Religion and Imagination

#1
I have come to the conclusion that religion is exerted in exact proportion to one's need for imaginative fantasy. It is my own experience with religion that it thrives upon one's own ability to conceive of fantastic scenarios and stories that serve to distract one from the sufferings of this life. Many years in my teens did I spend pining for the spiritual life of salvation to make up for the lack of friends and sexual interests that normally concern such years. At one point I read the Lord of the Rings, which opened me up to vast dimensions of fantasy far superior to anything I had read from my bible. The power of the imagination is a crucial encounter in one's youth diminishing anything religion has to offer. I conclude religion is a constraint placed upon the creative impulse of the human mind, driven by a need to escape from a reality it denies and suffers on a daily basis.
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#2
Really? You weren't exposed to anything more creative than the Bible until your teens?

"Sufferings of this life"? Well, the gay suicide rate is almost five times that of the general populace.
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#3
(Dec 4, 2017 01:43 AM)Magical Realist Wrote: [...] Many years in my teens did I spend pining for the spiritual life of salvation to make up for the lack of friends and sexual interests that normally concern such years. At one point I read the Lord of the Rings, which opened me up to vast dimensions of fantasy far superior to anything I had read from my bible. The power of the imagination is a crucial encounter in one's youth diminishing anything religion has to offer. I conclude religion is a constraint placed upon the creative impulse of the human mind, driven by a need to escape from a reality it denies and suffers on a daily basis.


Circa the age that Robert Plant probably discovered LOR -- allowing that it literally didn't happen just before he wrote the lyrics in his 20s.

Before you go, I have to ask you, as a lifelong Tolkien fan, what you thought about the Hobbit movie.

You know I haven’t seen it — I haven’t had time — but I saw the Lord of the Rings films, and I wasn’t crazy about them, mainly because they’re all about spectacle. But, you know, when I read the books, they kind of dissolved into me. I used them in songs, you know, like “The Battle of Evermore” and “Ramble On,” which, well, I just want to hold up my hand and say, “Okay, I was 21 when I wrote that.’ [Laughs.] I think the real message of the books is lost in the movies. When I first came over to America and I saw “Frodo Lives” painted on walls, I thought that was beautiful. I’ve yet to see The Hobbit, but my grandchildren love it. I’ve seen enough CGI battles; my life is already full of them.

https://www.independent.com/news/2013/ju...ert-plant/

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#4
(Dec 4, 2017 01:43 AM)Magical Realist Wrote: I have come to the conclusion that religion is exerted in exact proportion to one's need for imaginative fantasy. It is my own experience with religion that it thrives upon one's own ability to conceive of fantastic scenarios and stories that serve to distract one from the sufferings of this life. [...]


Somewhere in the earliest mists of Sunday School maybe I do vaguely recollect my brother going through a phase where he was wrapped in those *Game of Thrones* parts of the Old Testament
(e.g., Of Kings & Prophets). Funny how I never grokked that as his gateway drug to sword/sorcery and epic fantasy novels. Then to science fiction. (Comic books were tossed in there pretty early on, too, though.)

Of course, I'm a fine one to talk. It's because he left all that reading material of his (including the non-fiction stuff and technical manuals) lying around the house that I caught some kind of virus related to it. But at least I wasn't a paying addict in that department -- got everything as hand me downs. Wink

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#5
In the church I was part of in my teens, the imagination was cast in a rather devilish light. Scriptures about vain imaginings quoted in support of not going to movies, not reading sensational fiction, not listening to worldly music. Ironically it was only by imagination that the whole religious engine ran at all--conjurings of Jesus in Galilee stilling storms, Moses and his grand magical feats, visions of heavenly bliss, and ofcourse those horrific prophecies of revelation and the rated R epic of the world's ending. Without imagination religion would dry up into a lifeless desert of boring dogmas and rituals. And it was because of its overwhelming dependence on this faculty that my church had to guard so carefully against any attempt to use it for one's own pleasure. Since then I've embraced my imagination as the prime source of creative and humanizing power in my life. It is not an escape from life. It is life itself.
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#6
(Dec 4, 2017 02:38 AM)Syne Wrote: Really? You weren't exposed to anything more creative than the Bible until your teens?

"Sufferings of this life"? Well, the gay suicide rate is almost five times that of the general populace.

still pouring buckets of other peoples blood over your head to make you feel like an individual ?
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#7
(Dec 4, 2017 09:04 AM)Magical Realist Wrote: In the church I was part of in my teens, the imagination was cast in a rather devilish light. Scriptures about vain imaginings quoted in support of not going to movies, not reading sensational fiction, not listening to worldly music. Ironically it was only by imagination that the whole religious engine ran at all--conjurings of Jesus in Galilee stilling storms, Moses and his grand magical feats, visions of heavenly bliss, and ofcourse those horrific prophecies of revelation and the rated R epic of the world's ending. Without imagination religion would dry up into a lifeless desert of boring dogmas and rituals. And it was because of its overwhelming dependence on this faculty that my church had to guard so carefully against any attempt to use it for one's own pleasure.

Yeah, it couldn't possibly be that secular movies, books, and music ran contrary to actual christian values. [/sarcasm]  Rolleyes

Maybe I just wasn't sad enough to find those Bible stories especially captivating. They were as staid as anything else in religion. Those "grand magical feats" and "visions" are humdrum to anyone raised with those stories. Much like having grown up with Santa and the Easter Bunny, which no longer captivate any teen's imagination. Maybe you were just late to the party? I don't know, maybe later-life converts do find those stories more captivating.

Quote:Since then I've embraced my imagination as the prime source of creative and humanizing power in my life. It is not an escape from life. It is life itself.

Okay, buddy. You just keep telling yourself that.

(Dec 4, 2017 11:02 AM)RainbowUnicorn Wrote:
(Dec 4, 2017 02:38 AM)Syne Wrote: Really? You weren't exposed to anything more creative than the Bible until your teens?

"Sufferings of this life"? Well, the gay suicide rate is almost five times that of the general populace.

still pouring buckets of other peoples blood over your head to make you feel like an individual ?

Hmm. Facts that seem to make sense of a bleak outlook. Nothing especially individualistic about that. Did I touch a nerve?


EDIT: Oh I get it. This is projection. Your non sequitur and off-topic attacks on religion are what "make you feel like an individual", so you just assume any facts that offend you are an attack for the same motive. Rolleyes
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#8
(Dec 4, 2017 01:43 AM)Magical Realist Wrote: I have come to the conclusion that religion is exerted in exact proportion to one's need for imaginative fantasy. It is my own experience with religion that it thrives upon one's own ability to conceive of fantastic scenarios and stories that serve to distract one from the sufferings of this life.

There may be something to that, so I don't want to dismiss it. Wishful thinking/imagination obviously can make people feel better and escape suffering.

I can think of two potential quibbles though (not full-power objections):

First, it doesn't seem to apply to all religions equally. Early Buddhism is obviously concerned with suffering and its elimination, but I don't think that it is built around generating fantastic scenarios. (Later Mahayana Buddhism, with all of its cosmic Bodhisattvas and its Tibetan visualizations clearly is. Even layman's level Theravada may be, with its emphasis on merit-making.) My point is that Buddhism started out as a very acute sort of psychological phenomenology, practiced by a band of dedicated ascetics. (Its backsliding so quickly into fantastic scenarios might be an argument for your view.)

Second, I'm inclined to think that the origins of religion are very old and perhaps even predate the appearance of anatomically modern humans. And i'm less inclined to attribute it to pure imagination than to imagination guided by various predispositions innate in human cognition. That's why religion seems to be a cultural universal, apparent in every human culture known at all times, everywhere in the world.

Mainly I'm thinking of our social instincts that have so much evolutionary survival value. We come pre-equipped from the factory with an innate 'theory of mind', an ability to read our fellows and interpret their behavior in terms of thoughts, ideas, intentions, purposes and emotions. (Dogs can do that to some lesser extent.)

I'd speculate that because that ability is so natural, effortless and innate with us, we tend to over-employ it. We react to storms, lightening and thunder as we would another person, imagining that some hidden superpower is hugely pissed off and presumably has reasons to be . It's religious pareidolia in a sense. We see faces in the clouds. We find ourselves surrounded by spirits.
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#9
(Dec 4, 2017 06:40 PM)Yazata Wrote: I'd speculate that because that ability is so natural, effortless and innate with us, we tend to over-employ it. We react to storms, lightening and thunder as we would another person, imagining that some hidden superpower is hugely pissed off and presumably has reasons to be . It's religious pareidolia in a sense. We see faces in the clouds. We find ourselves surrounded by spirits.

Well, we could say that the sun worshipers were right to some extent.
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