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I have an almost completely cynical view of religion, which I don't apologise for. Looking at it from the outside too often the real purpose seems to be to make it possible for irrelevant nobodies to become loud self-important somebodies. Dogma and creed are largely irrelevant - persistent social dynamics are the giveaway.

Religion is strewn with gurus, high priests and priestesses, so-called leaders and so-called authorities whose only real talents are egotism, authoritarianism, exploitation and hucksterism.

It's not unlike politics from that point of view. As I'm sure I've said before, I find it bizarre that most jobs are rationed on the basis of ability, but the handful that offer real leadership power are rationed on the basis of popularity, superficial meanspirited charm, and demagoguery.

Sadly, this is only true because people remain desperate to buy what the hucksters are selling. So it goes. But it remains true that anyone who lacks scruples and has an unrealistically high opinion of themselves can do exceptionally well selling religion, and will reliably accumulate political, social and financial capital if their sales talents are good enough.

Which isn't to say that some religious types aren't modest and truly moral. There is a Christian Left which includes people whose views I'd guess would fit in comfortably here, and which has had a positive effect, especially in South America.

But many secular types are also modest and truly moral. And the Christian Left isn't exactly in the Catholic mainstream - Darth Pope notoriously doesn't approve. Elsewhere the links between authoritarianism, violence, and religious extremism are so established and so hard to ignore that the Christian Left remains a rare approachable exception rather than a golden rule.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Sat May 30th, 2009 at 06:11:45 PM EST
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