This web site investigates the relationship of culture and religion, including the origins of our religions and their influence on our daily lives. With my Catholic childhood, I have first hand experience that Western religion seeks to alienate the believer from his/her culture because this person must act with the goal of an afterlife in heaven. The last few years have brought the world another Crusade - a war based on religion. America is attempting to force its Christian culture onto people in the Middle East under the guise of ‘bringing democracy’ and these Islamic peoples are not willing to submit to this aggression. Christian evangelists claim we are in a war between cultures. This Christian evangelical movement is affecting American government policies and laws. I feel that a new perspective on the interaction of culture and religion is required if the world is to survive this current global turmoil.
Culture has been defined as the system of shared beliefs, values, customs, behaviors and artifacts that the members of society use to cope with their world and with one another, and that are transmitted from generation to generation through learning (this definition is from a University of Manitoba web page, selected for its brevity).
Religion has been defined as a system of beliefs based on humanity's attempt to explain the universe and natural phenomena, often involving one or more deities or other supernatural forces and also requiring or binding adherents to follow prescribed religious obligations. Two identifying features of religions are they to some extent (a) require faith and (b) seek to organize and influence the thoughts and actions of their adherents. Because of this, some contend that all religions are to some degree both unempirical and dogmatic and are therefore to be distrusted. (This definition is from an old reference in Webster's Online Dictionary for religion.)
I have always been interested in why the world is the way it is: the origins of our religions and the structure of our universe (both scientifically and socially). I have found that the reality of the world and its history can be different than I was taught. These interests lead to the investigation of " what is life " and " who am I " from a personal and religious perspective.
The political landscape of America is also changing, with a recent shift to an emphasis on religion in public policies. I feel this shift is not good for America or the world.
While I have links to other sites and several lists of books and references, this mix of Zen, catastrophism and libertarianism is my own world view that I have never seen expressed by anyone else. This site brings together topics from ancient mythologies, religion, the Bible, Jesus, life after death, creation and evolution, ethics, our social nature, politics, America and future society.
I felt the need to write down my thoughts and in so doing share them with others. Undoubtedly, others will not share my perspective but I feel inclined to present my view of what life is all about. Since I started this web page in early 2000 (first as a yahoo/geocities site), I have had a number of readers agree that my presentation makes sense, while of course others have sent to me their opposing views.
Alan Watts wrote in one of his books "philosophy is a social function for a man cannot rightly think alone and the philosopher must publish his thought as much to learn from criticism as to contribute to the sum of wisdom." I am publishing my perspective and I certainly expect criticism. I am sure that some details in this site might not find agreement in all readers. I only hope that when reading these perspectives on culture and religion the reader will come to understand my perspective and philosophy - and perhaps come to reconsider his/her own.
At first I confronted a simple question without a simple answer:
What does it all mean?
In answering this question while investigating the interactions of history, religion, culture, politics and science, another common religious question is also answered:
What is the meaning of life?
My observations lead to another serious question (that is also addressed here):
What is the future for mankind?
One cannot know the future unless one understands the past. This web site investigates the past, including how the Christian religion evolved and how that affects our American culture, so that we can understand why we are the way we are and then work to improve the conditions in which we all live for a better future.
This web site is my perspective as I search for answers to the above questions.
Culture is what brings us together as human beings, as social creatures. We can work together to achieve what is not possible individually. We interact in accordance with the natural laws of social behavior, respecting each other's individual rights and respecting the property of one another.
Religions, especially when based on ancient writings, are divisive. Their interpretations can never be certain. Hence there is always inherent doubt in such religions. That doubt can be suppressed by convincing others of the validity of those assumptions, thereby taking advantage of that common facet of social behavior: the feeling of comfort in numbers. Unfortunately, others will see problems in those assumptions and interpretations or worse the assumptions will be found to be false or based on myth rather than on actual events, thereby lacking a suitable foundation. Such revelations cause doubt and insecurity in the believers. There will also be the inevitable conflict between those having different interpretations. Such religions have a negative influence on humanity for these reasons.
Government can also be divisive when it extends beyond a community. Parental control is critical in the development of our youth. Local community control is important in maintaining a safe and secure social environment, by enforcing the basic rules of human behavior - it is wrong to harm another person or his/her property. Government at wider/higher levels of control becomes divisive, as each level becomes a mechanism of control by one group over another group. The group in control gets its compensation from the group not in control. Only when this compensation is voluntary (such as NOT by taxation) is there the necessary direct chain of accountability; in other words, the group in control can be replaced by another group when its performance is deemed unsatisfactory. When this compensation is involuntary (i.e., taxes), corruption is inevitable because the group not in control cannot easily get rid of a corrupt or incompetent government. The use of taxes enables the group in control to take money from some to benefit others and through an efficient marketing campaign (i.e., propaganda) regarding such activities the group not in control can be kept unaware. By funneling tax dollars to others who then support the election campaigns of those in power, a circle of corruption quickly follows, to the detriment of the populace that sustains this government. Even worse our American government is now in transition as it brings the divisive influences of Christian religious leaders into the already corrupt national political arena in an attempt to maintain its facade of legitimacy.
The web pages in this site might have references to Zen, a religion that makes sense to me since it is concerned solely with the religious experience to be felt during life. It offers an understanding of this life not a hope for a hypothetical after life. It has no ancient writings that have to be defended against opposing interpretations. It proposes no tyrannical supernatural being that would have to be compared to that of the Bible-based religions. It seeks no converts and has never had leaders of stature. Zen is not a divisive religion.
The web pages in this site might have references to the libertarian perspective, the political view that government intrudes on our human rights and will always be less efficient than any private enterprise, where the buyer can always hold the seller accountable for any service rendered, forcing the seller to provide the necessary service at a reasonable cost. A government initiative lacks both essential attributes. Governments will tend to intrude on everyone’s civil rights as its actions seek to maintain those in power and even to extend that power (by finding other tasks to be run by government programs, funded by tax dollars; war is another way that a national government increases its power to the detriment of humanity, ravaging both its people and resources as well as those in the country being attacked).
I do not intend to persuade the reader to change religious or political leanings just by reading this site. Both tend to follow one's personality. Some people can accept more anarchy than others. Some can accept the capricious nature of life more than others. I intend only to offer my perspectives and my opinions to the reader in the hope that the reader might gain insights both into one's life, into one’s religion and toward the future.
In early 2012, Jonathan Haidt published The Righteous Mind. I find the book provides many observations similar to those already discussed in this web site, including the human tendency toward either loyalty or tolerance. Those competing tendencies provide the basis for most political or religious conflicts, where someone will emphasize loyalty over tolerance to carve out a perceived threat in another social group. This divisive nature causes many problems as a consequence, contrary to a tolerant attitude that can bring diverse individuals together to cooperate and achieve what cannot be accomplished individually.
I have collected my thoughts into several groups (with the number of pages in each group shown).
The past - mythology and the origins of our religions (7)
The present - religion and culture (14)
The present - religion and moral values (10)
The present - politics (18) (2 pages added 04/29/2013)
The future (13) (new page added 06/16/2013)
A brief view of life (15)
The Religion of CAGW (7) (new page added 06/15/2013)
My counterpoint to BreakPoint commentaries
Parent’s guide part 1 responses (19),
Parent’s guide part 2 responses (14),
Worldview of the Church responses (2),
Second Sight responses (5)
The BreakPoint web site provides a Christian fundamentalist perspective on life and trends. I am offering an alternate perspective to consider.
Various publications regarding catastrophism (Pensee, Kronos, Aeon)
Various books about religion, science and politics
A little about the author, the site chronology, and links to a few comments left on other blogs (about religion).
If you have comments, please E-mail me at dave at cultureandreligion.com.
original site created in geocities - May 2000
‘culture and religion’ web site created - Nov. 2004
last home page content change - 12/31/2012
last change to the web site - 06/16/2013