2007Is Judaism Boring? The Role of Symbols in "Imagistic" Jewish Movements.
Conference talk given at: Symbolization in Religion, Cognition and Culture, June 1, 2007, Aarhus, Denmark. See also http://www.teo.au.dk/forskning/aktuelt/religion/symbolization/. Slides. Uploaded to ARC..




Slightly reformulating and then applying the McCauley-Lawson model to Judaism predicts that traditional Judaism is a "boring" system of rites. This is why the new streams emerging in the eighteenth and nineteenth century -- Chassidism and the Yeshiva movement, as well as reform and orthodoxy -- can be also viewed as attempts to reach a more balanced systems, besides their well-accepted social-historical explanations.

It will be, however, demonstrated that not in every case is a balanced system achieved through the introduction of special-agent rituals, as McCauley and Lawson propose -- in fact, this solution is only typical to Chassidism. Other streams make use of different techniques, and the role of symbols will be emphasised in creating these new movements. Additionally, the role of symbols will be put into a network theoretical context in two different ways: the social network (cf. Bainbridge, 2006) and the network of concepts and symbols.

For the later, a CSR version of the Simulated Annealing for Optimality Theory Algorithm (Biro, 2006) will be used. In sum, the paper aims at demonstrating, how learning a shared system of symbols helps in the formation of a religious group with a balanced system of rituals.