Examples of Tenacious and Pervasive Eastern Paradigms: Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism
Hinduism: Vast and variegated religion originating in sacrificial cult with deeply developed philosophical systems. "All roads lead to the One." "Atman is Brahman."
Buddhism: Heterodox development of Hindu yoga that emphasizes meditation, enlightenment, and release from Samsara in order to attain Nirvana. It is expressed in many schools such as the two major branches of Theravadin and Mahayana illustrate.
Confucianism: "As it is in Heaven, so on Earth." Emphasizes virtue, filial piety (family values), education, scholarship, good manners, protocol, and ceremony.
Taoism: "Go with the flow." Emphasizes nature, harmony, simplicity, intuition, flexibility, and non-duality.
Examples of Tenacious and Pervasive Western Paradigms: Christianity, Platonism, Aristotilianism, Stoicism, Epicureanism
Christianity: Originally a Semitic/prophetic/Abrahamic based religion. It shares the linear idea of history, the prophetic dynamic of social and religious criticism, personal accountability, and Monotheism with Judaism, Islam, and to some extent Zoroastrianism. Emphasizes agape, extending God's agenda of love and service to others in the role-model and pattern of Jesus.
Platonism: Highly metaphysical philosophy that sees real reality as in the realm of ideals. We are basically ideas in the mind of God. Very heavily psychologically oriented towards releasing the soul from bondage through anamnesis, that is, un-forgetting.
Aristotilianism: Sociologically oriented. Concerned with the maximum good for the maximum amount of people. Concerned with natural law, arts, drama, music, sciences as tools and techne to improve society.
Stoicism: Stuff happens; no one ever promised you a rose garden. You are the Master of your fate, the captain of your soul. All things in moderation. Pursue virtue and the rational. Lower your expectations. Don't let others push your buttons. Equilibrium and even-keeled equanimity are the keys to life.
Epicureanism: Pleasure is good. Pick a lifestyle that affords you the most amount of comfort with the least amount of stress. It doesn't take much to be happy: "A jug of wine, a loaf of bread, and you." Not to be confused with hedonism which grovels in the heresy of "pleasure is the good," in other words, if it feels good do it, no matter what the consequences. True Epicureans are moderates.
Some Deep Theoretical Models:
Platonism, Christianity, Marxism, Freudian Psycho-analysis, Skinner's Behaviorism, Sartrian Existentialism, and Konrad Lorenz's Ethology all reflect overt or hidden dynamics relevant to the study of religion. The influence of such paradigmatic figures as Hegel, who turned Christianity from religion to philosophy (especially in terms of its historicist view of the thesis/anti-thesis/synthesis dynamic in history), Feuerbach, the Father of Modern Atheism (famous quote: "Theology is Anthropology"), and Darwin, who popularized the evolutionary model of human origins, has helped to formulate discrete and powerfully seductive interpretive paradigms concerning Cosmology/Anthropology/Metaphysics.
Some pronounced hermeneutical options:
Fundamentalism: originally a nineteenth-century, Protestant reaction to modernity and the advent of Darwinian Evolution, it refers to a fixed-code hermeneutic and a textual revelation that is "once and for all delivered." All knowledge is thus subordinated to the Revelation.
Relativism: a contemporary reading of Pluralism that says truth is cultural-specific and entirely socially constructed to the extent that no particular truth transcends its context, thus truth is to be found everywhere and nowhere. Post-Modernism is viewed by Gellner to be the latest fad-version of a general Post-Ethnographic option in the contemporary world.
Enlightenment Rationality: the scientific method, technology, and the fruits of liberal western thought seen as a transcendent form of knowledge and truth that cuts across the confines of the culturally specific.
Process Theology: A possible fourth option which sees the reality of revelation as neither culturally-specific nor fixed-code but rather as progressively realized at various stages of evolutionary, cultural, scientific, and epistemological epochs. There is a transcendent realm that continually is manifest.
Terms like God and Science or God and the Big Bang acknowledges the advent of the contemporary model of the universe and its potential religious significance. It displays the ingenious discovery of the tools to augment our perception that has allowed us to exceed our inate empirical capabilities in order to see and hear to the very edge of the universe. We have reached a stage that might be characterized by the phrase "cosmology as metaphysics," the integration of Descriptive and Normative Disciplines.
The Concept of God
God is a common English term used to express the idea of divinity, the concept of the Absolute, a Supreme Being, or even something as abstract as the ultimate ground of being. In the history of religions the concept of God, or of various gods and goddesses has taken on a variety of forms. In many traditions there is a conscious realization that all notions of God, or divinity fall far short of doing justice to the actual reality to which the concept refers. "My ways are not your ways, my thoughts are not your thoughts…my ways are higher than your ways, my thoughts higher than your thoughts," declares the God of the Hebrew Bible. There are concepts of God that are clearly characterized by various anthropomorphisms such as are most notably expressed in the polytheistic pantheons of tribal to imperial cultures. Such phrases as "the hand of God" or "the eyes of God" as well as all gender references can be considered as anthropomorphisms, thus imposing human forms upon that which is beyond conceptuality.
An important way of thinking about divinity has developed in the Abrahamic Religions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. This concept is known as Monotheism, the idea of one God. Various other traditions have posed alternate visions of the unity of the godhead or of the unity of ultimate reality such as the idea of brahman in Hinduism, Nirvana in Buddhism, or the Tao in Taoism. Various philosophical conceptions of God deal with attributes...the divine as imbued with qualities, traits, characteristics such as omniscience, omnipotence, omnipresence... other qualities might include justice and mercy…
A number of traditional arguments for the existence of God have been developed, which raises an interesting question: Can one prove the existence of God? The answer is: to some minds… Some minds have been convinced by some arguments for God or a combination thereof.
Some traditional arguments are the cosmological argument, which is an argument based on motion or causality; the teleological argument, which is an argument from design and is also known as the clockmaker argument (a particular favorite of the Deists). A modern revitalization of the teleological argument has developed using the anthropic principle of modern physics; the ontological argument, which is based on a sophisticated definition-based proposition; the moral argument associated with Immanuel Kant; and Pascal's Wager.
In terms of conceiving God, it is possible for any single tradition to hold various perceptions in tension with one another. Practically all traditions have ambivalent paradigms, this can be especially true when it comes to perceiving divinity. One view which is often portrayed in the Western tradition is the idea of a God who is above or outside of nature, or, in other words, Supernatural. Another view that counter-balances this is the idea that God is not outside nature but within it. Such a view can easily lead to Pantheism, which is to say that everything is God. Another view, which is more consonant with the Western traditions says that God is both outside, that is greater than the universe, but that God also suffuses everything. Everything is seen as being in God. God is both transcendent and immanent. This view is known as Panentheism, everthing is in God, but God is also bigger than it all.
Science and Religion
There really is no such thing as a conflict between "science" and "religion" proper. There are however certain conflicts between various sciences and various religious expressions. Evolutionary Biology and modern Astro-Physics, for example have had their conflicts with certain forms of religiously based fixed-code hermeneutics such as Christian Fundamentalism or certain forms of Islamic Orthodoxy. The relationship of science and religion can be seen really as a matter of interpretation. Certainly the Big Bang Cosmogonic Story as currently espoused by most astro-physicists conflicts with the interpretation of a literal six-day creation some six thousand years ago as found for example in the notes of the MacArthur Study Bible. However, that would not be true of all contemporary Christian readings of the biblical account of creation.
One way to sort out the issues is to examine the relationships of Cosmology, Anthropology, and Metaphysics. As distinct categories these three traditional disciplines deal with all aspects of existence (and even non-existence), but as a spectrumed polarity they can help dilineate fundamental orientations depending on where in the spectrum on positions their foundational explanations of phenomena. So, if one is inclined to think that the universe has a metaphysical foundation and that there is an ultimate Ground of Being, Spirit, or God undergirding all reality they will tend to interpret everything, including the origin and ordering of matter from a different perspective than a person who positions themselves on the other end of the spectrum, and sees a materialistic explanation for everything.
Those scientist that tend to see purposes and meaning to life are Teleological in their orientation and think in terms of the "designs of the universe" and of doing astro-physics as "thinking God's thoughts." Those scientists that tend to view life as a happenstance conglomeration of minute causes and chance coincidences, as just "matter in motion" are Reductionists and practice nothing-buttery (as in: "this is nothing but a bunch of animated dust"). Remember the anecdote of the astronomers' convention where one astronomer gave a speech in which he said, "In the eyes of Astronomy, man is just an infinitesimal speck of insignificant dust upon the lens cap of the universe." He was followed by another astronomer who responded, "Nonsense, in the eyes of the universe man is the astronomer. We are the eyes of the universe."
In an age of science one has to consider as well the interplay between Descriptive and Normative Disciplines. One might well wonder if science were to operate unchecked by such normative concerns as ethics, whether one could witness, in the words of the Strassbourg philosopher, Georges Gusdorf, "The triumph of science as the destruction of the world."