November 24, 2010

Horse 1128 - Religion Isn't The Cause Of "Poison"... It's People

This post comes from the jumping off point of this article from the ABC's Unleased website:

Religion for want of a better word is a set of practices based on or that follow as a result of one's faith. To put it more simply: Faith is where and what you believe in; Religion is what you do about it.

Everyone who has ever been born on this planet has believed in something, even atheists. Athiests might not believe in god/s but they do believe in an abscence of them; by definition this is still a belief in a position. It follows that everyone who has ever lived has their own unique religion of sorts (including atheists), and although it might not necessarily be an organised religion, the fact still holds true that everyone has their own religion.
If it is true that everyone has their own religion, then for their religion to be "poisonous", this can not be the fault of the religion but of the people themselves who formally make up the religion if it is a collective one, or even the individual.

This is why I think that Mr Hodge is quite wrong is saying that:
Yet, there is no fool-proof way to define “religion” that will include such belief systems as Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism and Confucianism while excluding nationalism, political ideologies, capitalism, pop culture, sport and more.
If there is is no fool-proof way to define “religion”, then why have I done precisely that and included EVERY possible belief system. If religion is what one does as a result of one's faith in whatever that happens to be, then it doesn't even need to make mention of buildings, organisations, or the existance of god, gods or an abscence of them.

Getting back to the point about religion being "poisonous", or rather the people who make up a collective religion being the cause of that poison, then you don't need to go to any religious institute to find evidence of this. One merely needs to open the newspaper on a daily basis to read about man's injustice to his fellow man, or even look at the headlines on the ABC's own news website:
Belanglo teen killed with axe - Fatal shooting police 'tried to warn patrons' - Police restore calm after Yuendumu violence - Vic Coalition unveils child abuse, sentencing reforms.
I cite all of these and thousands more on a daily basis as proof of mankind's internal poison. I haven't got around to even mentioning religion's part in all this because quite frankly I don't need to. The problem isn't religion but people themselves.

How is "religion" connected to this hideousness I hear you ask? Obviously if religion is what one does, then the people who killed the teen with an axe, or the perpetrators of child abuse or the people of Yuendumu, must all be following their own internal religions; however twisted and not normal they happen to be. Every individual must be held accountable for their own actions, and if religion happens to be what one does, then one's actions and one's religion must be either identical or else mesh together very well indeed.

Of course it is very easy to stand back from all of this and act "piously" for want of a better word, but if we're all following our own internal religion and we all happen to be the root cause of that "poison", then is it little wonder that society seems to progressively get worse? That violent crime increases over time?

Maybe there was some wisdom after all in "the good book" which society seemingly has laid aside because it was no longer "relevant". Collectively are our throats are open graves? Do our tongues practice deceit? What are the results of that poison anyway? Is it difficult to hear cursing and bitterness the second you step out onto the street? If you switch on the telly of a night can you find people who are swift to shed blood? When the GFC hit, were people quick to mark up ruin and misery in their moral accountbooks along with losses financial?

Maybe there was some wisdom when it was said of mankind that there was no one righteous, not even one and that there is no-one who understands; no-one who seeks God. Just what is the point of religion anyway if together we have become worthless and there really is no-one who does good?

It seems that to pinpoint religion as “poisonous”, and to identify its origins in human nature, would lead one to think there is something very defective about human beings themselves and their nature.

Isn't that the very point of Christianity anyway? That there is in fact something hideously defective about human beings themselves in their nature? Christianity itself starts with the very assumption that both collectively and individually that everyone who has ever been born on this planet is flawed, defective and utterly incapable of making peace with their creator. It assumes that everyone does carry round a poison which makes us unacceptable to our creator, and it explains very easily why mankind as a whole and people individually need a saviour from that poison.

But to suggest that it is religion's fault for poisoning society simply defies both common sense and logic. Somehow I think that Mr Hodge needs to go back have a check of his workings, and then get back to us.


kris said...

very interesting reading indeed. I'll need a bit of time to let all that digest. Was the definition of religion your own definition or is it a widely held definition? I ask because while I agree a lot on what you had to say on human nature I always viewed religion as something different. I have a faith and I act upon that faith. I am a Chaplain and see that as an expression of my faith however despite having a religious title I have considered myself as not religious and not belonging to religion. I don't get too precious about it hence allowing myself to take on a religious title but I always saw religion as man made institutions. Institutions that I guess see their existence as an expression of their faith but because I'm more interested in God and not in Church I internally distance myself by not labelling myself religious.

Rollo said...

religion: n.
2 - a particular system of faith and or practices (OED)

Is it a widely held definition? Well in my experience, the Oxford English Dictionary is a useful standard, but whether it's widely held is another matter.

I note this: "I always saw religion as man made institutions."
It's much the same sort of question, is a church a body of believers or a building?

That's why if you take the OED's second definition as the standard, the more general stance is more useful than merely applying the word to an institution.