By affiliating yourself with a particular religious organisation you provide authority to all religious beliefs no matter what practices or behavior they may support.
For example you could be..
..a Christian and find the sexism in Islamic countries abhorrent.
..a Hindu but find the homophobic nature of Christianity disturbing.
..a Rastafarian but think FGM is immoral..
Or basically any similar combination where you see someone else’s religious practices or teachings as immoral, inhumane or out of date.
Unfortunately if you identify yourself as belonging to a particular religious organisation you are likely to be giving authority and power to all religion no matter how morally reprehensible their practices may be.
For example, let’s say you identify yourself as a Roman Catholic; by this you are saying that you have a belief structure that guides your actions based on the bible as interpreted by the Vatican. No matter how you look at it, Roman Catholicism has sexist and homophobic undertones.
Regardless whether you personally choose to believe that contraception, sex before marriage or homosexuality is a sin; by identifying with a religious sect that does means that you give power and authority to those push the hard line. You may not personally be sexist or homophobic but essentially you are openly supporting those who are.
And, in any case, should you pick and choose what you believe from the Catholic doctrine, maybe based on societal norms or your own moral code, it is hard to see why you identify as ‘Roman Catholic’ as it does not accurately represent your belief structure.
How does this translate to ‘supporting’ other religions?
It is all about the influence of numbers (1bn Roman Catholics world wide) and the damage comes in the form of the slowed societal progress, or indeed regression, that religious organisations cause in order to maintain their positions of power and influence.
For example lets look close to home; in the West Sexism is often accepted by governments when it is entwined in religion.Take churches that refuse to allow women to be Ordained – a clear example of Government sanctioned sexual discrimination in the workplace. In the West religious organisations are one the last bastions of open and legal sexism.
Does it make sense that a large employer in the UK can openly discriminate against women? Of course not – but it is happening. Why this is allowed comes down to the number of people identifying themselves as ‘Catholic’ and the fact that they are voters and therefore play a part in the political process – as do the leaders of their sect.
Legislating against outdated religious practices can be politically risky and, when the census can tell a Government how many people they may upset in doing so, it directly affects the speed of social change. (In the 2001 Census; 42m people identified themselves as Christians’ in the UK – 71% of the population with approx 4m – 8.6% being Roman Catholic – although only around 800k Christians attend church)
A fact; some religious practices, by today’s standards, are abhorrent.
In the main, religions are not structured to cope with change and, due to this, religious organisations have consistently fought scientific advances or social progress for hundreds of years. Once it was Copernicus – now it is Stem Cell Research – same story, different century. When some of these religions were first established, say a couple of thousand of years ago, perhaps they actually embodied progress and enabled social change toward the better but now they outdated and their desire to retain a medieval mindset is damaging to all of humankind.
We know there are many despicable religiously-backed and justified practices taking place throughout the world today. For example marital rape, child marriage, illegality of female education, genital mutilation of boys and girls, stoning to death of homosexuals/adulterers.. the list goes on. No reasonable and rational person would see any of these practices as OK but Religion generally does not run on reason or rationality, it runs on doctrine; the following of ancient codes of conduct and maintaining tradition.
If you affiliate with a religious sect that has any practices or belief structures that do not hold up to today’s standards of morality and equality you have no right to criticise another religious group – even if they have more extreme or more immoral practices. Both believe in something for which there is no evidence – which means, if your sect can be ‘right’ in it’s beliefs then so can theirs – anything goes.
How can we in the West suggest that girls in Islamic countries should be educated contrary to their religious beliefs when we openly allow religiously-led sexist practices in our own country?
Westerners try to criticise other religious cultures and practices but our arguments are undermined because, as a society that also bends to religious organisation’s ‘rights’ to discriminate, we are in the same boat. Western religious interpretations and laws might not seem ‘as bad’ but by allowing religious organisations to act in this way, and affect our law-making process, we seriously diminish our ability to set an example and push for global change.
In this sense we are not that different than countries with more extreme religious practices; the only difference is that they have different beliefs. Foreign Governments and religious organisations can easily pass off our criticism as blatant hypocrisy.
So, in summary;
- If you give your affiliated religious organisation ‘moral’ authority and power to affect policy then you are giving moral authority and power to all religion regardless of what you personally believe.
- Support for any religious organisation anywhere is good for religious organisations all over the world as it helps to justify the authority and political influence religion holds at home and abroad.
What can you do?
Easy. Simply stop officially identifying or associating with a religion, or religious sect, that has any discriminatory practices. And this does not necessarily have to affect the way you live your life in any way what-so-ever.
It is important that you do not describe yourself as being of a particular religion on any official survey or form. (e.g. Government Census, Council forms, employer forms)
By doing this you can immediately reduce your contribution towards slowing social progress and can reduce the justification for immoral practices throughout the world. All with no impact on your own belief structure or how you live your life.
Of course live your life with the moral and spiritual guidance a religion can provide – just don’t give religious hard-liners power through your affiliation.