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RTA
Wordsmith
RTA
Posts: 920
Registered: ‎08-19-2008

Re: What Religions?


Choisya wrote:

...a-theists do not believe in any kind of god or religious ritual...

 


Being somewhat new to this board, I was perusing some older threads and ran across this.  I wish I had seen it much sooner.  I just want to make it clear that it would be a mistake to assume that all atheists are not religious or “do not believe in any kind of…religious ritual.”  That is evidently so for Choisya.  But that is not necessarily true for all people who identify as atheist. 

 

Atheism is variously defined as the disbelief in the existence of deity, or the lack of belief in the existence of deity.  Regardless of how exactly atheism is defined, its definition hinges on the issue of god-belief.

 

“Religious” belief is not, by definition, dependent on god-belief.  One’s definition may involve god-belief.  However, religious belief can be reasonably defined simply as a personal or institutionalized system of attitudes, beliefs and practices. 

 

Ritual is a set of actions performed primarily for symbolic and/or ceremonial value.

 

There is nothing in the terms atheism or “religious ritual” that makes them mutually exclusive.  Just to my knowledge, there are atheists who adhere to non-deistic, naturalistic religious systems.  There are atheists who follow Buddhist traditions.  Of course, there are atheistic members of religious humanism and Unitarian Universalism.  And some argue that pantheism is compatible with atheism.  And, just this past year, I met a secular Jew who participates in some Jewish rituals, and self-identifies as an atheist.  I’m sure there are other atheists who are religious in ways I haven’t mentioned.

 

So, while many atheists may not ascribe to any sort of religious belief and/or ritual, this is certainly not so of all atheists.  And while atheism and religious ritual may be contradictory with regard to how Choisya uses the terms, they are not inherently contradictory. 

 

Therefore, I think it is misleading to assert that atheists, by definition, “do not believe in any kind of…religious ritual.” 

Distinguished Bibliophile
Peppermill
Posts: 6,768
Registered: ‎04-04-2007
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Re: What Religions?

Ritual is a set of actions performed primarily for symbolic and/or ceremonial value.

 

RTA -- what do you mean by the above statement, especially "performed primarily for symbolic and/or ceremonial value"?   E.g., could that include for spiritual value in the semantics you propose? 

 

What do you consider to be examples of ceremonial value?  E.g., is affirming a continuity with tradition or community a ceremonial value? Or, perhaps more narrowly, can it be?

 

Pepper

"Seize the moments of happiness, love and be loved! That is the only reality in the world, all else is folly. It is the one thing we are interested in here." -- Leo Tolstoy
RTA
Wordsmith
RTA
Posts: 920
Registered: ‎08-19-2008
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Re: What Religions?


Peppermill wrote:

 

RTA -- what do you mean by the above statement, especially "performed primarily for symbolic and/or ceremonial value"? 


Pepper, I didn’t mean much more than to define the term ritual.  That’s a fairly basic definition of ritual.  Oxford defines ritual as a religious or solemn ceremony involving a series of actions performed according to a set order.  Webster says ritual is the established form for a ceremony.  And further, an act or series of acts regularly repeated in a set precise manner. 

 

A broad rendering of the term would recognize, for instance, that rituals for rites of passage can be religious, such as a Bar or Bat Mitzvah, but may also include a secular school graduation.  Rituals can be initiation rites, such as a Christian confirmation, or ordination rites, but they can also be secular initiation rites, such as a naturalization ceremony, or possibly even an oath of office.  Or consider, in baseball, the sort of ritual approach that some batters have to the batter’s box.  Garciaparra is recognizable, regardless of which uniform he may be wearing, because of his ritualistic approach to the plate.  Similarly, the rite of transubstantiation is recognizable, regardless of where one might be attending a Mass, because of the priest’s ritualistic acts.  Likewise, Garciaparra presumably believes that his ritual aids his hitting, just as the priest believes his ritual transforms the bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ.

 


Peppermill wrote:

E.g., could that include for spiritual value in the semantics you propose? 

 


 

Does ritual often have a spiritual value?  Yes.  Must it?  I don’t think so.

 


Peppermill wrote:

 

What do you consider to be examples of ceremonial value?  E.g., is affirming a continuity with tradition or community a ceremonial value? Or, perhaps more narrowly, can it be?

 


Yes, I imagine “affirming a continuity with tradition or community” can be of ceremonial value--assuming I understand your reference.  I think a lot of the value in religion, for instance, affirms both tradition and community.  In fact, a few years ago I had a discussion that led me to the realization that, personally, religious significance had more to do with community than with spirituality or theistic belief.  I think you can possibly see a similar impulse among secular Jews.  And not to belabor the baseball comparison, but sports can also foster both tradition and community.  But I don’t think ceremonial value is limited to the religious and/or spiritual rituals.  And it’s certainly not limited to rituals dependent on god belief.  Which is really all I was getting at in my above post.

 

My purpose in challenging the presumption that “a-theists do not believe in any kind of…religious ritual” is an attempt to resist the expansion of atheism to incorporate random non-belief outside of god belief.  Theism is god belief.  Atheism is the lack thereof.  Extending the definition of atheism to require a lack of religious belief or a lack of belief in ritual is, I think, inappropriate.  Both religion and ritual can have a place outside of god belief.

 

Also, I don’t mean this as an argument that either theists or atheists must recognize that rituals can be secular or non-theistic.  As I noted, it seems perfectly clear that, in the way that Choisya uses the terms, atheism and religious ritual are incompatible.  I’m sure there are theists who feel the same.  All I’m arguing is that, while it may be true for some atheists that religious ritual is incompatible with their atheism, that’s not necessarily so for all atheists.  I’m not asking that anyone accept my application of these terms for themselves.   All I’m asking is that they not force their own application of the terms onto others.

 

Last, if my responses don’t answer your questions, or you have other questions, please probe further.  I don’t, at all, mean to be elusive.  If I seem non-responsive to something you were asking, it’s not because I’m trying to avoid the point.  It’s that my clarity is wretched when I try to talk on these topics. 

Distinguished Bibliophile
Peppermill
Posts: 6,768
Registered: ‎04-04-2007
0 Kudos

Re: What Religions?

[ Edited ]

It’s that my clarity is wretched when I try to talk on these topics.

 

:smileyvery-happy: LOL!  Welcome to the rest of us!

 

And actually I found your clarity and your search for clarity a fulsome, thoughtful post.

 

I'll explain now a little of what prompted my question.  I am in the process of helping support a retreat that will explore the concept of restoring the sabbath to our daily lives.  In this case, I am using "sabbath" to refer to what we normally call Sunday, but to emphasize the idea of a day of rest or worship.  I know the leader will be extending our thinking about spiritual practices to include exploring what are those things that we do almost ritually in our daily lives (washing dishes? preparing a meal?) which we might consider imbuing with a spiritual or worshipful meaning.  Thus, I was exploring to what extent usage abandons "ritual" to formalistic procedures with largely only traditional meanings versus the extent to which we can create new, sustaining, life affirming rituals.

 

Obviously, your response, especially with its sports analogy, helped allay concerns about the openess to bringing ancient forms to fresh uses!

 

Incidental to the thoughts above, but probably more relevant to the overall thrust of your initial post, I remember well a respected professor, whose work has brought him to profound questioning of the meaning or existence of an Almighty God who "created" the  earth and all its beings, as he spoke one day of the deep support to his life and the lives of those around him provided by the rituals of his Jewish traditions.


RTA wrote:

Peppermill wrote:

 

RTA -- what do you mean by the above statement, especially "performed primarily for symbolic and/or ceremonial value"? 


Pepper, I didn’t mean much more than to define the term ritual.  That’s a fairly basic definition of ritual.  Oxford defines ritual as a religious or solemn ceremony involving a series of actions performed according to a set order.  Webster says ritual is the established form for a ceremony.  And further, an act or series of acts regularly repeated in a set precise manner. 

 

A broad rendering of the term would recognize, for instance, that rituals for rites of passage can be religious, such as a Bar or Bat Mitzvah, but may also include a secular school graduation.  Rituals can be initiation rites, such as a Christian confirmation, or ordination rites, but they can also be secular initiation rites, such as a naturalization ceremony, or possibly even an oath of office.  Or consider, in baseball, the sort of ritual approach that some batters have to the batter’s box.  Garciaparra is recognizable, regardless of which uniform he may be wearing, because of his ritualistic approach to the plate.  Similarly, the rite of transubstantiation is recognizable, regardless of where one might be attending a Mass, because of the priest’s ritualistic acts.  Likewise, Garciaparra presumably believes that his ritual aids his hitting, just as the priest believes his ritual transforms the bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ.

 


Peppermill wrote:

E.g., could that include for spiritual value in the semantics you propose? 

 


 

Does ritual often have a spiritual value?  Yes.  Must it?  I don’t think so.

 


Peppermill wrote:

 

What do you consider to be examples of ceremonial value?  E.g., is affirming a continuity with tradition or community a ceremonial value? Or, perhaps more narrowly, can it be?

 


Yes, I imagine “affirming a continuity with tradition or community” can be of ceremonial value--assuming I understand your reference.  I think a lot of the value in religion, for instance, affirms both tradition and community.  In fact, a few years ago I had a discussion that led me to the realization that, personally, religious significance had more to do with community than with spirituality or theistic belief.  I think you can possibly see a similar impulse among secular Jews.  And not to belabor the baseball comparison, but sports can also foster both tradition and community.  But I don’t think ceremonial value is limited to the religious and/or spiritual rituals.  And it’s certainly not limited to rituals dependent on god belief.  Which is really all I was getting at in my above post.

 

My purpose in challenging the presumption that “a-theists do not believe in any kind of…religious ritual” is an attempt to resist the expansion of atheism to incorporate random non-belief outside of god belief.  Theism is god belief.  Atheism is the lack thereof.  Extending the definition of atheism to require a lack of religious belief or a lack of belief in ritual is, I think, inappropriate.  Both religion and ritual can have a place outside of god belief.

 

Also, I don’t mean this as an argument that either theists or atheists must recognize that rituals can be secular or non-theistic.  As I noted, it seems perfectly clear that, in the way that Choisya uses the terms, atheism and religious ritual are incompatible.  I’m sure there are theists who feel the same.  All I’m arguing is that, while it may be true for some atheists that religious ritual is incompatible with their atheism, that’s not necessarily so for all atheists.  I’m not asking that anyone accept my application of these terms for themselves.   All I’m asking is that they not force their own application of the terms onto others.

 

Last, if my responses don’t answer your questions, or you have other questions, please probe further.  I don’t, at all, mean to be elusive.  If I seem non-responsive to something you were asking, it’s not because I’m trying to avoid the point.  It’s that my clarity is wretched when I try to talk on these topics. 


 

 

"Seize the moments of happiness, love and be loved! That is the only reality in the world, all else is folly. It is the one thing we are interested in here." -- Leo Tolstoy