Adventist Media Response and Conversation

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Religion as social club

I am wondering if there really is a difference between a religious church group and a social non-religious group. Is a religion just another form of social organization where people follow a generally prescribed set of opinions. The boundaries of opinions being set by the overall denomination out of the scores of different denominations. The social groups then holding together the wider dispersed denomination. The denomination leadership working to keep their overall group distinct from the other social organizations, the other denominations.

Now this would not seem to be a bad thing, as there are all kinds of social groups in existence but the religion claims a higher goal. That goal being to search and hold to truth. They do well on the holding onto what they think is truth part, but how well to they search for truth? Or could I be wrong and they are not searching for truth at all, rather, thinking they already have the truth.

Searching for truth involves testing and experimentation with different ideas and practices, that is not something that many church organizations seem to do much of it seems to me. For example when I used to go listen to sermons at my local church I would practically never hear anything new that stood up to the test of being true. Sure our Washington Conference brought a woman in to help teach people how to evangelize and she told us that the ancients tied lamps to their sandals hence the Psalmist famous quote, “thy word is a lamp unto my feet”. That indeed sounds like something new, it was news to me, but there was no truth behind it. No archaeological evidence no written descriptions, no half burned up sandals from the spilled oil. I would love to have seen her try to tie some lamps to her shoes and test out the theory however. But it does not stop these people who seem to be church organization leaders from telling these ridiculous things.

Just this last month I noticed John McLarty had to write the following to the North Pacific Union Gleaner:
“In his May editorial, Max Torkelson spoke of the good news that Jesus is coming again. In support of this good news, Torkelson quoted an "End Times Predictions" website that claims major earthquakes are increasing in frequency. However, according to the United States Geological Survey (which has credibility in the field of earth science comparable to that of the GAO in the realm of government or the CDC in the field of public health), the frequency of earthquakes has not increased over the last hundred years or so that systematic records have been kept.”
I know over the years on the Internet I have pointed out this same mis-information and pointed people to the scientific information from the USGS. But it seems in the church organization truth is ignored in favor of some pet belief. So maybe truth is really a casualty of religion just as in the societal groups that hold to astrology where the truth of planet alignment really has nothing at all to do with human behavior and that the planet positions or names but is assumed to have deep meaning. As the article states:
These ideas were not, however, isolated - they were instead part and parcel of omens derived from entrails, oil dropped on the floor, birds flying in the sky, and more. As Will Durant observed of the Babylonians:
Never was a civilization richer in superstitions. Every turn of chance from the anomalies of birth to the varieties of death received a popular, sometimes an official and sacerdotal, interpretation in magical or supernatural terms ...The superstitions of Babylonia seem ridiculous to us, because they differ superficially from our own. There is hardly an absurdity of the past that cannot be found flourishing somewhere in the present.

Yet how often does the dating crowd ask someone what sign are you? It becomes a commonality a way of communicating, to get the conversation going. That is what is happening with the religion as well. Traditions and untruth are used to bring the conversation around to something that they believe even more deeply. But in religion many of those beliefs cannot be documented as true or false because we lack the ability to ascertain the future or all the aspects of the past so they must remain as beliefs. But if truth is important in a religion why is it so often ignored?

It seems that the search for truth may be one of those statements which is used as a tradition rather then as a meaningful statement. Because a religion should really want to be about truth just as much as tradition if not leaning more toward truth. But because truth interferes with tradition and presuppositions it seems to often be a fictitious piece of propaganda, we have the truth, we search for the truth, but don't ask us to really pay attention to the truth.

The Adventist church is on the cusp of dealing with the issue of science and truth with the controversy at La Sierra University and subsequently all other Adventist educational institutions. Will truth win over traditions...we will see, social clubs don't need truth after all.

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