“The priests have so disfigured the simple religion of Jesus that no one who reads the sophistications they have engrafted on it, from the jargon of Plato, of Aristotle and other mystics, would conceive these could have been fathered on the sublime preacher of the Sermon on the Mount.” — Thomas Jefferson To Dr. Waterhouse, 1815
Not much has changed in our quest for enlightenment since man first crawled from the caves, looked into the sky and wondered about the nature of his existence.
Why am I here? I live and I will die.
What is the point of what comes in between?
In order to grasp man’s place in this seemingly incomprehensible universe we first looked to the sky and its infinite expanse and invented imaginary gods that ruled over our existence and gave some meaning to the emptiness of our days.
Gods ruled over crops, weather, loves and diseases. Got something you can explain? It must be the work of some mythical god. That worked for a while.
Then science displaced some of these gods and the Jewish faith economically pared the gods down to a singular entity so men wouldn’t have such a rough time. The advent of monotheism proved to be a great economical move.
Worshiping one god really cuts down on the cost of shrines.
And as the distillation of many gods became The One True God, it became increasingly easy to assign moral behavior to men via Our Father Who Art in Heaven – science was taking part of the market share from organized religion by explaining things via the facts, but it couldn’t go after the shady morality market.
Of course there were economic reasons for morality codes too. Peace is usually a better market place than war. (A fact conveniently forgotten since the advent of the military industrial economy.) Part of organized religion quickly embraced the idea of stabilizing business markets by getting people to stop robbing, killing, beating and raping each other. It was the church’s job to do that. But seriously, moral teachings offered by most religions are the least successful part of the faiths. We still kill ourselves daily and don’t show any signs of stopping.
The Christians of course later refined the Jewish concept and became monotheistic in name only. First adopting the basics of the Jewish faith – the Jesus Cult (as it was first called) – grew quickly as the cult/religion eagerly wove into its narrative the tales and some attributes of other faiths. A pure move of economics – God after all had his coffers to fill and the more church members you have the more money you make and the greater control you obtain. The Catholic business model was successful enough to rule over most of Europe during the Middle Ages.
Despite such success Christianity and every other religion which makes claims regarding your soul still cannot deny one simple truth: None of us has any greater knowledge than anyone else concerning the spiritual nature of our existence or even if such a thing exists after we leave the earthly playing field.
Some believe one guy managed to make his way back and he is the way to eternal salvation. Non-believers please exit stage left.
Whatever the device used to convince us, most religions are strikingly similar in their claims and billions have been inoculated by this virus of “faith”. Whatever faith you subscribe to you are usually promised or taunted by the lure of eternal salvation. Joy. Rapture. Happiness. Enlightenment. Some faiths even add in lots of girls.
Then, for those who don’t follow the faith there’s a threat of some guy with a bad Guy Fawkes mask prodding you with a bifurcated hay fork while dressed like a butch Liberace.
Sometimes the eternal salvation is illustrated by floating clouds. Sometimes the nether regions appear as fire, torture, brimstone and unfulfilled hope for all eternity – much like Los Angeles in the summer.
Because of our faith many of us have forgotten we are the masters of our own faith and fate and so we have turned over our life to preachers, priests and other ministers, bishops, rabbis, mullahs, etc. and follow blindly that which these people preach.
After all these theologians supposedly have studied this subject seriously and are versed in the mysteries of life far better than the average resident of planet Earth. Or they could be like Joel Osteen and just smile a lot through bleached teeth while presiding over a mega church and living a wealthy life of privilege in God’s Country Texas. Amen!
Whoever the preacher is you embrace the truth is they are not experts on anything. Studying “faith” is not like studying math or music. And the reason is you have to take a “leap of faith” beyond reason. This means using your imagination. Facts are ponderous clunky things of definite form and function.
Religion is an art – a fiction – invented by man with no verifiable facts anywhere to support it. Faith’s fiction is the fire in which we all burn for by adopting faith we abandoned all reason in the process.
We haven’t advanced one square forward from the day we first looked up in the sky – though we may be better dressed and play Fallout 4 on our I-Pad while listening to a virtual world via ear buds while the real world slips supinely away.
Many true believers aren’t sure what they believe in and never study or question their faith because to do so would have us staring once again directly into the abyss and that is something we don’t wish to do – for to do so calls into question everything we do on a given day and accumulate during a life time.
Look at all my stuff and my furrowed brow – to paraphrase Bill Hicks. I am serious about life.
Consider, dear Christians, the tales of your hero Jesus. He dined with the lowest, preached brotherly love and questioned the Roman government’s authority to the point where he was crucified. In short he was guilty of sedition.
Few people today would follow Jesus’s path and doing so would be highly suspect.
Whether Jesus actually existed is not a matter of debate for this discussion today. Let’s say for the sake of argument he is in fact a historical figure. Let’s leave out the whole crucifixion and rising from the dead thing, and focus on his coming out party.
Having survived temptations of God’s top hired hand, The Devil (cue the Exorcist music) – Jesus arrives on the scene and speaks at The Sermon on the Mount. In the parlance of our times he goes viral with The Beatitudes:
"Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are they who mourn,
for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they shall be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful,
for they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the pure of heart,
for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they shall be called children of God.
Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."
The rest of the Jesus story in the New Testament reads like any good Hollywood sequel to an original blockbuster. And also in the tradition of Hollywood somehow our hero comes back to life after dying. He’s Arnold. “I’ll be back.”
Meanwhile, not to be outdone the Muslims gave us the third installment sequel with the production of the Quran, with newer heroes – but still kept Jesus and Moses as highly paid supporting players – kind of like Colin Firth in Kingsman –The Secret Service. The Mormons tried to bring Jesus back – this time to star in a Western, but it was an inferior remake. David Koresh’s “Dirty Messiah” is just a fan remake.
Still examining the Christians, if they lived the life espoused by their hero, I would have little problem with calling myself a Christian. I do, in fact – unlike Bertrand Russell – want to do so.
It matters little to me if Jesus actually existed or rose from the dead or was the inspiration for "The Walking Dead." The wisdom of the Beatitudes is one of the simplest most beautiful pieces of prose in history. Gandhi, The Buddha, and other professors of faith have said many of the same things, but this resonates with me on a level that has deeply affected my life.
While I have found no human or invisible being to whom I would pledge to worship as divine (except for The Divine Miss M) – I do try very hard to follow the Ten Commandments, the Beatitudes and selected teachings of several religious figures because if put into practice what these people say could lead to a better life on this planet and pave the way for humanity to spread from this planet to the stars. There is a great deal of worth in the morality these religions teach.
For if we don’t learn to live together, then we will destroy one another. We will become the implements of our own extinction and won’t need an act of some invisible god to become a mere footnote in history
The amount of vitriol and hatred spouted on this planet shows how little we care for one another and how ignorant we are of our place in the Universe. Our ignorance is compounded by our greed, our righteous indignation and our smug attitude that our brand of god is far superior to any other brand.
Thus we find ourselves today rehashing and reliving fights and continuing arguments hundreds and in some cases, thousands of years old. We clearly haven’t evolved and we clearly must do so.
Our faiths keep us from treating kindly those who disagree with us. Our politics have become intertwined with faith to the point of being nearly an unrecognizable rope of hate wrapped around our collective necks as sure as the twine of the hangman and it’s just as deadly.
As we look around it takes little more than current events to argue we haven’t progressed beyond the Crusades. And that of course means we still haven’t learned a thing from any religious faith. We are petulant children who need a different approach.
If it has ever been time to scrap organized religion the time is upon us – but the question is can we trust ourselves to treat each other with respect without the imposition of a mythical omnipotent figure above us?
Obviously if we cannot depend upon ourselves through the rules of our faith to treat one another kindly than to do so without guidance is a study in futility. If we, however, take seriously The Beatitudes or other similar teachings without the trappings of hating others and crushing opposing myths that is a part of many religions we might be on to something.
Whatever we choose, we have to change our interactions with one another. We must understand the ramifications of the motto of the Commonwealth of Kentucky: United We Stand. Divided We Fall.
Imagine. Give Peace a Chance. Make Love – Not War. It’s the real thing. Coke is. And the way it should stay…
If we are inclined to kill one another then no law will keep us from doing it. If we are inclined to help one another then no law will be needed to protect us. We are on the brink and it is time to divorce ourselves, as painful as it may be, from the narrow minded nature of the past and cooperate with one another to achieve greater things. Like our ancestors we look at the sky each night and wonder. Unlike our ancestors we are quickly reaching the point where we can make our dreams become reality. Or we can choose to do the same with our nightmares. Don’t let our fears keep us from an eternity of peace enjoying and exploring the bounties of the Universe. Besides we all should experience Zero-G sex at least once. That would be a beautiful future.