In my last post I started talking about worldview, but actually slipped into focusing on just one: a christian worldview. We can hold many worldviews, and move between them based on situation. In fact, ‘worldview’ has often been compared to a lens which alters the way we view life and how we perceive the world we live in. There are a variety of worldviews, as there are a variety of lenses for my camera, some of them are: Christian worldview, postmodern worldview, secular humanist worldview, new age worldview, etc. A broader concept is bias, and particularly when thinking about religion – a western bias; our very understanding of the word religion shows this. The word religion has a very close association with the development of Western culture. Benson Saler, an anthropologist, is quoted as saying, “the practitioners of a mostly Western profession (anthropology) employ a Western category (religion), conceptualized as a component of a larger Western category (culture), to achieve their professional goal of coming to understand what is meaningful and important for non-Western peoples.”
I think this bias, in part, arises from the unclear etymology of the word religion. From the Latin religio , some scholars believe it stems from leig, “to bind”, while others think the root meant “to reread” or to “be careful”. (1) It was certainly a cultic term associated with the careful performance of ritual obligations. The word eventually came to refer to sincere worship and to distinguish between monastic and laity life. Of course today, in the modern era, with our increased exposure to practices and beliefs different from christianity, we use the world to refer to various traditions of the world.
I hope you can see how our western centric worldview colors and shapes the way we view even secular ideas (as I mention in my first post on this topic), but particularly religious or spiritual ones. Even if we have managed to scrub clean our cultural exposure to a Christian worldview (which I doubt), we are still using a western biased term to discuss many pre-western cultural practices and experiences. There are many scholars out there writing on the topic and value of a pagan theology and religious study (my dear friend Christine Hoff Kraemer being one of them) and I recommend seeking them out.
Having outlined my thinking on a western centric worldview, I turn toward indigenous ‘pagan’ practice and what it means for modern pagans looking backward through the lens of the west (and hope to god I haven’t bitten off more than I can chew).
….more to come.
1. Kessler, Gary E., Studying Religion; An Introduction Through Cases, 2008