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Using ancient cultural books to guide government

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Submitted by Claire (United States), May 3, 2008 at 02:34

Taj,

I find the idea of using any ancient "belief-based" book as the key guide to government rather appalling. I would fight to the death to keep fundamentalist Judaism, Christianity and Islam out of my government, for example. I see them as points on a path of the evolution of thought for a given culture.

I view all of them as the evolution of speculation by the powerful on what might have caused nature to be as it is. As people conquered others, they adopted local "religious" practices and wove them into their own cultural doctrine. Look how the goddess was eventually reworked into the virgin Mary story of Christianity, for example, and then later she took a place of her own at the central of their religion.

Maybe Islam is different from some other religions, but many people who call themselves "Christian" or "Jewish" don't really believe in everything in their ancient books or follow the practices in them. Many see it as a tradition to cherish (or not) and many celebrate the holidays for a combination of historical reasons and opportunities to spend time with family and friends.

A minority does believe it fundamentally, of course, and they are quite outspoken about it, endlessly seeking to insert themselves into government and force their beliefs on others. I always suspected thats how Muslims were, too..

China is interesting because they actually consider religious or metaphysical beliefs to be mental illness, and people are placed in mental hospitals to be treated for a malady! I don't think it's mental illness--I think that humans are easily indoctrinated and tend to continue whatever cultural folklore they were born into or convinced to believe through mental manipulation.

Of course, the Chinese government is a conglomerate of things that have controlled it over time, from Confucianism to Maoism and more, with their brand of totalitarianism just as likely to produce ills as a purely "religious" one. So it's ideology, be it religious or political that is really the essence.

I think religion can be a source of comfort and inspiration or it can be an inflexible evil that destroys freedom and liberty. I think any religion that still clings to the supernatural is dangerous, because it will use intimidation, indoctrination, and the promise of magic to control people. I'd like to see Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Latter-Day Saints, Jehovah's Witnesses, and other groups see through the belief aspects of their religious systems, but some people simply become religious functionaries and never question the concept of belief.

I hope future generations will be able to let go of the past, of metaphor, allegory, myth, folklore presenting itself as "truth" and embrace what is behind the practices that people falsely attribute to religion but are really about the human mind and human nature.

Anyway, thanks for your interesting perspective.

Submitting....

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Note: Opinions expressed in comments are those of the authors alone and not necessarily those of Daniel Pipes. Original writing only, please. Comments are screened and in some cases edited before posting. Reasoned disagreement is welcome but not comments that are scurrilous, off-topic, commercial, disparaging religions, or otherwise inappropriate. For complete regulations, see the "Guidelines for Reader Comments".

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