Separating Religion and Culture in “The End of Faith”
Posted: 29 August 2011 08:30 AM   [ Ignore ]  
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Reading through the book the giant elephant in the room seemed to be the ties between many religions and the cultures they’ve co-evolved with.  Islam is the most obvious example of this, but the issue rises up with the discussion about Christianity as well.  Cultures use religion as an excuse to carry out certain cultural traditions - but that’s the thing.


They’re cultural traditions, not really religious ones.


In the same way we refer to a Judeo-Christian civilization, the Arab element to Arab-Islamic seems to be where most of the trouble arises from.  Practices like wearing the hijab and stoning adulterers aren’t Islamic by definition, they’re cultural - but they’ve come to be associated with Islam because Arab culture is so intertwined with the religion. 


Harris seems to admit that personal spirituality only becomes troublesome when it’s organized by hierarchical religion structures, structures which are inevitably going to have a strong cultural influence.  But personal faith isn’t the same as “Faith” as in the dogma of religious belief, something the book seems to gloss over or miss for the most part.


I’m not sure whether it was intentional or not, but Harris seems to be using “Faith” as a more acceptable and politically-correct way to say “Multiculturalism.”  Personal spirituality, that kind of of faith, only becomes troublesome when it begins to become part of an organized religion - which the world over have always been about consolidating power and group behavior, about establishing a certain shared culture.


On the individual level, at the core of the every major world religion is simply empathy for your fellow man.  When spirituality gets organized into Religions, that’s when all the wacky stuff comes in.  But the wacky stuff doesn’t occur because of something inherent the spirituality or faith in and of itself, it arises because of the nature of the culture that’s using organized religion as a guise for accomplishing cultural goals.  This article talks about that phenomenon pretty well.


Faith isn’t the problem, cultural practices are.  And many cultures use religion as a reason to carry on their backwards practices.  Cultures use the religions they’ve adopted as a carte blanche to do all sorts of asinine shit, the “organized” part of religion is the issue, not the spirituality and faith that religions originally get founded on.


Lumping Sufi Muslims in together with the Wahabbis doesn’t make sense and discussing “Muslim faith” doesn’t make sense, in the same way lumping Evangelicals together with Universalist Christians and discussing “Christian faith” doesn’t make sense.  Despite a nominally shared religion, those groups have developed inside different cultures, which is what sets them apart.

[ Edited: 29 August 2011 08:39 AM by downtown1441]
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