Sunday, May 01, 2005

Hiding behind beliefs

Comments some time ago had me wondering if sometimes we don't use religion as a dogmatic refuge. For instance, perhaps some spirutal experiences are used as testimony in areas where they may not have origianlly applied. This is not to say that they may still apply in certain ways, only that there may not be a 100% cross over. Perhaps much of what is considered traditional religion has arisen this way. Certain beliefs are applied consistently enough to create a framework. Others who later join in then assume that a single portion that framwork can imply the whole (with varying levels of success). For instance, some may believe that faith in Christ as our saviour implies biblical belief which implies a host of protestant doctrine. Others may believe that a witness of the Book of Mormon implies belief in the entirety of mormon theology. What is missing is the degree to which each step applies to the next. In physics terms, the cross sectional area.

Now, I don't think there is anything wrong per se with religion serving as this type of refuge. It seems to butress some foundational entry concerns. Indeed, it seems very catholic. Perhaps this type of approach is necessary to enable large scale belief in society. After all, it seems quite universal within human institutions of all sort. I guess I just don't know if the critiques that assume religion is limited to this type of suppositional framework are correct.

It seems to suppose that spiritual experiences are used only to enter into one of these institutionalized frameworks. In effect they are limited to a single paradigm shift. If this is the case, the critiques that attack faith based beliefs as circular are quite correct. If single spiritual experiences are used as evidence for a complete foundation, they would seem to be quite weak. After all, the relationships in a complex foundation are numerous and complex. If the degree of applicability of any single experience to another is not a 100%, one quickly loses any sense of correlation. Thus the tendency to apply testimonies into areas where they are not justified may mean one is just hiding behind a foundation. While this is certainly not a bad thing for everyone, I am sure it does have some asociated limitations.

1 comment:

chris g said...

Personally, I think this type of generic application of spiritual experiences is quite limiting. Numerous cultures and religions have spiritual experiences that are used to support their individual foundations. While one may be tempted to say these experiences are misguided, selectively applicable, self referencing, etc all this really does is set one up for a "I'm right because I believe I'm right" argument. As much as fundamentalists enjoy this debate, not everyone is amused by it. Perhaps this is why religion has gotten a bad name within some social circles.

To my way of thinking, the distinguishing characteristic between self referencing experience and real revelation is the degree of novelty it brings. Hence people seemed quite willing to accept spiritualism that does nothing new, that challenges few beliefs. Indeed this type of spiritualism is very supportive. It's circular nature is very reinforcing. Often people need this type of reinforcement and solidification. I think self discovery like this plays a key role in development. However since I believe there is a source of knowledge and inspiration that is external to us, I think we should be able to see results that are unique to external influence. Spiritual experience should not just cause a paradigm shift, they should provide novelty for one's insights.