Re: Religion and ethnocentrism

Brian Michael Howell (bmhowell@ARTSCI.WUSTL.EDU)
Wed, 10 Apr 1996 18:15:41 -0500

Since when is relativism a girl thing? I know plenty of non-andros who
would assent to a simple statement like "If p then q; if not p then not
q." That is not a testosterone driven kind of thing. The idea that there
are "multiple truths" is such a postmodern Western bunch of garbage; why
bother using the word "truth" in such an absurd way. Of course there are
things that people believe to be true that can be demonstrated to others
in such a way that, given certain parameters, they will also agree to be
true. There are other things which people believe to be true that cannot
be demonstrated. But an inability to demonstrate what one believes to be
true does NOT mean that this is a "subjective" (i.e. "true for me"
whateverthehellthatmeans) "truth". There is no problem disagreeing about
who is correct, but if the notion of "correctness" is thrown out the
window then you do not have "multiple truths" you have no truth at all.

On Wed, 10 Apr 1996, Jana Fortier wrote:

> geez, here you men go again w/ your androcentric ways of knowing the world.
> one guy says "my religion is true" and the other distorts it into "my
> religion is the ONLY true [one]" !!! haven't you guys ever heard of
> multiple truths? how do you think we all teach anthro when there's a
> million origin stories out there? of course they're all true, because
> they're all subjectively defined truths. Even S. Kierkegaard wasnt that
> androcentric (remember he outline subjective and objective truth very nicely).
> At 11:15 AM 4/9/96 -0400, you wrote:
> >In message <Pine.NXT.3.91.960408141942.18908A-100000@mango> Brian Michael
> >Howell writes:
> >> It is most certainly not "ethnocentric" to believe that one's religion is
> >> true. As the originator of this thread pointed out, if one thought that
> >> one's religion was not true, then that person would either be atheistic
> >> or of the religion which they did think is true. Religion and ethnicity
> >> are not the same thing, so to think that your religion is true is in no
> >> way to think that your ethnicity is superior.
> >
> >
> >Ethnicity refers to culture, and religion is most certainly a part of culture.
> >Therefore, yes, I think that to believe that your religion is the only "true"
> >one and that all others are "false" is a display of ethnocentrism, although as
> >you point out it might not extend to other areas of the culture(s) in question.
> >I agree that people who believe their religion to be true could simply have no
> >opinion about the truth or falsity of other religious belief systems, but I
> >suspect that those people are in the minority. I wonder too whether people
> >might subscribe to a system of religious belief without calling into question
> >the ultimate "truth" of the system.
> >
> >
> >> Do you, Dr. Kephart, believe it is the duty of the anthropology
> >> instructor to "teach" students that their religion is false and that to
> >> think otherwise is ethnocentric?
> >
> >No, absolutely not. I do think think that we should teach them that religion,
> >like the rest of culture, is a human universal which is expressed in a
> number of
> >ways and can be studied from an anthropological perspective. I think we should
> >also tell them that to persist in the belief that their religion is the ONLY
> >true one, and that all others are false, is (partial?) ethnocentrism which
> might
> >ordinarily be harmless, like food preferences, but which has also led to things
> >like the Inquisition.
> >
> >Ronald Kephart
> >Dept of Language & Literature
> >University of North Florida
> >Jacksonville, FL USA 32224-2645
> >Phone: (904) 646-2580
> >