Examples of what today’s governments consider “disruptive”: Peyote use by Native American religions, ritual animal slaughter and ritual circumcision by Jews and Muslims.
Just to clarify. What I meant was that these are examples of activities which some governments allow, some governments forbid, and the religious groups often need to fight for continued permission.
The bottom line is that even the most religiously permissive governments do watch out for practices which they feel should not be allowed.
Yet what the government decides to allow or disallow is in fact impacted by the religious belief system of the majority in that country, the degree of respect for the minority, and what values a majority sign on to inspired by religious values inclusive but not exclusively. No country that is majority Jewish or Muslim would consider banning male ritual circumcision for example (PLEASE no circ debate hijack).
The tolerance and limits to tolerance for other religious belief systems and practices in a pluralistic nominally secular society in fact makes the point that values and practices emergent of religious beliefs and traditions DO impact societal norms rather than exclusively the other way around.
True, they do attempt to interact, but the religious no longer lead the charge. In 1970 Earth Day was greeted by some Evangelicals as stewardship of God’s creation. In rural Alabama, where I lived at the time, it was evidence of the Communist takeover of the US government. Neither had a significant impact on the environmental movement.
Agree with your overall point here. But as to this snip:
I’d suggest the words you really want are
… but the religious are not currently leading the charge. …
I can see the US turning into a Baptist totalitarian theocracy a la Iran in as little as 4 years.
It is more difficult for them to completely lead the charge in pluralistic societies, but I’d posit that religious values and conflicts underpin more of governmental policies, on each side of many debates, than you may immediately give credit for.
We don’t need to be a Baptist theocracy to be heavily impacted by the stories of our faiths.
But Trump said he was Presbyterian! (though now claims he’s non-denominational).
Amusingly whenever he was trying to get seen as going to Church he seemed to go to the far more liberal PC(USA) Churches as opposed to the far more conservative PCA Churches. Like he couldn’t be bothered to do research on which was which.
Way late to the game here but OP could have stopped at the word “religion”.
Could you elaborate?
I believe @MikeF meant that the OP’s title could / should simply have been
What’s the point of a religion?
Which certainly matches my POV but makes for a boring thread.
What’s the point of religion? Seems a clear enough question. Perhaps a separate thread is warranted. I was raised in a fairly religious household (Catholic) and, outside a means of conveying desirable (to me, anyway) morals, I really don’t see any value in it. Worship, praise and fear some eternal all-knowing being? Use as an explanation for things we can’t comprehend - “mysterious ways” and all that? Honestly, I don’t get it. I have no problem with people who believe in whatever as long as they don’t a) feel it is necessary to convert me to their way of thinking and b) use their religious beliefs as a basis to govern or otherwise restrict my freedom to go about my business.
Agreed - I believe that’s the point.
I’ve been hoping that this thread would turn to this direction.
It seems to me that the question “What’s the point of a religion” presumes that the religion needs a point, but that will tend to make sense only to non-believers. To those who already believe, the question is not very meaningful; it’s like asking “What’s the point of the sun?” or “What’s the point of gravity?” The sun and gravity exist, and influence our lives to a great deal, and we have to take them into account and deal with them when appropriate.
To those who believe that a religion (or all religion) is human invention, then it is reasonable to ask what was the point of inventing it; what was the desired goal or effect. But to those (such as myself, a believing and practicing Jew) who believe that their religion resulted from God’s revelation in some way, then it doesn’t need a point; it’s more about dealing with the message that got revealed.
That’s all good thinking. And I clearly see the distinction you’re making.
But ISTM that just moves the question up a meta-level: e.g. What was whoever’s god or gods “thinking” when they laid down their edicts, built the world or human nature this way, whatever.
That question can be dodged by saying “Our god(s) thinking is utterly inscrutable to mere mortals and is just as meaningless (albeit in a different way) as asking what the Sun is thinking.”
But if part of the consequences of religion is to help make the world make sense to humans, then that sort of goal-directed thinking will happen. Because we’re goal directed thinking machines.
Interesting. From my perspective, it’s science’s job to help the world make sense to humans. “How do the sun and gravity work? How can I harness that power to do my stuff more efficiently?” Et cetera.
But if you mean “make sense” in terms of how to deal with the existence of evil and other problems, then yes, I’ll concede that many/most religions do provide some comfort and reassurance that somehow it will all work out for the better. But that’s not the main point. (At least, not in Judaism; I can’t speak very knowledgably about other religions.) As I see it, the main point is to get us to be better people.
“Better,” of course, can be defined in many ways, by different religions and different people, but I think it might be fair to say that each religion tries to train its followers to follow the ideals of that religion’s God. Some of the methods used can be fairly simple, (“Don’t steal!”) while others, as you wrote, can be utterly inscrutable.
I don’t see “inscrutable” as a dodge, just as a realistic approach to the idea that our Creator has an entirely different perspective than we do. It’s a lot like parents and children. Children feel that “Why?” is an entirely reasonable question. Often the parents sincerely want to answer that question, but sometimes, there is just no way to explain it in a way that the child can understand.
I’ve heard many people claim that their spouses and/or friends communicate with them. Yet their spouses and friends rarely tell them anything they couldn’t have figured out for themselves. So what’s the point of love, friendship, companionship?
Just suggesting by analogy that maybe the main point of religion doesn’t reside in information. Maybe the point is the very Presence of a loving, divine Being in one’s life.
Or an adequately convincing illusion of the same.
Some folks are very easily convinced. Others not so much.
Which is well and good for explaining what you see as the point for you: this is revealed truth. But what do you see as the point for other religions, all the ones that have false god(s)? Why have so many so invested in untrue messages?
Whether it is real, or merely an adequately convincing illusion, isn’t really germane to the OP’s question, with or without the ‘if’ part.
I’d like to think that no one would deliberately accept a message they know to be false. If someone does do so for some ulterior reason, then I suppose they’re merely pretending to accept it. In such cases, the ulterior reason – be it money, power, status, friends, whatever – would be “the point” of it.
But if they are sincere, then even if I believe their religion to be a false or mistaken one, it still makes sense to me that they are sincerely trying to follow the dictates of that religion. It still doesn’t need a “point”. Or perhaps I am not understanding what you mean by “the point”.