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Featured What's the Best Way to Understand the Nature or Character of a Religion?

Discussion in 'General Religious Debates' started by Sunstone, Sep 12, 2019.

  1. Sunstone

    Sunstone De Diablo Del Fora
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    A while back, a friend of mine mentioned to me that he had reexamined how he approached religions. He said he had for ages been trying to come to grips with them by reading their holy books, scriptures, and commentaries. But that has changed now. Now, he primarily seeks to understand a religion by observing how it inspires, motivates, influences, or determines the behavior of its adherents.

    What would you consider to be the strengths and weaknesses of such an approach?
     
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  2. Amanaki

    Amanaki Well-Known Member

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    A combination of what your friend did is the best way (IMHO) to understand religion and how it affect the life on this planet. To become the religious teaching our self we become the nature too
     
  3. PureX

    PureX Veteran Member

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    Do religions have natures and characters? I would say no. They are a collection of traditions, ideals, and practices intended to help the practitioners live according to their theological beliefs. The practitioners have natures and characters, surely, but their religions are just a set of tools.
     
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  4. Mock Turtle

    Mock Turtle Compassion, understanding, and tolerance.
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    This (in bold) more than anything, but unfortunately there is such a wide spectrum to choose from in many cases such that one can see what one wants to see - and often it isn't pretty - whilst the majority who don't seem to cause issues suffer because of this. Islam is the obvious candidate here - currently being the 'bad boy' amongst all other religions.

    I think we should judge people by their actions rather than their beliefs, and if their beliefs seem to propel many into behaviours that seem alien to us then obviously we will question their beliefs too. But beliefs are still a mixture of apparently good and bad intentions (if not recognised as such), so even then it is difficult to form an overall conclusion about them. For example, I don't have much against Buddhism - having travelled to a mainly Buddhist country and seeing how they live - but have never travelled to an Islamic country (such as Iran, where religion is rather more controlled, or to others where it is not so), such that any understanding of Islam itself is not so easy when its adherents seem to behave rather differently depending upon where they live.
     
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  5. wizanda

    wizanda One Accepts All Religious Texts
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    A religious text is commonly misunderstood by mortals, and then Chinese Whispers about follow the immortal leaders are understood.

    In my opinion. :innocent:
     
  6. Vinayaka

    Vinayaka devotee
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    If the adherents of a faith generally act like jerks, that religion must be doing something wrong. If, OTOH, the people all behave well, then it's most likely a good deal.

    I almost always recommend newcomers to my faith to go to a temple, rather than read scripture, so obviously I agree with your friend.

    One of the reasons i was turned off of Christianity was at age 19, two friends and I attended a Christmas service (first time in my life I went to church for a service). Regardless, it was all kind of absurd. Very 'godly, peaceful, full of hope, and all that. But the really heavy irony of that was that we knew many of those people. One friend's parents ran the local gas distribution company, and knew the ones who never paid their bills, or created a massive hassle about it. We knew some there who visited the local prostitutes, and more stuff like that. Obviously the Bible hadn't done a lot for them.

    But then, my faith isn't primarily a scripture based faith. I agree with your friend.
     
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  7. Revoltingest

    Revoltingest Greased up & ready for action!
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    A religion is what its adherents do.
     
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  8. Brickjectivity

    Brickjectivity Veteran Member
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    I agree partly.

    Its a good idea to chart what the religions inspire and motivate people to do, because sometimes you can find that out. You cannot classify them with it, because you cannot always find out (and you probably shouldn't). You can classify them by broad stroke generalizations like "Sikhs carry swords and wear turbans." "Christians take communion or Eucharist or participate in liturgy." Its one thing to classify religions according to public appearances and another to know what it is like when no one is looking. I think we need to keep the classifications (based in simple observable public behavior) separate from charting which behaviors (specific to individuals) the religions inspire but connected as with a function. The behaviors should be treated like dependent variables. Then you can try to figure out the missing variables and try to explain what causes different behaviors within the same religions, but you can't classify religions by inspired behaviors only by common, public behavior.

    Think of classification in terms of chemistry. Imagine that its like studying the spectra of molecules. First you identify that there are 118+ atoms, and you find out the spectra that they give off when heated. Then you study the statistical prevalence of their spectra in molecules which are analogous to the behaviors of individuals. With a complete spectrum you can make a pretty good guess at what atoms are in a molecule -- which religions inspire their behaviors. As with chemistry and molecules you won't get a perfectly clean spectrum and will not be able to guess a person's religion strictly by their activities.
     
  9. joe1776

    joe1776 Well-Known Member

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    I think your friend is wasting his time.

    I think morality is the standard by which religions should be judged; and by that standard they all fail to teach their faithful to keep pace with conscience.

    For example, the abolition of legal slavery was a conscience-driven moral advance. The Abrahamic religions had nothing to do with it. And the conscience-driven movement to give women, homosexuals and minorities equal rights has no support in the teachings of religion.
     
  10. metis

    metis aged ecumenical anthropologist

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    Ditto, imo.
     
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  11. pcarl

    pcarl Well-Known Member

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    We are a church of sinners not saints. And yes there is much hypocrisy. I remember a black family, good friends, and during the 'kiss of peace', some refused to shake hands, others shook hands but refused to accept them in their neighborhood.
     
  12. metis

    metis aged ecumenical anthropologist

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    Speak for yourself! :mad:

    Amen. :(

    I've never experienced that in any of the Catholic churches I've attended for over 50 years, but I have no doubt it has happened.

    BTW, I left my Protestant church back in the later 60's with racism being a major factor.
     
  13. Unveiled Artist

    Unveiled Artist Veteran Member

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    From personal experience with talking with seniors of said faiths and being on RF I noticed the best way to learn about a religion is practice it.

    A few basics anyone can do without culture is meditation, ancestor reverence, acts of gratitude, prayer (however defined at that moment), acts of charity, and right speech and compassion.

    These are general practices I souped up from other religions. All of them say books are not enough. A few said one needs community like African faiths, guidance (ideally) like Buddhist and Hindu, and discipline in all.

    With books, I'd say brush up on its history, talk to more than one senior in faith and tell your friend he should come and talk sincerity of his search.

    Some people get annoyed but that's better than insult. Go to a service at houses of worship. Ask what to wear and do.

    Just be mindful you're not a practioner. I only know Protestant non liturgical Christians who are flexible in "membership."
     
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  14. firedragon

    firedragon Well-Known Member

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    1. Religion is created by man, not the scripture. I am not saying its supposed to be this way, its just the reality. No religion is based on the scripture though fundamentally thats how its supposed to be.

    2. Religions have been motivated by men to be as diverse and malleable as their need of the moment. Since time immemorial.

    Thus, the approach is a good approach, just as good as the previous approach. Just two things or angles. You cant say one is wrong. I would say, purely from my point of view that it is better to study the holy books with a fresh mind, be scientific about it, and make the religion for yourself.

    Peace.
     
  15. Mindmaster

    Mindmaster Well-Known Member
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    Making jokes and memes about them and seeing how they react is a far better way. If they don't give a single **** or laugh along with you they're probably OK and worth learning more, if not... Hey, you saved yourself a lot of trouble.
     
  16. Amanaki

    Amanaki Well-Known Member

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    Why make jokes about Religion, Religious scriptures or those who follow a serious practice?
     
  17. Jollybear

    Jollybear Hey

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    I think this is a strength. If a religion makes you more intelligent, strong, and moral and responsible, that is good fruit. If it dont do that, its useless.
     
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  18. Sunstone

    Sunstone De Diablo Del Fora
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    So you would argue there is no essential, characteristic, or core difference between, say, Scientology and Zen Buddhism? If so, that's quite interesting.
     
  19. exchemist

    exchemist Well-Known Member

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    I don't think just reading holy books works. It is hard to do and the risk of misunderstanding is enormous. I think you can get something out of observing the adherents of a religion but not a huge amount. I think you need to do some reading but then talk to some thoughtful adherents of the religion, perhaps including one or two of their professionals (priests, imams, monks etc.)
     
  20. LuisDantas

    LuisDantas Aura of atheification
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    Practical value and ability to cut through the parts that lack it.

    I fully agree with him.

    The weakness, such as it is, is the difficulty in reaching agreements with other people.

    Entirely worth it.
     
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