How we change what others think, feel, believe and do
The ChangingMinds Blog!
We had a visit on Sunday from the Jehovah's Witnesses. It was just before lunch, so I didn't invite them in, which is perhaps a shame as it could have been interesting to hear how they tried to convert us. Maybe another day.
What they did do was leave was a leaflet which, as usual, was a fascinating mix of motherhood-and-apple-pie statements with which you could not disagree, and slightly dodgier text that, whilst of moderate credibility is the first step on the slippery slope into unquestioning compliance to whatever the religious leader tells you.
'True religion' is says, is based on three things. First, it practices love. An easy statement with which few would disagree. Next is the crunch, of which more in a moment: Trust God's word. And moving swiftly on, true religion 'strengthens families and upholds high moral standards'. Again, something with which it is reasonably easy to agree.
Unpicking this, it first uses sandwiching, a technique used to deliver a key message in between two reasonably nice other statements. The problem with trusting God's word lies in the question of who decides what God's word really is. Assuming that the Bible does contain God's word, the question is who decides which of God's words apply when? Of course, the answer is the religious leaders whose spirituality and knowledge are unquestionably greater than yours.
Even the other statements contain some worrying notes. Practicing love, for example, includes the quote from the Bible (John 3:16) that 'rather than killing for one another, they are willing to die for one another.' This opens up some tricky questions as to the circumstances whereby one dies for another. Is this about being a 'good soldier'? Does this include the martyrdom of suicide attacks?
The notes on family values also raises eyebrows, explaining how this should help wives develop 'deep respect for their husbands' and train husbands to 'love their wives as their own bodies'. In some circles, this might be might be considered just a tad politically incorrect. But then equality and tolerance is not a tenet of JWs, where the 'soul that is sinning, itself will die' and 'Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers not men kept for unnatural purposes, nor men who lie with men...will inherit God's kingdom'.
The leaflet also includes nice pictures of smiling multicultural people, obviously very happy in their faith. Wouldn't it be lovely not to suffer the pressures and horrors of the modern world, they promise. All you need to do is join our church and all you problems will be solved, everything will be sweetness and light and your place in the world beyond assured. All you need to do is trust God's word -- according to our interpretation. Which means doing exactly what we tell you to do.
The implied exchange is thus a good life and salvation in return for total compliance.
Personally, I am neutral about religion. If you gain something from whichever religion you choose, then that's fine by me, though I draw the line at religious intolerance that harms others. If I would counsel anything, it would be to understand how things really work. If you want to exchange control for assumed happiness, then go ahead, but please do so with your eyes open.
Religion is dangerous for the very reasons you cite above. Belief in God's
word is filled with too many questions, not the least of which is the concept of
a God to begin with. There is absolutely no evidence to suggest anything in the
bible or any other religious writing is anything more than subjective
experience, or myth to explain the unknown, or to satisfy the goal of the writer
or the organization, i.e. church, which was and is social control. One does not
need religion to have morals, love others, or to engage in acts of selflessness
for the greater good of ones family, community, or mankind.
Wow, I want to meet Mark. I agree with you. I raised
my daughter to be principle centered. Wouldn’t let her near a church till she
was old enough to know better. When she studied world religion she was horrified
by the insane stupidness of believing in fairy tales. She says religion is
prehistoric science. That people needed to figure things out. So they made up
religions. The first time she saw a crucifix in a church, she freaked out asked
me if they were going to take that thing down for the wedding.
The jury is still out on the question whether
religions or atheist worldviews have caused more harm than good in history.
State sponsored violence practiced by tribes big enough to be called nations has
been a long standing problem. All civilizations have had their gods. The
violence perpetrated by classical Greco-roman empires, British, Russian or
Chinese were driven by misguided worldviews and equally misguided leaders.
Religions played a part in the massive slaughter of the 20th century; but it was
not the driving force behind the bloody political purges under Stalin and Mao.
If religious delusions continue to reduce violence then they can be tolerated.
Settling for the status quo is not an option.
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