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Unformatted text preview: REL I 1001 - The Study of Three Western Modes of Spiritual Experience WHAT IS REL IG ION? Clifford Geertz w rote in ISLAM OBSERVED • The comparative study of religion has always been plagued by this particular embarrassment: the elusiveness of its subject matter. The problem is not one of constructing definitions of religion. We have had quite enough of those; their very number is a symptom of our [modern] malaise. It is a matter of discovering just what sorts of beliefs and practices support what sort of faith under what sorts of conditions. Our problem, and it grows worse by the day, is not to define religion but to find it. Page 1. • “All the social sciences suffer from the notion that to have named something is to have understood it, but nowhere is this more true than in the comparative study of religion. There, the overvaluation of classificatory modes of thought, the pigeonhole disease, has grown to such alarming proportions that one suspects some deeper passion to bring perverse phenomena to comforting terms is at work.” page 23 • And so we get discussions of “animism” or “totemism” or “mysticism,” governed by a premise that has not been earned: that the first step toward a scientific comprehension of religious phenomena is to reduce their diversity by assimilating them to a limited number of general types. Page 24 • Clifford Geertz concludes his discussion: To my mind, and given my view of what such comprehension [naming as comprehension] consists of, this is actually the first step toward denaturizing our material, toward substituting cliché for description and assumption for analysis.Page 24 Ernest Gellner w rote in Legitimation of Belief • Underlying the seeming variety, chaos even, of 20th century philosophy, an “emerging consensus can be discerned. Having for some time accepted that epistemology is philosophy’s current central task, philosophers are now coming to agree, broadly speaking, that to be recognized as legitimate, beliefs must pass certain tests. 1 • “There is the empiricist insistence that faiths … must stand ready to be judged by … something reasonably close to the ordinary notion of ‘experience’. • Second, there is the ‘mechanistic’ insistence on impersonal … explanations.” Tim Winters w rites: • Modern man, by contrast [to the traditional man] trapped by an anthropology which excludes all transcendence, dehumanized by a pseudo-psychology which identifies the source of otherworldly yearning to the lowest, rather than the most exulted faculties, has been programmed to dismiss traditional belief in an immortal soul as mythic, or even bizarre. REL IG IOLOGY • Religiology is the disciplined study of networks of human spheres of belief consisting of particular epistemologies, ontologies, anthropologies, pshchologies, teleologies, and methodolgies - related to particular historical contexts and embodied in symbols, experience, texts, acts, or institutions that may or may not assert that they are t rue or have their origins in ultimate...
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