Monday, December 10, 2007

Religion as an agent of the Powerful

This week's theme is "Religion as an agent of the powerful." What we're trying to look at this week is how those in power use religion to maintain the status quo, or their position within society or government. Religion has been used many times throughout history to maintain the status quo. The question, though, is why religion is so easily adapted to make this happen?

As we saw with Hinduism today, when religion sets in motion a series of "truths," believers are very unlikely to challenge those truths, as doing so might endanger their everlasting existence. As times change and new people are swept into positions of power, they begin to exert their own interpretative influence into the "truths" of the religion, and the concept of reality shifts ever-so-slightly. These ever-so-slight shifts, however, occurring almost constantly over hundreds of years, may completely change the nature of the "truth." Hence, as we saw today, the caste system that began in 1500 BC in India, focused on a division of labor, shifts incredibly (based on who was trying to maintain their power in India over centuries) to the point where it is used to justify the elevation of lighter-skinned Indians solely on the basis of the color of their skin. Taken as two snapshots, one might be amazed that the caste system of the early 20th century had anything to do with the one created in 1500 BC. But tiny changes over two thousand years, taken together, make a world of difference.


Maddie M. said...

This is the topic that I find to be one of the most interesting we've talked about all year. I think it is really true and has shown that to be the case multiple different times. I think that people in power use religion to perhaps, make people do what they want. For instance, let's just say a person in power really wants everyone to pay them on a monthly basis...they could say, "Everyone must pay me for if you don't, you are disobeying God and will not go to Heaven." Obviously, that was not the best example yet it's showing sort of what they did do. By using religion, something that many people are completely convinced of, to your advantage is a real smart thing to do. But, a good thing to do? Well, that's another conversation. I think this is one of the most interesting topics because it is just so odd to see how much people in power can bend the truth by taking advantage of someone's devotion to God.

urbanyouth704 said...

People in power use religion to get what they want when they want and its easy for them to do this because religion unites people under one believe so what ever one person does the rest our going to do. I know I use this example a lot but Pope Urban was in power of christianity during the time of the crusades and he used christianity in order to convince the rest of the christian faithful that God willed the war between the muslims and christians to fight for the holy land. Because the Pope was so powerful, the christians went to war with the muslims, and Pope Urban got what he wanted because he was bale to use religion to his advantage. Another example is how the church makes its money. The people that go to church have to give money to the church because the priest says its the right thing to do and people do it because he preaches the words of god which all christians are united under.

Alex Rachlin said...

This is a very important concept because of the many ways it can be used. Any person in power could use this to their advantage. For instance, Pope Urban II told his fellow Christians that they had to risk all they had to fight the Muslims in an attempt to convert a large portion of them to Christianity (and so on what Ian said, thanks urbanyouth704). With religion on your side, you can convince anybody to do just about anything if they believe they are holy enough. If you think about it though, the main reason people can be so religious is because they are doing what is best for themselves, for instance reserving their spot in heaven. Using Maddie's example, a king or some other ruler could have everyone pay a monthly tax, otherwise he would tell them they would be disobeying God. This would obviously scare the people and so on and so forth. Then if other dangers came, such as non-believers telling everyone that religion was a joke, they would simply be kicked out of the kingdom or something like that I'm sure. The main point to get here is that religion as an agent of the powerfulcan be used for good, as a sense of truth and honesty devoting a large portion of life to God, and evil, those in power abusing it for their own use and for their own gain.