Presentation on theme: "Taxonomy of Religions Flow Charts to Believe In!."— Presentation transcript:
Taxonomy of Religions Flow Charts to Believe In!
TAXONOMY OF RELIGIONS Taxonomy = the science or technique of classification To perform taxonomy, one must develop a variety of categories, which function as vectors of classification
Vectors of Religious Taxonomy Distance between Sacred and Human Realms Number of Deities Philosophic Cosmology Scope of Membership and Recruitment Social Organization (Basic Types) Social Identities and Locations (class, race, status, gender, education, etc.) Types of Practices and Modes of Knowledge (literate/oral, legal/mystic, ritual/philosophy)
Micro- and Macro-Levels Religion functions at the level of organizing daily existence (micro), through such mechanisms as formulating codes of behavior, marking life-cycle events with rituals, and dictating community norms. Religion also functions at a larger ideological level by providing a framework for meaning, determining what is significant and what is inconsequential.
SIGNIFICANCE The word ‘significance’ is related to ‘sign’ Religious world-views recognize life-cycle events as significant (birth, death, war, illness, coming-of-age, etc.) Each religious world-view also accords unique significance to persons/events/places that would not be immediately understood as significant - these instances of created significance form incommensurate differences between religions Examples: who Jesus is to Christians, what Mecca means to Muslims, what Mt. Tamalpais means to Coast Miwok, etc.
Hierophany Word derived from hieros = sacred, phanos = to see, know Means any manifestation of the sacred Grand hierophany defies our perceived rules of nature (i.e. a miracle) Intimate hierophany is a deeply-felt experience with cosmological dimensions and insights
CosmologyCosmology In religious studies terms, all religions are socially-constructed cosmologies. A cosmology interprets the universe by providing organizing principles. These principles distinguish between what is significant and what is considered unimportant, accidental, or inconsequential. Astronomers, physicists, and philosophers also use cosmology, but do so in a less socially- constructed and behavior-motivating manner than religions. The use of the term in these fields is more descriptive than prescriptive. In religion, cosmologies often lead to normative regulation
Examples of Cosmological Organizing Principles Afterlife Justice, Balance Hierarchy Stasis and Motion (Being and Becoming) God/desses, Supernatural Beings Distance between Humans and Gods Status of Animals and Nature Conflict or Harmony (War and Peace) Gender, Sex, Sexuality
Four Basic Types of Human Social Organization TYPE Gathering/Hunting Nomadic Raiding Small-scale Agricultural (Villages) Urban (Large-scale Agricultural) SOCIAL EFFECTS Relative equality and little job specialization Preference to young, male, physically able Relative equality and little job specialization Hierarchic, increasing job specialization
Religious Cosmologies and Social Organization Religion makes cosmologies real when it builds institutions, articulates codes of behavior, and sets social expectations. Religion thus establishes authority. Authority and social institutions seek to maintain the existing social order, rather than change it; they are inherently conservative, meaning both that they conserve what exists and that they have a political bias toward maintaining traditional ways.
Religious Cosmologies and Social Organization "Religion legitimates so effectively because it relates the precarious reality constructions of empirical societies with ultimate reality" - Peter Berger in The Sacred Canopy Meaning: religion assures us that our form of social organization has divine sanction. But, the moment one begins to reflect comparatively, this assurance is under assault!
Hierarchy Word literally means government by those who are closer to, or have access to, the sacred. The religious basis for authority of all kinds (political, military, familial, etc.) is deeply rooted - watch for examples in our current politics, despite the USA being an officially secular nation.
Centralized Authority While all religions have authoritative figures and stories/writings, some religions have a tendency to centralize that authority, usually in a pyramidal manner. The Catholic Church, with a strict hierarchy of officials culminating in the Pope, is an example of centralized religious authority. Ancient city-states, from Egypt to Mexico to Mesopotamia, literally organized their societies around such centralized authority, both religious and political.
Pyramidal Hierarchic Structure: Catholic Church as Example Priests Bishops Archbishops Cardinals Pope With each ascending layer, there are fewer people in the category.
Decentralized Authority Hinduism has multiple centers and sources of authority. As a result, it cannot, and does not, impose universal agreement in its communities, or in its belief system. Hinduism is, thus, polycentric, which means having many centers. This matches its polytheism. Catholicism, by contrast, is monocentric, which means it has one center. This corresponds to that faith’s monotheism, cosmologically.
Religion and Community Because religion marks many life-cycle moments (birth, death, illness, etc.), religion functions as a major way of experiencing community. Exclusive religions insist that you can only belong to one religion at a time; the monotheistic religions are insistent on this point. Inclusive religions allow for participation in multiple systems.
Inclusive Religion in Asia Religious communities in extensive areas of Asia, including India, China, and Japan, have most often allowed, and even encouraged, inclusive religious practices and the participation of people in more than one religious system. For instance, in Japan, it is common for people to go to Shinto shrines for New Year’s Day celebrations, to Buddhist temples to ask forgiveness for their failings on New Year’s Eve, and to a Christian Church for a wedding.
Politics and Religion If politics concerns the organization of society, then its alliance with religion is a natural one. Because religions are cohesive, organized interpretations of the meaning, significance, and structure of the universe, politics can be seen (and has been seen in many traditional societies) as a subset of religion, a micro-level of human organization which should reflect the macro-level of divine/sacred cosmology. Religious hierarchies and political hierarchies, while often separate, have also often been mutually reinforcing. Religious and political leaders can often enhance, or add luster to, each other’s authority.
Five Heuristic Relationships Between the Sacred and the Human Transcendent: the sacred is much more powerful than we are, it is separate from us, and it is, at best, apathetic toward us Interventionary: the sacred is much more powerful than we are, it is separate from us, and it is deeply concerned with us. This concern leads to its intervention on our behalf in the form of revelation or direct contact Overlapping: the sacred realm and the human realm overlap in some places/people, in other ways the sacred extends beyond our knowing, and there are also areas in the human realm which are dangerously void of sacrality Immanent/Pantheism: the sacred realm and the human realm are co- terminous with each other: everything is sacred Panentheism: the sacred realm entirely contains the human realm, but the sacred realm is much larger than the human realm.
Five Heuristic Relationships Between the Sacred and the Human Transcendent: Interventionary: Overlapping: Immanent/Pantheism: Panentheism:
Number of Deities Monotheism - a religious system which postulates that there is a single deity. Normally it is understood that this deity is a universal deity, whose acts and judgments affect the entire world, not just those who worship this deity. Polytheism - a religious system which has a multitude of deities, related to one another in a pantheon. These deities can be understood as universal or local, depending on the philosophic outlook of the religious system. Kathenotheism - a special case of polytheism, loosely translated as "one-god-at-a-time-ism." Here the deities' heirarchic relation to each other is fluid, as the god or goddess who is being invoked or prayed to at a given moment is given precedence and supremacy over all others at that time. Also called Henotheism. Pantheism - means "all-is-god:" a religious system which postulates a one-to-one unity between sacred being/deity/deities and the universe. Panentheism - the understanding that the universe is a partial manifestation in unity with the sacred being/deity/deities. The name loosely means "all-is-god-and-god-is-more." Transtheism - a system which includes deities, but maintains that they are not ultimate. For example, in Jainism and Mahayana Buddhism the existence of deities is acknowledged, but human beings can transcend these deities by reaching various forms of enlightenment. atheism - no deity (atheism ≠ no religion; there are forms of Buddhism and Ethical Culture which are religions without deities)
Philosophic Categories of Cosmology: How Many Things Are There in the Universe? Possible Answers Are 1 = Monism, > 2 = Pluralism 2 that oppose each other = Dualism 2 Ends of a Continuum = Complimentary
Philosophic Categories of Cosmology Monism - belief/theory that there is a fundamental unity to the substance, energy, and/or structure of the universe. Synonyms include "singularism" and "henism" ("hen" is a Greek root meaning 'one' - it is also present in the words "kathenotheism" and "panenhenic") Pluralism - belief/theory that there is a thorough-going diversity of substances, energies, and/or structures in the universe Dualism - belief/theory that there are two fundamentally irreconcilable, polarized oppositional structures in the universe Complimentarity - belief/theory which understands seeming opposites in a unified way, as two sides of the same coin, as equally necessary and characteristic of the nature of reality. Also called “duality.”
Continuum and Oppositional Logics Complimentarity is also sometimes called “duality.” Complimentary systems understand the coexistence of life/death as paradoxical, as part of a continuum, and/or as transformative. Nirguna/Saguna operate in a complimentary manner. Dualism and Complimentarity take oppositional and continuum approaches to reality, respectively. Dualism is best known as a ‘good v. evil’ cosmology. No reconciliation is possible; one must defeat the other. Complimentarity looks for reconciliation and dialectic relation, as in the relation between light and dark.
Dualism and Duality A playful way of illustrating it! Dualism assumes a Duality assumes a Battle - it’s Hot vs. Relation; hot and cold Cold, and only one can are relative concepts, win: choose wisely! that define each other.
Monism & Monotheism Monism and monotheism are not identical. This is because monism is about underlying unity more than it is about singularity. from Eck, page 20: “Hindu thought is most distinctive for its refusal to make the one and the many into opposites. For most, the manyness of the divine is not superseded by oneness. Rather the two are held simultaneously and are inextricably related.”
Nirguna The divine/sacred cannot be accurately described, and therefore all qualities (because they are qualifications), must be avoided, or denied The term literally means “formless.” Another Sanskrit term, “neti, neti,” meaning “not this, not that,” is also frequently used in philosophic descriptions of nirguna.
Saguna Describing the divine/sacred is an additive process: all that is, must be expanded exponentially to even begin to adequately describe the divine Flowery epithets, multiple names, grandiose titles, attributes and other highly positive qualifications are approaches to describing the divine through saguna
Holding Opposites Together Continuum Logic is well-suited to resolving opposites Nirguna and Saguna co-exist in almost all Hindu philosophies What Eck refers to as the “cultural genius” of India is the ability to embrace “diversity, so that diversity unites, rather than divides” (page 18)
Siva Nataraja a.k.a. Dancing Siva, Siva as Lord of the Dance Siva holds creation (the drum enables time to commence) and destruction (fire) in his hands; he moves vigorously yet maintains meditative focus. Siva unites opposite and disparate energies