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Copyright for the journal © 2005
M. S. Thirumalai
RELIGION AND SOCIETY
FAMILY UNIT AND RELIGION
Organized religion, in whatever form, has brought strength and solidarity to the family unit. While there may exist some forms of organized religion that do not, those religions most popular or widespread all maintain in their teachings the importance of family strength, structure, and unity.
Some teachings maintain this necessity in order to ensure a strengthened family unit after death, while others simply equate the issue to one of duty, honor, and respectability, all qualities generally associated with those of strong moral and spiritual character.
IMPORTANCE OF FAMILY ACROSS RELIGIONS
Perhaps most important is that this characteristic is not unique to any one type or form of religion. Jews, Christians, Muslims, and Buddhists all share this belief, though it may be expressed in many different ways. While it may be said that this characteristic is not unique to religions, but to cultures, it can be said that because of the moral rigidity inherent to many forms of organized religion, character traits, not necessarily instinctive, are passed down among generations as a by-product or sidebar of organized religion.
BREAKDOWN OF SPIRITUAL VALUES LEADING TO BREAKDOWN OF FAMILY
As an example one could note the ever-increasing rates of divorce, family violence, familial sexual crimes (or the increased awareness and discovery of), and the general breakdown of the family unit as more attention is diverted away from all things spiritual in our public and government institutions.
REASONS FOR MORAL ABSENTIA
While the removal of religion alone is not the sole and proprietary cause of moral absentia it is certainly a good place to begin the questioning. After all, once this sense of structure and extended family unit is taken or turned away from families they lose not only rigidity and structure, but the moral and ethical teachings that adhere to a commonality with which they can identify. As a result of learning how to live from someone who has determined that they are capable of doing better alone than with a collective, children determine themselves that perhaps they know better than what they were taught, allowing constant change and redevelopment of standards, and removing that structure that is so important in their lives, that structure that organized religion brings to families, individuals, nations, and worlds.
EXAMPLES AROUND US
Effects of this trend can be seen in modern times as those who band against organized religion begin to attack many of the deepest and most well-known traditions based only on the smallest hint of religious reference. Christmas has come under attack in the last several years, and the opposition grows stronger as they fight God with lawyers and money.
In states around the country this year parents, schools, and politicians danced and jigged in order to avoid offending anyone by removing any references to Christmas during the holiday season, prompting many to ask what holiday, then, is everyone celebrating. Perhaps most ludicrous are those opposed to the Christmas Tree.
At an elementary school in Bellevue, Wash., some of the children were attempting to hold a pre-Christmas charity drive when complaints of one parent put an end to the event. The children were decorating a "giving tree" with colored mittens on which were written ages and either "boy" or "girl", each indicating a prospective gift recipient. The parent in question felt the tree was "too Christian" and the school was forced to make drastic changes (Norvell, 2005). For whatever reason, no one bothered to explain to this parent that the tree associated with Christmas is not a Christian symbol at all, but a pagan symbol meshed with Christianity hundreds of years ago in an attempt to appease the masses.
ARBITRARY CHOICE OF CORRECTNESS
While issues such as this may seem trivial to many, the breakdown of simplistic notions such as these can cause worry for children, not to mention the message sent by these parents, the message that says it's okay to exclude something I don't believe in but it's not okay to include something someone else believes in. This insecurity and selfishness is surely present in other areas of their lives, and will be passed along through the generations.
THE ILL-EFFECTS OF ORGANIZED RELIGION
While organized religion can serve to strengthen and structure family, it can just as easily divide and dissolve this most sacred of institutions through the misuse of power certain religious leaders obtain. Man has always been seen as a seeker, of knowledge, power, wealth, and higher planes of spirituality. As a result of this constant search people often accept concepts that to the majority are obvious ploys meant only to better the leader at the expense of his followers. Often times the followers end up dead by their own hand or as a result of the actions of their leaders.
CULTIC TRENDS AND CLAIMS OF ONENESS OF FAMILY
David Koresh, and his group of Branch Davidians, in Waco, TX., serves as a somber reminder of just how dangerous groups such as these can be. David Koresh promised hope and prosperity to those willing to follow him. He mixed with traditional Christianity his own form of narcissism in order to form what some called a "Christian" cult.
While Koresh publicly spoke of the importance of "his" family, their unity and safety, he was really only concerned with his own human desires for power and pleasure. Though his group was small, on a world-wide scale, the effects he had were devastating. In the end, men, women, and children died from fire and smoke inhalation, rather than walk away from him and all that he taught. Families were destroyed, lives were lost, and the town of Waco, TX. will never be the same (pbs.org, 2005).
Norvell, S. (2005). When a Tree is More than a Tree, Religion as a Weapon.
Sunday, December 11, 2005. Retrieved December 26, 2005, www.foxnews.com.
Retrieved December 29, 2005, www.pbs.org.
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