What is the founding principle of organised religion?
You might choose any of the obvious answers to this question. The answer to this is as varied as religions themselves at this time in human history. But I believe that the answer is simple.
It is this.
Organised religion says only one thing, beneath all the BS.
What we believe is the truth, and what you believe, if you believe at all, is wrong.
And the continued existence of organised religion thrives on one thing. The one thing that makes our world in every aspect, not work as it could.
Today, this insidious division takes a myriad of forms from the overt to the hardly ever perceived by the man or woman in the street. From the evangelical missions of the dominant religions and the actions of its followers, like those of Muslim or Christian fundamentalists and their part in terrorism, racism and prevailing cultural prejudice. From the choice of political party to what football team you follow. From wearing name brands of clothing to, in my opinion, the ludicrous act of using dividers at your local supermarket, as your goods lurch towards the cashier. Dividing things you don’t even own yet from those of others.
In the question of organised religion, its long history rife with prejudice and persecution, most notably against followers of other religions, and also the place of women in our societies. The latter only recently changing in the Church of England after hundreds of years of existence, while the Catholic Church remains entrenched in male dominated culture. While as recent stories testify, even raising the question of gender equality in higher church roles in the Mormon Church can lead to excommunication. In fact, I would go as far as to say that the prevailing second class citizenship that women are still enduring to this day is down to organised religion, but that’s an debate for another day.
We, as Humans, have an innately subjective view of everything that we encounter. It’s a fact because , despite your choices and affiliations, we are unique individuals, our view of the world personal and individual. No single human being see’s the world in exactly the same way.
So the interpretation of religious concepts, the words of God if you prefer, will likewise be individual. Religion is a simple fact that large groups of people share a concept in as close a way as is possible given this unique human trait. And in so believing, our, as close as possible, communal truth, we will identify anyone else as wrong.
I heard a nice analogy of religion once. It said that every form of religion in the world see’s the same God, but from different angles, the image changed by the experience, the culture and the history of the viewer. But the focus is the same, even if the viewer cannot accept this.
An alternative was the much older Asian fable of the three blind men who first encountered an Elephant. The first man touching the animal’s ear, stating that it was a large leaf, the second touching the animal’s leg, saying it was the base of a tree, while the last man touching the trunk, stating it was a serpent. The fact remains. It was the same animal, despite the handicapped perception of the men. The handicap of organised religion is also its blindness. The blindness to accepting not what they believe is wrong, but that others can be right too.
At this point, a question should be raised. Why do we need organised religion at all, because its simple outcome is division? The most devastating outcome of this is that followers of one religion feel justified in the death of others at their hands. That the death of those who do not follow their faith somehow makes the loss less important. In a similar way that in war, a fundamental part of the ability to wage war on others is the dehumanisation of the enemy. This is exactly what is occurring in religious wars at this moment in time, just as it was in the more notable wars in human history.
But, back to the question. Why do we need organised religion at all?
Surely we have the ability to perceive the influence, the support and the insight of God/the Divine without having someone work as a go-between? Do we need to be sheep, following a shepherd? This analogy is intentional because the ultimate outcome of following a shepherd is to be led to slaughter or have some part of us removed, exacted for the benefit of others.
If you agree with conventional religious thought, we are the offspring of God, his children. Does a child wanting to engage with their parent have to employ a third party to facilitate that engagement? If the answer is yes, then this is a seriously dysfunctional family dynamic. And in our modern society would provoke serious professional input, because we would see it as highlighting the breakdown in the relationship. This is the state that organised religion in all its forms and going back thousands of years. Organised religion does not highlight our closeness to God, but quite the opposite. Our inability to engage with the divine on our own.
People have described religion as a crutch. This is not true. In the above case, it’s surely more like a social worker, alerted to the situation by a string of dysfunctional experiences that highlight safe-guarding issues and that could ultimately lead to the child, or in fact, the parent, suffering.
Or if you want to go a step further and remove the role of social worker altogether, which admittedly has a benevolent connotation. The power, control and influence of organised religion is the equivalent of child abuse, the follower being the child, the parent being the divine ideation, the religion being the incestuous family member, or predatory paedophile, praying on the innocent and coming ultimately between parent and child while destroying the victim.
The human race is one race. We are all exactly the same biologically, with only variations of chemicals in our skin caused by evolution in a given environment. Some have even go on to say that we share a single consciousness, a collective consciousness that communicates globally and may even influence humanity as a whole. All forms of division complicate and often utterly obscuring that communication.
In Africa, the word Umbutu, roughly translates as I am, because you are.
A phrase highlighting human unity.
If you want to go even further into chemicals, take the underfunded and largely ignored research into DMT, a chemical compound found in practically every living organism on the planet, a commonly occurring chemical that is also a psychoactive compound with frighteningly powerful effects on consciousness.
While modern society increasingly focuses on fear and division of the individual from everyone around them, which is rather ironic given that humanity only survived its early existence by focusing on community and mutual cooperation to survive, but which does serve to demonstrate a fundamental reason why the world in the in the state it is in. Why war continues, why millions die for want of the most basic needs, while the gap between rich and poor continues to increase. We have lost our ultimate truth, something that transcends all others. That we are one, that we are the same, despite culture, history and race. The recent death of a black youth in Southern America, shot by a white policeman highlights that America has yet to move on from its history of racial prejudice. The attitude that children and the elderly are effectively disabled because they do not serve a function in our production line like society, serves to highlight that our society is so obsessed with productivity and playing our part is capitalist consumer culture that those who are worthwhile and those who are not, continues to perpetuate. The list goes on and on.
To me, who comes from a mental health nursing background, the most notable example of this division and loss of, let us say oneness, was the decision in the late Seventies, early Eighties in the UK to close the mental health institutions and the move towards what was then called, Care In The Community. For those unfamiliar with this change, it was basically taking the patients out of the institutions and moving them into the community, using the funds raised by the closures to set up support amidst those communities. The problem was that due to the change in our society, we had largely lost the concept of community, and that, for the most part, the money vanished, or was channelled into other areas, or private pockets.
This was brought home to me in travelling to my nursing training at what remained of a large institution in Essex, then surrounded by a high metal fence, and to see groups of ex-patients from that institution huddled around the entrance area, as close as they could get to the place they still perceived as their home.
This made me realise a simple fact. A fact that even those with enduring mental illness could understand. That the community wasn’t outside, but inside. Many would say, arhh, the effect of institionalisation! I would say we all exist in that state, only our institution is much, much bigger.
And this brings me back to organised religion and why do we need them. If we all are one, and so all have the fundamental ability to perceive the touch of the divine, then we are, to say the least, naïve to believe that others have the ability to translate what the divine says.
I once watched, with some disgust and anxiety, a couple of people using a divining board. The pointer moved from letter to letter and the results were written down. They didn’t make any sense. At the end of the session, one participant then juggled the letters about like an anagram to make words. I asked ‘Why are you doing that? Surely if the spirits, or whatever wanted to give you a message, it would simply spell it out? My reply was a dismissive, ‘Oh, don’t be wet!’
Now I’m sure this is not how it’s supposed to work and the people involved were, well, morons. But if God wants to speak to someone, surely it would be in a way that the individual can ultimately perceive, even if it’s symbolic or cryptic, or in a way that is intended to teach and inform. Its God after all. Not via to perception or interpretation of another, who like the people in my anecdote, may well be total idiots.
The follower puts faith in the priest or whatever, but why? Because the religion has an established hierarchy, and this person has a direct pipeline to the divine? That is ignorance personified. And in fact, simply states that the follower truly believes that they are somehow not worthy or God’s attention. He/she/it has far more important people to talk to than a mere follower. Does God really need to delegate? Does a priest have a greater insight in right and wrong just because they have participated in years of subjective religious indoctrination?
The answer, if you truly believe in any form of the divine, is no. I firmly believe that both God and humanity are much more powerful than that and that by making that connection directly, we both benefit. And yes, I believe the Divine benefits from us, as we can from it, just like the example noted above regarding the parent child relationship.
Or is it because, as is oh so prominent in the Catholic religion, that we are all filled with Sin, so have to come to our divine parent on our knees, unworthy or their attention, begging forgiveness for our transgressions and those committed in the Garden of Eden…….by a woman no less!!!?
This concept, to be blunt, makes me want to puke! And is simply a control mechanism making us feel the need for these divine go-betweens of organised religion, and also feel ultimately worthless in the sight of the Divine. Its rubbish and it’s about time we realised that, because it is once again a form of division, but now from the Divine, or concept of God. That’s not the Divine concept I feel and see. If there is an original Sin, it’s believing this kind of blatant religious propaganda.
And a note to all Christians who adhere to this concept, The Bible was edited and censored during the reign of the Holy Roman Empire at the synods of Nicea by the leaders of the early Christian church, not the simple followers, the ruling hierarchy, so what you read in the Bible is edited. Enjoy the silence people!
To believe you are a child of God, or the Divine, is to accept that you may fall and truly screw up at times, but that parent will always be there for you, without the need to beg for forgiveness, or accept that you are worthless, or kill others in their name. If you went out today, armed with whatever type of weapon you desired at that time and killed another, and your defence was you did that for your mother or father, how would that truly make that parent feel. I exclude of course parents who are as pathological as their offspring. In that case you’re saying that God/the Divine, is as insane and brutal as your actions are.
Moving forward with all its benefits to Humanity as a whole has nothing to do with which church you go to or what club you theologically belong to. It has everything to do with re-establishing that direct personal connection with the Divine and putting aside all those religions whose true agenda consists only of gaining prominence over other religions by having more bums on seats and more money in the bank.
We are one. That is it. Division diminishes us all and allows everything wrong with our world to continue and perpetuate. And until we accept this with courage and humility, nothing will ever change.