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RE: [XTalk] Religion and politics

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  • Rick Hubbard
    The following exchange raises for me a question: ... [Loren Rosson wrote:] The proper understanding is that religion and politics were inseparable in
    Message 1 of 13 , Aug 1, 2001
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      The following exchange raises for me a question:

      Mike Grondin wrote:

      >While it's true that religion and politics were
      >inseparable in those days, the political aspect
      >must be, I think, regarded as the more basic and
      >universal.

      [Loren Rosson wrote:]
      The proper understanding is that religion and politics
      were inseparable in antiquity, because the former was
      embedded in the institution of the latter. "Religion"
      didn't exist as a discrete institution (anymore than
      "economics" did). Religion and economics were embedded...

      First, how "pervasive" (if that is the proper word) was the
      Political-Economic-Religious complex in antiquity? In other
      words, to what extent did these three, as a single "external
      force," impinge on individualism?

      Second, is there a modern analogy through which we can understand
      the social impact of the P-E-R? In particular, I wonder if the
      absolute dominance of economic concerns in modern society is a
      lens through which we can understand the influence of
      Politics-Economy-Religion in the first century.

      It seems to me, for example, that it is easy enough for one to
      opt for other (or no) religious alternatives in modern western
      society. It is virtually impossible, on the other hand, to
      abandon completely involvement with economic and
      political/government institutions. Efforts to ignore or alter the
      latter virtually assures one's self destruction.

      To what extent, if any, were first century efforts to exercise
      other religious alternatives similar to modern efforts to
      "opt-out" of the dominant economic/political institutions? What
      were the consequences for those who chose this option?


      Rick Hubbard
      Humble Maine Woodsman
    • David C. Hindley
      ... universal as that for political power. The proper understanding is that religion and politics were inseparable in antiquity, because the former was
      Message 2 of 13 , Aug 1, 2001
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        Loren Rosson III said:

        >>Actually, humanity's need for religion has proven to be as basic and
        universal as that for political power. The proper understanding is
        that religion and politics were inseparable in antiquity, because the
        former was embedded in the institution of the latter. "Religion"
        didn't exist as a discrete institution (anymore than "economics" did).
        Religion and economics were embedded in the two basic institutions of
        family and politics. But does this mean, as Mike says, that religion
        was somehow less "basic and universal" than politics? No, it means
        simply that it didn't exist as a discrete institutional body.<<

        Religious and/or political expressions, I would think, are essentially
        products of "gestalt psychology" in action. In this way of looking at
        things, the human brain makes an effort to "make sense out of
        nonsense." Nonsense, here, means the mass of empirical data received
        through our five senses. Sense, here, is the way the brain stores the
        data as symbols and then rationalizes meaning from it (i.e., notes
        apparent relationships between data as well as guesses what the causes
        for these relationships might be, based on prior experience).

        Economic realities (gotta eat, gotta have shelter) and power
        structures (those who impose social order, and how they do it) may
        actually be driving things along, but they are interpreted by the
        human brain. The brain seems predisposed to create metaphysical
        explanations when insufficient data is present or a correct analysis
        has yet to be formulated. In an advance agrarian society like that of
        the 1st century CE, people see a social-economic world in which a
        small but very powerful elite rules over a large but unpowerful
        producing class that lives at or near subsistence. This can be
        rationalized as divine will (some power outside our understanding has
        made things so), or the natural order of things (i.e., this power
        structure is best for everyone). You can accept the rationalization or
        react against it.

        If we want to understand such things better, I'd suggest taking a look
        at religious fundamentalism (Islamic, Hindu, even Christian) as a
        reaction to economic stagnation or marginalization and power
        relationships between nations. Just as an example, I used to have a
        Muslim friend in college who was from Iran. He was connected to an
        upper class family (his father was a university professor and he was
        even named after the late Shaw). This was just before the revolution
        led by Ayatollah Khomeini. He said that America was popularly thought
        of as a blood sucking creature with tentacles latched onto everything
        that could advantage it, leaving the suckees (Iranians and third world
        nations in general) lifeless in the end.

        The resulting revolution, though, came in the dress of religious
        fundamentalism. Alternately, a revolution such as that which occurred
        in the Russian empire in 1917, and driven by the stress that WW1 was
        placing on the economy, was dressed almost entirely in political
        clothes. This being the case, it seems that our understanding of the
        world tends to be cast in the form of religious or political
        philosophy. These are examples of reactions against economic/social
        conditions, and I am sure we all could come up with many examples of
        accepting reactions.

        Respectfully,

        Dave Hindley
        Cleveland, Ohio, USA
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