Senate When is a religion not a religion?

Discussion in 'Community' started by Lowbacca_1977, Jan 12, 2014.

  1. Lowbacca_1977 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jun 28, 2006
    star 6
    This is meant to be a general question, but I will begin be prefacing it with that this being motivated by Scientology, in particular.

    The broad question is at what point does something drift from being a religion, and viewed as something that is, in effect, a personal choice, into something that should be thought of and addressed in a different manner? Generally, with freedom of religion, that leads to that one can choose to believe and worship what one wants, and within reason, the manner one wants to. However, are there points where this freedom should be stripped, based off the basis or goals of those ideas? Further, is it still a religion at that point, or does it represent some sort of ideology or ism or conspiracy at that point?

    To look at a case in particular, I've been recently reading a book called "Inside Scientology" and one of the points that it discusses is how the church, as an official action, infiltrated or stole from over 100 organizations in an attempt to purge any information that was critical of them. When the church begins to carry out systematic, organized attacks against the government, do they now represent a political movement that is taking part in sufficient conspiracy that it warrants the government trying to shut them down or stop them? The possibly related question is, are they still a religion at that point?

    What boundaries are there for what is or is not a religion, as well as for what is or is not a group conspiring against the public good and the government?
  2. Moviefan2k4 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Dec 29, 2009
    star 4
    In my opinion, the word "religion" mainly describes an ultimate concern someone has, beyond the natural world. That said, I view Christianity as more of a relationship, because so many hypocrites have either watered-down the message of Christ, or overkilled it like the Pharisees did. Jesus commanded His followers to be both salt and light in the world, but you don't clean the fish before catching it.
  3. Lowbacca_1977 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jun 28, 2006
    star 6
    I'm not sure how that follows with respect to my initial post.
  4. timmoishere Force Ghost

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    Jun 2, 2007
    star 6
    I suppose it would be defeating the purpose of an actual Senate thread if all I did was post a link to the Wikipedia page on religion? However, the first paragraph of that entry sums it up pretty nicely:
    That being said, religions are formed on belief and not necessarily fact. Early religions were merely a way for superstitious primitives to explain that which they couldn't explain otherwise. One person would ask another "Where does the rain come from?", and the other would reply "I don't know, must have been a god." And so that belief would spread throughout their tribe like wildfire.

    To answer the original question, yes, Scientology could be considered a religion. But it does bug me when some Christians label atheism as a religion, which it definitely is not. Atheism is the lack of belief in gods, with no worship, no sacred texts, no belief structure. If Christianity is a personal relationship with Jesus, then atheism is a personal relationship with reality.
    Last edited by timmoishere, Jan 12, 2014
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  5. Lowbacca_1977 Force Ghost

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    Jun 28, 2006
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    There is that definition, but I'm talking more about at what point they become primarily driven not by questions about the order of existence, but direct facets of control on earth. The shift from an explanation to instructions on how to dominate others to great extent, and in a coherent and systematic fashion.
  6. timmoishere Force Ghost

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    Jun 2, 2007
    star 6
    Mark Twain was fond of saying "Religion was invented when the first con man met the first fool." First and foremost, religions are a method of control. If you can get a group of people to belief in something, no matter how ridiculous, then you can get them to do pretty much anything you want. Most religious authorities don't abuse their power like that, but there are too many examples like Heaven's Gate, Warren Jeffs, the Westboro Baptist Church, and even the abuse that some Catholic priests inflict on altar boys. Some men just like to be in control, and religion is an effective tool to help them do that.

    And when religious violence enters the picture, well, I'm sure you can see why I have developed such a cynical eye towards the entire concept of religion.
    Last edited by timmoishere, Jan 12, 2014
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  7. Lowbacca_1977 Force Ghost

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    Jun 28, 2006
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    So, at what point does freedom of religion get trumped such that something has to be done about a particular religion?

    For example, I think that it's very difficult to put Westboro and Heaven's Gate in the same group, since the latter did result in 39 deaths (or the Peoples Temple, which was responsible for over 900 deaths) whereas Westboro Baptist hasn't presented that systematic danger to the government or to individuals.
  8. timmoishere Force Ghost

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    Jun 2, 2007
    star 6
    True, the WBC hasn't performed any violent acts that I know of, and it's unfortunate that they are able to toe the line between legal and illegal acts so deftly. Perhaps one day they will overstep their bounds and self-destruct, but we can only hope.
  9. Moviefan2k4 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Dec 29, 2009
    star 4
    So many people I've spoken to about religion - especially Christianity - say their biggest beef is others telling them what to do...yet, most of those same people have no problem doing the same to folks they disagree with. Then, there's the "anti-theists", who make it their mission in life to bash both religion and religious people every chance they get. Richard Dawkins is an example of that, having described God as a "capriciously malevolent bully".

    The problem with such statements goes back to what C.S. Lewis once wrote: "the standard that measures two things is something different from either." If anything is ever completely right or wrong for everyone, regardless of personal opinion, then a supernatural (literally, "outside of nature") Creator has to exist.
  10. timmoishere Force Ghost

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    Jun 2, 2007
    star 6
    I don't want to bog this thread down in yet another religious debate, but I have to ask exactly how you came by the conclusion that "an objective right/wrong proves the existence of God." That doesn't make any sense whatsoever.

    And in regards to your first point, that just seems to me like a typical Christian playing the victim when there is no actual attack. Calm and reasonable criticism does not constitute bullying or bashing. No religion is immune from outside criticism. If you think Dawkins' assertion about the nature of God is wrong, you need only read the Old Testament to see exactly why his opinion is accurate.
    Last edited by timmoishere, Jan 12, 2014
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  11. LostOnHoth Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Feb 15, 2000
    star 5
    It doesn't make any sense but he is programmed to keep repeating this nonsense so best just ignore it I reckon.
  12. Moviefan2k4 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Dec 29, 2009
    star 4
    Sure it does. For any moral stance to be objectively true (i.e., applying to all), a standard beyond humanity has to exist. Since messages only come from minds, objective morality would need a supernatural and personal intelligence behind it.

    If you'd care to discuss this via PM, I'm game (no bashing, though).
  13. FatBurt Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jul 21, 2003
    star 5
    Wait, what??

    This smacks of, we don't know why people largely want to cooperate and lead what we perceive to be a moral life... therefore goddidit.


    This ignores how mankind over centuries has learned from it's mistakes and has realised what works to help our civilisation survive and enable us as a species to thrive.

    The morals of today are WILDY different from the morals of 50 years ago let alone 2000+.


    But goddidit
  14. Skywalker8921 Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Jun 9, 2011
    star 4
    I think the Catholic Church during the Middle Ages period kind of exemplfies what you're saying here. They became less concerned with teaching the message of Christianity and more concerned with insuring their teachings weren't challenged (ie. Galileo, Luther.) Many of the Popes during that time only cared about themselves, not the people they were supposed to be shepherding.

    The last century has seen reversal of some (perhaps all) of the damage caused in the Middle Ages, but the child abuse scandals hang over their heads, so the RCC is still on slightly shaky footing.
  15. timmoishere Force Ghost

    Member Since:
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    star 6
    I'm shocked. I think this was the first time I have ever 'liked' one of Skywalker's posts.
  16. Darth Eddie Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    May 14, 2013
    star 3
    This is an interesting question to me for a few reasons. Firstly by many measures Star Wars fandom itself, and fandom in general, can be considered a religion, yet it is not a religion. So where the line actually lies between religion and popular culture becomes really blurry. On a spectrum scale of all narrative multimedia, religion falls to the far extreme end of taking things super-seriously, in short as sacred.

    And just to add food for thought/satisfy my curiosity, that scale, from least to most "sacred", would probably look something like: pornography, television and cinema, theater and literature, popular genre fiction, and lastly religion.

    We here might all love star wars, but there are folks out there who *really* love the bible.
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  17. anakinfansince1983 Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Mar 4, 2011
    star 7
    I had to blink and make sure I had seen it correctly. I am wearing my glasses but I haven't had my coffee yet.

    As far as other points:

    "Bashing" religion is not at all the same as telling people what to do. The so-called "anti-theists" are not telling the religious people who they can sleep with, for example.

    I agree that religion is a social construct set out to explain the unexplainable, because "God did it" or "it's God's will" is a convenient explanation. I actually don't have a problem with that, until dogma takes over and scientific advances become evil because they contradict the old explanation of "how God did it." I have more respect for those religious denominations who are able to absorb new knowledge into their belief system with "OK, maybe God did it this way instead."

    Religion is also a social construct set out to keep certain people in power. The religious demands that all sexual activity must be open to producing children, and any non-reproductive sexual behavior is "sinful", is just that, an attempt to ensure that there are a large number of children being raised in a particular religious sect or sects. The oppression of women and the demands that they remain silent while men speak are a similar attempt to keep men in the power structure they always enjoyed before we women got uppity. ;) And hell, if women can be led to believe that it's "sinful" to disobey their husbands or challenge men in any way, they won't dare cause trouble.

    Again, there are religions that are more concerned with a relationship with a deity than with arbitrary rules and view God as a friend rather than a dictator of sorts, and I have more respect for those sects. The people who follow them find their belief in God comforting and are not trying to force arbitrary outdated rules on anyone else, and I won't argue with that if it works for them.

    As far as Star Wars, aside from people who actually believe in the Force, I wouldn't call it a religion. Most of us aren't using "it was the will of the Force" or "may the Force be with you" as anything but a punchline.
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  18. Moviefan2k4 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Dec 29, 2009
    star 4
    No, it's more like "We know exactly why so many problems happen, and its because humans are fallen. We break God's laws because we want our own way, which keeps stalling any further progress."

    You're confusing absolute moral truth with people's obedience or rebellion in response. Certain things have always been wrong for everyone, and will continue to be so, regardless of opinion or choice.
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  19. Moviefan2k4 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Dec 29, 2009
    star 4
    Sadly, such things aren't limited to Popes, or even religious people in general. Selfishness has been part of the human condition ever since the Fall. :(

    I don't think its the only cause, but in my opinion the Catholics outlawing marriage for priests and nuns might have some sort of connection. Scripture and medicine have both made it very clear, that most people are not built to live 100% celibate lives. Twisting Paul's words into a command, when he himself said such things were only his opinion, just made it worse. :(
    Last edited by Moviefan2k4, Jan 12, 2014
  20. Lowbacca_1977 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jun 28, 2006
    star 6
    I'd say it would as well, and if I recall correctly, I thought Luther's criticisms included issues with the more political, less theological nature that the Catholic Church was taking on.

    The part that interests me, then, is how far does a religion have to go that the danger it presents is greater than freedom of religion? I'd even say that the child abuse issues within the Catholic Church ties into that. Since that has seemed to be a systematic and widespread problem, at what point does that become a situation where the Catholic Church is viewed as a problem that has to be dealt with, and not simply rogue elements within it?

    On one hand, that runs contrary to the general concept of freedom of religion, and the stance has generally been that religious freedoms end at the point where they infringe upon someone else's rights, and that's been applied to individuals only. Is there a point where a church or religious group can, systematically, be crossing those same lines such that we should be taking action against that religious group rather than treating it as a matter of individuals? Especially like the situation I mentioned at the start, with Scientology's concerted attacks against government and public institutions, as well as the media.
    Last edited by Lowbacca_1977, Jan 12, 2014
  21. Jabbadabbado Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Mar 19, 1999
    star 7
    The birth of Christianity is lost to time and forgetting and vicious battles over doctrinal supremacy, so probably in a lot of ways no different from the way Scientology bootstrapped itself into existence as a viable religion. If it survives, Scientology will truly be indistinguishable from any other world religion in another 150 years with the historical record obscured by decades of successful propaganda and the continued accumulation of economic and political influence.

    Anything is a religion if it says it's a religion and some critical mass of people agree with it. The outsiders who saw the birth of the Mormon church saw it for what it was. We see Scientology for what it really is. The likelihood is that the birth of Christianity was no different.
    Last edited by Jabbadabbado, Jan 12, 2014
  22. Lowbacca_1977 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jun 28, 2006
    star 6
    That had been my stance for a long time with regard to Scientology, however some of my more recent reading is what has led me to be rethinking this. The scale of attack and infiltration is what concerns me, and leads to questions of if the group itself is, by its nature, dangerous. It's not just what it's advocating, or what its members are doing, as separate categories, but rather the tendency of the entire upper echelons of the religion to act in coordination that makes it seem more like organized crime than religion. And that seems to bring up some questions about how to handle such a situation.
  23. Jabbadabbado Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Mar 19, 1999
    star 7
    The Catholic church did its time as an organized criminal enterprise too. I don't see a difference. So, yes, these organizations are extremely dangerous. A large money-making enterprise that organizes itself as a religion for the express purpose of keeping its activities from becoming transparent to the world is by definition dangerous.
    Last edited by Jabbadabbado, Jan 12, 2014
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  24. Rogue_Ten Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Aug 18, 2002
    star 7
    anthropologists tend to think of religion as the least volatile aspect of culture. all culture changes, and religion can be relied upon as the slowest-changing aspect of culture (which isnt to say it doesnt change, it always always does). language is, of course, generally the most volatile aspect of culture
  25. Skywalker8921 Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Jun 9, 2011
    star 4
    True enough. Still, when one looks back at Church history, it's shocking how much scandal and corruption was rampant during the Middle Ages. Alexander VI was probably the most notorious, but there were plenty of others too. If anyone has the chance, I'd recommend tracking down a copy of "A Treasury of Royal Scandals" by Michael Farquar and take a look at the section 'Papal Vices.' I was almost floored by it. Alexander VI was familiar to me from the mentions of him in "Count of Monte Cristo" and I had a little knowledge of a few others, but had no idea just how bad some medieval popes were.

    Something else, too: in the early days of Christianity, the apostles and other Jewish Christians weren't that concerned with rigid ritual like the Law of Moses had. Even when Gentiles started joining the Church, they weren't bound by ritual. The message of salvation through Christ's redemptive work on the cross was the focus. Over time, I think Church leaders started losing their way and drifting away from what the apostles taught. Differences in theology started emerging and led to the East-West split.

    Vatican II was a huge step in the right direction for the RCC, and though I'm not that familiar with John Paul II despite his being pontiff until I was 16, I feel he did his best for the Church. Benedict XVI - I can't remember if he knew about the abuse scandal or not, but if he did, he should have moved decisively to stop it instead of letting it fester. Francis I seems to be doing his best for reform, but time will tell.

    Edit: Kind of off tangent, but "ATORS" also gave a brief and very interesting account of Celestine V's election as Pope, reign, abdication, and murder. He was mentioned in the film adaptation of Dan Brown's "Angels and Demons" in the scene where Camerlengo Patrick McKenna enters the Sistine Chapel during the conclave to inform the Cardinals of the late Pope's murder.

    Edit II: I was raised in the Protestant Methodist denomination and don't agree with a lot of Catholic doctrine. I do, however, have a few good friends who were raised Catholic and we've talked about Catholic beliefs and stuff. I've even studied a little bit of Catholic ritual on my own and posted the antiphon "In Paradisum" in memory of the 9/11 victims on the 11th anniversary.

    There are good people out there who are Catholic and strive to live up to God's standards for Christians, but it is people like Roger Cardinal Mahoney and others of his ilk who give the RCC a bad name with their actions.
    Last edited by Skywalker8921, Jan 12, 2014