. At that fateful point, the clouds of time darken, and the tribe marches forward to misunderstanding, hatred, and, inevitably, bloodshed." Steve Allen source: 2000 Years of Disbelief, editor James A. Haught
  4. How do religions become disconnected with God or Spirit over time? This concise quote gives one possible answer: "It is not God that is worshipped but the group or authority that claims to speak in His name. Sin becomes disobedience to authority, not violation of integrity." Sir Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan source: 2000 Years of Disbelief, edited by James A. Haught
  5. One way to get a snapshot picture of religions is by looking at the vocabulary used: Christianity: debt and payment. A banking vocabulary. Eastern religions: ignorance and illumination. A vocabulary of enlightenment. In Buddhism for example, the goal is to attain an enlightened state (beyond fear and desire) and live out of that. Transformations of Myth Through Time, Joseph Campbell: "Christ comes to atone for our sins, evil atonement. The first people to listen to St. Paul were the merchants of Corinth, and so we have the vocabulary of debt and payment in our interpretation of the mythic themes. Whereas in the Orient, the interpretation is in terms of ignorance and illumination, not debt and payment. The debt and payment explanation goes haywire when you realize there was no Garden of Eden, there was no fall of man, and so there was no offense to God. So what is all this about paying a debt?"
  6. Aldous Huxley has a simple straightforward way of categorizing religions- There are two main kinds of religion: 1) Direct acquaintance with the divine, or mystical experience. 2) Knowledge about the divine, or symbolic religion. There are two types of symbol manipulating religions-- a.) the religion of myth, and b.) the religion of creed and theology. 2a) Myths are non-logical expressions in the form of a story, image, dance, or ritual. They are unpretentious because they don't claim to be strictly true. They are often profound because they bring together in a single expressive whole the disparate and apparently incompatible parts of our experience. The example he gives is a myth of the Great Mother: in Hinduism, Kali is at once the infinitely kind and loving mother and a terrifying goddess of destruction who wears a necklace of skulls. 2b) Religions of creed and theology are characterized by sacred books and belief systems. Belief is a source of great power but this power has been an ambivalent force, used just as much for evil as for good. Religion as a system of beliefs has given birth to the both saints and tyrants, it lights the fires of charity and also lights the fires of the Inquisition. It is on the whole more dangerous than myth because it claims absolute truth. "There is hardly a single large scale crime in history which has not been committed in the name of God." (summarized from one of his 1961 lectures)
  7. I thought this exchange was interesting- you can see the Christian virus at work through a missionary. It has no interest in the truth of what Akunna is saying, only in destroying the native religion. Excerpt from Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart which is set in the colonial era in present day Nigeria: 'You say that there is one supreme God who made heaven and earth,' said Akunna on one of Mr. Brown's visits. 'We also believe in Him and call Him Chukwu. He made all the world and the other gods.' 'There are no other gods,' said Mr. Brown. 'Chukwu is the only God and all the others are false. You carve a piece of wood- like that one' (he pointed at the rafters from which Akunna's carved Ikenga hung), 'and you call it a god. But it is still a piece of wood.' "Yes,' said Akunna. 'It is indeed a piece of wood. The tree from which it came was made by Chukwu, as indeed all minor gods were. But He made them for His messengers so that we could approach Him throught them. It is like yourself. You are the head of your church.' 'No,' protested Mr. Brown. 'The head of my church is God Himself.' 'I know,' said Akunna, 'but there must be a head in this world among men. Somebody like yourself must be the head here. 'The head of my church in that sense is in England.' 'That is exactly what I am saying. The head of your church is in your country. He has sent you here as his messenger. And you have also appointed your own messengers and servants. Or let me take another example, the District Commsisioner. He is sent by your king.' 'They have a queen,' said the interpreter on his own account. 'Your queen sends her messenger, the District Commisioner. He finds that he cannot do the work alone and so he appoints kotma to help him. It is the same with God, or Chukwu. He appoints the smaller gods to help Him because His work is too great for one person.' 'You should not think of Him as a person,' said Mr. Brown. 'It is because you do that you imagine He must need helpers. And the worst thing about it is that you give all the worship to the false gods you have created.' 'That is not so. We make sacrifices to the little gods, but when they fail and there is no one else to turn to we go to Chukwu. It is right to do so. We approach a great man through his servants. But when his servants fail to help us, then we go to the last source of hope. We appear to pay greater attention to the little gods but that is not so. We worry them more because we are afraid to worry their Master. Our fathers knew that Chukwu was the Overlord and that is why many of them gave their children the name Chukwuka - "Chukwu is Supreme." 'You said one interesting thing,' said Mr. Brown. 'You are afraid of Chukwu. In my religion Chukwu is a loving Father and need not be feared by those who do His will.' "But we must fear Him when we are not doing His will,' said Akunna. 'And who is to tell His will? It is too great to be known.' In this way Mr. Brown learned a good deal about the religion of the clan and he came to the conclusion that a frontal attack on it would not succeed. And so he built a school and a little hospital in Umuofia.
  8. Guest

    the Jesus Myth

    The Jesus Myth is comparable to numerous other myths. From the Monomyth chapter of David Leeming's book Myth: The hero life often begins with a miraculous conception and birth. Water Pot Boy is conceived when a piece of clay enters his mother. The Aztec man-god Quetzalcoatl is conceived when God breathes on his mother Chimalman in his form as the "morning." Hainuwele is born of the combination of coconut sap and a drop of blood. In the case of the Buddha, divinity enters the world through the agency of a white elephant in Queen Maya's dream. A clot of blood is the vehicle for the Blackfoot Indian culture hero Kutoyis. Often the hero, the divine child, is born of a virgin. Almost always he or she comes at a time of great need- the darkest night of the cultural year, a time of general suffering. ... The adventure of the hero is marked by several universal themes. The first of these is the search. Sometimes the questing hero looks for something lost. Odysseus's son Telemachos, Theseus, and Water Pot Boy all search for the Father. Gilgamesh, Jason, the Knights of the Round Table, Moses, and the East African Kyazimba seek objects or places- often lost ones- of potential importance to their cultures- the plant of immortality, the Golden Fleece, the Holy Grail, the Land Where the Sun Rises, the Promised Land. More overtly "religious" or philosophical heroes such as the Buddha or Jesus look to less tangible goals: Enlightenment or Nirvana, the Kingdom of God. The quest always involves difficult trials. There are frightening and dangerous gaurdians at each threshold the hero must cross. And there are tests. Herakles must perform the twelve labors, the Grail heroes must prove themselves through various deeds and, like heroes of many cultures, are tested by a femme fatale. This enchantress, a particularly popular nemesis of the patriarchal hero- Adam's Eve, Aeneas's Dido, Samson's Delilah- is the archetypal image of the dangerous sexual and merely personal alternative to the true goal. Many heroes must die and descend to the place of death itself, sometimes as scapegoats for the mistakes of others. Jesus and Osiris die, as do the African heroine Wanjiru and the Ceramese heroine-goddess Hainuwele. In death the hero is planted in the Mother, and during that period of dark gestation confronts the terrors and demons of the underworld. But the hero returns, usually in the spring. He or she is resurrected, as in the case of Persephone, Wanjiru, Hainuwele, or Jesus. Several of these heroes become sources for material or spiritual food for their people: Osiris emerges from the earth as the god of grain; Hainuwele's buried limbs become vegetables; numerous Native American corn heroes and heroines become the staple food for their people; for the Christian the resurrected Jesus is the "bread of life." These are all versions of the boon or great gift that the hero brings upon returning from the depths of the quest. Other versions include: the corn culture brought back by the Ojibwa hero from his vision quest; the curing qualities of the Grail brought back by the successful Grail hero; the "Law," brought by Moses; the knowledge of Enlightenment that is the Buddha's gift; the word of God that is Muhammad's; or knowledge of the runes, the result of the Norse god Odin's human and heroic act of hanging himself on the tree. As an epilogue to the Departure, the Adventure, and the Return, the hero can make a second return, this time to achieve union with the cosmic source of his or her being. Jesus and the Virgin Mary ascend to God, and a legend has it that Abraham did too. The Buddha, King Arthur, and Moses all undergo a kind of apotheosis, a union with the ultimate mystery.
  9. Guest

    mythos and logos

    Karen Armstrong's book The Battle for God has, by giving a historical background, helped me understand two conflicts: science vs. religion and the literal vs. figurative interpretation of the Bible. Quotes from various pages: In the past, people "evolved two way of thinking, speaking, and acquiring knowledge, which scholars have called mythos and logos. Both were essential; they were regarded as complementary ways of arriving at truth, and each had its special area of competence. Myth was regarded as primary; it was concerned with what was thought to be timeless and constant in our existence....Myth was not concerned with practical matters, but with meaning." "Logos was the rational, pragmatic and scientific thought that enabled men and women to function well in the world. We may have lost the sense of mythos in the West today, but we are very familiar with logos, which is the basis of our society." "By the eighteenth century... the people of Europe and America had achieved such astonishing success in science and technology that they began to think that logos was the only means to truth and began to discount mythos as false and superstitious." "Reason and logos were improving the lot of men and women in the modern world in a myriad practical ways, but they were not competent to the deal with those ultimate questions that human beings seem forced, by their very nature, to ask and which, hitherto, had been the preserve of mythos. As a result, despair and alienation... have been a part of the modern experience." If the Western mind has been increasingly dominated by logos since the eighteenth century, then we've been gradually seeing the world in a more literal, scientific light since that time. One result of this is that Christians have been interpreting the Bible more literally, making it clash with scientific facts. This has been a factor in producing what we have today: people either rejecting religion in favor of science, or rejecting science in favor of religion.
  10. Guest

    "we hadn't a story"

    This could be one reason why Christianity, as lifeless as it is, just keeps hanging around. See below- "... and we hadn't a story nearly as good." from At the Smithville Methodist Church by Stephen Dunn: ...But when she came home singing "Jesus loves me, the Bible tells me so," it was time to talk. Could we say Jesus doesn't love you? Could I tell her the Bible is a great book certain people use to make you feel bad? We sent her back without a word. It had been so long since we believed, so long since we needed Jesus as our nemesis and friend, that we thought he was sufficiently dead, that our children would think of him like Lincoln or Thomas Jefferson. Soon it became clear to us: you can't teach disbelief to a child, only wonderful stories, and we hadn't a story nearly as good. On parents' night there were the Arts and Crafts all spread out like appetizers. Then we took our seats in the church and the children sang a song about the Ark, and Hallelujah and one in which they had to jump up and down for Jesus, I can't remember ever feeling so uncertain about what's comic, what's serious. Evolution is magical but devoid of heroes. You can't say to your child "Evolution loves you." The story stinks of extinction and nothing exciting happens for centuries. I didn't have a wonderful story for my child and she was beaming. All the way home in the car she sang the songs, occasionally standing up for Jesus. There was nothing to do but drive, ride it out, sing along in silence.
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