Re: Religion(s)

Bill Lesley (rwl2@AXE.HUMBOLDT.EDU)
Mon, 8 Apr 1996 15:38:00 -0700

While I agree that it is questionable to teach students that their particular
religion is "false", I feel that allowing them to consider that it is "true"
presents an equal problem. Unfortunately, it usually follows that if "mine"
is "true", that of "others" is "false". This certainly not the case, but
human nature tends to operate that way.
I am in the midst of reading Boas and Malinowski where the terms
"primitive" and "savage" are not uncommon. One would hope that most, if
not all, anthropologists no longer use that type of language, I fear that
most lay people continue to do so and most students do not have the
background of the people on this list.
There also seems to be a mystique attached by some to cultures other than
one's own. Witness the popularity of "white shamanism" in some circles.
Both this and the questioning of the validity of the religion of others
would appear, at least, in my humble opinion, to be damaging to any
attempt to understand other cultures which is, at least to me, the point
of teaching anthropology. I am also disturbed by the use of the word "cult"
due to its negative connotations, at least in the US, but this is, i
admit, merely semantic bickering.
The solution is, of course, to eliminate using the adjectives true,
false, etc. when discussing religion. I realize that this is rather
pollyannish on my part. Any other suggestions from those wiser than I
would be greatly appreciated.