I’ve long wanted to paraphrase the slogan from Composers Datebook to apply it to another interest of mine:
“Reminding you that all religions were once new”
The original phrase is applied to music, and the point is that all the music we label “classical” today was once simply “music”. Classical is what has stood the test of time, but just because it is old, or because it has remained popular, doesn’t automatically mean it is ‘better’. Indeed, it doesn’t seem clear that there is any objective way of assessing ‘betterness’ in music. Is religion much different? If so, how?
Certainly one approach is to judge them by their “fruits”. But then why aren’t more people flocking to Jainism? And why haven’t blemished in Christianity’s history led to the revocation of its “classical” status?
I decided to post on this because of a recent article by Michael Shermer about Scientology, which some of my colleagues have been discussing. Is there anything different about mocking or threatening a new religion, as opposed to doing the same towards a well-established older one?
At the very least, in terms of U. S. democracy, the answer is no. If the first amendment is to be meaningful, it cannot just apply to religions that began before a certain date. Our ‘free market’ approach to spirituality also suggests that the new and the old must compete on a level playing field, and there is some evidence that might suggest that the older traditions are the better for it. The John Templeton Foundation is a big supporter of this ‘free market’ approach to religion and spirituality. Of course, that isn’t too surprising…
Then again, there may be a tension worth noting within our own capitalist democracy. Has anyone else noticed that, while we emphasize democratic government, most corporations in the U.S. are structured like mini dictatorships?