Religion's deathbed: Some thoughts on Christianity's changing social role in the West
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27-01-2013, 04:47 PM (This post was last modified: 27-01-2013 08:44 PM by Tartarus Sauce.)
Religion's deathbed: Some thoughts on Christianity's changing social role in the West

When European societies used to operate almost solely by gemeinschaft principles, the church was the pinnacle of social knowledge, culture, and power. EVERYBODY was connected to their local church, it was their core component of everyday life. The church took precedence over every other aspect of an individual's life. To not be part of the church meant to not be a part of the community. To not be a part of the community was effectively a death sentence. Towns/village were isolated bubbles and most people never wandered more than a few miles from their place of birth for their entire life. Knowledge of what happened outside of a local commune was limited. Communes were inherently distrusting of outsiders, and rarely integrated them into their communities. Perhaps a banished individual would be lucky and have enough supporters who agreed with him/her that they decided to establish a new village elsewhere.


In cities, the larger, politically involved churches also served as the nexus that was connected to everything else. They had access to historical records, philosophical works, scriptures, you name it, they had access to it. If you sought for answers to a question, the clerics would provide you with the information you desired, well, as long as they were keen on actually disclosing it. The churches were the gatekeepers to all of that society's knowledge, art, written works, and historical records. To boot, clerical offices frequently played political functions as well, blurring the line between church and state, while increasing the church's power.


Since Western societies now operate by principles of gesellschaft, a church's influence upon a person's life has become a matter of choice, not obligation. An individual's right to forge his/her own connections with others and explore his/her own interests is considered paramount in Western societies nowadays. The sources of possible knowledge databases have increased, cultures have interacted and intertwined, people are no longer confined to their location of birth, sub-communities and social groups are plenty, ideas disseminate more rapidly, and people have easy access to information. An individual's capabilities to expand their knowledge, form a greater quantity of secondary social connections, and forge their own beliefs have been expanded exponentially.


In the face of this change from gemeinschaft to gesellschaft, the original domination of churches when it came to social functions evaporated due to competition in newly arising (or newly arriving) social institutions that were established due to the changing nature of Western societies. After centuries of domination through suppression, power, and isolating information from the general public, the floodgates eventually burst. Although the churches still remain extremely powerful and wealthy, they are merely shadows of their former glory. They are no longer capable of controlling the lives of those who wish to live a different lifestyle.


They are, however, still very crafty and manipulative. They are quite capable of adapting to the times. The mega-churches are products of modern capitalism and have no historical counterpart. After centuries of suppressing scientific research, the Catholic Church has publicly endorsed evolution and other scientific theories, and certain denominations are willing to hold services for gay marriages. However, does this mean that religions are dying in the Western world, or that some are simply assimilating with current gesellschaft principles of Western societies while others are kicking and screaming at any suggestion of NOT regarding themselves above all other viewpoints?

While assimilation may be the first phase in a very long process of fizzling out, I don't think that referring to religions as a whole as "dying" is the correct way of describing what is happening. Its influence is most certainly receding, but even within the system of gesellschaft, religion CAN spread just as easily as any other idea. So what is happening to religion in the Western world then?


From my perspective, it is being relocated from being the dominant force in the public sphere to just another aspect of the private sphere. This is already well underway for most of Europe, but is meeting fierce resistance in the US. Fundamentalists are fearful of the sciences taking over religion's capability of explaining the world around us, fearful of people believing differently from them, fearful that others will indulge in sins tantamount to murder in their eyes. Unsurprisingly, these fundamentalists are under the impression that their beliefs and cosmological/metaphysical positions are universally binding, and everybody should be FORCED to believe the exact same way that they do.


But that's where the kicker is. Through what means can they force their beliefs upon others if the transformation of society into a gesellschaft system took that power away from them? Simple: by trying to enforce their beliefs through legislation. In the US, this is what their form of reactionary behavior manifests as, trying to enact religious legislation into a secular country...with a constitution that endorses gesellschaft principles (freedom of speech, freedom of association, freedom of religion, etc). All of the justifications the conservative right is currently spewing out for their party positions are smoke and mirror tactics to veil the instability and contradictions present within their absurd proposals.


The smoke and mirror tactics aren't built to convince opponents though, they are built to fuel fundamentalist delusions and rationalize their actions. That means that in order for such a procedure to succeed though, the number of fundamentals must remain high and maintain remarkable levels of fanaticism. Despite the frighteningly large numbers of fundamentals present within Western societies, their system is still unstable in the long run, and fundamentalism is currently, in my view, reaching the beginning of the end. Fundamentalists will always be with us, as will religion, but both will only continue to fade with time. The fundamentals will be isolated to the fringes where they belong and overtaken by the more moderate believers. Religion will be successfully confined to the private sphere where it is free to do whatever it wants, and, in time, perhaps religion as a whole will only remain in bits and fragments.


Fundamentalist resistance to relocating religion to the private sphere and therefore cutting off all means of forced imposition is where the death rattle is. Yes, it is an extremely long and drawn out one, but so are many a reactionary group's activities.




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27-01-2013, 04:57 PM
Religion's deathbed: Some thoughts on Christianity's changing social role in the West
Ask Vosur. The church is definitely dying there. No more tax supported state religion. They are in BIG trouble, and of course in advanced Northern Europe, believers are the freaks. It's really not all that "drawn out" in the long view. Since science became the human method of advancing knowledge, religion has fallen off a cliff, in terms of millenia. It's doomed. It will take a while, but it's doomed.

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Isaiah 45:7 "I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things" (KJV)

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27-01-2013, 05:21 PM
RE:
(27-01-2013 04:57 PM)Bucky Ball Wrote:  Ask Vosur. The church is definitely dying there. No more tax supported state religion. They are in BIG trouble, and of course in advanced Northern Europe, believers are the freaks. It's really not all that "drawn out" in the long view. Since science became the human method of advancing knowledge, religion has fallen off a cliff, in terms of millenia. It's doomed. It will take a while, but it's doomed.
Aye. I'm sure glad to be alive at this time in human history and especially in such a secular country. Cool

The Catholic Church has pretty much lost all credibility with the vast amount of (sexual abuse) scandals in the past few years.

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27-01-2013, 05:47 PM
RE: Religion's death
Nice post, Tartarus. Is that from a paper you are writing?

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27-01-2013, 08:41 PM (This post was last modified: 27-01-2013 08:45 PM by Tartarus Sauce.)
RE:
Quote:Ask Vosur. The church is definitely dying there. No more tax supported state religion. They are in BIG trouble, and of course in advanced Northern Europe, believers are the freaks. It's really not all that "drawn out" in the long view. Since science became the human method of advancing knowledge, religion has fallen off a cliff, in terms of millenia. It's doomed. It will take a while, but it's doomed.
The declining rates are quite different in Europe than in the US (not quite sure where Canada, Australia, and New Zealand fall, perhaps somewhere in between).

Yep, governments in western and northern Europe seemed to have more or less pulled their shit together when it comes to religion's involvement in government affairs (as in almost none) and the majority public attitude is a secular one.

The US contains a larger proportion of deluded masses that don't understand their government is supposed to be secular, and this is also the current illusion the Republican party is suffering from. I am utterly flabbergasted with the horse-shit being vomited by our ultra conservatives. Each one of them holds viewpoints of similar standing in terms of rationality to those nutjobs you sometimes run across on the subways.

Quote:The Catholic Church has pretty much lost all credibility with the vast amount of (sexual abuse) scandals in the past few years.

The sad thing is, scandals don't seem to phase the most hardcore fundies. It's almost expected now in the US for public figures falling under "family values" advocates to get caught fucking a male prostitute while snorting coke off his ass. They get caught red-handed, yet they still deny it. Then they eventually come through and admit to being "diseased" or "sick," but are seeking out God for guidance on their issues. Nobody of sane mind takes these buffoons seriously, but the key part there is "of sane mind." Fundies have the capacity to rationalize anything in favor of their viewpoint.

Quote:Nice post, Tartarus. Is that from a paper you are writing?
No it isn't. I spent more time writing that than I have working today. Weeping

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27-01-2013, 09:12 PM
RE: Religion's deathbed:
I hope you are right about fundamentalism beginning to wane in the US. This is something I have long wished for and hope to see in my lifetime. Enjoyed the read.

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27-01-2013, 09:39 PM
RE: Religion's deathbed:(...)
(27-01-2013 04:47 PM)Tartarus Sauce Wrote:  While assimilation may be the first phase in a very long process of fizzling out, I don't think that referring to religions as a whole as "dying" is the correct way of describing what is happening. Its influence is most certainly receding, but even within the system of gesellschaft, religion CAN spread just as easily as any other idea. So what is happening to religion in the Western world then?

From my perspective, it is being relocated from being the dominant force in the public sphere to just another aspect of the private sphere.
Religion will be successfully confined to the private sphere where it is free to do whatever it wants, and, in time, perhaps religion as a whole will only remain in bits and fragments.
Fundamentalist resistance to relocating religion to the private sphere and therefore cutting off all means of forced imposition is where the death rattle is. Yes, it is an extremely long and drawn out one, but so are many a reactionary group's activities.
Religions retreat to the private sphere is also a strength for them IMO. By its very nature it will become a private matter (except for within the religious groups), and therefore also easier to defend, since by questioning it you´ll intrude upon others private life - that´s the effect in Denmark anyway.

As a religious person I enjoy that development; radical idiots are afforded less voice and secular power while moderates have a safe-haven for their religion (as long as they keep it there).
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