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How Can Religion be Used Best to Incite Social Change?

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The Shrub Dragon:
I don't think it's in any way a secret that social change needs to happen.  The reason I've put a religious spin on this is because of a TED talk from Kwame Anthony Appiah called Is Religion Good or Bad? (This is a Trick Question).  Appiah claims that 'no important form of social change can be brought about except through organised religion'.  So, what do you think?  How would you use religion to incite social change?

Before I start, I am aware that this is a divisive topic.  I may insert my own opinions and research into the mix later on, but there are a few things I'd like to request first.  I don't care if your argument reads more like an assertion than an argument, but I'd appreciate it if it was something people could reasonably pick into.  If you think 'religion poisons everything' (Christopher Hitchens), you need to explain why.  Christopher Hitchens wrote a book on it - you can write a paragraph.  The same goes for religious people.

This could be a really, really interesting debate but only if we don't dismiss people's views right off the bat.  If someone seems to have a controversial view (that isn't obviously provocative), probe it!  Find out more!  Then argue it a bit more! 

I'll start us off. First, I am a religious person. Saying that now so that I can also say that his claim is garbage in my opinion. His claim is false because many other important social changes occur without the help of religion. Take LGBT marriage in America for example: Religion didn't just come out and say "Yeah it's cool", the white house legalized it. Even if it's still seen as something a little odd and not excepted by everyone, it's part of culture. I don't see religion telling people it's ok to be gay (sorry if that's a little crude).

The Hooded Trainer:
Hmm, thats a difficult one, because most religions these days have a tendency to get stuck in old, traditional ways, rather than  inciting any kind of change. But im not one of these "religions poison all" people, i think like everything else, organised religion is a tool that can be and has been used for both good and bad. The problem is that people seem to focus more on the specifics of it all, rather than the bigger picture, which is where the idea of change gets murky.

Take christianity, for example, because its what i was raised with and i dont know enough about any other religions to be able to properly comment on them. People are so bogged down with things like, does the bible allow for gay marriage, or abortions, or divorces, or yadayadayada. Instead, imho, the most important thing to take away from the bible (and, im sure, many other religious texts) is the messages of love, kindness and respect towards your neighbours. And its those teachings that can bring real social change, because religious or not, we can all agree that those are good messages to hold.

The way i see it, the problem with our society is that the rich get richer, the poor get poorer, and nothings happening to change that. So we need to teach that this idea of success and richness isnt the most important thing, and that being a good and decent person is what really matters. I dont know if religion is specifically the way to do this, mostly they try and enforce this whole thing with the idea of an afterlife, but thats not going to work for everybody, and less and less people are actually willing to believe in a god or a higher power (not all that surprising, really, looking at the world). But then, many religious figures, like Jesus for the most obvious example, actually provide very good teachings. Personally, i think christianity needs to focus more on those teachings, rather than the whole "son of god, performed miracles, came back from the dead" deal, because thats what turns non-religious people away from his actual message.

Anyway, wow, that ended up as one long ass ramble, and im not even sure if any of it made sense, but oh well. Dont even know where half of that came from lol. Whatever though, feel free to tear it apart and point out why everything i said was total nonsense if you like.

Sniped, so I just want to say I largely agree with SirBlaziken too. Social change can totally come without the help of religion. Religion is just one of many factors that can help move society forward, as long as its utilised correctly.

The Shrub Dragon:
This is a short response because it's very late, but I want to get this argument in.  Heads up I'm on mobile and not able to quote.

Blaze, you mention LGBT issues as having passed through the White House - which is true.  However, something else that's true is that the Mormon Church were some of the biggest fundraisers in the campaign against gay marriage.  It's been speculated that without the influence of the Mormon Church, Prop 8 would have had a vastly different outcome.  I also think you're being too quick to judge the government as secular.  As recently as 1987, George Bush is quoted as saying he did not believe Atheists could be American citizens or patriots.  Regardless of what's down officially, a separation between church and state has not been achieved.  For a bit more on how the church can impact politics, see section 28 and the UKIP claim that "gay marriage will lead to a lesbian queen"

I also feel that this is an appropriate time to make a distinction between marriage in different religions and marriage in a secular context.  Christian marriage will always have a religious element to it because in Christianity, marriage is a sacrament meant to strengthen the couple's relationship with God.  I don't know enough about other religions to comment on them.

More points to be put in a better order and explained more clearly when I have my notes in front of me tomorrow.  Might get more into unpicking the particulars rather than just presenting information.  Will also be able to edit in the proper Bush quote.


--- Quote from: The Shrub Dragon on October 18, 2017, 17:02 ---Appiah claims that 'no important form of social change can be brought about except through organised religion'.

--- End quote ---

This was the part that I was saying is a load of crap. Of course religion is going to be involved and many situations of social change, but there are other avenues besides for religion to bring about change.


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