1. Welcome to Religious Forums, a friendly forum to discuss all religions in a friendly surrounding.

    Your voice is missing! You will need to register to get access to the following site features:
    • Reply to discussions and create your own threads.
    • Our modern chat room. No add-ons or extensions required, just login and start chatting!
    • Access to private conversations with other members.

    We hope to see you as a part of our community soon!

Featured Meaning In Fictional and "Real" Religion

Discussion in 'Interfaith Discussion' started by DharmaCatLamp, Oct 1, 2022.

  1. DharmaCatLamp

    DharmaCatLamp Member

    Joined:
    Mar 21, 2022
    Messages:
    215
    Ratings:
    +348
    Religion:
    Hindu with Taoist leanings
    Howdy folks.

    This was inspired by the post Fictional Religions so you guys should check that out I suppose.

    I was thinking about fictional religions and the thought I kept coming back to is that whether an idea appears in what we might call fiction vs what we might call scripture is irrelevant. Ideas and the meanings behind them are what is important.

    Take the story of Jesus for example. Studying early Christianity we might know that a good portion of the story we now have for Jesus is almost certainly later additions. We have some stories which differ wildly from the “orthodox” narrative. We have Gnosticism and mystery religions surrounding Jesus as well as groups like the Ebionites who insist that Jesus is the very Jewish messiah that was specifically for the Jewish people.

    That is a lot of different stories and narratives surrounding a singular figure. In a historical sense we could make arguments for one group or another being closer to what the historical Jesus might of taught. What I would argue is that the importance and meaning of Jesus come from our own personal experiences rather than what the man taught.

    What someone like Meister Eckhart believed about Christ may have nothing to do with what the man himself said or did. Does that matter if Meister Eckhart still taught beauty and understanding? Does it matter if he was inspired by fiction as opposed to a historical narrative?

    The Tao Te Ching was written by a man named Lao Tzu. It’s agreed by many scholars that there was probably not a man named Lao Tzu who actually came up with the Tao Te Ching. Does that take away the meaning a beauty of many of it’s statements?

    I would apply this to fictional religions as well. Haqqislam is a fictional religion in the Infinity universe. Infinity is a tabletop game by Corvus Belli and they have a lot of interesting ideas. Haqqislam is a reform movement within Islam that seeks to constantly obtaining knowledge. Some Haqqislam practitioners pray five times daily but many use those times for reflection and meditation instead. They believe that one should always be seeking knowledge and evolving. Does that message suddenly mean less because it comes from a fictional universe?

    I would argue that not only does that not invalidate the message but it might actually make it stronger in some sense.

    Dune has numerous mixtures of religions like Zen Sufi and Zen Sunni. You can easily find meaning in ideas from these fictional traditions without having any real issues. What might come to mind is how we decide what has value and what doesn’t.

    There is a belief that if something is older it has more value. If it’s origins are mysterious then it must somehow have more meaning. The thing that is funny about this is that this is not a new phenomenon. Part of the reason so many parts of Christianity stuck to the idea that the religion had Jewish origins despite their persecution of the Jewish community is that Judaism was older. Even ancient people believed that if something was ancient it must somehow have value.

    The truth is that stories are meaningless on their own. It is our own understanding and perception that gives stories meaning. Two people can read the exact same story word for word and one can come away with nothing while the other is changed down to their very core.

    Now if you wrap up a book with ideas like it being the literal word of God then you have to have meaning but even then people will interpret things differently. If you find one mistake in something you call the word of God then it is now a worthless book. If you however look for meaning and take it where you find it you will generally speaking be better off.

    Being flexible and understanding the myriad of meanings that can come from any one source will benefit you tremendously. I have met people who say that Kurukshetra is a sacred place because that is where Krishna revealed the Bhagavad Gita to Arjuna. I would argue that the words of the Gita are beautiful whether they were said in Kurukshetra or some place like Arizona. If God is all pervasive and the creation is her gem then no place can truly be more holy than any other it’s merely the intention we have when at these places.

    If the Bhagavad Gita was actually a late 2nd century BCE text rather than something truly more ancient then the Gita doesn’t loose a single ounce of meaning to me. We will all find meaning in numerous places and I think we should be as open as we can be to that. If a story is fiction and it inspires you then it is just as important on a spiritual level as something happening right in front of your eyes.

    I was just thinking about all of this and figured I would share my thoughts and see what you guys thought.
     
    • Like Like x 1
    • Optimistic Optimistic x 1
  2. Brickjectivity

    Brickjectivity Turned to Stone. Now I stretch daily.
    Staff Member Premium Member

    Joined:
    Dec 8, 2012
    Messages:
    36,547
    Ratings:
    +16,715
    Religion:
    liber-scripta grim Christian
    Nice. I like that we can be changed by fiction and learn from unreal events. A religion, though, is more I think. It has a psychological component which analyzes you and fits to you. A new religion or a fictional religion lacks this and is like an unfinished product.

    A religion takes you, no matter what kind of person you are, from childhood through adulthood. Its designed to work in ignorant times and in times of knowledge, times of poverty and of wealth. It is a whole system which analyzes you and processes you. It is not a poem or a few ideas cobbled together that might appeal to you. The word 'Freedom' is not a religion but an idea. The story of Abraham Lincoln is an inspiring story but not a religion. The story of Jesus on the cross is also not a religion of itself but an inspiring story. For one or two people it may be all they need, but for most people it is not. Therefore it does not comprise a religion, I am guessing.

    Let me use Buddhism as an example of what I think a religion has versus fiction though I am only weakly knowledgeable about the schools of Buddhism. Buddhists have many scriptures, but all you need (to get a strong start) is the page or sutra that is for you. It matches you. Find that page, and you become a very strong Buddhist. The problem is not to get confused by the pages that aren't suited to you. These may get in your way and cause you to become discouraged or bored. Somewhere in the pile of writings is something for you. Buddhism is more than just a story about a man but is a whole system that analyzes you and processes you, anticipates what you are in order to help you mature. Or so I suspect.
     
  3. PureX

    PureX Veteran Member

    Joined:
    Feb 12, 2006
    Messages:
    23,095
    Ratings:
    +12,650
    Religion:
    Philosophical Taoist/Christian
    I agree with all your observations, here, but good luck trying to get people to recognize the difference between the representational mechanisms of conveying an ideal, and the ideal being conveyed. Because in my experience, only a small percentage of people are willing and able to do that. It requires a degree of intellectual sophistication and honesty that, unless one has been trained and practiced at, is beyond the scope of the average person.

    And that's unfortunate, because it causes a whole lot of people to miss out on a whole lot of very interesting and applicable information that the creators of those representations wanted to share with them.
     
    • Like Like x 1
    • Informative Informative x 1
  4. Jayhawker Soule

    Jayhawker Soule <yawn> ignore </yawn>
    Premium Member

    Joined:
    May 15, 2004
    Messages:
    42,638
    Ratings:
    +17,386
    Religion:
    Judaism
    Religion is more than a body of ideas. It is a cultural dynamic tested and refined in society's crucible. At its best, it is the product of thousands ofd deeply serious followers.

    Of course we can learn from fiction, but to equate fictional religions with humanities substantive theological movements is adolescent sophistry and often little more than a rationale for the pretense of inventing one's own religion.
     
  5. PureX

    PureX Veteran Member

    Joined:
    Feb 12, 2006
    Messages:
    23,095
    Ratings:
    +12,650
    Religion:
    Philosophical Taoist/Christian
    Religions are collections of stories, images, ideals, rules, rituals, and practices intended to help their adherents live their lives in accord with their chosen theological position. Ultimately, they are functional constructs. They either fulfill their intended purpose or they do not. And that determination gets made by the individual participant, through engagement.

    So to me it doesn't really matter whether it's a religion for one or a religion for millions. It's value is based on the fact that it works for the one that's using it. Not that it works for millions rather than a few. And even those that do appear to work for millions, upon closer examination, they are being custom-tailored in the details to fit the unique individuals that are engaged with it.
     
    • Like Like x 1
  6. DharmaCatLamp

    DharmaCatLamp Member

    Joined:
    Mar 21, 2022
    Messages:
    215
    Ratings:
    +348
    Religion:
    Hindu with Taoist leanings
    I think this implies that culture naturally grows and refines things which doesn't really make very much sense to me. Culture changes sure but we can see periods of rapid changes in understanding, old ideas becoming new to a new generation and new ideas become old.

    I don't really believe in innate meaning in ideas or images and that most things are just interpretation. Theology is just like everything else and largely depends upon who is using it and why. To be honest someone being deeply serious about their beliefs doesn't mean very much to me. If religion is largely made of mostly fictional accounts or accounts that can have more than one interpretation I just don't see how that is very different from deriving meaning from fiction itself.

    Though to be honest I think we may be approaching this from such different angles that I'm not sure we would ever truly intersect. Not that there is anything wrong with that I just don't agree with the way you view things I suppose.
     
  7. Secret Chief

    Secret Chief Leaderless Animal

    Joined:
    Sep 28, 2011
    Messages:
    15,704
    Ratings:
    +15,664
    Religion:
    zen
    How would one make the choice amongst the thousands?

    I would have thought an introductory book would be a better idea. If you are certain people have souls, you could then stop right there, but with all those suttas/sutras...not so much. You could wear a blindfold and fondle various bits of an elephant without realising it was a elephant.
     
    • Like Like x 2
  8. DharmaCatLamp

    DharmaCatLamp Member

    Joined:
    Mar 21, 2022
    Messages:
    215
    Ratings:
    +348
    Religion:
    Hindu with Taoist leanings
    This makes the most sense to me. I think ultimately though it boils down to whether or not you are willing to accept the idea that things don't have intrinsic meaning outside of how we ourselves view them.

    If you believed that Christ really died for your sins I could see how it would be more difficult to accept the idea that fiction and non fiction only provide as much meaning as we give them. I think the divine is infinite and you can access it in numerous ways so it doesn't really make much sense to exclude fiction from that. Plenty of people derive meaning from fictional stories as an example.

    Ultimately I think we derive meaning from within ourselves from our own experiences and that meaning is no something external to us. I think that changes the way I view things to the point that fiction does make as much sense to me as non fiction.

    I have ultimately given up on trying to convince people of what I believe. Some close friends I have at least tried to explain why I believe what I believe and try to share what I have gained but I am aware that people believe what they believe. You will very rarely actually change someone's mind and that is fine.

    I'll get my meaning where I get it. In all honesty I am not too concerned where other people get their meaning. If we can share thoughts and ideas that's great! If we can't oh well it won't change my practices or ideas just because some folks don't agree.
     
  9. DharmaCatLamp

    DharmaCatLamp Member

    Joined:
    Mar 21, 2022
    Messages:
    215
    Ratings:
    +348
    Religion:
    Hindu with Taoist leanings
    I might also argue that sutras will often have entirely different meanings based on the school of thought they come from. A chan/zen suttra won't sound the same as an early buddhist suttra vs a Vjrayana suttra.

    I would also point out without context and without an understanding of what the school that suttra came from believes the suttra itself is meaningless. One has to approach the suttra to perceive it. Then from there you can come to a rather wide array of meanings and understandings. Even then you will never come to get THE meaning of the suttra. You will only perceive what meaning you give it and maybe what meaning others have given it.

    I think it's interesting to think about.
     
    • Like Like x 1
  10. Secret Chief

    Secret Chief Leaderless Animal

    Joined:
    Sep 28, 2011
    Messages:
    15,704
    Ratings:
    +15,664
    Religion:
    zen
    Yes. :)
     
    • Like Like x 1
  11. PureX

    PureX Veteran Member

    Joined:
    Feb 12, 2006
    Messages:
    23,095
    Ratings:
    +12,650
    Religion:
    Philosophical Taoist/Christian
    Again, I agree. There is "what is", and then there is what we think "is", is, and how we evaluate it for ourselves. There is REALITY; including us, apart from us, and beyond us; and there is the "reality" that we experience and think we know. These are quite different phenomena though few of us are aware at any given time that they are quite different phenomena. And many of us are not aware of it at all. Which is why, for those people, the representation and the ideal are one and the same. Jesus IS the Christ, and Christ IS Jesus. They cannot conceptualize the difference between the man and the story of the man. Or the man and the ideal that the man embodied (according to the story). Just to give a common example.
    Most people cannot grasp how a fictional or semi-fictional story could also be perceived as "true". They cannot grasp the concept of representation. Something either is, or is not, for them. They can't grasp how it can be both.
    Often more. Facts are just facts. They can cohere into an understanding or they can remain disconnected. But fiction starts with the understanding, and then makes up the facts that best illuminate it. So it's often far more concise and effective. I have learned far more in my life from reading fictional stories than I ever have from reading factual analysis.
    I'm even more radical in that I believe almost nothing. I find that "belief" is really just me telling myself that I'm right to the point where I am no longer going to doubt. That may please my ego, but apart from that, what good does this practice do for me? It seems far more honest and healthy to maintain the idea that I could always be wrong. Because I could. So instead of "belief", I just accept this or that as being true until I find out that it's not. I don't have to "believe in" anything. I can just accept or reject "X" as being true in the moment and under the circumstances. No ego involved.
    How could it be any other way? To 'follow' is to forfeit the gift of being a unique individual. That's a crime against God and nature, in my book. :)
     
    #11 PureX, Oct 1, 2022
    Last edited: Oct 1, 2022
    • Winner Winner x 2
  12. icehorse

    icehorse Veteran Member
    Premium Member

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2014
    Messages:
    12,002
    Ratings:
    +7,267
    Religion:
    spiritual anti-theist : )
    To take this perspective a bit further...

    The way religion is most frequently conveyed to the young or to new adherents usually employs the same techniques employed by advertisers, marketers, and propagandists (AMP). AMP is VERY EFFECTIVE, if you expose yourself to AMP, you WILL be impacted. This is not a matter of will power or logic or anything else under your conscious control. Exposure to AMP, WILL change you.

    So, while I agree with the OP, the problem is that religious ideas are seldom considered the way we consider ideas in fiction. If religious ideas were consumed the way we consume fiction, I think the OP would be largely correct. Sadly, religious ideas are almost always consumed in the context of advertising, marketing, and propaganda. :(
     
    • Like Like x 1
  13. Brickjectivity

    Brickjectivity Turned to Stone. Now I stretch daily.
    Staff Member Premium Member

    Joined:
    Dec 8, 2012
    Messages:
    36,547
    Ratings:
    +16,715
    Religion:
    liber-scripta grim Christian
    That is what I wished to convey. A religion fits more than one kind of person and more than one stage in life, yet Buddha is just trying to teach something simple. Imagine Buddhism as a bomb with many wicks that go in different directions. Some are for the young, some for the old. It goes to the young, to the old, to people with particular DSM-IV classifications; but its one bomb. Lots of teachers have been preparing the way for different kinds of disciples. Its one thing but with many descriptions and paths.

    An introductory book might not work for some people, and introductory books can be very bad, too. Have you ever tried an introductory book about Zen? What about Mahayana? I don't like introductory books about Christianity and think that they are generally terrible. Some people, though, may get what they need from them.
     
    • Friendly Friendly x 1
  14. Secret Chief

    Secret Chief Leaderless Animal

    Joined:
    Sep 28, 2011
    Messages:
    15,704
    Ratings:
    +15,664
    Religion:
    zen
    Well, I meant a generalist introduction, rather than a particular school or sect. So I'm not meaning a book on Pure Land but one on the basics - precepts, seals, path, noble truths... One could do worse than the Idiot's Guide, frinstance.
     
    • Useful Useful x 1
  15. Brickjectivity

    Brickjectivity Turned to Stone. Now I stretch daily.
    Staff Member Premium Member

    Joined:
    Dec 8, 2012
    Messages:
    36,547
    Ratings:
    +16,715
    Religion:
    liber-scripta grim Christian
    Would you suggest a book which is either written to idiots or by an idiot? Or is it merely commissioned by an idiot?
     
  16. Secret Chief

    Secret Chief Leaderless Animal

    Joined:
    Sep 28, 2011
    Messages:
    15,704
    Ratings:
    +15,664
    Religion:
    zen
    Could be all three.
     
    • Funny Funny x 1
  17. DharmaCatLamp

    DharmaCatLamp Member

    Joined:
    Mar 21, 2022
    Messages:
    215
    Ratings:
    +348
    Religion:
    Hindu with Taoist leanings
    I think part of the problem is that we get too attached to our ideas. If you are convinced that meaning can only come from a narrow span of external sources then you have to have propaganda. To me the truth of things is so complex your narrative will never entirely encompass it. Religion is largely made up of fictional stories and narratives that have meaning if you give it meaning.

    Religion is one of those things where people will insist that It has meaning outside of what we give it and I think that is largely the problem. I may worship kali and perform rituals but they have meaning to me, I wouldn't expect someone who has no context for those ideas to have the same meaning and experience. Just like if someone asked me if the myths about Kali or Shiva were meaningful it's the same thing. I don't put much stock in the myths but plenty of other people do.

    If folks were willing to let people derive meaning wherever they could it would be fine. I think there are a lot of people out there who are afraid of people disagreeing with them to the extent that they think someone having a different opinion is somehow invalidating their own.
     
  18. Jayhawker Soule

    Jayhawker Soule <yawn> ignore </yawn>
    Premium Member

    Joined:
    May 15, 2004
    Messages:
    42,638
    Ratings:
    +17,386
    Religion:
    Judaism
    OK
     
  19. Jayhawker Soule

    Jayhawker Soule <yawn> ignore </yawn>
    Premium Member

    Joined:
    May 15, 2004
    Messages:
    42,638
    Ratings:
    +17,386
    Religion:
    Judaism
    Does evolution make sense to you?
     
  20. Jayhawker Soule

    Jayhawker Soule <yawn> ignore </yawn>
    Premium Member

    Joined:
    May 15, 2004
    Messages:
    42,638
    Ratings:
    +17,386
    Religion:
    Judaism
    Are you intentionally distorting "this perspective" or simply confused and bitter?
     
Loading...