Air's Corner

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

My back hurts

SO. I am sitting here in my room, my back is hurting from being hunched over at my desk for too long. Although I am tired, and in a bit of discomfort, my mind is still alert, and begging to share some of its thoughts.

But what are thoughts? Why does the brain "think"? Certainly coming from a scientific point of view, the brain thinks because it is reacting to the environment, external stimulus. Some might argue the brain does not really think, but only reacts. And why does it perform the way it does? It is able to react and behave in such a complex way because of thousands of years of evolution, from the premodern man, primates.

So what is the point?

The point that I am getting at is this ---

I am like what the hell is religion.

Religion to me


a part of human culture

something that has come from the evolution of the modern human brain

Because our brain is able to form higher order thoughts

Our brain is capable of establishing identity

We humans are aware

We are aware of now, the present, of the past, of death, of life, and ourselves

We have given ourselves names, we are unique and we each are different from any other member of our species.

We set ourselves so high, that we consider ourselves different from the rest of the animal world, and actually the entire physical world.

We have not simply been born, randomly, but

We have been created,

There is a higher power that has designed us in His image.

Yet really? Is this true?

This is religion. The fact that the higher order human has created these concepts of higer power.

Want to hear something that might blow your mind? Yeah?

Aristotle in the 4th CENTURY came up with the idea that humans behave the way they do because of the psyche --- today called mind, but then synonymous with "soul".

Aristotle was the one with the bright idea that this seperate entity resides in the human brain and controls what human does.

And guess what happened many moons later?

The christian church adopted this idea.

Sorry to bust your bubble (its okay - it blew up mine) but no holy deity came down and whispered in someone's ear --- how you humans are different than other creatures walking the earth. You guys have souls.

Nope. This idea was created by a mortal mind ---

And if that whole discussion is not enough to get someone commenting --- I will try to be even more controversial and temper provoking ---

I liked the Lame Deer story. I thought is was interesting. How very different other people can be in their religious practices. To think that they all stemmed from one population of humans a long time ago to diffuse and infuse into the world we now call Earth.


Good night Kiddies, I am hitting the hay.

Saturday, January 28, 2006


According to Paden, extensive knowledge about other religions, which comes from the study of comparative religion (which is an easy area of study when living within an environment of such extreme religious diversity), is "deprovincializing". This term to me means to take identity away from the small communities that many world religions in their home countries, and in their new countries, have.

I like how he points out - comparing religion should not be a means of finding a better religion FOR YOURSELF. "Full comparative perspective involves more than simply describing side by side or serially the religions of the world, as though one were just sampling or judging various claims to truth". I also like how he says we can (and I think should) "study not just the different religions, but of the structures of religion".

In essence, the study of religion should be strictly from an objective point of view. This is what Yearley was getting at with the notion of "spiritual regret". This is why such a virtue would be so important, because ultimately there are two sub-studies of comparative religion, 1)comparing different religions, and 2) studying the structure of religion.

In order to properly complete both these tasks, one must not be seeking out new truths, or ultimately a new religion, one must be learning --- and without any form of emotional endearment. Once a longing for belonging to a particular religion occurs, one can no longer compare religion successfully, and unbiasly. The question we ask should be: what do we learn from the many different forms of religion, and about the idea itself. It should not be what disciplines do I most agree with? This should be a human study, not an individual study. It should benefit all, not just the self. We should not blend various ideas, but should contain them and know them, clasifying them unobtrusively, objectively, and most importantly scholarly.

A good point of Paden's- we should try to study a common theme that is heard through out all religions. He, smartly, states that comparison can be dangerous, as it can be used to denounce religions, giving superiorty to one religion, while deeming the others inferior. We must look past terms of good and bad, "comparison is almost always a function of self interest". THIS IS THE TAKE HOME MESSAGE - Do not fall victim to this status quo!

I especially must take this to heart. I already have preconceived thoughts and feelings towards religion in general. I feel religion is merely a political tool. I do not mean to offend anyone who is reading this, but its the truth. For whatever reason I feel this way, does not matter. I must myself let go of these critical preconcieved notions, and look through observant new eyes, a clean slate, and a scholarly perspective when I venture into the world of religion.

Monday, January 23, 2006

On Virtues--Spiritual Regret

Religion's main objective is to create virtue. This is why it is so important in a civil society. Where else are people going to learn integrity, morality, right, wrong? This is why religion has remained around for so long. It teaches people how to become the best people they can be (or atleast according to the specific religion followed). However, on creating a new virtue -- "spiritual regret", I do agree that we need a structured plan when learning the differences between religions, and how to handle the knowledge.. but from what I gathered from the text - and correct me if I am wrong - is that there should be no adopting other beliefs. Spiritual regret is the virtue of studying and learning novel and maybe even perfect other religious models, yet refraining from practicing these virtues in our own lives. Why is he suggesting such a thing? Maybe to have solid grounds of assessing differences, without views becomming skewed. A way to think scholarly, objectively. To observe from a distance and take notes. I dont know. What he does say however that particularly peeked my interest was how higher education presents the ability to utilize imagination. That with an intellectual stand, and a little imagination, people can make decisions, and thus new virtues. Hello! Are we talking something new? Could that possibly lead to the formation of a civic religion? A religion in which there is no priests, only scholars? Is this what he is saying? Sounds like a political philospher I know of.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Todays Thoughts and Feelings


I would like to dedicate this first blog entry to my reactions to reading the first packet given out in Rein's Religious Diversity course. Here goes.

Selected Poems by Li-Young Lee

Free Writing - or should i word it Free Typing
His feelings are from an immigrants perspective. Deep and thoughtful are his lines, almost reminscent of my own mind on those days of inner reflection and world scrutinization. He talks of praying, in a complex state of being. We are all of one kind, we all eat, and pray, and seek, "brothers and sister by blood and design". He believes in God, labeling God as the text. He is alert, aware of his surroundings, and in tune with the harmony of the world. In a dramatic and graphic way, Lee explains to the ends he would go to put in human terms his thoughts of such a deeper kind. After (and during) reading these poems, I felt in touch with some part of reality that so often goes unnoticed. The way Lee describes the pains of being an immigrant, an outkast in a society, outkasted from culture, religion, and life, is incredibly moving, striking a chord deep down in the depths of the human soul. It made me wonder how people from other places, cultures - immigrants feel about pursuing their religion here.. in America and how exactly do they contribute to our religious diveristy. My desire to dive into such deep and dark waters will be fulfilled in this course. I am excited.

In an overall attempt to put into an online blog my thoughts and feelings, I will try to relay the ideas that came to mind when reading through the rest of the packet..

After reading the story "Interpreter of Maladies"

Wow, this story sparked my interest because it put religion in such a sociopolitical spectrum... to me that is. I questioned to myself what the author was trying to reveal through the text. Was it change, conformity, disrespect, cluelessness? Or was it something else? My feelings towards this story were as follows: I believe the story was taking a stab at the weight religion holds in our society. It was not credible in this tale. It was almost a commodity. Sanjeev explains that the objects being discovered clearly lacked a sense of sacredness. "He was further puzzled that Twinkle, who normally displayed good taste, was so charmed." So why did Twinkle become so charmed and not him? She represents the person who gets sucked in to the commercial tendency religion has in this society. I found it ironic that as soon as she was done swooning over such relics being uncovered she lit a cigarette. She interpreted the knickknacks she found to be charming, even cute, but not holy, not sacred. It was as though the christian symbols were just another fashion statement. Sanjeev starts revealing her personalty to us, describing her it seems, as the normal, average, cookie cutter, lazy, ignorant American individual, "she seemed content with whatever clothes she found at the front of the closet, with whatever magazine was lying around, with whatever song was on the radio". Whoa Twinkle, with the cool name, is becoming that boring person who is swept along by media and propaganda. But hey! Isn't religion more than that! Can our government really sell it to us? Or is it not more than that... to the religious person? Christianity, somewhat like American technology extends its long fingers into all parts of the world, the tent in which these two seemingly opposites get married IN INDIA was strung with CHRISTMAS LIGHTS!!! Their marriage was arranged- this is a tradition with religious roots. Buying christmas lights - this is a tradition that was birthed from American economic producers!

I cant help but think that this is the connection the author was trying to make, as he outlines so plainly, simply, the American white christian culture as evidenced in the way Twinkle prepared their meal!, "there was a loaf of Italian bread in a little basket, and iceberg lettuce and grated carrots tossed with bottled dressing and croutons, and glasses of red wine. She was not terribly ambitious in the kitchen. She bought preroasted chickens from the supermarket and served them with potato salad prepared who knew when, sold in little plastic containers". Its as though our society has been taught to just follow the microwave instructions, on food, life, and the way we all are supposed to think.

Twinkle wants to fit in---- giving me the impression of a thousand immigrants: "every other person in this neighborhood has a statue of Mary on the lawn. We'll fit right in". Crazy.

On Diana Eck -

I really appreciated Eck's thoughts, as she sums up the previous story nicely, again describing religion in a political sense. I was stunned when researching a little in her and her studies, that she was appointed to the US State Department Advisory Committee on "Religious Freedom" abroad. Coincidence? I dont know.. you tell me. The perspective she gives is a must read for any one with a brain. I will be sure to pass this article on. An interesting question as a side note, for you Prof. Rein, if your out there somewhere reading this is, when she talks of how the first generation of children who have grown up here after there parents were allowed to immigrate, have grown up in the new Hindu or Muslim culture of temples their parents began to establish, but who actually established them? Religious people? People of cloth- as the catholics would say? Or ordindary people? Hmm. IDK.

Well Anyway, I am afraid it is getting late, and I am getting tired. Hopefully we can discuss more of this in class tomorrow. Phewww this was a big blog for me! Next time I will hit on the more general ideas that come to mind when I think of religion in our society, its place and its role,

Until then everyone!
Good night!