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Nothing New Under The Sun
(the ARX acta diurna)
bellatrys
bellatrys
The biggest problem imo with organized religion
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nancylebov From: nancylebov Date: December 7th, 2009 09:56 am (UTC) (Link)
I'm not sure whether this is special pleading, but I think the idea that suffering is pleasing to God is an especially strong theme in Catholicism.

It wasn't there in the corpse-like Conservative Judaism I grew up with, and my impression is that Orthodox Judaism is more about navigating a complex system of rules which includes some costs, but making yourself miserable isn't central. It's frequently legitimate to interpret the rules in ways which lower the costs, like setting up a region in a city in which it's allowed to carry things on the Sabbath.

Unitarianism is something like an organized religion, but I'm pretty sure it's explicitly not pro-suffering.

One place where I do see the sacrifice thing in full force is attitudes towards the military. As far as I can tell, we're supposed to believe that the more Americans get killed or crippled, the more we're supposed to respect it.

And there's something fishy in the idea of "serving"-- why is the same word used for what a soldier does and what a congress member does?

As for getting away from the idea that it's necessary and possible to erase one's bad actions, I think part of it is limiting punishment and not treating bad actions as permanent stains on people's souls. People will do a lot to get away from the idea that they're just plain bad. (On the other hand, I seem to be in the middle of a wild fit of self-punishment by procrastination, and I'm trying to figure out whether this theory has anything useful for me.)

I suggest an empirical approach-- who are the people you know who are least prone to using pain to buy off the universe? What do they remember about how they were raised? How are they raising their children (if any)?

bellatrys From: bellatrys Date: December 7th, 2009 12:10 pm (UTC) (Link)

No, I don't think it's special pleading at all

One of the most *interesting* in every sense of the word, including as in "-times", aspects of Christianity (or, possibly more accurately, The Christianities) is how Jewish tradition was, and continues to be, appropriated without any regard for either how Jewish theologians and faithful understood it in the past, *or* how doctrine and practice have continued to develop into the present. There's been a bit of an attempt lately, but it's not anywhere near as widespread as its opposites. So you get on the one hand, Christian conservatives of various denominations going on and on about how XYZ is mandatory because of Leviticus whilst ignoring ABC which are *far* more important in the Talmud, or in other commentaries, or in the local synagogue
and on the other hand atheist liberals going on about how horrible this "Old Testament Christianity" is and talking right over progressive Jews who keep pointing out that, you know, that stuff about feeding the hungry and protecting the widow and orphan from injustice and so on, where do you think it came from in the first place? So yeah.

(Unitarianism was very much a rebellion against the organized religion of the day, and continues so, to the point that most Christians I know and a lot of agnostics refuse to accept it as even being a religion, since there's no fixed dogma or rites or anything. Same with the Quakers, though mostly they get ignored where UUs arouse ire.)

OTOH, in terms of practical living, I'm not sure that guilt and a value on suffering are any less common in Jewish families than in Catholic ones - I hear way too much that sounds familiar in terms of familial guilting and hair-tearing, crazy-making stuff about self-denial that I suspect it's just part of the broader, religion-transcending cultural background. It may just be easier to get away with/harder to get away from, when you can explicitly justify it with a dogma? I've had RL conversations with ex-Baptists about how similar, under the surface differences, the spirituality we were raised with is.

And people feeling like they deserve to be punished and doing (or not doing) things to themselves, *is* a very common thing according to the psyche books I've read over the years. "I don't deserve better" is often going on there. But procrastination can also be about not wanting to admit that you really DON'T WANT to do something, even though you *know* you're "supposed" to want it. Or there can be some really bad association with the process, too. Sorting out which it is isn't easy since we can't just run another lab experiment on ourselves.

People will do a lot to get away from the idea that they're just plain bad

We'll also do a lot to get away from the idea that we're seriously or even terminally ill - "this cough doesn't mean anything" levels of denial among smokers of my acquaintance - or that no, this level of disability is *not* going to get better, this is just something one has to live with and work with from now on. But it's still counterproductive on all counts.

I suggest an empirical approach-- who are the people you know who are least prone to using pain to buy off the universe? What do they remember about how they were raised? How are they raising their children (if any)?

Well, the problem is that it's not something that comes up in casual conversation, usually, except when someone remarks about "offering it up" or "getting time off from Purgatory" which gives it away. Most of the time, you have no idea if that apparently-well-adjusted family is actually given to morbid Transactional spirituality or not. This is where writing is more likely to give insights into ourselves, because it's more likely to be mindful, and also freed of the awkwardness of face-to-face conversation with people you don't know that well or intimately.



Edited at 2009-12-07 12:19 pm (UTC)
From: violaswamp Date: December 7th, 2009 04:45 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'm not sure whether this is special pleading, but I think the idea that suffering is pleasing to God is an especially strong theme in Catholicism.

I agree. There is a strong ascetic tradition in Hinduism, but it's not mandatory or even recommended for most people. And it's not the suffering that is valued--it's the self-discipline.
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