Humans need “religionishness”.
I’m a fan of religion. Having studied it in great depth I see how it has helped humanity and how it runs as a thread in all we do. I believe that it is something humans cannot escape. We have found evidence of ritual in the graves of the Neanderthals. They buried their dead with flowers and objects. They would only do this if they had some reasoned sensed of an afterlife and an attachment to the objects. That is sophisticated thinking for a cave man. I recommend that you make religion a part of your studies. I am not suggesting you join all of them, believe in them, or adopt the things they teach into your life. I’m suggesting that you gain an understanding of how religion is important, has always been, and by so doing you will come to understand humanity in a different, more broad, way that will be in some ways helpful to you. Just how is going to depend on you. For me I see a connectivity in belief, I find those things that are the same, or similar, in all religions. It is rather amazing when you being to pull the threads and find they are connected. For others they may find things in religion that they want to avoid and that seem to be common themes. It’s all up to you of course.
If you have a religion I suggest that studying others will not make you less faithful in your own but is likely to make you more so. Some people are afraid they are doing something wrong by reading books from other religions. I’ve read them all, the bible, Koran, book of Mormon, popol vuh, ancient texts considered scripture at one time and now lost, like the book of Adam and eve, Norse legends, Greek myth, and even the creation myths of the native American people. I don’t believe them all just because I read them. I don’t think that the earth is on the back of a giant turtle; I’m not required to believe that to appreciate what that means to those who do believe it and to understand that this belief might demonstrate their connection to nature which in turn motivates their culture to some degree.
As you well know, I do not believe in forcing people into things. Liberty is what I’m about to be sure. That’s not to say that I don’t believe that a religion can’t assign commandments and all. Of course, they can. I believe that if a person joins a religion or wants to be in it then following their commandments is a voluntary thing. For example, if I am a Jew I don’t eat pork, that’s up to me. If I do eat it and they want to kick me out fine. But for all intents and purposes the choice is mine. Mormons don’t drink or smoke, doing so won’t get you kicked out of that church but it will keep you from their highest rituals in their temple. Catholics don’t believe in abortion or using birth control and most other Cristian religions don’t believe in sex outside of marriage. Many Catholics don’t adhere to this. In most cases, they will not get excommunicated for that. The choice is theirs. Sure, the religion is telling them not to do those things but they can do them. I heard a conversation once, someone asked a Mormon, “is it true you can’t drink?” to which they answered, “I can, I choose not to. I make that choice because that’s my faith. But my mouth still works and I’m over 21 so I could drink if I so chose. No one is going to come along and slap it out of my hand.”
Religion should control through teaching a path, not forcing a path.
That brings me to sharia law which is a code of conduct for Muslims. I have a major problem with it because it is often enforced with a stick, a stone, or a sword and forced, not only on the faithful, but those who are not even a part of Islam. You won’t find a Mormon at a bar forcing people not to drink or a Jehovah’s witness crashing your birthday party, stoning you for celebrating, and tossing out your cake. However, you will find Muslims with switches and measuring tapes ready to beat any girl wearing a dress too short or standing too close to a male. It’s not enough for them to teach that something is wrong they must force people to follow their behavior code. We’ve all heard the stories of them tossing homosexuals from roofs, caning women for getting raped. Of course, because they never should have been near a man or in a situation where they could be raped or perhaps she wasn’t covered well enough. While many religions teach that women should be modest in the way they dress to my knowledge there is only one that puts you in prison or canes you for immodesty – Islam.
At this point some reading will begin to shake their head. Some will desire to point out that all religions are bad. They aren’t. Some will desire to call me anti-Islam or islamophobia. I’m not. Of course, the “phobic” term so popular nowadays is something to be ridiculed. No one is phobic to these things. I seriously doubt there is a single person who has been officially diagnosed as islamophobia. What a ridiculous notion to even use that term. Anti-Islam, on the other hand, is a valid term. One can be against Islam. I’m not particularly against Islam so much as I am against forcing people to a certain behavior through physical violence.
Thomas Jefferson famously said, “The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as are injurious to others. But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods, or no god.”
Take the story below about the sharia brigade. This is in a country where about 95% of the people living there do not follow sharia. Not all Muslims follow sharia. So even those in the country who are Muslim, and that’s the majority, not all of them think sharia is right. The Koran contains codes of behavior and that’s good enough for them. But the concepts of sin and repentance, while not foreign to Islam, are dealt with differently in terms of ritual. Ritual is a very important part of religious expression. Sharia fills that gap from a ritualistic perspective. That of course is just my opinion and not a tenant or teaching of Islam. It’s how I see it.
Sin and the scales of justice decide the fate of the individual when there is non Savior.
I had the opportunity to spend about six months with a group of men from Saudi Arabia. During that time we had quite a few discussions and they were open with their culture and opinions. When we discussed religion the idea of Jesus as a savior came up. They didn’t really comprehend what it was he was saving people from. I used the English word “sin” but they didn’t understand. I tried to explain as best I could but the language barrier prevented it. Finally, I was able get the idea that sin is anything against the commands of Allah. In the afterlife Allah would balance the scales of one’s life. Good deeds, vs. bad and the person would be sentenced accordingly.
Not all sins are the same. Some are worse and add more weight to the cosmic scale of justice. Though it is not thought of as a replacement for redemption it does serve that role if looked on from a strictly anthropological sense. Sharia also works as the ultimate example of the joining of church and state as it replaces secular law. This has led to great conflicts and in some cases (in Africa) civil war.
Take the “October 17, 2016 [case where a] Muslim woman screams out in pain on stage after being lashed 23 times for standing too close to her boyfriend.” This, to protect her from the possibility of sin.
In Christianity Jesus did this for the individual.
My intention here is not to support one religion over the other. It’s simply to discuss how a certain religious idea can blossom into freedom and another idea devolve into oppression. Christianity is only one religion to solve this issue. Hinduism uses reincarnation to do so. You basically get to keep trying until you get it right.
Modern Christianity focuses strongly on grace, meaning that Christ has taken your sin on his shoulders and if you accept him as your savior then the punishment for that sin has been dealt out already. Early in Christianity this idea was not so fully formed and still isn’t wholly agreed on today, but for the most part the concept of force has been done away through the Reformation. I believe that this, more than any other thought of the Enlightenment, allowed for a nation like America to come into being.
The only true equality is equality of rights.
This brings me back to a very common theme with me, that of rights and agency. Laws that are forced should be only those that relate to rights. For example, I have the right to own property. That means you do not have the right to take my property. A law that punishes you for taking my property is a just law then. I have the right to associate with whomever I want. Therefore, a law that punishes a woman for associating with a man is not a just law. Some will say it is my “Western Values” that leads me to claim this as a right. Those who live by Sharia will say a woman has no right to freedom of association. Who is to say which of those rights are unalienable?
I suppose it all hinges on a belief in one thing – all human beings are created equal.
At the start of this I said that religion is something humans cannot escape. I believe that even without God in their belief system people will create religion out of science, politics, climate change, mother earth, football, anime, or whatever it is that fills that void in their life. I often call the Founding documents of our country, “American Scripture” and if so then what they contain is the American religion. I believe if we teach over and again that men have rights and have an equal measure of them that this can become our national ritual. Those American scriptures state that our rights come from our Creator. If you believe this is God, or just evolution, it doesn’t change anything, as long as you believe that we have them and that no one has the right to take them away from us. Islam is called the religion of peace and I won’t argue against that. However, sharia is totally incompatible with rights and therefore cannot be “of peace”.
Public canings regularly take place in Banda Aceh, in the country’s Aceh province, for offences ranging from adultery to homosexuality to selling alcohol.