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Values and Religion May 1, 2009

Posted by dmb677 in Uncategorized.
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Perhaps my last post implied that religion is needed for values to flourish. I need to clarify this point because I think that the reverse is more likely true – religions flourish because people have values. 

And in fact, often times it is the atheists and non-religion people among us that have the most well thought out value system. This is probably because they were forced to think long and hard about each of their values, instead of just inheriting a value system from their religious tradition.

However what I do believe is that as religion’s role as a cultural force erodes from our lives it won’t vanish and the hole it once occupied just be left gapingly wide open. Instead new ideas and new cultural forces will ruch to fill in the void. People will find new centers of focus, new values, and new meaning. What I fear tends to fill this “spiritual vacuum” is the greedy consumeristic attitude that is only growing stronger. We see this all around us, people defining themselves by their cars, their clothes, their homes, anything that can be bought and sold. Walmart, Ikea, even the latest craze for organic food is fueled in part by people choosing to define themselves by what they purchase. Values become commodities defined only by market forces. Now of course there will always be the more thoughtful among us that will reject this shallow culture, and forge their own path in search of meaning. But what religion could provide is a culture where those that choose not to concede themselves to a shallow life of searching for bargains at the local strip mall won’t be regarded at as strange hermits leaving on the fringes of society, but instead their drive and passion for life could viewed as something noble – a quality worthy of emulation. 

The irony in all of this is that even the modern religious right have completely bought into this consumeristic life style. They teach it from the pulpet, greed is good, greed is American. They drive big SUVs and are proud of how much oil and energy they consume, and if anyone challenges them on this they are quickly dismissed as socialists. What this underscores is how easily religion can be hijacked. That is why this new religious movement must never become afraid of constant questioning. Instead of a meek congregation, the new congregation would never stop probing, constantly suspicious, and forever vigiliant.

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