9.7. Fixing Religion

Believe what you want. Just don’t believe your religion is any less susceptible to the problems that afflict our other institutions.

I know what you’re thinking.

And no, I’m not going to yell at you to change what you believe.

But I am going to ask you to think about how you believe.

It’s not any of my business to stick my nose in your religious or spiritual beliefs.

But I do want to address the relationship of religions to our society.

I think religions are generally a force for good in society.

But especially in troubling times like these, we can cling to them too tightly.

In my opinion, the problems start when we start believing that our religion is somehow exempt from all the flaws, failings, and limitations that afflict all our other major institutions.

No matter what divine authority it may have, all of our institutions are made up of human beings.

No matter what divine authority it may have, all of our institutions have certain harmful tendencies built into them.

Lying. Cheating. Corruption. Fostering an us-versus-them mentality. Attacking and silencing critics. Failing to deliver on their promises. Failing to admit fault. Failing to keep up with the times. Trying to accumulate as much power, money, and authority as possible for themselves.

These things don’t happen because the people running these institutions are immoral.

They happen because those tendencies are built into the very way institutions operate.

They happen because the all the incentives, pressures, and internal and external forces push institutional actors to act that way.

Excusing, promoting, and even rewarding that kind of unethical behavior is fundamental to how institutions work.

We know to expect some level of scummy behavior in our governments, businesses, media, and other institutions.

We even know to expect some level of it in other religions we don’t believe in.

But a lot of people have a blind spot, when it comes to their own religion.

They think that just because their religion is unique in pointing to a higher truth beyond this universe, it means the human beings running their religion here in this universe are exempt from human nature—and the institution representing that higher truth is exempt from all the harmful tendencies that afflict other institutions.

It leads to an atmosphere in which all scandals are swept under the rug, all criticisms are repressed, and we fail to hold our religious leaders properly accountable.

It leads to an atmosphere that fosters a herd mentality, an unwillingness to question authority, and an arrogance that can even culminate in killing people in the name of “God.”

It’s an atmosphere which those institutional leaders are of course happy to encourage—since it makes their jobs easier, lets them pretend they’re above reproach, and lets them get away with some pretty atrocious things behind closed doors.

Believe what you want. Just don’t believe that your religious institution is any less susceptible to the scandals, corruption, and heinous crimes that afflict our other institutions.

Maybe your religion really does point to the truth of what lies beyond this universe.

But the institution itself exists within this universe.

And it’s subject to the same flaws, failings, and immoral behaviors that are always present in our institutions.

 

This is the 147th in a series of over 150 videos about how to create real, lasting social change. Click here for a list of all titles, videos, and transcripts.

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