Wednesday, March 23, 2005

The Inherent Spectrum of Religion

There's one thing my liberal Christian friends want more than anything else -- to wrest control of their religion from the fundamentalists. They fervently believe that, once this is accomplished, the fundamentalist aspects of Christianity will fade into the background and, possibly, disappear altogether.

In my humble opinion, this is, at best, wishful thinking and, at worst, simple ignorance. There is no way to remove fundamentalism from religion because fundamentalism is an inherent part of ALL religions.

The very essence of religion is the belief in a diety (or dieties). In some form, the Supreme Being[s] transmits to mortals a way of looking at their world and a set of "rules" by which to live by. This perspective and the guiding principles generally are laid out in sacred texts, creeds, rituals and established practices.

Because the diety is always hidden from the naked eye and the rational consciousness, people must interpret for themselves and others what this perspective and the associated rules MEAN within the framework of the society.

As we all should know, each human interprets things differently based upon our own unique personalities, observations, experiences and knowledge. This is the kernel of the problem for religion.

Anytime there is a rigid standard that necessitates interpretation, different people will ALWAYS interpret this standard in different ways. Some people -- the fundamentalists -- will view the issues and situation with a very narrow lens. Others -- the liberals -- will view the same issues and situation with a very broad lens. Still others -- the moderates -- will use a lens that's approximately halfway between these two extremes.

Layered on top of this principle is a second element. People REACT to what others think, say and believe. If Mary says she believes x, some will immediately think that Mary is applying her interpretation too broadly, some will think she is looking at things too narrowly, some will agree with her and some will form no opinion on the matter whatsoever.

Consequently, the only way liberals could conceivably remove the fundamentalist element from their chosen religion is to remove themselves first. Of course, this wouldn't REALLY work because as soon as somebody said they believed x, it would set the process in motion anew.

The only way to remove these turf wars from the province of religious matters is to remove the deity, which means, of course, to negate the religion itself. Unfortunately, I do not believe that either the fundamentalists OR the liberals would be willing to go this far. So, like it or not, they're going to have to to learn to live and deal with each other.

2 comments:

  1. A look at history since Calvin shows that the influence of Calvinism is a sine curve and rarely lasts more than a generation.

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  2. I'm not sure what to make of the above comment. My general point is that, as long as there are belief systems with rigid standards (e.g., the 10 Commandments), there will be varying interpretations as to how and when they are to be applied. It's immaterial which extreme is the prevailing norm, at any particular time.

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