Saturday 2 February 2008

Religion and Society

Do we need religion?
Many would say not.

Richard Dawkins would say not. Sometimes I take his point.

It depends on what you mean by it.

I'm Catholic. I take mass regularly. I count Christ as one of our great philosophers. I also allow for the very different importance of the Buddha and Mohammed as philosophers.
But I would never forget the importance of viewing them in historical context.

Religion doesn't have to involve burning people at stakes, or stoning people to death to be negative.

I happen to be of the view that on the whole, you can be religous and still be socially progressive. Then again, I happen to practise a religion which has always been a broad church.
I don't see anything contradictory in attempting to synthesise Catholicism, Darwinism, Marxism and Nietzcheism.
But most importantly, I base my belief system on reason, not faith.

Blind faith is the enemy of reason.

And in that sense, no, we DON'T need it. It is dangerous.

Religion can be a very good thing, if practised properly. If you treat it, as I do, that the laws of physics and the universe are consistent with a single consciousness which our own consciousnesses are all linked to through actual laws of physics, but that due to the impefect nature of our own reason and interception of the higher consciousness, we have received mixed messages, all well and good.

And as long as you are able to rationally say 'That WAS said two thousand years ago. It doesn't follow now', all well and good.

If you try to make sense of today's world solely on the basis of ancient manuscripts, you create a warped worldview.

The problem is, you are tapping into a social consciousness which often has a hangover from these old ideals.

How much of a problem is this?

A major one, because there is a large thread of Christian thought that we don't properly identify as what it is. They guard the 'moral highground' and have allowed their dead values, as opposed to living values of love, to hold the reins of a supposedly secular society long after many of us in our hearts of hearts don't feel that way. And they make so many people miserable by making them feel guilty about that.

We are afraid to stand up and say 'You're wrong. You are just as wrong as the BNP and Islamic fundamentalists. Your views are as nasty and cause as much social misery.'


Here is the problem. This is the 21st century. Society isn't changing because the devil has become strong. It is because the way we live has changed. There has been a social and technological revolution.

There are a whole series of moral codes which were necessary at one time, which no longer are.
It is both socially and technologically possible for people to have far more freedom in their interpersonal relationships than once it was and the rigid moral codes that are at odds with the general dynamics of real life are breaking down as a result.

There are no longer any compelling reasons for stating that any other form of sex aside from between 'One woman and one man', is somehow negative.

Indeed, forcing that on people is negative.

The key dynamics that have altered are these;
  1. Both men and women have careers. As they should. It's a better use of human energy. Life paths which may meet for a while, may later diverge.
  2. Society is better organised to take care of child welfare. Children don't need their parents as much. The nuclear family is no longer a social necessity.
  3. Women are no longer prepared to put up with the hypocrisy. For long, men have imposed a double standard. That's gone. And we'd all rather live by the standard men enjoyed, than the one we imposed on women.
  4. Inheritance is no longer so important, so you don't need to keep tabs on paternity so much. And anyway, there's DNA testing.
  5. People reach sexual maturity long before they are in a position to raise families. If you are comfortable with the fact that your partner has had thirty lovers before you met, then the whole ideal of sexual exclusivity has largely been eroded anyway.
  6. VDs are controllable, and long term probably eradicable. Sex doesn't have to be dirty.
  7. People can have sex without getting pregnant. We're lucky. We can have more pleasure, with less threat. So quite obviously, people are going to. Nobody deprives themselves of something they enjoy to maintain an obsolescent social system.
  8. Chances are, many people already have important friendships and other things in our lives that are more important than sexual partners. When and if they do settle down, these things remain as important and may still take precedence over the other party. The fact remains (Speaking as a male who, if you want to use what I feel to be a ridiculous classification scheme, you would class as heterosexual), that we need time, far more time, to devote to our friendships with members of the SAME sex, than the traditional view of marriage allows (as well, of course as our platonic friendships with the opposite sex).

So for many people, the choice that fundmentalists are imposing on them, never have any physical relationships at all, or bond your life inexorably and irrevocably with another and cut yourself off from every other human being, is in fact forcing us into a fairly miserable choice.

And of course, for gay and bisexual people, worse still. Because the fundamentalists don't accept 'One man and one man' as an acceptable choice.

We want to be able to choose ourselves how we interconnect with others. We want to be able to love how we choose, and not be told how to do it.

If two people of different sexes choose to set up a home together and raise children together, fine.

But I don't choose to live that way. To me, that would be pure Hell.

So don't tell me I'm supposed to endure that, just because you think that's how a Loving God thinks I'm supposed to live.

It is actually possible for two people to raise children together whilst living separately and without being a partnership in that sense, as long as they are responsible adults.

It is even- and this is the ideal that I personally would strive for- possible for two people to enjoy a lasting connection and raise children, whilst still maintaining separate lives, retaining their own separate homes and indentities, careers, friends etc.

That has to be a far better way to live than the nuclear family model. And it seems to be the model towards which society is moving. The marital bond is being rejected, because we live happier lives without it. We live more fluid lives. Our social relations are richer.
We live happier lives when we have as many people as we can in it, when we are not shackled down.

More and more of us actually choose to live happy lives till we die. We don't want there to a brief period of youthful happiness, when you have loads of friends, then just talking to the same person every night for the rest of your life.

And these puritans, attempting to force their outdated, misery causing, outlook onto the rest of us cannot see that.

At the end of the day, each of us has the right to decide what makes us happy.
And if it makes us happy and no one gets hurt and the world is a better place for that happiness existing, then I'm damn sure, it's what God would have wanted.

Because God ISN'T your God, he belongs to all of us.

I get a bit annoyed when people try to persuade the rest of us that these values respect women, because they so clearly don't. It's patriarchy, pure and simple. It's maintaing the subjagation of women that appeals to these types. The fact is, they fear truly liberated woman. They are used to being 'The Man'.

I'm afraid your reign is coming to an end. It's not just women who have had enough- so have most of us men. We are as sick of the burden of being slavemasters, as they are of being slaves.

If you think of yourselves as 'Champions of chivalry', then QED. Point proven. How much more can you disrespect women than by thinking they need your PROTECTION?
Is that like when people are incarcerated for their own 'protection'?

'Chivalry' waas a code designed to retain a rigid system of keeping people in their places. I'm a man, you're a woman so different rules apply. Women need men to guard them. These women need to be watched over, not just from other men but FROM THEMSELVES.
These types kid themselves that that is the way the virtuous think.

No, it's Sexism and Homophobia using the language of Christianity and Morality to hide it's true face.

Christianity was used to justify slavery too...

So, by all means, you retain your old moral codes. Fine.

I don't begrudge the Amish, I don't begrudge you.

But the day you start preaching to us, trying to denigrate those of us who reject your values, or trying to force the law or the tax system to favour YOUR way of life, you are just another narrow minded bigot judging others to hide the fact that inside yourself, you ain't anywhere near as pure as you like to kid yourself you are.

That's the day you become a Fascist masquerading as a Christian.


Anonymous said...

Your opening banner - God is our Strength - never a truer word was spoken but people just don't know it - blinded sheep leading the blind.

Anonymous said...

yet another controversial post about religion... but why is that? Why is religion & beliefs so taboo?

As mentioned earlier, not everyone needs a religion, and i suppose its individual. The most important thing is humanity - if we all have that, if we all respect each other, treat them with love & sincerity, treat them the way how we'd like to be treated, the world be a better place for all of us.

Spiriuality is what comes next for those who wants it/needs it. For me, my belief is my core, and is so fundamental that i dont even think about it. But thats simply cuz I follow the rules of humanity before i get all tangled up in ppls interpretation if a religion. Cuz thats what religion is, interpretation. What it should be, is a connection between you and Goodness, whether you call it God, jesus, Allah, Karma, Nirvana, Jehova, Brahma...

"Because God ISN'T your God, he belongs to all of us."

that says it all...

Anonymous said...

James- Well in the sense that if we take a theistic interpretation, we are all part of God, then yes.

But does God want to inflict MISERY on people?
I can't believe that for a minute.

Do you not think God actually wants us to find happiness?

Crashie- I would agree with you. I am Catholic myself, primarily on intellectual grounds and cultural background.

But one should never blindly follow a creed.
The principles are good, but the details may not always be pertinent.

Anonymous said...

if it makes us happy and no one gets hurt

I don't believe in a god or anything, and I certainly don't have any kind of religious faith. But, 'live and let live' is how I try to live my life.

I don't think there's any need for anything else if you're already doing that.

Anonymous said...

I think you will know that I can't agree with a lot here but I'm just going to comment on one thing.

It is even- and this is the ideal that I personally would strive for- possible for two people to enjoy a lasting connection and raise children, whilst still maintaining separate lives, retaining their own separate homes and indentities, careers, friends etc.

This is the life that so many live today and it's more like hell than an ideal. It's the byeproduct of divorce. Few recommend it, apart from any acrimony involved.

It could be your ideal, although since you don't like to live alone I can't quite imagine how you think that. Mia Farrow and Woody Allen tried it but it did not work out so well for them in the long run.

But the truth is that most people who love each other want to live together and create a nuclear family. Their friends are still important to them and they don't discard them. Some they see separately, some together. It all works out usually. Lives change, they evolve into something different, hopefully better. Just like evolution takes place on the grand scale it takes place in the little things in life too.

Monogamy is a social conscript and also part of the animal kingdom. Two swans or two geese or two bald eagles are not bound together by religious strictures. It works for them and sometimes like humans they too break the code. That doesn't mean to say it's not a good idea.

No convert here to today's post.

But the day you start preaching to us, trying to denigrate those of us who reject your values

But that's what you are doing too, in your own different way, which you have every right to do, as do they. Ultimately we all have to make up our own minds.

Anonymous said...

Oestrebunny- I think so. Live and let live are good values.
I don't think there is a one size fits all solution.

jmb- Well, my ex-flatmate and The Baker are kind of going to do it.

He was going to look for a position in the Midlands, but the group he works for offered him quite a senior management job to keep him.
Thing is, it's a long way away.

But, he can work from home two days.
Now, my ex-flatmate (let's call her D, so many people know her name now wanyway), won't be returning to her old job after maternity leave anyway, so I guess you'd say (as my Mum did), why don't they both move up there?)

But that isn't the best solution, not really. D wants to be near her MUm, who lives near here. Plus, The Baker's family only in Shrewsbury. I live here, The Chimney swep lives in Coventry.

In terms of what's best for everybody, looking at the wider picture, it's best for The Baker to live where he works and spend three days a week down here. (I think also both of them worry about how I will cope without them).

So that's what is going to happen. They will be a couple, they will raise the child together. They will just retain separate homes.

An in terms of myself, no, I don't like living alone.

But living with D was pretty much the optimum way. She looked after me, she made me dinner, she made me cups of tea, she was kind of a sister. I could talk to her, I could trust her, in a way I have never trusted an actual lover. And the reason was, because I knew she'd always look after me.

But if I said 'I'm off out' or 'I'll be away this weeknd- I've got Monday and Tuesday off, so I'll see you Tuesday evening', no questions asked.

We lived together, but our lives were separate.
To be sure, she had to trust me that I was paying the bills and the rent, otherwise we'd both be homeless, but she did.
I never had to involve her in decisions I made regarding the flat. At the end of the day, it was mine (Obviously still is- only she's no longer in it.)

D is and always will be a one in a million girl. The Baker is a very lucky man to have someone so sensible, and I've told him.
He's not cheated on her yet, and I think a part of that is respect for me on the subject. She's one person I'd be uncomfortable lieing to on his behalf.

For me, I don't deny it seems very nice in theory, but in practice, the reality- in my experience- always pans out to be pretty awful.

If I'm honest, in my case, it's because I've already selected the people I want close to me, and its a closed list now.

That's not to say I don't enjoy intimacy with people, but it has to a distant type of intimacy, if you get what I mean. It can be physical or emotional, it can't be both. I can't deal with the combination, it's too much. I find it threatening. I find it better to separate them.

I also find it threatening to have someone having too much of a hold over you. I'm too used to being the only person I really have to worry about.

There are many people who feel the same, male and female.
But we're made to feel that somehow, we're at fault and we should make more of an effort.

We can't.

Anonymous said...

Yes, I think I agree with jmb here - for the problem with this hypothesis is no one is thinking about the child. I would agree that fundamentalism in any religion is dangerous, as we must reinterpret our religions for the times we live in - but at the same time, I don't think that means we have to give in to what the current Pope calls "relativism". There are surely some values which transcend all eras.

Anonymous said...

Modern life is complicated, isn't it? My daughter and her husband lived apart, two states away, for the first two years of their marriage as their career paths diverged. They only saw each other ever second weekend. But eventually she went to live with him so they could have a family and sadly sacrificed her career to do so. But she made another career choice and is content enough now.

Good luck to D and the Baker, with goodwill they will make it work.

Anonymous said...

I like the idea of religion being flexible. I think it is so unfortunate that spirituality has been linked with some sort of strict set of rules, rather than an underlying faith. It is sometimes hard not to throw out the baby with the bathwater, it seems.

Anonymous said...

Welshcakes- Children do not need two biological parents living in the same home to turn out fine. It depends on the parents. Many children living in the same house as both biological parents end up being abused.
I'm not sure we as a society can entrust the bringing up of future generations to such capricious fortune.
Increasingly, children are partly brought up by the wider community anyway- certainly during working hours.

I would agree that some things are wrong however you slice it. Rape and Murder, for example.

But if intelligent adults can find ways to live that are pleasurable for them, yet also socially responsible, I can't see why that's wrong.

jmb- This is the thing, when both parties have careers. Maybe I tend to stick to barmaids because they can get work anywhere :)

I think that there so many factors involved now which just mean that things are different.

It is possible to lead a fulfilled life, without the burden of a long term partner, at least in the conventional sense.
There is no reason not to have more open, fluid relationships.

The sexual friendship option is now a practical possibility and doesn't carry the strain of anachronistic vows.

Princess P- I agree with that. I don't think of myself as being any less Catholic just because I can be a bit of a naughty boy.

If I am a sinner, than so are we all, and I seem to remeber something about logs in eyes.