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  1. #1
    @.~*virinaĉo*~.@ Totenkindly's Avatar
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    Default Role of Religion in Personal Development

    Reviewing my life, I have become aware of some limitations in the way I have approached my personal growth. Certain approaches seem to have carried me so far, then failed to change things. At that point, other approaches became more effective in both pinpointing problems and improving matters.

    Religion (at least conservative religions) generally seem to approach behavior from the lens of "good/bad" or "moral/immoral," and from that assessment then promotes particular behaviors meant to resolve any taint in the individual's moral condition. [prayer, scripture reading and contemplation, meditation, accountability, religious services, group study, etc.]

    What are the pro's and con's of this? Is this paradigm always effective or does it have glaring weaknesses? What are your experiences with this approach, what have you seen in your life and/or in the lives of those you know personally?

    (If this question is too vague, I can clarify.)
    "Hey Capa -- We're only stardust." ~ "Sunshine"

    “Pleasure to me is wonder—the unexplored, the unexpected, the thing that is hidden and the changeless thing that lurks behind superficial mutability. To trace the remote in the immediate; the eternal in the ephemeral; the past in the present; the infinite in the finite; these are to me the springs of delight and beauty.” ~ H.P. Lovecraft

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    Lex Parsimoniae Xander's Avatar
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    Of all the religious people I have spoken to (should really say "people with religion" I guess) the ones who seem to have developed are the ones who manage to avoid picking up the dogmatic thinking along the way.

    IOW it's been my experience that religion can teach how to develop but it can also be very destructive as it can be interpreted as "as long as you do X you are superior to all who don't" and that's a big platform upon which to build delusion and bad habits.
    Isn't it time for a colourful metaphor?

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    Senior Member ThatsWhatHeSaid's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jennifer View Post
    Reviewing my life, I have become aware of some limitations in the way I have approached my personal growth. Certain approaches seem to have carried me so far, then failed to change things. At that point, other approaches became more effective in both pinpointing problems and improving matters.

    Religion (at least conservative religions) generally seem to approach behavior from the lens of "good/bad" or "moral/immoral," and from that assessment then promotes particular behaviors meant to resolve any taint in the individual's moral condition. [prayer, scripture reading and contemplation, meditation, accountability, religious services, group study, etc.]

    What are the pro's and con's of this? Is this paradigm always effective or does it have glaring weaknesses? What are your experiences with this approach, what have you seen in your life and/or in the lives of those you know personally?

    (If this question is too vague, I can clarify.)
    I try not to accept things based on authority, religious ideology notwithstanding. It's not a secret that I'm interested in Zen Buddhism, but that interest came after I saw how it framed the ideas and experiences I already had. Following religion blindly might help you in some ways, but it might also hurt you in a lot of ways. Most religions, in my view, are codified instructions for perpetuating the religion itself with some payoff (usually delayed) to the practitioner. As far as that goes, its benefit to the practitioner is more a byproduct of practice than the aim. Other religions seem to have a different focus, but I would say the best thing to do is to forget them entirely and examine your own experience, or to read them for ideas and see how those ideas sit with your understanding of nature.

    My take on self-help is:

    1. Identify the areas that needs help.
    2. Identify what causes the problem.
    3. Develop and implement solution.

    It might be easier to discover the problem if you reflect on the solution. I'm sure there are times you feel total release and total contentment despite having and acknowledging certain problems. I think of that state of mind as watching, letting go, not over-thinking, love, art, etc. It's all the same single experience, and in my view, it comes from honesty and stillness. It's opposite is resistance to experience or pain. So there we have it:

    1. Discomfort via pain, worry, frustrations.
    2. Resistance to pain.1
    3. Honesty, letting go, not over-thinking; surrender.

    Dichotomous thinking along the lines of good and bad, in my view, can somewhat contribute to this stillness in that it can start you on the path, i.e., honesty and confrontation and fearlessness are "good" while hiding, fearing, faking, and fighting/resisting are "bad." The limitation, though, is that (1) you're still resisting experience and trying to guide it in some direction, (2) what's "good" and "bad" take a lot of wisdom to decide, and you need to be careful about who's assigning these values and what their agenda is -- is it fear? thirst for power? thirst for pleasure? habit? superstition? (3) you're liable to develop layers of shame for not being "good" which can have adverse effects on your quest for honesty/freedom/development.

    I like the way Eastern religions set things up. We don't have good and bad actions, but wholesome and unwholesome. Wholesome actions bring you peace of mind, which unwholesome actions create more karma. Nothing is ever good or bad, and the system recognizes that good and bad are subjective concepts that are projected out onto the environment, not arising in the environment itself. I'm much more comfortable what that scheme.

    1 I still think that things like depression and loss cause pain, but there's a place of peace within these experience that probably most of us have experienced when we open up to whatever's going on and stop fighting it. Therefore, discomfort is more the product of resistance than of the experience itself.
    Last edited by ThatsWhatHeSaid; 05-23-2008 at 04:08 PM. Reason: added first paragraph

  4. #4
    desert pelican Owl's Avatar
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    Knowledge is communal: it can be shared without loss to the one sharing it--like an STD, only better.

    Thus, knowledge of the good life, what the good is and the means to it, can be shared.

    Has your conservative religion conserved insight into the good life that it can share? Did it ever have it in the first place?

    The pro's of an organization dedicated to creating, sustaining, and maintaining that which is good are too many to list; the con's of an organization not so dedicated are as well.

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    @.~*virinaĉo*~.@ Totenkindly's Avatar
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    Most religious organizations (to me) seem to be a mix of good and bad, productive and unproductive... just like families.

    (Face it: If it was ALL negative, the organization would collapse via a combination of healthy members leaving and unhealthy members being consumed by the system. edit: i suppose i do also have to consider whether the induction of new members thru conversion or birth to current members can offset the decline.. if it at least matches the decline, even if the system is harmful, the population will stay steady and the organization will endure.)

    But one aspect of religious life is that it makes the claim at some level that the ideas it promotes about morality and interaction between people is the "most healthy and best way to live" -- often with the adjunct that other beliefs result in more destructive patterns of behavior. So the religion claims to be the "right one" because it's the "best" in terms of long-term results.

    I guess my OP was focused more on the theory behind any particular faith, its paradigm and angle of approach to interaction, etc., rather than the organizational structure per se. If there are inherent flaws in the framework of a system, it doesn't matter what one tries to base on it... the system will forever be flawed, or have a max possible benefit limited by the extent of those flaws.

    So are the standard practices usually prescribed by the typical religion -- based on its inherent assumptions of good and evil -- as effective in improving community, improving personal goodness, etc., as the systems it claims to be better than? What other paradigms or ways of approach to human behavior exist besides just framing an action in terms of "good/evil", and are those more or less beneficial in the long run?

    (Other frames can include "healthy/unhealthy" or "positive/negative" or "knowledgeable/naive" or whatever you'd like.)
    "Hey Capa -- We're only stardust." ~ "Sunshine"

    “Pleasure to me is wonder—the unexplored, the unexpected, the thing that is hidden and the changeless thing that lurks behind superficial mutability. To trace the remote in the immediate; the eternal in the ephemeral; the past in the present; the infinite in the finite; these are to me the springs of delight and beauty.” ~ H.P. Lovecraft

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    homo-loving sonovagun anii's Avatar
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    Errk - just my timing for an intriguing question to arise as I'm heading out the door.

    Will think on this.

    Short answer:

    Proscriptive doctrine and compliance via coercion shut down, limit, and constrict one's options, expression, world view.

    Presence, numenous moments, inspiration and a sense of oneness expand the breadth and depth of one's options, expression, and world view.
    There's reason to be afraid, and reason to open your heart. ~ Seal

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    seor member colmena's Avatar
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    Interesting thread. Not a conservative religion, but I think Buddhism has excellent opportunity for inadvertent development of moral virtue, as well as developing compassion, obviously.

    Buddhism and psychology - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
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    Ti Ne Fi Ni

    -How beautiful, this pale Endymion hour.
    -What are you talking about?
    -Endymion, my dear. A beautiful youth possessed by the moon.
    -Well, forget about him and get to bed.
    -Yes, my dear.

  8. #8
    Senor Membrane
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    I actually see philosophical views of science to be very enlightening in almost a religious way (thinking Abraham Maslow). Churches have ruined the traditional religions. When you put it in the box, it won't grow. Pro's of traditional religions is that they have (usually) some set of rules that are mostly good ones and necessary in the long run. When governments (and their laws) fall, religions will fill the void. Better than nothing.

  9. #9
    desert pelican Owl's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jennifer View Post
    Most religious organizations (to me) seem to be a mix of good and bad, productive and unproductive... just like families.

    (Face it: If it was ALL negative, the organization would collapse via a combination of healthy members leaving and unhealthy members being consumed by the system. edit: i suppose i do also have to consider whether the induction of new members thru conversion or birth to current members can offset the decline.. if it at least matches the decline, even if the system is harmful, the population will stay steady and the organization will endure.)

    But one aspect of religious life is that it makes the claim at some level that the ideas it promotes about morality and interaction between people is the "most healthy and best way to live" -- often with the adjunct that other beliefs result in more destructive patterns of behavior. So the religion claims to be the "right one" because it's the "best" in terms of long-term results.

    I guess my OP was focused more on the theory behind any particular faith, its paradigm and angle of approach to interaction, etc., rather than the organizational structure per se. If there are inherent flaws in the framework of a system, it doesn't matter what one tries to base on it... the system will forever be flawed, or have a max possible benefit limited by the extent of those flaws.

    So are the standard practices usually prescribed by the typical religion -- based on its inherent assumptions of good and evil -- as effective in improving community, improving personal goodness, etc., as the systems it claims to be better than? What other paradigms or ways of approach to human behavior exist besides just framing an action in terms of "good/evil", and are those more or less beneficial in the long run?

    (Other frames can include "healthy/unhealthy" or "positive/negative" or "knowledgeable/naive" or whatever you'd like.)
    You are correct in your assesment of religion as a system.

    The nature of the good is based upon the nature of the real. How one conceives of the real will determine how one conceives of the good.

    "Good" and "evil" are only symbols that point to the underlying reality. That reality could be health/unhealth, positive/negative, knowledge/ignorace, or pleasure/pain.

    What is real, and how do we know?

  10. #10
    Senior Member millerm277's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jennifer View Post
    Religion (at least conservative religions) generally seem to approach behavior from the lens of "good/bad" or "moral/immoral," and from that assessment then promotes particular behaviors meant to resolve any taint in the individual's moral condition. [prayer, scripture reading and contemplation, meditation, accountability, religious services, group study, etc.]

    What are the pro's and con's of this? Is this paradigm always effective or does it have glaring weaknesses? What are your experiences with this approach, what have you seen in your life and/or in the lives of those you know personally?
    On paper, religon seems like a good idea. And, many of the things it teaches (or should teach), are important and valuable lessons. However, in practice...I do find many flaws with it. First off, while teaching good/bad is something important, many seem to get a black/white view out of it, with no room for understanding or a "grey area". Another issue, is that in teaching, the bad is often focused on, rather than the good (much as I am doing in this post). I hear lots of "You can't do this, or you'll go to hell." I may add some more to this later, but I don't have time right now.

    I personally was raised Reform Jewish, and while I never believed in it, (Told my parents at 13 or 14), I give it a lot more credit than most other religons I've seen. (Various branches of christianity, conservative/orthodox judiasm). Why? Because rather than treating the bible/torah as rules that you should always adhere to, they more emphasized the lessons to be learned and morals, instead of "You must obey these rules", and they were open to discussion and interpretation. I'm somewhere between Atheist and Agnostic.
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