Chapter-wise Questions and Answers to understand “The Heathen in His Blindness: Asia, the West and the Dynamic of Religion”

Each time I tell someone, whether in a one-to-one discussion or in a conference, “there is no religion in India”, I get the following answer: “Of course, that depends on how you define `religion'”. I answer as follows: “In that case, here is my definition: `Religion=what does not exist in India’. Will that do? If it is really a question of the definition of a word, why does one need to write such a big book?”

There is something both irritating and understandable about this challenge. What is irritating is the lack of goodwill and common sense among those who raise this challenge. Lack of goodwill: they do not grant me that I am aware of this possibility and that, if despite that awareness I write a book, I must have answered this question; lack of common sense: no scientific theory ever makes claims about the world simply by defining a word. It is also understandable because `definitions’ have become fetishes; people think that doing `science’ requires giving a `good’ definition first.

To show that such a definition is not required, the first seven chapters of the book tell a story without defining the word `religion’. If people working with different definitions of the word understand my story, it shows that the story is not dependent on any one definition of the word `religion’. In fact, we will see only in the eighth chapter what `definitions’ are and why they are required. So, my first request: try to read and understand the story first. You will get the definition of the word `religion’, when it is truly necessary to have such a definition.

The first chapter is actually quite important for yet another reason. The manifold citations and arguments have one goal: to raise questions, which the book seeks to answer in the course of the ensuing chapters. That is to say, I think that one of the most important aspects to being a scientific theory lies in its problem solving capacity. In the first chapter, I want to suggest that there are some genuine problems confronting the field of religious studies. To do this, I use citations and analyze them. By the end of the chapter, in principle, the field of religious studies must begin to interest you.

None of the problems raised in the first chapter is formulated properly. We will see as the work reaches its conclusion that we need to have some kind of theory about religion, if we are to formulate problems adequately. But this is a lesson for later.

When you understand what the contradiction is, how and where it comes into being, you have grasped the first chapter. It would be even better, if you can anticipate several obvious strategies one could use to confuse the reader and convince him that there is `really’ no such contradiction. The more insight you get into this evasive strategy, the deeper your insight into the contradiction will be. You will understand the import of the argument better, if you do this mental exercise.

Questions and answers to understand every chapter in this book

Chapter 1

1.1. “What is the contradiction in religious studies?”

The contradiction in the religious studies can be put thus. The properties that make some phenomenon into religion is said to be both necessary and unnecessary at the same time. This is best illustrated by the answer to the second question.

1.2. “I claim that a sentence of the following sort is a contradiction: “Even though Hinduism does not have a holy book, a founder, a church-like organization, etc., it is still a religion.” Could you reconstruct the steps in the argument explicitly so that the contradiction becomes evident?”

(1) Without the presence of some properties (say X, Y, and Z) Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, etc. remain religions.

(2) Without X, Y, and Z, they are also distinguishable from each other as religions.

(3) Therefore, having the properties X, Y, and Z is not necessary in order to be a religion.

Now, we bring in an empirical premise, which is true. That is, we add a fact to this chain. (This does not have any impact on the logical truth: a valid reasoning remains valid even when you add a true premise.)

(4) Islam, Christianity, and Judaism are religions.

(5) Without X, Y, and Z, Islam, Christianity, and Judaism fail to be religions. (This is the thought experiment we do.)

(6) Without X, Y, and Z, Islam, Christianity, and Judaism cannot be distinguished from each other as religions.

(7) Therefore, having properties X, Y, Z is necessary to be a religion.

(8) Having the properties X, Y, and Z is not necessary in order to be a religion (reiterating the third step).

(9) Both (7) and (8) are true.

The last statement is a contradiction.

It is important to keep in mind that X, Y, and Z refer to properties like: `having a holy book’, `belief in god’, `having a founder’, `having a church-like organization’ etc. They apply to the entities we talk about (Islam, Hinduism, Christianity, Buddhism, etc) in exactly the same way.

Simply put: possessing some properties is both necessary and unnecessary for some entity to become a religion. This claim is a contradiction.

If you like, you can also use words like `essential properties’, `determining properties’ or `fundamental properties’ without losing sight of the contradiction.

Some of you might feel uneasy about this argument. Let me formulate the unease as a discussion question:

Would the following two statements adequately capture your unease?

(a) X, Y, and Z are necessary for Islam, Christianity and Judaism to be religions; but

(b) X, Y, and Z are not necessary Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, etc to be religions.

(After all, as the saying goes, there could be different kinds of religions.)

There does not appear to be a contradiction between (a) and (b). But what is wrong with these two statements, in the context of religious studies?

 
 

Chapter 2

2.1. What is the ancient puzzle and how can it be solved?

The puzzle: how could the ancient Romans deny the existence of gods and still participate in their religio.

The solution: · It was the Roman way to mislead the irrational masses, etc. Such solutions render the ancients inauthentic. Religio is Traditio. This means that religio is practiced because it is passed on by the ancestors, and not because of some theoretical argument. That is to say, one practices tradition because it is tradition, and no further arguments are necessary.

2.2. What is the pagan challenge and why is it a challenge?

The challenge is that Christianity has to prove that it is a religio without it being traditio. Whereas the Jews could claim an ancient tradition, the Christians could not. Thus, the challenge resides in the fact that the Christian claim to be a religio, when it is manifestly not traditio of any group, cannot be justified.

2.3. What is the Christian solution to the pagan challenge?

Consider the pagan question: show, how Christianity can be religio when manifestly not the traditio of a group? The Christians transform this question; the transformation consists in breaking the relation of identity between religio and traditio. That is, instead of the identity between one and the other (religio=traditio), the Christians oppose one to the other: Christianity is religio precisely because it is not traditio. Traditio becomes false religio.

2.4. What is false religion and how can religion be false?

A false religion is the worship of the devil. Religions could be false in so far they are expressions of false beliefs.

 
 

Chapter 3: The Whore of Babylon and Other Revelations

3.1. Explain the title of the third chapter: Who is the whore of Babylon, and what are the revelations? (You need to look into the New Testament Bible to figure out the answer.)

“The Whore of Babylon and Other Revelations” picks up the story around the sixteenth century. This is the second time that the European culture comes into contact with other cultures elsewhere in the world. The first was during the Greek and Roman civilizations. Empirical investigations, if any, into the universality of religion will have to begin here – if anywhere. Indian culture is the `other’ now.

The travel reports of this and the subsequent periods assume that religion exists in India too, except that it is the religion of the heathens. Before long, in Europe itself, heathens and pagans were to become very important. That is the first obvious reference to Protestantism in the title: we meet the whore of Babylon in the book of revelations and the former, said the Protestants, is what the Roman Catholic Church is.

This leads to the second reference to the Bible: the schism within Christianity, between the Protestants and the Catholics, determines the way the question of religion gets approached. The opposition between `false’ religion (i.e. Devil’s worship) and the `true’ one – the old drama from the times of the Romans – gets replayed with new actors.

The third, but not so obvious reference of the title has to do with the `revelation’ that amongst these new actors is also a group called the philosophes. The Enlightenment thinkers, it is argued, not merely reproduced the Protestant themes but did so with a vengeance. The secular sons of the Age of Reason extended Christian themes under a secular guise.

3.2. Why the title of 3.1.1, i.e. “What is `modern’ about the sexual liberation?”

It is meant to draw attention to the nature of modern scholarship regarding the early travel reports about India. One simply assumes that whatever these reports say is a truthful `description’ of what they observed; one assumes that all one has to do is `write down’ what one has `observed’ for it to count as `ethnography’, and so on.

These assumptions literally belong to the `stone age’ of human knowledge: one’s observation is deeply saturated with theories, ideologies and prjeudices. There is no `neutral’ or `pure’ observation: either good theories guide one’s observation or bad ones do. What is amazing is that these primitive claims survive as `truths’ in ethnography (of other cultures). The title ironically draws attention to the notion of `sexual liberation’ by pointing out that under certain interpretations, there is nothing `modern’ about it: other cultures appear to have practiced it centuries ago: only it was called `immoral’ then.

3.3. Answer, in your own words, the title of 3.3, i.e. “What has Paris to do with Jerusalem?”

Everything: a whole series of beliefs typical for Christianity (Jerusalem) are secularized by the Enlightenment thinkers (Paris).

The enlightenment thinkers accept the protestant amalgam of ancient and `contemporary’ heathenism as paganism. The amalgam is rendered unproblematic by positing a domain of religious experience that is universal across cultures. This is the secularized version of the idea of an innate sense of divinity.

The universal human history in which the Christians appropriated the past of the Jews and all others nation is secularized into a world history of Man (which is actually European history). And so on.

3.4. What is the argumentative relevance of the opposition between primitive and abstract reasoning?

The concepts of primitive and abstract reasoning allow for a hierarchy of religions. The perception of the order in the universe indexes the progress of Mankind. This perception of order is made possible only by the awareness of a Divine Plan. The level of religious sophistication equals the level of abstract reasoning. Primitive man was/is incapable of abstract reasoning hence his idolatry. The dichotomy abstract-primitive reasoning is parallel to the dichotomy true-false religion.

3.5. Explain the sub-title: “All roads lead to Rome”

Ancient Rome (and Athens) always turns up in these discussions. Both ancient arguments are rearticulated and the ancient religio serves as evidence in the Reformation debate on true religion and in the Enlightenment speculations on religion.

 Chapter 4

4.1. What is the conceptual quandary?

When Europeans encountered other cultures, the concepts they could use to describe and to understand the `other’ were limited: few concepts such as `heathens,’ `idolaters,’ and `zoolaters’ would exhaust their stock of labels. Europe also lacked the tools to distinguish these traditions from one another: all `heathenism’ was one. Consequently, divergent traditions in Asia, Africa, and the Americas could only be described accordingly, i.e. as `heathenism.’ Subsequently, whilst making an effort to better grasp such differences, the Europeans were constrained, yet again, by their own, clearly religious understanding of traditions: they sought to uncover the heathen beliefs behind diverse traditions, sanctioned in so-called `sacred scriptures.’

4.2. `Let 100 flowers bloom.’ Explain.

The Protestant Reformation came to be divided into several factions itself. The title refers to the multitude of denominations which subsequently came to effloresce. It is relevant to note that these religious groups still exhibited the Protestant proclivity to refer to the heathen traditions, both Ancient and Indian, in order to prove their point. Again, paganism was to testify in disputes about the religious truth. While these Christian offshoots were caught up in discussions, polemics, and persecutions, many Christian intellectuals began to seek commonalities among these Christian competitors. It was argued that there exist some common notions concerning religion, which are both self evidently true and innate in all men. (Notions such as, existence and nature of God, connection of virtue and piety, reconciliation trough repentance …) Very soon, not only Christian communities, but also Judaism, Islam, and, still later, different forms of Heathenism were all absorbed in that one framework. This ecumenism did not, however, put a stop to Christianity’s urge to prove its superiority against other religions. Here Heathenism serves again as evidence –evidence of a most ambiguous kind.

4.3. Explain the title: `Made in Paris, London, and Heidelberg.’

Both `Buddhism’ and `Hinduism’ existed, not in the East, but in the libraries of the West. They were constructed by the French Enlightenment thinkers in Paris, by the British in London, and by the German Romantics in Heidelberg.

4.4. With reference to the theme of the book, in what sense was Romanticism a continuation of the Enlightenment?

When the Enlightenment thinkers categorized the Ancient and Indian traditions, as well as the Semitic religions, into one and the same developmental scale, they continued what Early Christians, Protestants, and Catholics had done before them. The Romantics accepted this history: the distinction between concrete and abstract thought was simply replaced by `childhood’ and `adulthood’ in order to mould these phenomena, again, into one and the same category, i.e. religion. In addition, whilst emphasizing the close bond with nature that such primal religions supposedly displayed, the Romantics reiterated the Enlightenment explanation about the origin of religion. They strengthened the Biblical notion of an original religion by depicting India as the cradle of it. The Enlightenment categorization of all religions into one developmental scale (running from primitive to more abstract) is adopted by the Romantics with only slight alterations. Although their evaluation of contemporary Heathenisms is more positive than that of their predecessors, they still consider these as less evolved. Hence such concepts as “childhood of Man” and “Cradle of Civilization”. Furthermore these concepts draw heavily on the Enlightenment idea of primitive man –a concept that has been discussed in the previous chapter.

4.5. `On how the Buddha saved souls.’ Explain.

The religious notion about the corruption of religion also came to mould the creation-cum-description of Buddhism. The latter was said to be a reformatory reaction against a degenerated Hinduism. Buddha was described as the `Luther of the East’, and Buddhism was to Hinduism/Brahmanism, what Protestantism had been to Catholicism. The theme of degeneration emerges a second time in this construction of Buddhism. Since only scriptural sources were used in the creation of Buddhism, this came to be seen as its pure and philosophical core, while that what existed in reality was considered to be a degeneration (i.e. popular Buddhism).

 
 

Chapter 5

5.1. What is a paradigm? What is the `naturalistic’ paradigm about?

A paradigm is the model, constituted by a corporate body of background assumptions that lies behind and directs the theories and practice of a scientific subject. The `naturalistic’ paradigm underlies the set of studies of religion which commonly refer to `natural’ causes in order to account for the origin of religion. In other words, instead of appealing to the religious belief that religion is not man-made and transcends human causes, the theories within the `naturalistic’ paradigm attempt to break free from theological explanations and try to provide a secular, scientific account. They do so by appealing to `natural’ grounds, such as factors inherent to human nature and societies, the human psyche, etc.

5.2. `What if there is no religion?’ What is the relevancy of this question?

If we come across some culture that does not know of religion the statement about the universality of religion would be false. Nevertheless, we are not able to find any implications of the negation of this belief. In other words, we are not able to spell out neither the false beliefs that were associated with it, nor the consequences of its falsity. Any theory has consequences. If these consequences are falsified, the theory gets refuted as well. The absence of implications for our theories of religion hints at the fact that our theories presuppose the universality of religion – the explanans takes the explanandum for granted. Thus, the claim about the universality of religion is not part of any theory of religion: it is pre-theoretical in nature.

5.3. What is an ad hoc explanation? What is wrong with it?

An ad hoc explanation is developed in order to explain one and one fact only. The explanation itself cannot be tested by the explanandum, i.e. the empirical observation, since it was groomed in order to explain that fact. A theory that cannot be falsified cannot be a scientific theory either. In the same way, the theories on religion are not tested by the presence or the absence of religion. As noted in the above, we cannot spell out the implications would religion be absent. This is problematic, because our theories have been groomed especially to explain the universality of religion whilst they presupposed the veracity of this belief.

5.4. What are the weaknesses of our theories concerning the origin of religion?

Besides their ad hoc nature, their weakness lies in the fact that with equal possibility one could arrive at exactly the opposite conclusions. For instance, many of the existing `naturalistic’ theories can be easily encapsulated by the following idea: the primitive man, living in a chaotic world, was bound to create religion. However, it is not clear at all why the primitive man was bound to do so, since all the evidence suggests that the opposite was true: he or she would have never been compelled to experience the world as being chaotic. In addition, there is no necessity for Early Man to create precisely religion in order to render his chaotic world more orderly. Furthermore, these naturalistic theories use concepts such as scarcity, chaos, etc. as if these were experiential states, while in fact they structure experience. These and other fallacies occur in the naturalistic theories.

 
 

Chapter 6

6.1. What is the Christological Dilemma and when did it come into existence?

God’s revelation in Jesus Christ poses a serious problem to Christology. The emphasis on the uniqueness of this revelation prevents it from becoming truly universal. On the hand God’s revelation is for the whole of mankind. On the other hand the revelation is unique in Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is the way for humankind, in Him humanity finds its oneness. But, this focus on the specific nature of Christianity renders its discourse radically unintelligible to others. A way out of this quandary is to soften the emphasis on the figure of Christ and focus attention on the One who reveals Himself. Thus, allowing for multiple revelations of the divine in human history. This strategy has been employed since Early Christianity. From the moment it realized that Judaism did not cease to exist, i.e. from the moment Christianity felt the need to incorporate the histories of different peoples into its own story, attention shifted from the uniqueness of revelation in Christ to God Whose revelation is universal. Thus, the Christological dilemma –the “impossible” choice between Christology and Theism- has been with Christianity from its beginning.

6.2. Why can the difference between the sacred and the profane not be used to distinguish the religious from the non-religious?

Concepts such as sacred, holy, “das Heilige” do not depict experiences that are sui generis. Instead these experiences are well structured. In the case of Schleiermacher, Söderblom, and Otto this is very explicit. The religious experiences they depict imply a well- defined object, and an arsenal of theological ideas. Furthermore they presuppose a thorough acquaintance with a specific religious tradition, viz. the liberal protestant tradition. When being a part of a religious tradition is a prerequisite to have a religious experience, this experience can hardly be considered universal. Therefore, the distinction between sacred and profane, which draws on these experiences, is an intra-traditional difference and not one that cuts across traditions and time. When secular authors such Durkheim and Eliade try to characterize religion using these concepts they are actually smuggling theology into a scientific discourse, using religious categories as if they were neutral or scientific.

6.3. Explain the title of 6.3: In what way does Christianity persecute Paganism?

Considering different religions to be different answers to the revelation of the divine seems to be a very liberal and tolerant stance. But, on close scrutiny, even this liberal stance is a Christian persecution of Paganism. After all, not every answer to the divine revelation is equally adequate. A (developmental) hierarchy of answers to the divine can be established, with the (liberal) Protestantism as its summit. This is but a slight variation to the well-known strategy Christianity has employed to attack and criticize different tradition. Instead of considering other religions as false or inferior, they now are less adequate answers to the revelation of God.

6.4. Theism is a solution for the Christological Dilemma. Explain.

In Christology the figure of Jesus Christ poses a particular problem: the uniqueness of the revelation of God in Jesus Christ puts constraints on the universality of this revelation. It is very difficult to communicate the exclusivity of an all-inclusive Christ. By shifting focus to the revelation of God (away from Christ) it becomes possible to speak of several revelations, to incorporate different histories into one. But, this solution also implies sacrificing its distinctly Christian character.

 
 

Chapter 7

7.1. Explain the title: what is the prosecution about? Who is the prosecutor and who is prosecuted?

The title of the sixth chapter refers to the fact that Christianity appears to be guilty for transforming the world into a Christian world. From the second chapter onwards, it has become increasingly clear that the world in which we live is still a religious world. Even the intellectual world of the heathens has become a Christian world. This is the pagan or heathen charge to Christianity, from which even the so-called atheists cannot escape. The prosecution, thus, is a heathen one, and those who are prosecuted are the Christians.

7.2. Why a process? And what is the prosecution’s case.

As mentioned in the above, the so-called secular world in which we live is still a Christian world. Whereas the previous chapter demonstrated that our theories of religion use concepts from a specific religious tradition, the present chapter elaborates upon this point. The concepts which our scholars of religion make use of appeal to a whole range of theological beliefs. In other words, Biblical themes have been constitutive for the development of our `scientific’ vocabulary: the religious belief that God gave religion to mankind has been translated into the supposed universality of religion; that He revealed himself has been transformed in the `secular’ notion that in all cultures there is an experience of religion which is fundamentally the same, etc. In other words, when we talk about religion we cannot but use these themes in the absence of alternatives. Thus, Christianity, in its de-Christianised form, makes all of us into `Christians.’

7.3. What is the linguistic inconceivability? Why is it inconceivable?

The linguistic inconceivability is that there could be cultures without religion. This is inconceivable to the Westerners because the only way in which they can make sense of the practices of other cultures is by construing these as religions. The language the West uses to speak about other cultures is that of a secularised Christian theology. Within this linguistic practice, the practices one encounters in other cultures threaten to become radically unintelligible if they are not described as religions.

7.4. Which questions have been answered? Which have been postponed? Relate the questions and the answers to the different chapters.

We started out with the following question: “Do all cultures have religions?” This question has not as yet been answered, but we have seen that it is answered in the affirmative by the scholars and laymen of today.

This raised another question: “What are the grounds for believing that religion is a cultural universal?” In Chapters 3 and 4, we saw that there are no empirical grounds for this belief. The belief in the universality of religion never became the subject of an empirical investigation. Rather, all travelers and missionaries assumed that there had to be religion in India. In Chapters 5 and 6 it was revealed that there are no scientific theoretical grounds for this belief. The speculations about the origin of religion presuppose either that all human beings or all human cultures have religion. And the explanations that take recourse to `religiosity’ or `religious experience’ do the same. Throughout Chapters 3 to 7, it has become clear that the only theoretical grounds for believing that religion is a cultural universal are the tenets of Christian theology.

A third question was: “What is involved in attributing religion only to some cultures?” In Chapter 5, we saw that we are not able to spell out the empirical consequences to our explanations of religion, if we discover a culture without religion. This is the case, because all these `theories’ hold the cultural universality of religion as a pre-theoretical assumption.

A fourth question was: “Is the existence question about religion susceptible to empirical enquiry?” In Chapter 5, 6 and 7, we have seen that it is not. As the concept of religion itself precedes all theory formation about religion, we have no theoretical criteria to decide whether or not some culture has a religion.

Finally, the following question is raised: “Why have the scholars of the twentieth century kept on believing that religion is a cultural universal?” In Chapters III to VI, the historical aspect of the answer was spelled out. The Enlightenment thinkers secularized the Biblical claim that religion is God’s gift to humankind into the anthropological “fact” that all cultures have a religion. Consequently, the nineteenth- and twentieth-century scholars adopted this piece of theology dressed up in secular garb. Chapter VII explained the linguistic aspect of the answer. A de-Christianized Christian theology has become the only language in which we can discuss the various practices of human cultures. This language compels us to conceive of these practices as religions. The conceptual aspect of the answer remains to be spelled out.

 
 

Chapter 8

8.1. What is the function of a definition?

The function of a definition is to provide a reference to what one is talking about.

8.2. What issues are at stake in the dispute concerning the definition of religion?

There is a referential as well as a classificatory issue. By means of referring one establishes the identity of an object or phenomenon. The definition operates to avoid any dispute concerning the identification of what we talk about. The current definitions of religion, however, are used to classify certain phenomena as religion. Yet in the absence of a theory, classifications are arbitrary and do not provide us with knowledge about the world.

8.3. Why are the discussions about definitions sterile?

Though the discussions about the definition of religion start as a referential problem, they end up as classificatory issues. For these classificatory disputes, however, there is no possible solution in the absence of a theory. In order to classify certain phenomena as religion, one has to know what religion is. The definitions are groomed merely as an answer to the pre-theoretical intuition of the author. Hence, the definitions vary according to their tastes. Discussions about preferences and tastes are never-ending.

8.4. Is it possible to provide counter-examples to a definition? Explain.

No, because definitions do not have consequences, only theories do. A definition merely associates a particular term with a given phenomenon (what is one talking about?) but they do not provide knowledge about the world. For example, suppose that one defines grass as everything that is green. Could the yellow grass that is found beneath a stone be a counter-example to this definition? No, it could not, because according to this definition this yellow grass is not grass at all, because it is not green.
Now take the example of a theory of photosynthesis which explains why grass is green. Contrary to definitions, this theory has consequences or implications, one being that if grass is not exposed to sunlight for a longer period of time, it will not turn green. Hence, the example of the yellow grass under the stone confirms the theory. Suppose that one does find green grass in a dark cave, this grass would indeed be a counter-example to the theory of photosynthesis.

8.5. What is the potential contradiction in the story?

To claim that religion is both pre-theoretical and theoretical. In other words, to claim that `religion’ (both the concept and the claims associated with it) exclusively belongs to a religious language and theory, while simultaneously insisting that the concept and the claim are pre-theoretical in nature. The challenge will be to demonstrate that both claims are true.

8.6. What is the definition of religion? Is it a satisfying definition? What kind of a definition is it?

Religion is what (at least) Christianity is. This definition answers to the qualifications a definition has to meet, i.e. to fix a reference. This definition of religion picks out an exemplary or prototypical instance of religion. This allows us to study the object religion. Picking out Christianity as a prototypical instance of religion is sensible both from a historical and linguistic perspective. If Christianity would not be a religion, what else could be? Denying that Christianity is a religion involves making an epistemic decision –which requires a good theory. Furthermore, to accept that the term religion at least refers to Christianity is to begin a pre-suppositionless enquiry into the nature of religion. It does not make any domain-specific presuppositions; it merely accepts our linguistic practice. This is an ostensive definition.

8.7. What is the problem at the end of this chapter? Why is it a problem?

To use Christianity as the sole example of religion might well result in an ad hoc theory of religion, in which certain characteristics of Christianity would singled out as the necessary characteristics of religion. Hence limiting the scope of the theory to Christianity alone. Only when it has been demonstrated which characteristics Christianity has by virtue of being a religion, the danger of becoming ad hoc is neutralized. This is one of the important requirements the theory of religion faces.

Chapter 9

9.1. What is the characterization of religion?

Religion is an explanatorily intelligible account of both Cosmos and itself. This means that the two explanations, the causal and the intentional, fall together. The cause of the Cosmos is the Will of God. All that was, is and will be is an expression of His Will. We can know God’s intentions by studying the Cosmos and His revelation. This hypothesis has to pass certain adequacy tests, which are both historical and phenomenological. Can the hypothesis explain Christianity’s inclination to religious rivalry and the mutual misunderstanding between religions and heathen traditions (historical)? Can the hypothesis explain the necessity of faith, worship, truth … (phenomenological)?

9.2. What is the relationship between religion and the meaning of life?

A religious person experiences the Cosmos as both a (causally) explainable and an intelligible entity. Hence, he experiences his life as a part of a bigger plan. To be religious means believing that human life and death have a meaning and a purpose. Religion makes it possible to ask these questions, but it does not provide specific answers to them. Religion was not invented to answer questions about the meaning and purpose of life, but these questions come into being within the framework of religion. These problems do not antedate religion, religion generates them.

9.3. What is the relation between faith and intolerance?

Having faith means accepting that one is part of the intentions of God. Faith has two dimensions. Firstly, faith is internal to religion. Believing (in God) implies a certain attitude of piety, certain practices, a dedication and an understanding of what it means to be a religious person. Within a religion, having faith distinguishes the truly religious person from the person who merely accepts God as an explanation for the creation of the cosmos and adheres to religion’s ethical rules. Secondly, faith sets the boundaries between religion and other “religious” traditions. The truth of the explanatory intelligible account that religion is becomes important when religion finds itself confronted with other traditions. Faith allows of a distinction between those who do and do not adhere to the religious truth. To have faith is to be `intolerant’. That is, the believer cannot possibly accept that other religions are `equally true’. Of course, this does not entail that a believer is either a missionary or a persecutor. The link between faith and intolerance draws our attention to the fact that these two are related to each other the way two faces of a coin are related to each other.

9.4. What is the relation between faith and truth?

Faith and intolerance are two faces of the same coin only because truth is so important to religion. Being an explanatory intelligible account of the cosmos, religion has to be true –and there can only be one truth, hence its intolerance. Heathen traditions, on the other hand, are neither true nor false. These notions do not apply to them by virtue of being practical systems, developed and adopted by men as means to the truth. Religious truth, though, is God-given. This truth is not tentative, hypothetical, perspectival (as is human knowledge) and has to be accepted independently of all the knowledge we already have.

9.5. What is atheistic religiosity? Why would it be possible/impossible for human beings?

Someone who claims to have religious experiences but denies the existence of God can be called atheistically religious. Instead of feeling completely dependent upon God, this person (for example) could claim to feel dependent upon the Cosmos. Although atheistic religiosity is not impossible, for human beings it is. For an explanatory intelligible account to exist and thrive in a human community, certain conditions must be met. How do human beings come by such an account, how can it be transmitted uncorrupted? For more than one reason, an entity such as God is necessary for an explanatory intelligible account to exist in a human community.

Hence, the idea of atheistic religiosity harbors a linguistic distortion. How can one feel dependent upon the cosmos – i.e. everything that ever was, is and shall be? How is it possible to feel deeply dependent on the future? As an explanatory intelligible account of the Cosmos, religion however, claims that we are all dependent upon an entity that was, is and shall be and whose intentions are embodied in the world. Hence, a religious experience involves eschatology. Atheistic religiosity, therefore, is impossible for us human beings.

9.6. What are the cognitive moments within religious conversion? What is the fundamental mechanism for the spread of religion?

An individual within a tradition has no certainty that he is continuing the tradition. In the first moment, religion strengthens this notion of uncertainty: it refers to the inconsistent myths and legends that surround the tradition. However, the individual does not need these stories to continue the tradition: as a set of practices, tradition does not ascribe to the predicates `true’ or `false.’ As such, it is the other of religion. Religion, however, offers theoretical foundations to the practice, excavated from the set of stories that surround the practice. In the second moment, religion transforms the tradition into a variant of itself; into another religion, albeit it a false one. The falsity is expressed by the false beliefs (the stories and legends) which the practices are now said to express. In the third moment, not only one’s own set of practices is identified with the predicate `false’ but other traditions are also experienced as false. In order to recap: religion spreads by effacing the otherness of the other. The other is transformed into yet another religion.

9.7 Why is the heathen blind? How would he be able to see?

The heathen is blind to the truth. A religion is not just the practice that is suited for a given people: religion is the divine truth that God gave to humanity. Neither the Romans, nor the Indians understood this notion and argued along the lines of tradition and ancestral practices. Since religion generates an experience in which the world is experienced as revealing that universal truth, the heathen, outside the sphere of a religious world, cannot grasp this. In other words, in a non-religious world, the world is not experienced as explanatorily intelligible. The heathen, therefore, could not grasp an EI-account of the Cosmos and of itself. By entering the process of conversion, the otherness of other traditions comes to be the same kind of anotherness – he finally recognizes that his tradition or set of practices was an instance of false religion.

9.8. What are the contingent characteristics of religion? Why are they contingent?

Since for human beings, only accounts that appeal to reasons or purposes can provide intelligibility, and since religion makes both itself and the Cosmos intelligible, both need to embody the purposes of some entity or Being. This is what is called `God.’ Hence the first contingent characteristic for religion in human societies: God. Secondly, humanity is part of the purposes of God. Some claim or the other must refer to those to whom God’s message is addressed. Thirdly, religion must postulate a relation between humanity and God. In other words, the message has to tell humankind what God’s purpose is and hence, what the purpose of humanity is. Accepting God’s purpose lends explanatory intelligibility to human life. Fourthly, an EI-account of the Cosmos must identify the manner in which this goal can be achieved. An EI-account speaks of the purposes of God and hence of the goal of humankind. This makes the world of the believer explanatorily intelligible. In order to retain this explanatorily intelligibility it must also refer to the means in which it can retain this. All this results in the fifth property: the doctrines in which all the above is expressed.

9.9. What is worship? Can we maintain that `the heathen bows down to wood and stone…’?

Worship is the means through which an EI-account retains its character. That is, it sustains a particular experience of the Cosmos. (It is also the manner in which faith is sustained.) To suggest that `The heathen bows down to wood and stone…’, we need to believe that the heathen does really think that the particular idol, the particular crow or cow, do make the cosmos (all that was, is and shall be) intelligible. Of course, to believe this fantastic story, we need more than the assurances of a hymn: we need to have an explanation of `the’ psychology of the heathens that tells us how such a thing is psychologically possible. Until such stage, we cannot plausibly maintain that the heathens bow down to wood and stone, if by `bowing down’, one means that heathens worship wood and stone.


Chapter 10

10.1. What is the relation between religion and worldview?

Studying religion as religion forces us to accept what religion says about itself, and, hence, to practice theology. Can we solve this problem, by studying religion not as religion, but as something else, for example, as a worldview? However, religion is not only an example of a worldview, it is the only example we have of worldview. Hence, to study worldviews, we have to study religion. It is quite possible that religion is something more than a worldview, but the epistemic/epistemological differences between on the one hand worldview and theory and on the other hand between religion and theory, show us that the epistemic status of religion and worldview is the same. The minimal argument that religion is the only example of a worldview is that for over 1600 years the only thing that could possibly pass for worldview was religion. The maximal argument: It is generally accepted that worldview answers the “deep questions” – meaning of life, etc. These questions –as has been shown before- are not the precondition of religion but rather the product of it, i.e. the “deep question” can only be posed within a religious framework. If worldview provides answers to such questions it can only do so by either being a supplement to an existing religion –but then it is not a worldview- or by becoming a rival to religion. In this last case it has become an alternative religion. Worldview is the secularization of religion.

10.2. Why is it metaphysically impossible for religion to exist in India?

There is a multiplicity of creation stories and claims in India. Not only within each tradition several stories persist, it is even quite normal for one and the same person to refer to different ideas about the origin of the cosmos in different contexts. Creation seems to be neither a unique, nor a radical occurrence, since all these stories are equally true and true at the same time. Furthermore, the truth of such stories does not depend on their being knowledge-claims. They are not accounts of the world, as for example the story of Genesis is. Since religion is an explanatory intelligible account of the cosmos and itself, it implies a cosmogony. This means there must be a creation story that explains the coming into existence of the world (or the cosmos) as the expression of the will of God. Moreover; this story has to be true. This means that this story tells us something about the world. Since these two conditions are not met in India, it is metaphysically impossible that there exists religion in India.

10.3. Why is it sociologically impossible for worldview (or religion) to exist in India?

For a worldview to exist and keep on existing in a human society 5 conditions have to be met. These are the conditions of transmission.

1. There has to be a worldview. This worldview must exist in a textual form and members of the community have to be familiar with worldview that has been written down.

2. There has to be a standard worldview in order to limit transformations of it.

3. There has to be an authority that decides in disputes over this standard worldview.

4. There has to be an authority that exiles those that adhere to the non-standard worldview.

5. There have to be organizations that transmit and propagate the standard worldview.

Chapter ten shows us that neither of these five conditions have been met in India. In the case of the first condition there seems to be only ignorance: ignorance about a worldview, ignorance about the content of the so-called sacred books. The second condition is not met because the variety of stories is regarded as a strongness rather than as weakness. Concerning the remaining three conditions it suffices to say that no such institutions exist in India.

10.4. Is it possible to build a scientific worldview?

It is very unlikely to build a scientific worldview because a worldview is a view about the world and science as we know it gives only a view of a slice of the world. However, if it were possible to construct a scientific worldview, then it would cease being science and would become religion.

10.5. What is the double dynamic of Religion?

The double dynamic of religion is the dynamic of universalization by both proselytization and secularization. Religion is an explanatory intelligible account of the cosmos, including itself. However, in the world we live in, we encounter religion as different religions, i.e. as specific entities. Proselytization is how religion universalizes itself as a particular religion, i.e. by gaining converts. At the same time, religion tries to universalize itself, by secularizing itself, i.e. by losing its particular forms.

10.6. Why is question 10.1 such an interesting question?

This is one reason: It turns out to be impossible to study religion without practicing theology –since religion is also what it says about itself. Even the attempt to study religion as a worldview does not help us to avoid that. The only path open to us is to study religion as something that brings forth a specific culture. This, though, is but one characteristic of religion…

 
 

Chapter 11

11.1. What are learning configurations?

A configuration of learning is a culture-specific way of learning. In this configuration one way of learning is emphasized and others are subordinated. “This emphasis entails that one kind of learning to learn (or meta-learning) dominates all other learning process (with their respective meat-learning). Consequently, typical to each configuration of learning is a type of learning to learn, which is the characteristic meta-learning of the kind of learning that dominates the configuration”.

For a human being to survive in the world, he/she needs to learn to go about with his/her environment. This environment consists both of the natural environment at larch as of the social environment in particular. Therefore, in order to survive, a human being needs to master several goings-about, to which pertains a learning process. By means of a learning process an individual can both learn to master a particular going-about as learn to teach that going-about. Hence, there is a specific learning process, covering a learning and meta-learning, for each going-about in particular. A configuration of learning is the way the several goings-about are related to one another. In other words, in a configuration of learning the one learning process is dominant and the other learning processes are subordinated to it. The dominant learning process structures, by virtue of its meta-learning, the other learning processes.

11.2. What is the relation of religion to a learning configuration?

By its presence religion has generated a particular configuration of learning where theoretical learning has become dominant and where theoretical learning has subordinated the other learning processes. Religion is the root model of order. I.e. by being an explanatory intelligible account, religion itself exemplifies the order the universe is posits. Furthermore, it is the best example of what an explanation is. By its sheer presence religion stimulates the quest for answers to (meaning) questions.


11.3. How do learning configurations help to conceptualize cultural differences?

Cultural differences are experienced at an individual level. This means that whenever we meet someone from another culture we will notice differences in how the other goes about in the world. The hypothesis of configurations of learning allows of seeking the distinctions in the different ways our goings-about are structured. Consequently, a comparison of cultures no longer consists of an enumeration of the elements culture A holds, and culture B lacks. In each culture we will find the same elements, their structure differs and the way in which they are passed over from generation to generation are different.

11.4. What are the consequences of conceptualizing cultural differences in this manner?

The hypothesis of configurations of learning allows of scientific study of cultural differences. It is now possible to pose cognitively productive questions that can be answered and tested. It becomes possible to distinguish the real issues from the pseudo-issues (e.g. the universalism vs. relativism debate) The story that the hypothesis of configuration of learning offers us, is not the definitive story it can be ameliorated. This is one of its facets that makes it a scientific story.

11.5. How to explain cultural similarities?

Since every learning process is present in every culture, it should not surprise us there exist similarities between cultures. The hypothesis of configurations of learning allow of a description of the differences between cultures, and also of a description of the similarities between cultures.

11.6. What is the dynamic of religion?

The dynamic of religion is one of both proselytization and of secularization. By means of proselytization the account that a particular religion is gets dispersed. Hereby the cosmos is made into an explanatorily intelligible entity. Secularization does the same thing but without taking recourse to a specific account. “…it is like possessing the structure of an account without oneself accepting some particular interpretation of the variables”.