Six Hoary Cliches about Religion

Jessica at Ask an Islamicist (an excellent blog covering the modern secular study of Islam and particularly broader issues in the west’s engagement with Islam), wrote a great post today:

I love talking about religions. Religions are social constructs with histories and cultures and art and stories and participants. But talking ‘about religion’ is really only fun if you’re an 18-year-old freshman philosophy major who’s just stocked up on herbal refreshment.

Otherwise, these conversations always go the same way,

Its a long post, but fun and funny, and in my experience very true!

Except that I also have fun talking about religion, without the aid of weed.


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2 responses to “Six Hoary Cliches about Religion

  1. She makes a great point about being “into” Eastern religions without knowing a thing about the history. My thing is that at home I practice yoga and chanting (Yoga Zone and Lama Suyra Das, who I think do them justice) because I find it to be beneficial.

    But I’m not Asian. I have no such ancestry and certainly did not learn the history. And even if I did, could I truly call myself a Hindu or Buddhist? Granted I have tremendous respect for Surya who’s American; but he spent much of his life preparing to convert. Does this mean it’s all or nothing? I should add that I would not ever say I “am” Buddhist.

    I also celebrate the change in seasons as did early Wiccans. I’m not Irish, but my Slovakian ancestors were farmers and I grew up caring for farm animals. So I learned more about Eastern European “paganism” which is rooted in agrarian traditions than I did about Stonehenge.

  2. Ian

    Hi Amelie. Sabio has talked a bit about the same idea, when westerners point to Eastern religions as being more reasonable or pure than western ones. I don’t think there’s anything wrong in having eclectic spiritual tastes though.

    I suspect it is a little like food. We go out for Chinese or Indian, but the food we get is not the food that Chinese or Indians are actually eating. It is a fusion, taking the spices and unusual ingredients, and blending them with tastes, consistencies and ways of eating that we can relate to. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that.

    I know some people get hung up on getting ‘authentic’ Indian food, in the west. But I’ve worked in India, and while some of the food was great, a lot of it was alien enough that it was only the novelty that made it fun to eat. So I’m quite happy with fusion in food and spirituality. And I’m happy to tap into Eastern traditions as part of that diet. But, as you said, I wouldn’t dream of identifying as a member of such a religion, or claim my western version was somehow the true or core version.

    [Nice to converse with you in a calmer place. My wife rolls her eyes every time I mention discussing with creationists – my civility threshold is disappointingly low. You, however, are being wonderfully patient!]

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