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Determing the true nature of a given religion

Religion True Nature poll

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51 replies to this topic

Poll: Which is the "real" thing? (52 member(s) have cast votes)

Which is the "real" thing?

  1. The writings/sayings of the religion's founder (your reading) (4 votes [8.51%])

    Percentage of vote: 8.51%

  2. Accumulated works of its theologians over time (your reading) (2 votes [4.26%])

    Percentage of vote: 4.26%

  3. Present-day leaders' interpretation/presentation of past works (2 votes [4.26%])

    Percentage of vote: 4.26%

  4. Behavior of its members right here and now (14 votes [29.79%])

    Percentage of vote: 29.79%

  5. Behavior of its members in times/places when it's not held back (2 votes [4.26%])

    Percentage of vote: 4.26%

  6. Whichever is most positive; Don't want to judge it "bad" (0 votes [0.00%])

    Percentage of vote: 0.00%

  7. Whichever is most negative; Religion squashes what is good in people (0 votes [0.00%])

    Percentage of vote: 0.00%

  8. I judge that which I personally experience/make it up as I go along (4 votes [8.51%])

    Percentage of vote: 8.51%

  9. Other (11 votes [23.40%])

    Percentage of vote: 23.40%

  10. None; there's no such thing (8 votes [17.02%])

    Percentage of vote: 17.02%

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#1 Delvo

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Posted 30 June 2003 - 04:39 PM

Warning: These are the thoughts of a self-described "open-minded, merit-based, equal-opportunity religion-hater". In other words, each religion gets an equal opportunity for me to judge it positively or negatively, but I end up at the latter more than the former, in one way or another. (They don't all TAKE the opportunity to the same extent or in the same ways.) Thus, much (but not all) of what you're about to see is down on religion...

Several conversations lately have had one person describing a religion one way, and then another saying "No, that's not the way the religion really is, that's just the fringe-freaks who don't follow the True religion".

These people are obviously using very different methods to decide what the real nature of a religion is. For example... Many people can find writings by Mohammed that make Islam look pretty good. But I look at history and see a religion born in war that has waged war at every opportunity since then, which is full of commandments to do awful nasty things to the infidel, whose followers all around the world cheer with joy at horrors befalling other people who've never done anything to them and pray for more of the same, while not one single major figure in the religion anywhere mourns the suffering or condemns those who delight in it and wish for more. That person who quotes Mohammed the apparent pacifist believes the true nature of the religion is to be found in (potentially preferentially picked) writings or just has to be good because (s)he doesn't want to see so many people as bad. I, on the other hand, use the fifth standard in the list: what the religion actually DOES (actions speak louder than words) when it gets the chance. Obviously, because of the different standards we use, (s)he will conclude that Islam is about peace and love and happiness, while I will conclude that it's a religion of maniacal bloodthirst. (And I said so years before September Eleventh.)

To demonstrate the difference between the fourth and fifth methods (and illustrate that I'm not some Islam-bashing Christian fundamentalists), we'll do Christianity next. At this time, Christianity isn't doing much wrong. But it's not in power anywhere substantial, so it CAN'T. To see what Chritianity really is, you have to look at what it does when it's not held back and in check by secular government. And you get some holy wars like Islam, but predominantly not that; instead you get Inquisitions, witch hunts, genocidal purges within its own lands, and a weird preoccupation with ruining everyone's sex lives and keeping them from enjoying much of anything else in this life either. It's meaner to its own members, and THAT is its true nature as I see it, because that's what it does when and where it's able to. Right now, it's out of power in the USA, so it primarily concerns itself with trying to get back IN power... and I note that it primarily goes after, like any good predator, those who are already disadvantaged. But that last observation is a matter of my perspective based on what I believe Christianity has in mind for when it gets its power back. Without that, if I were judging the religion ONLY based on what it does RIGHT NOW, then I'd have to say it's trying to be uplifting and positive and helpful to the downtrodden. But even while it tries to disguise itself to facilitate spreading around so that it can regain power and go back to making its own people miserable again, I still see smaller examples of its efforts to decrease happiness in life sneak through from time to time, as if it just can't help itself but always keep trying to do that, since unhappiness is the real ultimate goal, going by what the religion DOES (or tries).

Of course, another standard for judging the same religion would yield yet another entirely different result. If you just look at Jesus's words, he mostly advocates living a pretty sensible life for the betterment of yourself and those around you. His parables are simply matters of decisions and consequences. He was trying to restore that common-sense approach that Judaism had forgotten in its drift toward all right and wrong in life being determined by God's supposed words, which had detached the Jews from the recognition of actual real-world consequences of human actions that tends to predominate ethics of most other cultures. Jesus's own words yeild the best overall impression of Christianity, but I don't find them indicative of what Christianity has actually turned out to do in the great majority of cases.

He also sounds sorto like a Buddhist, and I even remember once thinking of the idea that early Christianity was what happens when someone tries to convert people to Buddhism but thier Judaic minds just can't quite take it in. Speaking of Buddhism, that's another case where people could talk right past each other for a long time about the thing's true nature, because one was looking at what Buddha himself actually wrote, another was looking at isolationist Buddhist monks, and another was looking at a colorful Tibetan festival full of homages to Hindu gods.

In thinking about this "standards of judgement" thing here, I have caught myself in a peculilar bit of thinking: I have said that the latter two aren't really Buddhism, that only Buddha's writings are. But that's not the same standard I use elsewhere. I guess what made the difference could be that what Buddha wrote is a philosophy, while the other two things that often get called "Buddhism" are religions now. Or it could be that my experience with Christianity and Islam here has just annoyed me or worse, while that is not the case with Buddhism. Or it could be that my personal, direct experiences with Buddhism are only about Buddha's writings, since I've never met a monk or attended one of those elaborate Tibetan events/ceremonies.

So it looks as if I was using the eighth standard in my list there. But I don't actually believe that standard makes much sense. So I've decided to quit doing that; now I have to accept that those two modern religions are "Buddhism" even though they've departed so radically from Buddha, just like Christianity has from Jesus. And that means my whole judgement of Buddhism goes from the utterly sensible to the humorously silly, because I'm no longer assessing the same thing under that name...

#2 Rov Judicata

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Posted 30 June 2003 - 04:42 PM

I like your analysis.

Mine is more or less a one-liner, but I believe it to be true:

How somebody interprets religion tells us far more about the person than the faith.
St. Louis must be destroyed!

Me: "I have a job and five credit cards and am looking into signing a two year lease.  THAT MAKES ME OLD."
Josh: "I don't have a job, I have ONE credit card, I'm stuck in a lease and I'm 28! My mom's basement IS ONE BAD DECISION AWAY!"
~~ Josh, winning the argument.

"Congress . . . shall include every idiot, lunatic, insane person, and person non compos mentis[.]" ~1 U.S.C. 1, selectively quoted for accuracy.

#3 Bad Wolf

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Posted 30 June 2003 - 04:45 PM

Great post Delvo.

I need to think about this, and may end up not being able to check any of the boxes.

Thanks for a great thread.

Lil
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#4 QueenTiye

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Posted 30 June 2003 - 04:56 PM

How I answer this is based on my belief about why there are prophets in the first place.

It reflects also a newly discovered similarity to the Bahai faith - in that I respect the prophets/founders of most religions.

I chose option #1.  I chose that because I fundamentally believe that prophets come along to correct people's waywardness.  Which means that they are inherently subject to people's willful, lustful (in the sense of wanting what we want beyond measure), selfish reinterpretation.

People want to have religion say what they want it to say.

Using Islam as an example...If we look at Muhammad's writings, and the people he was writing to, we can see how much against the grain Muhammad was, how he attempted to streamline the current practices of his people to be more in line with what God wanted.  We also find that Muhammad advocated reaching back to earlier prophets... a position which would have humanized/softened some of Muhammad's harsher stances, since Jesus taught about love and inner change... something that Muhammad didn't teach, having asserted over and over that he stood on the shoulders of those who came before him.     When we look at many islamic countries today, we see them doing the same things that Muhammad tried to get them to stop doing - discriminating against women, killing children, killing without provocation...

But what is the "true religion"?  It's the one God intended when he raised up a prophet.  We know by virtue of the fact that there keep being prophets (how many are there in the Bible?) that people persistently stray away, reinterpret to their own convenience...and we know that God keeps saying - "Nope - that's not it.  Here's someone ELSE to remind you..."  and we have historical record that humanity's general approach to these people God sends is to ridicule or kill them.

So - I conclude that the problem with every religion is us, and the religion as espoused by the prophets of God is the true religion.

Een Draght Mackt Maght


#5 Han

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Posted 30 June 2003 - 05:02 PM

I chose "none". I don't think a specific religion is automatically good or evil. To me, religion is like a loaded gun. A gun is not good or evil, it is just a tool. It can be used for good and for evil, depending on whose finger is on the trigger. The same is for religion.

Those who use religion as an excuse to do bad things are bad people. Those who use it to do good, are good.

So I guess what I'm saying is, you can't judge religion as good or evil, just the people who use it.

--
Han
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#6 Delvo

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Posted 30 June 2003 - 05:08 PM

Keep in mind that it's not a good/evil thing I'm talking about, it's a characterization. You could call two of my characterizations of two religions given above "evil", but remember I also called two others "humorously silly". They're not really harming anyone that I know of, they're just kindo doofy. Nothing good or evil going on there, but it's still a judgement of the religion's basic nature.

#7 Han

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Posted 30 June 2003 - 05:18 PM

Sorry, didn't mean just a judgement of good/evil. Meant, any kind of judgement wouldn't mean anything. Whether x religion is silly, smart, benign, dangerous, etc., comes down to your interpretation of what the religion said, not what the religion is.

--
Han
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#8 the Pill

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Posted 30 June 2003 - 05:42 PM

What should be my choice if I believe that religion is:

1)  a set of moral laws set up to imply or explicitly state that one will be rewarded/punished for actions applied to them past this mortal coil, with little to no proof, whose examples of proof rely solely upon text written years ago supported only by faith of the believers

2)  an explanation for which minds at the time, including currently, for the formation of things in the universe.

3)  en vogue for certain philosophical-bent pseudo-intellectuals that are subconsciously choosing the available "trendy" religion/belief system that other philosophical-bent pseudo intellecuals have chosen, thinking that it makes them seem superior/different than their parents/peers.

3a)  similar to above, only rather than choosing the available "trendy" religion/belief system, they choose an obscure sect of it, or something that nobody else has ever heard of, thus make them the "trend-setter".  Which, of course to their minds, implies that they are even more superior than their peers who just chose the one that was readily available.

4)  a self-made philosophy based on a jumble or mish-mash of belief systems, thus making one think that they are superior to others because they "found their own way of thinking".

5)  an example of long-term dependence/weakness that one is either told that one is, or one has chosen/been guided to by a higher power/found later in life.

-------------------------


-the Pill

#9 tennyson

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Posted 30 June 2003 - 05:50 PM

I see cynicism never goes out of style.
"Only an idiot would fight a war on two fronts. Only the heir to the throne of the Kingdom of Idiots would fight a war on twelve fronts."

— Londo, "Ceremonies of Light and Dark" Babylon-5


#10 QueenTiye

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Posted 30 June 2003 - 05:52 PM

tennyson, on Jun 30 2003, 02:51 AM, said:

I see cynicism never goes out of style.
{{{{{{{{{{{tennyson}}}}}}}}}}}


QT

Een Draght Mackt Maght


#11 Rov Judicata

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Posted 30 June 2003 - 05:52 PM

Tennyson-- Perhaps it's late and I'm dense... but I have no idea what you're talking about. Help me out?
St. Louis must be destroyed!

Me: "I have a job and five credit cards and am looking into signing a two year lease.  THAT MAKES ME OLD."
Josh: "I don't have a job, I have ONE credit card, I'm stuck in a lease and I'm 28! My mom's basement IS ONE BAD DECISION AWAY!"
~~ Josh, winning the argument.

"Congress . . . shall include every idiot, lunatic, insane person, and person non compos mentis[.]" ~1 U.S.C. 1, selectively quoted for accuracy.

#12 Bad Wolf

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Posted 30 June 2003 - 05:52 PM

^

tennyson mind clarifying what you mean by that?

:)

Lil
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#13 the Pill

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Posted 30 June 2003 - 06:08 PM

example 5 really gives it away doesn't it?

#14 Delvo

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Posted 01 July 2003 - 02:50 AM

Queen Tiye, how do you tell the real prophets of God apart from the fakes and flakes? The message from each accepted prophet has been different from the ones before; is God changing his mind every few centuries? And why did people in different geographic regions apparently get no prophets at all or prophets taht disagree in so many ways with prophets in other regions?

#15 Brynhilde

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Posted 01 July 2003 - 02:59 AM

Javert Rovinski, on Jun 30 2003, 05:43 AM, said:

How somebody interprets religion tells us far more about the person than the faith.
I agree with Rov here, Religion means so many different things to different people. While one person may think their religion tells them to isolate themselves and another interprets it as a reason to get out there and celebrate and spread the word. It doesn't make either one true or false, but it tells you about the person. However, since we're looking at religion here I'd have to say that it's such a personal thing that you can't judge religion as true or good or bad or false. You can only judge how people interpret it, how people present it. The foundation of principals and the true belief behind it all is the true religion, but we'll never have one singular way of showing it.

And if I've missed the point of this whole debate I'm sorry, but I guess it all comes down to interpretation  :cool:
"Ah, get born, keep warm
Short pants, romance, learn to dance
Get dressed, get blessed
Try to be a success
Please her, please him, buy gifts
Don't steal, don't lift
Twenty years of schoolin'
And they put you on the day shift..."

~ Bob Dylan, Subterranean Homesick Blues

#16 QueenTiye

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Posted 01 July 2003 - 03:05 AM

Delvo, on Jun 30 2003, 11:51 AM, said:

Queen Tiye, how do you tell the real prophets of God apart from the fakes and flakes? The message from each accepted prophet has been different from the ones before; is God changing his mind every few centuries? And why did people in different geographic regions apparently get no prophets at all or prophets taht disagree in so many ways with prophets in other regions?
Fakes and flakes:  My standard differentiator - does what they preach actually harm the followers.  Jim Jones et all are fakes and flakes.

Differences - I said something about this in the other thread - I don't believe in just one "path."  Rather, I believe in one destination.  SO... people get there in ways that make sense to them culturally/geographically... and whatever they come up with, God just helps them along.

Like I said elsewhere... we each have an instinctive drive towards God, because we are made to head towards him.  So we create religion ourselves, and God fixes it.

Re: God changing his mind - I don't agree. People have the capacity to reason so that they can work out (ie synthesize) seeming differences.  So, for instance, I think that the problem with Islam today is that muslims do exactly what Muhammad told them NOT to do - namely exalt him over prior prophets - he didn't teach love and kindness because that had already been taught - he taught civic organization - without the humanizing influence of a Jesus, you get a very harsh world...

QT

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#17 QuiGon John

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Posted 01 July 2003 - 03:18 AM

I don't know that I can vote here, as I'm not sure any of the answers really speaks to what's on my mind.  I think QueenTiye, as usual, has done a great job of articulating a point of view I find appealing.  And, one-liner or not, I can see some truth what Rov said, too.

I don't think you can judge a whole religion by one standard, because there are so many diverse beliefs and manners of belief within each of them.  You make judgments about individual people, and in time, maybe that gives you some sort of picture of the religion as a whole.

Speaking of religion, Jesus said (I'm paraphrasing a bit) that as you judge a tree by its fruit, you judge people by the things they say and do.   "The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. "

I think that works.

Edited by John Burke, 01 July 2003 - 03:23 AM.


#18 QueenTiye

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Posted 01 July 2003 - 03:47 AM

Javert Rovinski, on Jun 30 2003, 02:53 AM, said:

Tennyson-- Perhaps it's late and I'm dense... but I have no idea what you're talking about. Help me out?
I'm not tennyson... but I found the Pill's entire post a cynical indictment of anyone who believes in any religion.

QT

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#19 tennyson

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Posted 01 July 2003 - 07:19 AM

I think Queen Tiye and the Pill got most of what I was going for, although I can understand the confusion. I guess that shows me what happens been I try to be "pithy" rather than articulate a point. That being said I'l try to get into what's been on my mind since I first read this thread.
While I think the idea of this thread is interesting in general, I think the intial genisis( no witicism intended) is coming at it from the wrong direction. Regilion in all its forms, and I don't just mean the so-alled "big three" of Christianity, Islam and Judiasm, has been a major part of the human experience as far back as we have records. It is not some seperate thing that parasitizes off of the human condition but an organic part of the human experience. Every known human culture has some form of religous expression from the shamans of Siberia to the deacon in Harlem.  While a significant portion of the religousity of mankind is now a part of the varied sects and groupings of Christianity, Islam and Judiasm, there are also something on the order of 900 million Hindus, 16 million Sikhs. 500 million Buddhists, millions of Bahai, the Yoruba and the list goes on and on. Something that huge and complex cannot be painted with one brush, in my study I've found it can barely even be contemplated let alone condemned. The varied ways that religion interacts with everything else make broad generalizations about its effects difficult for me to accept. In some cases you have what a modern would call regilous and secular power being wielded by one man as in Egypt or Mesopotamia, in others a sharp division. In other areas the religion serves to define thier entire perceptual universe like the Aboriginal Dreamtime and seperating secular from nonsecular is all but impossible.
"Only an idiot would fight a war on two fronts. Only the heir to the throne of the Kingdom of Idiots would fight a war on twelve fronts."

— Londo, "Ceremonies of Light and Dark" Babylon-5


#20 QueenTiye

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Posted 01 July 2003 - 07:21 AM

Delvo, on Jun 30 2003, 11:51 AM, said:

The message from each accepted prophet has been different from the ones before; is God changing his mind every few centuries?
hmmm.. it seems I'm addicted to this topic... :smirk:

Another thing about prophets (in this case, I mean successive ones in a particular culture)...

I think the unfolding differences are somewhat like our understanding of the laws of physics.  First we discovered Newtonian laws, and then we discovered relativity, and now we're on to ... what? quantum physics?  But we couldn't get to the next without having first found the prior...

QT

Een Draght Mackt Maght




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