An essay donated by Susan Humphreys
Who & what is killing religion?
Is it outside forces, or an inside job?
I have a friend who is a member of AA. In one of his moments of despair he wrote me a letter in which he said that "the sole purpose of his life was to glorify God". I thought how sad. He had much more to live for, a greater purpose than glorifying God. In all truth, a God that needed to be glorified wouldn’t be worth glorifying, in my humble opinion. In thinking about his problems and one of the problems with AA (and other addiction treatment programs, why there is so much recidivism) I realized that AA just swapped out one dependency for another. The person was nothing, hopeless and powerless without the help and intervention of a higher power and the friends at AA. 1 It didn’t teach folks they had the power within them to overcome their addiction, to be strong self-sufficient, independent, enfranchised, beings.
The whole doctrine of "original sin" was designed to keep man in his place, humble, subservient, submissive, powerless, weak and worthless. We know from psychological studies that humans if told often enough come to believe what they are told and think and act accordingly. Imagine what a doctrine of "original goodness" might have produced: humans strong in character, self-assured, compassionate, and independent (with no need for priest or church).
Religion sows the seeds of its own demise with its doctrines and dogmas designed to keep people humble and compliant while elevating the sanctity, power and position of their own clergy. One good example is the problem with the sex scandals in the Catholic Church. The doctrines regarding a man’s "elevation" to the priesthood, imply that the man undergoes a fundamental change in his character, becomes sin free. Unfortunately, for far too many, there were never any fundamental changes in the man’s character proving the whole doctrine was wrong.
Because of our fears and survival instincts, humans have tried to make sense of the unsensible, to bring order out of chaos, to find meaning and purpose in our lives. Each of the world’s great religions created a cosmic order, a nomus (rules, laws, customs, practices, explanations) that fit the needs of its people. In some form or another each has tried to teach the individual to annihilate the self as the means to maintain the social order and as a means to find the connection to God, or salvation, unity with the Tao, Nirvana, or whatever it is they see as mans purpose and/or final destination.
What they have succeeded in doing is creating a condition of Anomie. Such a wonderful word from it we get anonymous -- without identity. It means: without law, without purpose, disenfranchised, total submission, subjugation. When man loses touch with, respect for, and annihilates his self he also loses touch with, respect for and is all too willing to annihilate others. Mans basic survival instinct is at odds with this command to give up and give in, to do away with self in order to please or be near God, to be saved. Religion creates the chaos (loss of nomus) in man that it set out to eliminate in the first place.
There are two ways to deal with this unfortunate situation. One is to abandon religion all together which many men have done. Another way can be found by bringing the nomus into balance with the reality of the world or in my thought setting it straight. Humans don’t need to give up, negate their self they need to learn how to rise above their self, to broaden their self to encompass more than just their self, or as I like to put it more simply…
Humans need to learn how to turn their ME upside down. So their ME becomes WE.
When you find the connection that ties human to human, and ties all living things together, find God within you rather than seeing God as being outside of and totally separate from you. You aren’t annihilating yourself, You are becoming bigger/expanding/broadening your self, becoming one with all other things, and in that realization your personal sense is heightened not lost; you are enfranchised not disenfranchised; your sense of anomie disappears; you are a part of reality not in opposition to it; and you certainly aren’t alone when you see that all of the past, the future and the present as a part of you.
This is exactly what the second purpose of religion was for, to help men find a connection to God or the sacred, the Tao, Nirvana. That purpose appears to have been lost in the doctrines and dogmas, laws and traditions, of the first purpose -- the nomos, that was designed to help men find their way out of chaos but ended up creating it.
In my humble opinion if religion wants to survive and become a viable and positive force for this new century; if it wants to help society finds its way out of the mess we are in, it can do so. But it can only do so if it is able to evolve and grow and figure out how to help people turn their ME upside down to find the WE.
Some may try to insist that it isn’t religion that "has gone bad" it is humans that refuse to believe or refuse to behave as the Bible tells them to or who simply perversely choose to defy God. If that is the way they chose to see the problem they must ask themselves "why"" Why do humans refuse to believe, or refuse to behave as the Bible tells them to or why do they perversely choose to defy God? If religion was working the way it should work, then humans would see the "light" and fall in line, wouldn’t they?
Some insist that it is the removal of religion from the schools that has caused society to fail. I like to point out that churches have never been denied the right to teach their values and moral concepts in their churches. If 78.4 % of Americans claim to have a Christian affiliation why is there so much crime in our streets? Why are there so many in prison? Why is there so much drug and alcohol abuse, so much bullying in public schools, so much…… Again it comes back to where did religion go wrong? Why hasn’t religion had a stronger more positive influence?
Some insist that people have been lead astray and follow false gods, hold false beliefs. If they would only follow "my beliefs", become born again, pledge their life to Christ.... I know the real TRUTH. If they would listen to me, they would realize that all other beliefs are lies. They will pull out their Bibles and quote scripture to prove their TRUTH. I can pull out my Bible and quote a passage that counteracts their passage. If there is only one TRUTH why is there so much disagreement over what it is? Why are there so many different religions, denominations, sects, affiliated and non-affiliated church groups? Why are there so many different and contradictory translations of the Bible? Which Bible is the real inerrant word of God: The King James, the New King James, Jerusalem, Revised Standard, New International, Contemporary English, Inclusive New Testament, Oxford Annotated……?
Some insist that people just don’t have FAITH like they used to. They ask too many questions. Have too many doubts. They are just to accept what they are told is TRUTH, and that’s that.
Religions have sown the seeds of their own demise by failing to accept the reality that humans are curious and inquisitive by nature. Doubting is built into our DNA, so to speak. It is a survival strategy that has evolved to keep us safe, hard wired into the very core of who we are.
This web site has a good discussion on this issue of doubts and security. One thought I had from that discussion is that the problems arise because people are told NOT to have doubts. They are told that doubts are harmful, their doubts will send them straight to Hell. BUT they can’t help but have doubts.
Religious leaders, Popes and Priests, Ministers and Mullahs, really don’t like their "flocks" to ask questions, it undermines their power and authority. Especially when those questions are ones they have been too afraid to ask themselves and ones they have no answers for.
People need to understand that having doubts is normal and necessary for their growth and development as human beings. AND they need to learn the tools that are required to deal with their doubts. They need to learn how to search for answers, how to do simple research, where to find answers, how to use basic logic and reasoning to solve conflicts. I wonder if the reports of insecurity, health problems, from doubters arise simply because of the guilt feelings they have about having doubts and the reality they have never learned how to deal with their doubts.
Some insist that it is the intellectuals, scientists and historians (the liberals) anyone but themselves, have killed religion with their lies. Personally I think it is religion that has shot itself in the foot. Religion is responsible for its own demise by creating in man, "that which it originally set out to do away with". The condition of Anomie.
- Some non-theists in AA look upon AA and their chapter members as their higher power.
Originally posted: 2013-APR-05
Latest update: 2015-FEB-18
Author: Susan Humphreys