Re: Religious Variation [Was " Biological = trivial?"]

John McCreery (jlm@TWICS.COM)
Wed, 31 Jul 1996 00:14:07 +0900

Mike Shupp writes

>On Sat, 27 Jul 1996, John McCreery wrote:
>> Suppose we began by noting that behavior identified as religious is
>> characteristically ritual as ethologists see it: (1)non-routine;
>> (2)stereotyped, (3) specialized for communication in agonistic situations.
>> [Can we think of counterexamples?]
> Well, he said weakly, yes. Isn't this missing a little something?
> Like the idea of a "living faith"?

Sure, it's missing a lot of stuff. It's only a place to start, with stuff
the hard-nosed types as well as the sympathizers can see.

"Living faith" is tricky stuff. Shall we exclude Chinese who seem to live
by Confucius' advice to perform ceremonies but keep spirits as a distance,
or Japanese who turn out with enthusiasm for shrine visits on New Year's
Eve but, leaving aside funerals, weddings, and tours of historic sites,
never set foot in religious structures otherwise, or mainline Protestants
who practice religion on Sunday but leave it behind when "business is

The "living faith" you illustrate is a good example of a variation that
will have to be taken into account. As a starting point it would, it seems
to me, leave out too much to be a useful prototype. But, then, all you've
got to do to make me change my mind is use it in a theory that explains
more variation than the rough sociological notions I've tossed out here.
When I fancy myself a scientist, I do not cling to theories (please pardon
the expression) religiously.

John McCreery
3-206 Mitsusawa HT, 25-2 Miyagaya, Nishi-ku
Yokohama 220, JAPAN

"And the Lord said unto Cyrus, 'Shall the clay say to him who moldest it,
what makest thou? Let the potsherd of the earth speak to the potsherd of
the earth." --An anthropologist's credo