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Chapter 5

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Kenneth Derry

Chapter 5 • Concept of belief: believing is something in particular but not general • One belief can be divided: like different groups and institutions – like different interpretations of the Trinity • Many involve in an examination of the historical and cultural differences • Individuals came to develop and to present their beliefs within their particular social and cultural contests • Max Weber’s subtle analysis of the development of modern capitalism from Calvinistic beliefs in pre-destination • Belief is varied • There is an immense difference between contemporary 21 ideas of belief as a matter of internal resolution of certain concepts about reality • Edward Tylor: definition of religion as the belief in spiritual beings • Stephen Prothero, God is Not One • Literal vs. symbolic or metaphoric meaning • Religion is “really” about something else(of THIS world) • Feuerbach o God is a projection o Xenophanes: horse gods look like horses o Freud: father → God Problems with Belief: • Explain or interpret religion • No words inArabic, Hebrew that can be effectively translated in English • First: assuming that religion is concerned with belief we are taking a primarily Christian concept and making it the basis for a universal concept of religion • Second: practices of religiosity in non-Christian contexts may emphasize other aspects of behavior than belief such as ritual • Asad: suggests thinkers on religion needed to find in other traditions something that exists beyond the observed practices the heard utterance the written words • Christianity in Western Europe and NorthAmerica has been largely dominated by Protestant traditions, where there is a strong emphasis on faith. • Catholics who argued for the traditional view: that a person’s religion was primarily about what s/he did (through ‘works’). • Other, were Protestants who criticized what they saw as the simplicity and superstition of this view and argued instead (in various ways) that ‘true religion’was first and foremost a matter of what one thought and believed in. Belief and Reductionism: • Belief is often assumed to be a central and defining element of the study of religions. However, the concept carries a lot of theoretical and ideological baggage since it applies a predominantly Protestant Christian concept in often inappropriate ways to non- Christian contexts. • Reductionism argues that the object of beliefs (deities or superhuman entities) are nothing more than human constructions that can be reduced to human basics • Naturalist argument is that our understanding of deities can only be only be understood in terms of the natural world in which we live o This naturalistic approach is the basis of science, which has given us phenomenal power understanding the natural world • Humankind unconsciously and involuntarily creates God in his/her own image o According to this of interpretation, what is taken as divine reality is in fact a human reality o God images – what we want, human purposes • Study of religion in a cultural as was as a naturalistic perspective is to look at the broader contest of how people come to talk and think and believe in the ways which they do CognitiveApproaches to Religion and Belief: • Cognitive approaches is a board area including a number of different theories and concepts, some of which rely on specifically reductionist arguments, whilst others do not • Martin: cognitive science of religion can approach such questions theoretically, formulating generalizable answers • This approach can: o Explain the ubiquity of religion among virtually all human societies, past and present o Offer naturalistic explanations for the similarities that have long been noted among diversities of religion expressions o Offer explanations for the modes of transmission and conservation employed by those constructions and for individual commitments to them o Express theses explanations with some precision in ways in which they are testable • One major aspect: attempt to understand human actions with reference to the scientific study of the human brain • Harvey Whitehouse’s theory of religiosity based on two distinct types of memory formation o Some rituals transfer experience and understanding of core ideas and beliefs through what he calls the imagistic mode o In contrast, doctrinal mode of religiosity works on the principle of repetitive and routinized diffusion of knowledge and beliefs • Stewarts Guthrie and Pascal Boyer – both largely present theories of religion that attempt to reductively explain the basis of religious beliefs • Religion is primarily concerned with ideas of entities beyond the human • One key element of this approach is that these entities cannot have any reality from a scientific perspective • Guthrie’s explanation for this is the biologically constructed human mechanism of anthropomorphism o Anthropomorphism: the attribution of human characteristics or behavior to a god, animal, or object. • We are naturally predisposed (biologically hardwired by evolution) to make interpretations that are cognitively satisfactory and helpful to us Hick and Eliade: Non-reductionist views on religion • They argue that religion is universally based on a belief in and experience of something that exists beyond humanity • For Hick this is called the Real • For Eliade this is called Scared • Both have find some basis of un
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