Re: virus: Berger's theory of religion pt. 1: world-building

Fri, 02 Apr 1999 10:14:55 -0800

Hey David,

Good job on keeping the excerpt to a very reasonable length. My compliment to you is a much an implied criticism of my own excerpting habits as it is of TheHermit's.


David McFadzean wrote:

> In 1967 American sociologist Peter Berger published his seminal
> theory of religion in a book entitled "The Sacred Canopy". In this
> series of messages I will quote a summary of Berger's theory taken
> from "Comprehending Cults: the sociology of new religious movements"
> by Lorne L. Dawson.
> World-building
> Berger's highly influential theory of religion grew out of his
> earlier and equally important work with Thomas Luckmann on the
> social construction of reality. Building on a masterful synthesis
> of the insights of most of the foundational thinkers on contemporary
> social science (Karl Marx, Emile Durkheim, Max Weber, George Herbert
> Mead, Sigmund Freud, Max Scheler, Karl Mannheim, Alfred Schultz, and
> many others), this theory begins with the startlingly simple premise
> that 'every human society is an enterprise of world-building'.
> The world we live in, the world as perceived by humans, is constantly
> being created and re-created by us through a 'dialectical process'
> that has three aspects: 'externalization, objectivation, and
> internalization'. Our thoughts become embodied in the things we make
> and the things we do in the world -- they are externalized. Once in
> the world, these products of our thought (e.g. machines, art forms,
> and institutions [memetic phenotypes]) take on an independent
> existence as objects of our awareness -- objectivation occurs --
> and they act back upon us, shaping and changing our behaviour and
> our further thoughts. We internalize the lessons of living in the
> world of these objects (physical, social, and cultural), adapting
> ourselves in thought, word, and deed to the presumed requirements
> of 'reality'.
> We are the creators of our world, but we are in turn shaped by our
> creation and become one of its objects. We become the passive subjects
> of our creation, in part because we simply are not fully aware of the
> extent or nature of our creativity. Our lack of awareness stems in
> large measure from the fact that the creativity in question is a
> collective undertaking. World-building is a social process, and as
> such it is so complex and dispersed as to defy the ready comprehension
> or control of any individual or group.
> Stay tuned for part 2: The human predicament.