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Should Religion Evolve With Society?

Updated on May 1, 2012

Two highly debated issues in the media lately are gay marriage and free contraceptive coverage. The largest opponents to these two issues are people of varying religious faiths. Using history as an indicator, we have learned things we held true in the past are no longer true in the present. We thought the world was flat, the Earth was the center of the solar system, pipes were made out of lead, buildings were insulated with asbestos, and the ongoing eggs are good - eggs are bad to eat debate. Reflecting on these thoughts I asked myself the question: Should religion evolve with society? If science and society show us that religious beliefs are not upheld or that they harm people should we change our thinking?

While writing an article on the contraceptive coverage issue I discovered in my research that 98% of Catholic women use contraceptives to prevent birth. If the Pope's message falls on deaf ears it fails in either its wording or it simply does not benefit the lifestyle of the people it is intended for. Today's global economy is shaky at best and personally I cannot imagine the costs of raising an unending number of children. We no longer need large families to work on the family farm and thankfully laws prevent children from working alongside their parents. Instead of children financially helping their parents they are more of a financial burden these days. Statistics show that children who are born into financially inadequate living situations are more likely to be victims of abuse and neglect. Furthermore, I can't think of any occupation in the middle class where the level of yearly salary increase would match or outpace the growing costs of raising additional children.

Anyone who has ever had a child knows how expensive prenatal care and a hospital delivery can be. My husband worked and carried insurance for the same hospital where our son was born. Even with "good" insurance we still spent thousands of dollars out of pocket. The cost of birth control pills range from $9 to $90 dollars a month plus the cost of a yearly doctor visit. A 9 month supply of birth control contraceptives is greatly cheaper for people and insurance companies to cover compared to the costs of pregnancy. Many opponents to the contraceptive coverage argue that religious schools, universities, and hospitals shouldn't have to pay for insurance coverage for something they don't believe in. I can't imagine insurance premiums skyrocketing or even changing at all for an insurance plan to cover a few more prescriptions, especially when pregnancy is much more costly. If insurance premiums do not increase then what's the difference? Non-Catholic employees at these institutions won't have their freedoms infringed upon and no extra money is spent on the coverage thereby making it "free".

I agree that there should always be a separation between church and state, hence why churches are not included in the mandate. However, not all employees of religious based businesses practice that same faith of their employer. Is it right for a Catholic university to impose its religious belief on a non-Catholic employee? I don't believe that it is right, nor do I think Catholic Bishops should enlist the help of Republicans to take the coverage away from all the other citizens in the nation who would otherwise be covered by the contraceptive mandate. Do they not see that they're complaining about their religious freedom and then turning around to impose the religious/basic freedom of everyone else?

Looking for the origin of this belief on I discovered it all began because a man would not sleep with his dead brother's wife. Sure there are other scriptures that evidently uphold this belief but it is my understanding that this was the first one written. In the media I've read a number of stories where Catholic women support the contraceptive coverage and the men oppose it. This mandate directly affects women and only women so why is the voice of the men so loud?

A topic that has always puzzled me is the number of denominations in the world based on one book, The Bible. According to the World Christian Encyclopedia there are 33,000 denominations of Christianity in the world. If this one book is the gospel why does man get to interpret it as he sees fit? Shouldn't there be a universal language or code that every Christian follows? Other Christian religions study the same book as Catholics yet they don't all believe in abstaining from contraceptives. Similarly not all Christian churches oppose same-sex marriage.


Same-Sex Marriage

Science has shown us the brain structure and resulting chemistry of a homosexual is simply different than that of a heterosexual. Different does not make it wrong, it is simply different. People are born with different hair color; I myself am 6 inches taller than the average female. We are each unique in our own way and none of it is wrong. The simplest phrase I associate with Christianity is "love one another" so why do some Christians deny love? If a church does not believe in same-sex marriage they certainly don't have to perform the ceremony. However, if two people want to go to the court house to be married religious beliefs shouldn't infringe on state law and stand in their way. It's love plain and simple and I believe the world can always use more love.

I can only imagine what it must be like for a person to grow up with a religion that will some day turn on them for their sexual orientation. Some of these people live their entire life in secret and may never get to discover the freedom and love they truly seek. Currently residing in a largely Mormon community I have encountered people who have been shunned not only by their church but also by their immediate families for being homosexual. Whatever happened to "judge not lest ye be judged" and why do some religions not follow that scripture universally? It seems to me that if there is a scripture to cling to this should definitely be one of them.

The story of Adam and Eve is often offered as evidence that only heterosexual unions should take place. However, the story is about the creation of women. Adam and Eve didn't exchange rings and have a celebratory party afterwards. As an instructor of anatomy and physiology for 7 years I promise you that men and women have the same number of ribs, in case you were wondering. Granted they didn't have x-ray machines when the Bible was written but how many more errors are lurking in the book that has been translated several times. My Biblical knowledge is very limited so I had to research what scriptures lead some to believe same-sex marriage is wrong. In the article written by Lee Jefferson titled, What Does The Bible Actually Say About Gay Marriage?, he discusses 4 very important points.

  • The origin of marriage is a civil matter and not a religious one. The issue of same-sex marriage was addressed by Christians after the Bible was written.
  • The Bible does not clearly endorse one form of marriage over another.
  • The Biblical arguments made against same-sex marriage do not come from scripture about marriage itself. In the gospels, Jesus never addressed same-sex practices.
  • In the ancient world there were no arguments or discussions about sexual orientation. There is no Hebrew or Greek word with a common origin synonymous to the modern terms of homosexuality or same-sex marriage.

If they were standing here today I can't imagine God or Jesus standing in the way of love when that was their universal message. Some Christians will agree with that statement because they too support same sex marriage. Again I ask the question: When a religious belief does more harm to people than good shouldn't it be re-considered?


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    • Perspycacious profile image

      Demas W Jasper 3 years ago from Today's America and The World Beyond

      Read again, for the thought provoking benefits. Somehow to me it is not couples loving each other, but the way they express that love in some cases.

    • CarNoobz profile image

      CarNoobz 5 years ago from USA

      Oh HOT TOPIC. Part of me says, "Absolutely," but then my upbringing screams, "No way!"

      I grew up Christian, love the Bible etc, so I think that, you know, everyone is entitled to believe what they want, what makes sense to them, but if you're going to believe something that is completely in opposition to the Bible, then you are free to do so...just don't call yourself a Christian.

      (Not "you," personally...just people in general)

    • Jennifer Essary profile image

      Jennifer Essary 5 years ago from Idaho

      Thank you Dr. Funom Makama : )

    • Vinaya Ghimire profile image

      Vinaya Ghimire 5 years ago from Nepal

      Religion evolved in ancient time. It represents the society where it began. However, society is constantly changing, and rigidity in religion is creating conflicts. I believe religion should be interpreted according to the time.

    • Jennifer Essary profile image

      Jennifer Essary 6 years ago from Idaho

      Welcome Steve : ) You will find a wonderful community of writers. Since I joined in November I have made friends all over the world and I absolutely love being here.

    • Steve Essary profile image

      Steve Essary 6 years ago from Johnston City, Illinois

      I just signed up for hubpages. I wasn't a member before, so I wanted to leave one more comment so I could be found if anyone reads my comment above and likes it. :) Thanks again!!!

    • profile image

      Steve Essary 6 years ago

      Jennifer... So awesome that I found this article just by looking for other Essarys on the internet... :)

      I love the article!!!

      I want to address KF Raizor's comment because it is one that I would have made years ago...

      It is true (in my opinion) that God never changes... With that in mind, we MUST always be willing to re-examine the scriptures and consider the possibility that WE still need to change our thinking... As Jennifer said, our interpretation COULD be flawed, so let's be open-minded and examine the possibilities!!!

      For example... For MOST of my life, I was what I would call a "typical" Christian... I believed that in order for God to forgive your sins, you must ask Him to and believe in Jesus... Then upon re-examining the Bible, I discovered Matthew 5... In this chapter, Jesus tells us that we should disregard the OLD ways of "an eye for an eye" (which is a FAIR punishment for the crime) and instead He tells us to "turn the other cheek" (the hard-grace opposite of "an eye for an eye")... We ALL have heard this story, but take another look at it!!! Jesus just said for us to let go of what is FAIR and lean HARD towards GRACE and FORGIVENESS!!! In fact, we are supposed to FORGIVE EVERYONE, NO MATTER WHAT!!! Does anyone see where I am going with this???

      Why would God ask us to do something HE DOESN'T DO???

      Traditional Christianity (the way the Bible has been interpreted for thousands of years) has taught us that God ONLY forgives those who ASK Him to and when it comes to punishment, FAIR goes right out the window!!! What happened to "turn the other cheek" when God supposedly BURNS all those who didn't ask for forgiveness??? For crying out loud, at least bring back "an eye for an eye"!!! Because HELL as we have been taught is NOT fair!!! It is far from "an eye for an eye" and it couldn't possibly be any further from "turn the other cheek"!!! That chapter (Matt 5) ends with Jesus saying that if we do this we will be perfect like our Father in Heaven is perfect!!!

      You see, 5 years ago, I re-examined the entire Bible. I did what not many can do and that is to consider myself to be in error!!! I NEVER want to question GOD, but what is wrong with questioning our interpretation??? I think GOD is NOT EVEN CLOSE to who we have been taught that He is!!!

      In conclusion, after re-examining the Gospel 5 years ago, my brother Aaron and I wrote a book to publish our re-examination. With permission from Jennifer, I would love to share the title and I am always in the mood for discussions like these!!!

      Thanks Jennifer for this very well written article!!!


    • Jennifer Essary profile image

      Jennifer Essary 6 years ago from Idaho

      KF Raizor thank you for your thoughts. I don't think the scripture should be changed simply man's interpretation of it. If there are 33,000 forms of Christianity in the world and some of them support gay marriage I think those opposed should at least re-consider their stance when their views hurt people. God's universal message was love and if the interpretation of his words no longer make people feel loved I suspect he wouldn't endorse them. Thank you again for sharing your view : )

    • KF Raizor profile image

      KF Raizor 6 years ago

      The short answer to your question is NO.

      Anyone who believes in a supreme being, whether they wish to say God, Allah, Shiva, Vishnu, Ek Omkar, or any term that any of the tribal religions in the undiscovered tribes of the Amazon rain forest use, believes in CONSISTENCY. That means that God doesn't change His mind. The Tanakh (Jewish scriptures or "old testament") puts it very clearly: "I the LORD do not change" (Malachi 3:6).

      If we ponder this logically for a moment we see this is a good thing. None of us want the rules to change in the middle of the game. Consider how basketball fans are outraged when fouls are called for brushing another player's uniform in the first half then tackling isn't called in the second half and you see that this applies to all aspects of life, not just religion. We don't even like it when Google changes their privacy policy rules! Given this, it's easy to understand that it's not in our best interest as people to serve a supreme being who continually changes the rules on us. We would be basket cases trying to keep up with what's "off limits" this week!

      That is why it is a good thing that the answer is "no.” Murder was wrong five thousand years ago, and it's still wrong today. Adultery was wrong in Biblical times (and if you've ever read "The Scarlet Letter" you see that even society deemed it wrong), and it's still wrong in God's eyes today -- even if half the country commits adultery. And, yes, that ALSO means that homosexuality is still a sin in God’s sight. (Note that this doesn’t mean that gays aren’t good people – just like it doesn’t mean that adulterers aren’t “good people” – it means that they’re sinful in God’s eyes.)

      Can the hymnal be updated? Sure. Can there be a more modern translation of the Bible than the Elizabethian English of the King James Version? Certainly. But God’s determination of what is right and what is wrong does not EVER change. Furthermore, He never asked our opinion of what we thought should be labeled as “sin.” We don’t make the rules, God does.

      Thanks for a thought-provoking hub.

    • Jennifer Essary profile image

      Jennifer Essary 6 years ago from Idaho

      I suppose that is why I also read stories about religion losing followers. Thanks alocsin for voting and sharing your thoughts.

    • alocsin profile image

      alocsin 6 years ago from Orange County, CA

      The book "Same Sex Unions In Premodern Europe" asserts that both the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches sanctioned same-sex unions in early church ceremonies. But to get back to your title question. Whether people want religion to evolve or not, it does as does everything. Otherwise, like anything that doesn't evolve it dies. Voting this Up and Interesting.

    • Jennifer Essary profile image

      Jennifer Essary 6 years ago from Idaho

      Audrey, John, and cclitgirl, Many thanks to each of you for sharing your time and thoughts on this subject. This question of mine really has me stumped. Are there people who truly don't see some of the irony in these situations? Do these people make up a small percentage of the US population? I'm assuming these topics have a pretty good following because they're written about so extensively in the media. Are they meant to distract us from the things that matter such as poverty, education, and healthcare? I wrote this article to hopefully stir the thought process of my readers but to also create dialogue among people of various backgrounds. Thanks for the votes and sharing your time : )

    • cclitgirl profile image

      Cynthia Calhoun 6 years ago from Western NC

      Very interesting, very thought-provoking hub. Well said and articulated. Nice! :) You got my votes.

    • John Sarkis profile image

      John Sarkis 6 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

      I enjoyed your article Jennifer. You're an insightful and controversial writer and I find you interesting.

      As a Christian, I can tell you that it's hard to understand many thing. Furthermore, there's little sympathy for Christians these days, mainly and because of so many "right wingers" using our faith as their main weapon/shield for enforcing their belief system.

      Take care and "thumbs up"


    • AudreyHowitt profile image

      Audrey Howitt 6 years ago from California

      Interesting hub and difficult topic--maybe we are looking at the difference between dogma and man-made rules??

    • Jennifer Essary profile image

      Jennifer Essary 6 years ago from Idaho

      Alecia, It is strange to me as well that these stories are largely front page subjects when it comes to the news when there are more pressing issues at hand. Do you think politicians and the media focus on ideological struggles so that the people pay less attention to the things that really matter? I think so. As an instructor I taught high school graduates that couldn't come close to constructing grammatically correct sentences. I don't understand why people bother to fight over our current form of healthcare when it should really be called sick-care. Insurance and pharmaceutical companies don't make money off of well people. Many call universal healthcare "socialist" but that very thing is working very successfully in Grand Junction, Colorado as we speak. Each patient is treated and charged the same amount whether they are insured, uninsured, or on medicaid. At the end of the year the physicians receive a bonus based on how healthy they have kept their patients over the past year. Now wouldn't that be something? Thanks for weighing in on the topic : )

    • Jennifer Essary profile image

      Jennifer Essary 6 years ago from Idaho

      Perspycacious, I agree with your comment completely. In the words of Bob Marley, "One Love". Peace

    • Alecia Murphy profile image

      Alecia Murphy 6 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina

      I think these things are interesting but my main gripe with both sides are these things are not crucial to the immediate worries of the country.

      I wish the US was more like Europe in addressing the hard issues in elections instead of ideological causes. I have my personal beliefs which are strong but when I vote, I think of issues like healthcare, education, the economy, and more immediate issues. Whether or not someone gets married has little to do with me being a college graduate with a bare bones job and no health insurance. Not being mean to those invested, but it's not. So if anyone wants to get my attention in this election, they need to speak more in the language of better gas prices, alternative energy, long term health care that is truly comprehensive instead of Obama's band-aid on the gash.

      I think in many ways we've gotten too caught up in culture wars because our identity has been placed on this since the days of the revolution.

      I understand people really want an answer to these questions and debates, but there's a reason we say not everything's black and white.

    • Jennifer Essary profile image

      Jennifer Essary 6 years ago from Idaho

      Tammy, Thank you for your wonderfully crafted and eloquent reply. It was a mini lesson for me in theology with the perfect ending; it's up to the individual. Many thanks for shining your light on this topic. Smiles : )

    • Perspycacious profile image

      Demas W Jasper 6 years ago from Today's America and The World Beyond

      Not only omissions, but translations which created contradictions and obvious conflicts with other portions of scripture. Interpretation of the Dead Sea Scrolls/Nag Hamadi and other very old texts including the Gospel of Thomas, etc., allow for more attempts at understanding mankind's relationship to God. Superstitions, borrowings, etc., mean that in so many cases it is best to rely on the inspirations of the Holy Ghost, and the over arching central themes of the Gospel than on too much that may be man's dogma. "To thine own self be true, and thou canst not be false to any man." Pretty good advice, along with love God and love your neighbor as you ought to love yourself.

    • tammyswallow profile image

      Tammy 6 years ago from North Carolina

      This is a very tough subject to comment on without making one side or another angry. I think if we read the old testament, we see how much religion has changed with society considering what was once societal law in Leviticus is no longer valid.. people were not allowed to eat pork or wear polyester.

      I think in matters of religion, those who practice do not have to deviate from their religious beliefs in order to be accepting and tolerant of any group or person they identify as going against the teachings of their religions such as Homosexuals and Catholics who use birth control. These people should leave the judgements to the God of their chosen religion and focus on the underlining theme of the Bible, Love Thy Neighbor.

      I was raised with Christian values (Catholic) and I believe in God, however sacred the Bible is, it is still a book that was written and EDITED by man, and namely the Catholic Church from the beginning. Every religion has a Bible and almost every country at one point in time was governed by the Church. It is hard to fathom that the Bible was not "adjusted" in order to control society to the government's liking (in ANY religion). Consider the chapters of the Bible that were removed because they would give people the "wrong ideas" on how to conduct themselves. The original 1st chapter of the Bible was stricken. It did not start with Adam and Eve. The authentic first chapter of the Bible describes Adam's 1st wife Lillith who REFUSED to obey Adam and God removed her from the Garden of Eden. It was removed because to include it would cause women to think and act like Lillith. There chapters on Solomon's powers of astrolgy that were removed from the original Bible because the Church did not want society to practice it. The chapter of Jesus's childhood was stricken from the Bible by the Catholic church because he did things that were "naughty" as a child would do and the Catholic church didn't want to tarnish his perfection. Considering these things, it makes one wonder what God really said about anything.

      I don't think we can count on religion evolving with society in a way that creates acceptance for all human beings, but I think as individuals we can adjust our own thoughts and consider that we don't have all of the answers when it comes to religion and keep our intentions towards love.