Does the religious sector need a code of ethics?

2017-08-07 12:16
Doom pastor. (Facebook)

Doom pastor. (Facebook)

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A brief look at headlines on various news platforms will reveal just how religious deception, deceit and fraud are on the increase. Unfortunately, religion is submitting to the deceitful influence of false prophets, religious leaders and immoderately-greedy clergymen.

Religious frauds and unscrupulous pastors spraying insect-killing Doom in the eyes of congregants or making their congregations eat live snakes or drink petrol, etc. should open our eyes to the tricks of some religious frauds. 

These incidents and other similar cases we hear off but not reported makes me realise how vulnerable and blindly trusting followers of religion, cults and tradition can become. Religious leaders using all kinds and methods of “get rich, good luck, success and healing rituals or prayers” regularly make headlines, not only in South Africa but around the globe.

With more and more complaints against religious scholars, leaders or holy men being reported in news reports, Karl Marx’s famous critique of religion as “the opium of the people” is giving many atheists, communists and anti-religionists ammunition to use against believers of the different religions.

Many non-religionists believe religion was a “drug” invented by capitalists to supress and to keep the oppressed masses or classes content with their vile, desolate or pitiful conditions.

I believe region is important for a society or community for a range of reasons like promoting social cohesion, nation building, basic values and ethics amongst others. And it is also the central component in the lifecycle of progress, development and spirituality.

We are living in an age that desperately needs the true teachings and message of religion. The correct practise of religion is the answer to most of our social ills, problems and lack of values and ethics. Materialism, consumerism, greed, corruption and absent parent syndrome amongst other ills are all the by-product of modernism. 

In today’s materialistic world, spiritual and moral degeneration has greatly intensified in our communities. Gangsterism, satanism, religious charlatans and other cults are outcomes of this weakened moral code. In every community and religious tradition there are charlatans preying on naive adherents. Unfortunately, when misfortunes happen, blind followers lose every sense of logic and reason, making them fair game for religious bigots.

How best to seek help, guidance and advice should be taught to children, adults and the congregation of the different religious beliefs. Disciples of religious groups and traditions should ask critical questions and be able to distinguish between the truth and false presentations by opportunists, fakes and other self-seeking individuals.

No conscientious person can remain indifferent to young people being misled by such iniquitous movements. It is important that human beings, endowed with the greatest divine gift of reason and choice, use these for the benefit and upliftment of individuals and communities.

In this regard, I agree with the Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities (CRL Rights Commission), to establish institutions to create an environment where they, and not the State, can effectively regulate themselves, and hold people who bring religion into disrepute accountable, as per their various religious systems.

Within the parameters of the Constitution and Bill of Rights it makes sense to bring about accountability, transparency, rule of law and a code of ethics within the religious sector. Just like other professions such as that of teachers, lawyers, nurses, doctors and engineers, a registration and ethics mechanism like the South African Council for Educators (SACE) but for religious leaders, would help to protect and keep in check the religious sector without compromising the internal requirements, dignity, respect and decorum of various institutions for recognising those of our honourable religious leaders.

- Mohamed Saeed says probing the media headlines, critical thinking, creating waves and promoting fundamental rights, social justice, rule of law, dignity and values is his passion and mission in life.

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