what? [or, pardon my language, uh, 'validity' an' stuff]

Daniel A. Foss (U17043@UICVM.BITNET)
Wed, 24 Apr 1996 21:29:25 CDT

specifically, 11:47:18 EDT, Richard G. Calo seems to charge the unnamed
party "<who waited a week for someone else to do it>," which is me, all
right, with having brute-forcibly squashed the thread on Religion An'
Stuff [where an' stuff, in Californian English circa 1970, meant, "an
alternative to etc such that what follows the an' stuff includes everything
not even tangentially related to the an' stuff bu subsequent diffusion may
have altered the semantic field of an' stuff beyond recognition; example:
"I can't understand you Easterners, with your Prejudices, Traditions, an'

Firstly, may I utter a heartfelt "Awwwwwww."
I did not intentionally snuff this thread, crassly, grossly, intentionally,
untimely deprive it of its moment of "life and movement." It was an accident.
Sorry. I shall light a *yorzeit* candle each anniversary of its demise, that
is, if I can't render it Undead myself. Far from sinking the poor dear
departed (it is legitimate to mix metaphors of the dead), I sought merely
to blow it offcourse a little. What I'd waited a week for was for someone
to suggest that the discussion had adopted by consensus a covertly ethno-
centric (a redundancy, as we are *never*, well, almost, *overtly* ethno-
centric) definition of Religion, ie, in terms of portability outside the
culture of its origins such that remote alien Others may be converted to
it, which didn't exist prior to the Christianizing of the Roman Empire.
(The Mahayanizing of the Chinese Empire and successor states prior to
the proclamation by Fu Jian of the Former Qin dynasty of Mahayana Buddhism
as the State Religion of North China, in the 370s, is a kettle of fish of
a slightly different colour. At exactly the same time, 379, Theodosius I,
Roman Emperor in the East, outlawed Paganism and proclaimed Christianity
the sole fully-legal religion. This wasn't sheer coincidence; see McNeill,
Plagues and Peoples, 1976.)

The Unaskable Question I answered was, then, How are we being ahistorical
in defining religion (implicitly, without saying so). That I was answering
an Unaskable Question was a stylistic device. It was not intended to
antagonize anyone; people will get antagonized no matter what I do. Short
of shutting up, which at certain times of the month is not possible. Why
this stylistic device? Well, in Former Times, way before you were born,
people, Before The War, actually, when I posted to this list I'd spell out
all the implications of what I meant to say, taking about 300 lines minimum
to do it. The reason being, it'd take me so long to write the first 100 lines,
if I hadn't changed my mind by then, it represented some sort of Failure; so
there'd be another 100 lines of explication of my Thought since line 0 not
even of interest to me; then another, etc, until it'd sort of stop. The
answer to the Unaskable Question here was, "Have the people who read the
post decide what it means, except for Stephanie J. Nelson; send it out by
line 100ish." We really don't want to get into why this itself was necessary.

Instead, let's think about the usages "a long time ago, before you were
born," "before The War," and suchlike ilk, in establishing Gerontocratic
Oral-Historical Authority in Parental-Grandparental Moralizing Socialization

The second post I sent was in response to someone's adducing The Book of
Ruth as an example of a Conversion story (prior to the rise of Convertible,
ie, Converttoable, Religions, later to include Islam and a few small also-
rans). Which it wasn't. It was part of an ethnogenesis narrative about a
People, Israel, who became Israel before Israel became Jewish. Which,
however, is understood today as a Conversion story by people who, today,
live after the chronological setting of the largely-imaginary Rise of
Christianity narrative. But nowhere near as imaginary, in certain places
(the Patriarchs, the Egyptian Bondage, the Exodus, the Revelation of the
Law, the Conquest of Canaan), as the Origin Myth of God, the Old Testament.
(We can't really call it the Rise of Judaism narrative, as little is in
fact imparted in the text about the Rise of Judaism, which took place
offstage, in such a way as to dictate what's in the book, what's not.)
In principle, Jews accept the Old Testament as a historical account of
both People and faith, which it isn't. Christians accept the Old Testament,
plus or minus a few Apocrypha, as Revealed Scripture such that, however,
it has been superseded by the New Testament (including the explanation
of the supersession, but not an accurate representation of that which
was repudiated, Rabinnic Judaism of the Diaspora under the Principate,
which is why Julian the Apostate could read the Scriptures and infer
that the Temple meat sacrifices, where he, personally, just plain *loved*
meat sacrifices, still represented the essential Judaism).

As real anthropologists, you are Responsible for having read Talal Asad,
Genealogies of Religion: Discipline and Reasons of Power in Christianity and
Islam, 1993. Accordingly, you are presumed sensitized to the problem of trans-
historical *and* comparative/crosscultural validity even just for purposes of
comparing two indisputable mass-salvation, ie, Portable, "world-religions."
If there's something screwed up in the dialogue about "relgion-in-general,"
you must by definition be having the wrong argument. If you believe in
validity. No, belief is the wrong word. *Taken for granted*. Any mention
of *belief* conduces to invalidity.

Because *any ideology exclusively dependent upon belief in its explicit,
overt formulation or manifestation is in Very Serious Trouble*. Communism,
for example, as of Brezhnev's time, at the latest. A lusty, vigorous ideology
grows in the manured barnyard of the taken-for-granted, the implicit, as
Reality. Communism, for those too young to recall it, was in its overt
formulation a secular-rationalist social ideology which inter alia condemned
religion. Yet whose canonical texts included a statement by the Founder, Karl
Marx, to the effect that an "objectively rational" social ideology could take
the form of religion in certain "historical periods."

At last we come to the *beginning* of this post. Richard G. Calo reported
that, in his fanmail, someone said, "I am enjoying the discussion on the
difference between religion and ideology very much."
Isn't that *weird*?

Daniel A. Foss