Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Human Constructs

"Human constructs."  That's my new pair of words to think about this week.  It's not a new concept; just a new term for something that I ponder from time to time.  A quick reference check and I find the given example of a human construct is money.  Money, even silver and gold, has no value other than what humans have determined its value to be.  By giving money value it becomes very functional in our society.  Interestingly enough, in today's economy, money or the value of money, isn't even represented by coins or bills.  Today's exchange of value is virtual.  Some may think that there's "real" money of "real" value behind the transactions, but I bet most transactions ever involve gold or silver or other money backings.

However, I have not been thinking about economy or money.  I've been thinking about religion, ceremonies, rites and norms.  Basic to religion is the basic question: Is God a human construct?  Does the frailty of humans require that they create a god to acquire confidence to overcome that frailty?  Do humans need to have a god to explain the unexplainable?

Let's assume there is a god.  There are several monotheistic religions, such as Islam, Judaism and Christianity.  Well, the believers of these religions may not agree with the doctrine of the other religions, if each believes there is one god and they're not the same god, then there must be three gods (at least) or indeed there is one god but they each have a different understanding of the same god.  This may be a good time to introduce the "human construct" idea.  If god is the one and only and yet each religion defines god differently, then the differences must be "human constructs," or god reveals himself/herself in different ways to the different religions.

Now that we have human constructs in each religion, what are these constructs and how do they affect the religion.  The inequalities of women and men in Islam, such as the dress code, is both cultural after the beginning of Islam as well as before.  The Christians celebrate eucharist at different intervals with similar text based on an event, called the Last Supper, when Jesus said something to the effort that when you eat bread and drink wine, think of me.  Jews have hundreds of rules which probably came about for natural reasons as much as spiritual reasons.

The issue then becomes which human constructs are valuable, effective, meaningful and should be continued and which should be set aside as a hindrance to the essence of the religion and the "best practices" of human behavior.  How can we relate to god, do the will of god and do it without doctrinal baggage?