Why Everyone Needs to Study Religion, Deeply

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Watching the Google fiasco unfold, it’s clear that everyone should spend as much time studying religion as they do mathematics, programming, and civics. Seeing as religion, what we believe to be true, the standards we set, are so crucial in every aspect of our lives, it should be the first and last thing we study each day and throughout our lives.

One of the things you learn rather quickly in studying religion is that no matter what, no one can possibly live up to the impossible ideals of any religion.

Let’s walk through the waterfall of choices.

  • Shall we lie about our obedience to the standards? If we put on a good face, then we can appear to be righteous and just and not have to worry about the consequences. Except, of course, for the fact that we are leading double lives and we’re not actually keeping those standards. If no one is keeping the standards in their private life, why bother at all?
  • Shall we lower the standards? To do so is to give up. No matter how low you lower the standards, eventually, you’ll reach rock-bottom. There are always standards we aren’t willing to budge on.
  • Shall we try to force ourselves and others to live by the standards? The problems here are numerous, not the least of which is denying everyone the freedom to choose how to live their own lives. Sometimes, however, a violation of the standards are so egregious and harmful that we decide it is justifiable and preferable to deny those who violate the standards their freedoms. For instance, we will stop someone from murdering someone else. Here, we must be very careful and judicious. This is where government steps in. Gratefully, throughout most of our history, we have lived by the adage that the best government governs least. Unfortunately, it’s not so true today.
  • Do we internalize and accept the fact that we cannot live all the standards? At some point, every religious person is confronted with the fact that no matter what they do, there are always going to be contradictions between their behavior and the standards. Accepting this fact is crucial to making progress in any religion. It is, in effect, the entire reason why religion is even a thing.
  • Do we forgive and forget?  If we forgive and forget, the weight is lifted from us, and we give room for the perpetrator to try again and improve. What do you do when you kid messes up in piano practice? You practice some more, and leave that mistake behind you.

The conclusion that every (good) religion leads is the following:

  • Standards can’t be lowered.
  • Lying about obedience hurts and doesn’t help anyone.
  • Some standards are so important that we must punish violators, but we need to be very careful. (This is the realm of government.)
  • We need to accept the fact that we can’t keep all the standards.
  • We need to forgive and forget.
  • We need to keep trying.

Google doesn’t get this. They have this ideal they’d like to implement, but they are lying about their implementation, they are punishing people who seem to violate it (or rather, refuse to lie about it!), they do not internalize and accept their contradictions, and they do not forgive and forget and give people room to learn and grow.

A good study of religions would help remedy this.

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2 Responses to “Why Everyone Needs to Study Religion, Deeply”

  1. Jason Gardner Says:

    I’ve often though about what has caused Christianity to fall to it’s current state and I think I have an answer.

    Faith. Christians have no faith.

    I’ll give you an example to understand what I mean. You studied physics. You did this with some amount of faith that the more you learned about the nature of the universe the more you would know about God. Your confidence in your beliefs, and your faith in expanding your knowledge, allowed you to become more educated. You now know more about God than you could have learned in church. God is in physics and he is everywhere.

    What puzzles me is when Christians block themselves off from learning. It’s quite common for Christians to read ONLY the Bible for historical knowledge. Those that read outside of the Bible usually read “safe” authors that basically regurgitate already held beliefs.

    Why? Isn’t God everywhere? Won’t the lessons of the Bible be present everywhere? Where is the faith that your principles are universal?

    I mean, the lesson of the old testament is “Look after your people, honor god and be ruthless with your enemies.” Is that not sound advice for all people at all times?

    I’ll give you a more controversial quote. “Our social welfare system is so much more than just charity. Because we do not say to the rich people: ‘Please, give something to the poor.’ Instead we say: ‘German people, help yourself!’ Everyone must help, whether you are rich or poor! Everyone must have the belief that there’s always someone in a much worse situation than I am, and this person I want to help as a comrade.” -Hitler.

    Isn’t that quote very similar to the teachings of the New Testament? Isn’t it universally good advice for how to interact with your own kind?

    I mean, if I learn about the Greeks, won’t they have learned the same universal truths, if not by a different route?

    Stoicism is very close to traditional Christianity. Obviously the founders of Stoicism didn’t read the New Testament but they arrived at a truth by a different route. Is that not possible?

    I mean the Emperor philosopher Marcus Aurelius led a very Christian life with no exposure to Christianity at all. How is that possible?

    As to hot button issues like the big band and evolution.. Why not learn and understand them? There is nothing about the big bang that should call into question any divine beliefs. Nothing. Nada.

    People who think the big bang “proves” there is no divine don’t understand the big bang. Just that simple.

    Same with evolution. There is nothing about evolution that precludes a God. (Hint: Darwin was an avid Christian.) Evolution is just trying to figure out how God did what he did.

    (I always find that funny. When God created the universe and man, how do people think he did it? Going to Home Depot and getting a forklift, some cement and 6 Mexicans? How in the world would we ever understand how he did it? Seriously, it’s comical to think you know how God did it. It is wholly ignorant for Christian and non-Christian alike to say “I know exactly what he did!”)

    I think the lack of faith of Christians is what holds them back. They won’t learn “evil” evolutionary theory or read sources other than the Bible because they don’t have faith. They, at the end of the day, don’t truly have confidence in their beliefs.

    The problem is that the lack of faith renders them ignorant and intellectually small, unable to defend their position. This is obviously bad as they cannot articulate effectively their beliefs. When confronted with contrary opinions (e.g. Richard Dawkins) they tend to fold like a lawn chair.

    So why not learn about the big wide world? Isn’t God everywhere? Why not have faith and learn God’s will and order from every resource available?

    I’ll say for myself, the more I read, the more I considered the universe, the more I saw of the universe the more religious I have become. The divine is everywhere and it is universal. I don’t see why we need to be afraid to see it.

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