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Why are atheists afraid of ghosts


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#61    Frank Merton

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Posted 14 May 2013 - 06:38 AM

Both "ghost" and "demon" are western ideas, and when the words get translated to something similar in Asian languages, representing a different set of cultural ideas, a lot gets added and a lot gets lost.  I see the same thing with words like "dragon" (a very good thing to have around in Asian thinking), "witch," "god," "worship," "idol," and so many other mythical or religious words.

As contact between east and west spreads (especially western horror movies),  Asians are becoming more use to the western ideas, and some of them (I think especially vampires -- something untranslatable into Vietnamese -- we now have "blood drinking bat creature"), these problems are diminishing, but they persist -- especially in Christian misunderstanding of Asian religions because of poor or incomplete translations of Asian religious beliefs and practices.

Maybe the one misunderstanding that gets me the most is "ancestor worship."  We do not worship our ancestors.  Christians have a vague idea what the word "worship" actually means anyway, and they see the home shrines and the little rituals with joss sticks and the leaving of offerings of fruit or tea or water and they think "worship."  "Remember" is a better word, much like westerners leave flowers on the grave.


#62    eight bits

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Posted 14 May 2013 - 07:07 AM

Frank

Your earlier remarks about lightning remind me that some dogs are afraid of lightning. Some dogs show it, and some hide it, just as you report doing.

Anyway, yes, ideas and practices specific to one culture often translate poorly into others. There are also certain concepts that are poorly specified even within their culture of origin.

It's very hard to pin down what a "ghost" is supposed to be, exactly. Realistically, it is probably easiest to think of it as a genre of real-life or fictional report, and leave the metaphysics of the defining feature of the genre to one side, or for another day.

"Worship" is another intracultural problem. The majority of Christians venerate saints (we have a thread in SR&B currently about 800+ new saints). Some of the Christians who don't venerate saints accuse those who do of "worshipping" the saints. Since saints are human beings, and Christians are supposed to worship God alone, this is a serious religious accusation. Of course, the accused deny this, and emphasize that veneration should be distinguished from worship.

Applying to this to a non-Abarahamic context, there is no expectation that "worship" which is directed to somebody or something other than God would be a bad thing. So, it is harmless to call the practice "ancestor worship." It is, in any case, an established noun phrase with a meaning of its own, not necessarily "the sum of its parts" anyway, although of course it may mislead.

Quote

... the home shrines and the little rituals with joss sticks and the leaving of offerings of fruit or tea or water and they think "worship."  "Remember" is a better word, much like westerners leave flowers on the grave.

Well, that's a lot more than remembering. The neutral term that does the practice justice is veneration, and yes, many Westerners venerate their ancestors, too. And, as with the lightning, dogs might do things similar to people, for example,

http://uncertaintist...mbers-her-dead/

However, there were or are societies that have little or no religious practice except the veneration of ancestors, and others still where the veneration of ancestors is integrated into the larger religious metaphysics of the group. Under the circumsatnces, then, the noun phrase has legitimate mnemonic use, uniting the overt practice with a reminder of the role it plays in the spritiual life of the community.

Edited by eight bits, 14 May 2013 - 07:13 AM.

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#63    Frank Merton

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Posted 14 May 2013 - 07:27 AM

I don't know if "veneration" works, although I think I would accept it without protest.  The reason I question it is that the general belief is that the dead have gone on to another life -- many possibilities, the most common being having been reborn.  Therefore the dead person is really, truly dead.  There is nothing there to worship or to venerate, but one still remembers and needs ways to express or "relieve" that pressure of the desire to remember -- which is how I think these practices came to be.  Of course at root they are Chinese Taoism, not Vietnamese Buddhism, and I don't really know what the practices represent to a Taoist.

Another problem with the word "veneration" is that I generally use the expression  "venerable sir" or "venerable lady" to translate the Vietnamese version of "you" used to address an elderly monk or nun, and they are very much alive.  (Vietnamese has a huge system of pronouns -- especially those meaning "you" -- that presents massive translation difficulties).


#64    Mr Walker

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Posted 14 May 2013 - 08:56 AM

View PostFrank Merton, on 13 May 2013 - 04:02 PM, said:

I have what might be called an inordinate fear of lightning when I'm outdoors on horseback or on a boat.  Avoiding stormy weather in such cases just seems sensible to me.  However, the Vietnamese superstition is that only evil people get struck by lightning, something that of course is ridiculous, but I have to deal with it, and act like I'm not terrified.

Do you really mean that you are more worried about being accounted evil than being hit by lightning? I'm not sure how  much risk varies with riding a horse or being in a boat, but there is a reasonable statistical chance of being hit by lightning out in a storm and a wise man would stay indoors, evil or not.

You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be, and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world..

Be cheerful.

Strive to be happy.

#65    Frank Merton

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Posted 14 May 2013 - 09:16 AM

Oh, yea, you have no idea how important "face" is here.


#66    Mr Walker

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Posted 14 May 2013 - 09:27 AM

View PostFrank Merton, on 14 May 2013 - 09:16 AM, said:

Oh, yea, you have no idea how important "face" is here.
You are probably correct but I am particularly indpendent minded in any case. I rarely do other than that which i want/chose to do and I dont really give a damn what others think of me as long as my concience is clear and i am happy with my own behaviour. I just couldnt envisage my self going out in an electrical storm just to save face or conform to others expectations. Let them get zapped by lightning.
it is an interesting cultural observation none the less. The only thing similar I see in my own culture is that of peer group pressure by young people which is tragically strong.

I also dealt with that early and quickly as a child, to establish my own identity and self, and again didnt really give too much of a damn what my peers thought of me. Most of them were shallow, lazy, not too bright, and interested in things which held no great interest for me anyway, because they were immoral or unethical or stupid.

You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be, and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world..

Be cheerful.

Strive to be happy.

#67    Frank Merton

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Posted 14 May 2013 - 10:36 AM

There are different kinds of face; the most common is courage, but there is also honesty and piety and loyalty and what we might call good all-round righteousness.  People are choosy about who they will associate with and who they will do business with, and being thought unrighteous (such as being afraid of lightning or other symbols of karmic negativity) will harm business relationships that one may have spent years to build.

Now don't misunderstand.  What I am talking about is almost knee-jerk in its quality.  The vast majority if asked will laugh at the idea of lightning being a tool of karmic justice.  Still, the frame of thinking is somewhat hard wired in the culture and would have unspoken subtle effects.  The fact is I do avoid lightning as a sensible person.  I think almost everyone does, and we do pull inshore if there is lightning and I'm out fishing.


#68    xFelix

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Posted 14 May 2013 - 11:15 AM

View PostFrank Merton, on 14 May 2013 - 10:36 AM, said:

There are different kinds of face; the most common is courage, but there is also honesty and piety and loyalty and what we might call good all-round righteousness.  People are choosy about who they will associate with and who they will do business with, and being thought unrighteous (such as being afraid of lightning or other symbols of karmic negativity) will harm business relationships that one may have spent years to build.

Now don't misunderstand.  What I am talking about is almost knee-jerk in its quality.  The vast majority if asked will laugh at the idea of lightning being a tool of karmic justice.  Still, the frame of thinking is somewhat hard wired in the culture and would have unspoken subtle effects.  The fact is I do avoid lightning as a sensible person.  I think almost everyone does, and we do pull inshore if there is lightning and I'm out fishing.

Well thanks to your post I guess I can understand how or why an Atheist might find themselves scared of something they don't believe in.
See I don't believe in Lightning smiting down the wicked just for the hell of it, but just the thought of lightning striking anyone is scary..

Edited by xFelix, 14 May 2013 - 11:19 AM.

My posts consist of my opinions, beliefs, and experiences, feel free to disagree in a respectful manner.

I have a right to my beleifs, just as you have a right to not agree with them.

So long as we respect each other's beliefs, we won't have a single problem.


#69    Frank Merton

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Posted 14 May 2013 - 11:35 AM

No you don't get it yet; I think karma is quite real, just that it is more subtle than Zeus, and it does factor into my thinking in a way that might be sometimes described as fear, although far more often it is the desire to do what is right.  An atheist doesn't think there is a God.  That doesn't mean the atheist doesn't think there is nothing other than atoms and space -- the name for that view is "materialist" or "physicalist."  I could see someone being terrified of ghosts but not believing in God.


#70    Mr Walker

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Posted 15 May 2013 - 09:25 AM

View PostFrank Merton, on 14 May 2013 - 10:36 AM, said:

There are different kinds of face; the most common is courage, but there is also honesty and piety and loyalty and what we might call good all-round righteousness.  People are choosy about who they will associate with and who they will do business with, and being thought unrighteous (such as being afraid of lightning or other symbols of karmic negativity) will harm business relationships that one may have spent years to build.

Now don't misunderstand.  What I am talking about is almost knee-jerk in its quality.  The vast majority if asked will laugh at the idea of lightning being a tool of karmic justice.  Still, the frame of thinking is somewhat hard wired in the culture and would have unspoken subtle effects.  The fact is I do avoid lightning as a sensible person.  I think almost everyone does, and we do pull inshore if there is lightning and I'm out fishing.
I am pleased to hear this. :tu:

The engrained cultural expectations is an interesting concept. I would have suspected something like you describe, but then attributed it to my own stereotyping

Koreans, particularly, often seem to have  a mix of old and new religious attributes which shape them. In a sense, tradtional and modern Vietnamese cultural beliefs might contribute something similar to a Vietnamese person's world views and attitudes.

You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be, and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world..

Be cheerful.

Strive to be happy.




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