Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Religion can be philisophy, aristocracy or imaginary friend

Disclaimer: I know this is a touchy subject, and I am not the most tactful person, so please
stop reading now!
if you have strong views on religion. What I am about to express is my opinion, and is not meant to influence or offend anyone. If you are already offended then I apologize, and hope that by turning back now you can avert any more offense.

Another theory; religion could be dissected as either a philosophy or an aristocracy. Wait, hear me out. I know that is way oversimplifying something so complex and evidently intricately woven into the human condition. But I am expressly thinking about understanding the will of each religion's deity/deities - what is done with those instructions is a different topic.

So let's consider, hypothetically a religion has a deity or some deities. This essentially what defines a religion right? That it has gods? Perhaps a religion has no gods, merely guidelines that were divined by a group of humans that are now revered for their amazing insight. That sounds a bit like a philosophical cult which is my first proposition, but I'm getting ahead of myself. Now that we've established a god or gods, how does information exchange occur?

  1. There is an elite class of god listeners who alone hear god's messages and then repeat them to the rest of that god's followers.
  2. All of that god's followers attempt to divine their god's meaning and then share and debate their theories to come up with some consensus.
Number one is clearly a form of aristocracy because the god has divined who shall be the people who receive the message and make decisions for others just as a monarch is generally chosen through some cosmic means. However if the god-listener class is elected it might possibly be considered some form of democracy. More likely the god-listener class takes that right through an exertion of their power (either by force or through influence), which might make it either a tyranny or oligarchy. Perhaps these types of institutions are all called republics - a small group represents a larger group. But it can go terribly wrong if the larger group doesn't question the validity of the small group. I wonder is it a sin to question the pope? Or a pastor's interpretation of the bible. Even a simple Sunday morning comic strip has multiple interpretations; isn't it more likely that a literary work of unknown origin transcribed multiple times may have ambiguous meaning? I'm not saying that we can't ultimately come to a consensus, there is meaning everywhere that we can all agree on, e.g. that murder is generally bad is agreed by all. What I mean is that unquestioning acceptance of religious, governmental or scientific dogma is both lazy and very dangerous. As Socrates said in the Apology, "an unexamined life is not worth living."

Number two sounds like a philosophy to me. I like it.

OK, let's take this a few steps further. Now replace god or gods with some other belief. Say god = the universe? Or gods = scientific theories, because let's be frank, no matter how much proof we have, even acceptance of a law is still merely just a belief. We believe that electrons tunnel through energy barriers because we have seen so much evidence that suggests convincingly that it may be true. But Einstein and Copernicus and Galileo can attest to the fact that even "scientific" theories and laws evolve and shift as new evidence comes to light. So I digress, my point with this last exercise is that religion has many societal parallels.

I also realized, while talking with my wife about suffering and grief that even if you can't hear your deity or deities message, when you are in need, merely believing that they exist and love you, may be a solace, and I like that too. The universe is a cold hard place, and it's always nice to have a friend.

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