To Be Presented on February 1, 2013
1:00 PM Friday for the
Ole class on Religions of the World
By William S Jamison
The following are the notes I collected for this presentation:
Definition of Religion
Belief in a metanarrative.
The metanarrative answers three major
questions we all need answered:
Who am I
What is my place in the Universe
How do I maintain that place?
Monotheism itself can be interpreted many
ways. The meaning of a word comes from the
context and is decided by those who are
trained to interpret the meanings in a context.
A Monotheistic Metanarrative would answer
the three major questions by describing a
Grand Unified Theory of the Universe with the
answer to Why everything is the way it is by the
this is also basically the point of Brian Greene
here in his explanation of why the universe if
Lyotard argues that the postmodern crisis
results from people no longer believing in
metanarratives but I find Fredric Jameson's
critique in the preface to Lyotard's The
Postmodern Condition to be more coherent.
(Notice some talk this way with regard to being
spiritual as well.)
In my definition of religion the defining
characteristic of a religion is the metanarrative
structure of the dogma which can identify the
Please notice two things here.
The first is that there is a metanarrative that
answers the three questions and teaches an
The second that in actuality the piece is a
satire for a postmodern audience who should
laugh at the ridiculous nature of the ethic
shown even though there are many people
living still today who live this way. (Our current
Monotheistic view is the Postmodern.)
The ethical position in the metanarrative "kill
your enemies, see them driven before you, and
hear the lamentation of the women" is fairly
If we look at still earlier templates for this we
can see basic hunting narratives. As Vine
Deloria explains, gatherer hunter
metanarratives teach traditions that enable
natives to live in a particular place and subsist
in cooperation with the animals and plants of
These stories typically are much more basic
than the model of the mythical narratives
Here we see the template used in the great
classical narratives that even structure the
most popular narratives of today - George
Lucas called Joseph Campbell "my Yoda" and
Star Wars plays out as a perfect example of
the template, as does Harry Potter, the life of
Jesus, the life of Mohammad, and even Chloe,
a lost Beverly Hills Chihuahua. (Notice again
the appeal to postmodernists to laugh at this
satire of what appears to be the tried and true
template of the hero's quest. Chloe sacrifices
herself for her friends but is resurrected as the
light hits the stone she lies on dead in the
cave. (As far as I know no critic made fun of
this movie making fun of Jesus' resurrection.)
For the postmodern salvation lies in comedy.
Mathematics (Greek for knowledge)
When we look at the evolution of religious
structure I think we see the main movement to
monotheism following the development of
Once the priesthood develops math in order to
keep accounts, predict the seasons by
following the movements in the heavens, and
build structures that are both functional and
work as a calendar for watching the heavens,
we see the metanarratives associated with
polytheism - many gods - narrow the field to
just one most powerful and then only one god.
Aparently we have Akhenaten's attempt to do
away with the polytheistic priesthood and
replace it with a priesthood dedicated only to
Aten. They lose and the monotheists exodus
from Egypt under the highpriest Moses.
An excellent place to see this occur is in the
mathematization of reason here in the Platonic
dialog Euthyphro. Socrates says: The point
which I should first wish to understand is
gods because it is holy, or holy because it is
What occurs here is the priority of reason
establishing what is pious over the claim of the
priesthood that what is pious is what they claim
the god loves. What is mathematically obvious
is that there can only be one highest Good.
The problem is how do we come to know what
To see the mathematical implications of this
we might look at Anselm's Ontological
Argument, or a newer version of that by Kurt
I consider this a successful proof but there are
critiques - Kant's existence is not a predicate
seems to be the strongest but fails as most
everyone agrees that existence is a predicate.
This brings us to the Language Games of God.
(This in the Wittgensteinian sense).
I notice that Pope Benedict XVI uses this
theory to explain the Trinity.
Notice this tree diagram of world religions.
Zooming in on Judaism you can see the
varieties of monotheism that has sprung from
the common root.
Interaction Ritual Chains - people coming
together in groups.
Notice the connections centered around
Aquinas and his compromise. Aquinas is
doing physics (metaphysics) and continues to
apply the mathematical model to theology as
Monotheism is the belief that there is only one
God. (But not Monodeism!) In this we see the
religions of the Book (Torah, Bible, Koran) as
in agreement. There is one God. The
Language Games that have developed to
enhance the meaning of the concept of God
are where there are differences.
But the one God of Judaism is the one God of
Christianity and that God is Allah in Arabic.
What enters into most arguments I have seen
concerns the cultural differences between
people in trying to understand practical
specifics that result from submission or belief
in God. Tariq Ramadan seems to clearly
confuse the need to live according to Arabic
Culture in order to be Islamic. So he is
supporting the view that the IRs of Arabic
Culture are necessary universally. This
certainly seems to be ridiculous since a
change in environment requires a change in
IRs. Imagine any western court fining a father
for killing his daughter. But how has the
monotheistic metanarrative developed in the
In its abstract mathematically correct form the
proof of the existence of God does not answer
any practical questions.
If you attended Denys Turner's presentation at
UAA several years ago you may remember he
even argued that the position of Atheists is
essentially the same position of Theists today.
By the way, our philosophy conference speaker
this year will be John Hare from Yale Divinity School.
Sam Harris argues that we could use science
to determine best social practices today and
wants science to take over the job of
determining correct moral principles.
Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, and
Daniel Dennett seem to join Sam Harris in this
argument. Notice the monotheistic narrative for
the modern west would be associated with
Science. We assume the best religious
practice for a people in a particular
environment should be something we could
Perhaps DARPA might support this project as
part of its attempt to understand the function of
narrative. Or as they describe it:
Visualizing and understanding the
ideas and the semantic web‖,
ontology formation, web search,
ontology refinement, ... or see "One sub-goal"
It occurs to me that Bishops Ambrose and
Augustine might have found such analysis
But what is the dominant monotheism today?
Watching Richard Dawkins several summers
ago at UAF it was obvious to me that he was a
very religious man (by my definition) and his
followers were very religious as well. His
lecture had the atmosphere of a sacred
service. He is also clearly monotheistic though
confused about a great many things. One of
his colleagues, Alister McGrath, goes to great
length to help clarify things for him in this series
Which brings me to a terrific interpretation of
our contemporary postmodern monotheism
and the IRs that have developed especially
among our young people - Slavoj Zizek.
Robert Putnam ends the book American
Grace by saying that "America has solved the
puzzle of religious pluralism... by creating a
web of interlocking personal relationships
among people of many different faiths. This is
America's Grace." We agree with Stephen Jay Gould.
Last week's presentation by Dr. Reverend Richard Gay are on these two links in Windows Media format:
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