By Carl S ~
The “spiritual” history of civilization can be a mirror of one’s personal experiences: a journey, an undercurrent, even a merry-go-round going nowhere. The spiritual, or “transcendental” (something to do with teeth improvement?), can be quite attractive to an individual or population disappointed or bored by self or everyday living and looking for “explanations.” The siren call of other-reality can be pursued until it morphs into an addiction to delusional thinking, fantasy, a retreat from reality. For those who are very religious, fantasy is an ever-expanding retreat. It appears even liberal Christians don’t care what religious addiction one ascribes to, just so long as it remains an addiction. Progressing scientific knowledge, on the other hand, is a process of growing up. So, learn and grow up.
A book from many years ago reminded me of our present times. Gore Vidal’s historical novel, “Julian,” is based on the writings of that Roman Emperor. Julian wrote of the Roman fascination with the Oriental religions in his domain, which he saw as endangering its philosophical, ethical, and moral thinking. Trusting historical evidence, we can say Julian was spot-on in his concerns of how irrational beliefs might affect the future: one blend of Mithraic/Jewish/Zoroastrian religions eventually triumphed. (And if you’ve read Vidal’s futuristic novel, “Messiah,” you already know how John Cave’s religion replaced Christianity.)
Yet another author posited the collapse of Rome began with the madness of its emperors, since they had a fondness for drinking wine from lead-lined cups. Lead damages the brain, ergo… Was lead-laced wine also responsible for their accepting something as bizarre as Christianity? We have evidence that connects religious revelations, drugs, and psychedelic plants. Religions have their own varieties of methods to get high. The religious addict, such as a fundamentalist or evangelical, can be just as indifferent to his or her life or effect on others as the chemically dependent addict.
The God of the Judaic-Christian-Islamic bibles is a psychopath I doubt Christianity was universally accepted by the populace. To me, that’s just one more piece of its propaganda. (Israeli diplomat Abba Eban: “Propaganda is the art of persuading others of what you don’t believe yourself.”) Unfortunately, whenever a religion becomes state-empowered, those under its power must pledge allegiance to it, whether they believe in it or not. Absence or loss of faith becomes a crime. So pretending is the practical solution when it becomes a choice of going along or losing status, home, or life itself. This is the reason why fundamentalism strives to seize political power. Some things never change.
Christian fundamentalists still believe the pre-Christian Zoroastrian religious doctrines of mind-body separation, absolute good and evil, and a constant struggle between those forces of absolute good and absolute evil, to the destruction of the world (which by tradition is in the imminent future.) Those infected with these absolutes are in fear of deviating from beliefs, of changes to their beliefs, afraid of allowing freedom for others to not accept them. Unwilling or unable to explain their pathogenic “revelations” to societies or even to one another, they fight on.
The God of the Judaic-Christian-Islamic bibles is a psychopath. He is a punishing reactor to the free will choices of humans, rather than a proactive force. Do societies go into a state of insanity when mad gods like him are involved? Or do they create such rabid gods because, unawares, something infects their brains? Does the pathogen arise unexpectedly, in different periods of history, and run its course, to be neutralized by scientific facts and accepted reasonable solutions? What we experience is, while the infection dominates humans, they can be as unpredictable and fickle as their gods. Witness what happened with Christianity and Islam alone.
There’s a commercial demand in these times for the spiritual, self-transcendent, surreal, and fantasy worlds, for gurus of all those attractions, for writings on the “nature of God,” what’s the meaning of your life, blah-blah… Every con artist is in on the “I’ll tell you how to fill up the hole in yourself” ultimate answers you’re looking for. Even extraordinary reality of nature and the universe is “explained” by them! Our known traditional religions are hashes of older ones. The “new” wisdoms and cults are variations further rehashed. Meanwhile, as Stephen Hawking said, “There is a fundamental difference between religion, which is based on authority, and science, which is based on observation and reason. Science will win, because it works.”