• Constance
    1.1k
    I find in most or all of the discussions about religion that while willing to go into an issue, the is a general lack of interest to ask the basic questions that would lead to an understanding of what religion IS, that is, what there is in the world that warrants interest in the first place. I would agree with Nietzsche (here, but in few other places) that a great deal of what we fuss over issues from errors conceived out of the imposition thinking has itself created. But to look at these absurdities and call this religion is just a straw person argument, a reduction of religion to a body of easily assailable ideas conceived in ancient minds.

    I hold that religion actually has a foundation discoverable in the essential conditions of our existence. Something PRIOR to all the metaphysical fuss and facile refutation. In other words, we suspend the standard conversational themes generally presented here, themes that center on concepts like faith, atheism, theodicy, God, first cause, teleology, and so on; and certainly authoritative texts like the bible or the koran, and the personality cults these inspire. I mean, we put out of inquiry all, or nearly all, that circulates though typical religious mentalities, in an effort to determine if there is something "real" that religion is truly about; something that is not simply a historical fiction conceived in an ancient mind. To do this, one has to ask basic questions about the world, forgetting even the word 'religion'.

    My thinking is this: Religion rises out of the radical ethical indeterminacy of our existence. This simply means that we are thrown into a world of ethical issues that, in the most basic analysis, are not resolvable. Yet they insist on resolution with the same apodicticity as logical coercivity. Meaning, just as one cannot but agree with something like modus ponens or the principle of identity in terms of the pure logicality of their intuitive insistence, so one cannot resist the moral insistence of moral redemption. This latter is the essence of religion, and I further claim that in proving such a thing, I am giving the world and our existence in it exactly the metaphysical satisfaction is seeks.

    It's a tough sell, in this time of implicit religious disillusionment among thinking people. But then, I don't think anyone has really looked at the issues built into the world through our existence in it, and this is especially true for those who have a kind of scientific default setting in their analytic tendencies. But science doesn't go here, into ethics, that is. Ethics is way out there, beyond the telescope and the microscope.

    I wonder where your thoughts lie on the matter.
  • Vera Mont
    3.5k
    I hold that religion actually has a foundation discoverable in the essential conditions of our existence. Something PRIOR to all the metaphysical fuss and facile refutation.Constance
    There was a great deal of mysticism and spirituality and superstition long before the organized religions, with sacred texts and a hierarchy of clergy that give rise to most of this 'fuss'.

    Whether those early versions of religion have an essence would be difficult to prove. My only concrete source of information about them is archeological, much of which is conjecture. Nore to the point are the surviving oral mythologies of peoples around whose roots are not in the Judeo-Christian-Islamic group of faiths, nor in the far eastern established religions.

    What they appear to have in common are certain themes: the origin of their particular tribe or nation, their place in respect of other species and the land, a personification of natural phenomena, some rules of behaviour or warnings issued by a supernatural entity to guide on the path to harmonious living. Another very common theme is humankind's disregard of this sage advice, resulting in a permanent misfortune. Then, there are always morality tales and anecdotes about significant events, as well as exaggerated stories of remarkable characters.

    I used to think the essence of religion was the illusion of control over nature. But now I believe that's a later addition. I think at the root of these myths and legend is an explanation of a particular society's idea of human nature and its relation to the world. Pagan practices reflect much of this idea - but then they become ritualized, non-spontaneous, inauthentic. Modern religions are largely rote and ceremony, right down to the precise words uttered in prayer.
    I think it started as pure philosophy, then wandered into superstition and lost its way in organized religion.
  • 180 Proof
    14.3k
    Religion rises out of the radical ethical indeterminacy of our existence.Constance
    Deeper, more basic, than that, I think religion (i.e. 'immortality' rituals) is our species' earliest collective coping strategy for fear of death (i.e. ontophobia (or meontic veraphobia) aka 'nihilism'). I suspect "ethical indeterminancy" is the effect, not cause, of religion insofar as religion ritually manifests (à la principle of explosion) various performative and symbolic denials of (the 'radical determinancy' of) mortality.
  • Barkon
    112
    aren't the religious skeptical and not in denial of, or do you assert that mortality is a cage?
  • Constance
    1.1k
    I think at the root of these myths and legend is an explanation of a particular society's idea of human nature and its relation to the world. Pagan practices reflect much of this idea - but then they become ritualized, non-spontaneous, inauthentic. Modern religions are largely rote and ceremony, right down to the precise words uttered in prayer.
    I think it started as pure philosophy, then wandered into superstition and lost its way in organized religion.
    Vera Mont

    I think this is an interesting answer, and likely is true, roughly. But when I ask about the essence of religion, I refer to something presupposed by those myths and that ancient thinking. Sure, there they were with creative imaginations in full swing, but what were they responding to in the world that was NOT simply an idea summoned into existence? What were people responding to that gave religious thought its basic meaning? Not unlike asking what technology is really about apart from the long talk about machines and electronics. The answer to this question is not going to be more talk about technology; if that were the case, then technology would be just like the way religion is generally regarded by modern enlightened people: definable wholly within the logic of its own existence. But technology has a purpose and an origin that is presupposed by this, which is the basic problem solving of the givenness of our world. That is, we are thrown into a world that is nothing but problems to solve, and technology is a pragmatic response to this.

    I treat religion that same way: We all know what it is, and your anthropological ideas are spot on as well. But beneath the "wandering into superstition" there is the basic condition of our existence that provokes and inspires this wandering. In other words, the world itself is a religious "place" in the way I talk about it in the OP. This is the aggravating truth that science cannot deal with, whether it is anthropology of physics. This issue here is metaphysics, metaethics, to be precise.
  • 180 Proof
    14.3k
    I don't understand the question.
  • Wayfarer
    21k
    My thinking is this: Religion rises out of the radical ethical indeterminacy of our existence. This simply means that we are thrown into a world of ethical issues that, in the most basic analysis, are not resolvable. Yet they insist on resolution with the same apodicticity as logical coercivity. Meaning, just as one cannot but agree with something like modus ponens or the principle of identity in terms of the pure logicality of their intuitive insistence, so one cannot resist the moral insistence of moral redemption.Constance

    I quite agree, and kudos for expressing such a deep insight so succinctly. Perhaps for self-aware rational beings such as ourselves, existence is a predicament, a plight which has no obvious remedy. A blog post about Joshia Royce's philosophy of religion put it like this:

    The religious person perceives our present life, or our natural life, as radically deficient, deficient from the root (radix) up, as fundamentally unsatisfactory; he feels it to be, not a mere condition, but a predicament; it strikes him as vain or empty if taken as an end in itself; he sees himself as homo viator, as a wayfarer or pilgrim treading a via dolorosa (way of suffering) through a vale that cannot possibly be a final and fitting resting place; he senses or glimpses from time to time the possibility of a Higher Life; he feels himself in danger of missing out on this Higher Life of true happiness. If this doesn't strike a chord in you, then I suggest you do not have a religious disposition. Some people don't, and it cannot be helped. One cannot discuss religion with them, for it cannot be real to them. It is not, for them, what William James in "The Will to Believe" calls a "living option," let alone a "forced" or "momentous" one.

    As to the sources or origins of 'the religious feeling', they are of course lost in the mists of pre-history. But I will note that when I studied comparative religion, the 'neanderthal flower burials' dating back approximately 35,000 years were often mentioned, as were the discovery of sacred objects carved in bone and stone also from around that time. The conjecture is that all ancient and pre-modern cultures incorporated religious elements from as far back as paleoanthropology allows us to see.

    I would also mention the (often overlooked) role of shamanism and ascetic practices as one of the main tributaries of religion, subject of some of the books of scholar of religions Mircea Eliade (e.g. his Yoga: Immortality and Freedom.)

    More could be said but that will suffice for one post.
  • Tom Storm
    8.5k
    I wonder where your thoughts lie on the matter.Constance

    I think religion provides comfort and solace. It supports people to manage the fear of uncertainty, death and the often brutal realities of life. For me, it seems to be an emotional and aesthetic response to experince. And when presented as part of culture and heritage, it plays a critical role in how people make sense of reality. We are habitually drawn to coherence, comfort and harmony - despite a world where chaos and suffering predominate - a transcendental domain promises us an entire realm where unity, and completeness may be found and perhaps intermittently reflected in our lives. Personally, I do not share such a worldview.
  • Vera Mont
    3.5k
    What were people responding to that gave religious thought its basic meaning? NConstance
    Short and simple: The bigness of the world, the sky full of stars, the power of elements.
    They could not control or escape storms, floods, wildfires and droughts. But all these things acted in a way that appears purposeful. So they were given names and personalities that fit the behaviour. From there, it's easy for that big imagination to project a whole pantheon of supernatural beings, with their own feelings and agendas.
    And then there is the death of one's parents. Who has not felt the presence of a dead mother or father hovering over their bed some nights? Who has not asked a gravestone for forgiveness or guidance or a blessing? We miss our caregivers and mentors; we don't want them to be gone. So we make shrines and bring fruit and flowers and celebrate them on a designated day.
    What's to prevent one of those dead chieftains from being promoted to a place in the stars or among the natural elements?

    Not unlike asking what technology is really about apart from the long talk about machines and electronics.Constance
    That's a very different conversation, but has its roots in the same time period.
  • Constance
    1.1k
    Deeper, more basic, than that, I think religion (i.e. 'immortality' rituals) is our species' earliest collective coping strategy for fear of death (i.e. ontophobia (or meontic veraphobia)). I suspect "ethical indeterminancy" is the effect, not cause, of religion insofar as religion ritually manifests (à la principle of explosion) various performative and symbolic denials of (the 'radical determinancy' of) mortality.180 Proof

    But you jump to the chase. This denial of our mortality has a more basic analysis, for the question is begged, why bother with this issue at all? Fear of death assumes there is something fearful about death. Ask a question about fear and its object, one turns to its object, as one would with lions and tigers. Unless you are suggesting that religion is essentially a neurotic fear of nothing at all, it seems you might be, assuming metaphysics is nothing, really, and death is no more than mundane death, a mere termination of life.

    But this ending as a "mere" ending and no more is a model carried over from things that are not moral agencies, and is entirely improper for understanding human death. Human death has the drama of crisis, and the fear itself in this crisis lies qualitatively outside such a model, that is, trees and clouds and worn out garden tools may come and go, but there is no meaning to this termination for that which is terminated. For human agencies, caring and value are in play, and this makes death an ethical/aesthetic (Wittgenstein held the two are essentially the same. He was right) matter. Thus, death for us can only be understood in the context of a review of the nature of ethics and value.

    There is nothing of the mundane termination in this at all. Quite the opposite!
  • Outlander
    1.9k
    One of the fundamental questions of existence: Why? For no reason whatsoever? Just a result of a vast near limitless universe where every possible combination of planetary factors, collisions, and lack thereof just so happened to result in a place where eventually every genetic variation possible occurred that just so happened to produce the only advanced, intelligent, thinking species that engages in complex thought and communication and have managed to master every frontier available to us as a result of random, nuanced evolution while, somehow, the closest match, supposedly one notch down is a wild, mute occasional-biped running around throwing fecal matter at one another? That just adds up perfectly fine to you, case closed, no further questions? Not to some. Which begs an explanation. Religion offers this explanation.

    And of course for all the psychological benefits, if scrutinized from an atheistic point of view. It's helpful. So why not let people be helped?
  • 180 Proof
    14.3k
    Fear of death assumes there is something fearful about death.Constance
    :roll:
  • Constance
    1.1k


    It reminds me of the positivists, who responded to Wittgenstein's Tractatus in a way he never intended. Wittgenstein is the most extraordinary person, one who loved Kierkegaard, insisted on being sent to the front lines of the war just to face death, one who loved and lost deeply, and who waxed reverential on what was truly important, that part of the Tractatus which was unspoken. You know how the Tractatus ends famously with "whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent" Positivist Otto Neurath, added, "We must indeed be silent, but not about anything." See, this is where the line is drawn: Neurath didn't understand Wittgenstein at all! The latter lived life with such passion (the kind of passion that drives one to suicide, as it almost did for him, and certainly did for his brothers) and it was clear that this was a passion that reached out for consummation most emphatically into the world, and it was this that one had to be silent about. Broadly speaking, value-in-the-world cannot be reduced to the mere saying, and when it is spoken, it is dulled and trivialized.

    The world itself cannot be spoken, but the positivists were not, as Joshia Royce said, able to respond to this. They just saw this as a strict taboo on metaphysics, and were happy to hear this..

    you are right, I think: it really comes down to whether or not one can acknowledge the world like this. Likely, I would argue, it is a latent ability in all of us. I have an analytical accounting for this, but it would take too much time to say. But this "uncanny" feeling, I say (not argue), has most alarming expression in our compassion and empathy. To understand the gravitas of this is to be struck as if by lightening by the breadth and depth of suffering, and it is to see that for this to be a simple "stand alone" matter is flat out impossible.
  • Vera Mont
    3.5k
    One of the fundamental questions of existence: Why? For no reason whatsoever? Just a result of a vast near limitless universe where every possible combination of planetary factors, collisions, and lack thereof just so happened to result in a place where eventually every genetic variation possible occurred that just so happened to produce the only advanced, intelligent, thinking species that engages in complex thought and communication and have managed to master every frontier available to us as a result of random, nuanced evolution while, somehow, the closest match, supposedly one notch down is a wild, mute occasional-biped running around throwing fecal matter at one another?Outlander

    It didn't start with all that knowledge of the universe or planets genetics or evolution. It started with "Where did I come from?",a question every five-year-old asks. They're not looking for purpose or meaning or specialness, just a simple answer. "We found you under a cabbage." "You grew from a seed in Momma's belly." "The angels brought you from heaven." Any of those will do for a five-year-old - at least for the moment. For an intelligent, imaginative adult troglodyte, there has to be a bigger, better story. There are dozens of origin stories. And from there, a whole realm of the supernatural opens up to speculation, projection, poetry and manipulation.


    That just adds up perfectly fine to you, case closed, no further questions? Not to some. Which begs an explanation. Organized religion offers this explanation.Outlander
    Religion offers lots of things, including structure, self-worth, rules of social behaviour, rituals, opportunities for catharsis, community, solace and superiority. Not all of those are constructive.
  • Wayfarer
    21k
    It reminds me of the positivists, who responded to Wittgenstein's Tractatus in a way he never intended.Constance

    There's an essay I often link to that makes exactly this point Wittgenstein, Tolstoy and the Folly of Logical Positivism, published in Philosophy Now magazine (but originally by the British Wittgenstein Society so its provenance is sound.) I've not studied him closely, but the mystical aphorisms at the end of the Tractatus have always seemed to me very much the concluding aim of the overall work. Regrettably that final line, about 'remaining silent', is often used as a kind of fire-blanket to throw over discussion of anything spiritual.

    The other note you're striking, is the primacy of feeling - not simply wishy-washy emotionality, but nearer the dread or 'anxiety' of Kierkegaard. And I'm sure you're right in pointing to that. In Buddhist literature, there is a recognised phase of spiritual growth, "nibbida" (Pali) or "nirveda" (Sanskrit), often translated as "disgust," "disenchantment," or "turning away," denoting a turning point in spiritual growth where an individual becomes disillusioned with the vanity and suffering inherent in worldly existence. (Something I myself have not experienced, but have no reason to doubt that it occurs.)
  • finarfin
    38
    I don't think there's one "essence" to religion that can. Religion satisfies numerous social needs, which is why it is so pervasive. It bonds and unifies communities, helps us understand the world, preserves cultural traditions, inspires camraderie–I think it's impossible to narrow religion down to one fundamental cause. Because it contains a variety of social and individual benefits, it can (ideally) appeal to (nearly) everyone.
    You might point out that I am considering practical effects much more than existential causes, but that's because religion, unlike philosophy, must adapt to survive in the social environment. Then again, I might be too analytical about this.
    Religion rises out of the radical ethical indeterminacy of our existenceConstance
    The moral function of religion generally didn't emerge until later, and was built on already existing religions. The first religions had no need to explain morality, because the stories were probably shared among close communities. Close communities hold their members accountable with social pressure. Originally, familiarity was enough to maintain cordiality. Once the group groes too large for personal connections to hold it together, or some start questioning rules (or appear likely to do so), only then is religion needed to justify morality. (See the progression from only somewhat didactic tales about animism and folkloric gods to the clear moral laws laid out by the Abrahamic religions.) Importantly, this will only work when modifying already established religious beliefs; otherwise, it will be dismissed as a fable.
    That is all assuming that religion was created to perform the function of moral arbiter. However, i think it's more likely that religion, which was often used explain the unexplained or unctontrollable, merely expanded its domain to also explain why the group has morals in the first place. That way, morality is no longer culturally man-made, but god-given. In order to better understand morality, we relinquished our authority to the stories of the past, and religion finally explained all.
  • Beverley
    136
    I find in most or all of the discussions about religion that while willing to go into an issue, the is a general lack of interest to ask the basic questions that would lead to an understanding of what religion IS, that is, what there is in the world that warrants interest in the first place.Constance

    I am not sure if I am allowed to post a poem here, but I wrote this poem and I think it summarizes my view on this probably better than if I simply tried to explain it (I am not sure why) But anyway, here it is.

    To All Atheists

    An atheist,
    With feelings so strong,
    Denies there’s a God,
    Which is something quite wrong.

    For ‘God’ is a word
    That people invented,
    As that’s how words work,
    How meaning’s cemented.

    I could call God ‘love’,
    The other one ‘hate’.
    Just different words
    I can fabricate.

    But ‘love’ and ‘hate’
    Are things that are real.
    We know this for sure;
    They are things we can feel.

    So ‘God’ is inside us,
    A force that we own,
    Not a man with a beard
    In the clouds on a throne.

    He’s the urge to show kindness,
    Despite lack of gain,
    Compassion for others
    In hardship and pain.

    But if the word ‘God’
    Causes aversion,
    And gives good reason
    For casting aspersion,

    Replace it with ‘kindness’
    ‘Compassion’ or ‘love’,
    And forget the man
    Looking down from above.

    But to me it seems clear,
    All this is absurd.
    For the only difference
    Is just in a word.
  • Tom Storm
    8.5k
    An atheist,
    With feelings so strong,
    Denies there’s a God,
    Which is something quite wrong.
    Beverley

    Correction. Many atheists actually don't deny the existence of gods. I am an atheist. I don't make a positive claim like that. Many contemporary atheists would put it more like this: I have not heard any good reasons/arguments for accepting the claim that gods exist.

    The rest of the poem basically amounts to saying that there is no god and that a concern for the wellbeing of conscious creatures will be a sufficient surrogate. That's pretty much what secular humanists have been arguing for generations.

    But to me it seems clear,
    All this is absurd.
    For the only difference
    Is just in a word.
    Beverley

    I think you'll find that many theists will disagree with this formulation - the notion of transcendent meaning can't be reduced or substituted by a few nouns or verbs.
  • Wayfarer
    21k
    I’m sorry but really a very silly piece of doggerel which adds nothing to the conversation.
  • 180 Proof
    14.3k
    Addendum to an old post from the 2022 thread The Concept of Religion ...
    Religion (i.e. cult), n. The private and public worship, or propitiation, of spirits (i.e. disembodied agents) primarily by practicing ritual reenactments of myths and legends. Animism (with or without shamanism) might be the oldest form of religion, or superstition.

    https://thephilosophyforum.com/discussion/comment/903982

    Many atheists actually don't deny the existence of gods. I am an atheist. I don't make a positive claim like that.Tom Storm
    In this context, the only positive claim I make is 'I deny that theism is true' (i.e. insofar as g/G is real, I find theism's claims 'about g/G' are neither true nor coherent).
  • Constance
    1.1k
    I think religion provides comfort and solace. It supports people to manage the fear of uncertainty, death and the often brutal realities of life. For me, it seems to be an emotional and aesthetic response to experince. And when presented as part of culture and heritage, it plays a critical role in how people make sense of reality. We are habitually drawn to coherence, comfort and harmony - despite a world where chaos and suffering predominate - a transcendental domain promises us an entire realm where unity, and completeness may be found and perhaps intermittently reflected in our lives. Personally, I do not share such a worldview.Tom Storm

    How about just dropping this traditional idea of some domain or place. Such a thing is off-putting from the start. Sounds like a place to meet Jesus, and this kind of metaphysics is the stuff myths are made of.

    It'll take some thought.

    Here, we are asked to be scientists, and so what does a scientist do? She observes, and what is there to be observed cannot be ignored just because it is alien to popular and acceptable thinking. Religion has to be "observed" for what it is, and this involves removing what is merely incidental, like the long robe ceremonies, the endless story telling, and on and on. These are the mere trappings of religion. But what IS it that is in the world that religion is about? This is the point.

    I wonder if you see the idea so far. I don't care to look at the religious texts and promises involving historical events and absurd miracles. And I certainly don't care about how theology invents metaphysical problems. I want to know the nature of something that is there to be observed, like natural condition is there for a natural scientist, PRIOR to it being taken up by cultures and their institutions and turned into an infinitely debatable construct.
  • Constance
    1.1k
    I think religion provides comfort and solace. It supports people to manage the fear of uncertainty, death and the often brutal realities of life. For me, it seems to be an emotional and aesthetic response to experince. And when presented as part of culture and heritage, it plays a critical role in how people make sense of reality. We are habitually drawn to coherence, comfort and harmony - despite a world where chaos and suffering predominate - a transcendental domain promises us an entire realm where unity, and completeness may be found and perhaps intermittently reflected in our lives. Personally, I do not share such a worldview.Tom Storm

    How about just dropping this traditional idea of some domain or place. Such a thing is off-putting from the start. Sounds like a place to meet Jesus, and this kind of metaphysics is the stuff myths are made of.

    It'll take some thought.

    Here, we are asked to be scientists, and so what does a scientist do? She observes, and what is there to be observed cannot be ignored just because it is alien to popular and acceptable thinking. Religion has to be "observed" for what it is, and this involves removing what is merely incidental, like the long robe ceremonies, the endless story telling, and on and on. These are the mere trappings of religion. But what IS it that is in the world that religion is about? This is the point.

    I wonder if you see the idea so far. I don't care to look at the religious texts and promises involving historical events and absurd miracles. And I certainly don't care about how theology invents metaphysical problems. I want to know the nature of something that is there to be observed, like natural condition is there for a natural scientist, PRIOR to it being taken up by cultures and their institutions and turned into an infinitely debatable construct.
  • Constance
    1.1k
    Short and simple: The bigness of the world, the sky full of stars, the power of elements.
    They could not control or escape storms, floods, wildfires and droughts. But all these things acted in a way that appears purposeful. So they were given names and personalities that fit the behaviour. From there, it's easy for that big imagination to project a whole pantheon of supernatural beings, with their own feelings and agendas.
    And then there is the death of one's parents. Who has not felt the presence of a dead mother or father hovering over their bed some nights? Who has not asked a gravestone for forgiveness or guidance or a blessing? We miss our caregivers and mentors; we don't want them to be gone. So we make shrines and bring fruit and flowers and celebrate them on a designated day.
    What's to prevent one of those dead chieftains from being promoted to a place in the stars or among the natural elements?
    Vera Mont

    It is not a matter of a psychological response to scary things in the world that is being inquired about any more than geology is a matter of investigating the curiosity of looking into rocks and minerals. Religion IS metaethics, and this requires a look at what ethics is, and so how is it you know you have before you an ethical case at all? What are the features of an ethical case that make for ethicality? This is not a psychological question or an anthropological question. It is much, much simpler: what are the necessary conditions for a problem to be an ethical problem?

    Answer this, and you have opened the door to an inquiry into the nature of religion. I opened this door, ajar, as it were, in the OP.
  • Outlander
    1.9k
    what are the necessary conditions for a problem to be an ethical problem?Constance

    Condition A.) Involvement or presence of a sentient being and Condition B.) the possibility for that sentient being to be impacted by the action or inaction of another sentient being through no action or declared will and intent of their own (ie. against their own will or sans consideration/input).

    It is incredibly broad and open-ended, yes.
  • Constance
    1.1k
    I am not sure if I am allowed to post a poem here, but I wrote this poem and I think it summarizes my view on this probably better than if I simply tried to explain it (I am not sure why) But anyway, here it is.Beverley

    Well, it is a nice poem, I have to admit. Not Wordsworth, but charming.

    But what does it argue? asks philosophy. It argues that words invent pseudo problems about matters that have noting to do with words. Religion in its essence lies outside of language. This is a big issue.

    Do you think God is intuited? One could say that love or happiness is intuited, meaning if you are in love there is something that is altogether NOT language that defines the experience, but what can one "say" about it? Nothing, really, other than declaring it to be the case, but "it" in this declaration will be simply given and not reducible to further analysis. Consider pain: put a lighted match to your finger for a couple of seconds. Now what was that? There is nothing to say, save how intense and unpleasant it was. But what is was, well, we all "know" pain, but this is simply a matter of familiarity, and really not some kind of penetrating understanding. Pain qua pain is in the bare givenness of the world.

    My point is this: when it comes to unmentionables like this, we are dealing with value-in-the-world, and the world cannot be spoken. Value-in-the-world is transcendental, and indeed, the world is transcendental. I think this is what your poem is about.
  • Vera Mont
    3.5k
    Religion IS metaethics, and this requires a look at what ethics is, and so how is it you know you have before you an ethical case at all?Constance
    If you already believe you have a firm grasp on what you consider the essence of religion, why did you ask? I happen to disagree, but I do not have an ethical case, only an anthropological and psychological theory.

    This is not a psychological question or an anthropological question. It is much, much simpler: what are the necessary conditions for a problem to be an ethical problem?Constance
    But that was not the OP question, was it? And, no, it's much simpler; it's more contrived.
    Answer this, and you have opened the door to an inquiry into the nature of religion.Constance
    I don't think so. I think morality came into - was wedged into - religion much later, and ethics became a philosophical subject later still. The rules of social behaviour - codified and explicated as ethics - exist outside of religion and don't require any supernatural component or coercion.
  • Constance
    1.1k
    The moral function of religion generally didn't emerge until later, and was built on already existing religions. The first religions had no need to explain morality, because the stories were probably shared among close communitiesfinarfin

    The need to explain is ours. Certainly when religions were laid down in ancient societies, there was not the philosophical detachment from the concerns that were in play needed to give such affairs more basic inquiry.

    I am not here looking for any historical analysis or speculation as to how and why certain beliefs rose to prominence, the internal societal pressures brought to bear, and so forth. Here, the question is more simple: I am asking what there is in the world that gives religion its fundamental justification. What makes religion more than just what your analysis yields, beyond the various non religious motivations and rationalizations.

    What kind of a "place" is the world that calls for religion to be in the explanatory response to it? Religion deals with metaphysics, specifically, the metaphysics of ethics: the need for grounding AT ALL for our affiars beyond what is plainly there in the delimitations of finitude. Otherwise, as you would have it, religion is reducible a social dynamic.
  • Fire Ologist
    234
    For sake of inquiry,
    we suspend the standard conversational themes generally presented here, themes that center on concepts like faith, atheism, theodicy, God, first cause, teleology, and so on; and certainly authoritative texts like the bible or the koran, and the personality cults these inspire. I mean, we put out of inquiry all, or nearly all, that circulates though typical religious mentalities, in an effort to determine if there is something "real" that religion is truly about; something that is not simply a historical fiction conceived in an ancient mind. To do this, one has to ask basic questions about the world, forgetting even the word 'religion'Constance

    Look for “something real”, that later gives rise to the words "religion" or "God", but not yet. Great metaphysical question for this forum.

    I hold that religion actually has a foundation discoverable in the essential conditions of our existence. Something PRIOR...Constance

    "discoverable" "foundation" "essential" "prior" - these are all objective references, almost empirical. Good for metaphysical inquiry.

    Religion rises out of the radical ethical indeterminacy of our existence.Constance

    The "indeterminacy of our existence." That which is prior, that which is the condition of our existence, involves indeterminacy, and to us, as a condition of human existence in particular, a condition of "our" existence, we find ourselves thrown into an ethical indeterminacy. And this begets religion.

    Am I in the ballpark?

    I would break it down like this: "religion arises out of our sense of the indeterminate. It does so in three steps: We sense the indeterminacy of things. We sense ourselves, like the other things, are indeterminate as well. And we sense an ethical indeterminacy when those other things are humans like ourselves."

    But I now changed it to "a sense of" the indeterminate. I use "a sense of" the way you use "our". It is the human part that particularizes "existence" into "our existence." Human sentience applied to the thrownness of objects, creates a particular sense of things. We sense in a particular way. We sense "our" meaning ourselves, in existence. Our mere presence in the universe is the presence of a particular sense of things, and this is tied up with the prior reasons we use the word "our" when discussing existence.

    So along with indeterminacy, comes the "our", or the sense of indeterminacy, or the discovery of indeterminacy, which only arises in ourselves, as humans.

    Our mere human presence in the universe, brings with it a sense of the indeterminacy. The indeterminacy of things, for us, must therefore include the indeterminacy of what we ourselves are. This, to me, now makes a radical indeterminacy.

    And all of these beget religion. I like it.

    I obviously love the word "thrown" you use later, and the seeking something "prior". Every good metaphysic must incorporate thrownness.

    I do not see the thrownness itself as something determinate or indeterminate. You might bias it towards the indeterminate, but the thrownness itself doesn't create the indeterminacy. The determinate and the indeterminate jostle for position in the thrownness, but the thrownness is just there, it's the prior, the condition of existence itself.

    The indeterminacy, is ourselves thrown in the mix - we are the introduction of indeterminacy in this mix.

    So something human starts to look prior to the indeterminate. This creates circular reasoning. We use "our" existence to discern "radical ethical" of the "indeterminate." But if it is "our", it might automatically include the "ethical" - and existence itself might beget the indeterminate from "our" presence in existence. So I still have to wonder what was prior, what is the condition of existence at all that begat the "our" - the self-reflection in the thrownness that found radical ethical indeterminacy.

    For now, we are already thrown, among the given, subject to the prior condition, and where the human and so many humans are thrown in such condition, at least, there is ethical indeterminacy.

    To do this, one has to ask basic questions about the worldConstance

    I want to keep the sense of indeterminacy as one facet of our existence that begets religion, but see other ingredients to the bread of religion (pun intended).

    I would add that religion arises not only out of our sense of indeterminacy, but also our sense of impossibility. We have to sense it, as a real object, like the indeterminacy. But it is a sense not of the indeterminate, but the determined impossibility.

    We've all experienced something that cannot be, yet it is. It's anything we can't explain, such that every explanation we construct may be impossible. Those moments of paradox, where you can say "I don't believe it!" while staring at it. That real sense of the impossible, gives rise to religion.

    Both the indeterminate, and the impossible, can be called the mysterious. They both give birth to "why" and "how" and "what" and "whether real".

    Both of them make a predicament out of action. Ethical indeterminacy undoes any sound ethical judgment of how to act. Impossibility undoes any commitment to taking action as well.

    Impossibility deserves more consideration, along with indeterminacy, and ourselves in it.

    Another prior condition may be our sense of time. Seems too simple, but somehow, we sense the eternity of time itself. Now we have a sense of time that is opposite of time, something always present instead. This is an impossibility contained within time. This makes the beginning and end of time indeterminate. The present, as eternity. We may find every eternal thing impossible in all of this changing motion and thrownness, but we sense it as part of the mystery.

    The eternal and the impossible equally give rise to science. We ask how about the impossible, to understand it and show how it is possible, how it fits with the eternal laws that allowed it to be possible in the first place.

    There is much that needs to reworked here and developed, but I was being too ambitious for a Tuesday night. Maybe you can make more of this.

    Indeterminacy, impossibility, and time as eternity - human senses of what is thrown before ourselves taken as a community (therefore ethical indeterminacy) - giving rise to religion.

    I think another missing element is language itself. Without it, we have no way to distinguish the indeterminate for the other ethical relata (other humans). It's all too indeterminate without the anchor of language to make the community. Language itself becomes a prior condition of shared indeterminacy. Language is part of the thrownness.

    So indeterminacy, impossibility, maybe time as eternally present despite change itself, and the language that captures these things among the various communal selves as in "our existence" - all beget religion.

    From the radical ethical indeterminacy, we get the ten commandments and the laws.
    From the impossibility, we get walking on water and rising from the ashes
    From eternity we get Omni-presence.
    From language we get the word of God, prophesy and a way to mediate all of this.

    Good post. Hope I gave you some things to think about, because you did to me.
  • Vera Mont
    3.5k
    Otherwise, as you would have it, religion is reducible a social dynamic.Constance
    No. It's about awe and wonder.
    What kind of a "place" is the world that calls for religion to be in the explanatory response to it?Constance
    Too big for us, and we don't like to let go.
    That's all. Ancient prelates built on that to control the masses.
  • Tom Storm
    8.5k
    I want to know the nature of something that is there to be observed, like natural condition is there for a natural scientist, PRIOR to it being taken up by cultures and their institutions and turned into an infinitely debatable construct.Constance

    Fair enough. Sounds like philosophy.

    Do you have a definition or a simple, descriptive account of the 'transcendent'?
  • 180 Proof
    14.3k
    I am asking what there is in the world that gives religion its fundamental justification.Constance
    The human fear of death.
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