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.