[Religion] In case you were wondering

Yesterday’s post was born out of frustration. I make no apologies for making the post, except that I wish to clarify one thing (thanks [Tiara] for knocking sense into my head).

Religion, on its own, as a theory, is wonderful. It is beautiful. That I do not deny. Neither do I deny the fact that for many people, religion is what gives their life meaning and the strength to get through their day.

What I am angry about is the people who use religion as a means to propagate their small-minded and bigotry. That I’m told I need to bend over backwards to accommodate these hooligans, who would otherwise rampage through my state saying that the minority voices should STFU because they (the bigots) are the bigger bullies on the playground and their God said so.

Screw you.

Also, in case you’re wondering, no I’m not an atheist. I still believe there’s a greater force in this world that we can’t quite comprehend. Simply put, I’m a unicorn agnostic.

PS: Ti, I still advocate taking away their scapegoat. The question is, if we don’t take away their scapegoat, how in the world do we get these people to see reason? Or at the very least, tell them to respect us as how we’ve respected them all this time?

PPS: My issue is with people. Not with Religion the beautiful theory.

6 Responses

  1. Karcy September 24, 2009 / 9:10 AM

    The problem with generalizations like these is that they’re neither helpful nor accurate. There is a thread currently going on in the Feminist Livejournal Community that I’d love to comment on, but which I can’t because I’m not a member. I’ll probably adapt my comment to form an entry — in the meantime, suffice to say that I agree with the one Jewish commenter there.

    To be frank, a truthful and honest critique of religion requires an understanding of theology, and very few people take the time and effort to undertake it. I’m not referring to Dawkins — he has a problem with the very idea of God in the first place. Saying that religions are beautiful is a pretty meaningless concept because the definition of what is beautiful changes according to the value system that props it up — consider the Catholic practice of honoring parts of bodies of dead saints, eg. kissing the bones, feet, hands, etc. Some find it grisly and superstitious, still others find in a tradition linking back to Church history harkening back to the days of Roman persecution when the early Christians would mop up the blood of martyrs from arenas to revere.

    Different religions have different frameworks that they function in. It’s not helpful to say “Religion does this” or ‘Religion does that” because not only are different religions different, different denominations and interpretations also shape different things.

    With regards to Islam and Islamism, the problem is linked not only to the imposing of one dominant group over another, the theology is also not as airtight as some people might imagine it to be. Islamic sources sometimes offer completely different opposite conclusions because the accounts of the life of Muhammad and his companions sometimes show very different pictures. The Sunni interpretive tradition is just one interpretive tradition, and is often challenged.

    So, in other words, I don’t see the situation as being that simple.

    • Naoko Kensaku September 24, 2009 / 9:48 AM

      Ah it looks like I need to clarify more. >>

      When I said religion as a theory was beautiful, I was talking about the things that religion (minus the actual worship of God) seems to propagate:

      Love for your fellow man
      Be kind
      etc.

      I’m not going into each religion as its own. Like I mentioned previously, religions are formed by the cultures/environments that shaped them, but they all seem to preach the same things.

      I’m generalising, yes, but that’s mainly because I admit my own theological knowledge is lacking enough for me to actually argue the main differences between each religion.

      But the thing is this: Religion, or at the very least its frothing at the mouth proponents, tend to focus on what makes each religion different. Both Islam and Christianity preach the One God, but they kill each other because of what is essentially a Bible by Committee decree.

      So why the focus on the differences?

      … and yes I realise I just shot myself in the foot because it’s deviated quite far from what I originally wrote about. :P

  2. Karcy September 24, 2009 / 10:24 AM

    See, this is where the lack of theological knowledge becomes a problem. You’re in a position where you are talking from a position of ignorance, so the criticism, generalizations, and remedy that you propose aren’t just ‘overtly general’, they’re also innacurate.

    I don’t think it’s accurate to say that each religion preaches the same thing. Essentially, all religions make oblations to virtues like love, justice, peace, etc. But these are virtues that transcend the idea of religion — you don’t have to believe in God to believe in these — and these virtues are intepreted differently in different communities. But each religion offers a different ‘problem’ of the world, and offers a different ‘answer’, and as such interprets values like ‘love’ ‘kindness’ ‘goodness’ ‘gentleness’ etc in different ways. Preventing apostasy in Islam, even by death, can be considered an act of love towards other believers if one firmly believes in the dangers of an eternal Hell, for an example.

    And while it’s true that Muslims and Christians have long been ‘frenemies’, the reasons each community has come to conflict is different, depending on both historical, political, cultural and lastly (and really, only lastly) theological issues at a certain place or time. You mentioned something about the ‘Bible Committee’ — perhaps this is a reference to Constantine and the formation of the Christian canon — but was the Crusades about the Bible?

    In other words, theology matters. It’s about making informed ideas about religion in order to identify issues accurately. It’s what informs me that the cow-head protests are directly against Quranic directions, but also the result of a strong separating line between believer and non-believer in Islamic theology, aggravated by secularist politics. It’s what informs me why the vast majority of Muslims in Malaysia do not like Sisters in Islam, and what informs me on whether their arguments are within the line of orthodox praxis or not (of which some are). I realize that nothing is really stopping anyone from making very hand-waving generalizations towards ideas like God, Religion, etc., but I personally am not fond of it myself.

  3. Naoko Kensaku September 24, 2009 / 11:46 AM

    Understanding issues are one thing. What do we do to solve it?

    I mean, all the knowledge in the world is useless unless we can use it in some way to make our world better. An example: Understanding the reasons why they did not does not excuse their actions that they did so. How then, do you stop the incident from happening again, or from escalating?

    Silence isn’t an option. Understanding is not the same as doing.

    PS: Yes I meant the one with the council at Nicea.

  4. Karcy September 24, 2009 / 12:26 PM

    There were several councils around the same time, I don’t think the Nicene council was about canonization. That’s the easier question to answer.

    I’ve pretty much given up on finding an answer for ‘solving it’. Most religions around us have more or less ‘solved’ the discrepancy of the secular and religious on its own — for an example, bereft of any State power, the Catholic Church is free to do its own thing, with most debates circling around relatively petty issues like birth control and women clergy, and remains a squarely intra-Church issue. (Abortion would be the only issue that is ‘big’ in this sense, capable of shifting entire countries and their policies). In our time, the greatest issue is Islamization, both in the Muslim world and the West, and after considering Islamic theology and various debates in circles both orthodox and liberal, I think the issue simply cannot be resolved.

    I would have to miserably agree with some Western scholars who say that Islam and the rest of the world is doomed to be forever in conflict. Either the secular world triumphs by oppressing Islam, or Islam triumphs and oppresses secular beliefs, but the two cannot co-exist because both present two different ideologies and approaches to dealing with the world. An alternative would be if the nature of Islam changed so drastically that it would be in perfect harmony with secularization. As we have seen with groups like Sisters in Islam, attempts to do that have been shouted down as heretical.

    I think the problem can be eased by reminding everyone of our universal humanity, but unfortunately I don’t think the problem will ever go away.

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