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Evolving Religions

2007-09-19 15:37:05.857006+00 by ebradway 8 comments

It being Ramadan and all, I've been thinking about religion. More specifically, I've been considering something ziffle alluded to during his attack on the Arabic language: "religious evolution". ziffle made the point that Western religions seem to be "evolving" towards "morality". Positively combining evolution and religion in the same sentence seems almost... well... sacrilegious...

Turning a curious eye to world religions, there seem to be two strong threads: some religions hold on to texts and languages as "the word of God in his own language" and other religions experience major rewrites of their texts in modern languages (like the King James Bible and the Vulgate prior) or entire new texts (like the Baghavad Gita). There seems to be some correlation between which of these two groups a faith belongs and their level of tolerance for other people and new ideas. Unfortunately, Islam holds strongly to the idea of an infallible Q'uran that can only be read in Arabic. You can also see similar threads in Judaism and Israel.

Extending this further, someone recently plastered the building I work in with Ron Paul flyers. These flyers feature pictures of Washington, Jefferson, Franklin and Madison titled "We Told You So!" The basic idea of the flyers is that the Constitution, as implied by the Founding Fathers, establishes all the federal government we need. Again, a grasping onto an original text which is to be read only in the language of the authors. No evolution allowed...

(You can download said flyer here)

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comments in ascending chronological order (reverse):

#Comment Re: made: 2007-09-19 16:38:30.445305+00 by: Dan Lyke

Hmmm... I'm no fan of Ron Paul, but weems like a perfect example of "the word is not the thing". The other way to view this is that the government is devolving back to be what governments were historically before the American revolution, and Ron Paul's supporters are trying to pull society in that new direction.

#Comment Re: made: 2007-09-19 18:32:12.44778+00 by: ziffle

Whoa - Western religions are evolving only in the sense that thay are becoming more realistic, and dropping the 'religious' parts of it.

To view religious texts and the declaration of independence and the constitution as similar is to mix mysticism with reality - and they do not mix. The basic epistemology of the DOI is completely different, and reality based, from religious texts. To compare the two as aspects of 'following to the letter', is to admit that you do not understand the magnificent philosophical event it represents. (I for the moment will skip over the reference to 'creator' which was put in as appeasment so it would be approved.)

One is a testament to the magnifience of mans mind and the others are examples of attempts to find a short circuit to the truth. The difference is their epistemological base.

I would say that 'that new direction' is actually the direction laid down by the DOI and the attempt at a Constitution. I agree our current government is 'devolving' backwards towards the type of government we had before the revolution and the enlightenment.

The Arabic peoples (ok there are some who do not) are mystics of the worst kind, blindly following their book without Reason. And look what they are doing! We must stop them unless they come to their senses first.

#Comment Re: made: 2007-09-19 19:25:09.611661+00 by: ebradway

Can you tell me what you mean by "what governments were before the American revolution"? I don't think I understand. I was under the impression that the DOI declared independence from the King of England - a monarchy. Despite the potential analogies, the current George W. (Bush) is no more a monarch than the first George W. to occupy the office. The difference is the current George has to deal with a more modern (or, shall we say, post-modern) understanding of reality.

As for comparing the Constitution with religious texts: both are written attempts to guide morality. The very morality that ziffle said was "evolving". My hypothesis was that there is a correlation between groups that allow their defining texts to evolve with levels of tolerance - for people and ideas. Within that context, I see strong parallels between strong adherence to the Constitution and strong adherence to religious texts: Accepting that the debate that has lead to the Bill of Rights and later amendments and legislation that has allowed our government become what it is today is akin to the Pope acknowledging that the Sun is the center of the Solar System. To rant about that everything that has happened since 1785 is an abomination is like ranting that evolution is just a "theory" and that God created the Earth some 10,000 years ago.

Perhaps, I should frame it a little different. Some people accept change as basically good. Some people find change abhorrent. Some people want a limited Government as spelled out by an archaic document written 200+ years ago and some people believe God put down his rules on two stone tablets in Aramaic. Others believe that the contribution made by political debate over the past 200 years has lead to a better country - and some people believe that The New Testament enhanced the moral message of The Old Testament (and still others, like a current Republican candidate, believe that John Smith received another "enhancement" of that message).

For convenience, I'll label these two groups "progressive" - those who embrace change and "conservative" - those who abhor change. I think the correlation with tolerance is clearly documented for the common definitions of "progressive" and "conservative".

#Comment Re: made: 2007-09-19 20:27:01.707352+00 by: Dan Lyke [edit history]

Sure: The thing that made the U.S. Constitution different from all legal documents before it was that it came from a legal basis in which the citizens granted rights to the government, and not vice-versa. Before that, citizens were the property of the government.

#Comment Re: made: 2007-09-20 03:27:24.611487+00 by: ziffle

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. "

The significance of this document is that men, and mans mind is the center of all. Not Gods or governments - just mans mind. Religion is rejected as a base - governments are created to serve the citizens. If this would be 'archaic' then maybe one should stop speaking in public so as to limit embarassment later.

Religious texts are mystical revelations only and should be rejected as guides to living.

To look at the DOI and religious texts and see that they are simply only two types of changing events[Wiki] is to reveal a lack of conceptual facility - probably as a result of modern liberal educating which is designed to warp minds not teach one to think. Skip the Mensa test!

BTW Ron paul won the New Hampshire straw poll with 66% of the vote today!

#Comment Re: made: 2007-09-20 10:33:15.994057+00 by: topspin

I think there's a clear correlation between those who follow religious codes and those who believe in a "strong government" on any level.

To quote Edward Abbey, "Anarchism is not a romantic fable but the hardheaded realization, based on five thousand years of experience, that we cannot entrust the management of our lives to kings, priests, politicians, generals, and county commissioners."

Whether we like it or not, the process which brought us the Bible/Koran AND the DOI/Constitution is exactly the same..... an attempt to control a group of people and project "groupspeak" on humanity. Religions and governments DO evolve, often on VERY parallel paths in a region of the world which supports the notion that they essentially work the same angle on people's psyche.

Whether it is 800 years ago and a King beheading "infidels" to seek the favor of the Pope or George W. eschewing the science of stem cell research to pander to James Dobson, et. al or the more closely evident religious ties to government like Israel or Iran........ to consolidate power and maintain control of the people is the real goal and they all use religion AND nationalism/patriotism in equal parts.

There's nothing "enlightened" about our form of government in practice.

#Comment Re: made: 2007-09-20 16:16:58.452015+00 by: petronius

Well,Ziffle, the appearance of the Creator in the first sentence seems to mitigate against the DOI rejecting religion as a base. As far as I can tell the Founders had a somewhat different relation to religion than a lot of modern folk. The idea of morality, civic or otherwise in the absence of a deity struck them as a bit absurd. However, they were very laid back as to specifics, and considered pretty much any religion as acceptable. My favorite line from Ben Franklin said "Even if the Mufti of Contantinople were to send a moolah to preach Mohammed to us, he should find a pulpit available to his use." People often cite that many of the Founders were Deists, but seem to think that position means small-a atheist, but it really isn't. I consider their opinions most congenial, and less divisive than more modern attempts to purge society of public relision.

#Comment Re: made: 2007-09-22 04:16:03.640861+00 by: concept14

The Constitution has provisions for amending itself. Evolution was allowed from the beginning.