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Featured Are the Abrahamic Religions Inherently Authoritarian?

Discussion in 'General Religious Debates' started by Heyo, Jun 5, 2020.

  1. Heyo

    Heyo Well-Known Member

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    The first sin, according to the Bible, was disobedience. Jesus' "render to Caesar what is Caesar's" can be interpreted as submitting to authority. Paul's command that women should follow their husbands is definitely authoritarian. And, without knowing, I'm pretty sure that the Qur'an is also, at least in part, authoritarian.
    History also reflects that view. Most Islamic countries are monarchies, theocracies or failed or failing democracies. Christianity has been in bed with the powers that be for the most part of history and democracy has developed in the west in spite of Christianity more than because of it.
    But was that inevitable? In 1 Samuel 8 YHVH objects to the idea of monarchy (though only because he didn't want to share his authority, not because of some liberal values). Can liberalism and/or democracy be found in scripture or in the interpretations of famous religious leaders? Are all religions of the book really authoritarian?
     
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  2. Conscious thoughts

    Conscious thoughts Veteran Member

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    The biggest problem in my understanding is when religion was mixed with politics, that destroyed the very best in spiritual practice.
    Political people in history used religion as a tool to power over people. So my answer would be.

    No, religion is not autoritarian, but politics are.
    Spiritual practice are only for personal growth and enlightenment, and should not be used as a tool for greedy political agenda.
    Politics and religions do not belong together
     
    #2 Conscious thoughts, Jun 5, 2020
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  3. danieldemol

    danieldemol Well-Known Member
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    Elected governments can be found in more modern Abrahamic religions, but I suspect even they are a touch authoritarian with respect to submission to the religious authority in terms of thought.

    I guess it’s part of why I prefer liberalism to book based religion
     
  4. Vouthon

    Vouthon In varietate concordia
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    Consider how the above could be re-formulated by relying upon a different triad of scriptural citations:

    The natural condition of humankind - according to the Bible - was a state of primeval, voluntaristic freedom from subjugation: "God in the beginning created human beings and made them subject to their own free choice" (Sirach 15:14). Jesus's statement "The greatest among you will be your servant. All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and all who humble themselves will be exalted" (Mathew 23:11-12) can be interpreted as subversion of hierarchy and non-submission to arbitrary authority. Paul's command, "For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery" (Galatians 5:1) is strongly indicative of an anti-authoritarian ethic.

    If one paints with sufficiently wide brushstrokes, another can paint with similar broadstrokes to construe the evidence in a competing fashion.

    Rarely have I found that complex socio-cultural phenomenons - like world religions with thousands of years of acquired history and theology - can be accurately or fairly reduced to oversimplifications. The reality is usually much more nuanced, messy and inimical to any attempt at 'boxing' (i.e. into neat, consistent narratives I mean).

    In my honest estimation, there are both authoritarian and anti-authoritarian strains of thought in Abrahamic religions just as there are in many, or even most, belief systems (religious or secular). But there's nothing 'inherently' authoritarian (as in, inevitably resulting in authoritarian thinking).
     
    #4 Vouthon, Jun 5, 2020
    Last edited: Jun 5, 2020
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  5. sun rise

    sun rise "This is the Hour of God"
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    My answer is 'no'. Historically during the age of kings, there were certainly rulers who professed a religion of the time. And scriptures are products of their time which was an age of kings.

    The answer for Islam might be complex. Some believe that there needs to be a khalifat, a ruler, based on the earliest history of Islam. But there are those who believe that democracy and Islam are compatible. See Islam and democracy - Wikipedia

    And from the Hindu tradition, Rama and Krishna were kings and India has a rich tradition of rajas, kings.
     
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  6. Jayhawker Soule

    Jayhawker Soule <yawn> ignore </yawn>
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    No.
     
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  7. Evangelicalhumanist

    Evangelicalhumanist "Truth" isn't a thing...
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    One day, you and I are going to have to have a more in depth conversation about what you really mean by "spiritual practice," because right now, I don't understand what you mean at all.

    I would point you to quite a good book, and a very short one, too, called "The Little Book of Atheist Spirituality" by the French Philosopher Andre Comte-Sponville. I'll give you a hint, that the author sees "spirituality" as meaning "an ethical and moral framework and the interaction of humanity and the individual with his own existence."

    Think about that for a moment -- the simple act of finding the meaning of your own existence within the context of the rest of the world. What could possibly be more spiritual than that?

    I hope you will one day soon start a thread on just that one subject: What you, @Amanaki , mean when you talk about spirituality or spiritual practice.
     
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  8. Conscious thoughts

    Conscious thoughts Veteran Member

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    @Evangelicalhumanist thank you for your question to me in this thread :) i would be happy to explain my use of the "Spiritual practice" that you ask me to go in to a deeper explenation :) i will open a New OP where i explain:)
     
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  9. epronovost

    epronovost Well-Known Member

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    Considering that in Abrahamic religions, humans are supposed to be subserviant to the absolute authority of God which is without appeal, this is basically the very definition of authoritarianism.
     
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  10. ideogenous_mover

    ideogenous_mover Well-Known Member

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    I think that this might highlight something that is commonly misinterpreted about the original christian movement, my reading is that is was largely about radical dissent. This movement happened in the context of a fairly vicious empire, that would crucify hundreds of people at a time, or wipe out several million civilian gauls, for example. So in the spirit of that, isn't it likely that the empire would probably want the things you were to 'render unto god?' And so this follows through to the christian medium of pacifist martyrdom, and the body/spirit dualism of paul.

    Early christians did things like look forward to getting torn apart by lions, as a process in which they 'give their body' to terrestrial powers, thus letting their spirit supposedly to fly freely away from those earthly powers, and up to god. And this may also be what paul meant, when he said that one should follow what their governments say: in other words, they should render unto it their body. I believe that tacitus, when I read his complete works, referred to christianity as an emerging 'death cult:' composed of people who cared nothing for the body.

    Now there are authoritarian ideas that were given to Jesus, but I really think that they didn't form the rallying concepts in the original movement. When we read the new testament, maybe those things pop out at us since we have the benefit of trying to assemble the thing into a whole. I don't think that was the case early on really: the next time you read the new testament, read it as a tapestry of isolated social issues that each had separate gravity

    I was going to make some kind of thread on that, but haven't developed my ideas all that much. That's an interesting part to take note of

    Maybe not exactly, that kind of thing might reveal itself in glimpses. I think the original christian movement for example, seemed to want to give people radical allowances for how they relate to god on many fronts, but once it became a concrete tradition, perhaps it became more and more about new rules. I would keep rambling further, but I've exhausted myself now. It is a lot more complicated than I have time for at the moment
     
    #10 ideogenous_mover, Jun 5, 2020
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  11. ideogenous_mover

    ideogenous_mover Well-Known Member

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    Can I request maybe one or two sentences on why you think that?
     
  12. Aupmanyav

    Aupmanyav Be your own guru

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    "I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.
    You shall have no other gods before me.
    You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments."

    Says it all. Reeks of authority. Nothing left to discuss.
    The prophets / sons / messengers / manifestations / mahdis act the same way. 'My way is the high way'.
     
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  13. Hockeycowboy

    Hockeycowboy Well-Known Member
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    I guess the important thing is....how is authority administered? Is it loving, or harsh? Needlessly restrictive?

    Example: you’re walking along a path, but then it comes to a fence crossing it, restricting you from going on.

    You start to make a fuss, but then you see a pride of lions 30 feet on the other side.

    How would you think about the restriction then?
     
  14. Aupmanyav

    Aupmanyav Be your own guru

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    The example is nothing else but an apology for authority. :(

    "We do it for your own good." - Let me do what is good for me myself.
     
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  15. Jayhawker Soule

    Jayhawker Soule <yawn> ignore </yawn>
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    Congratulations. That is easily the most numbingly superficial takes on 1 Samuel 8 that I have ever encountered.

    According to your insightful understanding of the text, an all-powerful and authoritarian God hears that the people want a king and He can manage no more than: "Darn; OK." Period.

    Thanks for sharing.
     
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  16. Heyo

    Heyo Well-Known Member

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    It was less "Darn; OK." but more "Try it. You'll see what you get.". So, basically, Monarchy is a bad idea, but see for yourselves. A text that is anti Monarchy in a book of a religion that has supported monarchs through the centuries is interesting, to say the least.
     
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  17. The_Fisher_King

    The_Fisher_King Trying to bring myself ever closer to Allah
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    Depends what you mean by authoritarian. Insofar as Islam requires submission to Allah's Will, it might be deemed inherently authoritarian. But if by authoritarian we mean submission to the state or to other people, then Islam is not necessarily authoritarian. Indeed, as Muslims we are arguably to submit to Allah even if that sets us against all of society, the state, and other people. So it is possible to argue for a more liberal or even libertarian take on Islam. Muslims4Liberty is one group who try to do just that.

    Indeed, it is an important principle of the Qur'an that there is/should be no compulsion in religion and if we take religion to encompass both individual/private spirituality and wider societal/legal/political concerns, as Islam does, then this principle of 'no compulsion' could be applied to one's decisions and actions in both the narrower sense of religious choice/freedom and in the wider sense of how one should relate to society/the state.
     
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  18. epronovost

    epronovost Well-Known Member

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    @The_Fisher_King

    The challenge of trying to harmonize abrahamic religions with humanist and democratic values is that all their scriptures make an apology of slavery and misogyny amongst other things. One of those two things alone is enough to make a society authoritarian. Any harmonization would require to abandon completely certain parts of the scriptures or to be very "creative" when it comes to interpretation.
     
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  19. Aupmanyav

    Aupmanyav Be your own guru

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    What Samuel said in 1.8 (with God's approval), was certainly not edifying. He was trying to frighten the people. For what purpose? To retain the kingship with his sons? ;)
     
  20. The_Fisher_King

    The_Fisher_King Trying to bring myself ever closer to Allah
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    I believe Islam supported the progressive reform of the institution of slavery (recognising it as a fact of life at the time) with the goal of its ultimate abolishment. So both the Qur'an and the Holy Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) emphasised improving the conditions of slaves through humane and kind treatment of them and strongly encouraged setting them free.

    I don't believe that Islam is necessarily misogynistic. It all comes down to interpretation. The Wikipedia page on the subject of Women in Islam Women in Islam - Wikipedia gives a useful overview of the subject.

    It is my personal view that not everything in the Qur'an and sayings and traditions of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) is applicable at all times and in all places. I believe that some of it is universal and some of it was only applicable in that time and place, and that that is how it was meant to be.
     
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