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Justin Kissel
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« on: April 17, 2007, 08:00:37 PM »

I know a number of people here like to call atheism a religion, so I was curious about how these people would define a few terms. First, what is religion? What makes something a religion, as opposed to a philosophy or generic "world view"? Second, how do you define that thing which makes something a religion? For instance, if you say that having faith equates to being religious, then how do you define faith? And third, what justification is there for using that particular criterion or criteria (e.g., faith) in determining what religion is?
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« Reply #1 on: April 17, 2007, 08:10:11 PM »

I think if you believe something exists or does not exist, something happened or did not happen, or something is happening or is not happening that cannot be absolutely proven through scientific means, whether theism or atheism; creationism or evolution, man-made global warming or natural global warming, it is a faith-based belief and as such, a religion. But that is just my 2 cents and personal belief. Your mileage may vary.
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« Reply #2 on: April 17, 2007, 08:50:45 PM »

First, what is religion?
In most cases it is a neurosis. In Orthodox Christianity, true religion consists of Compassion and Love, especially for the most poor and defenseless.

What makes something a religion, as opposed to a philosophy or generic "world view"?
Faith in something greater than ourselves, whether it is God or an ideal.

Second, how do you define that thing which makes something a religion? For instance, if you say that having faith equates to being religious, then how do you define faith?
Faith is a belief in something, not simply a belief that it exist. We can't really "define" it, but we can see how it works: "Now faith is the substance (Gk: "υποστασις" = "hypostasis") of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." (Hebrews 11:1) If one has faith in Communism, one will act accordingly (revolutions, freedom fighters etc). If one has faith in the Nazi ideal, one acts accordingly (genocide, racism). If one has faith in Atheism, one will act accordingly.

And third, what justification is there for using that particular criterion or criteria (e.g., faith) in determining what religion is?
That is is a neurosis? Simple observation.
That true religion is Compassion and Love? Simple observation. Smiley
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« Reply #3 on: April 17, 2007, 09:13:01 PM »

Nicholas,

Actually I'd agree with most of that, with the major difference being that I'd have changed the part about "cannot be absolutely proven through scientific means" to something that talks more about evidence, provisional acceptance of answers, testability, and disprovability. To be honest, I really don't think there is one definition for religion, any more than there'd be a single, universally accepted one for something like love.

George,

Quote
In most cases it is a neurosis. In Orthodox Christianity, true religion consists of Compassion and Love, especially for the most poor and defenseless.

Well that's an interesting take on it! I realise that the second part is the bit from James, but I've not heard too many non-Evangelicals speak that way about religion. Smiley

Quote
Faith in something greater than ourselves, whether it is God or an ideal. Faith is a belief in something, not simply a belief that it exist. We can't really "define" it, but we can see how it works: "Now faith is the substance (Gk: "υποστασις" = "hypostasis") of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." (Hebrews 11:1) If one has faith in Communism, one will act accordingly (revolutions, freedom fighters etc). If one has faith in the Nazi ideal, one acts accordingly (genocide, racism). If one has faith in Atheism, one will act accordingly.

So in your view we're probably all religious, it's just that the majority are neurotically religious? I think what you're saying is a fair definition, though certainly there is a big difference between something like Einstein's "cosmic religion" and Islam, so IMO it's sort of misleading to call both things religion in casual discussion.

Quote
That is is a neurosis? Simple observation. That true religion is Compassion and Love? Simple observation.

And a Bible verse and traditional belief or two Wink


EDIT--I spelled "your" incorrectly. I know it's a pet peeve of quite a few people.
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« Reply #4 on: April 17, 2007, 09:32:14 PM »

I know a number of people here like to call atheism a religion, so I was curious about how these people would define a few terms. First, what is religion? What makes something a religion, as opposed to a philosophy or generic "world view"?

I would argue that the level of certainty and precision applied to an unprovable belief makes it a religion as opposed to a philosophy or world view. If one is uncertain about a view, or at least non-dogmatic about it, it is more philosophical, thus the potential distinction between the philosophy of Plato and the religion of the Neo-Platonists; if one is imprecise about a view, in that it is a general governing philosophy of sorts, but does not directly address specifics, it would be more of a world view or superstition (depending on one's perspective), thus the distinction between Karma and Ancestor Worship.

Quote
Second, how do you define that thing which makes something a religion? For instance, if you say that having faith equates to being religious, then how do you define faith?

Faith is belief in that which is unprovable, not merely in gods or spirits, but also in things such as the consistancy of the real numbers or euclidian geometry. Faith, on this level, is fundamentally necessary to our very survival...it is when our faith is applied towards things which do not directly serve our survival or advancement that it becomes a religion, philosophy, or superstition.

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And third, what justification is there for using that particular criterion or criteria (e.g., faith) in determining what religion is?

Nothing but general observation of how society uses and interacts with these terms. All words and language are relative to the society in which they evolved and are used.
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« Reply #5 on: April 17, 2007, 09:37:09 PM »

Actually I'd agree with most of that, with the major difference being that I'd have changed the part about "cannot be absolutely proven through scientific means" to something that talks more about evidence, provisional acceptance of answers, testability, and disprovability.

True, but I tend to answer with dictionary definitions as opposed to you being more likely to write encyclopedia entries. Tongue but I agree with your expanding clarifying the issue further.

To be honest, I really don't think there is one definition for religion, any more than there'd be a single, universally accepted one for something like love.

I would have to agree. But remember the Greeks alone have 3 definitions for love: Eros, Philia, and Agape. 4 if you consider the modern Greek Storge!
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« Reply #6 on: April 17, 2007, 09:56:33 PM »

Interesting answers.

I'm only posting just so that I can be up to day on my "my replies" section.  Wink
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« Reply #7 on: April 18, 2007, 03:28:46 PM »

I know a number of people here like to call atheism a religion, so I was curious about how these people would define a few terms. First, what is religion? What makes something a religion, as opposed to a philosophy or generic "world view"?

Christ is Risen!
IMHU, yes, atheism is an irreligious religion.
"Religion is an inherent impetus, an instinctive need, therefore by definition individualistic" (Christos Yannaras "Against Religion", 2007).
Based on this definition by Yannaras (personally I find it stunning), one could say that the center of religion is not God (or some "vague" concept of a super-natural being), but man. Thus, with its legalistic mindset (afterall religion is nothing more than a legalistic "system" of dogmatic beliefs, metaphysic "certainties" that "fortify" the individual (not person) against the fear of death), religion "feeds the individual with unreserved self-confidence, hedonistic self-righteousness, sanctified narcissism" (ibid.).
I'm irreligious myself, 'cause Christianity (Orthodoxy) is not a religion, Christ is not the founder of any religion; He is the deliverer of man from the bonds of religion.   
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« Reply #8 on: April 18, 2007, 05:26:21 PM »

GIC

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I would argue that the level of certainty and precision applied to an unprovable belief makes it a religion as opposed to a philosophy or world view. If one is uncertain about a view, or at least non-dogmatic about it, it is more philosophical,

If I'm understanding you correctly, you're saying that a healthy skepticism is required, and once you cross the line into something akin to dogmatism you have become religious (whether it's religious belief in science or a goddess)? If so, do you think there is a middle ground, where you can be sure enough to state that certain things are fact in general conversation, though when pressed you'd admit that you can't be 100% sure? Where is the line between dogmatism/religion and philosophy? I realise that the line would probably change from subject to subject based on the variables (especially the amount of evidence), but how does one tell whether it's philosophy or religion without being subjective? Or is there no escape from subjectivity here?

Quote
Faith is belief in that which is unprovable, not merely in gods or spirits, but also in things such as the consistancy of the real numbers or euclidian geometry. Faith, on this level, is fundamentally necessary to our very survival...it is when our faith is applied towards things which do not directly serve our survival or advancement that it becomes a religion, philosophy, or superstition.

But is it faith, or can it be simple acceptance? For example, people use logic to prove that we actually exist (cogito ergo sum; if I didn't exist, I couldn't ask whether I existed). What if I simply accept this, though am perfectly willing to accept that I could be wrong? Since I am not being dogmatic, is it really a matter of faith (of the religious kind)?

Apostolos

I must admit, I don't quite follow what an "irreligious religion" is?

Quote
"Religion is an inherent impetus, an instinctive need, therefore by definition individualistic" (Christos Yannaras "Against Religion", 2007). Based on this definition by Yannaras (personally I find it stunning), one could say that the center of religion is not God (or some "vague" concept of a super-natural being), but man. Thus, with its legalistic mindset (afterall religion is nothing more than a legalistic "system" of dogmatic beliefs, metaphysic "certainties" that "fortify" the individual (not person) against the fear of death), religion "feeds the individual with unreserved self-confidence, hedonistic self-righteousness, sanctified narcissism" (ibid.).
I'm irreligious myself, 'cause Christianity (Orthodoxy) is not a religion, Christ is not the founder of any religion; He is the deliverer of man from the bonds of religion.

I understand defining religion in the way that you are doing it, and the charge of humanism. However, what do you make of Bible passages that talk about religion in a positive way?

"If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man's religion is vain. Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world." - James 1:26-27
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« Reply #9 on: April 19, 2007, 09:14:52 AM »

Apostolos

I must admit, I don't quite follow what an "irreligious religion" is?

99.9% of those who declare themselves atheists or agnostic, have altered pure agnosticism into the alternant morpheme of ideology or zealot propaganda, in order to "beautify their psychological panic, found at their faith in the magnificent & altruistic Nothing". (Christos Yannaras, Essay-Kathimerini 2001).
99.9% of the "atheist" or "agnostic" writers, have altered their agnoctisim into a constructed religion. To give an example, Hegel, although an atheist, he constructs his religion on the "world of the Ethical Order", or on his concept "of an unchangeable Being, which arrives at, remains, in consequence, a "beyond", something afar off"  (The phenomenology of Mind).
Atheism is definitely a secularised, individualistic religion, with concrete structure & dogmatic beliefs (e.g intellectualism, humanistic moralism etc). Atheism is an irreligious religion.

I understand defining religion in the way that you are doing it, and the charge of humanism. However, what do you make of Bible passages that talk about religion in a positive way?

"If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man's religion is vain. Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world." - James 1:26-27

The whole passage:
Quote from: James 1:25-27
But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.
If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man's religion is vain.
Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.

The bible passages you presented, definitely talk against the religion of man. Christ is the epitome of "religion" & yet He is alien to any kind of religion. Christianity is not a religion but an "Ecclesia" (with its ancient Greek meaning. Ancient Athenians gathered at the Ecclesia-Principal Assembly, not just to counsel or to discuss various affairs of State, but primarily to form their "Polis", to imitate the cosmic harmony & order). The Ecclesia-Church is a communion of Persons (Christians gather at the Ecclesia-Prinsipal Assembly, in order to be in communion, to imitate the Triume communion in Certus Libertas of the Godhead).
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« Reply #10 on: April 19, 2007, 01:28:42 PM »

Apostolos

Quote
99.9% of those who declare themselves atheists or agnostic, have altered pure agnosticism into the alternant morpheme of ideology or zealot propaganda, in order to "beautify their psychological panic, found at their faith in the magnificent & altruistic Nothing". (Christos Yannaras, Essay-Kathimerini 2001). 99.9% of the "atheist" or "agnostic" writers, have altered their agnoctisim into a constructed religion. To give an example, Hegel, although an atheist, he constructs his religion on the "world of the Ethical Order", or on his concept "of an unchangeable Being, which arrives at, remains, in consequence, a "beyond", something afar off"  (The phenomenology of Mind). Atheism is definitely a secularised, individualistic religion, with concrete structure & dogmatic beliefs (e.g intellectualism, humanistic moralism etc). Atheism is an irreligious religion.

Yeah. I think you are confusing a couple things. Atheism has one belief: there is no God (though some would use a term likesupernatural). Anyone who attaches anything much more to atheism is going astray, IMO, but certainly not everyone who is an atheist goes off the path in that manner. It would be more accurate to say that atheism allows intellectualism and all that other good stuff you mentioned. Atheism doesn't tie someone to beliefs, it merely frees them from a particular set of beliefs if they had previously been, for example, a believer in a personal God such as Jehovah. I don't have many dogmatic beliefs, except the ones that are necessary to give life any coherent meaning (e.g., that I actually do exist). I'm not dogmatic about the big bang, I'm not dogmatic about neo-darwinian evolution, I'm not dogmatic about there being no God. I am rather sure that these things are true, however. There's a huge difference between blind dogmatism (aka unconditional, blind faith in an idea) and a rather certain, but nonetheless provisional, acceptance of an idea.

I think that most atheists talk as though they are sure about things for a couple of significant reasons. First, they are sure, at least as sure as they can be. They don't question the theory of gravity, or say things like "gravity is a theory, not a fact!" There are some things that they just accept, and it'd be silly to them to go around always adding caveats to everything they say, about how they are only 99.9% sure, and open to new information. That should go without saying. If they did do that, everyone would have overly-long, convoluted, run-on sentences like me; is that what you want? Second, many people have a bad--though consistent--habit of taking atheists out of context (they also take evolutionists out of context). If an atheist goes around saying "Well I don't think there is a God, but of course we can't be 100% sure" all the time, that will be twisted into "See! The atheists admit that they can't be sure!" or perhaps "See! The atheists have no proof for their position, they just deny God to cover their wicked activity!" But this is not dogma, just acceptance. When pressed, even someone like Dawkins will admit that you can't be dogmatically sure, you can only be what might be called coherently sure (Dawkins Interview, around a minute and fifty seconds).

Quote
The whole passage

...the quoting of which does absolutely nothing to show that my interpretation was wrong...

Quote
The bible passages you presented, definitely talk against the religion of man. Christ is the epitome of "religion" & yet He is alien to any kind of religion. Christianity is not a religion but an "Ecclesia" (with its ancient Greek meaning. Ancient Athenians gathered at the Ecclesia-Principal Assembly, not just to counsel or to discuss various affairs of State, but primarily to form their "Polis", to imitate the cosmic harmony & order). The Ecclesia-Church is a communion of Persons (Christians gather at the Ecclesia-Prinsipal Assembly, in order to be in communion, to imitate the Triume communion in Certus Libertas of the Godhead).

Eh, come on, I don't like fish, please no red herrings, ok? Wink
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« Reply #11 on: April 19, 2007, 03:17:16 PM »

Apostolos

Yeah. I think you are confusing a couple things. Atheism has one belief: there is no God (though some would use a term like supernatural). Anyone who attaches anything much more to atheism is going astray, IMO, but certainly not everyone who is an atheist goes off the path in that manner. It would be more accurate to say that atheism allows intellectualism and all that other good stuff you mentioned. Atheism doesn't tie someone to beliefs, it merely frees them from a particular set of beliefs if they had previously been, for example, a believer in a personal God such as Jehovah. I don't have many dogmatic beliefs, except the ones that are necessary to give life any coherent meaning (e.g., that I actually do exist).

Hold on a minute here. Did you just say :"Atheism has one belief"...I'm sorry my friend but, this phrasing alone makes it obvious that your atheism presupposes a faith in the non-existence of God. You're declaring a faith!
And something else. How can one reject God (or supernatural as you put it), without knowing it? Because as far as I know, we reject something when we have somehow related it to something else knowable (simple logic). Because AFAIK, it's impossible to escape from the question of God, if you don't know exactly what you're rejecting, before reject it (again, simple logic).   

I'm not dogmatic about the big bang, I'm not dogmatic about neo-darwinian evolution, I'm not dogmatic about there being no God. I am rather sure that these things are true, however. There's a huge difference between blind dogmatism (aka unconditional, blind faith in an idea) and a rather certain, but nonetheless provisional, acceptance of an idea.
I think that most atheists talk as though they are sure about things for a couple of significant reasons. First, they are sure, at least as sure as they can be. They don't question the theory of gravity, or say things like "gravity is a theory, not a fact!" There are some things that they just accept, and it'd be silly to them to go around always adding caveats to everything they say, about how they are only 99.9% sure, and open to new information. That should go without saying. If they did do that, everyone would have overly-long, convoluted, run-on sentences like me; is that what you want? Second, many people have a bad--though consistent--habit of taking atheists out of context (they also take evolutionists out of context). If an atheist goes around saying "Well I don't think there is a God, but of course we can't be 100% sure" all the time, that will be twisted into "See! The atheists admit that they can't be sure!" or perhaps "See! The atheists have no proof for their position, they just deny God to cover their wicked activity!" But this is not dogma, just acceptance. When pressed, even someone like Dawkins will admit that you can't be dogmatically sure, you can only be what might be called coherently sure (Dawkins Interview, around a minute and fifty seconds)
Come on, is that your best effort? A Dawkins interview? Try perhaps Daniel Dennet or Sam Harris (sp?). So you're a "bright"?
And what about his dogmatically put thesis:
"I am against religion because it teaches us to be satisfied with not understanding the world".
Which I find "clemently" alogical. The intelligent & sensible man (common sense & common experience) is satisfied with understanding something. And he is unsatisfied with not understanding something. But Dawkins (you know that's called "reverse engineering"), is trying to say that man understands the world is satisfied with? Therefore man understands his own satisfaction?
Satisfaction of my Ego->Understanding of the world
Unsatisfaction of my Ego->Not understanding of the world.
(The definition of hedonistic narcissism).     

Eh, come on, I don't like fish, please no red herrings, ok? Wink
Oh, so I'm accused of drawing attention away from the central issue? Smiley (I didn't know what "red herring", means I had to check Answers.com). I'm sorry but English is not my mother tongue, I'm a Greek guy from Greece Wink
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« Reply #12 on: April 19, 2007, 05:05:55 PM »

Apostolos

Quote
Hold on a minute here. Did you just say :"Atheism has one belief"...I'm sorry my friend but, this phrasing alone makes it obvious that your atheism presupposes a faith in the non-existence of God. You're declaring a faith!

If you say so. I'm not gonna argue over definitions, as I'll readily admit that there isn't single definition in cases like this. If you want to define faith, religion, dogma, or any other term in such a way that makes your case seem stronger and mine weaker, that doesn't confront me any. If I was looking to get into an argument in this thread, I would have phrased my opening post much differently. Wink

Quote
And something else. How can one reject God (or supernatural as you put it), without knowing it? Because as far as I know, we reject something when we have somehow related it to something else knowable (simple logic). Because AFAIK, it's impossible to escape from the question of God, if you don't know exactly what you're rejecting, before reject it (again, simple logic). 

Obviously I can't reject what I don't know. However, I can evaluate statements made about various Gods and consider whether they are persuasive (or even coherent and consistent). I don't reject the possibility of there being a God, I have merely rejected all Gods that I've learned about, and see no evidence that there might be a God out there which I haven't found out specifics about yet. If I'm wrong, I'll convert.

Quote
Come on, is that your best effort? A Dawkins interview?

Um... yeah. I was making general points. Did you read those, or did the name Dawkins act as some type of intellectual-gravitational pull on your mind, so that you couldn't read the rest?  Tongue  The point about Dawkins is that he is often considered a die-hard, obnoxious, strident atheist, and yet even he is willing to admit that he (and many atheists) aren't dogmatic about their atheism. They are just rather sure based on the evidence they have evaluated.

Quote
Try perhaps Daniel Dennet or Sam Harris (sp?).

Dennett is ok, though I find his interviews more interesting and informative than his books; off the top of my head, I can't remember anything that I've actually learned from him, except maybe his phrase "belief in belief" (which he says is what many religious people have). Harris is a good speaker, with some thought-provoking analogies, and I also think he is filling in a polemical gap by confronting "religious moderates" for the problems they might cause, but like Dennett I don't think I've ever learnt anything from him except for a phrase or two. I personally get a lot more out of people like Huxley, Stephens, Russell, etc., though they may have been largely agnostic and not atheist.

Quote
So you're a "bright"?

Nope. I can understand the reason for the word: polls consistently show that atheists are the most distrusted group in America (I'm not sure about elsewhere, it's probably a bit better in Europe I guess). Some people wanted to change this perception of atheists, and looking to various examples in recent history of groups going from largely stigmatized to largely accepted, they thought a name/terminology change might help. Unfortunately, they screwed up in their choice. Dennett suggests that perhaps rather than assuming that the opposite of brights is dim, offended people could adopt their own term, like "super". Still, like I said, I think it's a bad choice and I have never called myself a bright. I'm not really even sure why you brought it up... anyway...
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« Reply #13 on: April 19, 2007, 08:53:23 PM »

I understand defining religion in the way that you are doing it, and the charge of humanism. However, what do you make of Bible passages that talk about religion in a positive way?

"If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man's religion is vain. Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world." - James 1:26-27
The word "religion" in Greek is not a noun in the same way as in english. In Greek it is almost a verb. The word translated as "religion" is "θρησκια" ("threskia"), and the adjective, "religious" is "θρησκος" (threskos). "Threskia" requires action, and "theskos" is an adjective describing one who has undertaken an action.  Bridling the toungue ("χαλιναγωγων γλωσσαν") is an action, in the same way that bridling a wild horse is an action (and an exausting one!). Visiting the poor and distressed is also an action. St James is therefore making the obvious point that if someone thinks he is "threskos" but doesn't undertake the actions required by his "threskia", then they're kidding themselves.
Now compare this to the english word "religion", the etymology of which is "re- ligio", meaning "to bind or tie back", implying, not action, but a restriction of movement. Interestingly, Christ said "You will know the Truth, and the Truth will set you free". One who is tied back is not "set free".
So, basically: threskia is good, religion is bad.
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« Reply #14 on: April 19, 2007, 10:13:54 PM »

The word "religion" in Greek is not a noun in the same way as in english. In Greek it is almost a verb. The word translated as "religion" is "θρησκια" ("threskia"), and the adjective, "religious" is "θρησκος" (threskos). "Threskia" requires action, and "theskos" is an adjective describing one who has undertaken an action.  Bridling the toungue ("χαλιναγωγων γλωσσαν") is an action, in the same way that bridling a wild horse is an action (and an exausting one!). Visiting the poor and distressed is also an action. St James is therefore making the obvious point that if someone thinks he is "threskos" but doesn't undertake the actions required by his "threskia", then they're kidding themselves.
Now compare this to the english word "religion", the etymology of which is "re- ligio", meaning "to bind or tie back", implying, not action, but a restriction of movement. Interestingly, Christ said "You will know the Truth, and the Truth will set you free". One who is tied back is not "set free".
So, basically: threskia is good, religion is bad.

Wow...interesting...Thank you George.  You learn something new everyday.

What about the holy fathers or ancient Christian writings?  Has there been anything in these writings that suggest these definitions?

God bless.
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« Reply #15 on: April 19, 2007, 11:26:46 PM »

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If I'm understanding you correctly, you're saying that a healthy skepticism is required, and once you cross the line into something akin to dogmatism you have become religious (whether it's religious belief in science or a goddess)?

Well, if it has crossed the line into dogmatism, I would argue that one's position, no matter how much scientific language is used, is no longer scientific. But, essentially, yes I would agree with your above statement.

Quote
If so, do you think there is a middle ground, where you can be sure enough to state that certain things are fact in general conversation, though when pressed you'd admit that you can't be 100% sure?

In the context of everyday conversation one can certainly talk about 'facts', even in detailed scientific and/or philosophical discussion one can speak of facts, it is a necessary convention. But when you try to absolutize these facts, especially on a metaphysical level, objectivity has been lost. It is interesting to see how this plays out in many disciplines; in most mathematics departments you would be hard pressed to find a professor who would absolutely assert that ordering the real numbers (i.e. insisting that one comes before two, and two after one) is not inherently self-contradicting; generally they'll just assume this principle (or at least the axioms behind this principle) is true for the sake of argument, and go from there. No one really cares if it's absolutely true, because even if it's false we still have an immense amount of knowledge from our theorems, because we can argue the opposite by using the principles of non-contradiction.

Yet in a physics department you will hear physicists strongly defend, in rather absolute terms, the validity of both the theories of General Relativity and Quantums Mechanics which, though no doubt both accurate to a large degree, are inherently contradictory...It's no wonder that so many mathematicians look down on physics as an inherently inferior field.

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Where is the line between dogmatism/religion and philosophy? I realise that the line would probably change from subject to subject based on the variables (especially the amount of evidence), but how does one tell whether it's philosophy or religion without being subjective? Or is there no escape from subjectivity here?

I do not believe the distinction to be subjective; I believe that there is a clear distinction in connotation. Though as you mentioned there are numerable variables, and I do not believe that a general rule would be easily forth comming. Though it might relate to people's approaches to ideas from a position of psychological attachment. Or even to different types of brain activity that we are just now beginning to categorize.

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But is it faith, or can it be simple acceptance?

But it's acceptance of what we cannot know absolutely, thus faith.

Quote
For example, people use logic to prove that we actually exist (cogito ergo sum; if I didn't exist, I couldn't ask whether I existed).

This particular statement, along with various lines of mathematical logic (which are always technically in the form of IF axiom A is true THEN theorem B is true; and it's only these if...then statements that can be said to be true), is a notable exception to that which we generally encounter in life. Generally there are too many variables to take these systematic approaches: many, many things are assumed, especially when observations are taken into account, and as a result you end up with statements without the logical foundation of 'cogito ergo sum.'

Quote
What if I simply accept this, though am perfectly willing to accept that I could be wrong? Since I am not being dogmatic, is it really a matter of faith (of the religious kind)?

It still a matter of faith, though I wouldn't say it is 'religious faith;' it's simply that you're acknowledging your position is based on faith, and thus your position is more reasonable than a blind acceptance of the same, though if you function based on this belief you accept (and in many cases, you have no choice if you wish to survive), then you are ultimately acting on faith.
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« Reply #16 on: April 19, 2007, 11:34:47 PM »

What about the holy fathers or ancient Christian writings?  Has there been anything in these writings that suggest these definitions?
The Greek Fathers wrote in Greek, so they would have assumed their readers would as well. They never wrote for an english audience, hence there was never any need to explain what they meant when they used a word.
"Threskia" literally means "The Thracian Doings", and refers to the Mysteries practiced by the Thracians. Similarly, "korinthia" which means "to act debauchedly and lewdly" literally means "The Corinthian Doings" because the people in Corinth had a reputation for prostitution, orgies, etc. Even the english word "lesbian" comes from the same type of origin. It means "The Doings of the Women of Lesbos".
So, "threskia" refers to "doings", not simply "beliefs". A "threskos" person is one who undertakes the Mysteries of their "threskia", and the Christian Mysteries include the Agape ("Love Feast") as well as the sharing of temporal goods, as we see in the Book of Acts: "And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common." (Acts 4:32) This is how a threskos Christian practiced his threskia.
We retain some sense of this in English when we make the artificial distinction between a practicing Christian and a nominal Christian, but from a Greek linguistic point of view, only a practicing Christian (or any practicing member of any other Faith) can possibly be threskos.
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« Reply #17 on: April 20, 2007, 08:18:28 AM »

The word "religion" in Greek is not a noun in the same way as in english. In Greek it is almost a verb. The word translated as "religion" is "θρησκια" ("threskia"), and the adjective, "religious" is "θρησκος" (threskos). "Threskia" requires action, and "theskos" is an adjective describing one who has undertaken an action.  Bridling the toungue ("χαλιναγωγων γλωσσαν") is an action, in the same way that bridling a wild horse is an action (and an exausting one!). Visiting the poor and distressed is also an action. St James is therefore making the obvious point that if someone thinks he is "threskos" but doesn't undertake the actions required by his "threskia", then they're kidding themselves.
Now compare this to the english word "religion", the etymology of which is "re- ligio", meaning "to bind or tie back", implying, not action, but a restriction of movement. Interestingly, Christ said "You will know the Truth, and the Truth will set you free". One who is tied back is not "set free".
So, basically: threskia is good, religion is bad.

Θρησκεία (Threskia) etymologically speaking comes from the verb Θρώσκω (Throsko)->literally to Rise (e.g Καπνός Θρώσκων->Kapnos Throskon->The rising smoke). The interesting thing is that in Greek, Άνθρωπος (Anthropos, noun), Man, has the same root with religion: Άνθρωπος->Άνω+Θρώσκω->He who Ascends, who rises (from the ground).

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« Reply #18 on: April 20, 2007, 09:12:38 PM »

Whatever the etymology, "threskia" does not simply mean a set of beliefs in the same way that "religion" does. "Threskia" refers to a set of actions & practices based on belief, and would be better translated in our Orthodox Christian Tradition as "Works of Faith" rather than simply "Faith" as it does in english, and would include prayer, liturgical worship, almsgiving, fasting, ascesis, etc. Which is why St. James' point is clear: one cannot claim to be a "threskos" Christian without actually undertaking the actions required by the Christian Faith.
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« Reply #19 on: May 07, 2007, 10:43:40 AM »

Now that I reread this thread, I wanted to clarify something I said. I had said: "Atheism has one belief: there is no God". First, the term belief is misleading, I should have used a word like principle. Also, atheism isn't really that "there is no God," as that would imply 100% assurance to some people. It's more accurate to say that atheism is the lack of belief in a god or gods (or the supernatural for some).
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« Reply #20 on: May 07, 2007, 10:52:41 AM »

It's more accurate to say that atheism is the lack of belief in a god or gods (or the supernatural for some).
But since the non-existence of God is not provable, atheism requires the acceptance of an uncertainty....i.e. a belief.
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« Reply #21 on: May 07, 2007, 10:55:39 AM »

If that's what you want to call it. Smiley I don't like the word because it implies faith, which I wouldn't say that I had (and while I thought the definitions of faith earlier in the thread were valid... from a Christian point of view... I didn't see any which applied to me). Position would be the one I like most; opinion would be fine; or belief if you like.
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« Reply #22 on: May 07, 2007, 11:09:35 AM »

I don't like the word because it implies faith, which I wouldn't say that I had
Everyone has faith...including you...whether you like to admit it or not. You have faith that you will live to see tomorrow- in reality, you have no way of knowing that you do not have an aneurism in your brain that will cause a cerebral haemmorage and kill you in your sleep tonight. You have no way of knowing for sure, and although the odds are probably in favour of you living to see tomorrow, the fact remains, they are still odds and probability can never be certainty. But in order to function as a husband, father, employee, you must believe that you will live to see tomorrow and act accordingly with the activities of your daily living (eg brushing your teeth, even when you can't be certain that you'll need them tomorrow)- your faith determines your actions.
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« Reply #23 on: May 07, 2007, 12:11:37 PM »

It's all about how you define faith. I understand why Christians hold to the position that they do, that faith is "is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen". I would say that I don't have faith that I will see tomorrow, because I would draw a distinction between faith and hope. The former requires some type of leap, where one can't be totally sure, but nonetheless decides to believe to a significant degree--or with full assurance--that they will live till tomorrow. I personally don't believe that; sitting here now, I have no faith that I will live till tomorrow. I only have hope, meaning that I'm perfectly willing to contemplate and accept that I could die before tomorrow, but I hope I don't. For me, it's all about the degree of certainty: faith requires a significant degree, hope only requires that you consider it a possibility--albeit a likely possibility--that you will make it .

Of course, you could argue that making plans implies that I have faith that I'll live till tomorrow, but again I would just call it hope. I make plans because if I live, then my plans will come to pass, while if I don't make plans and it turns out that I do survive, then I might be up the creek without a paddle. I know this might sound very morbid, but I think it's just realistic. I think that, if you start from the position that you can know things for sure through faith, then such a position sounds like a horrible way to live. That's an example of my position that I don't have faith: I have no real certainty about that type of thing. As I said earlier in the thread, I try to limit real certainty to things that are necessary, such as the idea that I actually exist. I suppose that that would probably be the closest example of me having faith, but I still wouldn't call it that. And once you admit that you can only accept everything provisionally, it's not faith that leads you to hope for a tomorrow, it's simply a will to live another day, to be there for your family, etc.

I realise that there are other ways of trying to show that Christians have faith. A common one involves gravity: don't atheists have faith that when they step outside their house, they won't float away into the sky? Again, I would say that I accept things like gravity provisionally. I don't think, every time I exit my house, "gee, I hope I don't float away". However, I don't think that faith is the right term either, because for me it's about the level of assurance, and how dogmatic you are being about things. I'm perfectly willing to entertain the notion that scientists have somehow missed some factor, and tomorrow some hitherto unknown force will change the world at the exact moment that I leave my house, causing gravity to work in some new way. I don't think that'll happen, of course, but I don't have faith that it won't happen, which implies a full or unquestioning assurance (IMO), only an expectation and hope that it won't happen.

Admittedly, these are my definitions. And you have given yours. So have the other people in this thread. Many definitions given do not match the many definitions of religion, faith, etc. on Dictionary.com. And that's fine, I think this is a topic where we can describe but not define a concept (to use a distinction I found in Orthodox writers like Lossky). If you want to say that I have faith, or am part of a religion, then I'm fine with that. Personally, I think you are stretching the definition so far that it starts to have little meaning, but that's your right. If I were filling out a form, or responding to a poll, and it asked whether I was religious, wouldn't it be misleading to say that I was, considering how most of the world understands that term? Maybe I am religious in the sense that I am amazed by life, that I find human psychology fascinating, etc., but most people don't mean that type of stuff when they speak of religion.

Anyway, I know I'm not going to convince you... we are always on opposite sides of an issue. Sometimes I even think that subconsciously we take up opposite positions out of habit, or perhaps for some other reason. I'll stick around to read your response, but I hope you'll forgive me if I don't respond to you. I don't think there's anything more that I can say. But like I said, I'll certainly read a response. Smiley
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« Reply #24 on: May 07, 2007, 08:22:12 PM »

It's all about how you define faith.....Admittedly, these are my definitions.

And that, I think, is the problem. Language is only of any use if everyone agrees on the meanings of phonemes. You want me to accept that you have a different meaning to the word "faith" than the rest of the English speaking world in order to fit your new definition of atheism.
Atheism is simply "godlessness". It comes from the Greek: "a"="without", "theos" ="God". An atheist simply refuses to subordinate themselves to a God. The result is that their ego becomes their own god....even to the point where they think they can determine their own meanings for words..... Wink
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« Reply #25 on: May 07, 2007, 08:58:38 PM »

Well, since we're debating the meaning of words, I thought I'd post the primary definition and supporting citations from the OED:

Quote
a. Confidence, reliance, trust (in the ability, goodness, etc., of a person; in the efficacy or worth of a thing; or in the truth of a statement or doctrine). Const. in, †of. In early use, only with reference to religious objects; this is still the prevalent application, and often colours the wider use.
a1300 Cursor M. 3405 (Cott.) In drightin was his fayth ai fest.
c1340 Ibid. 2286 (Trin.) In maumetrie furst feiÞ he [nembrot] fond.
c1391 Chaucer Astrol. ii. §4 Observauncez..& rytes of paiens, in which my spirit ne hath no feith.
1398 Trevisa Barth De P.R. xv. lxxxvii (1495) 522 The Germans tornyd the Liuones..to the worshyp and fayth of one god.
1550 Crowley Last Trump. 151 Se that thy fayth be pitched On thy Lord God.
1680 Otway Orphan ii. vii, Attempt no farther to delude my Faith.
1768­74 Tucker Lt. Nat. (1852) II. 235 Such an one has great faith in Ward’s pills.
1821 Chalmers Serm. I. i. 18 Faith in the constancy of this law.
1837 J. H. Newman Par. Serm. (ed. 2) III. vi. 87 To have faith in God is to surrender oneself to God.
1848 Macaulay Hist. Eng. I. 168 Without faith in human virtue or in human attachment.
1855 Kingsley Lett. (1878) I. 442 There was the most intense faith in him..that Right was right.
b. Belief proceeding from reliance on testimony or authority.
1551 T. Wilson Logike (1580) 60 b, An historicall faithe. As I doe beleve that Willyam Conquerour was kyng of Englande.
a1628 Preston Breastpl. Faith (1630) 15 Faith is..assenting to Truthes for the Authority of the Speaker.
1725 Watts Logic ii. ii. §9 When we derive the Evidence of any Proposition from the Testimony of others, it is called the Evidence of Faith.
a1873 Huxley in Hamerton Intell. Life viii. ii. (1873) 299 The absolute rejection of authority..the annihilation of the spirit of blind faith.

Reading the definition an important widespread application of faith is the use of paper currency (and even modern coinage); it is an act of faith not merely in the word of the government issuing the currency, but also in the economy itself. It took several generations for people to gain this faith in the state and economy, but is not fairly universal. If one did not have this strong faith in the economy and state they would, no doubt, maintain their investments in more stable forms of wealth such as gold bullion or even more fundamental commodities such as land.
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