First of all, I'd like to apologize if I come off as unnecessarily antagonistic. I mean to pick no fight with anyone. I've been feeling rather willing to engage with antagonistic thinking today, so it might leak into the text.
After that, I'd like to acknowledge that I have nothing against individuals following any kind of scripture. I have heavy problems with the scriptures themselves. I don't mean harm unto anyone one following the scriptures per se. "It's not okay to hate people for their beliefs".
That being said, I'm not above blaming people for the bad things they've done, whether in accordance with or in misuse of their holy texts and theological decisions. We, individually, have each a will to use our power to exert influence onto the world in the way we deem most appropriate. If you decide to exert it in a manner that's harmful to anyone, even yourself, I will judge you for your behavior, whether you're acting on your religion's morality or your own.
Each society kind of has their own definitions on what they consider acceptable and unacceptable. This includes hard laws, both secular and religious, as well as less strict but still important mores and folkways.
Those aren't instated to encourage one not to be a dick. Those are instated for one not to upset the social order. Each operates on a different level. Their reconcilability depends not on the person not willing to be a dick but on one's social orientation: towards self (highly individual) or towards society (highly social). You may choose to define your worldview based on the morals you grew up with, or you may be naturally attuned to one particular set of values, but the existence of laws and folkways in themselves doesn't discourage dickotry.
Well, there are certainly lines that people cross sooner or later that cause people to categorize them as “bad.”
Those aren't universal. The best you can get out of them is "the majority agrees that". Then, you get into the territory of autists, psychopaths, narcissists and others whose sets of values differ from the majority of the population. You may, with a high degree of success, argue that only the majority's will matters anyway because of the sheer social and, heck, physical mass of such a group. Doesn't preclude that it's not universal to begin with.
How do you feel about the idea though, that the lines are blurry and seem to move about?
Blurry? From the statistical point of view, definitely - at least from the reasons stated above. From the personal point of view, though? I'd argue that a line is blurry until the person decides whether crossing it is acceptable - and from those personal decisions a big-picture view on the morals of the given group arises.
Move about? If history teaches us anything, it's that they most definitely do. Slavery was once okay with many cultures, including religions. Women's rights were practically unheard of in the West until the suffragette movement. Monarchy was once the preferred form of government. Discoveries with time shift our perspective on things.
I honestly think that one of the main roles of religion is to form social cohesion and it’s kind of difficult to have that if you don’t do your best to encourage people to be good to each other.
Not if you fucking beat people into submission to achieve it.
If you're acting on given positive values - generosity, helping the poor etc. - on the notion of going to Hell if you don't, you're not being kind: you're acting in self-defence. It's a necessary action if you truly believe in posthumous damnation, but acting on a fictional construct we have no way of proving the existence of will, at best, hamper the believer's performance: you probably know on your own how people act worse under pressure. I imagine the existential pressure like that would cause a lot of background noise.
Social order is important, but it only ever works as a social order (as opposed to an oppressive, authoritarian order) when people agree to it. If you're shamed into submitting to a given set of values, you better leave the nearest second later, because the only thing you're going to extract from such an order in a civil society is damage to the self, which will only make you less mentally healthy as a result.
Authoritarian order is only ever important in crises, when you need people to get their shit together and operate on scarce resources to survive. Even there is a place for reason: "I'm taking control of this group so that we could live long enough to tell the bloody tale. This is non-negotiable. Act according to the rules or risk lonely death outside the camp". Now, harsh as the conditions are, at least people know what they're getting. They have a goal, and they have the hope of cohesion.
But there's also the promise of Heaven if you behave, isn't there? If you live a good life, if you don't sin, if you're deserving all the way, you'll get to the place blessed by God, whatever it is in your particular definition.
My problem with that is that people are never 100% sinless. The idea that Christianity got right is that we're all sinners. My problem with its attitude towards our imperfect nature is that we are to be constantly punished for it. This attitude's aim is to instill humility, but if we've learned anything in the past several decades, it's that forgiveness of the self leads to salvation, not being sinless to begin with. Christianity has the answer here, as well: ask forgiveness from another human being who, for some unobvious reason, is closer to God than you are, and you're good to go.
But even that doesn't wipe your record clean, does it? You're still going to Hell. It's the "100% Completionist" challenge you didn't know you had to partake in in order to not suffer for eternity afterwards. Bloody harsh competition to beat, isn't it? Be all the way humile and don't disturb the order, and you may get the pass to the Wonderful Place. It's a terrible trap to set. "All or nothing" is the egoistical mentality I spent a lot of time shedding because it's sour to point of acidity for your living. If it guides any kind of moral code, it's not a code I would encourage anyone - much less my children - to follow, because it's going to break you if you aren't naturally attuned to it.
(I recognize I'm taking an extreme and uneducated view of religion with those last few sentences, if not with the whole passage. I haven't had actual experience with real believers and their communities, so this is the best I can do so far)
Religion, our relationship with it, it’s relationship with us, and its relationship to the world is constantly evolving.
Not quickly enough. Including your own faith, by the way:
The Bahá'í Faith teaches that the only acceptable form of sexual expression is within marriage, and Bahá'í marriage is defined as exclusively between one man and one woman. This definition excludes premarital, extramarital, or homosexual intimacy from allowable Bahá'í practices.
Further down the article, it also says:
Bahá'í teachings state that Bahá'ís should not treat homosexual people as condemned outcasts, nor expect people who are not Bahá'í to follow Bahá'í laws. The Bahá'í writings teach adherents to treat everyone with respect and dignity, and an attitude of discrimination and social intolerance toward homosexuals is not supported by the Bahá'í teachings.
The Universal House of Justice has responded to research that claims that homosexuality is innate and not changeable by asserting that homosexuality is one of
"many problems, both physical and psychological. Some are the result of the individual’s own behaviour, some are caused by the circumstances in which he grew up, some are congenital... homosexuality is an abnormality, is a great problem for the individual so afflicted, and... he or she should strive to overcome it."
...which does not sound to me like acceptance.
When a high authority of one's faith claims that one's natural (and pretty bloody common) predisposition is a flaw to overcome when the whole educated world knows it's not, that's a claim against the faith.
Let me ask you this, if tomorrow war broke out between Russia and America, would you blame me because I’m an American?
I would, at the very least, expect you to condemn that outcome and admit the major shortcomings that led to such a terrible turn of events, for both sides, and not go behind "But we have museums and operas!". I expect the same from my end.
Of course there are bad actors anywhere. The difference is: in society, we punish them by law. Why are child molesters allowed to live their life in peace despite doing such harm to the child (or children)? (I am hereby linking to the Stephen Fry video from the previous comment) Why is the Catholic Church passively working against the lawful investigation in such a case? I don't even care if the Pope himself spoke out against it if the rest of the institution keeps on with their bullshit.
This is not me ranting against religion per se. This is me ranting against the major institutions of it that condone or even passively encourage ill behavior. I recognize that some people use certain beliefs as a justification for their own sick and harmful behavior. Some of those people hide under an institution, either assumed or built as their own. Some of those institutions have "Church" in their name.
That being said, I would condemn anyone doing ill a degree more if they do it in the name of God. That way, they're shifting responsibility from themselves - which they ought to bear fully if they act on their own - by saying "I'm doing God's will". At least I will have some respect for a murderer admitting they did it to satisfy their own desires: they're being honest.