This is how Wikipedia defines religion “A religion is a set of beliefs and practices generally held by a human community, involving adherence to codified beliefs and rituals and study of ancestral or cultural traditions and mythology, as well as personal faith and mystic experience. The term "religion" refers to both the personal practices related to communal faith and to group rituals and communication stemming from shared conviction”.
How I see religion being defined is as sharp as that of a vision of an old man nearing the end of his life, blurred and hazy some blind spots here and there going by the way routine has taught him to navigate the route he usually takes.
In other words, religion is a set of guidelines, a way to answer questions with a yes or a no answer. Religion is defined and interpreted in many ways and mind you they are 2 very different things, definition and interpretation. Now, the way anything is defined doesn’t cause much butterfly effect than the way it is interpreted. Religion maybe interpreted as:
- Social Construction: These are the guidelines set by ancient rulers and is used to hold together the social fabric other than referring to supernatural phenomena.
- Progressively True: Here the course which is considered ethically right is predefined by higher authority in most cases “GOD”. Where all the actions are aligned to the beliefs codified in scriptures.
- Absolutely true: this is form of interpretation is a stark contrast to the above mentioned. Since in this school of thought only one god exists and all others are false and only one true religion exists.
Well lets suppose that it does influence decisions specifically intimacy decisions, then the deeper question which arises is, how does it influence it? Because religion is a set of guidelines based on which man/woman should lead their life, it gives structure to their lives. Religion is more or less like an algorithm, where when one reaches a decision box, the yes or the no decision leads to separate of consequences and it influences every single aspect of life, from how the baby is nourished at the time of birth to the way the body of the dead person is handled at the time of death.
So let’s begin by analyzing how each school of thought influences intimacy decisions.
Social Construction: In ancient times, polygamy was the order of the day especially among tribal leaders, and men with high social standing. The reason was pretty simple to survive, men who were physically strong women did not mind copulating with them, because their children had better mortality rates owing to the good genes the father had. The women were taken under the umbrella of the tribal chieftain and his friends because the protection shield did not stop just with the tribal chief but also extended to his friends.
This leads to a very imbalanced ratio of many to one. But it did help in moving forward the family tree, though this also caused complications in the gene pool. But then again
Progressively true: This school of thought is complimentary in nature to the social construction school of thought. Here, the actions are not governed by that of survival but that of a higher truth and higher objective, people following this school of thought realized that there must be more to life than the said just survival and replication. I believe this must have come at a point when man settled down and started civilizations. He needed to spend more time in other activities than copulation and there was born the concept of monogamy and thereby reducing the overhead on a man and woman.
The concept of monogamy, had a way of flattening the social fabric in a way which we are seeing with the advent of technology, you must realize that technology back in those days were concepts as to how to lead ones life. Though traces of social construction way of life were still existent but were soon quashed by stating the higher truth/objective (GOD). You must realize that this change in thinking was essential for the development of mankind because he was no longer a nomad, he was beginning a society as we see it and recognize it now, and peace and order had to be maintained. For that the principle of least action was implemented. It was more or less elementary to do the same, the principle of least action states that “light travels between two given points along the path of shortest time” which was then extrapolated as no further action needs to be done than what is needed. So this was translated as a man need not take care of women whom he cannot. Where the number of women a man can be intimate with is kept at a simple number 1. This more or less put an end to polygamy as a mass collective way of life. This was further reinforced in the form of scriptures which were written as a way of life e.g.: Bhagwad gita, Quran and other religious texts.
Absolutely true: This as I have mentioned before is a stark contrast to the above to ways of interpreting religion. Here there is only one god and one religion and all others are not. This more or less takes on a very dictator way of interpreting things also leading to the superior race movement. So it’s not surprising to find that absolutely true way of interpreting religion is done by weak spirits who are not sure about what their roles and responsibility in life is all about. Christianity during the time of renaissance did just that, during the time of the dark ages. It went about conquering places and trying and converting people to their way of life. Here the influence on subjects like intimacy is more or less dictated by the very few people depending on their rational (more often than not irrational) way of looking at things. Here the decision making process takes the shape of a pyramid where what the leader at the top of the pyramid does is percolated down to the base and is followed without any questions.
But considering the growth of the human social fabric and human intelligence where does same sex intimacy figure? Did same sex intimacy figure in ancient times, though there has not been any literature present to cover and thereby shed light on it and the way religion has influenced. But there is a school of thought which is privy to the whole religion influencing day to day life. And that is the new age phenomenon of pursuit of happiness. Religion talks about happiness in the long run, which in turn leads to a fruitful life but another way to look at it is instant gratification. If we consider a religion as a way of leading life, shouldn’t instant gratification be considered as a way of life and thereby be considered as a religion? Then again the mantle falls back to the primary question, should religion have any say in man’s pursuit to happiness?
Well it’s a case of looking at the glass half-empty or half-full. Religion is seen as something which helps one out at times of crisis where the mind is in a moral dilemma, and the remaining times there are no references to it. So religion being influencing decision be it intimacy or any other decision per say depends on the moral dilemma one is presented with.
Now let’s suppose it doesn’t, then man is free of the constraints he has mentally put forth for himself irrespective of the fact whether they were put for his well being or not. He is free to do what he chooses to be best or not. In these circumstances he removes the relative terms on which to evaluate his actions, he becomes the judge, the jury and the witness for his actions.
Then again, religion is like an old man’s vision, fading, foggy, with a few blind spots here and there, but more or less helps him get by living another day. He may choose to wear the spectacles of knowledge or he may choose to ignore them. At the end of the day it all depends on how the old man chooses to see the world.