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Registered User
(3/18/06 8:08 pm)
review of useful book
The following is a review of a useful book, When Religion Become Evil. Of the five warning signs, SRF only gets a checkmark for the first two, so altogether, not really evil (but sometimes maybe a little creepy, especially in the blind obedience department). We can be grateful that devotees have not continued to the third, fourth and fifth steps. Here's the review:

When Religion Becomes Evil

By Charles Kimball
HarperSanFrancisco, 2002, 237pp., $21.95

Review by G. Richard Wheatcroft
For Nevertheless, A Texas Church Review

The author states that "religion is arguably the most powerful and pervasive force in human society" and that religions, although they differ from each other, "converge in teaching both a orientation to God or the transcendent and compassionate, constructive relationships with others in this world." However, religion can also become evil, by being used to motivate and justify harmful, destructive, violent human behavior. And not one of the major religions of the world can escape the charge that it has been and is being used in evil patterns of action.

Focusing on Judaism, Christianity and Islam, this book is devoted to a presentation of five warning signs which point to the misuse of religion and suggests how people can remain faithful to the "authentic sources" of their religion and be a "force for positive change." The author is well qualified for the task. He is professor of religion and chair of the department of religion at Wake Forest University. He is an ordained Baptist minister. Specializing in Islamic studies, he is the author of three books about religion in the Middle East. He has served as director of interfaith programs for the Fellowship of Reconciliation and as director for the Middle East office at the National Council of Churches.

The first sign to look for is "absolute truth claims." Kimball writes, 'When zealous and devout adherents elevate teachings and beliefs of their tradition to the level of absolute truth, they open a door to the possibility that their religion will become evil." This sign can be seen clearly in what he calls the "abuse of sacred texts." Texts are abused when they are read selectively and interpreted by authority figures as literal, and therefore, absolute truths. The first sign can also be seen in religions, which are missionary sharing their "good news," which can be pursued in constructive and non-coercive ways. But when missionary activity is driven by "absolute truth claims" it will become destructive and even violent to the people who are targeted for conversion.

The second sign is "blind obedience." Kimball says blind obedience can take three forms. One can be involved in a religion that "seeks to limit the intellectual freedom and individual freedom of its adherents." One can also "abdicate personal responsibility and
yield to the authority of a charismatic leader." And one can "become enslaved to particular ideas or teachings." When one or more of these forms of "blind obedience" occur religion becomes evil.

The third sign is "establishing the 'ideal' time." Every religion is founded on the presupposition that the something is wrong with the human condition and that a future 'ideal time' is possible when what is wrong will be made right. The vision of an ideal time, this worldly or other- worldly is normal and good. Such a vision can be a challenge and motivation for people to strive for the establishment of a this-worldly ideal time or be faithful while waiting for an other-worldly hope. However, establishing the ideal time can become a source of evil. Kimball writes, "When the hoped-for ideal is tied a particular religious worldview and those who wish to implement their vision becomes convinced that they know what God wants for them and everybody else, you have a prescription for disaster."

A fourth sign is "the end justifies any means." This occurs when one important component of a religion, for example the Bible, "functions like an absolute truth, and zealous believers become blind in their single-minded defense of it." In defense of the one component, which is the end, any means can be used and justified and all other components ignored. When this happens in any religion it becomes evil.

The fifth sign is "declaring holy war." Kimball explores three approaches toward war and peace found in the Christian tradition: pacifism, the just war doctrine, and the Crusades. He also explores the approach of Islam to peace and war and the meanings of Jihad. And he acknowledges that there are legitimate bases for the use of military force. It is when war is justified by a religion and called "holy" that a religion becomes evil.

Finally, after showing how religions can become evil, Kimball offers a framework for a "clear understanding of how religion can remain true to its authentic sources and be a force for positive change." He believes that it is possible, for example, for one to embrace religious pluralism, and still be loyal the Christian tradition, by choosing a inclusivist position which "affirms both the saving presence and activity of God in all religious traditions and the full, definitive revelation of God in Jesus Christ." His conclusion and challenge is that "an inclusive faith rooted in tradition" is the only way to go into the future and actively avoid the five corruptions of religion.

This book is a reliable guide to help distinguish between religion which "remains true to its authentic sources" and religion that has been corrupted and become a source of evil.

Registered User
(3/19/06 5:33 pm)
Re: review of useful book
I cannot understand WHY this book would be of value. The author is a Baptist minister. The review appears in a church magazine. You don't get any alarms here, PD? Plus, didn't Franklin Graham call, Islam an "evil" religion?

Anyway, in sychronicity, I checked in to put up a quote from a book I'm reading, and here you are. We're on the same wave length.

The book is The Battle for God by Karen Armstrong, a history of fundamentalism which the author demonstrates is a response modernity. Good read so far at 3 chapters in. Here's the quote:

"Without cult, any notion of religion and the divine would become tenuous, unnecessay, and untenable." SRF is a cult. More than likely it will not change. Better that we should try and understand; Nothing really happened to that sweet church we all knew. Something happened to us.

Registered User
(3/19/06 7:06 pm)
Re: review of useful book
Well, I would have heard those warning bells if he'd been saying that Christianity is an exception to the rules, or something like that. As it was, it seemed like he was pretty cool, laying out the 5 steps that apply to all religions that turn evil.
Sorry for being behind on the news. Who's Franklin Graham? Some relative of Billy?
SRF may not change, but personally, I think that it is our duty to try to change it for the better. OK, so this is going to sound weird, but I really do think that this is what the Guru wants us to do. "Save my church". If we can even start some sort of dialogue with the membership to discuss issues that have been raised here on the Walrus, we will have done some good. Some of those issues would be: SRF's anti-gay policies, Master's praise of Hitler, the mutilation of historic pictures of Yogananda to exclude members who left SRF (like Dhirananda, for example), the inexcusably low wages and lack of respect for employees, the pandering to the rich, the lack of financial accountability, the claims of infallibility by the old ladies, the mere fact that a bunch of old ladies run the Church...gosh, there are a bunch of issues, aren't there?

Registered User
(3/25/06 10:46 am)
Re: review of useful book
Still, I'm reserved about any Christians sucking me in with an "all inclusive" stance until it's time to close the deal when you better make your decision for JC or get a one way ticket to hell. That being said, one of the best books on the Sant Mat, The Path of the Masters, was written by a Baptist missionary to India, a Mr Johnson, I think.

F Graham is Billy's son.

"Save My Church," You echo the conscience of Sts, Francis, John of the Cross, and Teresa of Avila. I agree but am no activist. My activism always causes me to hit a brick wall. For those who CAN be active then I say BE!

SRF Photoshop work was enough of a tip-off for me. Others may need more clarification. The Walrus helps.

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