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Ch. 6 - The Evolution of Stewardship 
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Post Ch. 6 - The Evolution of Stewardship
Ch. 6 - The Evolution of Stewardship


This thread is for discussing the evolution of the profession of flight attendents...I think. So discuss that here or start your own threads. ::44




Tue Jun 27, 2006 12:48 am
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Post Re: Ch. 6 - The Evolution of Stewardship
Notes...
1. The music of religion
The section seems intended to establish organized religion as a form of social control, with the priesthood shaping "not just the order of worship but the minds of the worshippers", and at their most virtuoso, playing the congregation as an instrument. But again, he's grounding that supposed fact in analogy rather than in evidence, and we might rightly question whether or not the analogy gives us an accurate view of how organized religion really functions.

Additionally, this section harks back to the question of whether or not analysis "breaks the spell". Dennett says frankly here that it does. Oops, sorry if anyone was holding out hope that it might not!

2. Folk religion as practical know-how
On p. 156 Dennett writes that "the rituals that persist are those that are self-perpetuating, whether or not anybody devotes serious effort to the goal of maintaining them." Here we might point out that perpetuation and maintenance are not the same thing. One distinction between genetic and memetic replication arises from that distinction. In as much as sexual reproduction is a function of genetic disposition -- in other words, we reproduce sexually because we're genetically geared to do so -- it's apt to view genes as the agent of their own replication. Memes, on the other hand, may implicitly furnish reasons for fidelity in replication -- ie. a particular feature of the meme is appealing, for whatever reason -- but they still depend on some agent to actually perpetuate them.

3. Creeping reflection and the birth of secrecy in religion
How does Dennett determine that "the postulation of invisible, undetectable effects" in religion is "systematic"? (p. 164) Ultimately, it would seem, he does so by expanding his definition to require those effects by saying that "anything that lacks them is not really a religion." He cites, as evidence, the work of shamans in folk religions (which folk religions, though? and is it accurate to take those as indicative of all folk religion?), then extends the phenomenon, without correlating evidence, to modernized priests, ministers, imams and rabbis, as though they were all assimilable to shamans.

On pp 171-173, Dennett posits that deference to an invisible god serves as a strategem for preserving the power of the elite -- essentially a variation of the Marxist view of religion. But like most people who argue this perspective, Dennett neglects to provide an adequate explanation of why the layperson should credulously accept this claim or the consequences it implies. No doubt it's because, as Dennett has explained in a previous chapter, we don't really question what everyone around us holds to be true. But that doesn't explain how everyone got to believe it in the first place.




Mon Jul 17, 2006 7:13 pm
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Post Re: Ch. 6 - The Evolution of Stewardship
Dennett downplays the most fundamental reason why religion gained stewards and became more formalized. As societies became larger, more complicated, and more literate, you'd expect to see more specialists and complex organizations in all realms. Religion is another case of that general rule.

Organized religion is shaped by the interaction of the religious stewards, other powerful figures, and the masses. For example, in the history of Christianity in the Middle Ages, the priests, kings, and serfs all played major roles. While the nature and impact of religious stewardship are interesting topics, its origin seems kind of obvious.




Sat Aug 26, 2006 6:34 pm
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Post Re: Ch. 6 - The Evolution of Stewardship
I disagreed with Mad's harsh criticism of this chapter, and thought I'd respond while he still has the book at hand.

The section seems intended to establish organized religion as a form of social control, with the priesthood shaping "not just the order of worship but the minds of the worshippers", and at their most virtuoso, playing the congregation as an instrument.
An effective religious leader does shape the thoughts and feelings of his congregation, the same way effective politicians and advertisers influence their audiences. Dennett's musician metaphor is just his way of describing that common scenario.

Here we might point out that perpetuation and maintenance are not the same thing.
My comfort with the idea of memes arises because I view human actions at two different levels of abstraction. At one level, people decide as individuals what to do and believe (though they're influenced by their genes and environment). At another level, ideas spread across societies, become more or less widespread and persisting or mutating over time. I see merit in both perspectives and don't see one as negating the other.

How does Dennett determine that "the postulation of invisible, undetectable effects" in religion is "systematic"?
Such effects are a significant feature of most religions I can think of, primitive or modern. In other words, most religions have some sort of god or gods who are worth paying attention to, even if they don't manifest themselves in a clear visible form.

On pp 171-173, Dennett posits that deference to an invisible god serves as a strategem for preserving the power of the elite -- essentially a variation of the Marxist view of religion. But like most people who argue this perspective, Dennett neglects to provide an adequate explanation of why the layperson should credulously accept this claim or the consequences it implies.
It's true that Dennett doesn't focus much on the psychology of religion, especially in this chapter. As one factor, people may have an innate religious tendencies that may be exploited, just as advertisers exploit men's innate attraction to the female form.




Sun Aug 27, 2006 11:28 pm
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Post Re: Ch. 6 - The Evolution of Stewardship
JulianTheApostate: An effective religious leader does shape the thoughts and feelings of his congregation, the same way effective politicians and advertisers influence their audiences. Dennett's musician metaphor is just his way of describing that common scenario.

It can be a common scenario, but it is by no means universal. More often than not, Dennett's criticisms seem to be tailored to fundamentalist Christian practices and beliefs. The scenario he describes is not necessarily indicative of all, or even most, Christian practice, much less of all religion.

me: Here we might point out that perpetuation and maintenance are not the same thing.
Julian: My comfort with the idea of memes arises because I view human actions at two different levels of abstraction. At one level, people decide as individuals what to do and believe (though they're influenced by their genes and environment). At another level, ideas spread across societies, become more or less widespread and persisting or mutating over time. I see merit in both perspectives and don't see one as negating the other.

My point wasn't really contra meme here (although I am critical). My point was that the meme model does not, without modification, account for maintenance -- which is, as I take it, about preserving the form of a given idea. In fact, as Dawkins presented memes (actually, how he presented genes) the measure of a meme is determined by it perpetuation of significant periods of time, whatever period is considered significant. Dennett appears to be either using the words interchangeably or intentionally conflating them, both of which are likely to open the discussion to a great deal of confusion.

Such effects are a significant feature of most religions I can think of, primitive or modern. In other words, most religions have some sort of god or gods who are worth paying attention to, even if they don't manifest themselves in a clear visible form.

Right -- for the most part -- but Dennett's point seems to be that such features are "undetectable" by design, in order to shield them from criticism. That's a theme that he elaborates in chapter 8 as well, and it's an undercurrent throughout the book. My question is, how does he ascertain that this is a deliberate smoke screen, or even that the features were "evolved" to that end rather than developed in response to problems specific to the internal functions of religion rather than in response to criticism from without?

It's true that Dennett doesn't focus much on the psychology of religion, especially in this chapter. As one factor, people may have an innate religious tendencies that may be exploited, just as advertisers exploit men's innate attraction to the female form.

That may be so. If it is, then that pushes the origin of religion back a bit, and there's a great deal to consider before we get to the exploitation of religion by the status quo powers.




Mon Aug 28, 2006 2:41 pm
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Post Re: Ch. 6 - The Evolution of Stewardship
JtA: An effective religious leader does shape the thoughts and feelings of his congregation, the same way effective politicians and advertisers influence their audiences.

I think the effectiveness of leadership depends upon the goal of the tradition in question: is the goal to manipulate and befuddle; or liberate and enlighten? I think there are wide varieties of ways that congregations and leadership interact: from highly authoritarian to deeply democratic. Dr. King or Bishop Oscar Romero, for example, did work to influence and direct behavior of their audiences: through embodying in word and deed the dominant narratives that fueled their communities with hope and courage. Rev. Jim Jones had his own message and method as well. I suppose this could be reduced to crass political maneuvering or commerical advertisement. I think it can also point to the complexities of inter-relationship between religious leadership and congregational structure. Something missing, I think, is the role of the congregation in influencing and directing leadership: the selection, nurturing, challenging, and encouragement of leadership.








Wed Sep 13, 2006 5:15 pm
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Post Re: Ch. 6 - The Evolution of Stewardship
DH:
I think the effectiveness of leadership depends upon the goal of the tradition in question: is the goal to manipulate and befuddle; or liberate and enlighten?

Most religious leaders probably see themselves as liberators and enlighteners. There are some religious charlatans, but they're the exceptions.

I share your high opinion of, for example, MLK. That's because he successfully pursued very important secular goals that addressed the greatest moral challenges facing the nation. However, Pat Robertson views himself as a force of moral rectitude, though I personally oppose everything he stands for.




Thu Oct 05, 2006 10:43 pm
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