Presentation on theme: "Copyright 2006 Daniel Hall Conceptualizing “Religion”: How language shapes and constrains knowledge in the study of faith, health and religious coping."— Presentation transcript:
Copyright 2006 Daniel Hall Conceptualizing “Religion”: How language shapes and constrains knowledge in the study of faith, health and religious coping The Rev. Daniel E. Hall, MD, MDiv, MHSc Department of General Surgery University of Pittsburgh Medical Center
What do all those 2000 papers tell us? (On my most cynical day…) On the whole, “Religion” (poorly understood and even more poorly measured) has a small, robust, positive association with “health” (slightly better understood and measured).
Copyright 2006 Daniel Hall “Without attention to the epistemological matters of conceptualizing and operationalizing ‘religion’ in meaningful ways, no amount of methodological and analytical sophistication will be sufficient to generate meaningful findings” Levin, J. S., and H. Y. Vanderpool. 1987. Is frequent religious attendance really conducive to better health? Toward an epidemiology of religion. Soc Sci Med 24(7):589–600.
Copyright 2006 Daniel Hall Foundationalism Foundation of “universal” knowledge Accessible to all people Lock away particular, individual convictions Empirical observation and the application of reason Extremely powerful at answering particular types of questions. Part and parcel with modernity But it wasn’t always so.
Copyright 2006 Daniel Hall Of Cocoa, Frosting and Cake Dominant paradigm for religion as an optional frosting added to the vanilla cake of generic human experience. Different flavors: Christian, Buddhist, etc Predicated on “generic human experience” that is itself predicated on foundationalism
Copyright 2006 Daniel Hall The Bad News Foundationalism is dead or dying Objectivity, as such, doesn’t exist Living through a revolution of epistemology Trust, not proof, plays a much larger role in our systems of knowledge than we like to admit.
Copyright 2006 Daniel Hall Cultural-Linguistic Contingency If we can’t have proof, what is left? Knowledge is contingent on the cultural- linguistic context in which it is meaningful Chocolate cake is not the same thing as vanilla cake with chocolate frosting Ingredients are the same All the difference in the order of mixing
Copyright 2006 Daniel Hall What is religion? Not defined by its ingredients. Chocolate cake v. Vanilla & chocolate frosting Not a set of beliefs Virgin birth, Resurrection, Holy Spirit, etc Not a set of experiences Mystical communion with the divine Sense of God’s love, etc Religion is the framework of meaning that binds together various beliefs and experiences in distinct relationships.
Copyright 2006 Daniel Hall Religion as Worldview Religions are self-referentially complete, comprehensive cultural- linguistic wordlviews that provide and interpretation of the human condition without requiring reference to any external narrative or tradition.
Copyright 2006 Daniel Hall 1-Secularism is not objective No intrinsic privilege over other rational worldviews Frosting/Cake model distorts religion Outside looking in Forces religion into secular categories Secularism is not neutral regarding religion. Science Secular Better to study from “the inside” of the unique cultural-linguistic tradition
Copyright 2006 Daniel Hall 2-“Spirituality” is not a universal language Spirituality:Religion::Linguistics:Language Textbook in linguistics Shakespeare’s Sonnet XII Spirituality-in-General is about as useful as Esperanto
Copyright 2006 Daniel Hall Sheilaism “I believe in God. I’m not a religious fanatic. I can’t remember the last time I went to church. My faith has carried me a long way. It’s Sheilaism. Just my own little voice... it’s just try to love yourself and be gentle with yourself. You know, I guess, take care of each other.” Bellah, et al., Habits of the Heart, 1982
Copyright 2006 Daniel Hall 2-“Spirituality” is not a universal language Religion-in-General like a meta-analysis without primary data.
Copyright 2006 Daniel Hall 3-Religion isn’t a “therapy”
Copyright 2006 Daniel Hall 4-Measure fluency not content
Copyright 2006 Daniel Hall Religious Coping: A Functional Critique