Friday, November 18, 2011

Scientology's Expanding Presence (Pt. 2)

This next blog post will cover the system of symbols Scientology uses to convey its universal meanings to its followers and the influences found in other religions. After watching the Scientology video with Tom Cruise giving his spiel about what the principals mean to him and why everyone should convert, I was a little confused. However, I did make some sense of several key points and feel I have a good idea of their system of beliefs. Scientologists deeply believe that they are the authorities on the mind; as Tom Cruise says, “they are the authorities on improving conditions.” They believe their practices are based on “religious” research and its doctrines are based on “scientific” laws and principals. Through these beliefs, followers consider themselves as saviors for human kind in any condition.
An interesting theme that can be found in other more commonly practiced religions that is shared with Scientology is that their beliefs revolve around the idea of a “Thetan,” an individual expression of a life force. This idea is similar to a spirit or soul, and is believed to represent the source of life, or life itself. As seen on page 39 of Janet Reitman’s book Inside Scientology, Hubbard defines the foundation of Scientology and the principals of Thetans as the following....

Such an example of the idea of Thetans can be seen in Hinduism; like Hinduism, Scientology suggests a relationship between the soul and an earlier incarnation in one’s present life. In many cases, Scientology, like many other religions, borrows similar ideas from other religions and other philosophies and adopts them into their own ideologies. In Hubbard’s view, the goal of scientology is to restore this power of the Thetan, which can be done through auditing, which will be explained further down. He believed this would streamline the process to enlightenment. Like the borrowed idea of Thetans, another highly interesting idea of Scientology is where Dianetics stems from. Hubbard took similar philosophies from Sigmund Freud regarding psychoanalytical theories. Such ideas can directly be found in Dianetics; they deal with traumatic memories imbedded in one’s unconscious. Through this, Scientology is able to promise self-betterment through Dianetic therapy and overcoming these strong memories. In many ways, Scientology is based off of Freud’s theory of Psychotherapy and persuading its followers to go through with these pricey Dianetic sessions.

In this blog post, I will shed further light on Dianetic auditing and how it directly ties into the ideologies of Scientology. The purpose of auditing is to increase one’s spiritual awareness and self-betterment. If applied correctly, auditing can rid the engrams (deep traumatizing memories) from one’s body, thus restoring their natural Thetans or souls and improving one’s everyday life. The auditing session is usually a one-on-one session between the patient and the auditor; in many ways, this is similar to the idea of a “confession” found in Catholicism. The task of the auditor is to aid the patient in overcoming and understanding engrams. As the sessions increase in frequency, they become more and more intricate, moving towards complex engrams. Scientology’s idealistic intention is to rid the planet of engrams, where people can live their lives free from traumatizing or scaring memories.

Other Fundamental ideas of Scientology present two major beliefs of the mind. They believe in two sides of the mind, the “reactive” and the “analytical” mind. The reactive mind is believed to absorb all pain and emotional traumas or “engrams.” To rid these engrams from the reactive mind and free their “Thetan,” E-meters, or “tech,” are used to rehabilitate the individual’s spiritual nature so that they may reach his or her full potential. The other side of the mind, the “analytical” mind, is responsible for rational functions and consciousness. The relationship both sides have with each other is the idea of balance; for one side of the mind to be freed, the other must be, too.

Another interesting element of symbols found in Scientology is the Scientology symbol itself. The symbol is composed of three different symbols, “S”, “ARC” and “KRC.” The “S” stands for Scientology, “ARC” stands for affinity, reality and community, and “KRC” stands for knowledge, responsibility and control. These symbols represent a certain way of life and knowledge that essentially all Scientologists strive for. The system of triangles acts in similar ways to a trinity; its followers constantly try to achieve a balanced equality in the encompassing representation of knowledge and ways of life.

 In many ways Scientology is drastically different from any other religion in terms of its beliefs; but like almost all religions, Scientology borrows several characteristics from other more commonly practiced religions, such as Hinduism and Catholicism. However, in my opinion, Scientology seems a bit far-fetched in several different aspects. I could not help to keep thinking how in many ways this religion seems more like a business than it does a religion; but that is beside the point. Studying and researching into Scientology was actually very fascinating; in the media, Scientology receives a fair amount of criticism, and it’s interesting to finally know what the beliefs actually are.

Scientology's Expanding Presence (Pt. 1)

My final blog post addresses Scientology and the ideologies that go along with this relatively new religion. Throughout these blog posts, I will be shedding light on their common practices, relating these practices to other religions, and analyzing the system of symbols that are associated with this Church. In this blog particular post, I will cover the background of how Scientology was introduced and some of the problems along with it. The blogs following this will be going into more depth about the religious ideologies that surround Scientology. The Church of Scientology is among the world’s most controversial religions and claims to have millions of members in 165 different countries across the globe. In 1954, Scientology was born from the idea of a science fiction writer, L. Ron Hubbard. In 1950, when L. Ron Hubbard’s book, Dianetics was published, it took the nation by surprise. This term Dianetics refers to a psychological distress theory that Hubbard invented. This theory was poorly received by professionals in the scientific and medical fields [1], especially in the publication of “The American Psychological Association,” which said that these claims could not be supported by firsthand proof. Other criticisms include an article published in Scientific American, saying that LRH’s book Dianetics contained “more promises and less evidence per page that any publication since the invention of printing”.[2] 
As Dianetics groups or cults were spreading across the country, many people were willing to pay for Dianetic therapy; this led to the large sums of money that came into Hubbard’s possession. Organization was lacking and there were no financial strategy of control over the money. Dianetic associates began to resign after watching the organization take in over $90,000 just within a single month and could only account for $20,000 (Reitman 34). The financial accounts of LRH were beginning to look a bit suspicious and a lot of this money was beginning to go missing and unaccounted for. As clearly shown, the foundation of Scientology has been surrounded by much skepticism and seems very shady financially. From Janet Reitman’s book Inside Scientology, Reitman tells readers that, “In the past 15 years Scientology had been involved in more than half a dozen wide scale government investigations around the world, thousands of lawsuits, many of which center on its controversial doctrine and practices” (Reitman).

[1] Staff (August 21, 1950). "Dianetics book review; Best Seller." Newsweek
[2] Rabi, Isaac Isador. "Book Review." Scientific American, January 1951

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Questionable Texts

After reading Joseph Smith’s translation of The Book Of Abraham, I was fairly confused at times. But after reading the Wikipedia page, I was a bit more at ease with my interpretation of this translation. What I found most interesting was why some of the different sects of the Church of LDS do not believe The Book Of Abraham is considered a religious text, even though it was interpreted by Joseph Smith, the founder of LDS Church. I could only imagine the reasons concerning the historical uncertainties seen throughout this text.
For one, there are several themes Christianity, Islam and Judaism share with this text. The first piece I had really noticed when reading the text, was the reference to angels, something most religions fail to cover, yet Christianity, Islam and Judaism all seem to embody. In other religions besides these, there is not a specific reference to angels, but Islam and Judaism believes God created angels as messengers between heaven and earth. This idea is seen in The Book of Abraham when it is said “the Lord thy God sent his angel to deliver thee from the hands of the priest of Elkenah” (35). This unique theme of the role of angels now is present in Mormon, Islam and Judaism; which shows where this idea may have originally stemmed from (not 2000 BE). I could only imagine this text is riddled with questionable statements similar to many of which that can be seen in Joseph Smith’s background.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Indoctrination of Mormon Beliefs

The Mormon take on Indians is very interesting to me, but what I find most fascinating is the relationship the Mormons have with Native Americans. I find the story of how the Lamanites and Nephites came into America a bit farfetched; I am a bit dubious of anyone sailing across the Atlantic Ocean in 600 BC. But that’s beside the point, I am not trying to make this into a scientific argument of why The Book of Mormon is a bit impractical. But in this blog post, I am trying to make a finer connection with the relationship Mormons have with the Native Americans and why there is so much resentment between the two groups. After reading the chapter, “The Book of Mormon,” I came to conclude from this is that Mormons established themselves in Native American territory and took their land for themselves, competed for hunting territory, took other valuable resources and felt the need to convert non-believers. Naturally the Indians would rebel and use violence towards the Mormons to try and get their point across. With persistence and “the will of God” the Mormons firmly believe the Indians must “lay down [their] weapons of war, and delight no more in the shedding o blood, and take them not again, save it be that God shall command [them]”. Through this, the Mormons are able to indoctrinate their own set of beliefs and principals into Native American culture. In many ways, the Mormons have stripped everything from the Indians and instilled their own set of beliefs and “God shall command” them in the name of Jesus Christ. 

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Skepticism Behind Joseph Smith

 After reading the Third Book of Nephi, I began to make more sense of Mormonism. I found it interesting how Mormonism depicts Jesus’ resurrection in the United States, something far different than what Christianity believes in. Many of these stories seem a bit fantasy like in their depiction of the second coming of Christ. However where I begin to criticize Mormonism and believe to think of it as stretching the truth of Christianity, is Joseph Smith's teachings and beliefs. I come from a Christian background so my view is very biased, but I believe Mormonism touches on pro-American ideals and white superiority. I believe Mormonism brought the idea of Christ resurrecting in America only to give America a sense of religious importance. Joseph Smith in my opinion seems to have written himself into this newly developed religion of Mormonism. He achieves this through being directed by an angel in a vision to the golden tablets, which only he can read with the help of a seer stone. Through his translation from Egyptian script to English he then can write himself into the “Book of Mormon” and serve as a servant to the Lord. As Christ goes on to say, “for my sake shall the Father work a work, which shall be a great and a marvelous work among them; and there shall be among them…. But behold, the life of my servant shall be in my hand….”. Thus hinting at pro-American ideals through Smith's role in this new religion and the American values/principals that affect Mormonism. Where the theme of white superiority comes in, is the outlook on the Lamanites found in the Book of Mormon. It is believed if the Lamanites (Native Americans) do not commit to the Lord through baptism, then God shall not spare them in the afterlife. In the 19th and 20th centuries, white Americans may have seen the Book of Mormon as a way of answering many of the questions surrounding the Native Americans, and the views on Native Americans in the Book of Mormon may have fueled the fire for racism in America. In my view, the Mormons are more or less forcing the Lamanites to join the church of Mormon through guilt and the promise of an afterlife with the Lord; hinting at the notions Mormons have for less superior beliefs. 

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Science and Religion

Is Bahai a new religion or a  religion of a modern world? Bahai stems from Islam, specifically the Shi’ite sect, but embodies very different views. I find it interesting that Bahai strongly believes in the full equality between the sexes while Islam does not, and women are treated on another level as their male counterpart, yet other aspects such as the holy prophets are similar.
Yes, the Bahai is a relatively new religion in a new world, a way of life that is polar opposite from the world during 622 A.D. when Islam was being formed. In theory, Bahai is a religion that changes with the world; they have a set group of relative and eternal codes and principals. The eternal principals are based off how one should live their life by expressing virtuous themes of honesty and courage. Rather than fundamental codes, Bahai embodies relative codes that in theory change as the world changes along with the transformations in one’s life, such as divorce. From my understanding, in today’s world, it seems that some of the teachings of Islam are outdated and can easily be misinterpreted, resulting in a difference of teachings and beliefs. Islam is purely a religion based on the teachings of the prophet and tells followers how to live life. Bahai is a combination of science and religion, also teaching its followers the principals of how to live. Where Bahai clearly differentiates from its mother religion, Islam, is the scientific and modern approach of religion that touches on the creation and evolution of human beings and the world in which we live. Both religions teach their followers how to live through an individual system of teachings. However, in my opinion, the Bahai seem to be a bit more adaptive to modern culture in an ever evolving world. 

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The Religious Barriers

The Charter for Compassion video was very interesting to watch and really hit a chord within me. I thought such a basic principal of the golden rule was so simple, yet so brilliant. Everyone has grown up with this fundamental rule since adolescence, and one would think compassion and respect for others would be a bit more prevalent in today's society. But there are many elements that seem to break this up and instill inferiority into cultures and religions. Since the dawn of religion, most religions have seemed to adopt this theme of inferiority of other religions, instilling hatred into global cultures. Unifying religions around the world to care for compassion and treat others the way they would like to be treated would ideally break a large amount of the religious barriers including the extremists and fundamentalists.  However the feasibility of this is doubtful, not to say I would not love to see this happen, but the individual ties human beings have with religion is so strong that many will die for their religion, and breaking this train of thought would prove to be difficult.
This religious/political onslaught that went on during the Ottoman Empire that Baja’u’llah had witnessed seems to have been avoidable if the golden rule was applied to the Iranians. However as one side fails to use compassion, I feel the other side then begins to cave in on compassion and loses hope for others. As “political” prisoners were sent to confinement jails, prisoners were suffering from the lack of water, prisoners were beginning to fall ill and some died (p. 92). I feel in conditions such as these, it seems impossible to still have any sort of compassion when the government has absolutely none. And at times I find it difficult to believe Baja’u’llah had risen above everything and still promoted compassion. Naturally this text does have a slight bias to it, considering one who practices Baha’i is the author.

So In the given light Moojan Momen paints Baja’u’llah as being a fearless leader and one who embodies compassion for all. I do feel Baja’u’llah would relate to Karen Armstrong’s message on compassion and believe this idea would be instrumental in dealing with many of the religious injustices that go on. In many ways Baja’u’llah shows examples of compassion throughout his biography. This is mainly shown through his strong love for his family, the sacrifice of himself for others, and his will to spread his message. On many levels, this idea of universal compassion could be what breaks many religious barriers apart. In many ways the Baha'i faith embodies this universal theme of compassion through their view for equality between genders and their encompassing views towards all religions. 

Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Rejection of Babylon Through Music

The evolution of reggae has undergone many changes over the course of its existence, yet to this day it embodies some of the same characteristics and elements as it did during the dawn of its birth. The author believes we should not characterize reggae as exclusively protest music or its lyrical matter based solely on the Rastafarian philosophies (109). 

In today’s world I believe people see reggae in another light, a light where the main purpose of reggae is more for protest rather than the ways of the Rastafari. The book states that Rastafarians use reggae as a “medium through which the people are restored to self-awareness…. People learn the truth about the system under which they live…. And which the poor express their frustration with and grievances against the political and cultural guardians of Jamaican society… and their demand for change….” (51). Through these songs, musicians are able to express the ways of the Rastafari, and also ridicule Babylon for it’s political and cultural injustices.  Thus incorporating a fair mix between characteristics of religion and protest. Reggae is often seen as a “musical hand-grenade, to be used against those seen as the oppressors and agents of Babylon” (110), through this the Rastafarians have brought a more philosophical depth and the ideologies that reject the values associated with Western culture.  Reggae that exemplifies the Rastafarian beliefs incorporates protest, but also with powerful messages regarding poverty, unemployment, inequality and the rejection of Babylon. The Rastafarian philosophy is unmistakable in the musical characteristics and the lyrical content of reggae. “Whether or not singers and songwriters are committed Rastas, their lyrics are saturated with the Rastafarian perspectives and clothed in Rastafarian language” (111). 

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Exodus, Movement of Jah People

I found the way of life of these particular Rastafarians very interesting. The code of conduct in which they live their lives is completely different than any western style of living, which is exactly what they are trying to achieve. They are trying to achieve complete separation from Babylon (Western culture). In doing so, they are in a remote location in the mountains of Jamaica, and live a very simple lifestyle without the use of unnecessary materialistic goods and other luxury goods such as the use of running water. What also stood out in the video that I had noticed in the reading was the relationship the Rastafarians have to the colors of the Ethiopian flag. These colors are seen on the shanti’s that they live in, thus symbolizing the their connection with Ethiopia.

After viewing the video on the Rastafarian Boboshanti’s and their way of life, I began to realize how closely the Rastafarians follow the demise of Babylon, which is a characteristic of Rastafarians seen in our book. They are trying to free themselves from the western way of life, "Babylon is the primary symbol for the interpretation and assessment of the colonial establishment" (50).  They closely associate evil with Babylon, which can be seen on the hand painted signs in the video, "righteousness over evil", and  "good over evil". Another central theme I had noticed between the two cultures was their will to reach the promise land through the means of an exodus. This exodus seems to be a staple in the Rastafarian culture; this theme can be seen in the meaning of Bob Marley’s song Exodus. In this song, he constantly refers to exodus as the movement of Jah people, once again reflecting their will to seek some sort of religious freedom to Ethiopia, the promise land. 

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Solomon's Great Influence

After reading the Kabra Negast through, I began to notice more and more themes that are present in the Bible, a lot of which have to do with King Solomon.  Such themes that are stressed throughout the text are wisdom and Solomon’s code of ethics. Like the Bible, wisdom is idealized and brings knowledge, morality and ethics; all of which are seen and also idealized in the Kabra Negast. After studying this texts, I began to realize this texts serves more as a form of propaganda that is indoctrinating Christianity into other cultures through a text that is so similar to the Bible.
     The structure of the text is similar to the Bible by the use of short stories possessing individual meanings and connecting back to an overarching meaning. Another observation I made from the two texts was Solomon’s divine power he had been given by God through a vision. In this vision God offers to grant Solomon whatever he asks, Solomon then asks God for wisdom. With this, Solomon will become one of the greatest political powers of his time. Thus reflecting Israel’s pinnacle point of power.  This position seems to have an effect on less politically strong powers such as Ethiopia, for instance the influence of Christianity on Ethiopia via. Israel. This transformation can be seen during the Queen of Sheba’s change from polytheistic gods to a monotheistic god (God of Israel). King Solomon’s influence of wisdom also wears off onto the Queen of Sheba, one can see the principals of a previous culture beginning to change and transform to a more “ordered” culture. “I am smitten with love of wisdom and I am constrained by the chords of understanding; for wisdom is far better than treasure of gold and silver”.
        After King Solomon impregnates the Queen of Sheba, their son is born and eventually brings the Arc of the Covenant back to Ethiopia from his trip to Jerusalem where he finally meets his father. During this, their son Menyelek serves as the bearer for the Christian texts to come into Ethiopia.  Once again this strengthens the point of this text having hints of propaganda that strengthen Christianity’s influence on Ethiopia.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Is Religion a Good Mix For Our Country?

Is Religion and politics a destructive mixture for our Country? Many people believe religion should not be associated with any form of politics, and others believe our current political situation is doing just fine. At the moment, I am very partial between the two; on one hand I believe religion adds to the “culture wars” and causes Americans to see each other as different people, causing resentment for the other side. And on the other hand, I believe government should be left alone, and keep the foundation of our country with the same intent the founding fathers had in mind.
            I think religion is dividing this country apart, the positions liberals and conservatives have is the main culprit behind this division. In general, liberals feel conservatives are trying to implement their religious principles, turning our Country into a form of theocracy. While conservatives feel liberals are trying to abolish God from the public domain, thus imposing atheist views on this country. These issues of religion and faith are difficult to settle because they only drive both sides further and further apart. But at the same time, politics and religion are not essentially a destructive mixture. I personally believe the presence of religion in our current political system should not be touched. In several examples that include religious associations such as “in god we trust” found on our currency or “one nation under God” heard in the pledge of allegiance does not specify any one religion, but addresses religion in a general matter, by “God”.  I believe these associations enforce our freedoms we have in America and our right to practice whatever we please. 

More information regarding this topic can be found here: Understanding the Problems with Religion

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Thinking Critically

Saint Augustine’s On Christian Teaching and J. Todd Billings’ How to Read the Bible, share shockingly similar views and themes as each other. It’s odd that these two texts written millennia apart from each other share such similar views. For one, the theme that really stood out that the two writings had in common was their criticism for Christians reading the Bible and interpreting it for themselves.
A common theme that these texts share relating to the interpretation of the Bible can be seen towards the beginning of Billings’ article when he writes about biblical books that “can help Christians see implications of their faith for various aspects of life, but they can often communicate that the Bible is the authoritative answer book to felt needs and problems.” When interpreting texts such as the Bible, individuals often take direct teachings literally from the Bible and fail to ask questions or look beyond the teachings. People sometimes fail to think critically, they take the Bible for that it is worth and automatically assume this book is the book of life, no questions need to be raised because it is dubbed to know everything. A similar theme is seen in Saint Augustine’s On Christian Teaching, Augustine criticizes individuals for reading the Bible for what it is worth, by “reading it, men seek noting more than to find out the thought and will of those by whom it was written, and through these to find out the will of God, in accordance with which they believe these men to have spoken”. 
Billings also believes Christians in todays world cannot rightly understand God’s word because they are not scholars themselves. People seem to have become accustomed with what is in front of them and fail to raise questions for themselves, but not to derive an entirely separate meaning like what can commonly seen in other cultures across the world. All reading is supposed to challenge your ability to think critically, especially in a religious text such as the Bible. However, Billings thinks a way round misinterpreting the Bible is through the, “Historical reconstruction behind and within the biblical text is a central way to avoid idolatrous and unfaithful biblical interpretations”.
I think the philosophy of reading the Bible is represented truthfully in these two readings. I think both authors are right in saying people are not reading the Bible critically. What astounds me most is that these two scholars, separated by millennia have such similar thoughts on the Bible.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

The Credibility of Religion

Religion can be vigorously disputed and quite often turns into heated debates, not only can taking on this debate be discouraging for people, but quite often can be very repulsive. Because the topic is very touchy, there have become countless definitions of what the Ideology of religion is. From what I have seen, most definitions have hints of bias within them. From the definitions I have seen, most are not concise. We need to agree on a definition that encumbers moral code, human affairs, meaning, god or gods, existence and other key elements of religion. I think people are afraid to tackle this subject because of its political background and other touchy subjects such as war, ridicule and harsh criticism. People are often cynical by religion because of the hatred and violence committed in its name and can often be attributed by the conflicts and offenses that have occurred as a result of religion. Over countless wars and violence since the dawn of religion, religion and its teachings seemed to have lost a fair portion of their credibility. Just about every war has stemmed from religion in one way or another. In no way am I hinting that religion should be abolished, like Richard Dawkins, but I think a more concise definition that includes a broader array of elements that all religions share would break some of the religious tensions we see today. I am not saying this is possible, but religion is a necessity for our daily lives and it fundamentally affects everyone. The existence of religion is existential in our lives and preserves ethics and personal meaning, which is fundamental in life. 

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

From Two Different Culture's Come a Similar Belief

Many elements found in Israelite and Egyptian mythology seem strikingly different from one another, for instance in Egyptian traditions, their faith is polytheistic, believing in many gods. In the Hebrew/Israelite tradition Yahweh is the only god, he is the almighty and all knowing. Coming from two different backgrounds, Psalm 104 and the Hymn to the Aton show closely related themes and ideas. These two religious passages deal mostly with harvest, fertility and life, giving thanks to the almighty for his generosity. Psalm 104 reads, “He waters mountains from His lofts, from the fruit of Your works the earth is sated. He makes the hay sprout for cattle, grass for the labor of humankind to bring forth bread from the earth….” (13-14).  Passages 13-14 directly relates to the Hymn to the Aton from passage five, “the entire land performs its work: all the flocks are content with their fodder, and trees and plants grow, birds fly to their nests….  everything which flies up and alights, they live when you raise for them (5-6).  Both examples of these passages show clear evidence that god bringing a new day was highly stressed as being important for their society as well as everything that goes with that. I think these two examples stress a common theme found in many religions today, I am sure there are other examples from religious texts that show common themes to these two texts. However, the comparisons of these two deities are also very important, in Israelite beliefs; Yahweh is spoken of as a supernatural being, while Aton is more of a presence, as he is the sun.  This reflects monotheism vs. polytheism, while Yahweh is the god of everything, and Aton is the sun god, he too is the most powerful god, however in Egyptian beliefs there are over 2000 gods. This shows that Egyptians were closely connected with nature and their surroundings. Versus in Israelite beliefs, this characteristic is not as present as it is shown in Egyptian beliefs.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Puritan Downfall

The Puritans changed an accepted version of the psalms for the use of praising the Lord in hymns. Their new version of the book of psalms underwent changes in the gate/meter and also the translations were a bit different, giving a slightly different meaning to its readers. If this was not common for churches and other sub groups of religion, then why was this done upon the Puritans coming to America, and what effect did it have on the Puritan’s outlook on religion and life in general? Could this new religious outlook have started the Salem Witch Trials?
For one, the Puritans left England seeking religious freedoms, upon their arrival to the Americas in the early 1600’s, they quickly adopted their newly reformed religion. Puritan teachings were very strict in code, very little was tolerated. It was against the law to not attend church, where in church, men and women were obligated to sit on opposite sides as each other. Their lives outside of church were firm and restrained and believed all sinners should be punished for their sinful behaviors. The Devil was heavily believed in, they believed Satan would force individuals to carry out his work, for the individuals who carried out these deeds were considered witches. And for being a witch, you were persecuted with death. As one can clearly see in The Bay Psalm Book, sinners and non-believers where highly looked down upon and thought of as opponents to the believers. The puritan translation of the psalms had a detrimental effect on life and religion; uniformity was created in the puritan society, but it was their repressive ways of uniformity that caused their downfall.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Translations Over Time

 After reading Psalm 27 in Robert Alter’s The Book of Psalms, and The Bay Psalm book, I noticed a colossal difference in the flow or gate of the psalm. The meanings are fairly close with each other. I thought The Bay Psalm book, was especially difficult to read and deciphering the messages took a bit longer. Being that the The Bay Psalm book is a Puritan text from the 1640s, this text might be a little cynical when regarding non-believers especially with the style in which it is written. However, the wording may be a bit different and a little more difficult to read, but the messages are still relatable to each other. For example, in passage 4 of psalm 27, the translation in The Bay Psalm book, goes as followed...

Robert Alter's translation closely resembles the quote above, although the wording is slightly different, the overarching meaning is still the same.
                    "One thing do I ask of the LORD,
it is this that I seek- 
                   that I dwell in the house of the LORD
                                  all the days of my life,
                 to behold the LORD’s sweetness
                                 and to gaze on His palace". 
When comparing these, quotes, one can clearly see a common message in both of these quotes. Both texts reflect ones most cherished desire is to spend his or her time in the house of the Lord as well as to feel the Lord's presence. 

Another passage that shows a close resemblance to both psalm translations can be see in verse 11 of psalm 27. In this comparison, there is a slight distinction between Puritan culture and modern culture. 
VS.  "Teach me, O LORD, Your way,                                                      and lead me on a level path
                        because of my adversaries."
The two translations reflect almost identical messages, but yet the last couple words are a little different, "adversaries" (ones opponent) versus "observers". Why the word "adversaries" is used might reflect our modern-day culture for instance, how people can become segregated by dividing from non-religious people and other "less superior religious classes, thus becoming ones opponent. 

When comparing these psalms from cultures centuries and millennia ago, one can begin to see how interpretations and translations might have changed over the course of time.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Controversy Over Culture and Religion

During the discussion in Wednesdays class regarding the difference between culture and religion, many people agreed that the two definitions were different from each other. The definition that we came up with in class is culture is the way people live their lives and their interactions with their surroundings. Religion is more or less how you view life, for example life and death and other spiritual beliefs.  However, depending on how one looks at the definitions, one could associate the two with each other. 
The both culture and religions reflect each other, you cannot have one without the other. On a broader sense, without religion; culture itself would take a severe hit and be engulfed into larger cultures. Religion helps define culture, if religion was non-existent, cultures all over the world would slowly begin to become one in the same. Religion is what keeps other cultures from seeming too a like and binds groups of people together creating communities, cities, states and countries. Culture and religion have their differences, however you cannot separate the two, they both reflect each other. Such an example can be seen in almost every aspect in our daily lives, for instance, government. Governments all over the world mix culture and religion together. As shown in history, the United States Government has had a very difficult time in keeping these topics separate. Many issues come around where religion is brought up that soon become touchy issues, like the dispute over abortion rights. Coming from a culture where religion is not far from anywhere you look, about 83% of American claim to belong to some form of religion. Because it is prevalent in our society it becomes difficult when deciding political issues without having any sort of bias view point. This example can be applied to just about any political system around the world today. Religion and culture can be closely associated with each other, however in certain areas like government, they need to be regulated more closely.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Symbols and Beliefs

Effigy-Mounds-Great-Bear+from+Wikipedia+Commons.jpg           Indian burial mounds, also known as effigy mounds, share similar characteristics and can relate to Clifford Geertz’s definition of religion and how these burial chambers act as a system of symbols. The effigy mounds found throughout Wisconsin and into other neighboring sates seem to represent figures and symbols that can closely be related to spirits and other super natural beings. These images can be found in Native American pottery as well as in the figures of the effigy mounds. These figures of “long-tailed ‘water spirits’, who, in Native American belief systems, are often conceived as inhabiting a watery world under the earth” (Birmingham 107). In Native American beliefs, the rivers and streams are closely associated with concepts of rebirth and fertility, thus water spirits are highly regarded, because springs and rivers are thought to be entrances into the underworld. 
     The system of symbols Native Americans use in their beliefs, “acts to establish long lasting moods and motivations”, through their symbols clear evidence gives way for effigy mounds to be directly related to religious beliefs. The purpose of these mounds and ceremonies has motivated ancient American Indians to have built these shrines that pay homage to these super natural spirits. These spirits which evoke “lasting moods and motivations in men” that are seen by their diligence to produce these spiritual shrines. By their beliefs in the after life and the characters they made which represent spirits, which are directly associated with rebirth and fertility. These burial practices are made clear by the diffusion into other Native tribes across Wisconsin and through the mid-west. I think these monuments show clear strides moving towards early religion in North America. Shown by the evidence above, Geertz's definition proves these monuments/shrines as being signs of early religious practices. 

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Free Post

I agree with some of the points Richard Dawkins brought up in his interview, however where I would begin to disagree with him is his main point on blind faith.  Some of the points he brings up are logical and I would tend to agree with a few of them, such as science offering truth and how schools should be open to teaching aspects of Darwin’s theories of human evolution. I think the teaching of human evolution should continue to be taught in schools, students should be allowed to decide whether or not religion is a myth or not.
Another point of Dawkins that really caught my attention is when he said the path of religion is wasting time and how it should be abolished. I one hundred percent disagree with this point especially because the idea of religion is not wasting time. Religion itself has helped our human race get where it is today. I think the idea of religion will never fall out of existence; it has been and always will be an integral part of everyday life. However, there are many flaws with present day religion, most notably the separation between religion and politics. Keeping these separate is almost impossible no matter where you go. Some form of religion has been instilled within us from birth, and politics had done the same. So naturally it is inevitable for the two to be entirely separate from each other. It is best that we cope with this flaw and deal with it as best we can. 

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Why We Need Religion To Function

Sam Harris’s clip on Youtube entitled, Why We Should Ditch Religion and the New York Times article, Why We Believe, both touch on several different views that I myself share. I believe it is almost impossible to completely disregard religion as a whole, from the dawn of man; human beings have been instinctively born to ask questions regarding the roots of existence, which more or less brought about the dawn of religion. In today’s world, Islamic and Christian traditions have been known to contradict each other and in a sense these traditions make and shape our functioning planet, as we know it. If it were not for religion as a whole the human race would have a slimmer chance of existing to this day.
            I am not one to say whether or not some sort of super natural power watches and protects over us, however without the idea of religion our chances of being here today, where we are now is slim to none. In Sam Harris’s video clip, he touches on the point of whether or not religion is the problem with our entire society as a whole. In an ideal world, if everyone existed with similar views, there would be less violence in this world (theoretically of course). However, without religion, humans would not have anything to believe in, thus people would start to lose hope in just about anything and everything, religion in a sense is what binds our race together, it helps us all function as one, although we all have our differences, and that is something that is inevitable.
            The two sources did not so much contradict each other, however, they did bring up the point of how there is a fair amount of skepticism in religion as a whole, and the variances between religions will always have their differences in theories and that is something that is inevitable. I personally think that we should all believe in some sort of super natural power, but keep our opinions regarding our beliefs personal and to not preach to other.