I stumbled across a link to a classic from my anthropology undergrad days: Horace Miner’s Body Ritual among the Nacirema, and it made me laugh to reread, even if it is a bit dated. The joke is similar to David Macaulay’s Motel of the Mysteries, a very humorous book about archaeologist’s of the far future excavating a motel. And of course Babakiueria is the same sort of joke in a television program.
I read a very good interview with Karen Armstrong in Salon last week. Armstrong is a noted author on religion and spirituality. She is promoting her latest book The Great Transformation, an exploration of the “Axial Period,” the era when many great sages appeared on the face of the earth, thinkers like the Buddha, Socrates, Plato, Confucius, the prophets of Israel, and the mystics of the Upanishads. It’s a fascinating interview, and well worth reading. Her general gist is that these thinkers were not interested in dogma; they focused on doing good works for the sick and poor, not bickering on theological debates about the nature of the Trinity.
And while I’m at it, let me offer up a link to an interesting interview with Sam Harris, author of The End of Faith. The gist of it is again that spirituality is good, but religion is dangerous because if foments an ‘the chosen us vs. heretical, damned them’ mindset.