Ethical Queries

 

SOCIETY AND RELIGIOUS RULES

Having attended a Christian school as a child, I am somewhat familiar with the Bible and the stories it tells. Now, in my view, the Bible shouldn’t be taken too literally; however, each story does have a moral, a deeper significance and meaning. The Bible is meant to guide people to do the right thing, make the right choices and warn people of past mistakes. I see it as a set of stories, parables if you like, not a literal representation of history.

Of all the Biblical stories I’m familiar with, one stands out most prominently, namely the tale of the golden calf. In it, Moses’ people create a golden statue of a calf, supposedly representing the God they worship. This was against God’s wishes, and Moses ultimately destroyed the golden statue and forbade the people of ever making a depiction of God again. I find it ironic that religions tend to characterize their deity, claiming he/she/it would or wouldn’t approve of certain thoughts and acts. Religious leaders claim to know exactly what their god wants, how he/she/it thinks and thus they paint an image of what their God is.

(Wait a minute! Isn’t this just making a spiritual depiction of the deity rather than a physical one?)

But in the end, this image they have created is little more than their interpretation of their religion. In so doing, they are creating God as they think God should be, and their representation of this God is nothing more than a reflection of themselves rather than an actual figure that supposedly guides us. Ultimately it’s no longer about god as described by the teachings of the Bible (or Torah or Koran or…) but about a figure that epitomizes the interests of its so-called representatives (again, irony). So for example, Christian religion isn’t so much about worshipping the Bible and the God it describes as it is about worshipping the representatives of that God/the Bible and their view on it. Thereby they are ignoring the deeper meanings in the Bible and ignoring the teachings of the past it contains. Instead they have turned the Bible into a tool for those in control to spread their own point of view. In doing so, they have created a rulebook rather than a set of guidelines to help steer people to the right path. This, of course, is also true for the Torah, the Koran and any other religious book. I personally object to the idea that one person or small group of persons can represent a being that is supposedly as complex and incomprehensible as the Biblical (or Torahnic or Koranic) God. These religious leaders will ultimately only represent their own interpretations of reality, rather than reality itself, for the simple reason that reality is different for everyone.

Reality is like a hall of mirrors, and depending from what angle you look at something, it can look entirely different to the observer as the angle changes. The perspective you use changes the outcome of your perception. Now, everyone has a different view on reality, a different perspective if you will, and no matter how hard you try, a perspective cannot change. However, the view of the picture can change. A widely used example is that we all wear a different set of glasses; but it’s not that simple. Rather, we all have a different set of eyes, and we can put on different sets of glasses to edit the way we see the picture. But no matter what glasses we put in front of them, we cannot change our eyes: we will always see through the different glasses we put on with the same eyes we always had. Use of these metaphoric glasses allows us some understanding of other people’s perspective, but it will never be more than an emulation of the eyes another person uses, they will never be your own eyes. Reality therefore, will always be an exclusively personal interpretation, and trying to make reality the same for everyone is an impossible, and potentially harmful, process. The mistake that many religions make is that they don’t encourage and assist people in defining their own reality and moral guidelines, but instead try to enforce a set of rules where they just can’t, and don’t, always apply. Reality simply isn’t so simple that you can apply one single set of rules to every single occasion. The Bible itself has some glaringly obvious examples of this: in some cases you are encouraged to turn the other cheek, but in others it’s perfectly acceptable to take an eye for an eye.

A much more appropriate stance for the Christian church would be to apply the teachings of the Bible to its audience, rather than the personal interpretation of its religious leader(s), in a preferably intangible way. So instead of claiming that if you do x, our God will do y (ironically, this rests on the belief that the church is actually able to comprehend something they themselves claim is incomprehensible), they should try to underline that certain types of behavior are considered wrong for those who are part of their group. For example, the church shouldn’t claim that being homosexual is wrong, but they could claim that they, as a religious organization, think that giving in to certain sexual urges is wrong. In so doing, they are limiting their own judgments to the organization they belong to rather than putting these judgments on society as a whole, and they are not enforcing their own views on people that are not part of their organization. Because that’s all religion really is: an organization of people that share a viewpoint, in this case in terms of theology. Of course any organization is free to choose its own members, so if a religious organization is against sexually active homosexuals then they should be free to exclude them from being part of that particular organization. However, the rules of that organization should have no bearing on the rules of society whatsoever. Just because a homosexual wouldn’t be allowed to join their organization because it goes against their belief system, it shouldn’t mean that they are allowed to treat homosexuals differently as human beings in society as a whole.

A problem today is that the rules of religious organizations are often deeply intertwined with the rules of society; some people even view religion as society; consequently people that aren’t part of that religion fall outside the graces of society. The thing is, people should see themselves as people first, and members of a religion second. In that way, a member of, for example, the islamic religion isn’t a muslim; he’s a person that follows the teachings of the Koran as interpreted by the leaders of his faith. That shouldn’t define him as a human being; the adherence to a certain faith, or lack thereof, shouldn’t automatically make him more or less of a person. Society today is in dire need of an actual separation of religious organizations and society. Irrespective of religious belief, every person should follow a set of social rules and guidelines which dictate how to interact with other people and the world around them. Simple, generic things like ‘do not kill other people’ and ‘do not steal’ are examples of social rules, and while religious organizations can have their own set of additional rules, these religiously based rules should have no bearing or interaction with people outside that religion, to the effect that a religion should not be able to alter interpersonal interaction between members of their organization and members outside their organization. In other words, a religion can say that its members should not have sexual relations with same gender people (doing so would mean expulsion from the religious group) but the religion shouldn’t be able to set rules for how their members interact with other people who do have sex with same gender people but are not members of their organization.

To clarify, by rules I do not mean laws, as laws have always outweighed the teachings of a religion. If a member of the Islamic religion commits a crime that is justified by his particular interpretation of his religion, he’d still be tried and punished according to the laws of his society (simplest example being a Muslim terrorist); but what I mean is this: right now (for example) there are a variety of Islamic-based religions that teach their members particular standards and values that entail disrespect for people that are not part of their organization, and actively instill the idea that these other people need to be changed, converted to their religion and in extreme cases, if that doesn’t succeed, make them fair game to exterminate. And now we get to the core of the matter: I am of the firm opinion that society should be teaching its people certain rules of respect and guidelines of interaction. Faith and religion should definitely not be a part of this education, and shouldn’t be able to change the basic rules of interaction and respect we have for each other. Of course, this doesn’t just apply to religious organizations, but to any type of organization or group. White supremacists shouldn’t be able to teach each other to act upon their hatred of non-white people, but they could be allowed to separate themselves from interaction with non-members of their group, as long as they behave by the standard guidelines set by society.

So in short, an organization – any organization – should not be allowed to influence its members to negatively interact with other people outside of their organization. A Christian church shouldn’t be allowed to act against homosexuality, but instead they can choose not to take homosexuals as members of their organization. Muslims can dislike non-believers all they like, but they shouldn’t be allowed to forcibly convert them.

Just keep the rules and regulations of faith and religious organizations strictly separated from society.

 

These are my two cents. What’s your opinion? Click here and let me know...

 

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