When it comes to “physical” laws—for example, stopping at a red light—it’s usually pretty easy to convince people to obey (however frustrating it might be) because of the immediacy and obviousness of the consequences of not doing so: an accident that could wreck our car and cause physical if not fatal harm.
But put religious laws on the table and the conversation goes haywire. Even those who believe in God and understand how a Creator cannot abandon its creation and sends Teachers to educate it tend to have a tough time accepting religious laws. The more obscure the commandment, the harder it is to accept.
Obedience to religious law is even more difficult in a society that deifies the pursuit of scientific knowledge and glorifies the self.
In its most extreme version, the former implies that only knowledge of things that are tangible and can bring us immediate results is worth pursuing. In this light, obeying religious laws we do not understand makes no sense, and results for example in people choosing to follow only religious laws they understand. But… What if we only followed the laws of the road that we understand?
As for the latter, it is quite simply incompatible with the essence of religion, which calls for the abandonment of the self. However, it is much easier to pursue than selflessness, especially when everything around us encourages it. For example, in the case of a law common to many religions, it is much easier to follow the dictates of our hungry selves than to fast, especially when there is so much food available everywhere at all times, food scientifically engineered to hit all the right buttons and make us crave for more.
On the one hand, the independent investigation of the truth is a vital component of a healthy and fruitful life. On the other hand, religion comes with a set of rules the inexplicable nature of which tests its followers. How do we balance out these two realities? And how do we make sure that the thick veils imposed by history and present-day cultural currents about the supposed evil of religion do not blind us?
Image courtesy of Chad Mauger.
First published on Sahar’s Blog on 30 June 2015.
2 thoughts on “From Obvious to Obscure: Obeying (or not) Physical and Religious Law”
“On the one hand, the independent investigation of the truth is a vital component of a healthy and fruitful life. On the other hand, religion comes with a set of rules the inexplicable nature of which tests its followers. How do we balance out these two realities?”
When I was a believer, I could not understand how Christians and Muslims and Buddhists, etc, disagreed about the truth of the Baha’i faith. It was investigating the “reality” of it for a conference that led me to the realisation that the purported truth of the Baha’i faith is not as black-and-white as I used to believe.
Which is why one cannot get followers of other religions to believe in the truth of one’s own arbitrary religious laws. You need at least one knock-down ethical argument to go along with the religious laws for the non-Baha’i’s.
Before, for example, you start denying people naturally attracted to the same sex the right to a legal marriage.
Sorry, someone pointed out to me your blog is targeting religious followers, not the greater community. Feel free to delete my comment.