What is 'religious'?

EirenistEirenist Shipmate
During a dinner-table conversation on holiday, a lady present happened to remark that she was 'not religious'. I could not resist remarking that if she lived by any set of rules, she was religious, no matter what she called herself, because that was the original meaning of the word. The alternative was to be completely amoral.

For the rest of the meal she conversed exclusively with other people. My wife says I should have kept my mouth shut. Do shipmates agree?

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Comments

  • Martin54Martin54 Shipmate
    I'd have asked what does she hold irrationally sacred.
  • BroJamesBroJames Purgatory Host
    I’d have said something like, “I wouldn’t call myself religious either. What do you believe in?” (I have to keep my inner pedant on a tight leash1, if I want to go on having conversations with people.)

    1 “Can I ask you a question?” “Ask me anything you like so long as it’s not a question.”
  • EliabEliab Shipmate, Purgatory Host
    Eirenist wrote: »
    I could not resist remarking that if she lived by any set of rules, she was religious, no matter what she called herself, because that was the original meaning of the word. The alternative was to be completely amoral.

    I'm not convinced that this has ever been the primary meaning of the word "religious" in English, but even if it has, it isn't the meaning now.

    If I say "I'm religious" just about everyone will understand me to be claiming that I have some degree of meaningful adherence to some sort of philosophy, way of life, institution or set of beliefs within the diverse class of things called "religions". If I say "I'm not religious" just about everyone will understand me to be claiming the contrary. Few, if any, will think I'm trying to tell them that I am or am not "completely amoral".

    So, while I'm not saying that you shouldn't have tried to have the discussion, you were wrong.

  • Martin54Martin54 Shipmate
    Jonathan Haidt: '...there was a long period in human evolution during which it was adaptive to lose the self and merge with others. It wasn’t adaptive for individuals to do so, but it was adaptive for groups. As evolutionary biologists David Sloan Wilson and Edward O. Wilson have proposed, religiosity is a biological adaptation for binding groups together and helping them enter a mind-set of “one for all, all for one.” Groups that developed emotionally intense, binding religions were able, in the long run, to outcompete and outlast groups that were not so tightly bound.'.

    So my question to her should have involved what groups she includes herself in by group behaviour in the pursuit of shared morality.
  • stetsonstetson Shipmate
    Eliab wrote: »
    Eirenist wrote: »
    I could not resist remarking that if she lived by any set of rules, she was religious, no matter what she called herself, because that was the original meaning of the word. The alternative was to be completely amoral.

    I'm not convinced that this has ever been the primary meaning of the word "religious" in English, but even if it has, it isn't the meaning now.

    Eirenist's argument is kind of like saying that Shaw's play Mrs. Warren's Profession is pornographic, because it's a piece of writing about prostitutes.

  • Talking about "original meanings" is a good way to lose arguments and put people's backs up. In fact, it has been called the etymological fallacy, so since "silly" used to mean happy, well, nothing follows really. Then there's the loopy one that homophobia means a fear of gays. It doesn't.
  • finelinefineline Kerygmania Host
    It is generally considered a bit rude to directly contradict someone like that in the course of polite conversation, especially when they are sharing something personal about their life. It doesn't really leave room for further conversation or let the person expand upon their thoughts. And particularly if you are a man and they are a woman, it can come across a bit mansplainy. Asking a question, so you can understand more fully what they mean, is better.
  • Martin54Martin54 Shipmate
    Oooooh, it ain't about understanding what they mean, it's pretty damn obvious what they mean, it's about having a conversation.
  • BabyWombatBabyWombat Shipmate
    When I hear someone say they are "not religious" I hear it as a statement that they are not involved in any faith community/church/temple/etc., and that they do not want to engage in any dinner discussion that looks at events from that spiritual perspective. Yes, they may have and follow a strict pattern of living, but I hear them as saying "no church talk, please."

    Many of my friends and family members would certainly say they were "not religious", and yet I know them to be people who are ethical, involved in matters of equality and care for those in need, ready and eager to do good.
  • EnochEnoch Shipmate
    I don't know what people mean when they say 'I'm not religious'. If one can do it tactfully and in a way that gives a person the confidence to be drawn out, the answer she gave to 'what do you actually mean by that?' could be both interesting and informative.
  • Martin54Martin54 Shipmate
    I'd rather say, "That's a shame, I was going to introduce you to my invisible friend, he's desperately keen to talk to you.".
  • caroline444caroline444 Shipmate
    Martin54 wrote: »
    I'd rather say, "That's a shame, I was going to introduce you to my invisible friend, he's desperately keen to talk to you.".

    :smile:
  • SusanDorisSusanDoris Shipmate
    Martin54 wrote: »
    Jonathan Haidt: '...there was a long period in human evolution during which it was adaptive to lose the self and merge with others. It wasn’t adaptive for individuals to do so, but it was adaptive for groups. As evolutionary biologists David Sloan Wilson and Edward O. Wilson have proposed, religiosity is a biological adaptation for binding groups together and helping them enter a mind-set of “one for all, all for one.” Groups that developed emotionally intense, binding religions were able, in the long run, to outcompete and outlast groups that were not so tightly bound.'.

    So my question to her should have involved what groups she includes herself in by group behaviour in the pursuit of shared morality.
    Secnded.

  • Martin54Martin54 Shipmate
    Which is why religion as a solitary vice doesn't work.
  • Colin SmithColin Smith Shipmate
    Eirenist wrote: »
    During a dinner-table conversation on holiday, a lady present happened to remark that she was 'not religious'. I could not resist remarking that if she lived by any set of rules, she was religious, no matter what she called herself, because that was the original meaning of the word. The alternative was to be completely amoral.

    For the rest of the meal she conversed exclusively with other people. My wife says I should have kept my mouth shut. Do shipmates agree?

    I think your alternatives are false. The opposite to a religious approach to morality would be moral relativism, which is not the same as complete, or even partial, amorality.
  • Eirenist wrote: »
    During a dinner-table conversation on holiday, a lady present happened to remark that she was 'not religious'. I could not resist remarking that if she lived by any set of rules, she was religious, no matter what she called herself, because that was the original meaning of the word. The alternative was to be completely amoral.

    For the rest of the meal she conversed exclusively with other people. My wife says I should have kept my mouth shut. Do shipmates agree?

    I think your alternatives are false. The opposite to a religious approach to morality would be moral relativism, which is not the same as complete, or even partial, amorality.

    Good point. I think the opposition between religious morality and amorality is a false one. Relativism is probably used by many religious people in some situations. Well, the just war embodies relativism.
  • Raptor EyeRaptor Eye Shipmate
    I might have said, "I am, I'm a Christian" and seen where it went, if anywhere. Allowing the conversation to move on to something else is fine, but we did ought to be able to speak freely about our faith imv, if the subject arises as it did here.

    I find it odd that a priest I know claims not to be religious. Huh?

    Perhaps he means that he doesn't conform to a stereotype of someone pious and/or judgemental, but then hopefully none of us do.
  • Martin54Martin54 Shipmate
    Er...
  • Gee DGee D Shipmate
    I think Mrs Eirenist was 100% spot-on. You're lucky you did not get a dish of brussel sprouts poured over you. Pretty tricky asking her just what she meant also.

    Those who say the opposite are the ones I have trouble understanding, the ones who say that they don't believe in churches and so forth, but that they are religious or spiritual. I think they mean they get all wiffly when they look up to a clear night sky, but am never sure
  • HugalHugal Shipmate
    I don’t like to use the term religious or religion. It groups together very different beliefs in a way that I find difficult make work. Though Judaism, Christianity, and Islam share certain aspects, Buddhism is very different, as is Hinduism. To group them together as though they are somehow the same seems to me at least not correct.
  • Martin54Martin54 Shipmate
    edited June 11
    How are they different? How are they not the largest, oldest, self-serving evolved genetically hard wired groups that hold irrational things sacred?
  • HugalHugal Shipmate
    There systems are very different. You know this Martin. Some are monotheistic; some are pantheistic. The rules and regulations are different. What happens after death is different. The idea of genetically hard wired groups is not proven fact. It is observation made by someone who has specific mind set themselves. They see the world as they see it. There may be some truth in it. It is a theory.
  • Martin54Martin54 Shipmate
    edited June 11
    It's in the meat. Says science. Evolutionary science. Genetics. Meat.

    Different how? In what quantifiable, quantitative way? Let alone qualitative.
  • RocinanteRocinante Shipmate
    Christianity says there is one eternal god. Hinduism says there are many gods. Buddhism says there are no gods, and that nothing is fixed or permanent. They are clearly very different; what they have in common is that they are all stories that humans have told each other in order to try and make sense of the world and their experience. To be religious is to affirm that at least some of these stories are true, on some level.

    I gather that the Neo-Darwinists don't regard religion as an adaptation, and have a big problem with group selection in general. Stephen Jay Gould describes religion as a "spandrel", something that did not evolve directly but which appeared as a by-product of other evolutionary processes.
  • Religion not the same as theism.
  • Martin54Martin54 Shipmate
    Difference is in the eye of the beholder. And in data. God counts aren't data.

    And aye, group selection is secondary to individual-gene based selection to say the least.
  • balaambalaam Shipmate
    edited June 11
    Rocinante wrote: »
    Christianity says there is one eternal god. Hinduism says there are many gods. Buddhism says there are no gods, and that nothing is fixed or permanent. .

    Hinduism says there is on God, but many manifestations of that Gos in many forms. It is pretty much monotheistic.

    But before we get sidetracked into that, I thing that people who say they are not religious are basically saying they know very little about the various faiths, and wish to be left to their ignorance.

    ETA

    Ignorance here meaning lack of knowledge, not stupidity.
  • HugalHugal Shipmate
    Wrong I know the principles of the major belief systems. So your post is slightly insulting to me at least. It is because I am aware of the different belief systems that I came to my conclusion. They are so different that to put them under one category is to try to make them somehow the same. Which they are not. It is a perfectly reasonable evidence based opinion.
  • HugalHugal Shipmate
    The evolutionary point made is interesting. However there is limit to the accuracy of our understanding. We can at best say we have a full grasp of general principles. Details are harder to guarantee. Whilst the espoused principle makes sense there is no guarantee it is accurate. It is an assumption made on certain principles. As I said there may be something in it. But it is not guaranteed. It is a theory not fact.
  • KarlLBKarlLB Shipmate
    Hugal wrote: »
    Wrong I know the principles of the major belief systems. So your post is slightly insulting to me at least. It is because I am aware of the different belief systems that I came to my conclusion. They are so different that to put them under one category is to try to make them somehow the same. Which they are not. It is a perfectly reasonable evidence based opinion.

    We class both brine shrimp and giraffes as "animals" but no-one thinks that makes them the same.
  • kmannkmann Shipmate
    Raptor Eye wrote: »
    I find it odd that a priest I know claims not to be religious. Huh?
    Yes, that makes my blood boil, as a fellow priest. While I wouldn't necessary agree that living by any set of rules makes you religious, I absolutely hate when Christians claim not to be religious, and especially when they claim that this has 'evangelistic advantages.' It doesn't. It is simply not true, as any dictionary will tell you, and it seems to be an Evangelical trope that only Evangelicals understand, based on a completely idiosyncratic definition of religion that literally no one holds to.
    Raptor Eye wrote: »
    Perhaps he means that he doesn't conform to a stereotype of someone pious and/or judgemental, but then hopefully none of us do.
    Yes, it's like saying 'I'm not a fundamentalist.' Yes, so? Most religious people aren't.
  • kmannkmann Shipmate
    Hugal wrote: »
    I don’t like to use the term religious or religion. It groups together very different beliefs in a way that I find difficult make work. Though Judaism, Christianity, and Islam share certain aspects, Buddhism is very different, as is Hinduism. To group them together as though they are somehow the same seems to me at least not correct.
    And 'spirituality' doesn't similarly group these together? Would you also refrain from calling them humans?
  • EdithEdith Shipmate
    At least she didn’t say ‘I’m not a God botherer’, which I’ve heard asserted on a number of social occasions.
  • HugalHugal Shipmate
    I know it is not the usual thinking but the Dibb has a lot of people who think differently.
    Part of it my answer that Balaam’s post. People who say they are not religious are ignorant of the state of play. I don’t like the term I don’t use it. I say faith group for instance. That leaves things more open. I am not ignorant of the state of play.
  • Martin54Martin54 Shipmate
    Hugal wrote: »
    Wrong I know the principles of the major belief systems. So your post is slightly insulting to me at least. It is because I am aware of the different belief systems that I came to my conclusion. They are so different that to put them under one category is to try to make them somehow the same. Which they are not. It is a perfectly reasonable evidence based opinion.

    Whose post?
  • Rocinante wrote: »
    Christianity says there is one eternal god. Hinduism says there are many gods.

    Hinduism is many different things, and some streams of Hinduism are monotheistic, and then Hindu monotheism comes in both pantheistic/ monist and non-pantheistic forms.
    Buddhism says there are no gods

    Buddhism teaches there are many gods, but that they are mortal. As for whether Buddhism has any notion comparable to the eternal, transcendent God of Western religions, that is a tricky question but I would argue at least some strands of Buddhism do.

  • Martin54Martin54 Shipmate
    Hugal wrote: »
    I know it is not the usual thinking but the Dibb has a lot of people who think differently.
    Part of it my answer that Balaam’s post. People who say they are not religious are ignorant of the state of play. I don’t like the term I don’t use it. I say faith group for instance. That leaves things more open. I am not ignorant of the state of play.

    The one of your imagining.
  • HugalHugal Shipmate
    Martin I said it is not a usual opinion and there are lots of unusual opinions on the Ship. If you continue to be nasty I will take further action.
  • SusanDorisSusanDoris Shipmate
    I was going to say that the words 'religion' and 'religious' are used in many other contexts nowadays, but then I realised that, in fact, I have not heard phrases such as 'football is his religion', or 's/he pursued his/her studies religiously' for a while.
    I also think that quite a few well-known non-believers know and understand more of religions' books and ideas than quite a few of those with a faith in them.

    I think I can safely say that I am not religious (about anything) but I do know what it means to b so, even though I was never immersed in it.
  • HugalHugal Shipmate
    There seem to be some mentions of some Evangelicals saying they are not religious but not really defining why. So we are all on the same page here is the principle.
    Religion says you need to search for God. Christianity says God came to us in the form and f Jesus.
    Religion says we need to earn our salvation/better life after death. Christianity says Jesus bought our salvation on the cross. The two cannot he the same.
    Hope that brings us all up to date.
  • BroJamesBroJames Purgatory Host
    @Hugal, while I am sympathetic to where you are coming from, that definition of religion comes from a particular apologetic/ evangelistic context, and specifically sets ‘religion’ in opposition to ‘Christian faith’. In general usage, ‘religion’ has a much wider meaning
    Religion is a cultural system of designated behaviors and practices, morals, worldviews, texts, sanctified places, prophecies, ethics, or organizations, that relates humanity to supernatural, transcendental, or spiritual elements. However, there is no scholarly consensus over what precisely constitutes a religion.

    Different religions may or may not contain various elements ranging from the divine, sacred things, faith, a supernatural being or supernatural beings or "some sort of ultimacy and transcendence that will provide norms and power for the rest of life". Religious practices may include rituals, sermons, commemoration or veneration (of deities), sacrifices, festivals, feasts, trances, initiations, funerary services, matrimonial services, meditation, prayer, music, art, dance, public service, or other aspects of human culture. Religions have sacred histories and narratives, which may be preserved in sacred scriptures, and symbols and holy places, that aim mostly to give a meaning to life. Religions may contain symbolic stories, which are sometimes said by followers to be true, that have the side purpose of explaining the origin of life, the universe, and other things. Traditionally, faith, in addition to reason, has been considered a source of religious beliefs.
  • Martin54Martin54 Shipmate
    Hugal wrote: »
    Martin I said it is not a usual opinion and there are lots of unusual opinions on the Ship. If you continue to be nasty I will take further action.

    ? Sorry, where else is this 'state of play', whatever that is, that irreligious people are ignorant of.
  • Martin54Martin54 Shipmate
    Hugal wrote: »
    There seem to be some mentions of some Evangelicals saying they are not religious but not really defining why. So we are all on the same page here is the principle.
    Religion says you need to search for God. Christianity says God came to us in the form and f Jesus.
    Religion says we need to earn our salvation/better life after death. Christianity says Jesus bought our salvation on the cross. The two cannot he the same.
    Hope that brings us all up to date.

    What is Christianity?
  • TwilightTwilight Shipmate
    I usually hear people say, "I'm spiritual but not religious," to which I say I'm religious because I'm spiritual -- my religion helps me express my spirituality with other like minded people. Or, depending on how I'm feeling that day, I might say I'm not very spiritual, but my religion helps me with that.

    I'm wondering about the conversational context when Eirenist's woman stated flatly, "I'm not religious." Had someone just asked her if she had found Jesus? Had someone just mentioned that the local CofE was having a fabulous guest organist? Did someone ask her she if she knew Billy Graham died? Did someone ask if she would donate a pound to the "Save our Norman Church" fund?
  • Colin SmithColin Smith Shipmate
    Hugal wrote: »
    There seem to be some mentions of some Evangelicals saying they are not religious but not really defining why. So we are all on the same page here is the principle.
    Religion says you need to search for God. Christianity says God came to us in the form and f Jesus.
    Religion says we need to earn our salvation/better life after death. Christianity says Jesus bought our salvation on the cross. The two cannot he the same.
    Hope that brings us all up to date.

    Religion says much more than that. One can follow a football team or veganism 'religiously'. Last week I was helping out at a week long Buddhist ceremony at the Chalice Well Gardens in Glastonbury. The monks looked religious to me.

    What you are doing is nit-picking.
  • balaambalaam Shipmate
    My comment above was referring back to the OP and not aimed at Hugal.
  • balaambalaam Shipmate
    However, Hugal said:
    Hugal wrote: »
    Religion says we need to earn our salvation/better life after death. Christianity says Jesus bought our salvation on the cross. The two cannot he the same.
    Hope that brings us all up to date.

    Both statements are about salvation. Your statement shows something that is unique about Christianity among the religions, I'd agree with that, but to make out that it shows that Christianity is not a religion is a step too far.
  • HugalHugal Shipmate
    Sorry I thought o made it clear I was as not necessarily expressing my view but clarifying something that has been mentioned. I was not clear enough obviously.
    To keep the conversation going though
    Yes Balaam both are about salvation but salvation is at the heart of religion. We believe in God for our salvation. Some beliefs say how you behave now affect you in the next life. I’m religion how good you are now dictates what happens next.
  • HugalHugal Shipmate
    Hugal wrote: »
    There seem to be some mentions of some Evangelicals saying they are not religious but not really defining why. So we are all on the same page here is the principle.
    Religion says you need to search for God. Christianity says God came to us in the form and f Jesus.
    Religion says we need to earn our salvation/better life after death. Christianity says Jesus bought our salvation on the cross. The two cannot he the same.
    Hope that brings us all up to date.

    Religion says much more than that. One can follow a football team or veganism 'religiously'. Last week I was helping out at a week long Buddhist ceremony at the Chalice Well Gardens in Glastonbury. The monks looked religious to me.

    What you are doing is nit-picking.

    What I am doing is clarifying something that had been mentioned since that everyone will understand where we are.
    I did not state it as my belief or not. I would agree that football, a certain band or pop star, or an actor can be worshipped as though the fans are in a religion.
  • Colin SmithColin Smith Shipmate
    Hugal wrote: »
    Sorry I thought o made it clear I was as not necessarily expressing my view but clarifying something that has been mentioned. I was not clear enough obviously.
    To keep the conversation going though
    Yes Balaam both are about salvation but salvation is at the heart of religion. We believe in God for our salvation. Some beliefs say how you behave now affect you in the next life. I’m religion how good you are now dictates what happens next.

    I do think you are being too sweeping with your comments on 'religion'. I don't know a huge amount about Buddhism but I don't believe the focus is on salvation.
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