In this essay, we share some thoughts and questions on religion.
An alternative title we considered was “years of tears and fears: man and his religion”.
One may take a step back in this year, 2015, and considering the history of organized religions, rightly ask: has religion been a net positive to mankind?
Not to keep you in suspense, dear readers, I will say that we see the need for organized religion, and yes, on balance, it has probably been a positive thing for mankind – but organized religion has had and still has a negative side to it. (We exclude Islam here as we see few or no positives in this undeniably violent, murderous “religion”.)
Let us look at the means of motivation for believers, adherents of organized religions. The bribe is that if you work to develop a love for God, do good works and observe all the rituals, perform the sacrifices, etc. you will go to a better, less miserable place after bodily death. The threat is that if you do not do these things (sins of omission) and you do bad, evil things (sins or transgressions of commission) you will be punished severely after this life. At least the hells in the eastern religions were not portrayed as permanent or never ending!
But, you say that man is primitive, like a child, and is at a low level of spiritual development. Thus, this rather primitive means of motivating proper behavior is justified and necessary.
Perhaps this primitive approach keeps him so, keeps him at a rather basic level of understanding. Can human beings live constructive, loving lives without being prodded to do so by the bribe and threat approach of religion? In other words, can a person do a good deed from a desire to help others, from a heart filled with compassion rather than from conscious thoughts of scoring points with God, earning merit, or avoiding hell fire?
Fear and guilt appear as negative motivators. For those at a low level of spiritual consciousness, these are necessary. Yet, if people make the effort, the ongoing effort, they can move to a higher level where they seek to do the right thing because it is the right thing to do. Selfish individuals will not make the effort. The challenge for religion is how best to get people to make the effort to grow in spiritual consciousness (and thus let go of some of their innate selfishness).
To be sure, religion has been used to control people over the millennia. And, the priests, Brahmins, rabbis, etc. that are able to intercede with God, or the gods, enjoy a privileged place in society.
An interesting common feature of most organized religions is that man is blamed for his predicament. We have already penned an essay on this blog with our thoughts on the Garden of Eden story in the Bible. It raises many more questions than it answers. Adam and Eve determined for all humans their fate or plight on this earth. In Hinduism, we see the view that we all fell from a higher state. For some, perhaps with a cynical bent, this may appear as blaming the victim.
The idea that God is harsh, over bearing, and wants to send us to hell for any thing, or for every thing arises in some religions. (Of course, this helps the priests to lord it over the faithful. God becomes the enforcer of whatever the priests require or demand of us.) Preachers, reverends, ministers, seem not to understand or be able to grasp that beyond a certain point this idea of a hangman God becomes counter productive. By that we mean this overbearing, vengeful God concept does more harm than good to their cause. How so? People can be driven to despair (hopelessness) and/or resentment with such a concept of God. One might think that if God is an ogre what is the use of it all, what is the use of trying? If He is not an ogre, why did the Church men make Him out to be so?
People should be God fearing, yes – but that ought not be taken to a grotesque extreme. And, priests should not abuse their authority!
We choose to believe that God is just, loving and merciful. His justice is not limited to punishing the wicked. It must also involve some recompense for the innocent victims as there is so little justice in this world.
other thoughts and questions
Too many fanatics justify their cruelty with appeals to morality.
Excessive fear, obsessive guilt, enduring the abuses of Church authority, and glorifying suffering – are these what modern men and women want in a religion? More importantly, do these help us to grow spiritually?
Perhaps modern man has wearied of this approach. People are seeking these days. They may be looking for truth in the wrong places, but they are looking. These organized religions from the bronze age need to make some long overdue adjustments if they wish to remain credible and thus relevant in these times. But, entrenched priesthoods, jealously guarding their privileged place, their authority, their power will continue to resist change. Yet, rigidity is a sign of death, not life. For the organized religions to be vibrant, living movements able to effect positive change in people, these will have to make some changes.
Lastly, what price God’s glory? In this battle between good and evil, God and Satan, the price of God’s glory seems to always require much human suffering.
We have covered some of these topics before. Interested readers can read our three-part essay on organized religion and the spiritual impulse.
About Adam and Eve:
As to the concept of a harsh God, see our essay from the summer of 2012 here:
Flowers in full blossom. The soul – when it grows and matures and blossoms in love – is beautiful as well.
Copyright 2015 – larrysmusings.com