Thursday, November 03, 2005

How Religious Ideas Shape Our Lives I

You may have noticed that religious ideas are pretty important in the modern world. If you hadn't noticed then your time with my blog post has been well spent already :-) Religious ideas, whether we personally share them or not, affect the way people view homosexuality, science, other races, the environment, social issues (EX: poverty, gender-based discrimination) and too many other things to list here.

I'll stick with offering some general sorts of subjects on which religious thinking has shaped our thinking, for better or worse:
  • ethics
  • lifestyle choices
  • sexuality
  • relationships
  • "the meaning of things" including natural disasters and personal tragedies
  • nature, and out place in it

Consider one or two of those areas and think, really think, about whether religion has had a generally positive effect on us or not. Try to consider the issue from a perspective opposite your own. If you are an atheist try to construct an argument about how religion is generally beneficial when it comes to ideas about nature, to use one possible example.

Here are two functions that religions perform, with some specifics added:

Regulating social behavior - sexuality, altruism, countering consumerism, eating habits

Providing social support - friendships, support in crisis

Of course there is a dark side to religion. And here are some problems with religious ideas:

1. Biased interpretations of the ideas - Where in the Qu'ran does it say you can beat your wife if she disobeys you? Please, somebody point that out to me! This biased idea is merely a crutch used to prop up male-dominated ("patriarchal") societies.

2. "Watering Down" - the original idea gets simplified to the point that it may no longer be useful; a concrete example escapes me. Does the commandment against bearing false witness cover lies of all sorts, or only lies that could hurt someone else?

3. Self-serving interpretations - Again I have to bash Christians; Does God reveal what he thinks about us through the material success we enjoy in life? Calvinists suggested as much.

4. Dogmatism - Our interpretation is correct, so infidels must be silenced forever!

5. Supernaturalism - Reliance on supernatural forces to explain things or (worse) solve a problem; examples include faith healing and belief in miracles.

6. Extreme Closed Mindedness - "If God had wanted men on the moon he would have put some there." (That is a real sentiment that I lifted from a book. I kid you not!)

Next Time: Family life and ideas


Blogger Ansohn said...

I'm not sure the "two functions" are not part of the dark side...who needs religion to do that. I think you'll find my blog sites of interest: Braveneworld ( and Just Cause ( I deal with politics and religion...

10:18 PM  

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