Thursday, December 10, 2009

In Defense of Organized Religion

Recently a really good friend of mine referred me to a statement by Phillip Pullman. I feel like there was a lot of truth to it but it also has some surprising oversights. Here is the statement:

"The religious impulse – which includes the sense of awe and mystery we feel when we look at the universe, the urge to find a meaning and a purpose in our lives, our sense of moral kinship with other human beings – is part of being human, and I value it. I'd be a damn fool not to.
But certain forms of organized religion are quite another thing. The trouble is that all too often in human history, churches and priesthoods have set themselves up to rule people's lives and done terrible damage. In the name of their god, they have burned, hanged, tortured, maimed, robbed, violated, and enslaved millions of their fellow-creatures, and done so with the happy conviction that they were doing the will of God, and they would go to Heaven for it.
THAT is the religion I hate, and I'm HAPPY to be known as its enemy."
"The rise of fundamentalist religion I think, is the most dangerous aspect of late twentieth-century life, whether it is intolerance among Christians or Muslims or Orthodox Jews. I think fundamentalist religion is one of the greatest dangers we have ever faced…What makes a religion fundamentalist is the insistence that because of some book of scriptures or some revelation given to the founder of the religion, that they alone possess 'the truth.' And when anyone believes that, they're wrong."
"I think my position would be that throughout human history, the greatest moral advances have been made by religious leaders such as Jesus and the Buddha. And the greatest moral wickedness has been perpetrated by their followers. How many millions of people have been killed in the name of this religion or that one? Burnt, hanged, tortured. It's just extraordinary."

I feel like this statement has some definite truth, but also some serious oversights, which is what makes it so confusing. First of all: yes, horrible things have been done in the name of religion. But corruption can be slipped into religion and followers can be misled because, just like this article, there is a lot of truth, and little falsities. It is that lie covered by 100 truths that destroys lives. It is individuals that use the truth to justify little falsities and of these falsities is what can be catastrophic.
Does this corruption within members of religion mean that all "churches and priesthoods have set themselves up to rule people's lives" as Pullman says? No way! It is people with agency, not religion itself that causes this corruption. Most churches are not set up to “rule peoples lives,” but to do good. It is not religion at all that we should "hate," but the sins that people use religion as a justification for.
Claiming that fundamentalist religions say that "they alone possess 'the truth'" is an ignorant standpoint. Joseph Smith, a fundamentalist prophet said about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints: “Mormonism is truth; and every man who embraces it feels himself at liberty to embrace every truth. The first and fundamental principle of our holy religion is, that we believe that we have a right to embrace all, and every item of truth.” True fundamentalist religion is formed based on what the founder believes to be truth, and any additional insights can be welcomed into their circle of beliefs. Just because a religion claims to have truth, doesn't mean that they believe "they alone possess the truth." These churches, if they truly feel that what they teach is true, will embrace and welcome any additional true doctrine. True doctrine can only be supported by additional true doctrine. People should chose their religion, or no religion at all, and then continually seek out truth within their religion and outside of it so they are not misled.
If “the greatest moral wickedness” has been perpetuated by followers of religious leaders such as Christ, and Buddha, does this mean that we would be better off without them? Especially when “the greatest moral advances have been made” by them? It is scary to think about a world without the effects of the good brought by these leaders. The wickedness was not done as a result of their teaching, but as a result of other’s individual choices. Pointing a finger at organized religion and saying it is a bad thing because of these individual choices is like saying that because of the holocaust, all Germans are bad. Or because of terrorists, Muslims are bad.
It is undeniable that throughout history people have done horrible things in the name of religion, and that kind of behavior is something that we as a society should take action to prevent. But what is even more dangerous is to condemn a whole group such as the broad group of organized religion for the wicked actions of individuals within it.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

taking offense

my mom recently was called as a member of the relief society presidency.
in her first email, she was asked by the priesthood to inform the sisters of a service project for the men of the ward.
afraid of offending the single sisters, rather than telling the women to inform their husbands, she said: "
This was sent from President Oliver to go out to all of the sisters. Maybe so you can remind your husbands, sons or brothers!"
a single sister in the ward instantly replied: "Thanks for the notice, but I doubt I will be able to remind my husbands, sons or brothers."
my mom brushed it off, and cleverly replied: "Sister, you have so many brothers in the ward!!! "
however, the email raised a question in my mind that i have been thinking about for quite awhile: why does our society feel the need to take offense?
why must we filter through every comment, and even act of service to be sure that there is not some tiny category of people that we have offended?
in school, often if there is one child alergic to chocolate, the teacher often informs the entire class that they may never bring chocolate to share, because of this one child. But that is just a tiny example of a much larger problem. in school, i feel like mentioning God is worse than saying a curse word, because some of us might not believe in God. according to, 92% of Americans believe in God! 92%! so wouldn't the 8% be happy to learn about the religion that they are surrounded with, and that our country was founded on? history teachers skip over mentioning God as the motivation for Americans in founding this country. have these teachers ever attended washington d.c.? the founding fathers and other early presidents give no hesitation in mentioning God as their motivation. that absolutely does not mean that they did not accept people who do not believe in God. this is a country where we follow God's commandments. on march 30, 1863, President Lincoln proclaimed a national fast day as a call to bring Americans to repentance. he said:
"Whereas, the Senate of the United States, devoutly recognizing the Supreme Authority and just Government of Almighty God, in all the affairs of men and of nations, has, by a resolution, requested the President to designate and set apart a day for National prayer and humiliation." the full speech can be found at
why are christmas trees completely banned (we are only allowed one tree that we are not allowed to call a christmas tree, but a "giving tree) at school, let alone nativity scenes, when according to, 96% of americans celebrate christmas?? it is a national holiday and a part of our culture. i don't understand why the possibility of offending 4% of people should cause us to ignore the culture of 96% of them.
in America's quest to "celebrate differences" the only differences we seem to celebrate are anything that deviates from the majority.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

spiritual journal

this blog is transcribed of what i wrote in my spiritual journal on7/16/08
wow! this journal is perfect! i don't even know where it came from, but what a blessing! htis is perfectly meant to be my spiritual journal!
my friend elisa dragged me to my first institute tonight and I loved it. the teacher- elder niles was astounding. he had so much knowledge! the spirit was so strong,a nd we delved into the gospel
after the lesson i approached him with a question i have been pondering a lot:
i feel like i've lost my hunger for knowledge! i'm so use to required reading that we have for seminary, and after completing high school i feel like i have lost my desire to learn. i really want to have that hunger for knowledge, but i don't even want to know. i have been praying for guidance. this journal was a small piece of his suggestions, and i hope that i can come to want to learn.
i need to change my scripture study habits
i also need to record what i am feeling from the spirit
i feel that i am being blessed at htis time in my life and that God will see fit to pour his blessings upon me also in the recent future. i also feel that i must humble myself continually and remember that all the blessings i recieve are from God. i can't find the exact scripture i'm thinking of but James 1: 17 comes close: every good gift comes from God.
while i was looking i found one of my favorite scripture!
the Lord is talking to Joseph Smith and Doctrine and Covenants 21:6
"For by doing these things the gates of hell shall not prevail against you; yea and the Lord God will disperse the powers of darkness from before you, and cause the havens to shake for your good, and his names glory."
can you imagine the heavens shaking for your good
If you do these things:
  • give heed unto all his words (v4) and commandments
  • walk in all holiness before him (v4) to me that means be temple worthy at all times
  • recieve his word (scriptures) in patience and faith (v 5)
I'm trying to recieve his word as best as i can!
well i would consider that scripture study and it was not boring! i am going to get excited about learning , just like elder niles said!