Re: Religion: definition of

Gil Hardwick (
Mon, 24 Apr 1995 02:57:55 GMT

In article <>, Gerold Firl ( writes:
>In article <> (Gil Hardwick) writes:
>>No, religion is whatever binds communities.
>There are non-religious factors which "bind" communities; kinship, sex, and
>friendship come to mind. All are found in non-human societies, and by no
>stretch of the definition can they be called "religious".

You confuse personal relationships with ideas held in common, Mr Firl.

>I place quotes around your term "bind", because it is a rather nebulous and
>ill-defined means of describing the mechanism of social cohesion. Besides,
>religion becomes necessary precisely under those conditions where cultures
>begin to outgrow the community level. Communities are small and intimate,
>with a high degree of personal interaction between members. A member of a
>community will know a reasonably high percentage of the other members of
>the community. This is the kind of social unit which our primate instincts
>are best able to operate in. We evolved under these conditions, and fall
>into place within them naturally.

Please excuse my lapse, Gerold old bean, but the term "bind" is not
mine at all. It is merely the translation of your term "religion" of
which I remind you in my obviously futile attempt to get you on track.

Then of course you neglect to establish the real-world fact of these
"mechanisms of social cohesion" upon which you base your argument. Or
do you suppose, I assert superstitiously suppose, that there SIMPLY
MUST be such mechanisms "out there" because it suits your peculiar
mindset to so suppose.

Which communities are "small and intimate", can you imagine? Without
some sort of moral order held in common represented by religious forms
they tear themselves apart, sex and kinship in particular fueling the
emotional turmoil and resultant bloody violence, as all your primate
"communities" are known to do in an extremely short order as the mood
takes them. Fucking and fighting among themselves does not a community
make, by any stretch of the imagination.

>To reiterate, my contention is that a religion is needed to regulate
>interpersonal behavior within the culture, and on another level, relations
>with individuals from other cultures, only when the size of the society has
>outgrown the community level.

Why "only when the society has outgrown the community level"? Again,
you appear to confuse "community" with "family", or "group", or even
"rabble". Once we get past that point it is some form of state system
which asserts its influence by force, only in a few instances a nexus
forming between the military and some formal hierarchy of priests via
the intermediary of politicians and lawyers. Else the resources of the
military are spent in short order, and the violence unleashed begins to
destroy them as well.

But none of them have anything whatever to do with religion; quite to
the contrary in fact history has shown repeatedly that such formal
Church/State alliances represent the very antithesis of religion. It
is when they are at their most decadent and oppressive that religious
revivals among the populace serve to overcome their fear of reprisal
to reassert their moral code on State behaviour.

In these modern times there is no more highly regulated body than the
State, including the intrusion of the priests into State affairs. For
good reason. Surely anybody in their right mind can see that, except
maybe for the likes of your own Ollie North and other such sociopaths
brought in by your recent oppressive administrations.

>That may be true at present, when religion has been superceded by systems
>based on rationality, but that has not been the case throughout most of
>history. As an obvious example, consider the case of disease. Disease has
>been a major factor in the invention and propagation of religion. Micro-
>organisms were invisible. There was no way of establishing their existance,
>and human imagination apparently did not extend to the level of the
>bacterium; they were not even suspected until the microscope was invented.
>A "reasonable" supposition was that evil spirits caused disease. Here we
>see a direct link between biological ignorance and religious belief.

What systems based on rationality have superceded religion? Are you
referring to your own US of A, or what? That would have to be the
last place on earth to find a "system based on rationality" having
superceded religion. Good grief, what an example to cite!

The latter part of your paragraph is again confused, here unable to
make a distinction between ignorant superstition, which breaks down
religious systems and allows the type of oppressive Church/State
nexus to propagate we experienced during the Mediaeval Period. And
which we almost experienced once more in the aftermath of your own
Reagan/Bush Period arising from the same confusions from which you
yourself are afflicted, Mr Firl.

It was the revival of practicable moral codes among ordinary people fed
up with their lot, frequently being persecuted even massacred for their
troubles by the Church in particular usurping State powers, which led
to the Renaissance and the foundations of modern medicine and science.

It was their faith and hope that something better could be achieved,
and their willingness to show charity and tolerance toward others
instead of hating and persecuting them, which inspired so very many
highly intelligent people despite extreme personal risk to break free
of their situation and invest so many years of their lives studying and
educating themselves. It was the application of their knowledge anew to
ammeliorating the human condition which brought change.

The revival of learning and the widespread institution of academies
of learning was brought about by protest founded in religious revival
against the Church. Goodness me, this is common knowledge.

It was their religion which brought them OUT of oppression, ignorance
and superstition, Mr Firl. Not the other way around as you here would
have us believe in your vain attempts to have us accept your crud as
representing something substantial in anthropology.

The very least you might do is take time out to study the history of
the development of the modern universities, don't you think? Sit and
ask yourself, for starters, what the St Bartholomew's Day Massacre was
all about.

Ask yourself what the tribes of Israel were complaining about out
there in the desert that Moses and his followers had them murdered.

Ask yourself about the priests and the pharisees accepted into your
own White House by Reagan and Bush, if you want something closer to

Alternatively try to get a grip on the life-phenomenon the Chinese
refer to as the Dao; what Kelley (1981 p.70) refers to as the Primal
Dialectic, if you will.

>I'd like to make a proposal to you, Gil. What do you say we each pretend
>that the other is a reasonable, rational individual, with whom it is
>possible to have a polite discussion. I hope I'm not asking you to
>compromise your principles or anything, and who knows; sometimes, if expect
>the best of a person, they actually live-up to it.

I am very happy to comply, Mr Firl, once you have demonstrated to us
here that you are yourself a reasonable person. Given that you post
to an anthropological conference here constituted under the science
hierarchy, the very least expected of you is that you take some time
out to familiarise yourself with the material BEFORE entering into
our discourse.

As you have been asked to do time and time again, repeatedly over
several years now. That you persist in your mule-headed ignorance
reveals you as most unreasonable, and I find myself obliged to reply
to you accordingly.

>What about the ten commandments? Surely you can recognize them as a means
>of organizing the behavior of individual members of society? If you look at
>the new testament, we see "do unto others as you would have them do unto
>you", and "love thy neighbor as thyself". Again, these are prescriptions
>for interpersonal relations. The difference between these prescriptions and
>civil codes such as the code of hammurubi is that appeal is made to
>supernatural arbiters rather than secular authority. I suppose this should
>be incorporated into the definition of religion: religion is a means of
>organizing social relations which relies on the supernatural.

What about the ten commandments. Mr Firl? Because Moses had made his
commands on the basis of supernatural authority while at once having
his henchmen put dissenters to the sword during the original Night of
the Long Knives? Or are you seriously suggesting here that the types
of prescription for interpersonal relations you cite only began with
Moses, handed down to him personally by God himself up there on the

Good grief, of we two just who is being superstitious here? Not me, I
tell you plainly and bluntly right now!

>And as I mentioned earlier, this definition applies when we examine
>religion from the broad perspective of cultural systems. Religion is
>something quite different from the perspective of the individual. It is
>important to keep this dual-level functionality in mind; religion must work
>on both. It must satisfy the individual needs of practicioners, while
>simultaneously operating at the cultural level to produce a viable society
>which can survive within the physical environment, and in relation to
>neighboring cultures, *and* preserve sufficient harmony of cooperative
>internal relations to acheive survival.

I ask you again, Mr Firl, whether you are examining religion here, or
examining the influence on society of organised hierarchies of priests
and pharisees? I put it to you once again that you are most confused
in all of your most basic assumptions, which fact places ALL of the
rest of your verbiage into the anthropological garbage bin.

Dual-level functionality, do you say? Have you actually been reading
Descartes, or merely come across the idea of duality somewhere in

Maybe something posted to the Internet, yes?

He who refuses to qualify data is doomed to rant.
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