Benny on religion

In these initial posts I thought I would continue the Christian themes that are abundant on this blog, so I thought I would comment not on why/why not I believe certain Christian beliefs, but rather my opinion of religions as a whole.

A little background, I think it would be awesome if there is a God, and it would be almost as awesome if people were born believing in God and this never changed. This would be good as everyone could just live out this life, and then move onto the next one. It would be one big spring break. I also think that this would probably make the world a much less stressful place, and everyone would treat each other better. There would be no need for selfishness, no reason to feel sad if anyone was lost, this world would be only temporary.

However, moving away from the crazy perfect dream, in the actual world it is difficult to tell if religion has more beneficial points than bad points.

Nathan and I have had the discussion of the origin of morals before, which I firmly established my belief that morals aren’t a derivative of the Christian faith. Still, I accept the role of religion in developing many people values, morals and ethics, and I think for the most part Christianity does instil people with a certain standard of goodness. From this perspective, if the Christian faith was more dominant, maybe we would have a better moral grounding, however it is hard to tell. It is possible that morals developed to an extent through general life experience. Maybe religion helps people developed these attributes at a greater rate. This seems likely.

However, what I think is more beneficial to the development of good societal morals and ethics is the community group that religion often fosters. Church groups bring people together, teach the group the expected standards of behaviour, and the younger generations learn how to behave form the older. This almost tribal oversight on the development of younger people I would think would result in them developing better behaviour principles. I would think that belonging to a community group would benefit the morals of people almost as much as being within an organised educational institution and even a strong family unit.

Where clashes occur is across religious boundaries. It seems religions aren’t good at being friends. And some religions aren’t even good at liking their own members if they aren’t religious enough. This is a major mark against religions, and causes divides within the larger community. This concept is one of the prime reasons I do not like any religious divisions in schools. There are enough artificial lines drawn in other areas of society along religious boundaries. I strongly believe that if anything we should be trying to get schools as culturally diverse and free from any types of potentially dividing lines as possible. This means removing all religious-focused educational institutions, and trying to ensure that we preserve this one institution where developing children interact with children from other cultures and religious backgrounds. I understand that many will feel this somewhat impacts on their religious choice and ability to make decisions for their children, however from a whole-of-society standpoint, I think this aids in developing a more inclusive, open society.

Further, religions, relevantly the Christian religions, are not tolerant. Some say they are, but they are not. To some extent I think Nathan has both become less tolerant and more acknowledging of the fact the Christian religion is not tolerant. I think it is important not to get confused between the recognition that different views exist, the tolerance of different views such that there is a willingness to allow those different views to be incorporated into society alongside your own.

This is not the case with many religions, well at least western religions anyway (but I’m not overly familiar with the religions of the world, so I am likely unfairly stereotyping far too many religions into this broad religion umbrella). In the grand scheme of things, it has to be said that rarely do religious ideals greatly impact on non-religious day-to-day choices or lifestyles for the most part.

However, the laws that religion has spurned, as well as the societal stigma’s and opinions in created still remain, and often it is certain minority or misfortunate groups that they have the most impact on. I find it absolutely infuriating at the thought of gay people being beaten or discriminated against on religious basis. Nathan seems to have an issue with same sex marriage due to the potential impacts it could have on family units. There are arguments on either side of this, many difficult to truly validate (such as studies that tells me that traditional families are better/worse than a different family type), but at least if they are approached logically and rationally, I am willing to think through them, and come to a conclusion. I like rational arguments and evidence. What I find more difficult is arguments based on religious grounds. I accept that religious people developed personal values around their religious beliefs and values. However, I find it unfair and unjust to regulate the lives of others based on such groundings.

I am also becoming concerned that Christians have a certain superiority complex that extends further than their belief they have the correct theological choice. As already mentioned, it includes Christian’s belief in their superior moral compass, but I think it also may extend to thoughts that Christians may be just generally more enlightened in all contexts. However, Christians probably make this argument against non-Christians.

There is also a tear within myself to an extent. While I want to preserve everyone’s right to choose and practice their own religion, I also realise that the way in which religions impede upon each other, it is not realistic to believe all these different views could live contently side by side. I think this source of conflict has a negative impact on society.

Finally, I don’t mind being preached to. while I think a lot of non-Christians are bothered by this, I think most of my religious friends understand certain boundaries, and for the most part in Australia it is quite easy for Christian and non-Christian groupings to get along quite easily. In fact, the way smiley puts it, if my Christian friends didn’t try to drag me in once in a while, they are probably not being a good Christian in trying to save their friends. That said, the extent some people have gone to spread the word I think has been somewhat unacceptable. Organisations that organised for missionaries to enter countries where Christianity was not welcome is a grey area I find somewhat difficult to vindicate. They may be heroes of the religion, but again it shows an element of elitism that exists within a group that is willing to do this. It may have been done with the best of intentions, but in the big picture, being so direct may have done more instances of harm than good. And it unlikely caused further tension between already strained international ties.

So to be a true Christian, you seemingly have to take the good attributes with the bad. And, from the requirements of Christianity of spreading the word and living by the bibles teachings, it seems that there is no solution for the incompatibility between the Christian v non-Christian world.

10 thoughts on “Benny on religion”

  1. You make some great points here.

    It’s all about respect in the end. If I can try and respect that other people have a different view to me, even if I don’t agree with it, we can get along (or try to).
    ….
    The issue comes in when we start trying to determine laws etc for a society and how much of the basis of this is a moral decision based on religious views and how much on a society-wide decision on what is best.
    Ie. obviously it is important for a cohesive society to have some sort of ruling about and issue – say a decision saying that killing people is unacceptable in that group. The muddiness starts to creep in in determining what sort of killing is okay (ie wars, self-defence, abortion, euthanasia) within that group. And often those grey edge areas are decided by a person’s faith.
    It is a very difficult thing to work out the best way forward for this. Generally I am happy to have a secular government and laws because I know that I live in a group where everyone does not have the same faith as me. So I will live within those legal frameworks with extra rules that I apply to myself from my belief system, while others without a belief system can just apply the legal framework rules.

  2. A lot of what you said is very true.

    I have to ask though, what’s so good about tolerance? And what should we be tolerating? There are a lot of humanists/atheists/post-modernists who boast about their tolerance and pay out religious people for being intolerant, but in that very act, they are being intolerant of the religious people’s beliefs.

    I don’t think anybody should be forced to ‘tolerate’ other people’s beliefs in the way society pushes (which is, not criticising anyone else). Yes, let people believe what they want to believe. Love them. But as Christians we are being told to just pretend it’s ok for Muslims to be Muslims, and Muslims are being told to pretend it’s ok that Jews are Jews; when both Christians and Muslims believe it’s not. I understand when Mormons try to evangelise us because they believe it’s important we know what they know. They’re not being intolerant of me.

    This also extends into the area of missionaries going into countries where Christianity is not accepted. Presuming for a moment that Christianity is true and we need Jesus to be saved – as Christians sincerely believe – then let’s pretend it’s like some life-saving medical treatment. It might be unwelcome by a certain government, but we know people in that country need access to this treatment. Do we go in and take it to the people, or do we sit back and watch people die because we’re afraid to tread on someone’s toes?

    I realise that’s presuming a lot on your behalf, but I’m hoping you see the gist behind it: Christian missionaries aren’t going into these countries in a bid to take over the world or enlighten people to our level, but to save them. You might feel that’s misguided, but wrong? Keep in mind also that there are many people in these countries who are already Christians, or who want to learn about Christianity, and their governments are banning them from meeting together or learning about it. Christianity is rarely unwelcome in a country as a whole, but unwelcome in the eyes of their government- governments which are often not true democracies and not voted there by the people.

    Remember also that people do not adhere to certain religions because they think it’s “good for” them or society. They do it because they believe it’s true.

    Of course there will never be compatibility between Christians and the non-Christian world. Jesus himself said that we (Christians) would be persecuted, often hated, by the non-Christian world.

    In regards to the educational divisions: are you saying all children must be educated the same way? I’m all for state schools, I think they’re great, I went through state schools. But there are parents who don’t want their children taught certain things that the public education system pushes; there are also parents who think a Christian environment will simply be better for their child. If we were to remove all religious-focused educational institutions, children of all religions would be forced to learn, for example, that evolution is fact; something there is significant scientific disagreement over. Isn’t that basically evolutionists being intolerant of other people’s beliefs and ramming it down children’s throats – something Christians are so often accused of?

  3. Apologies for the lack of breaks between paragraphs… I forgot the comments on this blog do that.

  4. Would like to note here that I have no problem whatsoever with children being taught evolution in a science classroom. Evolution is not a belief system like a religion is – it is a vigorously tested scientific theory. It would be like not using zero in a maths classroom because your faith didn’t believe zero was needed. The other side to a story like that is in religious education.

    Would like to know who the scientists are that you mention Leah (unless you mean those who think it is deity-directed etc)?

  5. yeh i don’t really know why evolution is such a big issue in this context. its a bit of a sidenote. also, i get the christians do the things they do when going into other countries to spread christianity as they believe it is the right thing to do. after years of talking to smiley, i well and truly get this. plus i think what i said above pretty covers what i am thinking about this anyway.

    so really everything here is fair enough, up until you’ve start talking about schools. i was hoping to do this as a seperate post, cause i have written a lot about this. but briefly, yes, i think all children should be educated in the same way in the sense that religion is not involved. i am not saying here so much that schools have to abide to rigourous guidelines or curriculums. rather their is a standard required that removes all bounds for any forms of exclusionism. and yes, i am coming straight out against christian-run schools. your next jump that all children would then have to learn evolution does not follow. school is more than the content of theological teachings. i will leave the discussion of teaching evolution to another day. there is no intolerance or anything here. This was not my point at all. I think i made my point pretty clear above:

    “This means removing all religious-focused educational institutions, and trying to ensure that we preserve this one institution where developing children interact with children from other cultures and religious backgrounds. I understand that many will feel this somewhat impacts on their religious choice and ability to make decisions for their children, however from a whole-of-society standpoint, I think this aids in developing a more inclusive, open society.”

    the goal is just to remove any religious-related divisions in education institutions and promote the crossing of cultures/beliefs etc in this one common institution that is so important to the development of young people. so yes, i am saying remove parents ability to send their children to religious-distinguished schools. i think, in the long run, this will lead to a better Australia, with more integrated cultures and more accepting standpoints within the community.

  6. As a parent, I like having the option to send my son to a public, Catholic, Anglican, non-denominational, pentecostal, seventh-day adventist, or non-religious independent school (I think that’s all my options here). Theoretically, it means that I can choose the level of religious input that my young, impressionable child has on a day to day basis. I’m not sure that is what happens in practice, and I am sure that there is not a whole lot of religion going on at our local Anglican school. (What am I saying? I don’t like having all those options. It means I have to make a choice.)
    School is about a whole lot more than learning to read and write, and about world history. There’s a whole lot of background ideology going on in the syllabus and in an individual school’s curriculum. If you can also pull out the values taught at school, and all the ‘life-skills’ that are being crammed into the curriculum, (and maybe even convince parents in general to be more involved in their children’s education and pay the good teachers enough to want to stay longer than a few years) then I might be more keen to see religious schools abolished. (and I might be a little more excited about our impending venture into school life)
    On the other hand, I don’t think abolishing religious schools would solve anything. Kids learn a lot of attitudes from their parents. Kids can be nasty.

  7. Sorry, I know that wasn’t the main idea of your post.

    And sorry, Nathan, I didn’t use your fancy new line breaks. I forgot.

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