Monday, May 14, 2018

The Nature of Religion--Best of Ways and Worst of Ways

Journalist Christopher Hitchens: “If you gave Falwell [a Christian leader] an enema, he could be buried in a matchbox.”

Hitchen also wrote that religion "poisons everything."

On the other hand,even some religious leaders realize the dangers/contradictions/oddities of their systems.

Take these jokes, such as this sharp satire from Jews themselves poking ironic fun at themselves, at the contradictory branches of Judaism:

“At an Orthodox wedding, the bride’s mother is pregnant; at a Conservative wedding, the rabbi is pregnant;

at a Reform wedding, the bride is pregnant; and at a Reconstructionist wedding, both brides are pregnant.”
from God Is Not One by Stephen Prothero, p. 271
Here's one from liberal versus conservative Christianity:

A Unitarian-Universalist minister walked across a road after being accosted by an irate Southern Baptist leader who had shouted at the UU leader:
"Your church is a joke! You reject all the creeds!"

Finally, the Southern Baptist ran across the road yelling sputtering,
"YOU, YOU...!"

And the Unitarian Universalist turned back and very politely said, "Yes?"

Religion is another one of those 'empty-bucket' words which are so semantically wiggly and slimy that it means many different things to many different people.

One way to systematize it is to distill the central focus of various religions.
(Some of the following is an adaption and expansion from a list in God Is Not One by Stephen Prothero.)

#1 Judaism: the problem is exile—solution is return
[my own view: problem is rebellion/disobedience—solution is repentance and Torah]

2. Islam: the problem is pride—solution is submission

3. Christianity: the problem is sin—solution is salvation

4. Confucianism: the problem is chaos—solution is social order/propriety

5. Hinduism: the problem is samsara cycle of reincarnation/karma/impurity/–solution is spiritual release via devotion/ritual/duty
[my own view—solution is cleansing/separateness]

6. Buddhism: the problem is suffering—solution is awakening
[my view: problem is suffering--solution is complete negation]

7. Taoism: the problem is lifelessness—solution is natural flourishing and freedom

8. Paganism: the problem is disconnection from nature--solution is reverence of the natural world

9. Atheism: the problem is superstition/faith/religion—solution is atheistic reason

10. Deism/Enlightenment: the problem is injustice/oppression/superstition--
solution is theistic reason and democracy

11. Humanism: the problem is delusion or meaninglessness--solution is affirmation of the good/worth/flourishing

12. Religious non-religious Ideology: the problem is bourgeoisie capitalism--solution is dictatorship of the proletariat
This odd animal is secularism that adopts many of the trappings and behaviors of religion including ritual, reverence of dead leaders, heresy trials for those who deviate from dogma, etc...

Prime examples: U.S.S.R. Communist Party: the preserved bodies of Lenin and Stalin lying in state in a mausoleum in Red Square based upon a religious building from humanity's past. And for over 70 years many millions of people have gone to view the two famous communist leaders of the Russian revolution, and millions have been spent on displaying and preserving the corpses.

A lesser example--civil religion in nations such as the U.S. where the American flag is treated with reverence like a sacred object and people pledge themselves to the flag, where myths are believed about their most revered dead leaders.

And the leaders are venerated with huge monuments including Washington's monumental tower and Lincoln's Memorial based upon a a Greek temple!

13. Heresy: One EXTREMELY odd fact about religion is that various aberrant versions of official religions are often closer to other religions or ideologies than the specific religion they are listed under!

For instance liberal Quakerism is far closer to Humanism than to creedal Christianity. Heck, some Quakers claim to be Pagans or Nontheists, some Jews are closer to Atheism than any religion, a few Muslims closer to Deism/Enlightenment than orthodox Islam.

And consider the bottomless chasm between many Arminiam Christians
most Reformed/Augustinian Christians!

The former think that the God of Christianity infinitely loves and seeks to save every single human and that God created all humans with infinite worth, and for eternal communion and fellowship.


Reformed/Augustinians wno believe that the God of Christianity chooses to only loves a limited number of humans who have no choice, that all humans are conceived/born totally depraved because of God's hidden will.
And that from before the foundation of the cosmos, God foreordained most humans, billions of us, to eternal damnation/torture for his own glory.

Not a molecule moves in reality, according to Reformed Christianity, but that God moves it. God is the cause of all natural disasters, all disease, all evil.
In this sense,
the Reformed are MUCH closer to the total determinism of orthodox Islam, where whatever happens is Allah's will. And the Reformed are much closer to the versions of Atheism which believe in hard determinism than some forms of Arminiam Christianity which emphasize free will.


Jainism: the problem is ? solution is

Sikhism: the problem is solution is

Zoroastrianism: the problem is solution is

Shintoism: the problem is solution is

Baha’i: the problem is solution is


In the LIGHT,

Daniel Wilcox

1 Some of these are adapted from GOD Is Not ONE by Stephen Prothero

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