Re: Restored: "Ch. 5 - The Maya Collapses."
To my mind, both Islam and Christianity have too long and varied a history to conform to the criteria of my question. Neither can really be nailed down to a particular political aim, nor to a particular society, let alone a social agenda. The socially conservative agendas that have been listed so far in this thread are contemporary issues for the most part, but the histories of the two religious traditions belie any attempt to nail them down to a fixed position. They may have more or less fixed moral positions (even those tend to waver over the course of centuries) but it's important to bear in mind that what are regarded as moral issues are not always regarded as social or political issues, and vice versa.
As for Moonies and Hari Krishnas, I'd have to know a little more about their traditions and methodology to really come to a decision. Any background?
Depster1978: Islam. I think that it is the only religion with multiple theocracies based upon it. A theocracy is by definition social control.
The association of theocracy with social control is acceptable, but Islam is not universally characterized by theocracy. To my mind, it's perfectly legitimate to oppose theocracy without extending that opposition to a religion as a whole, or to religion in general.
And my point is not as to whether or not religious members, groups or even religions as a whole seek a particular political agenda as a secondary motive. What interests me is the claim that religions are first and foremost a form of social control, and not as an incidental effect but as its modus operandi.
That seems to me like one of those easy myths some people tell themselves in order to justify a fixed position concerning religion. The actual circumstances are likely far more complex and far less sinister.
wwdimmitt: I would like to see one example of a religion that is NOT primarily aimed at social control, and legitimization of the societal power structures.
Considering the number of religions that began with revolutionary content, I would say that there's a strong argument against the idea that religion routinely substantiates the status quo. Christianity, Islam, Buddhism -- nearly all of these were incompatable with the standing social systems in their infancy, and if they've come to dominate the social scene, it's only by the long spread of their beliefs. We tend to make much of the fact that dominant paradigms often spread their domains even further by the enforcement of belief, but the early history of all three religions shows the necessary and diametric form of growth, the accumulation of adherents who simply find the foundling religious program more resonant.
As for social control, let's draw an important distinction here. Any social institution or group is bound to have an impact or influence in society. The question is whether or not the group's primary concern is to determine the very fabric of society, and the means they use in achieving that goal. I wouldn't deny that there are elements in ours and other societies who seek power and control under the auspices of a given religious program -- my question is whether those are the aims of the religion as a whole or merely of certain factions within the religion.