• Banno
    16.9k
    The Concept of Religion is a new article in SEP.

    But what held my attention was the careful, expansive discussion of the problems of definition. I raised similar issues in a previous thread. It is apparent that it is not possible to set out what it is to be a religion, any more than for what it is to be a game.

    Also of interest is the account of the changes in the use of the term over time, and how mooted definitions were used to denigrate certain cultures.

    Does the term "religion" refer to nothing?
  • god must be atheist
    4.4k
    Refers to "organized belief in a weltanschauung with one or more deities who wield supernatural powers"?

    (I did not read the article. My bad.)

    I don't mind getting shot down, because it was I who did not read the article.
  • god must be atheist
    4.4k
    The other problem is the recurring one in humanities, whereby there are gray areas in definitions, wherein an occurrence can be said or can be unsaid to belong to the set that is defined, or not to belong to the set that is defined. Examples: "how many straws must lie on top of each other to form a haystack?" (Answer: none, haystacks are made of hay, not of straws. A Strawman.)
  • Wayfarer
    15.8k
    It's not that 'religion' doesn't refer to anything, but that its use as a kind of catch-all with a particular set meaning is problematical. I've long noticed that almost all OP's or posts that start with 'religion is...' then usually proceed to that individual poster's conception of the meaning of the word, often idiosyncratic. The other thing I notice is that there are many over-arching ideas which are generally associated with religion or categorised as religious and treated accordingly. In secular cultures, the individual's right of conscience is sacrosanct, but (ironically) also subjective, i.e. a matter of personal faith.

    Also see Karen Armstrong's OPMetaphysical Mistake

    The extraordinary and eccentric emphasis on "belief" in Christianity today is an accident of history that has distorted our understanding of religious truth. We call religious people "believers", as though acceptance of a set of doctrines was their principal activity, and before undertaking the religious life many feel obliged to satisfy themselves about the metaphysical claims of the church, which cannot be proven rationally since they lie beyond the reach of empirical sense data.
  • frank
    10.9k
    The Enlightenment ripped open a fissure in thought that poses religion against its opposite.

    The OP article is explaining why that opposition isnt what it's often assumed to be, since religion, broadly speaking, doesn't have a specific opposite.
  • Banno
    16.9k
    It's not that 'religion' doesn't refer to anything,Wayfarer

    So then, to what does it refer?
  • Wayfarer
    15.8k
    A constellation of cultural beliefs, practices, social forms, etc etc. Anthropological analyses bring many useful perspectives to that.
  • Tom Storm
    4k
    Does the concept of religion refer to nothing?Banno

    Depends who you talk to.
  • Banno
    16.9k
    Anyway, what I found most interesting was the distinction between monothetic and
    polythetic approaches to definitions. Monothetic definitions are the sort that sets out a rule for inclusion or exclusion, one principle to determine meaning. Polythetic definitions in contrast list a number of criteria and hence a hierarchy of membership within the definendum. An open polythetic approach does capture much of what is implicit in the notion of a family resemblance. But as the article points out, just providing a polythetic definition does not remove ethnocentric or other biases. The next step is take to be an anchored polythetic approach, the example being that a religion has at least the characteristic of "a belief in superempirical beings or powers", together with some combination of other criteria. This is taken as answering the question as to why Buddhism is a religion but not Capitalism.
  • Tom Storm
    4k
    This is taken asana nswerign the question as to why Buddhism is a religion but not Capitalism.Banno

    Hmm. what about the supernatural status of the market in the beliefs of neoliberalism? :razz:
  • Banno
    16.9k
    Indeed, as well as the place of capitalism in Pentecostal theology...
  • ZzzoneiroCosm
    2.1k
    Does the concept of religion refer to nothing?Banno

    Does the concept of a game refer to nothing?

    Eschewing definitions, as is your preference: if playing a game is something we do, religion is also something we do.
  • Banno
    16.9k
    Does the concept of a game refer to nothing?ZzzoneiroCosm

    Concepts refer?

    What sort of thing is a concept? I think the notion quite problematic. Think I mentioned that before. I don't; understand what sort of thing a concept is, apart from just the way we use a word...
  • ZzzoneiroCosm
    2.1k
    Concepts refer?Banno

    Not interested in this old dead horse.

    Just noting the game-religion parallel.
  • Hanover
    8.1k
    An open polythetic approach does capture much of what is implicit in the notion of a family resemblance. But as the article points out, just providing a polythetic definition does not remove ethnocentric or other biases. The next step is take to be an anchored polythetic approach, the example being that a religion has at least the characteristic of "a belief in superempirical beings or powers", together with some combination of other criteria. This is taken as answering the question as to why Buddhism is a religion but not Capitalism.Banno

    I thought it an odd post by you because the riddle of "what is a religion" is no more a curiosity than "what is X," meaning religion doesn’t pose a special case anymore than any other word, and the riddle (as the article points out) was solved by Wittgenstein. Words simply don't have essences, and their meaning is based upon usage and context. That's that.

    For some reason though, you don't accept that and instead try to assert an essence (i.e religion at its essence is "a belief in superempirical beings or powers"). Surely we are all creative enough to design a "religion" without that attribute. If we could not, then we'd have defeated Wittgenstein and proved essentialism.

    The covert point of the OP I suspect is to prove that the religious believe in a meaningless concept, striking a fatal blow against religion. My reply to that is it may be that religious beliefs are false, but that they might have no referent and that they may be defintionaly elusive doesn't make them meaningless. Meaning is use. We use the term, to be sure. It must therefore have meaning.
  • Noble Dust
    5.5k
    The covert point of the OP I suspect is to prove that the religious believe in a meaningless concept, striking a fatal blow against religion. My reply to that is it may be that religious beliefs are false, but that they might have no referent and that they may be defintionaly elusive doesn't make them meaningless.Hanover

    :clap:
  • 180 Proof
    8.4k
    My reply to that is it may be that religious beliefs are false, but that they might have no referent and that they may be defintionaly elusive doesn't make them meaningless. Meaning is use. We use the term, to be sure. It must therefore have meaning.Hanover
    Yes, prostheses – like verbal or psychological crutches – useful for the disabled but crippling from premature / over-use by the (once) abled.
  • Banno
    16.9k
    Well, then sure, religion is done; but is it a thing? So questions about the concept of religion might, if you like, be considered questions as to the individuation of religious acts...?
  • Agent Smith
    4.4k
    Religion, to me, is basically a system designed to address three human concerns:

    1. Creation (an explanation of how the world, we, came to be; power/omnipotence)

    and/or

    2. Morality (a set of codes we must live by, on the whole hedonic in character; goodness/omnibenevolence)

    and/or

    3. Explanations (of worldly goings ons: knowledge, science/omniscience)

    These three basic ideas of religion are propped up with metaphysics, or the absence thereof, unique to each faith.
  • Hanover
    8.1k
    Think I mentioned that before. I don't; understand what sort of thing a concept is, apart from just the way we use a word...Banno

    This is an unnecessarily excessive extrapolation of the meaning is use concept. The concept is a self contained linguistic theory offering a description of how communication occurs, leaving in silence that which is unreducible to words, but not denying its existence.

    This is to say, you don't understand my concept of a tree except to the extent you understand how I use the term "tree," but you need not deny my concept of the tree may contain attributes unidentified in my speech.
  • Hanover
    8.1k
    Yes, prostheses – like verbal or psychological crutches – useful for the disabled but crippling from premature / over-use by the (once) abled.180 Proof

    Assuming even worse, that religion is that which only the stupidest morons believe in, the OP's concern is resolved: The word has meaning.
  • ZzzoneiroCosm
    2.1k
    conceptBanno

    What's most interesting to me here as a psychologist is how out of character it is for you to include in your phraseology what in the past you've deemed an unnecessary word. Concept. It's even in your OP. Very interesting. What is the word concept doing in your OP?

    Correct me if I'm wrong.

    Sure, religion is doings in relation to such and such configurations of psyche, symbol and matter.
  • ZzzoneiroCosm
    2.1k
    We have to include psychical doings, if that's not a problem. I assume you accept that minds do things.
  • Noble Dust
    5.5k
    What sort of thing is a concept?Banno

    What sort of thing is a thing? What sort of thing is a sort? What sort of thing is a what? What sort of what is a what? What?
  • Banno
    16.9k
    What is the word concept doing in your OP?ZzzoneiroCosm

    It was in the name of the article...?
  • Banno
    16.9k
    This is an unnecessarily excessive extrapolation of the meaning is use concept.Hanover

    Actually it's from Austin rather than Wittgenstein.
  • Banno
    16.9k
    The covert point of the OP I suspect is to prove that the religious believe in a meaningless concept, striking a fatal blow against religion.Hanover

    Ah, I see, you expect malice on my part. Well, all that does is shut down the promise of a conversation.
  • Agent Smith
    4.4k
    @Banno. Some examples would go a long way to proving your case. :smile:
  • Agent Smith
    4.4k
    What case?Banno

    Never mind. As you were, soldier! :smile:
  • Hanover
    8.1k
    Ah, I see, you expect malice on my part. Well, all that does is shut down the promise of a conversation.Banno

    Not malice, just motive, but in any event irrelevant. We can substitute cups for religion in this debate is my point, which would be an easy way to avoid the loaded topic of religion.
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