Tagged: religion

Trouble and strife

DDoS attacks are so twentieth century. Peasants with cyber pitchforks.

The ugly shoe aesthetic has been around for a long time: see earth shoes, birkenstocks, espadrilles, crocs, and trainers.

The problem when one wages a protest via signage: anyone can make a pithy sign.

Chuck Todd is still waiting for Chuck Hagel to drop out of the running for Secy of Defense.

I can understand how some people didn’t want the dirty robes of the Catholic Church aired on such a popular program, fronted by a congenial host. But historically, the Church had its moment in the sun (so to speak) vis-a-vis Galileo et al.; fortunately, that moment ended. I doubt subsequent episodes, for historical reasons, will have any reason to mention Bruno Giordano, the Inquisition, or the matter of heresy again. That doesn’t mean a vocal few won’t denounce the entire series based on one episode. That is their right.

On magic

. . . If your point is to claim that magic is associated with religion (understood to cover the widest possible range of practices and beliefs, not limited to the “world religions”), then yes, you are correct. This is a fairly trivial finding. The problem arises, in my view, when magic is applied indiscriminately, because one may wind up in a situation in which all thought is construable as magical thinking. I have a more restricted understanding of magic as a “technique” (for definitions, I’m persuaded by the Maussian/Durkheimian line that focuses on the “form” of religion versus that of magic) as opposed to magical “ideas” or beliefs. To be sure, a practitioner or adherent likely believes in magic as a technique, that it works, just as the sinner believes confession has some impact on the disposition of her soul and the patient believes the medicine administered by the physician is having a physical effect (I’ll leave aside the problem of placebos). Where the ideal-typical rationalist parts company with the ideal-typical adherent of magic is over the method of confirmation; the experimental (or some approximation of this) method that enhances the experience of reality beyond that captured by the senses (rationalist) versus a heightening of the powers of phantasy, which allows the magician to manipulate unseen forces (adherent of magic).

And why shouldn’t the animist’s belief in spirits be put into the same box as “belief in things which contradict logic or known physics”?

Yes and no. As form, a form of thinking, and as a method of confirmation, the belief in a spirit world is incompatible with “known physics.” For the former, the world is ordered like an order of thoughts, and hence, thought or imagination (phantasy) offers access to this world. For the latter, the world is ordered by empirical laws which exist outside the mind but which can be brought to mind through experimental techniques as opposed to phantasy or introspection.

However, from another perspective, the animist and the physicist share a common belief that there is an order of experience, that experience is ordered, and that thought can comprehend this order. Or rather, that this order can be represented in the form of ideas. This belief is what they share insofar as science and animism are defined as forms of thought.

“Magic” is what they practice at Hogwarts.

Forget “muggles science”; contrast it to Giordano Bruno. According to Ioan Culianu:

Of the categories of magic in the Renaissance, the most interesting is undoubtedly that of Giordano Bruno. He lists nine categories: sapientia, magia naturalis (medicina, chymia), praestigiatoria, a second form of natural magic, mathematica or occulta philosophia, a magia desperatorum, which is demonomagic, also called transnaturalis seu metaphysica or theourgia, necromantia, maleficium (of which veneficium is a subcategory) and divinatioor phophetia (De Magia, III, pp. 397-400). Eros and Magic in the Renaissance, 170.

Bruno is one exemplar of range of material included in Renaissance “science.”

If I have a category of “things not compatible with logic or known physics”, why isn’t a good name for that category “magic”

It depends on one’s point of view. If those incompatible things include that which is unknown, then it would matter whether one thinks the unknown falls in the category of the not yet known by physics or in the category of the unknowable by physics. Would the former, the “not yet known,” which at the present moment is “not compatible” with “known” physics, lie in the realm of magic?

On religion

Feuerbach’s splendid book brings God back down to earth while simultaneously agitating absolutists of the religious and rationalist variety.

On the one hand, I agree with the view of religion that it is not falsifiable because of the non-existence of observable religious facts (although religious memory, folklore, and fables do gesture at such physical demonstrations and manifestations of divinity as the Son, parted seas, loaves, transubstantiation, and other miracles). It is likely a category mistake to treat religion, which is fundamentally belief, as a false idea. On the other hand, this statement. . .

Or experiential, as many people claim to experience a relationship with the transcendent. It’s subjective, of course, not something that can be reproduced and tested scientifically, but one of the reasons we have religions is because rather a lot of people claim to have had this experience and they then form community with others who appear to have had a similar experience

. . . unwittingly brings something purported to be transcendent back into the realm of human experience, which should make it observable for no other reason than that it is shared experience. If it is shared, it is not subjective, much like the measles. Like the measles, if multiple people experience it, an objective basis for it should be discoverable. Hence, I find an appeal to an experience of the transcendent throws the claims of religion back into the terrain of a false idea (a terrain where religion is on weak ground and where rationalist thought misconstrues religion).

If one treats religion as belief as opposed to a rational concept, then the element of voluntas comes to the fore. The only religious defense of religion that escapes the dead end of rational explanation (such as that supplied by “experience”) is the wilful self-assertion of the belief in the Transcendent, the First Mover, the divine overseer, etc. This is the Beginning and the End. What is found in the middle — Love, Salvation, Angels, etc. — is framed by wilful acts that inaugurate and terminate the purely religious defense of religion (which can also include an appeal to Authority as the First and Last Word).

A secular analysis of religion, such as that supplied by Durkheim, does give an account of the objective basis of religion as the expression of the transcendent force of the social (transcendent meaning a force that exerts itself on individuals from outside them). But this analysis only suggests that religion, as a form of knowledge, doesn’t really understand its own conditions of possibility; and this analysis illuminates the false choice of voluntas or ratio that frames most debates over the reality of religion.