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GliderGuider Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon May-09-11 11:56 AM
Original message
Religion, War and Bigotry in the Age of Globalization
Religion, War and Bigotry in the Age of Globalization

The most misused word in the English language may be the one spelled G-O-D. It is a word used freely and frequently by hundreds of millions of English-speaking people who belong to the Christian churches, and even as a curse word by many people.

The hypocrisy of the Christian churches has led many to flee the usual denominations for alternative types of worship. This has included the formation of independent Christian congregations, reliance on the ethical standards inherent in secular humanism, or conversion to other religions such as Islam, Buddhism, or Hinduism.

Striking have been the emergence of movements such as the Nation of Islam among African-Americans, the spread of yoga as both a spiritual practice and way of life, and the widespread adoption of Buddhist forms of practice among the Western intelligentsia. Also notable are the growth of the Sufi movement, the revival of indigenous forms of spirituality, especially among Native Americans of the Western hemisphere, and the search among Christians for their authentic roots by study of the Essenes, the Gnostics, and early Jewish Christian teachings.

But what all these movements point to is that in spite of the rejection by many of the forms of religion historically practiced in the West, the search for spiritual meaning and experience has never been stronger. So the likelihood remains that whatever the truth may be that hides behind the word God, it is a truth that continually calls to humanity for its exploration, understanding, and expression. For many, this search for truth has become a living fire.

As an atheist for whom the search for spiritual truth in my own life has become "a living fire", I agree. I have long felt a pervasive sense of aridity during my 57 years following in my father's footsteps as a materialist, reductionist, strong atheist. I finally realized that I was missing a "sense of the sacred" in my life. Of course, deciding what that meant and how I could express it without violating my bedrock conviction of a godless universe, was a significant challenge.

Eventually I discovered that the philosophies of Zen, Taoism, Advaita and Deep Ecology filled the bill. They have given my life the spiritual core it was lacking without insisting that I adopt beliefs that seemed antithetical to reason. I suspect I'm not alone in this shift.
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Ninjaneer Donating Member (577 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon May-09-11 12:34 PM
Response to Original message
1. Would you mind elaborating
Edited on Mon May-09-11 12:34 PM by Ninjaneer
on the "sense of the sacred" part? what did you end up deciding that meant to you?

If you don't mind my asking that is :)
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GliderGuider Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon May-09-11 01:12 PM
Response to Reply #1
5. Sure.
Edited on Mon May-09-11 02:01 PM by GliderGuider
For me it all revolves around interconnection - the understanding that everything is connected, and how I honour that understanding. People are obviously connected, but then there is the interconnection of all life, along with the myriad interconnections of apparently inanimate parts of the natural world, and even the noetic aspects of our reality. As far as I can tell, absolutely everything is connected at some level - even apparently unconnected things, for example a Supreme Court decision being connected with a quark in a quasar at the edge of the visible universe.

I feel that the universe reflects Arthur C Clark's comment, "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." The incomprehensible complexity created by the interconnection of everything - all the quarks, all the life forms, all the planetary, stellar and galactic structures, all our ideas, all actions whether human or natural, even the connection of connections - all of it is necessary in order for me to be sitting in this chair, typing this message. That, to my limited awareness, is close enough to magic for any practical purpose.

One only needs to extend that idea a bit further to come to the conclusion that apparent opposites are as inextricably linked as the two sides of a coin, that all that interconnected mass of apparent difference is actually One, and that all appearances of difference are at some level just perceptual illusions.

The sense of majesty that (contains/is contained in) that perception gives rise to my sense of the sacred, which in a nutshell is the belief that things work better when I honour the interconnection and the underlying unity of everything. Honouring the interconnection involves respecting every other component of reality as much as I respect my own sense of being. It means not working at cross purposes with anything else, forgiving myself whenever that proves impossible, and working to enhance connections rather than create separations.

In order to increase my ability to honour the reality in which I find myself, I have made a committment to wake up. I find that the more I awaken to the nature of my reality, the more my sense of wonder grows. Interestingly, the more I do that, the more I discover that my sense of self is as much an illusion as any other perception of separateness. That in turn reinforces my understanding that this thing called "me" is an intrinsic part of the Oneness that it perceives. In those moments I truly feel "at home".

And that, in a nutshell, is what I mean by "a sense of the sacred." :-)

A single connection is the quantum unit of the sacred.
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Jim__ Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon May-09-11 12:47 PM
Response to Original message
2. "Throughout history, more people have been slaughtered in the name of religion or its ...
... ideological derivatives than for any other cause."

That's a somewhat commonly held belief; but I'd like to see some documentation on that. Here's a counter argument based on actual research:

To my knowledge there has only been one attempt to actually quantify religion's role in war-making throughout human history. As part of a special they were airing on the subject, the BBC asked Dr. Greg Austin, a research Fellow in the Department of Peace Studies, University of Bradford, to investigate religion's role in the history of war. Austin, with the help of colleagues Todd Kranock and Thom Oommen, conducted the War Audit, where they evaluated all the major conflicts over the past 3,500 years -- 73 wars in all. The wars were rated on a 0-5 scale for religious motivation, with 5 indicating the highest religious motivation. So for example, The First and Second Punic Wars (264-241 and 218-201 BC respectively) rated a 0, while the Crusades (1097-1291) rated a 5. While conceding that subjectivity always plays some role in these sorts of assessments, Austin and colleagues, nevertheless, maintained that the general trend they observed was "beyond debate" (p. 12).

Brace yourselves, those for whom religion equals war. The majority of all wars (44/73 or 60 percent) had no religious motivation whatsoever -- a zero rating. Only three wars -- the Arab conquests of 632-732, the much ballyhooed Crusades, and the Reformation Wars of the 16th and 17th centuries - earned a 5, and were thus considered to be truly religious wars. Only seven wars earned a rating of 3 or more -- less than 10 percent. Thus, the vast majority of all wars involved either no religious motivation or only a modest one. The authors concluded by noting that "there have been few genuinely religious wars in the last 100 years. The Israel/Arab wars were wars of nationalism and liberation of territory" (p. 16).

more ...
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rrneck Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon May-09-11 01:09 PM
Response to Reply #2
4. Interesting but
burning somebody alive in the court square as a lesson to others delivers a cultural impact far beyond the loss of a single life.

Of course such killings are not the sole province of religious opressuon. It just seems to me that "head counts" are an insufficient tool for evaluation given the various interrelated motivations for any instance of authoritarian brutality.
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humblebum Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon May-09-11 11:15 PM
Response to Reply #2
11. There is more than adequate proof to show that more have
Edited on Mon May-09-11 11:16 PM by humblebum
died under atheist dictators than in religious wars. As uncomfortable as that may be, it was done without the help of religion.
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darkstar3 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon May-09-11 11:18 PM
Response to Reply #11
12. Play it like you own it.
"Like a record, baby..."
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humblebum Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue May-10-11 12:06 AM
Response to Reply #12
13. My numbers are nothing compared to yours. But I'll keep trying
as long as you keep up your put downs.
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darkstar3 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue May-10-11 12:12 AM
Response to Reply #13
14. wikka-wikka
Keep thinkin' that's a new spin on that old record. :rofl:
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pscot Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon May-09-11 12:53 PM
Response to Original message
3. Spirituality and religion are not the same thing
In fact they may be antithetical.
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GliderGuider Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon May-09-11 01:22 PM
Response to Reply #3
7. Religion is the structure, spirituality is the structureless core.
Most organized religions are structures that developed to reinforce the power hierarchies within which they operate. They initially spring from spirituality, which is why all religions have some mysticism at their heart - "mysticism" being the direct experience of the sacred, rather than the mediated understanding of it handed down by religious leaders.

Religions tend to be suspicious of or hostile to mysticism, because it's fundamentally anarchistic. Religions are support pillars of the hierarchic order, and from that understanding all the rest of it flows. Religions rework spirituality into a dogma that can be transmitted without direct experience (which is intrinsically alienating) and supports the social control goals of the social hierarchy they serve.
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Nihil Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue May-10-11 11:43 AM
Response to Reply #7
17. I agree with that:
> Religion is the structure, spirituality is the structureless core.
> Most organized religions are structures that developed to reinforce the power
> hierarchies within which they operate. They initially spring from spirituality,
> which is why all religions have some mysticism at their heart - "mysticism" being
> the direct experience of the sacred, rather than the mediated understanding of it
> handed down by religious leaders.

That would also tie in with the "freer" & "more liberal" nature of the communities
which are primarily mystical versus the "authoritarian" & "straight-laced" forms
of those that are primarily religious.

Mind you, there is also something to the thought that there is a critical mass
of such a spiritual community above which it becomes unstable, tending to either
fragment into separate sub-communities (retaining their spiritual nature) or
devolve towards the hierarchical religious state instead.

Maybe that's just the increasing probability of encountering a new member of
the community who is "faking it" - not experiencing the sacred themselves but
pretending (for whatever reason) in order to remain in the community for other
purposes.

:shrug:
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GliderGuider Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue May-10-11 12:07 PM
Response to Reply #17
18. It may be inherent to the size of the community
Edited on Tue May-10-11 12:13 PM by GliderGuider
There's a size limit to communities that's defined by Dunbar's number, which is around 150. It defines a theoretical cognitive limit (based on the computing power of our neocortex) to the number of people with whom one can maintain stable social relationships - relationships in which each person knows everyone else and how everyone relates to everyone else. It basically defines the maximum size of a tribe or small village (or spiritual sangha). As the group expands past that size personal relationships are no longer enough, and there's a growing need for rules to maintain social order -- enter hierarchy.

Add to that the fact that the mystical experience can't be transmitted abstractly through reading (at least not very effectively). It's a personal experience that usually needs direct involvement for its transmission. That's the role of the guru. In a large group the guru can't interact with everyone, so the transmission of spiritual knowledge is done through a guru/priest-hierarchy and through books of sacred writings. This brings about an unavoidable alienation from the mystical experience. Religions develop out of the combination of hierarchies of authority that spring from group size and the spiritual alienation of seekers that comes from the abstract method of transmission.

IMNSHO
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rrneck Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon May-09-11 01:17 PM
Response to Original message
6. I sometimes wonder
if we aren't approaching another Axial Age.

http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Axial_Age

Sorry about the short reply. Posting on a phone.
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GliderGuider Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon May-09-11 01:23 PM
Response to Reply #6
8. Nice. I would not disagree.
It feels like that to me as well.
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dimbear Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon May-09-11 07:45 PM
Response to Original message
9. "the search for spiritual meaning and experience has never been stronger."
Possibly true. Also possibly never been weaker. Possibly always been just the same because it's part of human nature, but then again history has its moments.

Like the time of the flagellant cults and St. Vitus dance. They seemed pretty enthusiastic.

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GliderGuider Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon May-09-11 08:37 PM
Response to Reply #9
10. True enough. Humans are meaning-seeking creatures.
I think the comment was prompted by the misinformed conclusion that the growth of humanism had somehow short-circuited tour drive to find meaning in something beyond ourselves. It of course never did any such thing.
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laconicsax Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue May-10-11 12:48 AM
Response to Original message
15. Which of the 38,000+ Christian denominations are the "usual" ones?
:shrug:
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GliderGuider Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue May-10-11 07:25 AM
Response to Reply #15
16. I think "usual" in this case is a synonym for "largest".
Any denomination with over 10 million members? Catholics of various sorts and mainstream Protestants would be "the usual suspects" IMO.
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