Here are some quotes and notes taken from "The Phenomenon Of Religion: A Thematic Approach" by Moojan Momen (1999). This book is a study of world religions, separated into three large chapters on religious experience, religious concepts and religions' place in society. With as much historical and comparative information you can shake a stick at, this is an encyclopaedia of knowledge.
The author betrays his own affiliation with the Baha'i Faith by making the best and most forward-looking comments about this relatively new and small religion, and frequently concludes arguments with a brief comment as to how the Baha'i Faith avoids whatever problem he was showing that religion has had historically.
Quotes taken from 1999 first edition. Published by Oneworld Publications.
"A religion must have the capability of satisfying the religious needs of a wide variety of types of mind, while a sect only appeals to a narrow range of religious outlooks"
p59, Max Weber states that during a phase of the development of a religion:
"Two types of religious professionals arise during this phase: priests, who represent the rationalization and organisation of religion, and prophets, who continue the charismatic mode by claiming the authority of personal revelation. The former hold office within a particular social order and are committed to maintaining the stability of that; the latter are agents of social discontinuity and change."
p64 Need for Dogma:
"For Jung, religion could play a positive role in human life: 'Man positively needs general ideas and convictions that will give meaning to his life and enable him to find a place for himself in the universe.' Religion thus acts as a form of therapy, explaining and reconciling human beings to the pains and suffering of the world."Used on Need for Dogma
"It has been suggested that the charismatic religious experience mediated through a preacher or shaman occurs through the participant hyperventilating, the experience being the result of an altered state of consciousness induced by this. Certainly, a trance-like state can be induced by hyperventilation which is not dissimilar to the trance-like state brought on by repetitive chanting in certain mystical groups"
"religious experiences tend to conform closely to cultural and religious expectations. Village girls in Portugal have visions of the Virgin Mary - not of the Indian goddess Kali. Native Americans on their vision quest see visions of North American animals not of African ones. Thus it would seem that religious experiences, no matter how intense and all-consuming, are subject to constraint by the cultural and religious norms of the person to whom they occur. Another way of looking at this is to say that there can be no such thing as a pure experience. An experience always happens to a person, and that person already has an interpretive framework through which he or she views the world. Thus, experience and interpretation always combine and interpenetrate."Used on "The False and Conflicting Experiences of Mankind" by Vexen Crabtree
"The principal idea of the gnostic movements is that the central religious experience is linked to a special knowledge to which only a select few have access. The knowledge usually takes the form of an inner (esoteric) understanding of either the scriptures or the rituals of the religion. This inner understanding, which can only be achieved through the path set out by the group, leads to enlightenment and hence liberation.
Most gnostic groups are not concerned with proselytism. They consider that only a small number of people are capable (or have reached the stage) of appreciating the gnostic truth. Their smallness of numbers does not, in any way, invalidate their claim for them, indeed it underlines it.
Gnosticism usually has some form of religious hierarchy in which the esoteric knowledge that leads to enlightenment is handed down through the generations from master to pupil. Only those who have been through the system and have had the knowledge handed down to them in the approved manner can appreciate it and benefit from it fully. The knowledge can, usually, only be learned on a personal master-to-pupil basis. In other words, it cannot be learned from books. Most traditions allow that some eventually become masters of their own spiritual progress. An even smaller number reach the stage of being able to teach the path to others and thus become spiritual masters in their own right"
chapter 5: Pathways to religious experience are studied as eight types:Ritualism, Legalism, Evangelism, Social reformation, Gnosticism, Asceticism, Monasticism, Mysticism
"The term 'mysticism' is used to describe a wide variety of religious phenomena. For lack of a more suitable word, I shall use it to refer to those groups that consider that the central religious experience can best be repeated through achieving altered states of consciousness. Such states can be reached in two different ways. The first is the path of increased psychological arousal achieved, for example, by rhythmical chanting or dancing. This culminates in mystical ecstasy.[...]. The second is the path of decreased mental activity leading to a deep state of meditation"
"Using this reasoning, the presence of evil and suffering in the world has even been argued by some philosophers from Epicurus (341-270bce) to David Hume (1711-76ce) to cast doubt on the existence of God. Other more modern writers such as Freud and Marx sought to show that religion's explanations of the presence of evil and suffering were based on delusions"Used on Introduction to the problem of evil
"An analogy that is often used in the Baha'i writings (because there can be no direct description) is that of the embryo in the womb, developing various organs such as arms or eyes which do not really benefit it there. Once the baby is born, it can use and appreciate what it has developed. If it has not developed these, it suffers"Used on Christianity and baby killing
p296 Need for religion
"Myths can be debased and uprooted. All that happens is that modern myths and rituals replace the traditional ones, for myths and archetypes are an inherent part of the human psyche. Human beings appear to need a religious underpinning both to their personal and to their social lives. At the personal level, human beings need a mythology within which to frame their identities and the meaning of their lives. At the social level, some ideology is needed to give people a vision of their history, their present place in the world and their future direction, to act as a focal point of unity, an agreed framework for public policy and a justification for the public rituals that affirm social cohesion. Where formal religion no longer provides this underpinning, various alternatives have evolved. At the social level, 'pseudo-religions' such as Marxism and nationalism have been successful partly because they do provide an alternative picture - a myth of history and a direction for the future."Used on Need for Dogma
p325 Hadith writings that are attributed to Muhammed:
"Modern Western scholarship, however, examining critically the earliest surviving documents, has cast a much more fundamental doubt over the Hadith literature. The first to raise questions about the traditional version of the rise of the /Hadith/ literature was Ignaz Goldziher. he showed that up to three centuries after Muhammed, many individuals, political parties and sectarian movements within Islam were manufacturing Traditions that supported their claims and positions. These Traditions, claiming to be on the authority of Muhammed, gave each faction legitimacy and authenticity."Used on Untrustworthy Koran
Notes on Momen's text: Different religion's styles all try to trace their histories to its founder, at the expense of truth and this creates myths. Satanism should not do this. Part of the procedure for claiming authority is for a religion's followers to believe its founder was an exemplary model. Satanism through LaVey's specific instructions does not do this and is half way "there", where "there" is a perfect religion. Legalism of the kind that has led other religions to delusion and myth-making should be avoided.
"...the two main pathways to salvation in Islam, legalism and Sufism, were both built up by a similar mechanism: authentication by retrospective attribution to Muhammed and the early generation of Muslims; the transformation of religious injunctions that have moral and spiritual compulsion into rigid rules that have legal or prescriptive force.
The doctrinal development of religion has followed the same course as the social expression in camouflaging all traces of change and development, and for exactly the same reason. Everything has to be seen as flowing unerringly from the source of the religion: the founder or the early circle of disciples."
p339: God is the source of goodness/morals
"One problem with this approach has been called the Euthyphro dilemma (from the discussion under that name in Plato's /Dialogues/). In brief, this puts forward two alternative positions that a religious person might take: either what God commands is right simply because God commands it, or God commands what is right because it is right. The first of these alternative, what might be called the fundamentalist position, seems to imply that God's command sets an arbitrary standard which we have no moral reason for following; we may indeed only follow it out of fear of the consequences of failing to do so. The second alternative is equally troubling for the religious person. It seems to imply that the divine command is irrelevant to ethics and that ethical standards are established independent of religious considerations. It also sets limits on divine omnipotence by suggesting that God is compelled to act in a certain way because that is what is ethical"Used on God, morality, goodness and moral behavior
"Of the major religions, Christianity is perhaps the most negative towards human sexuality. [...] there are several statements in the /New Testament/ that advocate celibacy (with monogamous marriage being a second-best option) and condemn homosexuality. Such passages have formed the basis of the view of most Christian churches up to modern times."
"During the whole of [The Buddha's] ministry, however, he embraced a world-renouncing life which excluded sexual contact. The rules for the Buddhist monks reflect this example of the Buddha. Such rules are still applied in Theravada Buddhism, but married monks are found among Mahayana Buddhists. Of the major Indian traditions, however, it is Jainism that has the strictest attitude against any expression of sexuality among its monks and nuns. In Islam, the attitude to sexuality is, against, set by the example of the founder, Muhammed, who married some fourteen wives and had a number of children. There is thus a much more positive approach towards marriage, sexuality and family life. Monasticism is prohibited and the number of wives is limited to four. Homosexuality is again prohibited. The attitude to sexuality in Judaism is much the same as in Islam, except that polygamy was prohibited in the Middle Ages. The Baha'i Faith commends the married state for all people, prohibits monasticism and ordains monogamy."
"In modern times, the more liberal elements in Western Christianity have responded to social realities by relaxing the strict sexual morality that has characterized most traditional religion."
p479 Two major blows to religion:
"The first blow to religion came through its increasing loss of social control. In the traditional structure of Hindu, Muslim or even medieval Christian society, religion controlled all aspects of life. Religious institutions were the main pathways for acquiring an education, for obtaining medical treatment, and for the poor to obtain relief. Even such matters as the functioning of craft guilds was to some extent under religious control. Gradually, however, a functional differentiation of society occurred, leading to the increasing autonomy of its different parts. In the last hundred years, in most countries, the modern secular state or other secular institutions have taken over from the religious establishment control of such areas as medicine, education and welfare provisions for the poor.
The second blow to the religious perspective came with the increasing importance given to individualism in the modern world.[...] Today, there is an increasing emphasis on the individual's own point of view. This leads to a loss of the authority of the central institutions of the religion. As a corollary to this individualism came a belief in the beneficial effects of self-interest as the guiding principal of human action, a development that contradicts the teachings of most of the established religions.
The individualism that is characteristic of modern life in the West in reflected in the uncommitted, a la carte approach to spirituality that has become very common. It is typified by individuals who flit from religious group to religious group, continually on the religious quest and never arriving at their goal. Very often such individuals do not join any religious group but attend meetings, read books and search through the Internet, adopting a pot-pourri of religious ideas on their way. This approach to spirituality is almost the exact opposite of the path advocated by traditional religion. According to the latter, spiritual advancement demands a discipline, commitment and obedience. [...] Thus one has the paradox of modern eclectic spiritual individualists on the one hand reading enthusiastically the works of the great medieval mystics and on the other hand rejecting the spiritual discipline and approach that made the production of such works possible"Used on Anti-religious forces
"One way of dealing with the problem of modernity and religious pluralism is to withdraw from making any universal and social claims for religion, thus making it a purely personal affair. 'My religion satisfies my needs. It may not satisfy your needs or even anyone else's. All that matters to me is that it satisfies mine.' This then sets up a defensive wall against any possibility that one's religion can be shown to be intellectually faulty, illogical, or inferior to another's."