Religion Can Be a Means For Control
When I decided to write this article, at first I hesitated as I knew that writing on the topic of religion could be controversial. My opinion that religion can be a means for control is a rather bold statement that potentially will upset others, however, I realised I should not mollify my statement to avoid backlash, as it would not be a true reflection of my feelings.
I was raised as a Catholic and my experience with religion as a child has lead me to believe that it can be a corrupt institution that endeavours to mould society under its rigid views.
Being a catholic was more of a label that my mother chose, to exhibit our family as good and proper. She was raised as Catholic by her parents and I think she chose to carry this on more to respect her family tradition. We went to church on rare occasions and specific holidays such as Easter and Christmas. However, what I witnessed on those rare occasions totally went against what I believe is right.
One of the most shocking and eye-opening experiences that I had with Catholicism, was in 2014 when gay marriage was legalised in the UK. We had decided to go to church on that Sunday that followed the bill being passed and the priest stood up and delivered a sermon addressing gay marriage. He stated that he thought the world was enveloping itself in sin and was declining due to the fact that we were accepting of such immoral acts. He rather blatantly expressed his disgust towards homosexuality to a large body of people.
I already knew that homosexuality was disagreed upon within many religions, however, I did not think that it was still an ideology that was held so strictly in the present age. Here was a man that was preaching to a wide and impressionable audience, telling them that being comfortable with your own sexuality was wrong.
I think this bold exhibition of hate and exclusion in a time when society had progressed so far, was the true decider for me that the Catholic religion was archaic, hateful and morally corrupt.
For me, some religions often use what could be positive ideas on life, such as forgiveness, kindness, and accountability for one's actions, yet they warp these ideas to exert power over society. It is not often the core beliefs of a religion that are corrupt, but the way that the institutions enforce those beliefs to ensure their authority.
Religion can be a great thing for some people, it gives them purpose, and guidelines to live by. However, people can often become indoctrinated by these strict guidelines and beliefs and lose their sense of agency.
People can become too focused on believing that the word of their God is the complete gospel, to make their own decisions on what they believe in. The way that most religions are structured, ensures that anything that is written in their sacred text must be wholeheartedly believed.
So because I believe in forgiveness and kindness, but I don't agree that homosexuality and premarital sex are sins, I am not a true Catholic.
What I believe, is that the labels of regions often confine people and that a better way of living would be to follow your own set of beliefs and mantras without the strict guidelines of a specific categorised religion.
For centuries, religion has controlled masses of people and has demanded order and structure within society. For example, because the Catholic religion does not believe in divorce, Henry VII could not end his marriage. It took him to construct his own church in order to have free will in his life.
Whilst religion does not govern countries so strictly as it used to, it is still prevalent enough in the world that it still has a vast amount of power and control.
Whilst religion is no longer the law in most countries, the level of devotion and blindless that people have due to religion ensures that they are still under control. Karl Marx said that ‘religion is the opiate of the masses.’ Religion can become like a drug, that ensnares people and alters their way of thinking and begins to have access to a person's autonomy, by deciding how they will live their life.
A prime example is the Westboro Baptist Church. In a Louis Theroux documentary titled The Most Hated Family in America, he explores this deviation of Christianity that have very strong views on homosexuality, race and the military.
Their prerogative is to spread their beliefs by drastic means, such as picketing and protesting at the funerals of soldiers and homosexuals, expressing their views that these individuals are sinners.
The interesting thing that this documentary showed, was that many of the children in this church were good and innocent people. Theroux asked some of these children who were instructed to hold signs that slated homosexuality, why they believe such things and the children could not answer. They had lost their autonomy under this religion, as they did not have the ability to express or think their own opinions, as the views of the church were conditioned into their minds as complete truth.
Another experience that I have had was a few years ago when my friend and I were on the bus late at night on our way home from a bar. A man was sat near to us and when he found out that my friend was a philosophy student he became very interested in talking to us. He told us that he was a Christian, which sparked up a discussion between us about our beliefs. My friend and I are not religious which gave us the ability to debate with him about some of the doctrines of Christianity.
He informed us that he truly believed that homosexuality is a sin, to which we asked him for the reason that he believed this. He reasoned that homosexuality was a sin because it meant that reproduction was not possible. We had learned from this man previously that he was sadly infertile, so I suggested that by his beliefs, that he was in fact a sinner because he could not reproduce. He was absolutely horrified at this idea, yet I reasoned that if homosexuality was a sin for the pure fact that it hindered reproduction, everyone who was not fertile should also be labelled as a sinner by his church.
This experience proved that his religion was a means to exert authority and mould people under its own set of beliefs. It used doctrines to enforce the idea that homosexuality was wrong, yet the reason for enforcing this idea was completely flawed. This man was not hateful, however, he was blinded by his own devotion to a set of rules and guidelines, which meant that he could not think outside of what he was taught.
In my belief, religion takes positive ideas on the way to live your life as a good person and shapes these ideas to fit the institution's authoritative beliefs. Through doctrines, religious institutions have control over masses of people who are so blindly devoted to their god, that they will follow instructions that they wouldn't intuitively believe are right.
In a way, religion has more control than governments, because the fear of being a sinner or going to hell, is much greater for some than the threat of a fine or incarceration. Religion can indoctrinate a body of people much easier by suggesting that their rules are the belief of an entity or God that people have spent their life devoted to. People do not have the same devotion to governmental leaders, so will not follow the beliefs of the government as blindly.
Whilst religion can be beneficial for some to have a purpose in life, I believe that following a set of beliefs so blindly and without question can be dangerous and ultimately deprives a person of their full autonomy.