IMHO, there are only two intellectually honest approaches for a religion to take when it finds itself at odds with an evolving society: Either stick to its guns (metaphorically, not literally,) or just implode and disappear.
I don’t want to use a real-life religion for the thread example, such as Christianity or Islam, because that will devolve into a long thread of nitpickery over the actual theology of an actual religion. So let’s go with a fictional religion instead.
The tenets of this fictional religion are:
- Homosexuality is wrong.
- Divorced people generally cannot remarry.
- Slavery is OK.
Such a religion might be mainstream centuries ago, but now in the 21st century, all of its tenets are greatly at odds with modern society. So there is now pressure on the religion: Change, or else society won’t accept you.
But if this religion were to change its tenets so that they read: “Homosexuality is okay, divorced people can remarry as they please in all cases, and slavery is wrong” - then how would it be the same religion any longer?
As someone on Reddit once pointed out, a religion that tries to change itself to adapt to an evolving society is like a square peg (religion) finding that it can’t fit into a round hole (society), so it gets a knife and whittles itself into a round shape, then claims it was always a round peg all along. But then when society changes into a triangular hole, that round peg now suddenly gets a knife again and whittles itself into a triangular shape, then claims it was a triangular peg all along. And then so on and on. It would become a series of never-ending moving goalposts.
There are only two intellectually-honest paths for a religion:
Either it’s right, in which case it should stick to its guns and never change; or
It’s wrong, in which case it should implode and vanish and go away.
But if it constantly adapts and changes to society, then it is not only intellectually dishonest (because it’s contradicting its prior self) but it is also redundant. What is the need for such a religion, then? If it’s just going to move the goalposts to adapt to whatever society believes at the moment, then one might as well discard it and just go with…the flow of society. What benefit does it offer that society itself doesn’t provide?
Using a math example: If a math theorem claims something, then it’s either…mathematically right, or it’s mathematically wrong. That would be something for mathematical analysis to decide. But under no circumstances should the correctness or wrongness of that theorem be based off of popular public-opinion, as if if 80% of people feel that the theorem is wrong, it is therefore wrong. It wouldn’t make sense to say, “In the past, people believed that the theorem was correct, but now, the majority don’t, so the theorem needs to change.” If the theorem was wrong, it doesn’t need changing, it needs discarding.