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Old 08-10-2018, 10:37 PM
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Default The Sacred (Post-religious)

This thread is for the more philosophically minded. Here, I'd like to explore what the notion of "the sacred" (and of 'reverence') might mean in a post-religious context. By "post-religious" I'm basically referring to a cultural-historical context in which traditional religious authority has been generally eroded, leaving ... what? Reason? Rationality? Negotiation? Myth...? Non-religious forms of authoritarianism? What?

Can we live well without a common sense of what is sacred and worthy of reverence? Must we?

Those who are curious enough can find some background on this discussion in the "Framing Intimacy" thread in General Poly Discussions.

Durkheim’s theory of the sacred may be useful as a touch point for this discussion, even if we find it distracting or useless. At least we may be able to articulate why it is so, thus providing a common space of inquiry.

Sacred–profane dichotomy
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sacred...fane_dichotomy
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Old 08-12-2018, 09:02 PM
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I don't think we're done with religion, nowhere near it. Unfortunately. As for the sacred, I believe it is largely subjective and exists along a continuum. For example, most people agree that human life is sacred, but what about the life of a mosquito? or a carrot? Different people define sacred differently.
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Old 08-14-2018, 04:29 PM
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Originally Posted by kdt26417 View Post
I don't think we're done with religion, nowhere near it.
By "post-religious" I hardly meant to suggest that "the world," or "Europe" or "the Americas" were somehow beyond or after religion. I did mean to suggest that some individuals are, and that some cultures are well along the way. I hear that Europeans, generally, are not so religious -- as contrasted with, say, Americans.

How this relates to the notion of "the sacred".... Obviously, moderns and Westerners have long sought solutions to the problem of re-grounding ethical life in "post-religious" or "non-religious" context. It was necessary, as during the so-called Enlightenment large numbers of Europeans were abandoning religion and embracing "reason" as the only remaining, viable foundation or locus for ethical life.

But it is entirely possible to construct a sense of ethics which makes no reference whatsoever to the notion of sacredness. For example, a theory and practice of ethics can exist in which a rationally chosen system of obligations and duties is emphasized while the notion of sacredness is entirely abandoned. And many people have shared my concern that human cultures can't really live well without a common sense of sacredness. In other words, if it is believed that "nothing is sacred," we would say that there is a rather large and important "hole" in the center of the society or culture. That "hole" will create problems, we would say. But if we are of the mind that religion, per se, is no longer a viable, valid way of securing a common sense of the sacred, then we have a problem which may require another solution which is not a religious solution, per se.

In part, the notion of "the sacred" allows us to coordinate our human actions and activities on an ethical basis without making ethics reducible to a system of duty and obligation. In other words, care and love, rather than duty and obligation, can serve as ethical and aesthetic motivation. And a strong case can be made for a general failure, in modernity, of the practice of ethics. Might it be that our practice of ethics is largely "broken" because our culture / civilisation places far too much emphasis on duty and obligation?

And what ethical and aesthetic concerns get partially or entirely swept aside in a culture when rationally held duties and obligations are expected to form the basis of ... well, valuing? How are humans impoverished by the centrality of duty and obligation in relation to ethics and aesthetics?

Quote:
Originally Posted by kdt26417 View Post
Unfortunately. As for the sacred, I believe it is largely subjective and exists along a continuum. For example, most people agree that human life is sacred, but what about the life of a mosquito? or a carrot? Different people define sacred differently.
For many, is appears that human life is sacred only when the human life in question is part of an one's own particular ethnic or cultural "we" (or "us"). Over there is the they/them, and their lives are not so sacred as "ours". This same us/them dynamic plays out between human generations, too. Maybe we think our children's children's lives are sacred. But beyond that? Well, fuck 'em. (At least that's how we ended up allowing the rather extreme degree of global ecological ruin to take place, I think. Instead of thinking seven generations or more ahead, we thought ahead only a handful of years. If that.)

I take ALL LIFE to be sacred -- both all species (and the biosphere itself) and all future and past generations. This way, I'm less apt to leave out anything. Why must there be a line drawn with just me and mine on the inside and everyone and everything else on the outside of that circle?

Now, I realize a theory and practice of General, Ubiquitous Sacredness seems entirely impossible to uphold. But I don't think it would necessitate an extreme of the kind in which we don't slap a mosquito dead when it is biting us. Or swat a fly for bothering us. Or destroy the critters which have come to eat our gardens.... Some beings are best treated as sacred on the species level, rather than the individual level, if only because only this approach is realistically achievable! But we could start with life -- all of life, as sacred. And we could extend our vision of the sacred to include non-living things, too, like ... well everything! Or, let us say, nature. (Meaning the natuaral world and cosmos). Why not treat it all as sacred?
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