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Sunday, August 14, 2011

Essay on Religious Authority

Religious authorities hold important positions in every religion.  A religious authority is someone whom the faithful look up to for advice.  A religious authority is a person whom the faithful consult on matters of law.  He is someone who has the moral authority to interpret the teachings of the Holy Bible or the Holy Qur’an.  In Christianity, the priests occupy a high position of moral authority.  He has the authority to perform sacred rituals.  He leads the celebration of the holy mass, reads the homily and prepares the sermon for the faithful.  He is also given the authority to hear the confessions of the faithful.  Under the religious teachings the priest is authorized to pardon the sins of the faithful after the confession after he has told them the right penance for their sins.  A priest is also authorized to perform sacred ritual to a person who is sick so that he maybe healed both physically and spiritually.  A priest is also authorized to perform sacred rituals to a person who is dying so that his sins may be pardoned and he may enter the kingdom of heaven.  In Judaism, any adult member of the Jewish community who understands what he is doing may perform sacred religious rituals (“Rabbis, Priests, and Other Religious Functionaries”, p.1).  The rabbi has no special authority to perform sacred rituals and ceremonies since he shares the same authority to perform sacred rituals with any adult member of the community (“Rabbis, Priests, and Other Religious Functionaries”, p.1).  However, the rabbi performs a special role since he acts as a teacher.  As a teacher he has moral authority over the faithful to decide any matter of religious law.  Having studied religion the faithful also look up to him to interpret the religious teachings. 

A religious authority plays an important role in the religious community.  If a religious authority leads a morally upright life then the faithful may be influenced to follow his lead.  Because of their moral authority the people respect them.  In the same manner, the words of the religious leaders are very influential and powerful in shaping public policy (Robert P. George, 2002, p.1).  For instance, in some countries, birth control is considered violation of the Christian teachings.  Use of birth control pills and contraceptives is considered as an act which prevents life.  Priests are against its use and consider them as anathema to life.  Because the government is influenced by religion they have no choice but to discourage the use of birth control pills and contraceptives as part of the family planning program.  In these countries, birth control pills and contraceptives are taboos which are against the social mores and expectations of the society.

However, the public should realize that the priests and rabbis are also humans.  They are also capable of committing mistakes just like any other person.  They are also subjected to temptation just like any other person.  In the past, there have been many controversies about priests being involved in sex scandals.  It is important for the faithful to understand that when this happens they should not lose respect for the religion itself.  They should not be angry at the priests and rabbis.  Rather, the faithful should also pray for the priests and rabbis so that they will have the strength to resist the temptations.  The faithful should also realize that they cannot blindly follow every religious teachings.  If they think that the blind observance of the religious teachings of the religious authorities will cause harm to their family then it is time for them to decide for themselves what is best for them and their family.

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