RS100 - Cummings - Lecture 2 Part 1

Uploaded by CSUNAcadTech on 03.02.2011

Well good morning everyone and welcome to the second session this is the second of 3 mandatory online
meeting that we have for RS 100 and so I'm I'm going to keep you just about half an hour again today.I'm going to go through very we quickly some of the
basic concepts for the study of religion there's about a hundred terms that I think are really important,terms slash
concepts and they
are all pretty much contained in
this exercise I call Method and Madness it's sort of a entry level way to try to get in the waters,swim
around sort of explore the territory
so these are
basic concepts and I'll just go the slides very quickly
and will be out of here in time for you to make it to happy hour.I guarantee it.Anyways we should probably be done at
eleven twenty five
Anyways, lets start into this.One of the things that I,one of the exercises I do is to ask people to try to describe what
religion is or to
define it and instead of actually
defining religion,I think it's a good exercise to try to locate religion,
and so locating religion
Ask where does it, reside?
and basically religion lives in human experience it's a
quality of mind and so one way to think about locating religion is just to try to find out what peoples ultimate
concerns are, what is it that they spend their energy on?
What occupies their minds?What are their aspirations or hopes what are they striving for that's what an ultimate
concern is.So for a lot of people it's trying to figure out what they are going to do with their
lives how they're going to earn money.
Certainly there are a number of endeavors that occupy your waking moments that's what for the theologian Paul
Tilik called ultimate concern.What do you end up thinking about.So another way to think about locating religion is to think
about this in terms of what I call in the nexus of being and meaning.
We are all beings as,we are all in existence we have this quality I mean nobody here I think that doubts their existence.
Maybe, if you just woke up five minutes ago, you
have some questions about the quality of your existence or who you actually are this morning but really
we are all given this existence and none of us really doubts that.It's how we
qualify that existence that makes all the difference in our lives so what do we make of it,what is the meaning of life?And I
think that's where you find religion is addressing those questions, what is the quality of our being what is
existence and what is its meaning?
so ultimate concern
meaning being those are good things to think about when you
try to understand what is that religion does what is its particular characteristics
Symbolizations of the Sacred are very important.There is
this quality of
experience that
we call the sacred
and all religions are characterized by some sort of concept of the sacred. It could be god,it could be the Dow it could be bromin it could be
any number of things that occupy a central place of focus that's the sacred
For some people it's money,for some people it's sex it's that
place that occupies the most central concern
in your hierarchies or your priorities of life in the three symbolizations of the sacred or the three means by
which the sacred acts is generally or a
myth which is
sacred communication.I know a lot of journalists use myth
as something that's false.And is an sense they do have something,they're onto something there because myth is really
a living paradigm and the when it ceased to be a living paradigm it's no longer operative
it would seem false.So a lot of the mythologies of former peoples have ceased to be living paradigms but that doesn't mean
that they aren't replaced by new living paradigms and in the study of religion when we use the term myth we are generally referring to
those systems of beliefs or those world views,
that are still vibrant and living
and it's quite possible that some stories go lot out of vogue like the Adam and Eve story for example.You know with
contemporary biology and evolutionary theory you. think OK, there never were these real
two people, but as it takes on metaphoric meaning and it starts to deal with
the qualities of existence and you find that there's something that's very pertinent and true and relevant about that story it
can be reinvested with new life,as a meaningful metaphor and so a myth
kind of slides in and out of being living and we constantly go. through paradigm shifts and will some things
we thought were were valuable and we held to be self-evident are sometimes questioned and they're no longer self-evident but
new things assume that quality that central place of being the grand narrative by which we make
meaning out of existence.
A ritual is just simply sacred behavior if myth is sacred communication,those things that are the most
meaningful to us then ritual are those behaviors that we think are the most important behaviors and so there's all
kinds of examples of that to,prayer,meditation going to church,practicing yoga,sacrifice is one of those all-time
big pervasive and tenacious sacred behaviors.
But there's other things too that occupy the place of sacred behavior in people 's lives, if you're an athlete or you're
into sports
or even if you're a participant,if your'e a big fan hey sacred behavior is about
going to places,watching games,getting ready getting in the zone.Those are all sacred behaviors as
Symbol are those sacred places,persons or objects and big things are places like Jerusalem or Mecca and people
like the Buddha or
famous preachers like Martin Luther King Jr. and objects like crosses.Crosses,the stars of David
all kinds of symbols are sacred objects and I mean once again you can make a lots of analogies from sports,so one
thing I would say about football since we're moving into football season and people are getting all excited in frenzied. Because now
real time has come back into existence.
Think about football man,it is all about sacred space and sacred time.And that sacred object that little pig skin football.
Any so
these are just categories to try to help sort things out.
This I think is very important,
that one of those qualities or symbolizations of the sacred involves sacred
texts or myths and so sacred texts are read in different way I mean certainly knowing how the story goes say in the biblical the,
the biblical sets of narrative.Knowing the stories becomes very important. But
you can actually read literature on a very sophisticated level and that's why I talk about the narrative hermeneutic symbiotic.
If you were to study say french literature and get a Ph.D in it you would know those terms.Hermeneutic means
interpretation and basically
symbiotic is de- coding or looks at symbols and codes
I'll answer your question,
Pierre,this will be on, a quiz or something.
It's coming up, so
yes,pay attention.Anyways
that's one level of reading a sacred text is just as literature,as the story goes,and you can do some sophisticated intrepretations of it
look at it hermeneutically which is to try to understand what author's intent was or you can read it symbiotically which tries to
decode a text for the various types of codes that might be their.Kinship codes property codes,purity codes,those are all ways of looking
at a text just at the narrative structure.
Theologically or metaphysically now that's a big time level of reading the sacred text,what does it say about ultimate reality.
So you should understand that a theological reading of the text is a system that sometimes stands,well it does stand
outside the text and it arranges kind of
what I call hierarchies of meaning.
So if you have a,every tradition has ambivalent structures
and those ambivalent structures sometimes need resolution. So what takes precedence?
Should you turn the other cheek,
or not.What do you do in situations where you have to make choices and you're trying to
look for a guidance from the sacred text and you get ambivalent reading well that's where theology comes in,our
metaphysics and tries to sort things out about what
is most important
the historical scientific reading of a text asks that question about
What really happened?
and it really tries to understand all the contextual circumstances that inform the creation of the texts.So this has become
really significant in what's called the quest for the historical Jesus.A lot of people
have tattooed on their butts or on their wrist or they wear it on their T-shirts--What Would Jesus Do?
Well,knowing historically,scientifically what Jesus actually did
can shed a lot of light on what Jesus would actually do
So for example knowing
what the historical circumstances were that propelled Jesus to go in and cleanse the temple would shed
a lot of light on
what sort of conduct and what sort of agenda Jesus had.So they're all kinds of tool 's archaeology and other historical texts
and all kinds of
sophisticated apparatus that we have were exploring things historically and scientifically so for example the
discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in the chance Jordanian desert or the discovery of the library at Nag-----sheds
light on our understanding of the world and the context of the
of biblical times
the fourth level of reading a sacred text is existentially and basically that just means the
level of engagement that a text can command of you.
And I think that's what all good preachers,rabbis,mullahs are trying to do with a text.They're interpreting
a text they are also trying to
bring you into it
and so that existential encounter with a text can have very significant and life-changing properties
People will stumble into a hotel drunk on their butt,ready to commit suicide and discover the bible placed there by the Gideon,open
a page and suddenly their lives are transformed.If you don't believe me ask those Gideon's that place the bibles there they'll tell you tons of
stories of how people found the text that suddenly spoke to them
and changed their lives.
So this is just one of the things,one of the phenomena we deal with in the study of religion is scripture but you should
realize,should realize that there are ways to read the
text and there are ways in which the text can be sorted out.