How Much Deviation from Religious Doctrine is Acceptable? Essay

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Central to any religion is a unified set of beliefs that is shared amongst all its followers. These can range from stories about the origin of the universe or the lives of prophets or other important religious figures to sets of rules governing how you live your daily life. It is these beliefs that define who is a follower of that religion, and deviation from them could result in a person being outcast, persecuted, or even put to death in various areas and time periods. However, these beliefs are by no means universal. Interpretations of religious doctrines may strongly differ even between members of the same religious sect. These issues are very relevant even to non-believers as they have a strong influence on people’s opinions of important social issues, such as gay marriage, abortion, and the teaching of creationism in public schools. We have read about several different and contradictory interpretations of Christian theology in class, and through surveys and discussions we have seen that within our own class members of the same religion vary greatly in their beliefs. An important question then is how much should an individual be allowed to deviate in their beliefs from established doctrine? The answer is not so obvious because once some deviations are allowed it can be not easy to know where to stop. I think it is easier to focus mostly on Christianity in answering this question both because of the material we covered in class and because it is most relevant to America today. It is important to realize that from a historical context religious doctrines are by no means an absolute truth, as many would believe. They have been altered many times in the past and should be able to continue to change with the times. No religion shou...

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... arbitrary set of rules. This applies not just to religion but to political and moral ideologies as well. If we really want to seek the truth, I think we could really learn a lot from the Gnostic tradition.

Works Cited

Bacon, Benjamin W. "The Canon of the New Testament" The Biblical World, Vol. 21, No. 2 (Feb., 1903), Published by: The University of Chicago Press. Web. Available at:

Cicero , John Ross, and Horace McGregor. The Nature of the Gods. Penguin Classics, 1972. Print.

Pagels, Elaine. The Gnostic Gospels, Vintage, 1989. Print.

Plato, and Christopher Gill. The Symposium. Penguin Classics, 2003. Print.

Weir, Peter. Dead Poets Society. Perf. Robin Williams. Touchstone Pictures, 1989.

Arcand, Denys. Jesus of Montreal. Centre National de la Cinématographie, 1990.

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