What is Religion?History of Religions and the ambiguity of “religion”
Ambiguity of Religion• Academic study of religion implies uncertainty – Have different ideas of the essential attributes of religion – Department of Religion at SUDifferent than other subjects of study
Religion and the mind• Diseased metal state—religion as a psychological delusion – ???• Ultimate clarity—religion as enabling people to see the entire universe clearly – ???
Religion and society• Religion as a social glue – Connecting people together in to a society – ???• Religion as a solitary pursuit of truth – What people do alone to give them meaningful lives – ???
Religion and death• Religion is a creation of the reality of death and a way of engaging the dead – ???• Religion is a way of overcoming death and limits – ???
Ambiguity of Religion• The idea that religion is many things at once is not shared by the wider society• Religion is quite specific – What does religion refer to in the media? – Definite and not ambiguous
History of Religions• For HR religion is a cipher, a mystery in and of itself – By it’s very nature religion cannot be deciphered• Describing religion is to reveal its influence and not to destroy it• Religion is everywhere, in all human societies
Religion and US culture• Plurality of religion is a fundamental freedom of the U.S.• Freedom OF religion• Freedom FROM religion• Academic study of religion is most important in defending this freedom
Religion and Plurality• Harvard’s Pluralism Project – http://www.pluralism.org/• InterFaith Works—dialogs on race – http://interfaithworkscny.org/blog/• Parliament of World Religions – http://www.parliamentofreligions.org/
Pluralism and Controversy• What is controversial about religious pluralism?• Why study religion? – http://www.studyreligion.org/why/index.html
Why study religion?• Don’t have to be religious to study it.• Bill Maher on religion (warnings!) – http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xc9yw5_bill- maher-on-religion-from-his-new_fun – Religulous film • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Gxc0XEoQpQ• Hates religion but acknowledges it’s power in people’s lives – Has done a lot for the study of religion
Seeming oppositions• Social Glue: Emile Durkheim, c. 1915 " . . . is a unified system of beliefs and practices relative to sacred things, that is to say, things set apart and forbidden--beliefs and practices which unite into one single moral community called a Church, all those who adhere to them."
Oppositions—continued• Solitary knowledge• Alfred North Whitehead, c. 1927• " . . . is what the individual does with his own solitariness; and if you were never solitary, you were never religious.”
Finitude• Karl Marx, 1844• " . . . is the sigh of the oppressed creature. . . .• " . . . is only the illusory sun which revolves around man as long as he does not revolve around himself.• " . . . the fantastic realization of the human essence because the human essence has no true reality. The struggle against religion is therefore . . . the fight against the other world, of which religion is the spiritual aroma.
Finitude—continued• Cornell West, 1994• [means] " . . . ligare, to bind; religare, to rebind in the midst of deep crisis, in the midst of scars and bruises and wounds and heartaches and heartbreaks and sadness and sorrow. We can also begin anthropologically and look at religion from a more basic level: we frivolous, two legged, linguistically conscious creatures, born between urine and feces, we must weave some webs of meaning and significance as we face inevitable and inescapable extinction. We are not here that long. In order to make this short sojourn meaningful, of some significance, we must come up with some sense of a story, a narrative, a ritual in a community, some bonds of affection, some networks of support, some cords or ties of empathy and sympathy and compassion."
Cornell West• Poverty tour with Tavis Smiley• On Colbert – http://www.colbertnation.com/the-colbert- report-videos/185684/september-24- 2008/cornel-west
Charles H. Long• Co-founder of the History of Religions• Charles H. Long, 1986• " . . . will mean orientation--orientation in the ultimate sense, that is, how one comes to terms with the ultimate significance of ones place in the world. . . . . The religion of any people is more than a structure of thought; it is experience, expression, motivations, intention s, behaviors, styles, and rhythms."
Materiality of religion• How religious ideas are involved with how we are connected with the world• The meaning of our material lives is addressed in all religions• How we can appreciate sports as religion
How I became Orange• Not just because I got hired here (1996) – Just being a student, employee or resident of Syracuse doesn’t make one orange• Uncle Andy and Mother Mary – Dedicate this book to them – Growing up poor in Syracuse, SU sports was very important • Relationship of city to the ‘hill’
Becoming Orange—continued• My sports were skiing, climbing (rock & ice), mountaineering – Alumni of U. of Colorado—go Buffs!• Been coming here since 1980 but moved here with Sandy Bigtree and twins in 1996 – Played lacrosse with the Onondaga Nation box lacrosse team “Redhawks” since they were 3 years old – SU lacrosse program best in the country • Because we are in Onondaga Nation territory – Heartland of the Haudenosaunee
Becoming Orange—continued• Lacrosse players were taking my Native American Religions class – Because of the influence of coach Roy Simmons, Jr. and his families relationship with the traditional values of the game• Twins helped me love team sports – Unlike me, and most probably because they are twins, they entered the world enthusiasts of team sports, which I consider to be the real ceremonial heart of the sporting world.
Becoming Orange—continued• Through connections with family and lacrosse I am Orange – Includes all SU sports, men/women, high profile/club• You have your own story, might begin here at SU or maybe earlier, or after you leave
Advocating for Indigenous Values• Being Orange is connected to my advocacy of rights for Onondaga Nation, Native American rights and excesses of religion against them• Doctrine of Discovery Study Group – http://www.doctrineofdiscovery.org• Neighbors of the Onondaga Nation (NOON) – http://www.peacecouncil.net/NOON/• Indigenous Values Initiative – http://www.indigenousvalues.org
Religion as Habitation• Sacred places in religion – Foundational• Hierophany – Manifestation of the sacred• Religious Orientation – Pride of place, identity, homeland
What are Indigenous Religions?• The ceremonial traditions of Native peoples around the world – Native American, African, Australian Aborigines, First Nations Peoples (Canada), etc.• Negative terms are “primitive,” “tribal,” “archaic,” “savages,” “heathen,” “pagan,” etc. – Transformed in to “Indigenous” with a delegation to the U.N. in Geneva in 1977
the Haudenosaunee,“People of the Longhouse” • Mistakenly called “Iroquois” • Confederation of 6 tribes – Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga , Cayuga, Tuscarora, Seneca • Last traditional government in US • Democracy, Women’s Movement • No “religion”
Onondaga Nation Territory “People of the Hills”• Central Fire/Tree – Grand Council• 3 Messages – 1. Creation/ Thanksgivings – 2. Great Law of Peace • Matrilineal Clans – 3. Code of Handsome Lake• http://www.onondaganation.org/• 13 “Thanksgivings” in the year – Ceremonies – Address spiritual reality of the earth as a living being
Everyday Importance of Creation for Indigenous religions• Not just an event of the past – Creation is critical for understanding the present world – Creation happens all the time• Organizes the world – “Founds” the world, makes reality possible• Form the basis of a human relationship with the world
Deyhontsigwaehs—”They Bump Hips” • “The Creator’s Game” • More than a sport it is also a Thanksgiving • Played at Onondaga Lake for Hiawantha • Foundational event at a sacred place
Onondaga Lake• Sacred place of the Haudenosaunee – Where the Great Law of Peace was born• Most chemically polluted lake in the USA – Due to industry there since 19th century
Contrasting meanings of sacred places • Devil’s Tower • Sacred place for Lakota (mistakenly called “Sioux”) • Where they connect with the Creator • “In the Light of Reverence”