A collection of short essays on religion, philosophy, and “rules for living”, plus the interplay of psychology and social systemics — the study of optimal social structures that further the pursuit of happiness.
Originally published 2008
If you’ve read my tiny essay There is God, then you know I’m not exactly against spirituality. In reality, I’m something of a gnostic. The idea is to achieve an inner experience of that which is god. Once you do that, things are never quite the same. In my case, I was fortunate to have that experience, thanks to the training of martial arts master, Grandmaster Tae Yun Kim. It’s arduous training. But it was also quite effective.
However, I was raised in the Presbyterian church. I went to Sunday School every week, and imbibed much of the philosophy. Much of it, I’m afraid to say, is counter-productive to healthy living. Much of it is good, of course, but the failure to think through the implications and foundations of the Christian religion is one of its major failings.
The other major failing, of course, it that makes a “person” out of god — a being who sits on a throne somewhere and wants things from you. Since the demands are unreasonable in many respects, there is no way to satisfy them in your daily life. So you go to church to recreate a weekly “high” that makes you feel good for a little while. And if you get really serious, you try to earn salvation by “saving” others — or simply use that as an excuse to do things that are otherwise forbidden, as in the crusades, the inquisition, and the holocaust, all of which argue vehemently for an absolute separation of church and state.
Do not even for a moment imagine that the holocaust was perpetrated by a secular government. Far from it. And don’t expect the church to come clean about the role it played in brainwashing the citizenry of that country. There is a reason that SS daggers carried the inscription “Gott mitt uns” (God is with us). Of course, your religion would never be responsible for such atrocities. Because your religion is founded in spirituality. Right? Well, to that I say, great. And lets just keep it that way, thank you very much, by maintaining the separation. Because as soon as the church becomes the government, things change — especially when the religion in charge is arrogant enough to think that it has some kind of a monopoly on truth, and that all other religions are wrong.
Did you know that there is no historical evidence whatsoever that Jesus ever existed? The town he was supposed to be born in didn’t even exist at the time he was supposed to be born.
Meanwhile, all of the legends that go into the story have precursors in other religions that go back many centuries. It was pretty much cobbled together to unite a Roman empire that was on the verge of disintegrating into warring factions.
I like a lot of the philosophy, but the basis for it is supposed to be some imaginary person who laid the ultimate guilt trip on mankind? Please. The fable hides the intellectual void — the inability to explain why we should love one another, end the cycle of violence by turning the other cheek, etc. (I’ve spent much of my adult life searching for rational reasons, and believe I’ve found them.)
Worse, the organization that has grown up around the fable has been responsible for untold harm to untold millions. “Gott mitt uns” was on SS daggers, after all. (Whenever I see a priest aiding the cause of war, I want to retch.)
But avoiding the organization (which I consider despicable), and the opportunity for fellowship (which is wonderful), and thinking only of the rationality, I find Harry Potter to be just as believable a character as the Nazarene, and that the book series teaches many more life lessons that are much more valuable.
I am a serious learner who went to Sunday school. So I turned the other cheek as a kid — and was bullied unmercifully, as a result. And I never have outgrown the sexual guilt that religion imprints on young minds.
Potter teaches one to stand up for yourself, for your friends, and for what you believe in. In the end, it is all about love. But in the way you live your life, it is all about a combination of strength and love and courage and many other desirable traits.
Perhaps even more importantly, compared to the Bible, is that the Potter canon presents a consistent set of messages. You can’t use that work to justify anything and everything you might want to do, and you can’t use it to go around imprinting people with guilt at an early age.
Social Systemics and Psychology
To develop a rational basis for a decent set of rules to live by, I use “societal systemics” and psychological processes. The psychological processes are about what makes us happy. The systemics are about what makes society work.
When we pursue our own happiness in ways that harm others, we prevent happiness in others. (That tendency generally starts from a psychological state of unhappiness. The actions don’t solve the underlying problem, but give the person a little “high” that lasts for a while. Then the cycle starts over.)
So societal systemics is about setting up social systems that allow people to flourish — to grow, develop, find their wings, and discover how to be happy. The psychology is about what does make us happy. And there is one more thing: An appreciation of “god in all”–the awareness, as far as we can expand it, to see god everywhere, in every thing, at all times.
That may be a psychological ploy. If so, it works beautifully. If not, it reflects an underlying reality that one is well advised to be aware of! But either way, that awareness is not limited to some kind of “person” (father) who “wants” things from me.
Least of all, it’s not about going to some church where people get a little high because they’re told they’re so much better than others who don’t believe that they’re going to get some wonderful eternal afterlife and all others (no matter how good they are on this earth) are doomed to an agony of eternal hell. (That is the sad mantra of organized Christian religion. Other religions create a similar “us-vs.them” separation in different ways.)
Frankly, if there is any god in the universe capable of such behavior, I want to be with the people that are rejected by that god. That’s not a god/person I care to associate with. I’d rather be with Buddha, Lao Tzu, Gandhi, and a bunch of truly good people.
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