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Ch. 2 - The Shaman 
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Post Ch. 2 - The Shaman
Ch. 2 - The Shaman



Sun Aug 15, 2010 11:14 pm
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Post Re: Ch. 2 - The Shaman
Wright can be an entertaining writer. I wonder what people thought about his opening comparison between stock market gurus (and politicians) of today and the shamans of animist religion. I'll buy it, but some may not.

The middle part of the chapter might be subtitled, "It ain't easy being a shaman, but the rewards can be great." Wright then displays his trait that some may see as open-mindedness and flexibility while others may see as waffling. He takes a central feature of shamanism--the induction of altered states of consciousness--and asks whether in those states the shaman (or anyone who tries to get out of his normal head) does not perceive something real. Wright asks if we can with certainty discount what one experiences in such states, even though it has to be acknowledged that bodily changes account for the transport to other realms of reality. He asks us to consider whether we can be so certain that our everyday consciousness, the one that was selected for us by nature to make us survival machines, is the only one we can apply to get at truth. If you listened to the Bill Moyers interview, you might recall that Wright spent a couple of weeks immersed in Buddhist meditation. Perhaps that had an influence on him that shows up here.



Last edited by DWill on Thu Sep 02, 2010 5:25 am, edited 1 time in total.



Thu Sep 02, 2010 5:24 am
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Post Re: Ch. 2 - The Shaman
He shows that people remain gullible to confidence trickters who fake sincerity in the absence of evidence.

Quote:
The secret of success is sincerity. Once you can fake that you've got it made.
Jean Giraudoux (1882 - 1944)

Sincerity is the way of Heaven.
Mencius (371 BC - 289 BC), Works

A little sincerity is a dangerous thing, and a great deal of it is absolutely fatal.
Oscar Wilde (1854 - 1900), The Critic as Artist, part 2, 1891



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Post Re: Ch. 2 - The Shaman
Robert Tulip wrote:
He shows that people remain gullible to confidence trickters who fake sincerity in the absence of evidence.

Quote:
The secret of success is sincerity. Once you can fake that you've got it made.
Jean Giraudoux (1882 - 1944)

Sincerity is the way of Heaven.
Mencius (371 BC - 289 BC), Works

A little sincerity is a dangerous thing, and a great deal of it is absolutely fatal.
Oscar Wilde (1854 - 1900), The Critic as Artist, part 2, 1891

Don't forget that shamans of any stripe respond to a demand for knowledge and expertise even as many of them exploit gullibility.



Thu Sep 02, 2010 9:48 pm
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Post Re: Ch. 2 - The Shaman
DWill wrote:
Wright can be an entertaining writer. I wonder what people thought about his opening comparison between stock market gurus (and politicians) of today and the shamans of animist religion. I'll buy it, but some may not.


It's probably not an entirely accurate comparison. I don't know enough about stock trading to say either way, but I suspect there is some legitimate basis for picking stocks that is at least better than random. Then again, those analysts are apt to fall into modes of group-think and fail to see the bigger picture as what happened with the mortgage Ponzi scheme recently played out on Wall Street.

In this chapter, Wright tackles the complicated question whether shamans are intentionally deceitful or whether they believe they really do have some special insight into a mystical realm. This question comes up in skeptic circles with regards to psychics. Sylvia Brown is said to be a complete charlatan. She knows that her predictions are complete bullshit, but does it anyway because the money is good. I would say your typical palm reader or mentalist or spoon-bender doesn't really believe they can tap into some mystical realm. They probably consider themselves primarily entertainers.

Wright makes a good observation about the nature of most illnesses. They go away on their own. So a shaman can shout his chants and do his dance and odds are the patient will recover. This phenomenon is what props up the whole natural remedies industry. All kinds of claims are made about the efficacy of various herbs and herbal extracts and almost all of them have zero scientific evidence to back them up. But personal experiences, guided by confirmation bias, make it seem that herbal remedies work. Acupuncture is hugely popular and, yet, pretty much every double blind study ever conducted shows it has the same success as placebo. The reason it works is that people want to believe it works. And again, most of our afflictions just get better on their own, making it seem that the whatever they took helped them to recover.

The placebo effect is probably worth exploring here. For acupuncture, it seems the ritualistic aspect of sticking needles into your skin and the mythological baloney that goes with it—that you are channeling your body's chi or energy sources or whatever—is very powerful to some people. And in a way this belief creates its own reality, though it is based on woo. And religion works similarly, I think. It creates a subtext or narrative with which some people derive meaning and create their reality, though it is ultimately based on fiction.


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Post Re: Ch. 2 - The Shaman
geo wrote:
It's probably not an entirely accurate comparison. I don't know enough about stock trading to say either way, but I suspect there is some legitimate basis for picking stocks that is at least better than random. Then again, those analysts are apt to fall into modes of group-think and fail to see the bigger picture as what happened with the mortgage Ponzi scheme recently played out on Wall Street.

Wright sees a certain continuity in the social roles that have been available since the very beginning, so I think in that sense he's right that a certain category of expert can become a holder of esoteric knowledge, and that stock market investment "advisers" are seen in this light by many.
Quote:
In this chapter, Wright tackles the complicated question whether shamans are intentionally deceitful or whether they believe they really do have some special insight into a mystical realm. This question comes up in skeptic circles with regards to psychics. Sylvia Brown is said to be a complete charlatan. She knows that her predictions are complete bullshit, but does it anyway because the money is good. I would say your typical palm reader or mentalist or spoon-bender doesn't really believe they can tap into some mystical realm. They probably consider themselves primarily entertainers.

To me it was the nature of the experience the shaman had that Wright thought might deserve serious thought. I didn't think he ever supposed that a shaman made any contact with with spirits, dead people, etc. But what might be generally called a mystic sense, feeling of oneness, or the like, can be a product of the shamanistic rituals. And even though we know that physical changes in the brain allow us to achieve these states, Wright leaves open the possibility that we're also seeing something that might be called real. I know this comes close to saying that people who have near-death experiences from deprivation of oxygen to the brain might really be seeing through to the "other side," and I don't believe they do, but I'm not totally confident that the general mystic sense Wright talks about isn't a truth of some sort.
Quote:
Wright makes a good observation about the nature of most illnesses. They go away on their own. So a shaman can shout his chants and do his dance and odds are the patient will recover. This phenomenon is what props up the whole natural remedies industry. All kinds of claims are made about the efficacy of various herbs and herbal extracts and almost all of them have zero scientific evidence to back them up. But personal experiences, guided by confirmation bias, make it seem that herbal remedies work. Acupuncture is hugely popular and, yet, pretty much every double blind study ever conducted shows it has the same success as placebo. The reason it works is that people want to believe it works. And again, most of our afflictions just get better on their own, making it seem that the whatever they took helped them to recover.

A doctor (psychiatrist actually) once told me that every doctor should have a sign on his office door saying, "75% of you will get better anyway." I have a friend who is into homeopathy and would be well advised to pay heed to that.
Quote:
The placebo effect is probably worth exploring here. For acupuncture, it seems the ritualistic aspect of sticking needles into your skin and the mythological baloney that goes with it—that you are channeling your body's chi or energy sources or whatever—is very powerful to some people. And in a way this belief creates its own reality, though it is based on woo. And religion works similarly, I think. It creates a subtext or narrative with which some people derive meaning and create their reality, though it is ultimately based on fiction.

Is that "woo" as in "woo-woo" or some Asian mystic principle I haven't heard of. :? The serious side of all this is that is that there seems to be a general need for people to be creative or imaginative, if you will, and perhaps all this old-and New-Age belief is an outlet for that. Whatever the case, I recognize that a view of humans as primarily rational is incomplete and not necessarily something to work towards. But it does seem there is a way to exercise our emotional and intellectual repertoire while staying more grounded in what we know.



Last edited by DWill on Fri Sep 03, 2010 9:57 pm, edited 1 time in total.



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Post Re: Ch. 2 - The Shaman
DWill wrote:
To me it was the nature of the experience the shaman had that Wright thought might deserve serious thought. I didn't think he ever supposed that a shaman made any contact with with spirits, dead people, etc. But what might be generally called a mystic sense, feeling of oneness, or the like, can be a product of the shamanistic rituals. And even though we know that physical changes in the brain allow us to achieve these states, Wright leaves open the possibility that we're also seeing something that might be called real. I know this comes close to saying that people who have near-death experiences from deprivation of oxygen to the brain might really be seeing through to the "other side," and I don't believe they do, but I'm not totally confident that the general mystic sense Wright talks about isn't a truth of some sort.


Correct. I veered off on a tangent there and never came back. I suppose people can enter alternate forms of consciousness via meditation, spiritualism, psychedelic drugs, etc. Creative people—writers, artists, actors—regularly tap into their own subconscious for inspiration. Ultimately that's probably where that sense of mystic comes from, don't you think?

Quote:
Is that "woo" as in "woo-woo" or some Asian mystic principle I haven't heard of. :? The serious side of all this is that is that there seems to be a general need for people to be creative or imaginative, if you will, and perhaps all this old-and New-Age belief is an outlet for that. Whatever the case, I recognize that a view of humans as primarily rational is incomplete and not necessarily something to work towards. But it does seem there is a way to exercise our emotional and intellectual repertoire while staying more grounded in what we know.


Ha ha. That's woo, short for woo-woo I guess. Skeptics use it to describe pseudoscience, alternative medicine and the like.

Yes, clearly people derive meaning from a spiritual or mystical sense of something external. And that is their reality. As we've discussed, our brains are wired for it. Wright seems open to different viewpoints in a nonjudgmental way and I do like that even if I did call him wishy washy a couple of posts back.

Going off on another tangent here, I'm currently reading H.P. Lovecraft's essay entitled, Supernatural Horror in Literature. He makes an interesting observation that supernatural literature appeals to a certain segment of the population--those he calls "sensitives". According to Lovecraft, the appeal towards the macabre and the unreal is similar in many respects to that of religion, a connection with something unknown that is outside of ourselves. I'd say Lovecraft is talking about the same "unseen order" mentioned by James. Or it is at least driven by the same fears and wonder that are present in primitive religions.

Lovecraft wrote:
. . . Man's first instincts and emotions formed his response to the environment in which he found himself. Definite feelings based on pleasure and pain grew up around the phenomena whose causes and effects he understood, whilst around those which he did not understand -- and the universe teemed with them in the early days -- were naturally woven such personifications, marvelous interpretations, and sensations of awe and fear as would be hit upon by a race having few and simple ideas and limited experience. The unknown, being likewise the unpredictable, became for our primitive forefathers a terrible and omnipotent source of boons and calamities visited upon mankind for cryptic and wholly extra-terrestrial reasons, and thus clearly belonging to spheres of existence whereof we know nothing and wherein we have no part. The phenomenon of dreaming likewise helped to build up the notion of an unreal or spiritual world; and in general, all the conditions of savage dawn -- life so strongly conduced toward a feeling of the supernatural, that we need not wonder at the thoroughness with which man's very hereditary essence has become saturated with religion and superstition.


The rest of the essay is here: http://www.yankeeclassic.com/miskatonic ... pern00.htm

Edit: The passage above is from the introduction.


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Last edited by geo on Sat Sep 04, 2010 11:08 am, edited 1 time in total.



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Post Re: Ch. 2 - The Shaman
Quote:
A doctor (psychiatrist actually) once told me that every doctor should have a sign on his office door saying, "75% of you will get better anyway." I have a friend who is into homeopathy and would be well advised to pay heed to that.


It's interesting reading Breaking the Spell by Dennet and browsing this discussion. In the early chapters of Dennet's book, he speaks of the powers of placebo and the idea that we've become sensitized to placebo-type cures.

Our bodies have the ability to heal by varying degrees. Controlled by whatever various mechanisms there are; raising and lowering body temperatures, creating antibodies, etc. It's an expenditure of our resources to fight illness and disease, and such resources should be spent wisely. The biological economics I'm sure are complex, but the middle ground is likely the most stable strategy for whatever autonomous defenses we've evolved. Dennet posits that the placebo effect is something of a marker, a message to our subconscious to 'take out all the stops' and expend whatever resources are necessary to defeat the current illness or disease.

Rituals/ritualistic healing and other mystical healing which invokes the placebo effect would likely have co-evolved(culturally) with our sensitivity to placebo-type healing(genetically).

A lot of words to say a simple thing.



Sat Sep 04, 2010 1:48 am
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Post Re: Ch. 2 - The Shaman
Wright likes to move out to the general from the particular, and he does this at the end of the chapter. He says there is a dichotomy in the views that the non-religious have towards religion. On one side are the functionalists, those who think that, on balance, religion justifies itself by serving the psychological needs of the individual as well as the needs of the group. This reminds me of Dennett's labeling such a view as "believing in belief." The "Marxists" cynically see religion as being mainly the successful duping of the ignorant and vulnerable masses by a priestly class that wants power and wealth.

Judging by the discussion that continually goes on here at booktalk, I wouldn't say the "Marxist" view seems very prominent. I'd have to create an "anti-functionalist" category to capture what seems to represent the other side of the coin. Anti-functionalists see mostly ill effects, psychologically, in individuals, and harmful consequences for societies. I don't see a big emphasis placed on a priest class trying to induce belief in the masses, because the masses are seen as quite eager to believe in something without much inducement at all.



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Post Re: Ch. 2 - The Shaman
The Shaman

Wright’s comparison between stock analysts and shamans is instructive. Wherever uncertainty about risk and opportunity is high, there is an opening for anyone who can confidently convince others they have a chance to benefit. The niches are similar.

Wright cites Eliade as saying “it is consoling and comforting to know that a member of the community is able to see what is hidden and invisible to the rest and to bring back direct and reliable information from the supernatural worlds.” This ability makes the shaman the precursor of the bishop, and now with our modern worship of money, of the stock analyst. People are desperate and there is a sucker born every minute so there is always a new market for faith healers and confidence-tricksters.

I like the way Wright pokes fun at shamans for their fraud, focusing on predictions where ‘a high batting average is likely’ (that eclipses will be temporary) and exploiting gullibility to get girls and money. He cites the famous phrase “pious fraud” (p36) which we have discussed regarding church fathers such as Eusebius. Fraud often works best where the defrauder is able to convince himself or herself that their motive is pure.

In a key comment, Wright says “evolutionary psychology is used to explain the very origins of religious belief as the residue of built-in distortions of perception and cognition; natural selection didn’t design us to believe only true things” (p40). In a competition between someone who believes things that are functional versus someone who only believes things that are true, short term functionality generally wins, even if truth is later seen by historians as vindicating the loser.

Shamanism links to mental illness. Wright says shamans are regarded as ‘doomed to inspiration’ (p38) by the ‘moody sensitivity’ of artistic creativity, open to the ‘oceanic feeling of oneness with the world’. Such oneness is generally dangerous in evolutionary terms for most people, as we are wired to assume we are better safe than sorry, and have to distrust things that are risky. Having someone who can take these risks on behalf of the community can be a way to remain open to possibilities.

The contrasting views on shamanism are whether it serves just the powerful or everyone in the primitive community. I tend more to the view that shamans serve a social function, in that leaders are needed to guide the culture. If a leader exploits their power too much they will be replaced. Wright says the view that priests are just deceivers for kings is Marxist. We can see the failing of the Marxist theory in the emergence of communist shamans in the Soviet Union, with the dream of equality proving impossible and the old priests just replaced by commissars.



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Post Re: Ch. 2 - The Shaman
Robert Tulip wrote:
In a key comment, Wright says “evolutionary psychology is used to explain the very origins of religious belief as the residue of built-in distortions of perception and cognition; natural selection didn’t design us to believe only true things” (p40). In a competition between someone who believes things that are functional versus someone who only believes things that are true, short term functionality generally wins, even if truth is later seen by historians as vindicating the loser.

I was trying to find the passage in the book where Wright says that he himself doesn't see religion as being an adaptation selected for survival value--but I can't find it and now think that if he said it at all it must have been in one of the interviews. I know he does say in an interview that not every trait any species has exists because it helped it survive. I think it's been the view of both Dawkins and Gould that religion is a by-product of our evolution ( a "spandrel"?) rather than a functional one evolutionarily.
Quote:
The contrasting views on shamanism are whether it serves just the powerful or everyone in the primitive community. I tend more to the view that shamans serve a social function, in that leaders are needed to guide the culture. If a leader exploits their power too much they will be replaced. Wright says the view that priests are just deceivers for kings is Marxist. We can see the failing of the Marxist theory in the emergence of communist shamans in the Soviet Union, with the dream of equality proving impossible and the old priests just replaced by commissars.

Wright calls the view Marxist, in quotes, because he doesn't really think this cynical view of religion lines up with Marx's thoughts. It's just that Marx, who made the "opiate of the people" comment, was misinterpreted as saying the leaders served up religion to the people to keep them manageable. Marx's actual thinking is deeper and more interesting than that.

"Religion is, indeed, the self-consciousness and self-esteem of man who has either not yet won through to himself, or has already lost himself again. But man is no abstract being squatting outside the world. Man is the world of man—state, society. This state and this society produce religion, which is an inverted consciousness of the world, because they are an inverted world. Religion is the general theory of this world, its encyclopedic compendium, its logic in popular form, its spiritual point d'honneur, its enthusiasm, its moral sanction, its solemn complement, and its universal basis of consolation and justification. It is the fantastic realization of the human essence since the human essence has not acquired any true reality. The struggle against religion is, therefore, indirectly the struggle against that world whose spiritual aroma is religion. Religious suffering is, at one and the same time, the expression of real suffering and a protest against real suffering. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people. The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is the demand for their real happiness. To call on them to give up their illusions about their condition is to call on them to give up a condition that requires illusions. The criticism of religion is, therefore, in embryo, the criticism of that vale of tears of which religion is the halo. (from Wikipedia)



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Post Re: Ch. 2 - The Shaman
geo wrote:
Going off on another tangent here, I'm currently reading H.P. Lovecraft's essay entitled, Supernatural Horror in Literature. He makes an interesting observation that supernatural literature appeals to a certain segment of the population--those he calls "sensitives". According to Lovecraft, the appeal towards the macabre and the unreal is similar in many respects to that of religion, a connection with something unknown that is outside of ourselves. I'd say Lovecraft is talking about the same "unseen order" mentioned by James. Or it is at least driven by the same fears and wonder that are present in primitive religions.

As for tangents, I want to say, God bless 'em. I read the introduction of the essay and could see from looking at the rest that Lovecraft gives a comprehensive summary of weird literature, all of which explains why movies with supernatural mayhem continue to do well at the box office. But no doubt those are inferior products compared to the literature Lovecraft surveys. I can't read weird and macabre stuff myself. I'm too put off by the unreality of it. Lovecraft says that's due to an inability to loosen myself from the hold of the conventional and everyday, and maybe he's right. I was a little surprised that one of the most rational guys around here, johnson, has a big thing for supernatural movies and books. I believe you yourself have mentioned liking Stephen King. I would have said that the taste for this weird lit is driven by a simple need for the sensational, but Lovecraft makes that seem overly reductive.



Last edited by DWill on Sun Sep 05, 2010 7:46 pm, edited 1 time in total.



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Post Re: Ch. 2 - The Shaman
DWill wrote:
Robert Tulip wrote:
In a key comment, Wright says “evolutionary psychology is used to explain the very origins of religious belief as the residue of built-in distortions of perception and cognition; natural selection didn’t design us to believe only true things” (p40). In a competition between someone who believes things that are functional versus someone who only believes things that are true, short term functionality generally wins, even if truth is later seen by historians as vindicating the loser.

I was trying to find the passage in the book where Wright says that he himself doesn't see religion as being an adaptation selected for survival value--but I can't find it and now think that if he said it at all it must have been in one of the interviews. I know he does say in an interview that not every trait any species has exists because it helped it survive. I think it's been the view of both Dawkins and Gould that religion is a by-product of our evolution ( a "spandrel"?) rather than a functional one evolutionarily.


I'm not sure I agree with the idea that our (us as a species) propensity toward religion has not been selected via evolution. I have a strong suspicion that the sensation and or believe in hope is a necessary psychologically for survival. Necessary may not be quite right; let me say aids significantly to the survival of individuals that traits associated with inducing hope were selected by the process of evolution. A major aspect of religion is hope.



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Post Re: Ch. 2 - The Shaman
Quote:
Wright can be an entertaining writer. I wonder what people thought about his opening comparison between stock market gurus (and politicians) of today and the shamans of animist religion. I'll buy it, but some may not.


I think that the comparison between stock market gurus and politicians is completely true. Anything that humans are involved in includes politics. I think one of the things that people hate about religion is the fact that it is so political. Wright just shows that that is the way it has always been. We oftentimes like to romanticize our past but past people have been as screwed up as present people are.

Quote:
The serious side of all this is that is that there seems to be a general need for people to be creative or imaginative, if you will, and perhaps all this old-and New-Age belief is an outlet for that. Whatever the case, I recognize that a view of humans as primarily rational is incomplete and not necessarily something to work towards.


I agree, Dwill. I think that is why I like religion so much because it attracts that creativity in me. The myths and the mystical experiences are all very much what I love about it.

Quote:
Correct. I veered off on a tangent there and never came back. I suppose people can enter alternate forms of consciousness via meditation, spiritualism, psychedelic drugs, etc. Creative people—writers, artists, actors—regularly tap into their own subconscious for inspiration. Ultimately that's probably where that sense of mystic comes from, don't you think?


Exactly. :)

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According to Lovecraft, the appeal towards the macabre and the unreal is similar in many respects to that of religion, a connection with something unknown that is outside of ourselves. I'd say Lovecraft is talking about the same "unseen order" mentioned by James. Or it is at least driven by the same fears and wonder that are present in primitive religions.


Cool! That is probably why I love ghost stories. I do not really believe in ghosts but I love those shows where they tell of hauntings and describe what made that ghost a ghost. My husband, ever the scientist, hates those shows. But I think they are fun. :) My brother is really into HP Lovecraft.

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I like the way Wright pokes fun at shamans for their fraud, focusing on predictions where ‘a high batting average is likely’ (that eclipses will be temporary) and exploiting gullibility to get girls and money. He cites the famous phrase “pious fraud” (p36) which we have discussed regarding church fathers such as Eusebius. Fraud often works best where the defrauder is able to convince himself or herself that their motive is pure.


Interesting point. It seems that he thinks that there is definitely manipulation but also people who really believed in what they are doing. But you are right, oftentimes people are deceiving themselves in order to deceive others or justify their behavior. I like that you brought up mental illness. There has been an argument that many shamans are mentally ill and yet find acceptance and even reverence for the manifestation of that illness.

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I'm not sure I agree with the idea that our (us as a species) propensity toward religion has not been selected via evolution. I have a strong suspicion that the sensation and or believe in hope is a necessary psychologically for survival. Necessary may not be quite right; let me say aids significantly to the survival of individuals that traits associated with inducing hope were selected by the process of evolution. A major aspect of religion is hope.


I agree with you saffron.

By the way, Dwill, I like your new icon. The blue is very soothing.



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DWill
Sat Oct 23, 2010 2:01 pm
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Post Re: Ch. 2 - The Shaman
seespotrun2008 wrote:
I think that the comparison between stock market gurus and politicians is completely true. Anything that humans are involved in includes politics. I think one of the things that people hate about religion is the fact that it is so political. Wright just shows that that is the way it has always been. We oftentimes like to romanticize our past but past people have been as screwed up as present people are.

You're right that he shows us that from the beginning there was not a clear separation between politics and religion. The shaman's role was political and the chief's and then king's roles were religious. Wright doesn't make much of the gradual removal of religion from public life/politics, though. I mean that he doesn't use secularization as the gauge of progress toward a more inclusive morality, whereas many secularists such as me would tend to do that. I don't know if Wright ever says it, but religion itself can be seen as either zero-sum or non-zero-sum. With polytheism, the attitude was that all could have the gods they wanted (as long as they also honored the state's gods); it didn't have to be one or the other, as it would in a zero-sum situation. Monotheism, though, has an inherent problem with seeing religion as non-zero-sum. If there is only one true god, then the other country's god has to be a false one. There is even a stubborn refusal for different Christian monotheisms to recognize the others as just as valid. Yet for Wright, monotheism is still a a step in the right direction, that is toward moral inclusiveness. If so, it might represent an initial backward step before this progress can continue. I can see how monotheism might move everybody ahead, but it would have to be through a change in belief, that the god of one religion is the same as the god of any other religion. How likely that is, I don't know. It seems to me that only by becoming less devout in their religions would monotheists ever come to think this way. Less devout equals more secular, so that would still be the route I would favor toward moral inclusiveness.

The clash of Islam and the West is over just this matter of secularization. Islam does not believe that a secular society can remain a moral society in the light of the revelation of its religion. Islam looks at the West and sees with horror a moral degeneracy caused by a lack of religion in its public life--in its politics. We oblige them by providing plenty of fodder. The hatred they may have for our society is not based on religion, at least in the sense that it's lack of religion they abhor, not the kind of religion we have. If we were a Christian fundamentalist state, I think they would have greater respect for us.

In the U.S., we tried to create a civic religion, with our godless Constitution, our mini-Bible. The founding fathers knew, however, that success depended on maintaining individual virtue in the citizenry. They appeared to see religion as central to that maintenance of virtue, even if some of them were not conventionally religious. The question for us is whether the Jeffersonian mandate to pursue our own happiness is finally consonant with maintaining civic virtue. It's a continuing challenge for secularists.
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I agree, Dwill. I think that is why I like religion so much because it attracts that creativity in me. The myths and the mystical experiences are all very much what I love about it.

I didn't mean to take so much space responding to your first comment, but just to say it's true that we often slight the importance to many people of the way that religion uses capabilities of the mind that otherwise might not be exercised.
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By the way, Dwill, I like your new icon. The blue is very soothing.

Thank you. It's a good illustration of an old cliche.



Last edited by DWill on Sun Oct 24, 2010 7:45 am, edited 7 times in total.



Sun Oct 24, 2010 7:37 am
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