There cannot be a rational interpretation of religion...

Discussion in 'Agnosticism and Atheism' started by Ukr-Cdn, Feb 14, 2009.

  1. Ukr-Cdn

    Ukr-Cdn Striving towards holiness

    What I ask of the free thinker is that he should confront religion in the
    same mental state as the believer … [He] who does not bring to the
    study of religion a sort of religious sentiment cannot speak about it! He
    is like a blind man trying to talk about color.
    There cannot be a rational interpretation of religion which is
    fundamentally irreligious; an irreligious interpretation of religion would
    be an interpretation which denied the phenomenon it was trying to

    The words of Emile Durkheim (also famous for writing "God is society, writ large", so it isn't like he is a apologist or anything.

    I am interested in what people (thesits, atheists and anyone in between) think of this statement?
  2. Of course there is no rational explanation of religion. If there were, it wouldn't be religion, it would be science.

    The thing people (theists and atheists alike) need to learn, imho, is that the two answer completely different questions regarding life--Science answers, "How?" religion answers, "Why?"

    The trouble arises when subjective religion tries to answer the objective question of "how" (ie, creationists), and/or when science belittles the importance of the question of "why" (ie, Richard Dawkins plea that the wonderment of the universe should be "enough" for us)

    You cannot discuss religion in terms of rationality or logic anymore than you could discuss science in terms of opinions. The point is, although they lie on separate planes, they are both valid parts of the human experience. It is no wonder that so many reject the concept of God because of its irrationality; you will never see god through that lens. It is only when you learn to embrace the irrational parts of life that God takes shape.

  3. Okiefreak

    Okiefreak Senior Member

    I've been sticking up for Christianity in my many posts on Hip Forums, and I agree that there are non-rational aspects of religion that are not adequately captured by a purely scientific approach. However, this doesn't mean that religion can't be held to standards of critical thought, logic and evidence. By the way, non-rational isn't the same thing as irrational. Irrational suggests inconsistency with logic and available evidence. Once we give in to that, where do we draw the line? Elves? Witches? Woodsprites? I see no reason why religion should be exempt from critical thought, logic, and evidence. When I encounter passages in scripture that seem clearly contradictory, or contrary to science (e.g., the sun standing still, or even the earth standing still, so that Joshua could have more daylight to complete his victory over the Caananites), I think I'm justified in saying that can't be taken as literally true.
  4. jumbuli55

    jumbuli55 Member

    Read Jung (Bollinger Series), for interpretation of and look at religion through prism of accumulated rational knowledge of modern times mixed with much emphasis on symbols, archetypes , dark depth of unconscious ... going back million years , to most prime elements in human psyche...
    Many interesting thoughts there.
  5. Duck

    Duck quack. Lifetime Supporter

    That would be like saying 'you can't describe French in English'.
    You may not be able to learn the language, purely from explanations of it; but you can still understand about it.
    If you have never had religion, you may not be able to fully know what the religious think; that does not mean that religion can not be held up to rational scrutiny.

    I think his argument is silly, and quite beneath an educated man such as himself. Language wouldn't exist if cavemen had such attitudes.

    And to Strawberry: Science is knowledge in measurements and theory - science answers every question it can possibly answer. "Why?" is typically the root question, and most questions that ask 'how' could be worded as a 'why' question no problem...

    The difference is Science in practical human application, and off of a proven basis. Religion works on things that can't be humanly answered.
  6. Ukr-Cdn

    Ukr-Cdn Striving towards holiness

    I don't think he is saying that religion cannot have a rational explanation (in fact Durkheim offers a good one in terms of social formation and functionality). I think what he is getting at is that religion can be scrutinized rationally, but his explanations should not be taken as a belittlement of religious belief, practice, or adherents. There is a line left out of the quotation that reads: Now I shall adress the free believer...Without going so far as to disbelieve the formula we believe in, we must forget it provisionally, reserving the right to return to it later. Having once escaped from this tyranny, we are no longer in danger of perpetrating the error and injustice into which certain believers have fallen who have called my way of interpreting religion basically irreligious and then it goes into the "There cannot be..." part.

    Basically he is saying that scholarly religious studies (unlike Dawkins et al) is not (or should not be) irreligious. They may say one thing about the religion (e.g. Acts of the Apostles was written as an anti-Marcion text and has little to no basis in 1st Century history), but should not denounce the religion or its believers based on it. You should not call them fools for being religious, for in our humanity we all are in some way.
  7. Ukr-Cdn

    Ukr-Cdn Striving towards holiness

    This blog-article sums up Maurice Bloch's "Why religion is nothing special but is central" article pretty well.

    Basically humans have religion because we can imagine (imagine non physical things and imagine essentialized roles), not because we can "embrace the irrational".
  8. Okiefreak

    Okiefreak Senior Member

    I think scientific studies of religion are useful, but contemporary science embodies reductionist ("nothing but") assumptions that hinder full understanding of the phenomenon. A case in point is Daniel Dennett's Breaking the Spell that gives what seems like a million and a half naturalistic explanations of religion, essentially concludes "See there, nothing more to it", and then expresses puzzlement that people don't throw it in the scrap heap after he's demonstrated why it's become so important in their lives. He, Dawkins and Hitchens acknowledge the importance of the "numinous" in human experience and are searching for ways of incorporating it into an atheist perspective, but I think the quest is misguided because it's so self-consciously rationalistic and utiliarian. Nothing strikes me as hokier than atheist quasi-religious rituals.
  9. relaxxx

    relaxxx Senior Member

    Rational people have no problem with rational interpretations or explanations of religion, God, consciousness and human nature. The wall is hit when a rational person tries to explain his point to the irrational religious mind. This becomes a complete waste of time and and you get ironically bloated threads like "Why do atheists spend do much time...".

    There cannot be a rational discussion with the religious!
  10. Okiefreak

    Okiefreak Senior Member

    The irony is not lost in the facts that few atheists took the time to participate in that thread (thereby refuting the premise?), and that most of the discussion had little or no relevance to the original topic. I disagree that there can't be a rational discussion with the religious. It all depends on whether the religious are mostly rational or irrational.
  11. Ukr-Cdn

    Ukr-Cdn Striving towards holiness

    The premise of this thread wasn't really to not get atheists to participate, but to try to engage in (polemical word) rational discussion about a topic I am currently very interested in (i.e Durkheim). I too disagree that there cannot be rational discussion amongst the religious and not reeligious (What would you call this?). I also agree that many theories of religion favored by Hipforums "Free Thinkers" are quite reductionist and seem to think that saying that religion is irrational will be the final solution of the human problem of religion. In terms of Dawkins and the numinous, he aknowledges it, but only goes that far. He says nature is amazing, but that in it he sees no evidence of a god.

    I think the irony arises when the premise of this thread was to try and soften some of the critiques of religion (rational explanations cannot be irreligious) but it seems to have completely missed most of the participants so far (Duck as an exception, although in my mind he might still have some things wrong with his interpretation. But we can discuss it further) have missed the point entirely and have said religion is irrational when that wasn't even the point.

    In a belated response to Strawberry, I think it has already been stated that the "how/why" problem is a fallacy. What I should add though is that science also rests upon certain metaphyisical assumptions. In fact, everyone (whether they like it or not) has meaphysical assumptions. Science rests upon a naturalistic assumption, but insofar as it pertains to the method of science (which is why the religious do not need to "fear"cience).
  12. jumbuli55

    jumbuli55 Member

    Define the words "religious" and "religion".
  13. Duck

    Duck quack. Lifetime Supporter

    Well, that makes more sense. Guess you shouldn't believe everything you read =P
  14. Ukr-Cdn

    Ukr-Cdn Striving towards holiness

    Definition of religion (from Durkheim, I like it): A religion is a unified system of beliefs and practices relative to sacred things, i.e. things set apart & forbidden-- beliefs and practices which unite in one single moral community called a Church, all those who adhere to them.
    Religious (as a noun): a person who is an aherent to a particular religion. In a stricter sense, a religious is one who lives as a preist, nun, monk, friar, or even possibly a deacon (to use Catholic examples).

    Yeah, it was my intention to post that whole part with the original post, but didn't have my translation of Elementary Forms. So I found it the best I could from another site. Anyways, from what I originally posted, it does seem like Durkheim is talking to the "free thinker" during the irreligious part, when he is speaking as a fellow "free thinker" to the religious.
  15. heeh2

    heeh2 Senior Member

    i could also critique anything if i were also given the liberty of defining it
  16. jumbuli55

    jumbuli55 Member

    Both [as defined above] can be interpreted rationally.

    As to OP, I think [in all simplicity] the quoted by you text [from Emile Durkheim] implies something to the effect that machine can not interpret emotions, ergo one must not be a robot and must have the emotions to interpret those of the others.


    Much confusion , in any kind of complex discussion, arises from how one or another word is understood by a participating person [latters' education, background, word association, perception and etc. playing vital role] and also from what one or another word means in a full context, as opposed to its' far simpler and singular definition by any dictionary.
  17. Coral Reefer

    Coral Reefer Hip Forums Supporter HipForums Supporter

    Do you ignore the possibility that there is no why or purpose to existence? Even if you postulate a god as the reason for existence, you are still left with the question of why does god exist and this becomes an infinite regress. Thus there can be no reason to justify existence itself. It just is. The concepts of purpose and will are human concepts, the products of a sentient mind evolved to form societies and understand each other's actions and the reasons behind them. The problem comes when you project these concepts onto the natural world, for which these concepts are meaningless. The fact that there is no ultimate purpose to existence doesnt take away from the awe and wonder of it however. I'm glad I exist as a human and have the chance to live, learn, laugh, and love. It doesnt matter if our lives mean anything to the universe or not, they have meaning for us, and that is what matters.
  18. Ukr-Cdn

    Ukr-Cdn Striving towards holiness

    Yeah, I think that is what he is saying in a way.

    Study religion, but don't try and dispove god.
  19. Bonkai

    Bonkai Later guys

    I disagree with this statement. Science answers the "how" and the "why" science just can't answer the why at the moment. I'm sure a few hundred or so years studying the universe we'll have the "how", "who, "where" etc.

    To the OP. I see some merit in his statement but the thing people need to realize is that the bible shouldn't be taken literally. It was write hundreds to thousands of years ago and over time it has been written over constantly, so much so that the stories have been fabricated to the unbelievable. So taking the bible in the literal sense is irrational for that simple fact imho. However telling stories over a period of time is like tell a really good joke, if you rememberthe understanding of the punch line you can retell the joke anyway you like to fit that requirement. Please forgive me for comparing the bible to a joke but I think the lessons of the bible remain true just think the stories aren't.
  20. open ur mind , no mater what ur belifs are there is at least a logical reason for the beilfs of any gods goddesss , or spirits . even in the since of just not caring about or not beliving , u still have to have faith in said belif

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