A creed (Latin credo: I believe) is a general or precise set of religious beliefs which (apparently) are written in unambiguous language.
The philosopher of religion Thomas McPherson maintains that saying
I believe in God
is quite different from saying
I believe that God exists
The former statement, he argues, avows an attachment, commitment and basic trust in the subject matter. It’s a statement of faith. The latter statement is simply a neutral opinion or, if not perhaps neutral, it’s certainly a cooler, less emotionally involved statement.
By way of contrast, consider
I believe in my country
as compared to
I believe that my country exists
McPherson says these statements are similar to the pair of statements about God’s existence. But he also claims that saying you believe in your country doesn’t entail the same degree of involvement as saying that you believe in God.
McPherson’s claim that saying “I believe in God” reveals the most passionate of all beliefs is questionable. Dialectical materialists forwarding in the work of Karl Marx, for instance, sometimes seem tremendously passionate about their “faith” in the object of their belief.
A good example of a dialectical materialist who seems to “believe in” Marx’s ideas with great intensity can be found in J. D. Bernal, whose Science in History, Vols. 1-4. follows the Marxist ideology pretty closely.
But not only Marxists can get passionate about their beliefs. Social thinkers like Roland Barthes have argued that American patriotism, particularly during the 1950s, arguably had all the intensity of a religious faith. That is, the idea of the American Spirit connoted a intense set of beliefs about the superiority and moral goodness of America.
- Eddy Laing: Why Historical Materialism Matters (dogmaandgeopolitics.wordpress.com)
- Holy Father’s Wednesday audience: “Do not be afraid to go against the grain to live your faith, and resist the temptation to conform” (en.radiovaticana.va)
- Sinner’s Creed: A Memoir (therockriff.wordpress.com)
The idea of chance has several meanings. For this entry I’ll be focusing on the belief that things just happen with no rhyme or reason—that is, that some events are impossible to predict and also have no overriding cause or meaning. While this definition combines several hair-splitting philosophical views,¹ it does seem to capture the general mood of what we mean by the idea of chance.
While some seem to see the idea of chance as the logical answer in view of certain observations, it’s not. It is nothing more than a human concept. And to attribute something to chance implies a basic assumption that can’t be proved—namely, that some events randomly occur with no overriding plan, purpose or meaning. This belief can arise when people are faced with large amounts of data too vast to discern an overriding plan and purpose (as with the various data encountered in daily life).
Some statisticians, of course, would reply that the belief in an overriding purpose cannot be proved either.
My point is that the one commonality among the belief in chance and the belief in a divine or cosmic plan is belief itself.
Many religious persons freely admit that they believe. They may claim that their beliefs are supported (but not proved by) experience combined with reason. But rarely will a sincerely religious person claim to know, and if they do, upon further questioning they’d probably admit that their supposed “knowledge” is really belief, or reason to believe.²
On the other hand, some superficial and, perhaps, a few duplicitous scientists claim that their hypotheses – proposed explanations tied into a particular approach – are “proved” by observation and reason. This isn’t really true science but many scientists and lay persons fall into this kind of believing without admitting it, or even knowing that they’re just fooling themselves (and usually others).³
Again, the bottom line in this discussion of chance is that both religious and scientific viewpoints appear to be premised on belief.
² Granted, there are always fanatics who claim to “know” and cannot (or don’t want to) momentarily step aside from their beliefs.
³ This being one definition of scientism.
- Christian physicist Ian Hutchinson criticizes scientism (whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com)
- Scientism Investigation continued…4 (ubcgcu.org)
- Jerry Fodor’s Idiosyncratic Understanding of ‘Scientism’ (maverickphilosopher.typepad.com)
- Alternative to Scientism…Point 2 (ubcgcu.org)
- What is Scientism? (maverickphilosopher.typepad.com)
- What is Left for Philosophy to Do? (maverickphilosopher.typepad.com)
- help, i sound like my mother!…the power of our subconscious beliefs (rhubarbandstars.com)
- Scientism Investigation continued…3 (ubcgcu.org)
- A Difference In Beliefs. (euphoricobsession.wordpress.com)
The Encyclopedia Britannica, which recently seems to have gone online without cutting short its articles, has a good entry: http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/223068/Gabar
This post needs more content. Why not help us out and expand it? Please remember that copying and pasting large amounts of material from Wikipedia (or some other online encyclopedia) is not what Earthpages.ca is about. We want a fresh view, from you… not from your copy and paste editor!
Michael Clark, Ph.D.
Mythic Identification is a term introduced by Joseph Campbell.
Campbell argues that Egyptian cultural beliefs about a ruler’s relation to God or gods progressed through several historical stages, each taking its own form.
The first stage is mythic identification, where the ego is entirely absorbed by the real and/or imagined powers of the deity.
In pre-dynastic Egypt, the priesthood articulates this belief. Utterly lost in wonder at the immensity of the creator and the created cosmos, the god-like king willfully submits to self-sacrifice for the good of the community. By losing his mortal life at the altar, the king believes he doesn’t die because he’s already one with God. In tune with the immortal, his death merely signals a passing to a greater dimension.
This differs from mythic inflation, where rulers exhibiting haughty arrogance will lie, trick, exploit and murder to achieve worldly power, desires and prestige. Such rulers would never consider self-sacrifice for the good of the community.
- Mythic Dissociation (earthpages.wordpress.com)
- Mythic Eternalization (earthpages.wordpress.com)
- Myth (earthpages.wordpress.com)
- Why did great civilizations believe in what we now consider myth (wiki.answers.com)
- 10 Egyptian landmarks that aren’t pyramids (holykaw.alltop.com)
- Great Sphinx’s Walls Rise Again (news.discovery.com)
Pagan is an often but not always pejorative term denoting a polytheist or someone who is not a Christian, Jew or Muslim.
During the Middle Ages accused pagans were often lumped together with the idea of witchcraft, and the Christian Church sanctioned successive waves of barbaric torture and killing under the guise of purifying the Earth of the devil and his demons, which included the various pagan deities.
The mistrust of Paganism, however, stems back to Biblical times.
Today the Catholic Church formally accepts all that is from God within non-Catholic belief, but in practice is, on the whole, extremely cautious when dealing with Pagan religions.
Catholics usually say that Pagan beliefs contain elements of “error” but many Protestants – especially Bible-based Fundamentalists – maintain that Catholicism itself has lapsed into Paganism with the belief in a multiplicity of intercessors and the related veneration of Saints (to include the Virgin Mary).
In contemporary scholarly circles the pejorative connotations around the word Paganism are often removed – or apparently removed. Sometimes, however, scholars roundly denounce Pagan belief.
Scholarship, like anything else, does not enjoy a magic banner of pure objectivity. This belief itself could be viewed as a kind of neo-Paganism in that something less than God (i.e. human research and analysis) is artificially elevated to heights it does not deserve.
Peter Gay¹ traces the development of contemporary Paganism to the European Enlightenment and Renaissance, where new ideas and ways of looking at things apparently enabled mankind to deconstruct its dogmatic Christian heritage.
¹See Peter Gay, The Enlightenment: The Rise of Modern Paganism (1966).
Also known as metempsychosis and transmigration, reincarnation is a manmade theory based on beliefs found in different philosophical systems and religions, including ancient Greek, Egyptian, Hindu, Buddhist, Taoist, Jain, African and New Age perspectives.
Reincarnation usually involves ideas of karma and grace. It’s believed that after the death of the physical body, the soul (or in some schools, temporary personality attributes) returns for another birth.
In most traditions the self is on an evolutionary path from unconsciousness to consciousness–that is, from lower to higher, or gross to subtle forms of consciousness.
In some branches of contemplative Hinduism, the soul is said to begin in the mineral world and then move upward to the vegetable and animal kingdoms. Eventually it takes birth as a human being. After learning about and practicing good ethics from innumerable human incarnations, the soul may reincarnate in astral and heavenly realms before reaching ultimate liberation, awareness and bliss.
But bad ethical choices send the evolutionary process into reverse. If a human being abuses their freedom, they may reincarnate backwards into the animal kingdom or possibly further down into one of various temporary hells.
According to popular wisdom it’s often said that God provides perfect punishments and rewards for one’s deeds. So generally speaking, if one makes good ethical choices in an embodied life, one gains merit and reincarnates into a more auspicious life the next time around.
However, if one makes bad ethical choices, one returns to a less auspicious life. Again, the alleged purpose of reincarnation is to instruct the soul, preparing it for an ultimately perfect, eternal existence. The exact nature of this perfection is described differently among various schools of Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Taoism.
Once complete liberation is achieved, the soul (or temporary personality attributes) no longer returns to a body, gross or subtle. This idea is expressed in an old Taoist tale, paraphrased as follows:
A man had led a dissolute life and reincarnates as a horse. After a few years the horse grows weary of being whipped by his masters, refuses to eat and dies. He then returns as a dog. Despising this incarnation the dog bites his master’s leg who has him destroyed. He returns as a snake. By now he’s finally learned his lesson. One must play out the hand one is dealt, patiently seeing it through to learn how to be virtuous. As a reformed soul, the snake avoids doing harm to other animals by eating berries and tries to keep itself out of danger. But one day the snake mistakenly dies under the wheel of a cart. Pleading his case before the King of Purgatory, he finds himself reborn a man—a reward for his good intentions (Raymond Van Over, ed. Taoist Tales, New York: Meridian Classic, 1973, pp. 52-53).
According to this view, suicide is like ‘skipping school’ (in the cosmic sense) and causes regression to a less desirable birth.
But not all believers in reincarnation would take this attitude. Some believe that the very same kind of life situation would arise again, as if the suicide is forced to repeat the same cosmic classroom he or she didn’t pass the first time around.
Meanwhile some New Age thinkers say that every life is consciously chosen prior to birth.
In most Asian religions God’s grace can mitigate or even erase the effects of bad karma, a fact often overlooked in specious critiques of reincarnation.
African pre-colonial tribal beliefs about reincarnation differ from Asian variants. African ancestors are believed to reincarnate into one or several descendents to give a particular family more power. Somewhat similar to the Asian idea, however, the African Ibo believe that one chooses between two bundles before birth – one bundle holds auspicious fortune, the other inauspicious. While the spirit tries its best to choose a favorable incarnation, a formerly evil person undergoes a difficult incarnation as a human or animal.
In contrast to the belief in reincarnation, the Old Testament says that evil actions are repaid with evil, but not through reincarnation. Evil begets evil through one’s offspring:
The Lord…a God merciful and gracious…forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, yet by no means clearing the guilty, but visiting the iniquity of the parents upon the children and the children’s children, to the third and fourth generation (Exodus 34:7).
For when they were not yet born, nor had done any good or evil…not of works, but of Him that calleth, it was said to her: The elder shall serve the younger.
The Christian New Testament view of the body and its relation to the afterlife is expressed in I Corinthians 15; 51-52; 2 Corinthians 5:1; I Thessalonians 4:14; John 3: 4-7.
Some suggest that the Catholic notion of purgatory was created as a Christian counterpart to the temporary process of punishment and purification as found in non-Christian theories of reincarnation.
» Anatman, Anthroposophy, Avatar, Cayce (Edgar), Chinmoy (Sri), Deva, Fenris, Free-John (Da), Gawain (Shakti), Hell, Hermes Trismegistus, Karma, Meno, Origen, Ram Dass, Parvati, Plato, Ramacharaka (Swami), Republic, Roberts (Jane), Samsara, Skandhas, Theosophy, Transmigration, Werewolf, Pythagoras
Ramacharaka, Swami (1799-189?)
Hindu-influenced mystic philosopher who writes extensively on astral planes where the self allegedly resides between reincarnations.
In his book Mystic Christianity Ramacharaka offers a personally imaginative, if not scholarly, account of the meaning of the Bible and particularly of the life of Christ.
Most likely Ramacharaka had interior visions or experienced imaginal scenes concerning various personages in the Bible. But the veracity of these visions seems impossible to prove or refute.
Like so many religious thinkers, Ramacharaka seems to adapt sacred scripture to his own personal and cultural filters.
By the same token, it could be argued that most Jewish and Christian believers are prejudiced by interpreting aspects of Biblical scripture according to their respective personal and cultural biases. And the same could be said of any religious or scientific body of believers.
The debate as to ‘who’s got it right’ continues. But ultimately it seems that almost any truth claim, be it religious, philosophical or scientific comes down to belief.
On the Web:
- Wikipedia asserts that Ramacharaka is a pseudonym for William Walker Atkinson (1862–1932)
Buddhist belief posits five skandhas, or aggregates of attachment said to be the source of all suffering.
- matter or form (rupa)
- sensation (vedana)
- perception (samjna)
- mental formations (samskara)
- consciousness (vijnana)
Taken together, the five skandhas form the impermanent personality and the illusion – so it is believed – of individuality.
Impermanent and subject to change, skandhas may discontinuously reappear from one life to another.
Whether or not one agrees with every aspect of Buddhist teaching, the skandas present a conceptual alternative that may be applied toward a contemporary critique of the Hindu view of reincarnation (See, for instance, Reincarnation: A New Look at an Old Idea – Part 3).
Although the two religions of Buddhism and Hinduism may seem similar at a glance, Buddhism clearly differs from the Visistadvaita school of Hinduism in that the soul, too, and not just its attachments, is usually seen as illusory in the ultimate sense.
» Buddhism, Corruption, Pollution
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A religious and cultural movement based on the teachings of the Indian Guru Nanak (1469-1539 CE).
The teachings of the Muslim Kabir and the spread of mystical Sufism in Northern India laid the groundwork for this new religion, which originally hoped to synthesize Islam and Hinduism.
Sikhism currently emphasizes the oneness of God and unity of all faiths.
It is believed that a succession of 10 gurus (Nanak and his nine successors) has spread the word of the true guru–namely, God.
The last Sikh guru died in 1708.
The sacred scripture of the Sikhs is called The Adi Granth, itself often referred to as a “guru.”
Sikh culture is highly distinctive; most choose to wear a turban within and beyond the borders of their Punjab homeland.
As with other world religions, the noble ideals of Sikhism are at times undermined by extremists, as evidenced by clashes at the holiest site of sacred pilgrimage, the Golden Temple.
On the Web:
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Shinto (The way of the kami)
This Japanese folk religion has gone through many changes since its inception in the 8th century BCE and it’s still alive and well in Japan and beyond.
Shinto shrines can be seen dotting the Japanese hillsides and groves as pilgrims make their way to pay their respects or ask a favor from a venerated ancestor.
Today, small shrines have made their way into numerous private homes, not unlike the private Hindu puja.
Shinto ancestor veneration may be directed towards imperial notables or, on a smaller scale, deceased family members.
All objects of devotion are said to share to varying degrees a spiritual essence or power called kami. Kami is found not only in the spirits of the dead, however. It may exist in a mountainside or any natural object evoking a high degree of wonder and awe.
Some say Shinto is not a formal religion as it is based more on ancestor worship than devotion to a transcendent deity (or deities). It does, however, contain the idea of transcendence, which most agree is crucial to a definition of religion.
As with Greek, Roman, Indian and Chinese thought, the line between revering a deceased culture hero and a full-fledged god is often a very fine one.
On the Web:
» Adherents of all religions, Ancestor Cults
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