Archive for April, 2018

The anatomy of religion

April.29. 2018

Most religions operate along the same lines and are structured with the same component parts.

The first and most obvious component is the organizational structure.

Which consists usually of a clearly defined hierarchy, made out of lower level clergy and higher level clergy.

The organization structure is the means to control. And in this, it’s no different from other human organizations.

You see the same underlings–the peasants–followed by local admin, followed by regional admins, and so on until you reach the top, which is usually the king.

The very fact that religions need an administrative structure establishes its human origin.

Next are the rituals.

Rituals are necessary to keep the flock in awe and to move their emotions.

If you want them to believe that you’re the actual representative of God, you have to heighten the reality quite a bit.

And you do this with elaborate costumes that differentiate you from the regular folks, incense that touch their olfactory senses, and rites and songs that fill their spirits with wonder.

These are all devices to create a special experience for the believers.

These elements too are man-made. You can see the same devices used in other human activities, most notably in sports and in concerts.

Third, we come to the rules and bylaws of the organization.

All organizations need rules and laws to keep the flock in check, to establish boundaries for them.

With rules, you also need appropriate punishments for any infractions.

There’re two kinds of punishments, the physical kind and the psychological kind.

In the physical kind, the rule breaker is usually banished from the organization or separated from part or parts of its operation. For some people who are emotionally attached to the organization, this punishment is almost like death.

But the other kind is even worse. It plays on your psyche by promising an afterlife of eternal punishment.

Think about it, the dread and the fear of this horrific punishment—especially for an eternity!

Whether the afterlife exists or not is irrelevant. What’s important is the mental torture it imposes on the poor believer.

(Judging from the well publicized crimes of some clerics, it appears that even some of them do not believe in this nonsense.)

And then we come to the core (supposedly) of the religion, its doctrines.

There’re two classes of doctrines—mythologies and spiritual teachings.

Mythologies are elaborate scenarios made up usually to establish the religion’s legitimacy.

It would usually include supernatural events and prophecies that would try to establish the religion in question as the one true religion.

Most of these mythologies are shrouded in ancient history. Some are attempts to explain the natural world and man’s existence in prehistoric times.

In themselves, mythologies are harmless, until they become the means by which its adherents begin to differentiate themselves from others.

And worse, to do harm to those who do not believe in their particular mythologies.

Finally, the good stuff.

This is the other part of the doctrines, the teachings.

Most religions (with perhaps one exception) teach its adherents to do good, to respect others, to live a blameless life, etc.

All worthy goals. (Whether its believers actually practice these teachings is another matter.)

You can call the teachings of the religion its true spirit. They are what really distinguish it from other religions.

In fact, if you really want to determine the legitimacy of a religion, (whether it’s really a revelation from God or the other guy), you can find it in the results of the teachings.

And in this, there’re only two criteria.

Do the results uplift the universe or do they downshift it?

An exercise in futility

April.28. 2018

The vastness of our current known universe is beyond mind boggling.

Somehow, to imagine that God is some white bearded old man residing up in the ‘heavens’ is as ludicrous as the old version of God as the sun.

So how are we to make of all this?

The first lesson is that all attempts to understand God is an exercise in futility. As is evident in all prior attempts.

A finite mind simply cannot comprehend an infinite concept.

But we waste enough time on many other useless pursuits, so why not an attempt to figure out God?

One of the key themes in many religions is the idea of a God who is personally interested in each one of us.

I used to think that it is a direct reflection of our egocentric nature.

Who are we, to think that the supreme Almighty would even bother with each one of us?

Until I thought of gravity.

Gravity doesn’t differentiate; it affects everything, from the largest supernova to the tiniest subatomic particle.

It’s a universal force that has everything in its embrace (for our discussion, we won’t try to figure out what it is exactly, whether it’s a force or simply warped space.)

So if we think of God as some universal force, like gravity, yes, it’s not too far fetched to think that it would affect all of us at a personal level.

(In this regard, you might say Mr. Lucas may not be too far off in his understanding of God.)

Whatever it is, we can safely say that God is not some being out there that’s constantly testing us and demanding our ‘obedience.’

Or dangling a carrot in the form of some heavenly paradise or a stick in the form of an eternal fire.

Or the scenario where God had to send his ‘son’ to suffer some indescribable torture and death so that mankind can be ‘redeemed.’

And to add more credence to this scenario, the ‘son’ will come again in some future time to set up an earthly kingdom where he will reign for 1000 years!

You decide where this careful and elaborate scenario lies on your plausibility index.

A brief history of God

April.22. 2018

One of the greatest myths out there is that man was created in the image of God.

On the contrary, the reverse is true, man creates God in his image.

Our concept of God is a direct reflection of who we are.

When we lived in caves and our understanding of the universe was limited, we saw god in every natural phenomena. There was the god of thunder, the god of the sea, the sun god.

Even the Greeks, enlightened as they were, still viewed the natural world in terms of these gods.

How many people still believe that the sun is God?

Then the concept of the one god arose.

But this was a jealous God, one who constantly intervened in human affairs. A God who chose one group of people over others. A God who would ask a father to kill his own son to prove his obedience.

No doubt still primitive, but the basic principles were laid in place for the next development.

And this came in a special teacher.

A teacher who taught about loving your fellow men. Gone was the jealous God, in its place was a loving Father

Instead of teaching blind obedience, he taught personal freedom and achieving one’s full potential.

He distinguished between the spiritual world and the physical world.

Give back to the physical world what belongs to the physical world and to the spiritual what belongs to the spiritual.

But after his death, somewhere along the line, like so many other great teachers before him, his teachings were hijacked by bureaucrats and opportunists.

Instead of expanding on his enlightened message of self empowerment, they embellished and encrusted it with fantastical scenarios.

What does the 1000 year earthly reign have to do with the lesson of the Good Samaritan, or the prodigal son?

What do all these elaborate rituals and gestures of supplication have to do with loving your neighbor?

The guy who preached against the phony piousness of the Pharisees of his time has become the head of a whole new order of equally phony ‘Pharisees.’

In the hands of these hijackers, God became a king, a monarch, a lord. Kind of like the kings of the time, who used to control their subjects with an iron fist.

Their basic agenda is all about enslavement.

Words like infallibility, obedience—all code words to make sure you don’t think.

And if you would attempt to think, beware of the eternal fire awaiting you, and if this still doesn’t scare you enough, well, your pride will bring you down.

So what’s next?

Hard to say, but one can conjecture that just as the ancient gods of natural phenomena were eventually supplanted by the one God, and this one jealous God replaced by a loving Father, the next phase is probably going to move beyond God as a being.

When you look at the known universe today, it’s hard to reconcile that with the idea of a lone Being out there that’s constantly intervening in the trivial affairs of the inhabitants of a small planet that lies on the fringe of a galaxy that’s just one among countless other galaxies.

(At least that’s our level of understanding right now, obviously to be superseded in the future.)

You might say it’s as implausible as the old bearded guy on the North Pole.

As implausible as an alternate world that exists in Middle Earth.

As implausible as all the goblins and angels and devils that populate the minds of people with overly fertile imaginations.

One thing for sure, the new concept of God is going to be in the spiritual realm.

No more physical hell fires (in this sense the Holy Father is ahead of his time), no more angels serenading you if you’re lucky to escape eternal damnation, no more resurrection as an eternal and very physical being.

It is possible this concept of God will be supplanted by even more enlightened ones in the future.

For now, however, it’s one that makes the most sense.

Ironically, if you were to peel back the layers of metaphors in the teachings of the aforementioned great teacher, you would find that he was already trying to explain this new God two thousand years ago.

King of the swamp

April.10. 2018

Who knew!

The guy who was going to drain the swamp is actually the King of the swamp.

Some might call it buyer’s remorse.

I call it stuck between a known quantity and an unknown quantity.

What are you supposed to do if you knew the contest was between a known Queen of the swamp and someone who might actually drain it.

That it turned out otherwise is perhaps not surprising.

Politics is about who is sleazier. And the sleazier guy usually wins.

Who was it who coined that phrase “the engineer hoist with his own petard?”

In any case, the gremlins are all out of the bag with the raid yesterday.

No amount of firing this or that guy will put them back into the bag.

The PR man aka the buffoon aka the King of the swamp is probably regretting his decision to star in the greatest reality show on earth.

Just karma for someone who likes winning all the time.

As I wrote a while back, all winners are losers in the end.

Some thoughts on Easter

April.2. 2018

Very fitting it is, in this Holy Week, for the Holy Father to come out and say there’s no hell.

Yes, very timely, but you and I have known that all along.

Hell is a fictitious place made up by the same bureaucrats who made up purgatory and limbo.

But it got me to thinking about the afterlife—something I normally don’t waste a lot of time on.

After all, what’s there is there, and no amount of believing or denying will get us anywhere or change anything.

But it got me thinking.

When it comes to the afterlife, there’re really only two realities out there.

Either we survive as spirits in the afterlife or we ‘disappear’ as the Holy Father said. There is no third option—the option of a physical afterlife.

(How do I know this? Because when we measure it with our plausibility index, it ranks up there with Santa.)

But can our spirit survive without the corporeal body?

Common sense seems to say no. The spirit of a thing is dependent for its existence on its physical being.

A tree has a life force or spirit within. That life force is what draws water and nutrients from the ground up its roots and into its branches and leaves.

It’s what helps the tree to manufacture food from sunlight.

But when the tree dies, does that life force linger on?

Highly unlikely.

But suppose that our spirit lives on after we’ve long returned to dust.

Suppose it’s lingering on in that twilight zone between the dead and the living. And it can see its past life on earth.

At that point, hell might be all the regrets that it experiences, knowing that whatever is done can never be undone. It’s all too late.

This presupposes that it has gained a certain level of enlightenment.

Regrets only afflict those with a conscience.

Who knows if evil people who don’t have a conscience in this physical world will get a conscience when they get to the afterlife and become spirits?

I suppose without the material world encumbering their spirits, this could be very possible.

These are all conjectures of course. All harmless surmising that one does when one has nothing better to do.

But there is one thing that is not conjecture.

And that is that the spirits of those who have passed on sometimes do live on.

They live on in those they left behind.

All the good deeds and love they spread around when they were in this world continue to be felt and experienced by those who they touched long after they have passed on.

I know that for a fact because I know the spirit of my parents live on in me.

And in this sense, they are still very much present in this world, at least their spirits are.