Saturday, April 30, 2005

The Fundamental Purposes of Organized Religion

Long ago, as I was growing up, I was raised Catholic. My parents gave us a choice round about the time my siblings and I were 12 or 13: Do you want to continue in the Church, or not? Not many parents trust their children enough to let them make that kind of decision. Mine did.

My choice was to stop going to Sunday school (actually it was on Saturday) and stay home to watch cartoons in the AM. Moreover, I wasn't really grasping the concepts. The stories and allegories were difficult to understand and there was, frankly, too much faith involved. Sure the morals were good to learn, but I couldn't figure why we had to say ten Hail Mary's for swearing at your sister. Also, the whole idea of the Holy Trinity was beyond me at that age. The Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost? Zoiks!

I took the no go option, and my parents let me. I figured, should I need to find religion, I would do some in depth research and expose myself to the different religions of the world to find out which one I felt was best for me. I have yet to accomplish that task.

What I did find was that there are about five fundamental purposes of organized religion. And, if you can find them where ever you worship, you are a lucky individual.

At one point, I felt like running was my religion. Indeed, I was practicing my "religion" twice a day to the tune of about 80 miles a week and testing my faith just about every weekend on the cross country course or the track. I also found a ready made community to which I belonged, but kept those who were not of the same mind (or ability) out. If you couldn't do a 5 minute mile or better, you were sunk.

To make the long story short, I am interested what people's thoughts are on organized religion and if there is more to it than my - well, let's call them
Windspike's Five Fundamental Purposes of Organized Religion. They are:

1) Organized religion provides one with a sense of belonging and a ready made community of likeminded friends to which not everyone has access.

2) Organized religion provides a vehicle by which one can, either alone or in concert with some advisors/friends, work to solve her/his own riddles and problems. This is accomplished via prayer, prayer groups, counseling by a priest and the like.

3) Organized religion offers members a sense of security and serenity with the idea of Death, as in comfort with the notion of an afterlife. This assuages one's fears about death and dying.

4) Organized religion proveds a rubric or set of beliefs and values to which one can adhear or deviate, but mainly sets the ethical tone by which high quality behavior is evaluated. That is, what is right or wrong to do has clear boundaries and members should behave accordingly.

5) Lastly, organized religion offers absolution of, or the forgiving of one's sins/bad behavior.


SheaNC said...

I've always considered the organized religions that I am familiar with as systems designed to control the masses. I know that sounds typical coming from me, but throughout the ages, organized religion has been a system of rules of behavior, rewards and punishments, and the combination of political and religious institutions. Of course, it also offers those things you mention, but I think the perception is different depending on whether ones view is top-down or bottom-up.

Anonymous said...

I am a faithful servant of Satan

Five? there's five? We devil worshipers only recognize four.

Jet said...

I found it interesting that your five purposes did not include guidance or leadership. Your five points are fellowship related.

Matthew 6:5 cautions against church leaders who lead simply to impress others. I wonder if your points relect fellowship because your church leaders are getting it right or because they are so bogged down in structure that they AREN'T guiding at all.

Nice post!

Anonymous said...

God is the internet

Thanks, Jet, for a question raised, more interesting than a question answered.

A quick read of Matthew 6:5 confirms Jet's observation. Perhaps he's heard of the fellow who started Homeboy Industries? He has a ministry in 26 prisons and never raises the question of belief. ''These people need jobs.''

So many preachers, so few lions.

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