- Published on Thursday, 24 May 2012 07:04
- Written by John Draper
- Hits: 1260
This seems like an oxymoron - a self-conflicting statement. Democracy essentially means decided by the people, either by consensus or majority vote. Religion means a collection of dogmas or mandated beliefs - definitely not democratic. But just look at all the theologians, preachers, ministers, priests and imams who have different interpretations of what the bible or Qur'an means. Further, individual members of religions pick and choose exactly what parts of their religion they believe. And then, many religions have conventions where they get together and decide what to believe or teach. Catholics appear to be an exception to this - they have a single man at the top who can definitively decide - even infallibly if he so chooses. But even they have the Vatican councils where bishops get together to choose what's correct - for them. Catholics may then have to unbelieve their previous thinking and believe what they are now told.
If you look at religions over the centuries, they do change their teaching. Witches are no longer possessed by the devil, they just have a different religion. Divorces are allowed by most religions and even gay marriages are allowed by some. Galileo is no longer a heretic. If you are prepared to change religion, countless new things are allowed that were once previously sinful - and vice versa. So if religions teach dogmas from God, did God change his mind? No, it's just that people re-interpret his teachings. So how do people decide that their previous interpretation was wrong? They go by consensus of theologians! They are being democratic.
If you look at how society works - democracy is a natural, normal thing for societies. The family has authority in the parents - children are still learning so that's needed. But amongst adults, societies and laws only work if the majority agree with them. It's impossible to enforce a law that most disagree with - although dictators can succeed for up to a generation or two. But eventually, laws, manners and morality are decided by consensus - that is, they are decided by democratic methods. So it's to be expected that religions would work the same way.
So as the idea of democracy gets to be absorbed - as it has been in western societies - people want to apply it to their religion just like they do in other community activities. They will change religion until they find one they mostly agree with or they will give up on it entirely. Dogmatic religions will excommunicate any members who openly express that they do not believe every single doctrine so most adherents of such religions (e.g. Catholics) simply don't say out loud that they don't believe something - like not using birth control. They especially avoid saying this to a bishop or newspaper.
Every now and then, groups of people get the courage to speak up. The good news is that they no longer get burned at the stake for heresy. The bad news is that most Churches do not think of themselves as democracies so do not take kindly to changes in doctrine/dogma. So the dissidents end up in sects or cults or start their own. There are always people who are good leaders and always many more who are gullible and will swallow the revised dogma. There's always room for another religion (or sect or cult). Meanwhile, the existing ones choose what to believe using democracy.