8 - Religious order

Religion seems concerned with three categories of order:
  • Cosmological - explaining how we got here, where we are going.
  • Pedagogical - instructing us in proper behavior (morality)
  • Political - regulating the business of the church
In a religious context, the final (or first) authority always comes from the top - from God. The question is how does God make His will known - from within or without?

To the unaffiliated mystic, the experience of God (or Higher Power - whatever) is completely personal, completely subjective. God reveals his rules, wisdom, insights, love, etc. from within. The experience of God is not subject to external interpretation.

To the scientist who believes in an impersonal, objective God, the experience of God is impersonal and objective. God’s rules are the laws of nature.

To those who belong to religious groups, some level of authority always resides outside, in the group.

At the minimum, a religious group has a teaching. It might be a sacred text or myth. The sacred teaching is usually said to be God’s Word as related by somebody inspired by (or in conversation with) God. Depending on the religion, the text might be taken literally or symbolically.

Teachings are usually interpreted by teachers - e.g., priests, preachers, rabbis, ministers, shamans, mullahs, gurus, etc. Some teachers are conduits for God’s word - Catholic priests for example. Some teachers are facilitators for subjective religious experience - shamans, Zen masters and evangelical protestant preachers who lead their followers to the salvation experience. (Quakers and others believe in silence.)

The Protestant Reformation was a conflict about whether the power to interpret God’s will comes from within or without.

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