The watering down of Religion

After studying various religious movements, I have found a pattern. When the movement begins, all of the members are converts. They strongly believe in the ideas put forth. The founder is alive and well, and everyone has a figurehead to look to. When the founder dies, doesn't matter how, there is a bit of chaos. People are not sure who to follow now. (they are so used to following, it doesn't occur to them that they maybe shouldn't have a leader).

Once that is resolved, the group (or groups) remaining settle happily in their new groove. They rely heavily on the founder's teachings and so the new leaders have a lot less weight. The people stay very close to at least the spirit of the original movement, or at least one of the resulting groups do. But, here comes the shaft. All of these people have children. Unless this is a universal movement where every single person feels spiritually uplifted and edified by it (hint, I don't think this has ever existed), there are going to be some children who do not fit in with the regime. There are a few different types, although it partially depends on the type of group. One set might just up and leave. Another may be an apathetic bunch, who wish to please, and so they stay on, but don't really have any true conviction about their beliefs. Another group may be angered by what is taught and will either stay in and try and destroy it, or leave and try and destroy it.

One last group. The size of this group depends on the overall appeal the movement has on the average person. These people are the same type of person as their parents. They would have converted to this belief if they had not been born to it. If the new religion is at all strange or different or shocking to the average person, this group will be fairly small. The make up of the group starts as 90% or so people who really believe in what they are doing. Once their children grow up, it changes to 80% or so (assuming that this is a strange religion where few (25%) of the children fall into the true believer status and each family has 3 children or so ... and it's an island so that no one can leave). The original adults are still around, so the overall feel of the group is very similar, for now. The next generation is born, grows up and starts to have children. It has been 40 years since the founder died and the group was out on its own. Many of the original members are dead, the ones who were 20 when the founder died, are now 60. From my pseudo-math I get about 40% true believers.

Once all of the original members are gone (about 80 years), the false percentages are gone and it falls to almost exactly the percentage of people that the religion truly appeals to. In this case 25%. Interestingly, this also corresponds to the time when those who have never met the founder of the religion are in charge. So, what does this mean? It means that after 80 years the religion in in the hands of those who do not care about the beliefs of the founders.

Majority rules, even when it's not an official democracy. By forcing/encouraging their children to stay in their religion, it was killed. The flavor of the religion changes at this point, becoming more acceptable to that part of the population that is more numerous. The ones who stayed in the religion because they didn't want to bother finding something else. Now that the 25% of true believers are longer the target for this group, it changes into what the majority needs, as it should. But that 25% for whom the religion was founded are out in the cold with nowhere to go.

What do you think happens? They go off and join the crowds of non-affiliated members of society. A couple of them go off and start their own religion, and in time one of them will gain some ground and it will take off, and all of the people drawn to that idea will join. Then they will have children who will be forced (through brainwashing) to join as well, and the cycle will begin again.

Hooray for Youth Activists

I ran into an article written by Sasha Mushegian, a Kansas City highschool student, decrying book censorship in school libraries and literature class reading lists. Specifically, she was condemning the actions of her local "fundamental Christian back to the roots, why are my children reading books with the F-word in it" group. Sasha does a wonderful job dissembling the core arguments of this group and most other censorship groups in general. Take a look.

Richard Dawkins had a tv program on in the UK called 'The root of all evil?' exploring, among other things, what affect religion has on young people (you can find a copy on YouTube). Of course he was very negative about it, being who he is and where he stands, but he had some good points. (paraphrase) “Children are labeled with their parent’s religion as babes, even though they could not have come to that decision on their own at that age. We do not label children with the political party of their parents, we expect them to make up their own mind about that sort of thing, why should religion be any different?” I think parents try to project their political outlooks on their children as well. If children are never given the chance to look outside the perfect box their parents put them in (even if the parents are not in it themselves), they will never question the validity of what they were taught. If they never question what they were taught, it can never expand, grow or become perfected. It is expected that parents will indoctrinate their children into their own beliefs. Is this ethical or even effective?

The fewer ideas that are inserted into a child's brain, the less data that child has in order to make decisions then and later in life as an adult. Lack of a decision making ability is severely crippling for anyone.

Many people do not think the FLDS (the polygamist group of Mormons in Texas who were in the news a couple months ago) should be allowed to raise their children because of the specific beliefs that the children are being taught. Is it any more ethical if you are brainwashing them to be Southern Baptists, Gays, Catholics, Wiccans, Presbyterians, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Pentecostals, Buddhists, any other religion? How about Republicans, Democrats, Mac users, Doctors, Lawyers, Loggers, Mill workers, Spanish Speakers or overweight ... eh?

You have a right to be any of those things, and you have a right to NOT be any of those things. Everyone else has that right as well. It is almost impossible to raise a child without instilling in them some of your own ideas and ideals. That’s okay. It’s when you actively limit their choice and rebuke them for turning aside form your ideals that you are doing something wrong as a parent.

All that aside, does it even work? If the child is the same type of person as their parents (ie without pressure they would have chosen the same path as their parents) they will probably either A: shrug it off and continue on that path; B: feel hurt, distance themselves from their parents, even though they stay in rank; C: angrily leave the fold, joining a similar group, or becoming agnostic. If they are a different type of person than their parents (this is usually the majority) they might A: stick with what you have told them, even though it doesn’t fit them; B: drift away and join some other group that better fits their personality; C: rebel and try to revolutionize the group they grew up in; D: rebel and try to destroy/“reveal” the group they grew up in and/or anything like it. There are a lot of other possibilities, these are just some examples. Which category each child falls in depends on the way they are raised and their personality.

Which of these examples really accomplished the goal? Most of the first group does, although, only the first one was positive. Out of the second group, the first option would “look” like it worked. The child stays in the religion, from the outside everything looks great, even though they have no conviction that it is true. They stay in out of honor, comfort, fear, laziness or ignorance. Unfortunately, the majority of people in general fall into this category. If raised in a situation that they do not fully believe, they will stay in it as long as possible, which is usually until they die. This is the reason that revolutions do not happen until the conditions are so bad that they cannot be stood for another moment. Anger and aggravation rushes out at whatever is causing the discomfort until it is alleviated. Everyone then goes back to life until they are again discomforted.

You should not force your children to be like you are. Whether you are a member of the religious right, banning Harry Potter and Darwin or a polygamist banning everything possible or a scientist banning fantasy novels. It doesn't matter who you are or what you ban, your children are not you, you will either kill their brains or alienate them from your own way of thinking.

Why do parents do this to their children? They want them to grow up as happy as they were / are. The thing they forget is that they themselves were either A: brainwashed as a child, and never got over it (and as such they can be forgiven, they are just carrying out their programing) B: Converts to that way of thinking, and so they used their mental faculties to decide what was right for them rather than being forced. C: Different in personality their children. Children are not a small version of yourself, they have the right to think what they wish, be comfortable with what they want to be comfortable with, listen to their own music, even though all the adults think it is the devil's music (*shakes head* that one has been going on since someone figured out how to clap their hands to a beat... 'when I was your age, we didn't disgrace ourselves by beating our hands together. Noise, that's what it is! Noise! ... :-) )

As children are people too, they have a right to start choosing who they will be at a younger age than 18. I am really proud of the children who stand up for their rights.

Where is the boundary between the rights of children and the rights of parents? When good choices are removed. There is a difference between ethics and dogma. Teach your child to be a good person, let them decide on the rest. You can help them along by being a good example. I think you will do more by just being an example than by keeping all outside influences away from your children. They will respect you, even if they disagree with your doctrines because you taught them that the most important thing is the way you act, the way you treat other people. If we didn’t have that, we couldn’t call ourselves civilized.

My Research System

Sort of in response to a recent comment, I would like to share with you my method of studying the scriptures.

My Tools:
My methods are different depending on what I am researching, and why I want to know. I don't use all of these resources every time I study, it all depends on what I am looking for.

Let's say I want to know more about the word translated charity in most English New Testaments. First, I would look up the word charity on Folio or my LDS bible, depending on how high-tech I wanted to get (software vs a book). This would give me every instance of the word charity in the new testament.

Next, if I was using Folio, I would click on one of the words and have it look up the strong's # for me. This would show me the greek word that was translated to charity. Next, I would compare the search results for charity with the list of instances of that greek word being translated charity and see if there are any places where that word is not translated charity, or charity was not translated from that word. Then I would do the same for any word that comes up an an anomaly. In a word processor (rather than the built-in note taker, which works, but I like a real word processor better) I would take notes on what I find. I would also make sure to write down the root of the word that is being used, as well as related words and so on.

To obtain the same results, I could also use my KJV bible's concordance to find instances of the word charity, then look them up on the KJV with Strong's Concordance website. I don't own a physical Strong's concordance, or I could also use that. The process is about the same otherwise.

If I really wanted to go low-tech, I could also use my interlinear greek / english new testament and compare the greek words. I do not speak greek, so I would only come out with a list of greek words minus their meanings.

Let's say that I wanted to study the Jewish idea of heaven. First, using either my concordance or Folio, I would look up where the word heaven is used, or I could just use my memory to start with. Then, I could look in my Jewish study bible and read its commentary for each instance (as well as the text itself, of course). Next, using Folio, I would search for the word heaven in my Legends of the Jews by Ginzberg. That would bring me to various stories and extrapolations about the jewish idea of heaven. I could do the same for the Talmud, Midrash and other jewish commentaries.

What if I wanted to know the origin of Baptism? First, I would look in the Catholic Encyclopedia, or Wikipedia and see what they had to say. I would look at the sources where possible. I would read references to baptism in the scriptures. I would study the origin of the word baptism, and see which other cultures have ritual cleansing, and read about those as well. If I wanted to do extensive research on a topic, I would use TomBoy Notes, which is like a personal wiki, to keep track of all my different pieces of data.

When I study, I cannot use just one book or piece of software. No single tool exists that can do everything that I want to do. And, even if there was one, I wouldn't want to rely on ONE source for all of my knowledge, it would be too easy for me to be lazy and not look outside that box for more information.