Thursday, August 12, 2010

Pros and cons of organized religion


Jewish date:  2 ’Elul 5770 (Parashath Shofeṭim).

Note:  For information on ’Elul, see the Orthodox Union’s ’Elul page.

Today’s holidays:  Ramadan (Islam), Thursday of the Nineteenth Week of Ordinary Time (Roman Catholicism), Feast Day of St. Francisco Franco (Church of the SubGenius), Feast Day of William Blake/Feast for the First Night of the Prophet and His Bride/Feast of Heracles (Thelema), Sea Org Day (Scientology), Zaraday (Discordianism)

Worthy cause of the day:  “  FCC: Say NO to Google and Verizon / Demand the FCC do its job and protect the open Internet”.

Topic 1:  Yesterday on the news they reported that author Anne Rice has “quit being a Christian”.  I’m going to let her speak for herself before commenting on this:

To be technically correct, Rice has not quit being a Christian or religious, but rather has separated herself from all organized Christian groups.  Organized religion has the great advantage that it allows people to pull together and more easily do worthwhile things that they could not do easily or at all on their own.  E.g., it is much easier for a house of worship to start and manage a soup kitchen than an individual, as the house of worship can pool resources and spread effort among many people, while an individual would probably not be able to manage alone except maybe on a very small scale.  Organized religion, like any form of human organization, has a downside:  politics.  There is a lot of quarreling and bickering which goes on, both within groups and between groups.  Religions also tend to place a premium on beliefs and practices, so a lot of the politics may deal with beliefs and practices.  I am fortunate that I am currently a member of a group, the West Ashley Minyan, in which the politics have been kept under control (thank YHWH; we are what I have termed a “volunteerocracy”).  Unfortunately, in some groups the politics get to the point where members feel the problems of that organization outweigh the benefits.  Often this results in a schism if enough people feel the same way, allowing for maintaining organization but with a rejection of the old politics.  If there are not enough people, the result can be exactly what Rice is doing:  leaving organization behind completely and going alone.  This is a drastic measure, but organization is (usually) supposed to be a means to an end, not an end in itself; thus if the means is counterproductive, another means has to be employed.  I hope for her sake that she finds going it alone a sufficiently productive means towards the search for truth, and if not, that she find or form a group in which she can feel comfortable enough to enjoy the benefits of organization.

Topic 2:  For today’s religious humor (submitted by Barry): “Prop 8 Overturned! Here's Some Anti-Gay Protesters Getting Owned (PHOTOS)”.  Next to no one likes the Westboro Baptist Church, as they seem to do nothing other than protest with hate-filled signs.  The photographs are of one of their recent protests, in which counter-protestors managed to get the last laugh.


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