My take on organized religion....

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Dave Allen
 
Reply Fri 21 Nov, 2008 02:19 pm
@Riverdale,
I'm not really arguing anything about eastern folklore being distinct from western religions - it's just that I have (purely by accident really) chosen to focus mainly on eastern folklores. I did mention leprechauns earlier too. If it helps bring the conversation into better balance I would say that celtic or nordic pagan beliefs would also verge on my definition of folklores rather than organised religions.

That said i do think some of the more popular eastern religions are less religions than philosophies - such as Taoism, Buddhism and the teachings of Confuscious. I'm not sure i want to get into trying to define another vague delineation though - I never thought before how difficult religious taxonomy could be!

Like Shinto these beliefs may well have been (for all intents and purpose) state religions. The norse myths, for example, were pretty much certainly organised religions once upon a time - but I don't think they are now. What institutions there were have long since waned or even vanished.

I also not sure if, just because a religion might adopt some of the trappings and stories of folklore - that that would make folklore a religion.

I suppose I'm currently seeing a big ven diagram with "Organised Religion" in one bubble, "Folklore(s)" in another and "Spiritual Philosophies" in a third - with a fairly large and nebulous area of overlap going on between them. I still feel (very much so) that there are distinctions between these three areas - but they are admittedly less distinct than i might have thought a few days ago.

I do have two editions of Journey to the West, both with seemingly well researched author's notes. Both editions state that the novel is an original work by Wu Cheng'en - though in his lifetime he was so ashamed of having written a children's book that is was attributed to another author. The only precedent for the book mentioned is that of the monk's (difficult but wholly mundane) trip to India to learn more about buddhism. I suspect the Ramayana (Ramayana - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia) is another influence solely due to the fact that Hanuman shares so many qualities with the character of Monkey (and that, being a famous hindu myth, the ramayana was probably well known to early buddhists).
 
Didymos Thomas
 
Reply Sat 22 Nov, 2008 02:59 pm
@Dave Allen,
Dave Allen wrote:
I'm not really arguing anything about eastern folklore being distinct from western religions - it's just that I have (purely by accident really) chosen to focus mainly on eastern folklores. I did mention leprechauns earlier too. If it helps bring the conversation into better balance I would say that celtic or nordic pagan beliefs would also verge on my definition of folklores rather than organised religions.


But does that definition work? There is a difference between folklore and organized religion, but not all folklore is outside of organized religion. Paul Bunyan is folkloric and outside of organized religion. Journey to the West is folkloric but incorporated into organized religious teaching.

Dave Allen wrote:
That said i do think some of the more popular eastern religions are less religions than philosophies - such as Taoism, Buddhism and the teachings of Confuscious. I'm not sure i want to get into trying to define another vague delineation though - I never thought before how difficult religious taxonomy could be!


Quite difficult. Part of the problem here might be that philosophy is often a part of religion. Today, we look at philosophy, aside from philosophy of religion, as a generally secular enterprise. This was not so one thousand years ago, or even a few hundred years ago. Plato was a religious philosopher, so was Aristotle who invented his own notion of God - the prime mover. Taoism and Buddhism especially are religions, I think.

Dave Allen wrote:
Like Shinto these beliefs may well have been (for all intents and purpose) state religions. The norse myths, for example, were pretty much certainly organised religions once upon a time - but I don't think they are now. What institutions there were have long since waned or even vanished.


But the Shinto institutions have not vanished, and even if they have waned, Shinto temples are still to be found in Japan with clergy.

Dave Allen wrote:
I also not sure if, just because a religion might adopt some of the trappings and stories of folklore - that that would make folklore a religion.


I do not think that use makes folklore a religion, instead, such adaptation makes folklore part of the religion.
 
Dave Allen
 
Reply Sun 23 Nov, 2008 05:42 pm
@Riverdale,
I don't fully agree with that, i would say it makes part of the folklore a part of the religion.

I really do not know anything about how exactly Journey to the West is made a part of organised religion. How would you define 'organised religion' in this case, and can you tell me how Journey to the West fits in?
 
Didymos Thomas
 
Reply Sun 23 Nov, 2008 06:46 pm
@Dave Allen,
Dave Allen wrote:
I don't fully agree with that, i would say it makes part of the folklore a part of the religion.


That sounds fine to me - which means that folklore can be part of organized religion. Again, China is the great example - there you find statues and imagines from folklore in temples, temples with clergy and the whole works.

Dave Allen wrote:
I really do not know anything about how exactly Journey to the West is made a part of organised religion. How would you define 'organised religion' in this case, and can you tell me how Journey to the West fits in?


Organized religion is just that - religious practice/teaching which is organized, which involves more than one person.

Journey to the West fits in because the text is a Buddhist allegory. The text is used in the organized religion of Buddhism to teach children.
 
Dave Allen
 
Reply Mon 24 Nov, 2008 05:40 pm
@Riverdale,
I have a book all about Taoism that uses various examples of the behaviour of the characters from Winnie the Pooh to illustrate it's points - but I wouldn't call Winnnie the Pooh organised religion. That it has been used as a tool of religion, in this regard, is true - but I still don't think that makes the books themselves part of any kind of canon.

Seeing as neither Riverdale nor OctoberMist have returned to give their own definition of organised religion though I don't suppose the context of the use of the words in this thread will get any clearer.
 
Didymos Thomas
 
Reply Mon 24 Nov, 2008 07:22 pm
@Dave Allen,
Dave Allen wrote:
I have a book all about Taoism that uses various examples of the behaviour of the characters from Winnie the Pooh to illustrate it's points - but I wouldn't call Winnnie the Pooh organised religion. That it has been used as a tool of religion, in this regard, is true - but I still don't think that makes the books themselves part of any kind of canon.


Right, because Winnie the Pooh is used to help illustrate Taoism to a Western audience instead of using Winnie the Pooh as a part of the spiritual practices of Taoism. There is a difference. Journey to the West is a Buddhist allegory; Winnie the Pooh is not a Taoist allegory even though Winnie the Pooh is useful for instructing people who are relatively unfamiliar with the tradition.

As an aside - what's the name of that book? It sounds familiar. Might be interesting to look through.

Dave Allen wrote:
Seeing as neither Riverdale nor OctoberMist have returned to give their own definition of organised religion though I don't suppose the context of the use of the words in this thread will get any clearer.


Well, we could try. Can't hurt, right?

To start:
Organized religion - religious practice including multiple individuals and/or religious practice with (at least some) established traditions.
 
Solace
 
Reply Mon 24 Nov, 2008 08:05 pm
@Dave Allen,
Quote:

Seeing as neither Riverdale nor OctoberMist have returned to give their own definition of organised religion though I don't suppose the context of the use of the words in this thread will get any clearer.


I don't think OctoberMist will be back. He got banned. Not sure if it was temporary or permanent. So you guys might have to continue this discourse without him. And please do continue. I haven't been very active in this thread, but I have enjoyed reading what both Dave Allen and Didymos Thomas have had to say.
 
Dave Allen
 
Reply Wed 26 Nov, 2008 09:02 pm
@Riverdale,
The name of the book is "The Tao of Pooh" and I highly recommend it - it is very useful as a primer for Taoism (insomuch as a primer for something that stresses a sort of willful refusal to be defined can be) and is highly readable. A sequel, the Te of Piglet, is not so good - in fact I suspect it was written as a quick cash in on the back of the earlier work and I even feel it casts the worth of the Tao of Pooh into doubt simply as it is so awful. You can get both books as one volume - but really the Tao of Pooh is the only part worth spending much time on - In my opinion.

I respect Didymos' relaxed Pantheism (as I see it) and i think the only areas of contnetion in our respective worldviews are mere issues of semantics. I am a fan of folklore who doesn't really rate religion outside of folklore, he is, perhaps (I have only a few posts of his to go by as evidence) a fan of religion who doesn't much rate folklore outside of religious practice.

I conceed a very substantial degree of overlap - but I do think that the two areas have distinct properties.

Perhaps it is best to define what is 'in common' to folklore and religion. I would say they are both (when it really boils down to it):

"An appreciation for the supernatural. A lack of satisfaction for the coldly mundane."

Where religion would seem to me to differ from folklore would be in the degree of passion with which religion applies it's supernatural aspect - the fervour with which it uses it's associated stories to explain matters.

For example: Very few fans of Rumplestiltskin, Cinderella or Journey to the West think that "That is really what happened - even though it sounds like a made up story that is actually true."

Whereas a great many fans of Genesis, the Koran or the Bagavad Gita do seem to think "That actually happened, this story is literal truth."

Furthermore, Organised Religion suggests to me not only a feeling that the stories associated with a particular religion are true, but that there needs to be an institution associated with the stories in order to spread them and protect them and interpret them and so on.

In short, I am a folklore fan, and am easy come easy go about whether or not anyone else appreciates the story of Loki and the dwarfs, or Yallery Brown or whatever. despite my enthusiasm for these tales i don't really feel that anyone else will definately improve their life if they felt similarly (I just know it would improve mine if people wanted to talk more about something i was so interested in).

can the same be said of the gestalt follower of a given faith?
 
Didymos Thomas
 
Reply Wed 26 Nov, 2008 09:40 pm
@Dave Allen,
Dave Allen wrote:
The name of the book is "The Tao of Pooh" and I highly recommend it - it is very useful as a primer for Taoism (insomuch as a primer for something that stresses a sort of willful refusal to be defined can be) and is highly readable. A sequel, the Te of Piglet, is not so good - in fact I suspect it was written as a quick cash in on the back of the earlier work and I even feel it casts the worth of the Tao of Pooh into doubt simply as it is so awful. You can get both books as one volume - but really the Tao of Pooh is the only part worth spending much time on - In my opinion.


Thanks for the information.

Dave Allen wrote:
I respect Didymos' relaxed Pantheism (as I see it) and i think the only areas of contnetion in our respective worldviews are mere issues of semantics. I am a fan of folklore who doesn't really rate religion outside of folklore, he is, perhaps (I have only a few posts of his to go by as evidence) a fan of religion who doesn't much rate folklore outside of religious practice.


My theological views are a ways outside the mainstream. I appreciate religious and non-religious folklore and try to appreciate them for their own merits. Aesop, who's folklore isn't always terribly religious or spiritual, is great.

Dave Allen wrote:
I conceed a very substantial degree of overlap - but I do think that the two areas have distinct properties.

Perhaps it is best to define what is 'in common' to folklore and religion. I would say they are both (when it really boils down to it):

"An appreciation for the supernatural. A lack of satisfaction for the coldly mundane."


In a universal way, yes I can agree with that.

Dave Allen wrote:
Where religion would seem to me to differ from folklore would be in the degree of passion with which religion applies it's supernatural aspect - the fervour with which it uses it's associated stories to explain matters.

For example: Very few fans of Rumplestiltskin, Cinderella or Journey to the West think that "That is really what happened - even though it sounds like a made up story that is actually true."

Whereas a great many fans of Genesis, the Koran or the Bagavad Gita do seem to think "That actually happened, this story is literal truth."


Drawing on this example, it seems the difference you are suggesting is that folklore does not have fundamentalist readers whereas religion does have fundamentalist readers. Is this the case?

This seems problematic. As someone who thinks fundamentalist is, well, absurd, I have trouble dividing folklore and religion on the basis of a few absurd readings of some of the texts in question.

In the case of someone who does not read scripture literally, does that scripture become folklore? In other words, if fundamentalists do read scripture in an absurd way, if scripture should not be read literally, then why is scripture not folklore?

The example of Genesis, I think, highlights my point. Genesis is composed of a great deal of folklore. Granted, the folklore is as spiritual as Journey to the West, but the stories of Abraham and his children are folklore none the less.

From wikipedia:
Folklore is the body of expressive culture, including tales, music, dance, legends, oral history, proverbs, jokes, popular beliefs, customs, and so forth within a particular population comprising the traditions (including oral traditions) of that culture, subculture, or group.

Dave Allen wrote:
Furthermore, Organised Religion suggests to me not only a feeling that the stories associated with a particular religion are true, but that there needs to be an institution associated with the stories in order to spread them and protect them and interpret them and so on.


I do not think that organized religion requires literal reading of scripture, though. Some religious people do this, but not all, not even most.

As for institutions, some of these very institutions (churches, temples, ect) utilize folklore in the same way they utilize scripture. Again, Journey to the West is the prime example because it has been such an important Buddhist allegory - this is what parents read to their little children to impart Buddhist notions at a young age. Isn't that a practice of organized religion? And, I know we still disagree, but if we were to agree, for example, that the Old Testament contains folklore, then we have an example of folklore being used as scripture.

Dave Allen wrote:
In short, I am a folklore fan, and am easy come easy go about whether or not anyone else appreciates the story of Loki and the dwarfs, or Yallery Brown or whatever. despite my enthusiasm for these tales i don't really feel that anyone else will definately improve their life if they felt similarly (I just know it would improve mine if people wanted to talk more about something i was so interested in).

can the same be said of the gestalt follower of a given faith?


Even entirely secular folklore, I think, has the ability to improve a person's life. All good literature can do this. Going back to Aesop, I think these tales have immense wisdom in them.

That's another universal overlap of folklore and scripture - both speak to the human condition. Good folklore/scripture will do so in a productive way.
 
Riverdale
 
Reply Sun 7 Dec, 2008 12:26 am
@Dave Allen,
Dave Allen wrote:


Seeing as neither Riverdale nor OctoberMist have returned to give their own definition of organised religion though I don't suppose the context of the use of the words in this thread will get any clearer.


I have returned, so sorry, I've been having other things to do.

If the definition of organized religion has to be defined for some people, that's quite sad, isn't it?

Furthermore, I find many people here, despite having been assured that this is a very polite forum, very annoying in their tones and subtle put-downs and with their heads "up their own arses". :lol:Not unusual for people with "Buchwissen" but no true intellect.

Oi Oi! Now you can tear me apart. :shifty:

Toodles to all!
 
Dave Allen
 
Reply Sun 7 Dec, 2008 10:30 am
@Riverdale,
Riverdale wrote:
If the definition of organized religion has to be defined for some people, that's quite sad, isn't it?
I don't think so - it's a relative term that means different things to different people. Both Didymos and I gave our own definitions. I don't really agree with his definition but that doesn't mean I don't see it as a credible idea. You could of course give your own definition if you think you can clear the matter up easily.

Sometimes stuff I see written on forums makes me cross - but I try not to take it personally - it's a hard medium to communicate in without reading things the wrong way or giving in to the temptation to patronise - I'm sure you can just rise above it if you want - or make yourself feel better by coming up with a decent counterpoint to someone's position - if they are so obviously slaves to book knowledge common sense will surely win the day.
 
Solace
 
Reply Sun 7 Dec, 2008 10:40 am
@Dave Allen,
Quote:

if they are so obviously slaves to book knowledge common sense will surely win the day.


Hhmm... I dunno. Book knowledge is what it is, but common sense ain't so common as people seem to think.
 
Dave Allen
 
Reply Sun 7 Dec, 2008 10:48 am
@Solace,
Smile

You may well have a very good point.
 
 

 
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