Showing posts with label Religion in society. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Religion in society. Show all posts

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Do you take your faith into consideration when you vote for a politician to represent you in legislative, executive, and judicial bodies?

Rep. Chris Lee, who represents Brockport, is a Republican many of whose positions are at odds with our Unitarian Universalist faith.

For example, Representative Lee is against the repeal of "don't ask don't tell."

He has consistently been against the extension of unemployment benefits.

He is in favor of extending the tax cuts to the rich while he rails about the national debt.

While non profits cannot campaign or endorse candidates they can speak out on the issues. It is important for UUs who take their faith seriously to be aware of how they are represented when their politicians make policy decisions.

Chris Lee was the heir to Tom Reynolds seat who wisely chose not to run again because of his shame in defending the corruption of Tom Delay, the speaker of the house, and Mark Foley the congressional pedaphile.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Existential anxiety management requires different kinds of religion

The second set of warning signs which Charles Kimball mentions in his book, "When Religion Becomes Evil" are blind obedience, charismatic authority figures, enslavement to doctrines, withdrwal from society, and abdication of indiviual responsibility.

When members of a religion engage in the above practices evil is easy to perpetrate whether it is killing physicians who practice abortion, discriminating against people with same sex sexual orientation, condoning war and torture, and believing and promulgating non scientific ideas such as creationism based on myth and superstition.

The function of such religions is to enhance the power of the clergy by having members abdicate personal power to their jurisdiction. The leader then wields tremendous power in determining the fate of the group as well as the groups relaltionships with others. Jim Jones, David Koresh are severe examples but Robertson, Dobson, Falwell, Hagee and the Popes are milder versions of the same phenomenon.

Unitarian Universalism offers quite different dynamics to its members supporting the free and responsible search for truth and meaning, support for the democratic process, a recognition of the interdependent web of all existence, and a congregational polity which respects the inherent worth and dignity of every person.

James Fowler wrote a seminal book on the Stages Of Faith which outlines the psychology of people attracted to different religions and religious beliefs. More immature personalities are attracted to more fundamentalist religions because they provide an external structure to bind the existential anxiety of less autonomous people. More liberal religions tend to attract the more autonomous, mature personalities because they function more independently with internalized values and feel unduly contrained by external requirements.

One of the main functions of religion in society is to help individuals manage their existential anxiety and less mature individuals require more structured religions with more external control while more mature individuals prefer less structured religions with fewer external requirements.

For this reason Unitarian Universalism will never be a world class religion until human kind matures far beyond its current levels of individual autonomy.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

When relgion functions for evil in society - part one

My father used to say that it was not cars that killed people but the nuts behind the wheel. The same can be said for religion. Religion can be used for good or bad purposes by the nuts who proclaim to be doing things in their name.

Charles Kimball has written an interesting book entitled "When Religion Becomes Evil". He says there are five warning signs the first of which is the belief that one's religion claims to teach the absolute truth. Along with absolute truth claims comes the further ideas that a certain religion knows what God wants, religious texts can be appropriated to condone or condemn certain behaviors, and that religious zeal can be used to proselytise and persecute people who don't share a particular religious views.

I was at the New York State Fair on Tuesday, September 1, 2009 and as I walked through a crowded pavillion looking at the various vendors and demonstrations I walked by a born again Christian booth and a woman in her 50s asked me pointed if I was "born again". I said, "Yes, I am but I don't believe all this stuff."

She said, "If you don't accept Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior you will go to hell."

I said, "Really, what about all the Muslims and Buddhists and Hindus in the world?"

"They won't be saved," she assured me.

I said, "What kind of God is this that you believe in that would condemn people to an eternal fiery pit for not believing in him? This god seems pretty small minded to me?"

I saw panic in her eyes and she said, "You have to believe in the bible."

I said, "You're kidding right? When's the last time we stoned adulterers?"

The crowd was pushing me from behind and this was the last word and I felt bad for giving her a hard time. I didn't intend to mock this woman's beliefs, but her stupidity is insulting and that fact that she is prostyletising trying to convert others to her judgmental and potentially destructive beliefs is not healthy for our society and future.

The beliefs in exclusivity, absolute truth, and missionary duty are a recipe for evil religion which is dangerous to society. These components can be put on a continuum of mild, moderate, and severe. At a mild level, these components are probably not that harmful other than to cause conflicts at family gatherings, but at a severe level, these components justify murder as occured with Dr. Tillman, and at Tenesee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church in July, 2008.

Citizens need to become more religiously literate so that they can spot the dysfunctional aspects of religious beliefs and they can be detoxified before they do harm.

Unitarian Universalists believe in the inherent worth and dignity of every person and reject exlusivity in favor of inclusivity. UUs believe in the free and responsible search for truth and meaning and reject the idea of absolute religious truth especially based on any so called "sacred" or "revealed" texts that are proposed to be the "word of god".

Unitarian Universalists believe in democratic processes and the acceptance of one another in our spiritual congregations regardless of their particular religious beliefs. Therefore, UUs attempt to grow through attraction rather than by prostylization and missionary activity.

As I and others attempt to create a UU religious community in Brockport, NY we reach out to others in love and respect welcoming like minded others into relationship. We have no absolute truths to demand complance with, no missionary zeal which leads us to perceive our fellows as saved and unsaved, worthy and unworthy, and no sacred texts which we use to justify oppressive and subjugating activities.

Beware of people claiming to represent religions which are exclusive, privy to absolute truth, and with a missionary zeal to convert people who many choose to think and live differently from them. At the extreme such people are dangerous and need to be carefully managed in a democratic society.

This is part one in a series on Charles Kimball's book, "When Religion Becomes Evil".

This post is #2 in a series on religion in society.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

The purpose of church

The purpose and function of religion in a post modern society is primarily to help people make sense out of their existential experience, and provide an emotional support system especially at times of phase transition in the human life cycle.

Other purposes of religion in modern society are to make money for the ministerial class and their minions, to provide entertainment for the masses, and to provide a platform and audience for people striving to be upwardly socially mobile to maintain and achieve higher social status.

Religion also provides an organized, institutionalized vehicle for political and social control to societal leaders who wish to influence and control the populations they govern.

At a more personal level, people give up responsibility for their own lives to religious leaders who promise them benefits and rewards in this life and after death if they will give their personal power to them. This is experienced initially by the individual as a relief because they no longer have to think and act for themselves but have allowed another to do it for them. However, in the long run, this is a trap and leads to atrophy of the soul not empowerment and growth.

Currently, I am involved with a group of other folks in starting a new Unitarian Universalist congregation, and so the ideas in this post are especially relevant to me as I struggle to sort out what kind of a church I want to help create with the others I am working with.

I want a church which helps people make sense out of their existential experience, which is empowering of their spiritual and psychological and social growth, and which provides a support system to ease the distress of negotiating life's transitions and other life crises.

I am very interested in other's people's thoughts and comments on this topic.

There will be further posts this month on UU A Way Of Life on this topic.

This is article #1 in a series on religion in society.
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