Religion is manipulative


Religion is manipulation of human beings. 

If I wanted to exert influence over my kids to make them behave in the way that I want them to behave (even when I’m not there), what would I do?  I would probably invent a series of rules, set up a surveillance system, and tell them that severe punishments would await rule breakers.  Or if I were more kindly, I would suggest that unimaginable rewards would await the well behaved.  That is exactly what religion does.

I believe that initially, the image of an all-seeing god with accompanying heaven and hell were invented by tyranical leaders to keep their subjects in line.  Many tyrants used torture and death.  Others used religious belief.  Over the centuries, however, for obvious reasons, the notion of god has evolved into a more palatable form.  Some of this transition is noted in the differences in god’s personality from the Old Testament to the New Testament.  God has softened and in the process become much more popular.

In the LDS tradition, there is much more to help keep people in line.  One such idea is the notion of eternal families.  This is a very happy idea to most LDS people and an incredible blessing.  But it also serves to create unbelievable pressure on family members to keep other family members in line.  Much has been said about the “downstream” good that comes from one person joining the church and bringing all of his or her progeny into the church thereafter.  The converse is just as powerful.  People who drop out of the church will essentially curse their children and their children’s children for generations unless someone else can step in to save the family.

Furthermore, in order to reach the highest levels of the celestial kingdom, a person must be married in the temple and arrive with their spouse.  The great blessing of “eternal lives” is not given to individuals but only to couples.  This creates pressure for each person to make sure that their spouse is also on the right track, because their own salvation depends on it.  This makes for an elaborate series of checks and balances.

The temple ceremony also places people under covenant to obey certain rules, the first of which is an agreement to consecrate all of one’s time, talent, and possessions to the Church.  These promises are taken very seriously because “God will not be mocked.”  Unfortunately, I never knew what the promises were until I was in the endowment ceremony, surrounded by family, and involved in a ritual I had never seen before.  There is an opportunity for any dissenters to reject the covenant by raising their hand in the middle of the ceremony to be escorted out.  In many years as a temple worker, I never saw anyone take that option.  There is just too much pressure.

This indoctrination starts early in the church with a vigorous primary curriculum.  The children are taught “principles of righteousness” from a young age.  Most of these concepts are good ones dealing with honesty, kindness, service, and love.  They are also taught that “Jesus loves the little ones.”  This nurturing image of Jesus is part of what makes these children really want to please Him as well...because He loved them first.  This devotion to a figure that they have never seen (nor will they) serves the Church well as children grow.  This sense of love and nurture is augmented by a constantly presented notion of blind compliance.  Children sing “Do as I’m doing, follow follow me”, “Give said the little stream, give o’ give, give o’ give”, “Jesus wants me for a Sunbeam, to shine for him each day, in every way try to please him, at home, at school, at play.”  Children are taught early on about the principles of the church in such a way that leaving the church later in life can be very difficult (I can attest to that).

Does this prove or disprove the existence of God?  Certainly not.  But it does speak to the longevity of the LDS church in light of the fact that its origin is so unbelievable.  There is a concept of religions as organisms and only the most fit survive (click here for more on this).  The LDS tradition has survived because, among other reasons,  it demands an “all or nothing” commitment from its members.  Many churches seek to invite the believer to Christ and nurture his or her belief.  The LDS church makes not apologies for the claim that it is the only true church on the face of the earth.  Then once the believer is in, the Church demands no less than a total commitment of time, talent, money, effort, and whole hearted belief.  Joseph Smith said, “... a religion that does not require the sacrifice of all things never has power sufficient to produce the faith necessary unto life and salvation”; (Joseph Smith, Lectures on Faith, Lecture 6).  In the LDS culture, total commitment is the rule. Defection is almost impossible once that commitment is made.

Conclusion:  Religion (and the LDS church) maintains control over believers by carefully and powerfully manipulating our most powerful and sincere emotions.  Those emotions are love of family and desire to belong.   In many respects, this is genius on the part of religion because it is very effective at holding members in line.  I do not pretend to claim that this is an argument for or against the existence of god.  But members of the LDS church like to believe that the fact the church has grown consistently from it’s inception is proof that it is of divine origin.  It may be that the reason it has held on so long is less than divine.

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