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Patanjali Sokaris

Pondering the universe

Clothes are not beliefs

People wear clothes for many reasons, but some are prescribed because they are meant to represent a particular set of beliefs. However, since people can fake why they wear clothes, clothes cannot, of themselves, guarantee beliefs. So, why are they such a big deal?

The primary reason for clothes is to protect ourselves from the weather and our surroundings. From there, anything else is embellishments for some other purpose.

Once we have clothes, they then provide a huge advertising space where we can make a statement about ourselves and what we believe, T-shirts being the prime example of this.

Uniforms ^

There are groups of people, like police, emergency workers and military personnel, that need to be immediately recognisable, as they serve as a contact point for the public in particular situations. Thus we have the consistent dress code that we call uniforms, so that everyone looks the same, supposedly giving the impression that they will provide the same level of service.

Uniforms are also used to place symbols upon to indicate the wearer's status in the organisation, as having those enables the aims of the organisation to be carried out more efficiently, just because others can clearly see that the wearer's rank entitles them to be obeyed.

Non-essential organisations use uniforms for the same reasons: recognition and indication of service level.

However, we all know that having a uniform does not guarantee the the wearer is totally on board with the message that the uniform is supposed to convey for the owning organisation.

Earning money is a large reason why people are willing to don a uniform, and while the wearer may not fully agree with their employing organistion, they are willing to sacrifice some of their concerns so that they receive the payoff, their wages.

However, there are many who wear the uniform, but are only doing it to infiltrate the organisation for purposes that work against it, like espionage or covert investigations. It is the existence of these people, who are actively hiding their true purpose, that undermines the overt meaning of having uniforms.

Beliefs ^

Beliefs are the product of using our consciousness to explore the world, and our free will to decide what we choose is real and true of that for us.

By necessity, beliefs change over time, both as a result of new experiences, but also of the lessons and understanding we gain from living according to our beliefs up until now. Each person's beliefs will, merely because we each live different lives, be different from everbody else's.

Like all organisations with a bureaucracy that needs some measure of consistency, religious ones tend to rely upon uniformity of dress, at least among those supposedly committed to the organisation, for the same reasons that other organisations do, namely recognition and status within the organisation.

However, people join religious organisations for many reasons, and not all are as willing and cooperative as the organistions would have everyone believe.

Children brought up with parents in a religion are expected to continue belonging to it, regardless of whether they actually believe any of its tenets or practices.

People who try to leave a organisation, and not just religious ones, can be subject to a whole raft of measures designed to prevent them leaving, or at least neutralise their ability to hurt the organisation if they do leave.

So, while an organisation may like to give the impression that there is a uniformity of belief, especially if those beliefs are in some written form, and helped if there is a long history to them, those within the religion are all at quite different stages of belief, both in the breadth of how much they actually share, but also in how deeply they are committed to them.

Clothes ^

Religious organisations also like to use uniforms, or at least consistent dress, to indicate commitment and status. They also choose to add in extra items of dress as part of ceremonial and ritual activities.

Ceremonies and rituals provide a means of reinforcing beliefs by repeating the activities while focussing on the prescribed symbolic meaning for each activity. They are active mantras, designed to ensure some measure of uniformity of belief, at least among those of the same rank.

Those committed to the religion will wear the prescribed clothes and perform the prescribed activities to show their desire to be part of it.

However, just like with other organisations, what people wear or do as part of a religion does not mean they wholeheatedly believe all of the teachings and practices, nor whether they believe any of it, as they may be there for purposes that run counter to the organisation's goals.

That essentially means that the clothes and rituals are not a guarantee of belief, so why are they still considered so central to people being considered part of the religion?

Clothes may be an affirmation of what you believe,
but they cannot prove that you believe what you affirm.

Hearts and minds ^

Religions, like any other organisation develop a bureaucracy that tends to try to maintain or improve their power and status in the world.

That bureacracy works to define:

  1. a.A set of reference beliefs, typically based around the supposed writing or quotes of the founder(s).
  2. b.A set of activities that need to be performed to demonstrate the commitment of adherents.
  3. c.The items of clothing to be worn, if not all the time, at least while performing religious activities.
  4. d.Behaviours expected of adherents, so that the activities and administration of the religion can run smoothly.
  5. e.Non-conformatory behaviour, so that some measures can be taken to ensure compliance.

Now, at face value, such bureaucratic measures seem reasonable for an organisation to define for its own stability and functioning. However, religious organisations have long been given legal right to have quite discrimatory practices, many of which are quite dissimilar to those that every other organisation in a modern democracy is expected to adhere to.

Many decriminatory practices are directed at women, by either preventing them from holding certain ranks within the organisation, preventing them from being part of otherwise normal activities, or requiring them to wear clothing to an extent not required by men.

Religions typically grow out of a previous culture, so while some new activities and dress code may be defined, a lot will be inherited from that older culture, expecially if it was initially for weather protection, and thus still required in the original location.

However, organisations have been reticent to let go of some activities and clothing requirements, just to maintain consistency, regardless of whether they are suitable for the climate and culture where adherents now find themselves.

This latter tendency for conformance is where clashes occur within a host culture that is radically different from the source culture of the religion. Neither tends to want to concede that the changed situation needs some measure of compromise on both sides.

A prime example of this clash is in schools, where there is a battle for which uniform takes precedence, though the schools' reasons do seem to be rather self-serving, rather than really providing a recognition of student's beliefs or wishes. Students are being torn between the requirements of two different sets of beliefs imposed upon them, without being given a choice. Such is the ownership that society considers it has over children, that they are expected to just obey.

One particularly overtly heart-and-minds manipulating requirement is that in order to get married in some religions, a supposedly non-believing partner has to convert to the religion, which basically says that whatever they believe has no real validity. It seems a desperate attempt to use people's love for each other to bind them to the religion.

Of course, the religion is trying to ensure that the couple's children are more likely to become part of the religion. It is these sort of tactics that undermine free will, but also lead to rejection of such religions on the basis that they are more interested in self-promolgation than the few God-given rights of their adherents.

Public safety ^

There is a lot of concern expressed about how the clothing of religions may give rise to issues of pubic safety, expecially where facial covering may lead to lack of identity verification.

However, much is centered upon prejudices, rather than being considered from the viewpoint of the actual issue. For example, consideration of how to frame laws for ensuring identity in particular public situations does not need to reference any religion's dress code, but just deal with the requirement that the face is uncovered.

Unfortunately, prejudices and perceived malintent are being given free expression to override sensible approaches to public order.

Every society has to find the balance between conserving some measure of societal cohesion through consistent laws, while allowing free expression for its citizens, so that the society may find better ways to run itself, especially as the aspirations of its citizens changes.

Freedom ^

Freedom is a term that is widely cited as a right, but it is such a nebulous term that its exact meaning is as varied as the agenda of those using the term.

We have free will, and can direct our consciousness to whatever we want. Doing either of those by iteslf does not affect anybody else at all. However, we also have a body, and it is when we engage that to make changes in the physical world that we begin to interrupt others using theirs.

Clearly, freedom is not absolute and unrestricted in the physical world, and so we must accept that some measure of compromise must be accepted if we are to all live in the same world. But, that is where different religions, philosophies and idealogies have staked their claim to authority, often with drastic consequeances where adherents of each are willing to fight and die for them.

The sensible balance is to allow all to indulge their free will until such a time as they encroach on the free will of others. Then there needs to be defined some procedures, or other limits to particular behaviours, that allows the maximum degree of freedom of physical expression for each party.

Within that wider societal balance, the agendas of particular organisations, especially if they no longer have the legal enforcement of the government they used to, need to fit in with the aspirations and freedoms a society's citizens need to be able to express, rather than curtail citizens freedoms for their own preservation.

We are still experimenting with what structures work best with us, even as our requirements evolve, so we cannot afford to apply simplistic fixes that only serve particular ideologies or sets of beliefs.


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