Paul Kirhagis

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Where do organized religions go wrong?

I identify with the idea that humans are built to transcend themselves to contribute to the group as a whole. Organized religion is a bridge that allows those who have similar values and morals to come together and to help others grow. But how would we explain things like the crusades or the Spanish inquisition in this context?

Does the transcendence that a group experiences fall apart at an individual level then rebuild itself into a mutated version of the original? or does some other process occur that twists the collective masses into behavior that is clearly against the original purpose of the group?

  • Jan 12 2013: For many years, the answer to this has seemed obvious to me. Religions go wrong by utilizing a power structure. Power corrupts. Many religions have no power structure, and those religions seem to remain closer to their original purpose and have fewer problems.
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      Jan 12 2013: G'day Barry

      Utterly agree mate......once they start dominating through political power structures & alike they are no longer serving man but themselves, true religion is of service to the people not the other way around I believe.

      Love
      Mathew
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    Jan 15 2013: Paul, As an example ... the Catholic church is steeped in blood, wars and corruption. Does that make the Church a bad thing or have people abused their positions and used the power of the church to further their own desires.

    Going to church does not make you a christian any more than standing is a walk in freezer makes you a steak. If you like what the church stands for and you wish to be a part of that ... then join. But do not be surprised that some of the members are not there for the same reason you are ... or that they are not as pure as they would like for you to believe.

    Because of the faith required in religion it has been the target of con men for centurys. I admire faith but would be cautious of "blind" faith.

    I would avoid anything with a title like the Church of Whats Happening Now. Join at your own risk. I do not blame the church when a member runs afoulf of the law. Did the church go wrong or did the member?

    I wish you well. Bob.
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    Jan 13 2013: Organized religions don't allow the necessary changes in their practices that coincide with changes in society. Their practices are as ancient as the religion itself. They need to adapt to how much growth society has been through.
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      Jan 13 2013: G'day Joanna

      Yep I would have to agree totally......there are a lot of old religions out there sticking by their dogmatic doctrines which really don’t suite a more literate society.

      I worked in the welfare arena for a few years & I had this young Asian lass come up to me & asked me if she should become a Christian, I said that was up to her & for her to choose whatever is going to be more comfortable for her but I advised her to stick to Buddhism as it’s part of who she is.

      About six months later I saw her again & she said to me “ I went to a Christian church but found it difficult to understand that everyone came from Adams rib”, she went back to her Buddhist ways.

      Love
      Mathew
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    Gail .

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    Jan 12 2013: I think that the term "organized religions" is too vague. There are some organized religions that do not "go wrong". These do not have power hierarchies. They do not demand that you turn off your innate thinking abilities in order to become sheeple. They do not demand relinquishment of freedom in exchange for voluntary slavery. They do not use fear as a weapon. In fact, they do not use weapons.
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    Jan 12 2013: When i think of religion I believe it is a conduit for people to channel something that is innately part of their humanity. Fancy words for the idea that people feel spirituality on a most fundamental level then find something to help them connect to it and the world around them.

    Do you think that the leaders who were the spearheads for the religious atrocities across the centuries were true believers and, if so, would we chalk up their actions to their individual insanity or to the organization itself?
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      Gail .

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      Jan 12 2013: Interesting question. I think that the answer lies in the "when" factor. If you have already turned a population into sheeple, and have convinced them that hell awaits for those who do not support you, then the responsibility lies on both the corrupt leaders (who may sincerely believe that they are right because that is what they have learned) and the sheeple (who may not know that they have agreed to terms that are unconscionable because they grew up thinking that crusades are holy ventures and the highest and most greatly rewarded expressions of faith)
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      Jan 12 2013: G'day Paul

      Yes the leaders where & are true believers, how many priests actually took part in torturing? Many by the order of the pope that these people be redeemed in some way, what are Islamic fundamentalists doing today? These people aren’t expressive of the main stream Islamists but can be very influential to an illiterate society as was the pope, bishops & priests in the dark ages.

      These religious fundamentalists truly believe they are doing the lords work to the bitter end which of course makes no sense to the true teachings of these religions. The creator is all accepting & anyone who is not of this mind themselves to some extent is not true to their faith, no fundamentalist is true to their faith.

      Why were the dark ages the dark ages? Fundamentalist religionists trying to rule the world through the illiterate.

      Love
      Mathew
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    Jan 11 2013: It could be something to do with the power of charisma. A charismatic figure - whether a God or politician - can lead groups of people into collective ideals, good or bad.

    There's also the issue of group intelligence versus autonomous intelligence. Individuals tend to be far more enlightened than any group to which they might belong. Also the bigger the group, the more subordinate the individuals within it become, ripe for a charismatic leader to lead them into any religious or political ideal.

    Self-transcendence starts out as an autonomous state, but if there is a commonality of profound experience, then it gets embodied into a single entity - a God. Couple this to the 'dilution' processes seen in group behaviour, then it's easy to go on to suppose that the original autonomy would erode into compliance, no matter what that God goes on to represent.
  • Jan 11 2013: Ethicalist religions which teach you to find your spiritual path within tend to be much less prone to abuse. Theistic religions which have en externalized locus of morality tend to be prone to having a person or groups of persons claim that they and they alone can interpret the will of "god". Having an almighty powerful, invisible and otherwise silent deity on my side allows me to command people to do all sorts of things they would not otherwise do.

    Religion serves a valuable series of social purposes. But, we need to encourage a more ethicalist take on them for them to avoid doing more harm than good.
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    Jan 11 2013: I agree with John Smith; below.
    If each individual could educate themselves & decide what they believed that would solve a lot of problems. Trouble is the coercion & peer pressure that is more the norm. Then governments decide to invade countries which have a different belief & impose their beliefs on that country. Before you know it the whole world is at war.
    On a personal level folks usually get on fine & tolerate each other's beliefs. Politics have the same problem; we swing from left to right & back again. Why can't we have common sense politics & pick the best of both worlds ? The human race seems to be bent on self destruction; organised religion is but one excuse, but there are many others.

    :-)
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    Jan 15 2013: I beleive in spirituality and that to have a belief in something greater than ourselves is a positive thing. The problem is, 'Religion' is not so much about spirituality and having a personal connection to whatever God you beleive in, and has become more about power, about profit, about dictating how people should live, or even how they should pray. For me, I feel closer to God in a field of wildflowers than I ever would in a Church and though I have made mistakes in life and have not always been perfect, I know God forgives and would not prevent punish me for my failures, because he knows my heart, knows that ultimately I am a good person who does not ever want to cause harm.
    Organised religion goes wrong mostly because of fixed ideas, differences in interpreting books that were written by men, not God's, and powerful religious leaders loosing site of what is important and taking advantage of the powerful position they hold. I beleive that there is no God who would look at the religious wars that have been fought through history, or the killings carried out in the name of religion and think, yeah, that's what I was aiming for. So much of the worlds Hate comes from people who refuse to accept beliefs different from their own, and decide that if you are not like us you are evil and ungodly. Bah. I accept all religious beliefs and beleive that at the core of all religions, the same messages apply. It is about love, family, respect, generosity, forgiveness, and doing no harm, through killing, adultery, or anything else that could cause someone physical or emotional harm. It is usually only the extremists who take the words and distort them to fit with their hate and judgements.
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    Jan 13 2013: The original teachings where more flexible & more accepting & tolerable like the teachings from Jesus, Buddha, Mohammad & so on, what went wrong from there was man with his inflexibility to accept other beliefs beside his. Isn’t God/the creative source all accepting? & so should we by now, it just shows you how inflexible & non-accepting we are, it’s not the religion or spiritual belief itself that’s inflexible & non-accepting but man who rights up doctrines that are inflexible & non-accepting which have caused numerous religious wars in the past & present.

    Love
    Mathew
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    Jan 12 2013: Most religious & spiritual concepts/ideologies are sound if one keeps to its initial teachings instead of changing these teachings around to serve ourselves; the real question here isn’t if religion & spirituality is flawed in some way but how we have allowed such radical fundamentalists to run the show?

    Love
    Mathew
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        Jan 13 2013: I suppose radical fundamentalists are more exciting, if it feels good it must be good but of course that’s not the case like with pornography, drugs & even stealing & killing can feel good to some, I do wonder sometimes in how literate we really are.
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    Jan 12 2013: Love is the foundation of every acceptable service.
    "Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world". (James 1:27)

    Religion focuses too much on keeping rules; Love is a better and perfect way.
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    Jan 12 2013: About the question: your premise is that religions went wrong. As a whole, it didn't go wrong.

    Religions are in fact "social control frameworks". They mainly exist to lead mankind in a certain direction and to provide a sense of belonging. It's a necessity to avoid social chaos. Some clever but unethical people used it to gain power and wealth. The religions itself did not go wrong: The religious leaders did.
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    Jan 12 2013: G'day Paul

    This is a very good question, how did Christianity come from such placid teachings through Jesus, Moses & others like them to the crusades, Spanish inquisition, 30 year war & South America & so on? Just like so many other religions it lost its way through power, corruption & greed which aren’t ratified through most genuine original religious teachings.

    Most religious doctrines teach acceptance & tolerance & with these teachings one would never have a need to be conflictive but we are only because of our own short fall, we just don’t practice what was first preached but what is being preached at the time even though it goes against the initial teachings of that religion.

    Love
    Mathew
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    R H

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    Jan 11 2013: Beliefs systems are a touchy business. Nearly impossible to explain and therefore to agree upon - unlike science where A +B = C, and so on which seems clearly rational. I would agree with most of the previous respondents. Religions go wrong by trying to exist as organizations in a secular world. Trying to 'do good' and in need of money with professional practitioners. From what I know, religion's 'kingdom is not of this world' and should stay that way, to be known only in our homes, as a forum of conduct and/or hope for us to choose or not.
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    Jan 11 2013: Boy, dude, you've packed a lot into this question. Just your first sentence could be a topic, "Are humans built to transcend themselves to contribute to the group as a whole?"
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    Jan 11 2013: Religions went wrong when people came together and chose to fabricate the author of their ideas and classify the author and the writings as infallible.

    There we set a stage where ignorance MUST by definition be applied in ever increasing levels because where as society, thought, education, progress, laws and values evolve over time, they're still bound by archaic ideology that no longer fits, but has to, because its 'infallible'..

    Eventially the whole model breaks down and some people cherry-pick, some people disregard all of it and some people revert to the original in its entirety and all hell breaks loose. (Excuse the pun).
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      Gail .

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      Jan 12 2013: Well put. And funny at the end ;-)
  • Jan 11 2013: Another interesting conversation! Great! It's interesting seeing all these other people's perspectives. Forgive me for bringing religion into this discussion about religion, but my church takes a very unique stand on this. I'm a Christian, but my particular sect views Christianity during the period of the Dark Ages as having strayed. In other words, the church established by Jesus was doing really well until people took advantage of it. It stopped being God's church and became a man's church. Any religion created solely by humans is going to contain a lot of truth and do a lot of good, but it will be ultimately flawed and prone to being hijacked. Even a lot of churches God has established in the past have been hijacked too. So even after Jesus came and set up God's church again, people started power-grabbing and corrupted it a few hundred years down the road. Thus the Crusades and the Inquisition and the Dark Ages. It was all a mistake. But God always comes down and starts another church. So my answer to this question of what's wrong with organized religions is that they're not God's church. And just like communism or nuclear power, those good ideas got commandeered by evil people.
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    Jan 11 2013: They go wrong when they reject, ignore, or modify the Holy Bible which teaches: "Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment." [First Corinthians 1: 10 KJV]. The Holy Bible does not foment divisions and strife and yet that is the product of every one of the thousands of the world's religions. The Holy Bible has it right.
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    Jan 11 2013: Sharon, Peter, and John below likely have more experience with organized religion than I have, so I can put forward only a hypothesis rather than a well-supported observation. A problem arises whenever people take the position of looking scornfully on the different beliefs of some "unenlightened" other, regardless of the source they believe they have for their certainty that they are right- religious or otherwise. A diagnosis that the other is unenlightened, ignorant, unwilling to be educated, threatened by the right-thinking person or his right belief and so forth... these narrow-minded postures are divisive regardless of whether they derive from an institution or a person's personality.
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      Jan 11 2013: Do you think this is a function of a group survival instinct?
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        Jan 11 2013: Is there a group survival instinct or only individual survival instincts? We will see what others say.
      • Jan 11 2013: Just my opinion, but I think this attitude reflects deep personal insecurity. That insecurity can easily spread among a group, especially when that insecurity is due to balancing on a straight and narrow beam, with paradise on one side and hell on the other. There are many religious people with very loving, open attitudes. Those who look down on others suffer from a common human weakness, but the content of their beliefs is not wholly blameless.
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          Jan 11 2013: I can go with Barry's idea that insecurity can be an issue. There is a circumstance in which a person's entire sense of identity is based on something- a world view, belief, or self concept, and calling that worldview, belief, or self concept into question risks leaving that person lost and miserable. People may go to great length, then, to protect these bedrocks of their identity, including antagonistic behaviors toward those who see the world differently or question their views or authority.

          As Barry writes, while religion may be involved for some people, for other people it can be other forms of group identification that they protect by caricaturing some "other" negatively..
  • Jan 11 2013: "Where do organized religions go wrong?"

    By being organized. Having a hierarchy where a small group of old, out of touch people get to interpret holy books for you is disastrous.