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RE: [XTalk] Religion and politics

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  • 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 1 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.


      Dave Hindley
      Cleveland, Ohio, USA
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