Monday, July 30, 2007

Capitalism and Religion

Religion has always been apart of my life -- not in the way you may think, though. I attended Catholic School for 9 years (and can probably still do a decent job at Bible Quiz), I attended Arabic/Muslim School for about the same period of time, and have taken a couple classes regarding Judaism. While I used to be a spiritual person that believed in some sort of superior moral being, I was never a religious or denominational person. I was always resentful of religion because I have seen first hand the divisions it causes. I have seen the aftermaths of war, the look in people's eyes when they are threatened by what is different, and the inability to cross those unnecessary divisions.

People argue that if religion were followed the way it was intended to be followed, then it would promote cohesiveness. I don't buy it. I would argue what I think it promotes, but that is a completely different argument. Anyway, let's take this example. It's similar to a company that produces a new product. The intent of the product is to do 'X', but it repeatedly fails; the margin of error is too high. Sometimes it works, but when it fails, it fails big time and causes the user injury and sometimes death. How long would a product like that stay on the market? Not very long. I am sure many of you are shaking your head at my extremely capitalistic example (Back off Commies :), but regardless, I think the logic stands. I understand the argument that religion is supposed to promote peace and give people stability, just like the product is supposed to work a certain way. I understand the argument, but, nonetheless, religion fails. The margin of error is too high. It often causes distress and more often than not, it causes war, hate, judgment, and chaos. That has been the function of religion. Religion is not needed to promote social cohesiveness. A friend once told me that a local Sheik at the Dearborn mosque said, "Those that are moral solely because they are religious are neither moral nor religious." I couldn't agree more. Religious teachings and morality may go hand in hand, but morality can operate completely independent of religion. It's quite logical, but that is another post. I have not done this issue justice, and would have to write pages upon pages to begin to scratch the surface. Take this post for what it is: a blog.


Leon said...

It's been a long time since I attempted a response to something such as this, so please pardon my presumption that I'm still qualified to do so. To jump right into the second paragraph of your post (the meat if you will), I would contend that the true purpose of religion is not to promote cohesiveness, but is instead to discourage divisiveness based on irrational reasoning. The Bible says "love thy neighbor", not "live with thy neighbor" or "frequent thy neighbor's company", where "love", in its most basic sense, is interpreted as simply maintaining the same respect for one's neighbor that one might expect for himself or herself. To even speak of religion in terms of serving a purpose takes away from the most common theme of most religions which is that we, as followers, are supposed to "serve", not "be served". As such, followers are taught to believe that it is not the manner in which they apply the teachings of Scripture to the world around them that matters most, but the manner in which they apply Scripture to their own daily lives and internalized selves that matters most. Application to the surrounding world for the sake of making judgments and taking action implies adaptation of Scripture on an individual's level, and true teachings were not meant to be adapted to our daily ways of life, believers were meant to adapt to the teachings. It is during these times of adaptation and misinterpretation that the greatest injustices occur (ex. Supporters of slavery argued that blacks deserved the conditions that they were being placed into because they were "beasts" or "animals" and the Bible says that man is free to make servants out of the beasts and animals that walk the earth). It is my contention that it is not the institution that is religion that fails, it is the blind followers/misinterpreters/zealots/usurpers who fail.

Religion is a belief system. No matter what religion a person believes in, that person holds onto those beliefs in anticipation or expectation of the idea that someone (a Greater Power perhaps) will hold him or her accountable for the actions that that person takes in this lifetime. It is that accountability that forms the foundation of morality. If you don't believe that you will be held accountable for your actions ever (in this life or the 10th), then why live a "moral" life? If you don't fear punishment, then why not lie, cheat, steal, murder, etc.? To respond that "it's not the right thing to do" implies that there is a higher authority that judges what is truly right and wrong.

To help illustrate my closing point, simply examine the statement "Money is the root of all evil". Is the statement true? Does money rob other people of their valuables, does it kill people, has it ever kicked someone down a flight of stairs? Simply put, no. It is "people", in pursuit of money, that is found at the root of all evil, not the inanimate object itself.

While not an inanimate object, religion remains an intanigble ideal. And it is not that ideal that does the world harm in the name of a greater power, it is the individuals chosen to sit in seats of power within religious hierarchies and those who choose to make goal-oriented invocations who should be held accountable and called into question, not the institutions themselves.

At this point, I believe that my response is longer than the article that it was meant to address. Sorry, and thanks if you read this far.

And how does this thing know my name?

Sirene said...

Thanks for your response, Leon. I must say that I disagree with some of you're well written and thought out responses. Specifically the paragraph that starts off with, "Religion is a belief system." I have a feeling debating on here would be both inefficient and endless. Catch me later :)