The third aspect of religious debate
Sep 20, 2010

The third aspect of religious debate

A lot of religious debate falls into one of two categories: debating the veracity of religion or debating the effects and influence religion (or the lack thereof) has in society. While both can be interesting and certainly people argue them from both sides, I submit that neither truly addresses where the focus of religion is for many people, namely, at a personal and local community level.

The issue of the veracity of religion contains many aspects such as debating the implications or contradictions in religious documents, providing logical or faith based arguments for or against theism, deism, atheism or agnosticism, arguing the compatibility of religious and scientific claims and so forth. Ultimately this debate aims to answer the question "are religious claims true?".  Alternatively, the other debate aims to answer the question "is religion good?" through discussions about the influences and motivations religion or lack of religions gives, about the role of religion in historic events, about the intrinsic morality of religious doctrine and so forth. Both general topics I believe to be intellectually interesting and important to discuss.

That said, for the average religious person, these topics are not the focus of their practice or faith. Instead, it is a combination of an internal experience as well as local experiences among friends, family and community that dominate the religious experience. A discussion of, say, the compatibility of an allegorical interpretation of genesis with the big bang or the effects of religious influence on the Rwandan genocide have little relevance on the day to day experiences of a religious person which are localized and personal.  I would submit in this case that while answering these two questions is important, we must be cognizant of the fact that they are merely a part of the common religious experience.

Thoughts on this post? Comment below!

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Anonymous said...

Good point to bring up, however it is important to make sure not to confuse Religion with Spirituality. Which I believe is what you mean when you say internal experience (Spiritual) and the Social/Local experience is more to do with the local customs/laws or dogma if you will that is applied to the particular sect of a Local Religion.
Religion is always intertwined with local customs and thus has a greater hold of the local population and has nothing to do with spirituality. That is why religions have so many sects and sub-sects, the nature of religion to be adopted by any particular group requires it to have as many local customs included in it.

bazie said...

I think it applies equally well actually for most forms of spirituality and theistic religions. By personal experience I just mean all the things one does alone such as praying, reading the Bible or acting with religious justifications. What one does personally are of course heavily influenced by their community such as the practices at church or whatever else. The point was that all of these things that involve ones day to day experiences with religion/spirituality are quite removed from the normal debate topics. You are certainly correct about how local cultural traditions result in a large amount of fragmentation within religious practices.

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