Tuesday, July 27, 2010

true religion, or truth about religion

There is a common statement that religions are usurped by those who make false claims in its name. An example would be that Islam is a peaceful religion which is bastardized by terrorists. Or, in America, we often hear that Christianity teaches “X” and those who don’t practice that shouldn’t be used as evidence that Christianity isn’t true.

I’m not sure I believe those arguments any longer. When our teacher said something during our cultural awareness class along those lines, I suddenly had a BGO (brief glimpse of the obvious) that we have switched the rightful order of the above statements. I believe now that the following is probably a more true statement:

Religion teaches nothing. Men teach their ideas and attribute them to religion.

Here is the difference between the two: the first idea assumes that there is a “true” Christian teaching or Islamic teaching or Hindu, Jewish etc. But, there is no one to decide what is or isn’t true of any religious belief. Even within Catholicism, there is difference of opinion. So, men decide what it is they believe their religion teaches, and then claim it in the name of religion.

Notice that, while this has some implications regarding the idea of God, I have not touched upon that idea as of yet. Instead I focus on the idea that religion is created , defined and leveraged by man to his own benefit. So, for us to claim that there is some “pure” and “good” religion, which has only been corrupted by man ignores what I now think is true—that the opposite is true.


Blogger Alex said...

I agree, Adam. (Although I have to smirk a little at your very appropriate choice of the word "man"--but that's different story for a different time.)

But here's something to think about. If our ideas existed first and we shaped our religions to them, doesn't that expose a bit of naivete on the part of people who think doing away with religion would solve our problems? Sadly, I think that human nature is such that we will always be plagued with bigotry, zenophobia, violence, and all that. And (as someone who deeply believes in science) I think it only takes a critical look at the history of science to see that we are just as capable of using secular means, and a false sense of objectivity, to justify and carry out our darker tendencies (see, scientific justifications for racism, homophobia, etc.) Not to say that we are destined to make each other suffer, just that there will always be a struggle to overcome our potential for ignorance and cruelty. "Overcoming" religion, as some atheists seem to want everyone to do, is no magic bullet to these problems.

(Again, I know this isn't the argument you were making, it's just becoming a pet peeve of mine.)

12:59 PM  

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