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Chapter Five: Man’s Influence On Religion: from When God Became the Terrorist
by William Wraithwrite III
14 Apr 2010
Religions are not all the same. Each one has it’s own individuality and psyche-ology (or allows for multiple interpretations). Also many leading figures, even within one religion’s lore, have their own individuality that can cause ideological and values clash within.
Chapter Five: Man’s Influence On Religion:
Religions are not all the same. Each one has it’s own individuality and psyche-ology (or allows for multiple interpretations). Also many leading figures, even within one religion’s lore, have their own individuality that can cause ideological and values clash within.
Still we generalize the idea that religions, as institutions, and given their differences and functions, attempt to deal with what is spiritually real, as well as what it is ultimately important—at least from the soul’s perspective. They point out to believers what matters most while living in this realm of earthly consciousness.
Whereas, philosophy as a discipline of inquiry, also attempts to identify what is real, but does so in different manner and attitude. It does not assume that any particular principle, a priori, is sacrosanct. Philosophy, per se similar to psychology, as a general mode of inquiry, does not operate from a framework of presupposed and unquestionable dogma. So as a “disciplinary” approach to reality it is more skeptical yet often more worldly.
Dinesh D’Souza, author of What’s So Great About Christianity, has a somewhat giddy explanation as to why religions continue to exist, in comparison to small numbers of card-carrying atheists. Citing Reverend Randy Alcorn, founder of Eternal Perspective Ministries, he offers Alcorn’s two versions of the creation story. The “secular” account says humans are products of primordial protoplasm and chance happening from about 3 billion years of evolutionary struggle—merely conglomerations of atomic particles and exist in a meaningless universe. “In short humans came from nothing and are going nowhere—existential angst.” Whereas, Christians believe that they do matter because God created them as his special species, and mankind can have immortality of soul in the afterlife. Furthermore, the Creator’s love is reflected in the “fact” that Jesus died for mankind’s salvation. So the Christian group has an animated sense of purpose. “Which attitude would you choose about life?”
D’Souza then goes on to cite that countries that are less religious have lower reproductive rates; whereas, countries that are composed of true believers have high fertility rates—such as Catholics in South and Central America. Using evolutionary theory D’Souza makes the case that religious peoples, being more optimistic, are genetic survivors, whilst atheists produce “listless” tribes that cannot perpetuate.
True enough is his insight. But given the billions of people the world currently bears few will miss those who have not re-incarnated children. Existential reality can be a grim outlook, however immortality, or its clone pattern of genetic perpetuation is not the only criteria to base existence as meaningful. Besides there are different takes on the idea of immortality itself—not all perceive it as unending sequence of time.
And why should the human mind or soul conclude that life is a worthy enterprise—given the many ugly realities and the nature of mankind? So if reality itself is grim how does the mind react—if not looking at it in the teeth? John F. Schumaker in his book, The Corruption of Reality, says “…religious beliefs are examples of adaptive cognitive errors. They are probably false because they are constructed in defiance and ignorance of available empirical data”. Schumaker believes that the human mind did not evolve to for the purpose of dealing with too much reality. He believes that the mind “needs” forms of escape—be it drugs, alcohol, religious illusions, escapists activities, or mental breakdowns. He says that there may be some truth to the adage that “the job of the old is to lie to the young”. Needless to say mankind also is adept at lying to the self as well.
But more directly we can ask of Dinesh D’Souza’s “optimism” of Christians: “Just what is so exciting about a belief system that confuses the supposed torturing of a man named Jesus, as mankind’s and/or God’s scapegoat, into some logic of God’s un-bounding love?” What does he mean by the religion tribe having found meaning if such meaning means being more or less forced to do whatever will stave off eternal damnation of terrorist hell? Certainly such hopefulness is a bit neurotic (that is if religion and the idea of God is tainted with oppression)?
Furthermore, over-population today, in the minds of many, brings its own forms of worry and terror—does it not? Could not overpopulation also incorporate an undercurrent of anxiety that haunts one’s soul while putting on one’s happy smiley face that convinces self that God will make it all OK? Especially since anti-abortionist more or less than settle for another kind of murder—war.
But Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s Grand Inquisitor tells his readers that mankind does not really want freedom—rather he wants to be subject to the authority of the state. He claims through literature that man doesn’t really choose the idealism of heaven—but opts for selling the soul for security (Hobbes’ point). Freedom, he says, puts too much demand on the “lowly” individual who prefers to be subjugated by mystery, miracle, and authority (what the Catholic Church he says has learned about human nature).
People then want security, cash and bread. Tomas de Torquemada, Spanish Dominican monk and first Inquisitor-General of Spain of the 15th century was Dostoyevsky’s role model for the Grand Inquisitor—since Torquemada was responsible for the burning of about 2000 peoples lives in real life Spain. Within this novel, Dostoyevsky makes the case that man, with his feelings of inferiority, will willingly submit to a greater will in order to save his self. (Meanwhile we should also be asking ourselves how or why people have been conditioned to feel so worthless and powerless.)
Erich Fromm made the same case in his Escape From Freedom, as did Eric Hoffer in The True Believer, in which they portray revolutionists, and their mobs of motley followers, as people trying to escape their own discontentment and failure. According to Hoffer “mass” movements, including some religious movements, require a psychology of frustration and fear that readily appeals to the poor, outcasts, misfits, minorities, the impotent, the selfish, the bored, etc. And no doubt he is correct in enough respects—the politically motivated may be alienated, and many may have low self-esteem or low sense of self—that they willingly join up with mass movements in order to feel of greater value and to have more security.
Yet there are many theories in the social sciences today, and aspects of inquiry in philosophy as well, that seeks to explain reality, as perception, as well as what constitutes the motive of human behavior. But a skeptic equally has to believe that there is times when a healthy mind or soul could find legitimate reason to be plaintiff, organize, rebel and associate with greater forces. This world is not all that Utopian in which all frustration is the fault of the inferior self or due to feelings of envy?
Hitler was certainly a discontent—but does that mean that Gandhi, or his followers, motives were not noble? After all social life is political—and not all politics is ideal in which justice plays itself out as the way it supposedly would were earth God’s heaven. And quite frankly why isn’t it—why should people be led to believe they first have to live here where evil exists, as some “test” to prove one’s right to a presumed Utopian afterlife?
A Will to Believe:
Still, any institution, that claims to “know” and “prescribe” reality for others, can have significant power of persuasion on its adherents. As most readers would agree—religions per se in the West—operate from the proposition of a definite kind of reality—they “prescribe” the vision of God’s reality to believers (that is they claim to).
Such “institutional” assumptions, as presented, are not tentative—rather they are doctrinaires not meant open to self-examination. Religions (at least Western religions) operate from a framework of “knowing” (‘gnosis’), as they attempt, via their spokespersons, to persuade others on their rightly righteousness (like the right-wing voter who believes in “my” country right or wrong).
The Value of Religion:
Religious faith provides people with tools for living, and specifically for coping with difficult issues and situations. Religions tend to focus on moral dilemmas, as well personal crises, that happen to people and to communities at large (as they are social institutions with socializing affects). They also provide a code of values, attitudes, and guidance about morality.
And since societies need at least some levels of conformity they operate as agencies of regulation that can help reduce personal anxiety—as opposed to feeling alienated in a world of atomistic ping-pong balls. (Meanwhile theoretical anarchists optimistically give too much credence to an idea of a benign and mature kind of nature of mankind. Such naïveté presumes in the good of mankind—similar to the ideologies of the neo-liberalism and libertarian doctrinaire.
God, irrespective of name or culture (as there are many names for the Great Spirit), has comforted many, many, peoples in times of need—from the pre-historical up to the present. God, as faith within stretches to a greater community, and helps make life more bearable for people who seek meaning against the gray haze of chaos. And it has provided a place of solace and comfort in a world of much insecurity and tragedy. This is a truth many atheists and agnostics too easily overlook—in their haste to destroy the very idea of religion.
Besides being smarter than others, or entertaining fewer mirrors of illusion, or feeling more independent, does not automatically mean you feel content or happy—after all why do some people who are so politically astute seem so unhappy—which is D’Souza’s point.
If God is anything, he or she or it, is an attitude toward life. Religion, and spiritual practice, helps people obtain attitudes on how to live, on what to think about in respect to violation of the greater good, on what to appreciate, and what to give thanks and show reverence, etc.
The search for meaning and sense of the sacred seems to be a universal characteristic of human nature in religion. But that does not mean that people should swallow religious teachings and ideologies without chewing them first. Because not everything about a particular religion or family of religions is necessarily beneficent.
One fact remains universal—mankind suffers a variety of social, psychological, physical, and spiritual ailments and consequences. Mankind therefore seeks healing process and meaning for these states of disease (as “not” feeling at “ease”).
The perpetuity of potential suffering, or anticipation of suffering, is mankind’s constant threat and burden on earth—especially within his homo sapient capacity for imaginative and creative communication—that sometimes comes to haunt him in the form of imagined fears and apprehensions, or potential abuse from claims of terrorist threat.
It is not just physical ailments and tragedies that cause suffering. There are the existential issues of explaining to the self why living in a world of suffering even matters. There is then a need for vision and purpose. And there is a human need to matter beyond the solipsism of the self. There is especially a need to combat the jaded or trivialized stories of the six o’clock evening news, the trickle to accumulative stream of signs of environmental decline, and debates about a potential global warming disaster—amidst higher demand for more commercial resource for more peoples.
Adjusting socially (as in getting along with and supporting others) is a form of suffering as well—because people need to learn to live within community—be it friendship, marriage, family, neighborhood, community, work environment, political region, nation, world, or ecological dependence, etc.
Humans are not born with prefabricated social skills and attitudes, so as to be programmed to automatically operate in smooth fashion within the natural conflicts of society. It is not like inheriting a set of instincts that dominate one’s will. One needs to be taught, or orientated, for the compromises necessary to maintain coexistence with others—especially with others who variety in personality and propensity (and political suasion).
And although academic disciplines like anthropology, archeology, socio-biology, and history, offer insights to understand the wide variance of ways in which Homo sapiens have adjusted to their different social environments, there is still a common theological need to wonder and reflect on how it is that man, as creature, learns to evolve and adapt with community, as religions have evolved to promote such adjustments.
Therefore religions had, and continue to have, an important function in society. Because it does not seem to matter if a particular society is more or less technical or industrial than another. Nor does it seem to matter if a given economy is arguably more sophisticated or rudimentary. Nor it is an issue on whether a given community is highly advanced in language, writing, industry, etc. Religions as moral belief systems that still provide an important basis of meaning, hope, and psychological survival—and this is especially true when people feel challenged in times of stress and confusion. (Which is not the same thing as arguing that authoritarian propensities should be given free reign when anxiety or stress levels are high—because that is precisely when authoritarian figures, the Thomas Cromwells and Rudy Giulianis, like to assert themselves.)
However it needs to be stressed that religions today are not as pervasively in control of the social mind—as they once were—at least not in the West. There are other institutions and disciplines that help counterbalance the once dominant influence of religion. Today, besides friend and family, people gain orientation from schools, libraries, media culture like TV and radio, science, newspapers, various industries, governments and legal systems, etc. Still religions play an important role in the life of the moral psyche or soul.
Caveats Are Necessary:
But these positive attributes about religion in general, and of their believers, should not blind the human race to potential abuse, or manipulation or mind control, by those who speak as if they, themselves were God, or think they thoroughly know how to “realize” God—and hence speak for God’s will. Why should we, or anybody for that matter, believe that all claimed prophets were sincerely in contact with a higher power—just because a particular book says so?
Too often human personality drapes itself in the robes of authority (both religious and secular) and speaks for God or State as if some ultimate authority that cannot be challenged. Such claims of sacred authority have come down to us through the institutionalization of “formalized” religions and the printed word.
A recent example of this phenomenon is the controversy that surrounds the fictional work of Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code in which we witness reactionary elements denouncing the book as false, evil, and apostasy.
Whereas we see in the religious left a choice and attitude to see this same novel as an “art” form and opportunity to introduce and expand on controversial ideas. The novel takes its material, at least partially, from historical and scholarly studies of Christianity, that may threaten rigid interpretations of the orthodox.
So while persons on the right claim conspiracy theories are dangerous, others on the religious left think it is realistic and good to open up debate as to what constitutes fact and fiction about religion, or at least allows for speculation about religious meaning, its history, and its main figures.
Personality Types as Popular Myths:
Within such debates we have personality “types” in the audience that tend either to side with one polemic, while condemning the opposing perspective (or heresy) against what they feel is correct. Other personality types prefer to see opportunity to consider and research “alternative” points of view.
[Note: We assume to generalize “types” of personality as they frequently do in popular psychology—even if we need to abstract types from individuals who have complexity. We will accept theoretical stock figures. Naturally, other personality factors, besides one that weighs on a scale from conservative to liberal, are at play in the real world, when it comes to discussing human motive. Education makes a difference in a person’s perceptions. Few people are two-dimensional robots; but apparently there are some scales of measurement that find validity in the hypothetical conclusions about a spectrum of attitude.]
But the bottom line is not all people are content with officiated orthodoxies that attempt to censor alternative explanations. In a sense being allowed to have debate and entertain speculation is itself freedom of speech and thought—a purported American democratic value—which is why libraries are such democratic institutions—especially those willing to carry a wide variety of ideas—even if they clash.
The authoritarian personality, according to some Berkeley researchers some time ago, is referred to as the "ethnocentric" personality. He is characterized as beholden to traits of obedience, dogmatism, prejudice, rigidity, contempt for weakness, low tolerance for ambiguity, hostility to members of outside groups, and generally maintains high retention of “superstitious” beliefs.
And not too surprising is it the case that those found on the right-wing spectrum of politics also are likely to be clustered in religious right’s wings as well. Precisely the point of this book—but even more the point is the right tries to dominate the psychology of God.
There are no few people today who believe that the final apocalyptic end (according to God’s “official” authorship) is soon at hand, and the world will be shortly consumed by fire. And many of these same personalities are diehard in league with loyalty for the current White House Administration’s war in Iraq, and it’s purported need to also attack Syria, Iran, etc. Lock, step and barrel, these God “fearing” soldiers are ready to march to Armageddon—not much questioning if they had been manipulated—or seldom suspecting they might have been played as pawns in a deadly game of intrigue. Rather they are assured of their righteousness.
Important religious figures historically have been controversial. For example all three Abrahamic religions have had adherents that disagreed with other sects and leaders within their overall umbrella religion. Heresy—that is the establishment of orthodoxy and challenge to orthodox, is a historical constant.
Increases amounts of controversy can be expected with the advance of various intellectual disciplines and media technologies. The more disciplines there are to help explain reality the more diverse the opportunity for individual interpretations, as well as refutations of older and mustier schools of thought.
Science has revealed, for instance, a universe far more complex than anything the human imagination dreamt up in its mythological and religious presumptions. Or at least a few religious cosmologies got a little claustrophobic. But now we see that eternity is much greater imagined through scientific instrumentation—even if we no longer feel ourselves as the center of the cosmos. So while we may “diminish” to some corner of the universe—we are not as paranoid either as being center stage with dagger hanging overhead.
Even the very idea of “reality” is open to question, as some say social systems construct reality (social constructivist framework). And it is language that gives meaning—but Shakespeare added more new words to the English language than did Jesus to his native tongue. So although Jesus may have had some “universal” values—he did not especially project a vision radically different than his cultural presumptions—save his liberal points of view on justice.
Meanwhile, established religions, with large market shares of population, continue to struggle to maintain their grip on believers—as new and old controversies transpire. This competition for the mind is played out with various attempts of free inquiry as well as mind control and threat—like don’t read that stuff or the devil will “possess” your mind and soul!
Nevertheless fears of the unknown will push some people and groups, if allowed, to try to dominate how others should think and act rather than providing individuals with access to a variety of competing perspectives to determine for themselves what are their values.
Morality By What Authority?
To the extent that people are willing to believe that Elohim gave Moses a tablet of Commandments (or via angelic enterprise), such tribal “regulations” were meant to help create a social order for that people living back then (as a kind of social values philosophy) except they were commands like the rule of law laid down.
No one alive today can vouchsafe for the events of Moses as having a direct line with God the Almighty as accurate account. Rather belief of religious claim, and that recorded on scriptural testament, is left to one’s faith. Nevertheless religions, to various degrees, define a sense of morality within a given community in “temporal” terms—irrespective of the causal inspiration.
A Personal Perspective on Morality:
But making up rules is not the same things as having them obeyed. Not everyone conforms to every rule or principle set down by others in a given society (or every authoritative interpretation that attempts its own brand of righteous imposition—like we ought be putting more people in jail and for longer time frames).
Lawrence Kohlberg, scholar, committed himself to understanding how a sense of morality evolves in a human being. This question became his quest after he was involved in the effort to smuggle European Jewish refugees into Israel after the Holocaust. He set up a theory, Kohlberg’s Moral Judgment Scale, in which he purported that people can advance through three stages (or six levels) of morality, starting within at the pre-conventional to conventional to post-conventional levels of a continuum. But, according to his analysis, not all people advance through the three stages (or both levels of each stage).
The pre-conventional stage of morality enforces behavior as “obligation” that is commandeered, or the subject suffers punishment (via “external” control). The second stage of morality, according to Kohlberg, is that of “internalizing” values as “conventional” expectations because adherents value their membership within society (you hope to be accepted by other conventional minded—but still operate by “external” approval via others’ expectations). The final stage of morality is if you select your values and behaviors based on thought-out “principles”, such as those of equality or fairness, regardless whether you are personally rewarded for what you do and believe (you have advanced beyond the point of external control and are willing to go against the grain of either authoritarianism or conventionality if you feel it is morally right to do so).
It should be well noted that Kohlberg claims most people never surpass conventional values (depending on psycho-social skill development and brain wiring). Enough people advance to conventional levels while some remain at the authoritarian stage in the first two steps of stage one. (And supposedly these lower level functioning people do not readily come to understand the reasoning of the final steps of development—which makes their opposition greater!)
The question then becomes how much more true is moral conflict and misunderstanding in play when some officiated religious principles themselves are set up on a foundation of authoritarian rigidity or an excessive need for either revenge of punishment?
Methods of conditioning and sanction evolve as forms of social control in most schools of dogma or ideology (especially if they deal with important issues). But some of the tactics used to exact conformity are more forceful or terrorizing than are others.
Any truism of how things can effectively operate via human nature is not an argument that all forms of control and punishment are equally moral or worthy of respect. For example, few people appreciate being forced to do something without their own consent—irrespective of what level of morality they themselves gravitate. They at least appreciate their “own” freedom to choose.
Still it should not surprise people that some strategies and actions seem to work more effectively towards getting ends achieved than do others. Manipulating a person’s need to belong and feel accepted by a group works. Fear of rejection or ostracism is a great motivator—especially for those who feel less secure within the self to take an unpopular stance. But the fear of physical violence (torture) be it on earth, in the afterlife, also has an ability to oppress and control.
Authoritarianism can be effective in controlling large groups of people, but this does not mean that bully tactics and blackmail should be appreciated by socially mature and skeptical minds—it certainly is not godsend.
And what happens when those in control of society violate social, moral, or legal expectations? Or what if leaders in a country go further and begin to change the very laws so that what was once deemed inimical to society’s functioning and health is now projected as necessary choice—to maintain the new status quo? Do such leaders get away with arbitrary exercise of power because they happen to be the ones in power at the moment—as they re-write the rules?
In early Greek mythology even, the gods and goddesses of that respective pantheon, endowed within human-like qualities to engage in mortal-like foible, did not really suffer human-like punishments, as lesser mortals would have been so condemned.
Maybe Greek deities suffered some embarrassment, or bad press, and presumed lessons that should have been learned, but they, for the most part, did whatever they so pleased as long as they did not violate each other of similar rank too much. In our same day ranking dictators and white-collar crooks seldom sit in prison like the lower levels of people on the streets. So it seems that elitists and politicians, per se, assume different kinds of justice.
American Illegals From the Old World:
European experiences centuries ago motivated many white people to migrate to Native Indian lands (here in the New World). This European invasion on the Native American is one example of religious repression spilling across the ocean. Yet ironically it was the same kind of repression that led to Europeans escaping the old country to elsewhere for freedom.
Caucasian migrants (as “foreigners” back then, and as “illegals” in the eyes of the red skinned locals) came seeking a better life away from the religious and political oppression in multi-Christian-cultural Europe. Besides, Europe was getting crowded and was a political mess.
Europeans ancestors came to “Amerigo” from a history of STATE ORDAINED RELIGIONS, that regularly were at war with each other. It wasn’t very Christian-like but the concomitant oppression towards followers of "non-official" religions, within various feudal states (and later nation states) was a major bone of contention that led to persecution. One’s particular brand of Christianity could be a real liability.
Catholics were killing Protestants and vice versa. All kinds of religious sects and monasteries popped up with different theological twists. Cults of any obscure kind were especially suspected—especially if they had political motivations—which often enough they did.
Then in later centuries a more general mode of persecution coalesced. Witches and pagans and Jews and queers and schizophrenics were persecuted, tried, hanged, or burned at the stake. This is no short history as it spanned a few centuries yet it is part of mankind’s legacy and mindset. This is especially part of terrorist religious history of European peoples—citizens ought burn (metaphorically) awareness of this kind of terrorism psychology into their memories.
Religious fears then, as now, had a way of becoming too dangerously close to describing humanity. Thus the "Tools of Torture" moving museum (mentioned in the first chapter) was not brought to America as a mere spectator event. It traveled here to instruct the politically naive as well as the morally comatose. But apparently it already was too late attempting entrance in a corrupted empire of the 21st century.
[Note: It should be mentioned somewhere too that historical Judaic conceptions of Hell, was not like the conception that evolved later in Christian Europe—of utter damnation. Ancient Judaism, I’ve read, thought more in line of some temporary purgatory as opposed to an eternal torture chamber. Meanwhile Europeans were inspired to a more extremist terrorist idea of Hell (of course inspired by all the wickedness, sin, adultery, need for stoning, etc., found in the Torah book of Deuteronomy—which no doubt helped inspire a need for more ameliorating Talmudic literature.]
The Personality’s Perception of Religious Literature:
It is not a completely esoteric idea, that the God of the Old Testament (via Moses) was a right-wing judge, while Jesus, as mythic savior in the New Testament, was a man whose morality (and politics) was on the left. Rabbi Jesus was a heretic—in respect to certain expectations of tradition.
Along these divides of liberalism versus authoritarianism, certain Gnostic Christians, early on, were convinced that the Old Testament’s God and the God of Jesus were different entities entirely. Hence their heterodoxy was rejected from evolving orthodox Christian points of view.
Meanwhile many Jews could not believe that Jesus could have been a Jewish Messiah as he was put to death by way of crucifixion; and, besides he was in their mind’s eye, no great political leader or great warrior hero type.
Furthermore, religious scholars say that messianic literature is mostly a New Testament phenomenon that created a new religion. Jews believe Yahweh to be the deliverer of Jews to the Promised Land.
Nevertheless, the perception of many people, in respect to the character of the Old Testament’s God versus prophesies by Jesus stem from ideas about what constitutes justice and humanity.
Because, as argument followed, and still follows to this day, if a supposed God of moral standing had both the Divine Right and a the judgmental tendency to have souls tortured “eternally” in hell (that is to have demons do it) how can he be considered to be a fair minded judge? (Ironically, “we” may think this way as the idea of “hell” really got cooking in the New Testament).
[Note: If people are willing to believe in a God’s who allows for such extremes then why can not military personnel today torture enemy combatants for the duration of an “eternal” war on terror (even when it is now known that the specially created Pentagon Office of Special Plans incorporated faulty intelligence to justify war with Iraq—now known to have acted in bad faith)?]
[Note: Arguably then with this same moral logic we can go further. If a supposedly just God has both the right, and the mindset of will, to imprison souls in "his" hell (as part of his creative universe) then why can not a given culture build many prison systems so as to have a large prisoner population, and keep such souls, incarcerated for a long periods of time—even for relatively minor offenses? There is not much conflict in this psychology of power. It seems logically congruent—save the fallibility of human judgment versus an absolute perfection of an all-knowing creator.]
Therefore either God (as judge, jury and proxy warden) as recorded in scripture is just (as believed to have Divine Justice) or he not very just. And either citizens, within a democratic framework, are allowed independence of thought and attitude—that is to form their own judgments on matters as respected citizens, that is accorded their own introspection and criteria and education, or they are not really part of a democratic framework that would allow for independence of thought and free choice.
It was the great intellectual John Stuart Mill, in his On Liberty, who argued: “If all mankind minus one were of one opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind.” He argued that the power to control opinion is illegitimate and robs the human race the opportunity to hear different sides of a question. Yet that is exactly what authoritarians tend to do—stifle the opposition. People need ability to choose how to live, to take up causes, to make mistakes, and to change one’s mind. How else can society reach its potential? Dissenters are the ones that need the most protection.
Authoritarian personalities and tyrannies of the majority (humans within the faith) try to project the idea that God is just (according to their own fear induced acceptance of iron fisted justice) and warn sternly that all ought be afraid of “his” strict and non-compromising attitudes. They warn, as did the Bible, that those who deviate from the true path will suffer accordingly.
The New Testament:
Meanwhile the Jesus crowd tells us that God is a God of love (not a hammer) and that the self needs to undergo a transformation to appreciate the kingdom found within. Early Christian philosophy included ideas like: “judged not and you will not be judged”, and be more concerned about the mote within your own eye.
And although there are “harsh” dictator proclamations in the Apostle’s writings such as eternal damnation of hell in the New Testament, in general it seems, much of Jesus crowd would not as readily feel comfortable with double standards of morality—that apparently caused enough schism to break off into a separate sect.
Perhaps they are merely better at “disassociating” themselves from parts of their literature they don’t want to entertain? Because it seems there is left wing liberalism and right-wing politics in both the Old and New Testament—which makes sense since both are products of many people’s actions and different mindset’s of interpretation.
But there is little evidence that Jesus was a scholar of early Greek philosophers, such as the views of the skeptics, or various minds that lived before him who studied in a more secular sense. Rather as a Jew, Jesus was centered in Judaism, and his own interpretation of that culture where he lived—via the conflict between the Sadducees (right-wing) versus the Pharisees (left-wing) versus the Essenes (alternatives).
It is not unheard of for one religion to try to destroy or weaken the legitimacy of the likes of another religion. Equally this is why certain propagandists through time immemorial have tried to destroy the reputations of various heretics within, and outside, the church or state.
Rebellion Made Eternal:
Hell, itself, as one of only two black and white after-death options, along with the ancient Zoroastrian polemic of good versus bad and angel/ demon lore, were evolving, as well as devolving, concepts. (And although religions today do not as readily emphasize hell and demon lore they did in some past centuries.) Nevertheless hell as final judgment has been a central concept for Christianity as it evolved in Rome’ empire and the Middle Ages.
The word “demon” in the evolving Christian language, was not always either a black and white concept. The original Greek word “daemon” or “daimon” simply meant one’s spirit or genius. It did not denote nor connote to automatically equate to an ultimate evil soul until the Roman Christians started their propaganda wars against various pagans.
But does human agency have a responsibility (at least to the self) to think independently? Thinking independently means to have the curiosity to ask a lot of questions—and not be intimidated from asking hard questions. Independence means not falling down of the job like many in the mainstream media has done in aces and spades.
[Note: Or what about the rebel in a corporation or small business that gets fired because his or her ideas are not in sync with the bureaucracy of turf wars? Scott Adams has already written Dogbert’s Top Secret Management Handbook on this kind of office politics so there is no reason to belabor this important point of the system kicking out the rebel who may have helped the system that rejected him. We all know of people who should not have been fired that were, and people who should have been fired but were not, because we know the world is not fair.]
Respecting an angel’s main function as diplomat and courier (as Greek ‘angelos’ means messenger), angels likely played other courtly roles in their respective “hierarchical” establishments. Like the men and women that, for instance, surround any modern leader as entourage, such as those appointed to cabinet level appointments in the White House, or other Presidential staff appointments, their role was to serve (in this case the Constitution).
This entourage of governance would include such roes as guardian protection—namely security. Security would extend to include police, wardens, homeland security, and jails over the realm—and any police state that might evolve.
Such roles would also include the likes of high Pentagon positions of authority to carry out battle against enemies, as Michael the Archangel, and biblical hero, was reputed to have assisted Hebrews in their many battles against their purported enemies.
If Angels sang in choirs and rejoiced in God’s court, maybe they also sang in intelligence and research—not too unlike various weighty think tanks that advice and influence executive decision—be they good or bad sources of data and judgment.
Certainly they must have had their choir of Murdockian public relations hacks, forever ready to “Hail” the “Chief” and sacred home country, (and common soldiers who got lip service too)? They must have had flacks putting out the jingle jangle that all was well in Santa Claus’ Kingdom and Castle? Angels, as Santa’s helpers, must have been busy indeed getting oil here and there, getting billions of dollars disappeared, getting guns to be misplaced, having oversight over non-competent, caught torturing people, and rendering enemy combatants into secret gulags, etc.
Perhaps a few investigative journalists with a background in deep cosmological history could unravel some of this mess for us?
Did they just get bored up there in the land of eternity honey? So they eventually went around causing trouble? We should bear in mind that a good deal of this lore evolved out of the Middle Near East where many tribes and nations went to war against each other, as the land of Israel was caught in between giant powers.
But no doubt angels exited during the birth of the Iron Age that overcame the Bronze Age. And perhaps it was natural that such a place and history would have their “best” invariably contrived into various battles and coups? So maybe it is just prototypic Middle Eastern politics as usual?
The power to manipulate minds, en masse (no matter the century), as agents of influence or angelic choir, is no small power. But often even the manipulators as talking heads are naive to greater ambiguity, and hence are themselves deceived—at least by their own perpetuated rationalizations.
Garden of Eden Revisited:
Not even the environment, God's garden of ecological Eden, is considered sacred to the President’s men. Environmental concern, the real “conservative” issue—as opposed to the phony conservatism of a class wealth and status—is another form of terror—in a very real way.
Every child born today, who has the opportunity of a modern education worthy of the name, knows the world is slipping into a sunken hole of industrial wasteland (ecologically speaking).
Young people today know the doom and gloom foreboding of the future, and the potentiality of brooding fear. They know their parents and grand parents are leaving them in a basement of moral bankruptcy—ecologically speaking.
Modernity, with all its technological glory and elitism, has brought along with it a curse too threatening to think about. The future itself is frightening—that is the pressures that are placed upon the human race in respect to the limited resources in demand (that shows little leadership by way of adults in the world’s greatest economy).
Meanwhile environmentalists are sometimes thought to be the new haven of terrorists to be wary, since they have found a space in their hearts to care about chickens, pigs, cattle, and other species. Their waywardness has gone so far as to care about whales and dolphins—and not just short-term profit figures in annual reports.
This supposedly “lumped” class of whining brats, who don’t know how to respect their elder’s infallible wisdom and high-heeled life styles, is the problem? Whereas frustrated capitalists, who think themselves as the good guys who work for a living! cannot “willingly” understand the beef about not wanting to put chemical weapons of destruction into the environment.
To Care or Not to Care?
Not even nature’s DNA or biology’s genetics is sacred. Some corporations now are patenting native, as well as artificially engineered life forms, for profit and monopolistic control.
Yet is not the patenting of life forms, such as seeds of plants (for private corporate ownership), a form of terrorism to the poor and destitute around the world?
Is not the arbitrary splicing of genes motivated by corporate profit (and not wisdom particularly) not a form of fear—not to mention the playing of God? Privatized corporatism seems to want to attempt to own every world resource and thus control every social function on the planet.
But is not the environment sacred that transcends economic ideology? Even the most hardcore existentialist must come to honor something greater than man’s dilemma—namely God’s Garden of Eden for ecological survival. Many spiritual thinkers and teachers have already been pointing out this truism to all who care to hear.
The “cosmic” battle is about nature’s soul—not just the little human ego that has managed to describe a God in man’s own image. No, the battle is about the grandeur of something far more remarkable—life itself—even while distracters continue to worry about outdated myths and conceptions of reality.
The entire environment has a relationship with God, or as Chief Seattle said:
Your God is not our God ... Your time of decay may be distant, but it will surely come, for even the white man ... cannot exempt from the common destiny.
We white people (that is our ancestors who fled here from Europe) are still foreigners, even to ourselves, and yet we are still trying to pulverize other cultures to smithereens, while trying to dominate their land or resources.
Leadership requires maturity, and a sense of respect for religious sensibility—without mankind being overwhelmed by rigid religiosity. Leadership is a “service” job for a community. It is not a soulless corporate buyout.
The political "covenant" between "the" people and “its” leaders—is it one of mutual respect. Real leadership would have been working on a sane energy policy at least 25 years ago. Real leadership would direct our real national security to saner policies and teach personal frugality—away from a presumption of commercial products and the wasting of resources.
Abstracted Models of the Ideal:
Thus, “We the people” of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, ask in straight and rhetorical fashion: "What forms of government do various religions exemplify?" "Are they models of democracy and representational governance?"
There is no one right or wrong answer to these philosophical and political questions. But such questions should at least be asked and considered. We need to know if, and why, there was a basis for separating the Church from the State—because we seem to have forgotten.
Although authoritarian personalities would likely disdain such self-directed thinking as too much free thought, do your "own" political analysis by asking: "Can I vote God into or out of office (or is this reality one in which I must inherit with no say so about his or her character and ambitions)?" "Am I, as a single soul, allowed any say in the governance in Heaven or Hell (or whatever afterlife existence I and others may find to imagine)?" And if not then why am I destined to be part of such an existence.
"Are there any representatives in the afterlife and how did they become so appointed (fair and clean elections with fairly counted ballots)? And if I do have representation do any of these delegates truly represent “my” interests and the “state’s” interests, or are they influenced behind my back?" “Will any of the angels even really listen to me?”
“Can any soul or procedure get God to change the status quo—if one feels there is strong need for improvement, and if so how?” And how is it that mankind has come to know and realize God so well, and so intimately—as centuries of sacred texts have suggested? “If I am accused of being a sinner or a traitor what kind of hearing can I expect—what rights do I have as the accused?”
These are indeed heretical questions in the world of politics. Yet how dare anyone, yet alone an entire nation raised on notions of liberty, question the status quo of potential for oppression in the Blessed Isle?
This work is in the public domain