This post is a sort of prelude to several I’m planning to put up over the next few days. I want to look at certain aspects of “families” of religions, and types of religions in general, and to preface all that, I want to explore a few concepts here. More specifically, I’m going to look at classifications of religions and I’m going to discuss perspectives on how certain tendencies or views of religions tend to play out, affect their believers, and so on. In this regard, people often take one of two different and opposite perspectives, each of which, in my mind, is problematic.
First, the believer in a given faith may have objections to the attempts to study that faith in a sociological manner. He may think that this denigrates the faith, reduces it to mere human affairs, and fails to see the action of the Divine within this faith. For example, a historian might make the argument that the alienation and social changes felt by the populace during the early days of the Roman Empire were a large factor in the rise and rapid spread of Christianity. A Christian might object to such a characterization on the grounds that it does not make allowance for God’s providence and action in revealing Himself and in ensuring the spread of His word according to His will.
On the other hand, a skeptic might balk at religious motivations in explaining the actions of people and the shape of cultures across the ages. He might insist that religion is just a mask of the things that really motivate people; that is to say, greed, power, economics, politics, and so on. Thus, such a skeptic might insist that the “real” reason for the missionary impulse in the Age of Exploration wasn’t to save souls but to gain control over the inhabitants of newly discovered areas that harbored vast riches which the European powers wished to exploit.
All states in the world, large or small, are cities of Heaven, and all people, young or old, honourable or humble, are its subjects; for they all graze oxen and sheep, feed dogs and pigs, and prepare clean wine and cakes to sacrifice to Heaven. Does this not mean that Heaven claims all and accepts offerings from all? Since Heaven does claim all and accepts offerings from all, what then can make us say that it does not desire men to love and benefit one another? Hence those who love and benefit others Heaven will bless. Those who hate and harm others Heaven will curse, for it is said that he who murders the innocent will be visited by misfortune. How else can we explain the fact that men, murdering each other, will be cursed by Heaven? Thus we are certain that Heaven desires to have men love and benefit one another and abominates to have them hate and harm one another
For the sake of humanity, it is devoutly to be wished that the manly employment of agriculture, and the humanizing benefit of commerce, would supersede the waste of war and the rage of conquest; that the swords might be turned into ploughshares, the spears into pruning-hooks, and, as the Scriptures express it, “the nations learn war no more.”
–George Washington, as quoted in Maxims of Washington : Political, Social, Moral and Religious (1854) John Frederick Schroeder, p. 131. Courtesy Wikiquote.
Allow the President to invade a neighboring nation, whenever he shall deem it necessary to repel an invasion, and you allow him to do so, whenever he may choose to say he deems it necessary for such purpose, and you allow him to make war at pleasure. Study to see if you can fix any limit to his power in this respect, after having given him so much as you propose. If, to-day, he should choose to say he thinks it necessary to invade Canada, to prevent the British from invading us, how could you stop him? You may say to him, “I see no probability of the British invading us” but he will say to you, “Be silent; I see it, if you don’t.” The provision of the Constitution giving the war making power to Congress was dictated, as I understand it, by the following reasons. Kings had always been involving and impoverishing their people in wars, pretending generally, if not always, that the good of the people was the object. This, our Convention understood to be the most oppressive of all Kingly oppressions; and they resolved to so frame the Constitution that no one man should hold the power of bringing this oppression upon us. But your view destroys the whole matter, and places our President where kings have always stood.
Dopóki nie skorzystałem z Internetu, nie wiedziałem, że na świecie jest tylu idiotów.
“I hadn’t known there were so many idiots in the world until I started using the Internet.”
–Stanisław Lem, unsourced; courtesy of Wikiquote
In general, I dislike using unsourced quotes–there are way too many of them (usually bogus) out there in cyberspace. However, this one is too good to pass up. If anyone knows the actual source, please let me know; or if it is indeed bogus, I’d appreciate it if you let me know the true source. Whether it’s true Lem or not, it certainly sounds like him, and is, alas, all too true….
One of the most infamous science fiction cult movies of all time!
So far we’ve discussed heresy as a general concept, looked at the definition of it from a Catholic perspective, and looked at the history of the concept. Here I want to consider some of the sociological aspects of heresy.
Back here I had the following to say (editing a bit):
In all societies and cultures…beyond a certain level of complexity, you have various attitudes toward belief…. These are as follows: 1. Sheep; or more politely conformists.
The vast majority of people–I’d say 70%, at least–are basically conformist. Perhaps I should use that term–”conformist”–as it’s a bit more polite. Conformists go along to get along. They’re not extremely reflective and they tend accept whatever the prevailing religion, political ideology, or societal Zeitgeist happens to be.
This is most likely a survival trait, for obvious reasons. In a hunter-gatherer tribe, there has to be a certain amount of social cohesion, which means everyone has to be on the same page about major things. If this isn’t the case, it could spell doom for the group and the individuals.
Such a trait doesn’t imply ignorance or stupidity or lack of integrity, either. Most of us have family members, co-workers, bosses, and such with whom we know not to bring up certain topics, or around whom to tread warily, or whatever, as a way of preserving family harmony, one’s own job, etc. Most of us know that there is an expected pattern of behavior in church, at work, etc. Almost all of us are conformist at least in some contexts. Those who are unwilling or unable to “go along to get along” are the eccentrics, the bohemians, the misfits, and such, and are perceived as being either crazy or assholes. Often they actually are. Read the rest of this entry
This is an ongoing concern of mine. My training is in mathematics and physics, and I’ve always been around engineers and techie types. Given that, it truly appalls me how little most people understand and appreciate the issues involved with infrastructure. This is especially so in light of our aging infrastructure, which is much more fragile than most people think. I had a couple of infrastructure-related posts here, and I just posted a couple of other infrastructure essays from a few years ago. I figured there are enough to deserve a category index, especially since I may return to the topic now and then.