Religion is the art of the loophole

Mary is unfaithful to her husband. Every Sunday she confesses this to her priest, says her penitence and feels quite relieved.

Is confession and penitence really just an easy why to avoid guilt?

Aamina wears her burqa whenever she leaves the house. The only part of herself that she can influence to feel beautiful are her eyes. She spends a lot of time to get her make-up just right. And her glittering Dior handbag is very nice.

One of the goals of the burqa is modesty, to hide a women’s femininity as to not excite men (who seem highly inflammable). Don’t all these workarounds to feminize however possible the women wearing the burqa seem to go against the whole point?

Naomi, a practicing jewish mother of three, wears an extravagant long red wig, instead of the traditional headscarf.

According to jewish law, married women should not show their hair, also for modesty. Doesn’t an extravagant wig seem particularly hypocritical?

Examples range from major side stepping to the mundane actions of everyday life. They are surprisingly widespread and accepted by society and religion. Why does the dogma not openly change? The seemingly important part – obeying the law of god – is not respected, but the more frivolous part – what the neighbours will think – stays paramount.

Religion is the art of the loophole.

It boils down to tribal unity, us versus them. I’m a good christian because I confess my sins, not like those debauched women. I am a good muslim or jew because I am recognised as such by others.

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  • Doug Brooks

    Only speaking to the first point… Technically, a “good confession” is only “good” if the confessor is actually seeking to change their behavior and to never commit that sin again. Are there failures? Absolutely. But at the time of the confession, the idea is that the sinner is striving to never again sin in that way.
    Humans are experts at justification. If Mary (from the example) is using her confession as a way of justifying her behavior, that speaks to the “fault” of the sinner, not the religion/dogma.

    • Hi Doug,

      You are technically correct.

      I would conjecture that confession is used in a whole range of ways:
      – As a heartfelt act of contrition in a process of repentance and will to change ones ways. I think that can actually help. Others might talk to a psychiatrist. Whatever works for you…
      – As an honest token of admittance to guilt, without much hope to change. Mary confesses each Sunday to relieve her guilt, but not really to change.
      – As a cynical “get-out-of-jail” card, with no real feeling of guilt and no wilfulness to change either.

      People seeking out the loopholes is not necessarily the fault of the religion/dogma, as you put it. But somehow, a system with a list of things you must do or not do puts people in the bean counting mindset. They check the boxes and fudge a little to feel better about themselves. The ten commandements have nothing like “be good”, only “do nots”.

      Thanks for reading

      • Doug Brooks

        Hi John,

        I could make the argument that there are one or two commandments that are not “negative commands”, e.g., Honor your parents. But for me, the focus is later, in the new testament, a new commandment is identified – the greatest commandment. Actually, it’s two. Ok ok, I guess you can argue it’s three. But really, it’s just one which can be summed up in one word, love. In the bible, it is written this way, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the Law and the prophets.”

        You can actually split up the 10 into these two categories; the first being love of God, and the second being love of neighbor.

        “…the commandments: “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not kill, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this sentence: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.” – Rom 13:9-10 & CCC 2055

        Regardless, the argument, or the issue, is in relation to the “system”. Catholicism teaches that the system is objective. Essentially, that there is an objective truth.

        If we don’t want to be a bean-counters (I don’t), we should just get on with loving everyone.

        • I respect that, love. A little simplistic, maybe. It could be a bit more explicit, more “active”.
          I have a problem with the word neighbour. People are usually very good with people close to them. It is when they are father away, or different, that things often become ugly. We are evolutionarily programmed to pitch “us” against “them”. Many people haven’t noticed that the world has shrunk and our neighbours can be on the other side of the world, have a different skin color, religion and traditions…

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