Does religion have too much social authority?

Is it time to start worrying about just how absurd things are getting with regard to religion in America? After watching Louis Theroux last night, I can’t help being prompted to say something on here. The way in which christianity is being taken to such absurd extremes is quite frightening, and it genuinely baffles me how intelligent people can be so deluded.

I’ve been mulling this over a bit recently: at the end of the day, all religion is, is a text which people use to award themselves a kind of social authority. In the case of christianity, the text is a series of stories about the creation of the world and a social leader living in the middle east around two thousand years ago. Because these myths give people hope and a sense of certainty, people – usually men – use them as a means to gain a type of authority. Preachers use the authority they borrow from the bible to tell their listeners whatever they like. Because the bible gives people a hope in a pleasant existence after they die, people listen; yet preachers use the bible to tell people whatever they like because it is so open to interpretation. These days such messages seem to be becoming more and more extreme and right wing, but people still listen because it purports to be substantiated by bible verse, which people have been brought up to believe is infallible.

Does that not strike anyone else as highly problematic? People, from doctors to teachers to politicians, usually attain positions of social authority after several years of study; they are also under constant scrutiny. In America especially, it seems any nutcase can call himself a preacher, and because they claim to be deriving their message from the bible and underpinning what they say with a few ambiguous biblical references, people listen to them as though they were a fully qualified authority figure.

That to me seems absurd. There is also an increasing darkness to it, especially given how intolerant and reactionary their messages seem to be getting. Here we have a group of people claiming to speak on behalf of a magical omnipresent deity, insisting they are listened to and given high social status even though they have done nothing to earn such authority. If they were to use any other set of myths or legends to underpin the type of intolerance they spew, such people would be ignored, or perhaps even sectioned; but because their spewings reference the bible, they are listened to. People attend their sermons every sunday, even though they might be spewing the most absurd, intolerant bullshit imaginable.

Of course, I know one has to respect other peoples’ faiths, but given the bible is looking increasingly outdated in a number of ways, isn’t it time this culture was put under the scrutiny it deserves. Absolute, unquestioning faith can be subverted too easily, used to indoctrinate listeners with any type of abominable bullshit people want. The Louis Theroux program last night was about one famous example, the Westboro’ Baptist Church, but I’m sure there will be many, many more, all spouting their own type of hatred, according to the particular biases of the person delivering the sermon. Were it under any other guise, I’m sure such preaching would be subjected to far more regulation and scrutiny. After all, these preachers are talking to some very vulnerable, often highly naïve people; feeding them, in many cases, very dark, reactionary messages. Yet because they claim to speak under the auspices of religion, they are allowed to spout whatever crap they like and awarded the authority of, say, a teacher for it. Does that not strike anyone else as highly problematic?

6 thoughts on “Does religion have too much social authority?

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