“Religious prescriptionist” are folks who try and tell us what is the TRUE form of their religion, including true doctrines or practices. They tell us what a True Muslim is, what a True Christian is, what a True Hindu is. Heck, this can even happen in non-religious groups: Atheists and Marxists fight among themselves also in this way.
It is not only the fundamentalists that do this, but even the liberals of the religion. These liberals who believe in a more inclusive version of their faith, will try and tell us that such a stance was indeed the real stance of their religious hero: prophets, saviors or saints. You see, they know the truth — just like their fellow fundamentalists. They know how to correctly interpret their sacred, authoritative scriptures. So in a sense, they are doing the same thing as their fundamentalist
It is very common human trait to choose a group’s identity banner and then work to get others to agree with your particular view on that group.
A Buddhist Example:
For instance: Some Buddhists believe in “Other-Help” (tariki, in Japanese). They believe that meditation is too hard a path but that we are now in a dispensation where faith is the only true path of Buddhism. They believe that if their heart felt prayers (chanting) to Amida Buddha are sufficiently they can go to Buddhist heaven. Sound familiar?
Sure, they may call themselves “Buddhist”, but their commonality with many Christians is uncanny. And Buddhists who say that these Buddhist aren’t really Buddhists are being “prescriptivists”.
A Muslim Example
A Muslim declares that true Islam is peaceful and not condemning of other faiths. Sure, their flavor of Islam may be so, but many versions of Islam disagree. Further, that believer and the others rely on the same idea of using correct interpretation of scripture as their source of authority.
Summary of main points:
- Prescriptivists exist in all faiths
- No matter how loud the prescriptivists yell, all faiths (all groups) will continue to have a varieties of followers who hold contradictory beliefs, practices and preferences
- Prescriptivists teach us a great deal about “groupism”
- Our understanding of groups (both faith and non-faith groups) will improve if we understand the prescriptionists and prescriptivism
- Understanding this comparative religion trait helps us understand groups which helps us better understand our minds and our societies.
- Religious folks need to stop pretending as if their religion is homogenous or as if they know the one true teaching.