Apologetics, Relativism, Ethnocentrism, Anthropology of Religion

Discussion in 'Defending the Faith' started by monoergon, Sep 27, 2014.

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  1. monoergon

    monoergon Puritan Board Freshman

    On my online Anthropology of Religion class, we will discuss and debate ethnocentrism and cultural relativism and the difference between the two. By the way, those who responded to my last post on Anthropology of Religion helped me greatly. I already exposed the limits of the scientific method on this class and showed how it cannot prove that what Nazis did to Jews is morally wrong (interestingly, no one attacked my argument).

    A few arguments has been presented so far, of which I could use some guidance on refuting its assumptions and philosophical views:

    1. One person mentioned native indian infanticide (e.g. it takes place in Brazil's Amazon forest). The professor raised the following question: "Does culture and tradition justify those types of actions?"

    The Professor's response to that question:
    "If the response is 'yes', any people may make of its own cultural tradition a great prescriptive system of conduct and behavior, to educate as well as to punish; many times punishment involves one own life. If the answer is 'no', we must see the interests of the one speaking, because in that case, we could violate the culture of any country in the name of human rights, of democracy, and of liberty." I'm sure she was thinking about religion, too, but omitted that in her answer to avoid being polemic on the online group discussion given that some students aren't so polite and blame religion for everything.
    Last edited: Sep 27, 2014
  2. Claudiu

    Claudiu Puritan Board Junior

    In response to the professor's question, no, culture and tradition do not justify actions such as infanticide. That is the thesis or conclusion. Now we have to argue and give reasons as to why that is the case.

    One possible way to look at this is that there are jurisdictional boundaries to personal conscience, family, church, state, and commerce. An individual will be inside these at all times, but the jurisdictional boundaries themselves must not intersect. Otherwise, tyranny will arise. In the case presented before us, I would say that the individual's right to life, a basic liberty and God-given right, is in conflict with the practice of infanticide. Maybe this practice is religious, or cultural. Either way, it denies the right to life, and therefore, the practice cannot be justified.

    Although certain cultural practices are relative, that does not justify every action. For example, the way people greet each other may vary according to culture. We do not think it would be right to correct another culture's way of practicing this simply because it is different. However, if a practice begins to conflict with what rightly belongs to the person, family, church, etc., then that practice is to be abolished.

    In response to the argument that we could "violate the culture of any country in the name of human rights, of democracy, and of liberty," I would point back to the distinctions that must be maintained between personal conscience, family, church, state, commerce, etc. It is not a violation of a "cultural [right?]" to protect something like life. It is the duty of the magistrate to curtail evil by punishing the wrongdoer (Ro. 13:4).
  3. monoergon

    monoergon Puritan Board Freshman

    Thank you Claudiu. I also believe life is more important than a cultural or traditional practice such as infanticide. I am sure a child's mother or sibling in that context wouldn't want one of their own to be killed. Maybe some native Indians get along with such practice so they won't be kicked out of the tribe.

    I am sure this debate will sooner or later escalate to cultural relativism. Such relativists often argue that a non-native indian shouldn't interfere with what is taking place within a tribe as long as the nation-state is not being threatened. Sure, maybe there is no problem in native indians around the world living topless inside the boundaries of their tribes. But life is more important than that and should be preserved.
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