Religion and/as Society TR
3:34PM Aug 29, 2019
Test. think we got it. Let's hope
it's going to record but it may not transcribe yet. But that's all right. We'll get that work in just a second. I don't have signal here. Do you watch trouble getting signal in here? Yeah. So let's see, if I won't worry about it will let it record. If it doesn't work. I'll record tomorrow's a hardened Valley. And it'll be on there.
Okay, so here's the deal. So I want
what I really want,
I'm always making a claim, right? I'm always arguing something to you. If any professor tells you, they're not arguing to you, they're lying.
Right? There is no such thing as a brute fact.
They know what fact to means in Latin that actually means to make something or it's the main thing. So we like to think that the fact just like floats out of heaven. And there it is. But in fact, it's actually something you develop. So every fact, quote, fact is something that's been conditioned or constructed. I'm saying that to tell you that even though I am the professor of world religion for your class, it doesn't mean everything that I'm going to say is necessarily perfect. And or has the whole picture in mind. So my question as a professor is, how do I teach you something, knowing that there are faulty perspectives or faulty positions, what I have to do is teach you how to think about religion and give you an opportunity or a framework by which to think about religion. So what I'm doing is, I'm going to try to say that you need to understand religion the same way you understand the word society. All right. Most of you, are you comfortable with the word society, in fact, you probably use it in common parlance and common discourse, you'll say to your mate, you'll say something like, it's just part of society, right? And you just assume society is this
large scale entity.
Alright. So what I'm going to try to do is I'm going to try to position religion and society is kind of like a similar phenomenon. And I'm kind of de mythologizing religion. But de mythologizing what I meaning is, I'm not in here to talk about bats and spooky stuff, or whatever. I'm here to talk about sociological phenomenon, or phenomena. The reason is, is as you're 4567, 2525, whatever you are, wherever you're going to be, you're going to encounter religious phenomena, and I want you to be able to engage them the same way you might with social things.
So, on the one hand,
I want to de mythologized religion, you understand what I mean by that word. Okay? by the word by the way word, the word myth does not mean fake, or false. That's just Tommy roads. Okay? popi, Coke, rubbish. It's not the case. Myth just means like an organising principle. Okay? So don't take that word myth to mean fake, get
rid of that.
That's something someone told you in a high school English class, or high school history class. And that's the end of it. Walk away. mythos is like an
sorry, you're in the splash zone. And what you want to know you will learn these
should be orange seats.
Have you ever been to
see world the front
row is like orange, like saying, Hey, watch out champion who's gonna get it?
Sorry, I'm just warning you.
This is orange, and maybe the aisle two depending on how far I move. My goal is to Demuth apologise, religion. What I mean by that is take away some of the fanciful elements. So instead of saying, ooh, you say, ah, all of a sudden, it becomes visible to you. But I want to flip over here to society and I want to read mythologized society,
instead of saying, Oh, you say?
So I'm trying to flip them we think of society is this inert, plain, structured thing? Religion, oh, here's this fanciful, personal mystical thing. And I can I want to do this, and say, actually, they're much more similar. Over here, you're going to find social elements. And over here, you're going to find a religious elements, I'm not
going to spend my entire time talking about society,
per se. But that's the structure that I'm using. The reason I say from food courts and from food trucks is because I want to try to get away from one particular way of thinking about religion. And is that is it consumptive option in the 80s, and 90s, the food court really modelled the way we thought about reality. We thought I can walk into a venue, the whole world is in front of me. And I can select which part of the world I'm interested in, whether it's Mexico, Taco Bell, or whether it's Japan sarcoma, or whether it's America,
the burger place, or the steak, dinner, cheese, whatever, whether it's Charlie's, or if that was the model that we that we had. And that was the same case in other things, too. We treated the world as if it was kind of like a serving option. And what we realised very quickly, is that that was a dangerous thing, because we weren't respecting people's local traditions, right? It's all about going local. So it transformed from the food court to the food truck. Well, instead of me walking into a food court was all there, they drove their little local trucks to me in this like, hipster little patio where everybody was drinking craft beer and eating some kind of tacos. Right? And so but both those models still remain consumptive. So whether religion is something where I walk into the ideas and I look at the we treat the religion like they have menus of this one believes in reincarnation,
the this one, but
I'm just not in the mood for reincarnate, you know, whatever. That's how we did it. So then we thought somehow the food truck model fixed it, like I just want to be around people that are just that are Muslim, and you treat them like food trucks still, right? It's like, I'm just going to take a little bit of them and it feels more local, still the same model the model is, I'm going to take the stuff that fits me. Whether I'm in the food court, or whether the trucks are in my neighbourhood Are you following? That's how we treat most things, in our experiences, is consumptive. Lee, there's reasons for that we won't dive into them. I want to get away from both of those. I don't want religion to be a consumptive thing. I want you to understand religion as a socialising are organising principle. So let's talk about a couple of words that are used to kind of give us an idea of religion. So the first one is really Gary, which is a Latin word, and it means to bind to something, right? A lot of times we think of religion as something that is it's, I'm glued to it. When we say, you know, that's against my religion, it means that's against my codes, or that's against my commitments. And so the Latin term really, Gary has been Trent, you know, transported throughout time, we continue to think of religion as something you're sort of
Okay. And so far as it goes,
but that still has the ring of
consumption, like I choose to get connected to this, or I choose to get connected to that. Or I'm going to be bound to this, or I'm going to be bound to that it still has this elective principle to it, you understand what I mean by elective principle, like, it's like, everything that's voter die, right? You can choose what it's like the greatest American thing is that you can choose which is in many respects, illusory, right? Even back in the days of the food court, when I thought, I'm going to choose chick fil a, or I'm gonna choose this all, all the while knowing that those are just facades, that the chicken that they're both selling comes from the same farm.
Right? It's just dressed up differently by the time it gets to you.
And so we think we're choosing different things. But we're sold differentiation, kind of like Facebook, right? I'm gonna have Facebook page, I'm going to be unique. But we all have the exact same infrastructure, the same boxes, the same options. And so actually, what's happening is that we're being homogenised. homogenised means made the same. Okay? So, what I'm gets a little side note, this idea of really Gary is bad as binding still gives us this feel of like I get to pick right. Well, really Gary Cicero, the great room. Legal thinker and rhetorician would say that religion the word religion comes from the Latin word reliquary, which means to read again. So in Cicero's mind, religion was about repetition. And we have this idea, don't we? When we say I just watched that show religiously. Right? We may not watch it over and over and over and over and over and over and over. And if you know your own experience with religion, or people, you know, that have experienced with religion, they do things repetitively, right? Whether that's something like praying beads,
whether that's chanting,
or whether that's going to church on Sunday,
it's any of those things, they're done in cycles.
Okay, the ritualised, the repeated. So we're getting a little bit closer to what I want to say religion is now I don't know exactly what it is, but we're getting closer. The last word I want to consider is habitus. It's also another Latin term, and it means like, it's the same root for habit, or habitat. This is hard for people to conceive your habitat, or your habits, or the space in which you live your habits of the way you put your shoes on how you drive from location from A to B, what you do when you eat, the rhythms that you participate in, how you hold your fork, where you sit,
all those things you would call habits. what I'm telling you is those are not just things you have they have you, you exist in them. You take away all those elements and show me what's left of you.
If you take all those habits away, all of them,
all the things you do repetitively, that give your life shape, and structure. There's nothing left.
There's no such thing as the self of the person
without these habits. And that's what we would also say, your habits or your habitat.
There were you live. And I don't just mean geographically,
not just that location. I'm talking about how you move in space in time. That's your habitat. Your smells, your shower habits, your lack of shower habits, if you're me, oh, by the way, I should tell you if you're thinking, I think he wore that on Tuesday the answers
Yeah, I wear the same thing every day,
for the whole week. In case you were concerned.
Like that I didn't know what I was doing. I wear everyday for the week. Next week, I'll wear something different. That's just a little bit of tidbit. I didn't tell you that before. So not only you are in the splash zone, you're also in the aura of my fermentation.
So I'm saying that religion,
you need to understand religious practice more as a habit, tues,
religious practice is a habitat.
It's a framework by which we understand life and movement in reality. And if you understand religion is a habit to so you'll start to see that it's a lot more like what you call society. When you say things like, system, it just won't let you do that. And you blame it on societies if you're not one of them. And you're saying there's this framework, this bubble, this orb in which I dwell that dictates my movements and structures. And in fact, I feed that gigantic orb by continuing to repeat the processes. You sit in here and you say, society just loves grades and then you walk in, you're like, I can't I don't know what my grade is, I need to check my grade. And I say, don't you see it, you're ritualised in grades, you're making it a religious phenomenon. you're feeding the habitat. So we often say we don't like it, but we keep doing it. Right. So religion is not
just something I'm picking off a catalogue or off of
a menu or off of a food truck options. It's a way of being that's constructed, not by me. But by all the connections of which I am a part. That's absolutely critical, because I'll show you something about the say. And the reason I say society is a unity was because you see that already, I have no problem convincing you that there is such a thing as society, but none of you can label it or identify it. None of you. You can say it's like government. I am government's gm DY, who's the government to show me who that is. At the time it was when I you know, when I was in high school, it was WIR
george bush is doing it, then it
drops new in it. Right? Get those people out, and it's still have the government get the senators out. It's still a government. So
where is it? What is it? We are
it right? From a democratic standpoint, we're taxpayers, voters, whatever. We're participating. And in john Walker, this idea of tacit consent. This is this is fun, right? tacit consent means
you can't object
to the things that you use without actually re engendering them. So I can't like get off of social media and be like, Damn cops. I mean, they're just, they're just a bunch of rude blah, blah, blah. Did you guys hear that? What was that out the window, call the cops.
You see the problem?
The problem is you tacitly consented to the structure or the institution of the policing force, even though you're griping about it. Same way with society, right? will say, well, society's problem society does this. But then we don't see that we're participating in it. Well, it's too hard to do this. It's hard to Label Society. But it's hard to do that with religion, too. We can't just
look and say, well, but
there's Hinduism. Look at it.
It's a much more complex interweaving of institutions and systems, that has a great long history. So that's what I'm trying to do is I'm trying to twist your brain from thinking about it as a singular thing, like you're looking over a cadaver. And instead, what you're doing is you're entering into a complex network. This is what Mark Taylor says, is one of my favourite theorists at Columbia, that religion is an emergent, complex adaptive network of symbols, Miss rituals that on the one hand, construct, figure schema, which means controls or makes up or structures feeling thinking, acting in ways that lend to life meaning, what he's saying here is religion is like a network of different elements that are created that is creating what you sense as feeling, thinking and acting. And what I want to try to do is I want to try to suggest that religion is not just exclusively tied to the great names of history, Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity, Judaism, Islam, it's not just those things. In some ways, your five little buddies, doing Dungeons and Dragons, Stranger Things,
is a religious ceremony.
Whether there's a divinity there or not, because it functions the same way religion functions, it creates ways of thinking and acting and feeling and it gives purpose and meaning to things. And all anthropological Research and Economic ethnographic research has shown us that this is how religions emerge in history is people need meaning they need a way to organise space and time. And they construct these sorts of things. And all the different elements that are part of that network will change the way that system looks. So if you live in East Tennessee, in a holler, and on hills, right, your way of thinking about family is different than the way maybe a Hispanic Catholic person thinks, who lived in an area where you didn't have hollers. Here, people burrow into small little groups, because they live in spots of the mountains where you can only have a certain size of people. And that's expressed religiously, you start saying, we believe in family.
But what you mean by family,
and what the Hispanic Catholic person thinks his family's different because they live in a place, which much is much more of an urban sprawl and all the families are near each other because it's not tucked away in a little mountain. So they say we believe in family but they mean something more like a large you following me here. What I'm saying is the structures of these religious expressions the systems that we would call Hinduism, oh, here are all dictated by all the different elements that are inside them. And I'm gonna show you this in a second with football. Trust me That makes sense. So what what religion does as a habit, tues is it organises things like this, they're more than this, right? But it organises things like land, climate, animals, people trade, time, space, thought, emotion, food, safety, for sky, all these sorts of things. So think about being a primitive person in the world. And one of the things you have to constantly what here's a great example. One of the things you constantly have to worry about is whether you have food or not. All right? Has anybody is anybody familiar with the term with the Egyptian religion at all? So Egyptian mythology, right? You've heard about, like you said, pricing movies, where Pharaohs come out and eat people's faces or whatnot, whatever. Egyptian mythological here, here's a great way to look at it. If you're an Egyptian, and you're trying to organise and give life meaning and purpose. By the way, there's nobody sitting behind a desk like Dr. claw and Inspector Gadget like organising all this, I will just tell people, there's some God in the clouds. That's not what we mean. It just sort of happens organically, right? If you're an Egyptian person, what you need all the time is water, food, shelter protection, right? What do you need protection from things like animals, wild animals, you need protection from overexposure to sign, you need protection from drought and blah, blah, blah, blah, you also have a great source of agriculture and your agricultural source in Egypt is what? Pardon the Nile because it floods in recedes, which makes the land good stuff grows by the now they've got this constant water source. All right. So you're a people group, who needs all these elements to live. You have these agricultural needs, and that is pre eminent. Absolutely pre eminent. And if the gods are in the clouds where you think they are, because it's so far away, and it's majestic. Why are the gods in the clouds because they provide something in the clouds that you absolutely need to live? And that's what not just the Nile, but what the rain, okay, critical. So the gods are up there. If I want to touch the gods or connect to the gods, where do I need to go? up. So all these ancient buildings look like mountains.
You build a pyramid to look like a mountain. If you're a mind, you build a ziggurat, to look like a mountain. If you're a biblical person, you remember, Moses goes where to receive the commandments. up a mountain, for Pete's sake, this is a standard procedure. But you start to look at it instead of saying, ooh, they believe in mountains, like its food court option, you miss it. Right? So in Egypt, because the Nile and because rain are both important, they have a theory about how the world begins.
And one of the theories is that there's a body of water.
Right, in the beginning, is a strange body of water, just undulating like a snake. And eventually, this mound pops up out of the water. You follow me so far, because you see what that is, right? That's Nile, and that's Egypt. And then one of the gods spits or ejaculate. If you need me to draw a picture, by knows what I'm saying right? into the dirt. And out of the dirt grows, Pharaoh.
So the king is there in the beginning.
So if you're an Egyptian person, and that's the backstory that you have, because it connects to your land, and it connects to the Nile, and it collects connects to the clouds, it all makes sense why we should serve Pharaoh and be obedient. And if he says, Stop doing that you stopped doing it. Because all the pieces are connected. You follow me? Now if you're nervous, because I said ejaculated you can go back to the biology classroom, little scribe it to you. In the ancient world, they don't are not as skittish about sexuality as you are. Right? Not even close. There's a reason that Egypt Asians were the ones who built obelisks, you know what obelisks are. They're like things that stick up from the ground. They're like the Washington Monument is an obelisk. And if you don't think that supposed to be phallic, and phallic means it's a reference to a body part, then you're mistaken. Because in the Egyptian tradition, the female is the sky. And the earth is the male. So what's happening? He's impregnating the sky.
All right, and you think that's awfully strange. But that's the reason Atlas, you remember Atlas in the Greek tradition. Atlas is punished. What does Atlas do hold up the earth? even been mistaken there, too. It's not exactly what's happening. What Atlas is actually doing is he's holding up the sky away from the earth so that they can't meet. He's separating them. His punishment is to prevent the old ancient gods of sky and earth from making new gods.
That's what his punishment is for what he's done. Is this follow?
Okay? What I'm trying to show you here is all these things that sounds good, you don't make sense. But if you put them together in a system, you start to see okay, it makes sense. Why would they think that a God would ejaculated out of the sky? Because they think rain is semen? Why would they think that? Well, what happens when the rain hits the earth? things grow. That's what you have to have to live. It doesn't make sense to us in our religious traditions, because we don't depend on rain. Kroger makes it rain it just sounds like this. I'm talking about on the vegetables, right? So obviously, in our in religious traditions that you practice, you don't go around doing rain dances. But if you're Native American and you live in the southwest, you do. Or if you live in Sub Saharan Africa, you do. So what I want you to understand with religious practices, what we're asking is, how is this stuff organised together? how all these pieces go together to create a religious expression. And so that when we encounter Sharia law, and instead of like baulking at a Muslim and saying, Oh, we don't want Sharia law, begin to understand how Sharia law for fit with prophecy, fit with Islam fit with Muhammad fit with the ancient Arabic traditions, the land, and the people, you know, how does it fit with their climate? How does it fit here? How does it not fit here? How is it changing? Because now it's in a western world, where the commerce is different, blah, blah, blah, you need to be asking questions like that. Because an organism, which has all these pieces that are connected to each other, if it changes any of those little pieces, it will alter as well, you following me? or know, anybody lost? Anybody want to object? Okay, not only do they organise, but they also unite and discriminate religious systems, just like any society, what it'll do is it will unite the people that are in that system and exclude the people who do not adopt that system. You know this well, right. If you've ever had any experience with religion, there are the side, the not, or the people who are in and the people who are out. Right, and it's constantly a concern of religion to describe who they are. Well, don't be so foolish just to think that's just a religious thing. That's a social thing, too. We just call the people who are out what do we call them?
that's true. But we actually box them up and put them in bars,
the colon criminals?
Because we've always thought, what allows the Wow, no, no, no, the law is part of the system. It's the structure of how we organise space and time. And people who don't follow those institutional structures are considered not a part of it, because they're a threat to the integrity of the unit. The unit will not survive if we let those people keep doing what they're doing. religion does this to it unites groups, or it unites these institutions, but it also discriminates, it says this stuff doesn't belong in this stuff doesn't belong. It has to be terrorists, in some respects, is territorial. Now, another key feature of religious practices ritual, right? And you just cannot draw on this. Yeah. Is ritual, right? But what I want to show you is that ritual is no different in religious practice than it is in social practice. We look at religious rituals, like sacrifice is a common one, or dances or ceremonies or feasts, or how many of you have seen modest Yahoo, the reggae rapper, nobody saw this guy, Hasidic orthodox, Orthodox Jewish guy, Oh, my gosh, you got to see this dude. He doesn't do it anymore. But he was a Hasidic, Jewish reggae rapper. I know, it sounds bizarre, but he would never, he would never sing on Saturdays on the Sabbath, right. And he had like the full curls and tassels and everything like he's rapping, in the full, Pat and whatnot. We look at those traditions like weird curls on the beard or tassels on the bottom of the of the garment. And you're thinking that's a strange ritual. But what I want to show you is that rituals are critical to keeping those system societies together. Remember, one of the words was really Gary, which meant to read again,
or to repeat,
do you understand what we mean? So rituals do that. Now I'm going to show you one really quickly that if you look at it under a religious ruins, will all of a sudden look very different? This Saturday, you're going to see this.
Do you know this building? All right.
I'm gonna see this.
Now in ancient societies, one of the best ways to see how religion functions is sports. Because games and sports have rituals that have social acceptability, they unite and they discriminate that guy cheated, he's not in, he's out. They also have institutions that have uniforms, that identified that I'm in this group or not in this group, they have all these sorts of elements. In the in the old world, religion was something that was our scheme eSports, for something that we're practice in front of the gods, there's this old, I want to say it's South America, I don't want to say it's mine, but it might be ink, and I don't remember. But there was this old religious tradition where you would have these players, and it was kind of like a soccer game. But what they were doing is it was kind of a handball, they're throwing this one ball around playing this game, putting this ball around, and around them, their totem poles. And these totem poles have openings, mouth openings, like this. So the gods have their mouth open. And the idea is that you're supposed to get your ball in that one totem pole or in that God's mouth. But if you look at it, and you zoom out, what you see is that this sport is supposed to be a ritual, which commemorates the creation of the world, because what's the ball supposed to be? It's a planet. The ball is a planet going between gods who were competing for rulership over the planet. You following. So the sport enacted it, of course, it eventually evolves into soccer, handball, whatever. So it's an ancient ritual, and you perform them for the gods, the Olympics. Similarly, you go out, you perform before the deities, they sit up there, they watch and they praise.
I submit, what if you look at this the same way?
The gods are perched up here.
Right. And they're the owners, the the people who are no longer the gods watching, but it's people who make billions of dollars who can afford skyboxes or it's Coca Cola. And what happens is, you have the Warriors marching into the arena, to do battle in front of the gods for eternal praise. And you do it over and over. And in all the elements. If you go to a religious, religious ritual, you're going to hear music and chanting. Hello, do I need to draw a cheerleader here to do chanting and music? I mean, for God's sakes, it's exactly what she's doing. They, oh, we know how to spell for Pete's sake. Right? We know this. But why do we do it? Because he performs the ritual over and over. And if you don't think that this is more like a battle, then I beg you to consider the band. What else is the band other than a Fife and Drum Corps revolutionary America going up, up, up, up, up, up, up, up, up, up, up, up, up, up, up, up? Here they come, right? If you go down to the boardwalk on Saturday, that's exactly what's happening. All the women and children are lining the road for their men to go to war. and congratulate them as they walk out of the city. If you've seen Lord of the Rings, you get what I'm saying. It's a ritual repeat over and over and over and over and over Why?
To keep Agent Orange in our blood.
To keep us socially connected to this ritual, so that we all belong together.
Notice how you'll do the same thing, you'll identify somebody who's
in or out by whether they participate in that ritual. If I show up there and read, don't do the chant, and look curmudgeonly, there's something wrong with me. Right? parties are the same way, aren't they? You go to a party on Friday night, there's a ritual,
you start drinking at a certain time.
You start the music at another, you say these things, you don't say these, and you do it every Saturday, every Friday again, and again. And again, to create a ritual eyes Association. I don't have time to keep going. But you see my point? My point is, I told you the storey about a junction over here to say, look, if you look at a religious expression, and all the little pieces in their land, Sky animals, Baba Ba, you'll see a vastly connected network. That's explaining an idea.
But that's not unique to religion.
social practices are exactly the same way.
So we don't have to look at religion as if it's on the ingredient aisle or on the food court and say which one do we like? Which one do we don't like? That's
what we're trying to do. We're trying to understand this network.
And that's the goal through all of this as
we look at Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity, Shinto, all these sorts of things. We're asking how does that system sort of work? And we're not going to get it completely. That's okay. But we at least can develop the ability to think that way so that when we do encounter systems were not familiar with we can start to approach them any questions for me
CL on Tuesday
and there's more to this but I will put it up on the