I’m sitting and reading up on theories in Religious Studies, and went through some of the founding theorists (at least claimed to so), Marx, Freud, Nietzsche and Saussure. The last, being a linguistic, founded the theory on language as a structure of signs, being related to synchronic rather than diachronic.
A part of his theory is that words have their meanings from a structured understanding, being created on a conventional fundament, rather than having the words inheriting their meanings based on some natural relation to the objects of the words. That is, the word “dog” means “dog” because that is something we have agreed on, not because there is some natural relation between the word and the object. This is explained a little simple, I know.
Anyway, the thing is that he sees words as having meaning from their opposition, that is, a dog is a dog, opposed to cat, not based on the magical composition of the word dog, with the three letters magically put together and then giving this particular meaning.
Why that is important for the study of religion, is that this concept, the understanding of “symbols” or “signs” (words being signs or symbols) can be used in the study of religion as well, and thus we can understand what something is or mean, by putting against what it is not (for example, day is not night), hence we can get an understanding of what holy is by putting it opposite what is profane (or the other way around) as well as good and evil and so on.
Anyway, what struck me is the focus the various religions put on some symbols, for example “good” vs. “evil,” and how we can get a better understanding of the religions by seeing which symbolic value they put on what is “right” vs. what is “wrong,” as well as how they relate to it.
Here in particular I thought about Christianity and Judaism. Where the dichotomy is being formed around “good” and “evil” in Christianity (take for example Jesus and Satan), in Judaism it is more about “allowed” and “forbidden” in Judaism (doing the commandment or refraining from it), which seems to me that the two religions have different relation to what is a right moral behavior. I haven’t established any thesis or theory on this, it is just a thought I got, but if there is something about it, then the whole notion of “Judeo-Christian” anything seems to be, well, without any basis, since that would be putting two different notions, which differ to much to make it one. Or would it?
Seems like something I have to think a little more about, but please feel free to add comments. If it gave any sense at all.
Take care out there!