Wikipedia commentary/Folklore, Myth, and Religion

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A discussion begun on the folklore page.

Given that this discrepency in usage exists, and that it contains in it such fundamental unstated worldview assumptions, it is sometimes difficult to parse out the possible categories of folklore. Certainly, many practitioners of classic Judeo-Christian Monotheisms are offended by the very notion that UFO Abductees might claim their own belief system as a religion on par with Catholicism ((Catholicism) or Islam. And it is difficult for even the most "objective" and dispassionate of observers to witness the actions of people like the Heaven's Gate congregation and not discount their claims of a higher spiritual purpose. But it is frequently the case that Folklore, Religion, Myth and Cult all swirl together into an intellectual morass. Mormonism, even today, is viewed in certain circles in the same light that one might have viewed a member of Jim Jones' Peoples Church. And even more ambiguously, one might wonder at the call recently in the United Kingdom to have Jedi Knight recognized on the census as an official religion (NB: the call succeeded since >1000 people stated that Jedi Knight was in fact their religion). Should The Force be classified alongside Deuteronomy or Little Red Riding Hood? And what fundamentally seperates Philadelphia Experiment literature from The Book of Mormon?--trimalchio

everyone seems to be leaving out one of the contituent elements of religion - worship - as opposed to the content of the narrative. Not that there aren't religius practices which are engaged in alone, but 'religions' can be differentiated, if incompletely, from 'belief systems' by adding a description of practice. Now, of course, there are those who claim a belief system without DOING anything about it, and we can argue about whether or not they are members of a religion, but unless they DO something (public or not) I think of it as a 'belief system' rather than a religion. Do the Jedi Knights have worship services? They might well. In which case they may be considered a religion. Do they only have an annual conference? In which case they are a fan club who are deeply interested in a mythos. --MichaelTinkler

I'm a Buddhist and worship is not a part of the beliefs and practices of a large percentage of Buddhist sects.

But what's the distinction between SF convention and a worship service? Other than the nomenclature, the behavior is very similar.

I wonder, though, about pinning people to "practice" as a characteristic to distinguish religion from the larger narrative structure. First, practice is always changing (Vatican II is a good example... are pre-1960s Catholics participating in a different religion then post 1960's Catholics?). Does practice, in and of itself, define a religion? And second, if practice is always fluid in this way, how can we say which practice is distinguishing. I'm methodist but never attend church. I attended as a child, and was raised with practice (the very limited, almost non-existent practice one finds in Methodism normally) but I no longer have any practice in my religious life. But I still consider myself methodist (lapsed, I guess, but for Methodists there isn't very far to go in my opinion). So, is it the fact that I practiced at all what makes my religion a Religion? And how many church services must I attend in order to qualify as a methodist? Is anything before a certain number of services (5, 10, 15) a disqualifier? And say there was a minimum that i did not reach, but I still believed all of the stories and subscribed to all of the morals (which I don't, actually)... would I not be a methodist? That is, i do no practice but believe everything that is said. Am i a methodist? By the same token, I have lost faith in a lot of the narrative, but I imagine that I have passed the appopriate threshold in terms of practice.. I did attend church a lot as a kid and even today I occasionally lurk at the back on sundays. Does that make me a methodist? I just wonder if the fact of practice alone is enough to say one way or another that something is a religion or that someone belongs to one religion and not another.
By extension then, can we say that practice defines religion? If I can be a methodist without going to church (and maybe I can't... but i sure feel pretty methodist with my Jewish or Catholic friends... culturally and intellectually) why does a religion have to have any practice component? Say you believe in UFO Abduction. You believe the whole thing: the better race of people coming to save mankind, the promise of eternal life through miracle science on some far off homeworld, the imminent eschaton of man-made global annihilation. But you don't DO anything, per se. You don't join a cult and drink the cool-aid. You don't shave your head. You don't leave your wife or your job. You just privately believe that. You have a whole narrative mythology about what the world is, why it is, what your place might be in it and what will happen to you after (or instead of) death. Your belief is internal, though the narrative is mostly external (and who knows if that is even a determinant). Are you religious? Is your faith part of a Religion?--trimalchio
Can I add a few thoughts about this? IMHO believing in a religious system, whether internalized and/or externalized is one thing; it may range from a distant outlook on life in general to a mere change of valious or a vigourous keeping of external rules, with all variations in between, but it would not necessarily include personal faith in a more relational sense. For example when I have faith in someone it means I trust that person. It may also mean I experience that person to have a positive influence on my life. But that influence only happens when I give him/her room to actually influence me as a person. That means I must enter in a sort of relationship. When I have faith in my car it means I believe is was well-made and because of that it is a useful vehicle: it takes me where I want to go. But only when I step into it, start the engine and drive away, believing in my car will not do me any good. We may have to ask the question what that is: practising faith. Obviously not just the annual number of church visits. What are the deepest religious (spiritual, theological) values and aspects, what do they actually mean and what does believing in them really do to the believer (internal + external evidence), how does it eventually transform the believer into a true member of that specific religion. A bit of a holistic approach I guess. It may be covered partly- I haven't yet read everything in the faith and religion sections- but we could for instance have a section on each religion giving the respective internal (insiders) view of what is a 'real' muslim, a 'real' christian or a 'true' moonie. For some religions the essence may be mainly a set of practical rules to keep, for others it means a certain lifestyle, and for others a deep personal involvement in the meaning and workings of supposed spiritual thruths.Does this make any sense to you? --TK

Yeah. That makes sense. Every religion entry is its own thing. It's contents will fit to the form of the religion, and not to an abstract definition of "Religion." Hmmmm... can it be that simple? I think it migh be. (I'm teaching argument in this part of the term, and that always makes me a little combative... tee hee). --trimalchio