Maaher Sayeed

Blogger / Writer,

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Why do people refuse to let their religious systems and rituals evolve over time like all others systems, ideologies and thinking do?

I see all of these religions preach the same ideologies about good and evil, and they all claim to be peaceful and love is the core of their faith system. Yet the rituals, hate concepts, fear mongering and prejudice that defies common logic and sensibilities prevail in everyone of them. Most of them have violent histories, wars, killing and hate. And the developed people of today hold on to these age old concepts and reasons for hate and refuse to allow their respective faith systems to evolve like all the other things about life they so willingly change.

Please share your thoughts? Why don’t we allow our religious systems and rituals to shift as well and develop/evolve to suit the modern man and thinking?

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      Dec 4 2012: Mike, the sweeping statement is becasue that is how I have seen the majority do and the exceptions like yourself is sadly not common. Thanks for sharing your process and thinking. It is indeed inspirational.
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      Dec 5 2012: I think Mike's story is common Maaher, similar to stories of others, including my own, although I don't label myself anything except a human, exploring the life experience.

      I was born into a catholic family, attended catholic school for 12 years, and was in the choir singing the latin songs, Mike, while you served as an alter boy!

      I agree that most religions were formed with good intention...love one another...do unto others...etc. It seems, however, that most religions changed those very basic, wonderful concepts with dogma that is not useful in our world. It seems that many religions became more interested in money and control of people.

      I agree that some practices evolved...as you say...the use of latin, not eating meat on fridays, etc. I also have seen an attempt by SOME religious leaders to connect with each other...all of which is good for the whole, in my perception.

      There are still, however, fundamentalists/extremists/religious enthusiasts, who prefer to seperate themselves from others, and continue to control with unreasonable force...unreasonable, in my perception, is killing and violation of other's human rights.

      While I agree that the church has "adopted music and celebration that emphasizes love", I do not observe all people in the church, living what they preach. If an organization emphasizes love, it would be benificial to all of humankind, if they actually walked their talk. I believe some people practicing religions are moving toward love and acceptance of each other, and that is not the message projected on a regular basis from many church leaders and members.

      Perhaps it is this group Maaher refers to? I believe one CAN grow and evolve within the practice of a religion, and many times, it feels like some religions discourage that, because they would rather control people. As you insightfully say..."if the teachings found in religious texts were actually practiced instead of preached, the world might be a more peaceful place to be."
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    Nov 29 2012: I think some religions and followers of them have evolved in the way they are practiced/practice. Many religions have both fundamentalists and those who observe in a different way.

    An example might be that many religions have a concept of modesty as a component, but what constitutes modesty has changed over time.

    When I was young, I believe Catholic services in the United States were in Latin and that Catholics did not eat meat on fridays.

    In ancient tradition, Jewish women would not wear pants or go with head uncovered and now most do both.
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      Dec 4 2012: Thanks for your comments Fritzie,

      Yes indeed a few cultural norms and behaviour patterns have changed over time. But then again the fundamentalism still prevails in the majoriy within each faith systems. What is amusing is that educated and progressive thinking individuals choose to follow the idelogies and rituals within these religions beyond reason and rational thinking.
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    Nov 29 2012: Excellent question Maaher! I say that it is fear of change. Sometimes, folks get so attached to beliefs, they cannot imagine living a life without those beliefs. You are absolutely correct Maaher...some religions claim to be peaceful and loving, and yet, are creating havoc in our world with hate and prejudice... which is fear based.

    One thing I disagree with, is that fear, hate and prejudice prevails "in every one of them". I do know some people who use religions as a valuable life guide and respect others, as they respect themselves and their own practices. I'm not seeing enough of these people in our world yet to counter the abuse and violation of human rights, which have religions as the underlying motivation.
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    Gail .

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    Nov 29 2012: Certain Christian and Muslim denominations believe that if they change the word of god, they will go to Hell. Imagine the terror of that!

    Of course, they deny that they change it all the time. Christianity is very different from what it was only 30 years ago (explaining its rapid decline). They couldn't deny it if they studied church history, but they are not an intellectually curious bunch. They are the sheeple who live in constant fear, and beg for the opportunity to be fleeced and victimized.

    The Jewish religion prides itself on allowing the religion to evolve, but the more fundamentalist you get even in this religion, the more fixed and defensive (thus dangerous) are its members. All fundamentalists display behaviors that your question addresses.

    I will limit my comments to the religions of the God of Abraham, not being thoroughly informed about the historical beliefs of Hindus.

    Pagan and earth-based religions change as needed, and time has shown that they are less focused on ritual than on practice. They are very open-minded groups who don't teach a message of fear. They are a gentle and loving group.
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      Nov 30 2012: Unfortunately paganism did not resist Christianization throughout whole Europe. Within just a view generations they have all been converted and just a view reminder like the Easter bunny and Easter eggs, All Saints Day (Samhain) and the Christmas tree are still alive today.

      Many earth-based religions also lived gender equality, not in function yet in status, as they respected the female fertility as what it was, the source of life and did not misuse virginity to denial and stain it.

      It would be interesting to know what the world would look like today without those dominat and destructive belief-systems in its past and present.
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    Dec 4 2012: There is a way of thinking from counselling/psychology about the sensations from our hearts and from our stomachs as well as the information processing capabilities of our minds. It is suggested that rather than just listening to the interpretations of our minds we also listen to our bodies as sources of information. It is now argued that the mind can actually distort due to belief systems created in our environments and the interactions with other people, especially during childhood. You might like to read 'The Ravenous Brain: how the new science of consciousness explains our insatiable search for meaning' by Daniel Bor. As a huge generalisation, a small group with a shared faith system is more efficient in the utilisation of local resources. A large population with differing faith systems is more vulnerable to inequalities in the distribution of resources. In a way you could talk about 'drivers' as in economic drivers i.e physically hungry people may be far more motivated to look for resources but actually far less capable of optimising them where as well fed people might be as motivated to look for resources and make more efficient use of them, maybe.
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    Dec 3 2012: I think it's just a matter of fear. People are scared to consider change and to make their beliefs vulnerable.
    Also, in most religions there is no central authority that is accepted by all members of the religion, so change would cause internal chaos.
  • Dec 1 2012: ...people are more attached to their rituals and sentiments, than with the philosophies behind them...the pressure of walls and buildings that separate...The Mindfood Chef
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    Dec 1 2012: Wars, killing, and hate are not due to religion, it is due to the pressures of survival. Religion is the unifying factor. Take religion out of the picture and the pressures of survival don't go away. People will substitute something else in their place such as nationality or pledge to the emperor. Japan would have fought to the very last man during world war II in support of the Emperor, and religion had very little to do about it. National pride had very much to do about it.

    The reason that they don't evolve is that the institutions that hold power over religious beliefs don't want them to evolve. The Catholic church divorced itself from science after it attack on Galileo, and took God out of reality so that science could develop without infringing on the doctrines of the church. Things haven't changed much in the church. They use fear of eternal torment to maintain control over their followers so that their followers will not question their doctrines. Modern religion is controlled by deception, the very thing that the bible warns against.

    My first impression of religion came in a Catholic church. The stained glass windows, the statues, the paintings, the altar and its backdrop, the angels carved in the overhead, the sheer volume of it all, and the organ music were all mesmerizing. I felt like I was in anther world. I was five at the time.

    Then came Sunday school. I learned about the devil and hell, and the wrath of God against all unrighteousness. It was all negative. They said the Lord's prayer "...Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven...". I said how do we do that? They said do what? I said create heaven on earth. They said you don't understand. I never stopped believing that it wasn't me who didn't understand.

    At the age of nine, I had a spiritual experience. And since then, my concept of God has gone through a transformation. Religion is caught up in dogma. They believe in God, but few know who God is.
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      Dec 3 2012: The Japanese emperor was considered a god.

      But agree with you on religion not being the only expression of tribalism.

      However I suggest religion is unifying only amongst those who are inside the particular religion most often. It can be another cultural or societal element to divide or unify depending on whether you are in our out.
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        Dec 3 2012: You are correct that religion often unifies people within the group, but divides groups against each other. That is the evil side of religion, one that religion itself doesn't (or can't) admit to. Religious institutions operate like a business. They want you to believe that they are right and competitive groups are wrong to secure their own survival. yet once you have had an encounter with God, you can't stay divided, for everything comes from the same source. The division is illusory, but people need the division to be real because life is competitive, and they don't want to be among the losers. It is their own misgivings that fuel the need to be right and others to be wrong. They don't see life as mutual cooperation, they see life as dod-eat-dog. The group provides cohesion to survive in what often appears to be a cruel and unforgiving world. But it is their own perception of cruelty that causes them to act in that very manner towards outsiders of the group.
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    Nov 30 2012: Claims on 'absolute truth' are by their immanent nature just not compatible with evolution, because one exclude the other.

    Exegesis however did change quite dramatically over time and serves somewhat as a corrective and catalytic moderator in between millennia.
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    Nov 30 2012: Most religions took a while to develop structures and dogma. Jesus focused on Jews, yet Saul/Paul opened it up to non Jews. They pretty much made it up as they went. Most religions start as cults, lead by charismatic individuals, that develop scriptures or dogmas over time.
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    Nov 30 2012: I'm not sure if every religious belief system and all the related variants in history have claimed to have love and peace as the basis. Plenty of war gods around. Aztec human sacrifices. Old testament genocide, murder, divine dictator etc.

    Social norms have evolved to some extent. Ideas such as human rights have developed and infused societies, making the extremes in religious scripture unacceptable in many places.

    Also belief systems do evolve and diverge over time. How many christian denominations are there? How different are the world views of some western Christians compared to 1000 years ago. Disease, earthquakes, floods, weather events, involved supernatural agency out of ignorance. Some Christians still believe in demons and as god who causes hurricanes. Others don't.

    I suggest religion is one of the most resistant social technologies given people believe they have the absolute truth in their conflicting scriptures and dogmas, in addition to usual change dynamics, vested interest etc.
  • Nov 29 2012: All Religions are "artificial"

    in that they are "created" by thinking. Due to this Religions are always evolving/changing and adapting to a chosen "this works best for now" version to suit the Religions leaders. IOW there are many Religions which start out with based on a High Level being BUT "evolve" in a downward ( as in watered down ) progression. None of the High Level beings "preached" Good/ Evil , hate or violence ....those aspects where brought in by their followers as they deviated from Truth.
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    Nov 29 2012: When it comes to morals, there are no new moralities and wisdom is never out of fashion.
    But in the application of certain principles there have been changes in line with the evolution of the society.
    Please note that it is the application that changes, not the truth/principle/wisdom.
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    Nov 29 2012: I call it the "blankie" syndrome. People are comforted and secure in their beliefs much like a child is comforted by a favorite "blankie." So many of them cling to them in times of stress and discomfort and it brings peace to them. Why mess with something that works?
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      Dec 4 2012: I liked that - "Blankie" syndrome. Not all parts of any religion works in comforting ways like many rituals often defy basic sensibilites of the modern world.
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    Nov 29 2012: Because that wold imply that they were not right at the beginning , and therefore were not written "by" god. Gods word is supposed to be beyond time, after all God is God. So people hold to olden behaviors and beliefs to cling to some sense of purpose or a kind of "happy" version of existence.
    Because after all if God was wrong (in the bible for example), people begin to question is there really is a god, and the slippery slope begins to the end of the religion.
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    Nov 29 2012: Truth doesn't change.

    Have the Pagans changed out of that group masturbation thing? I would think that would be a show stopper for a lot of people?