07 July, 2012

Holy Moly

Back again, (Happy Saturday, by the way) with another random post. each entry prompted by a random topic generator my friend Jean suggested. (Jean's blogging all month too, so check her out!)

Yay. Today's topic is Religion Definition Debate. Someone want to remind me again why I agreed to do this. Whee.

Let's start with something concrete. In this case, I'm consulting my personal, very battered copy of Webster's Handy College Dictionary that I bought around the time I graduated high school so I'd have a dictionary for college. Yes, it's copyrighted 1981, is surely dated, and it lost its cover years ago, but it's also the dictionary I use whenever I need to look something up. Like this. Don't like it, get your own dictionary.

Anyway, my dictionary's definition of Religion is:
n 1, a system of faith in and worship of a deity. 2, devoutness; dedication to a holy life. 3, a doctrine or custom accepted on faith.

Frankly, I see a lot of wiggle room there, and maybe that's the problem. Yeah, definition one pretty much insists that a deity must be part of the equation, but when you get to definitions two and three, things get fuzzy. Can someone be a devout, dedicated vegetarian who views their clean lifestyle as holy? Sure they can, but does that make it a religion? How about those troublesome investment banking practices that got the rest of us into a lot of trouble. Don't they follow doctrines and customs accepted on faith in financial markets? Doesn't mean they were good, or right, only indoctrinated. Could a greedy, self serving bastard use religious persecution as a defense for tricking people out of their savings? They probably could use it, but I don't know if it'd fly.

I think people need to realize that religion isn't something concrete. It's one of those 'I know it when I see it' issues, but everyone knows and sees different things. Who's to say one person's devotion to the rising of the sun every morning granting life to the earth is less a religion than another person believing a Roman era prophet is the son of God, or that believing it's all a bunch of hooey is just as vital, and correct, as any other faith?

I tend to follow 'to each their own' view, unless one persons faith impacts, impedes, or otherwise restricts someone else. If you're belief system insists you must sacrifice a human life every solstice and you're killing people, then I believe there's a problem. If you believe that smoking peyote brings you closer to the great maker and you're doing it in the privacy of your own home, then I really don't mind. What I find alarming is when one group decides that their brand of fervor is THE brand and everyone else must get in line with it or suffer. That bugs me a LOT. 

I saw an article recently where a state congress person was all for using public money to fund religious schools until a Muslim school was slated to receive part of the money. Then she did a complete about face and wanted to end the program because - gasp! - they're eeeeevil and not Evangelical Christian, omg! Imho, it shouldn't matter if they're christian, muslim, jewish, atheist, pagan, hindu, buddhist, sun worshippers, scientologists, or whatever. All should be treated the same under the law (and the separation of church and state, to me at least, says the law shouldn't fund them, but what do I know). 

Don't even get me started on the birth control mess. Boy oh boy oh boy.

Anyway. I think that we will continue to have debates on religion and its definition mostly because it's a vague, nebulous concept that tries to embrace too many dissimilar ideas. With my dictionary's definition, almost ANYTHING could be considered a religion. Until that's fixed, we'll be arguing the same points a century from now. 

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