Religion and Common Sense
Seventeen Religions to Choose From
When I was a child, my teachers told me that my religion, Catholicism, was the true religion, and all other religions were false. My job was to defend and promote Catholicism so I could please God and go to Heaven, after I died. The nuns, the priests, and my mother, all made it quite clear that if I questioned the Doctrines, I could lose my immortal soul and end up in Hell. Furthermore, because I was a member of the true religion, I was supposed to feel sorry for people who were not members, and try to convert them so they could also go to Heaven, like me.
As the years passed, this model of exclusive entitlement and the burden of maintaining it began to unravel as my friendships with people of other faiths began to outweigh my fear of losing my immortal soul. As the years passed and my mental horizon expanded, I began to question my so-called beliefs. There was something wrong with them but I could not figure out what it was. By the time I was twenty, I had made up my mind to find out.
Did you know that we humans have created at least seventeen major religious cults and hundreds of minor ones over the course of history? A cult is a shared system of belief into which some of us are born while others join because it satisfies a need. In my case, I was born into a family tightly controlled by a poorly educated and strictly devout Catholic woman. As a child, I had no choice but to accept whatever she told me but after twenty years of attending religious rituals and memorizing doctrine, I was weary of Catholic indoctrination and wanted to see what else the world had to offer.
When I launched my investigation through Wikipedia, I discovered that the largest religious cult on this planet is Christianity - a system of belief based on the miracles and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth. The New Testament describes Jesus as a Jewish carpenter who became a rabbi, prophet and holy man. His life and death as described in the New Testament has attracted the 2.1 billion followers we have today.
The second largest cult on this planet is Islam, which claims 1.5 billion members that follow the teachings of the Arab prophet, Muhammad ibn Abd Allah. According to Wikipedia, Muslims believe that Mohammed is the restorer of the original, uncorrupted, monotheistic faith of Adam and Abraham, and the last messenger and Prophet of God.
What is Religion?
The comedian/commentator, Bill Maher, defines mainstream religion as "A neurological disorder that prevents people from thinking rationally."
In the broadest sense, religion is a belief in a higher power, a hierarchy of organized worship of that higher power, and a set of myths or sacred truths about that power. So… religion is about acquiring power.
In order to be successful and attract the most followers a religious cult must have certain characteristics.
1. It must be socially progressive.
Its founders must create order and provide opportunities for wealth, power and freedom for its followers.
2. It must satisfy the human need for a higher transcendental truth.
This would include a belief in a supreme, parental authority that rewards good and punishes evil.
3. It must appear true to its followers, which means other religions must appear false - or simply misguided.
A successful religion must address our lower, animal nature, our higher, spiritual nature and our social identity called “I”.
As an individual, “I” feel isolated in a world filled with people and events that often threaten my survival and happiness. By making up beliefs and sacred rituals that distract and console, I create hope for happiness in this life and the presumed life to come. I invent religion as a response to my fear of death.
For twenty years, I participated in this program before I began to wonder about its beginnings.
When I first began to think about it I realized that religion views human embodiment as a problem that requires a solution. For Christians like myself the Original Sin of Adam and Eve described in the Bible caused the problem and salvation through the Church’s teachings is the solution.
The Description of God
The biblical God that Christians believe in and pray to is a description. This description consists of the word “GOD” followed by a list of qualities the brain can assemble into a believable character.
The long-ago writers made up this description of a super human male who thinks and acts like us but shows signs of mental illness some of the time. The writers describe this new God as an all-powerful, all wise, all-knowing, all-loving, Creator that is present everywhere - a description that combines the highest human qualities with the power of Nature. This new God was a remake of the Egyptian sun god, Ra and the Roman/Greek god, Zeus. Sadly, the bible scholars destroyed its potential by adding stories about this new God that lacks these qualities.
The authors of these stories describe the new God as a
king, who lives in a place of everlasting
joy called the
The writers whose work made it into the sacred collection describe God as a Holy Trinity, a multiple personality called the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit that consult with one another over what to do whenever something big happens that could threaten their authority.
This was the reality I learned as a child in a Catholic household. The penalty for doubting this description was the loss of my immortal soul, and eternal damnation in the fires of Hell. In the face of these inconsistencies, the biblical God expected me to love and obey Him without question.
Years later, when my intelligence and common sense began to recover I thought that since I had never seen or felt my immortal soul it was reasonable to doubt its existence. I also began to wonder why this all-powerful "God", who was not threatened by me in any way, would want to punish me with eternal damnation for thinking my own thoughts. It made me wonder if religion was just a hustle that people used to gain power and control one another.
Atheism is a Leap of Faith
Prior to the eighteenth century, most people accepted the existence of “a God” without question. The very idea that a person might not believe in a God was unthinkable. It was also common knowledge among God-fearing Christians that deep down inside, everyone was a believer - as if we all had a "God" gene built into our DNA. Everyone knew that the few outspoken atheists that cropped up now and then were contrarians who made a fuss primarily to attract attention to themselves. When the time came to face death, they would lose their nerve, abandon their heresy, and ask God's forgiveness.
Loosely defined, atheism is a non-belief in gods, deities, or supernatural phenomenon assumed to exist outside the body. This is very similar to Zen, which neither affirms or denies the existence of a deity or deities but attributes all phenomena, high or low, to the human nervous system. According to Zen, the job of the nervous system is to convert the timeless energy that surrounds us and flows through us, into sensory experience. Westerners have arranged this energy into three basic patterns. The first we have named “the body”, which is free energy forming cells, tissue and organs, the second we named “me”, a reference point inside the body, and the third we called “the world”, which includes everything outside the body. Practitioners of Zen believe that this three-part arrangement is an illusion that dissolves at death.
This description differs from the one found in Christian doctrine, which proposes that an external deity called “God” created the universe long ago and exists apart from it. This separation between God and His creation is a core belief in Christianity that is based on or supported by the story of Adam and Eve. Further, Christians have labeled this a single act with a beginning and end - not an eternal process. How can this be true if God is omnipresent and eternal?
The long history of refusal to by so-called religious people to admit to not knowing has created a verbal wasteland of conflicting beliefs with no evidence to back it up. We cannot see God but He is everywhere. He allows us to suffer and die horrible deaths but He loves us. He is perfect but He makes mistakes. This is why a rational person must not question these mysteries when making an act of faith.
For an atheist, the worship of "a" God or gods in any form is idolatry because "God" is a creation of the human brain. Anyone who assigns a high value to this sort of mental projection and all the baggage that goes with it is practicing narcissism which chooses fantasy over reality.
Note: In the Roman Era, loyal citizens of the empire persecuted Christians as heretics because they did not believe in Zeus.
Why We Exist
Over the centuries, people with a gift for storytelling have tried to explain how we came to exist. The most popular story among bible reading Christians is the ancient tale of Adam and Eve and the apple tree, which many believe is true. Fortunately, we have more talented storytellers such as Carlos Castaneda and Ram Dass who argue that the brain transforms energy into reality without knowing how it does it. George Carlin, the famous comedian and social commentator, says the reason we exist is to create plastic. The late spiritual master, Adi Da said that the brain is a step-down transformer that converts charged energy particles into dreams.
I like to think that nothingness is boring, so we dreamed up the universe. It began as a contraction of space- a black hole - that finally exploded into the big bang that we see today.
Make Me Believe
My formal training to become a human being began with my indoctrination into the Catholic religion. The program taught me the rules of the game, but failed to bring out the true Catholic in me. At such an early age, I lacked the ability to accept or reject religious doctrine; instead, I simply obeyed my mother, a woman of great faith, who made certain that I adopted her beliefs.
It was not until much later, when I began to think on my own that I discovered that my mother's beliefs were not mine. Realizing that I had no idea who I was I decided to find out.
Who Creates God?
Conservative Christians believe the Bible is the Word of God - God being the all-powerful, male Creator of all things. Anything you want to know about God is contained in this compendium of human thought, which has become the basis of the Christian belief system. As a Catholic, all I had to do was look in the Bible to find the answers to all my questions. With the Bible as my authority, I was automatically correct and did not have to figure things out for myself.
During my teen years, I tried real hard to read and understand the Bible but in the end, I gave up. The stories about God contained too many contradictions and the awkward grammar acted like landmines on a battlefield. The Biblical description of the world was so different from the world I lived in, that except for portions of the Jesus story, it was useless to me as a spiritual guide.
After a great deal of frustration I finally decided that the Holy Bible was an overrated, outdated, record of human thought and experience and that modern books on religion and philosophy were much easier to read and understand. I suspected that the Church scholars and historians that translated these ancient documents could not decide if they were fact or fiction. Instead, of printing a disclaimer and admitting they didn’t have all the answers they published this collection of literature as a “holy” document known to all as The Word of God meaning it was beyond reproach. This lack of honesty about the source made it impossible for me to accept the Bible as a guide.
Who Controls God?
Devout Catholics place their trust in God's representative, the Pope, who is infallible - meaning he cannot make a mistake in matters of religious doctrine. Those who doubt this claim know from personal experience that all human beings make mistakes. The world is a complex tapestry of events, which no single person can understand or control. The infallibility doctrine was an effective way to end the arguments regarding salvation. It was better all around if everybody stopped arguing and simply accepted the Pope's decision.
Unfortunately for the Church, a quick examination of the long line of popes reveals a history of corruption. During the periods of greatest power, the pope could order the arrest and torture of anyone who openly criticized the Church for wrongdoing. This begs the question; to who did good men and women look for guidance if the Holy Father was a sinner?
Tyrants throughout history know that putting the fear of God into illiterate, superstitious people is an effective way to control them. The warnings of hellfire and damnation delivered by an angry God are still as popular as ever among modern day evangelicals.
This is the right time to mention that I was not born with a belief in God. I received my belief in God from the nuns at a Catholic school that pounded Catechism questions and answers into my brain each school morning. This training program strategically began before my common sense and logical thinking could develop, which made it impossible for me challenge it. My teachers made me repeat after them that God was a powerful, invisible man in the sky that watches over all and knows all.
As the years passed, I began to wonder why this invisible God, who was supposed to be present everywhere, never appeared or spoke to me - even though I prayed to Him every night.
When I finished Catholic school, I had received Baptism, Holy Communion and Confirmation. I had read some of the Bible and gone to church. I had done everything they told me to do but nothing happened. Each day was much the same and the feeling that something wonderful would happen as a reward for obedience began to diminish. I began to worry that the ceremonies, rituals and prayers in which I had invested so much of my life were a waste of time. Perhaps only special people such as my mother, the priests and the nuns got something out of it. Otherwise why go through all that trouble?
The Two Great Commandments
Devout Christians believe that the Ten Commandments God presented to Moses on Mount Sinai are the only true guide for living a spiritual life and that without them society would destroy itself. Later, Jesus reduced the Ten Commandments to two Great Commandments.
The First Great Commandment, states, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart and thy whole soul and thy whole mind and thy whole strength."
This commandment does not make any sense to me because love is a feeling that can only arise spontaneously. How can I “command” myself to love someone I have never seen or spoken to and who, when you think about it, exists only in my imagination?
The second half of this commandment says, "and thy neighbor as thyself."
Jesus cannot order me to love my neighbor any more than I can order you to love your neighbor. Love does not work that way. The person who wrote these words should have said, "Treat your neighbors with the same respect you afford yourself".
The Failure of Bible and Catechism Classes.
The stories, psalms, and parables in Bible class are like painted cakes at a birthday party. The cakes appear real but they do not satisfy the needs of the life force inside each person. The memorizing of Catechism questions and answers is not the same as asking your own question and finding your own answers. Memorizing the words of the Bible does not lead to freedom or protect you from suffering and death. Instead, it creates an obsession with the thoughts of other people as if their thoughts were any better than yours were. Stories that encourage freedom, happiness and responsibility written in easy to understand language are curiously absent from the Bible; instead, it is full of threatening messages telling you to obey God and fear the Devil – or face eternal damnation.
The First Law of Thermodynamics
The first law of thermodynamics states: Energy cannot be created or destroyed. It can only change from one form into another. The word "energy" is by far a better choice than the word "God" to describe the process of creation and destruction. Energy is present everywhere; it is all-powerful and it is not owned or controlled by any person or group of persons. It is indestructible, gender free and flows freely everywhere. If the word "energy is too impersonal then use the word "Nature."
Jesus gained most of his fame through the performance of miracles. Miracle are events or actions that ordinary humans cannot accomplish or explain, therefore we look to Jesus because He could do those things.
I find it curious that none of Jesus' miracles lasted very long. Everyone he cured ended up dead. It appears that Jesus cannot reverse the process of aging and death.
This makes me wonder about the story of Jesus rising from the dead. Was Jesus in fact, really dead? If the Roman soldiers had dismembered Jesus' body, and buried them in different locations, would he have reassembled his body parts? Supposing Jesus had not publicly antagonized the authorities. Would he have lived to a ripe old age and died an ordinary death like the Buddha?
notion among the faithful is that Jesus died erase the debt incurred by our
collective sins against God the Father, beginning with Adam and Eve. This makes
good copy but it fit the alibi. The real story is - I was not there so I could
not have and would not have participated. Please remember that Jesus was a threat
to the authorities because of his popularity as a gifted speaker and
performer of miracles. He publicly criticized the high priests and government
officials. He created a mood of messianic excitement especially among young
Jews who wanted to free themselves from the authority of
The nuns and priests in charge of my religious education never mentioned the danger Jesus faced when he chose to publicly criticized those in power. Under Roman rule, political agitators faced dire consequences, and crowds of people poured into town to watch them suffer the consequences. The penalty was crucifixion, carried out by a profession crucifixion team hired by the Romans.
Because Jesus was crucified, the followers of Jesus have decided that crucifixion is the ticket to Heaven. They believe the more pain you endure on Earth the greater will be your pleasure in Heaven. In a northern Philippine village, this belief is so strong that a small group performs an annual Crucifixion on Good Friday ritual with real nails and live participants in order to experience firsthand the agony of Christ, fortunately not to the point of death.
The Christian preoccupation with suffering is in stark contrast with Buddhism, a much wiser and older system of knowledge that examines suffering and how to get rid of it.
According to the four evangelists, who began
to piece together the story of Jesus forty years later, the Savior of Mankind
completed his task and now sits at the right hand of the Father in Heaven.
If Catholic parents truly believe that Jesus paid the debt between Adam and Eve and his Father over the sin of knowledge, why force innocent children to feel shame and guilt through the re-enactment of the Way of the Cross ritual on Good Friday afternoons?
What Did Jesus Look Like?
Those of us who make a living creating religious art, like to depict the Boss's Son as a six-foot tall, white American male in his early thirties with long brown slightly bobbed hair, parted in the middle - and a beard. We have all seen pictures of the baby Jesus, the child Jesus, the teenage Jesus, Jesus the religious leader and Jesus nailed to the cross. Despite the popularity and global distribution of these idols, not a one of them is Jesus since the Son of Man was Jewish,and most likely smaller in stature with short black, curly hair and maybe a beard, but who can say for sure.
The Shroud of Turin is the only evidence we have that such a person as Jesus of Nazareth actually existed. Unfortunately, we have no way to prove or disprove its authenticity.
So what are we left with – a make -believe character we invent and worship through our collective imagination?
The truth is - knowing or not knowing what Jesus looked like makes no difference.
Unwise Sayings of Jesus
Based on the number of wars that followed His exit from the earth it does not appear that the teachings of Jesus, the Jewish rabbi, the Son of God and the Second Person of the Holy Trinity penetrated too deeply into the human psyche.
Despite the unquestioned wisdom of His teachings here are some quotes attributed to Jesus that could prove difficult, if taken literally.
"If thy right eye offends thee, pluck it out and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell; and if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off…"
If you were a person who believed in the literal interpretation of scripture, should you not be plucking out your right eye, and chopping off your right hand?
"But I say unto you, that ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also."
Will this work with Nazis?
"Therefore I say unto you, take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on."
If I took this literally, I would become a homeless person wandering the streets - or better yet, sick or dead.
"He that is not with me is against me.
It’s "my way or the highway" time. Do as I say or burn in the flames of Hell. This is the kind of ultimatum that drives me away.
And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of Man, it shall be forgiven him: but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him neither in this world, neither in the world to come."
I have never seen the "Son of Man" or the "Holy Ghost" so I cannot speak words against either one.
"Every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned."
When I read this, I think of all the thoughtless remarks I have uttered throughout my life and regretted later. Too late - my words have already condemned me. That is why we have freedom of speech and, at least on paper, separation of church and state.
This famous quote has puzzled me all my life. The word "kingdom" is a medieval term and Heaven is a place or mood of happiness. I believe the author of this quote intended it to mean you will be happy if you live a spiritual life.
"Judge not that ye not be judged."
I tried to practice this but finally gave up and went back to judging people.
The Second Coming of Jesus
Ever since the death and resurrection of The Boss's Son 2000 years ago, Christians have waited for Jesus to return one day to rescue them and take them to Heaven. It sounds like a wonderful idea but it contradicts the promise that Jesus made to his disciples when he said, "I am with you always, even to the end of the world."
How can Jesus return if he never left?
These "second coming" groups come and go with regularity, organized by people blessed with charisma but devoid of historical facts. Sometimes it is not their fault, especially when anxious followers pressure their leader to “predict” when the Redeemer will come. Once that date is set, the countdown begins and the future of the leader and the cult followers is on the line.
When the deadline passes (as it always has) and Jesus fails to appear as expected, the cult leader must decide how to maintain his authority over the group. The wisest choice is to admit he or she made a mistake and misread the clues then quickly choose a different date far into the future. A second choice is to steal the group’s money and disappear. The third choice is the one chosen by the cult members who are the most extreme in their beliefs – which is to kill one another, commit suicide, or both. The astonishing fact about this fascinating drama is that rich, educated, highly intelligent people elected to public office secretly join these doomsday cults, which proves that civilized people still carry within, a black hole of primitive fear and superstition.
Religious Programming Begins with the Genesis Myth
Me and God
starts with the story of Genesis and the presupposition
of a male, Creator God that rules over the Earth from a place called the
The confusion over who is in charge can be resolved to some degree by asking the following questions.
Who is digesting my food, circulating my blood, replacing my cells and forming dreams? Is it “I” or God? What exactly is “I”? Is “I” the whole body or something inside the body? If God is everywhere as the Bible claims then where do “I” fit in?
It seems to me the more “I” take responsibility for my own actions; the less I need to depend on God. Better still, why not simply leave God alone and observe what happens?
The fact that I do not know how I digest food, circulate blood, form new cells and create dreams does not mean I am not doing it. It only means I do not know how I do it.
The Origin of Humanity
"In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.
And God said let us make man in our image, after our likeness."
The word "us" is an unfortunate choice of words that reminds the reader that this God is a multiple personality that talks to Himself. Perhaps this unfortunate description was a compromise between the monotheists who favored a single God and polytheists who preferred many gods. In any case, this single God with multiple personalities decided to create Adam and Eve, the first humans.
"And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul. And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh... and the rib which the Lord God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man….. "And on the seventh day God ended his work… and he rested…"
This incredible story of the origin of the species might win over a three-year-old but what can we hope for from a mature adult with a college education in science? Even if you concede that the seven days decided by the author could mean seven millennium, or even seven million years, the fact remains that the time factor is irrelevant – merely a human invention that does not apply because God lives in eternity. It is useless to argue this with people who fear that if you change even one word of scripture, it could throw the entire Bible, and their faith, into doubt.
After the seven days of creation, God became tired and needed to rest.
This portion of the story is a contradiction meaning you cannot have it both ways or it becomes meaningless. An all-powerful God by definition cannot use up His power and become a tired God. The author loses credibility and the story is now fiction.
As the narrative continues, God
Eventually Eve grows bored with eternal happiness and becomes curious about the tree. Her curiosity is encouraged by the appearance of a talking snake aka Lucifer, God’s arch enemy who urges her to try one of the apples. The talking snake is also Satan the rebellious angel whom God cast into Hell, but who mysteriously escapes at just the right moment to promise Eve that if she eats the apple she will become as wise and powerful as God. With such a persuasive argument from this magnificent, bejeweled serpent, Eve gives in to her desire for power and knowledge. When Adam shows up, she persuades him to have a taste of power and knowledge, also. By eating the apple and disobeying God, they have gained the knowledge of good and evil. They have also become aware of their nakedness and decide to cover their private parts with fig leaves. Before long, God, shows up and wants to know what is going on. He is shocked as He listens to their story and then orders them out of the Garden and into the real world. Having completed his mission, Satan returns to Hell - and here we are.
As I read this story, I cannot help but wonder: Why would a loving, caring God put the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil in the garden in the first place if did not want His beloved children to eat the fruit? Why does God need to run a test if He is omniscient? Why did He send Lucifer on such a mission and then pretend He did not know what was going on?
God cannot make a mistake. He knew exactly what He was doing.
Cain and Abel
After God evicted Adam and Eve from
the Garden of Eden, they began a life of struggle and suffering. They
discovered sex and Eve gave birth to Cain and Abel, who became a farmer and a
herdsman. Apparently, God preferred slaughtered sheep to vegetables and favored
Abel over Cain. This seemed unfair to Cain who settled the score by killing
Abel. Once again, God was not there to
save Abel so we have another contradiction from God who is channeling
His account of what happened through the writer. Later, when God finally
arrives and "discovers" what happened He becomes angry, places
a mark on Cain and banishes him to the
Noah and the Flood
"And it repented the Lord that He had made man on the earth and it grieved Him at his heart. And the Lord said I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man and beast; and the creeping thing and the fowls of the air; for it repented me that I have made them."
Instead of a well thought out Plan with a happy ending that one might expect from a Perfect Supreme Being, the Genesis Project has become God's personal nightmare. First the angels in Heaven, then Adam and Eve, and now this. In His own words, God breaks down and confesses that He is not perfect; instead, He makes mistakes and suffers just like His creations. He becomes angry and destructive. God behaves like a child.
God now decides to destroy all life on the planet except for a man named Noah and his family whom he orders to build a large seagoing vessel called the Ark and … "every living thing of all flesh, two of every sort shalt thou bring into the ark, and keep them alive with thee. Of every clean beast thou shalt take to thee by seven, the male and female; and of the beast that are not clean by two, the male and the female."
new plan is to re-seed the earth with a mated pair of every living thing by
storing them aboard the
"and the whole earth was of one language and of one speech. And they said, let us build us a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven… and the Lord came down to see the city and the tower… and the Lord said… go to, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another's speech. So the Lord scattered them abroad from thence upon the face of all the earth: and they left off to build the city."
The author of this tale tried to explain why we have a variety of languages. The plot centers on a group of people who are trying to reach Heaven by building a tower.
This time, God, who is up in the sky has to come "down" to Earth to find out what kind of mischief human beings are up to this time. Instead of laughing at their folly, the three Persons in one God have an angry discussion and decide to alter the language of the workers so they cannot understand one another. The story sends the reader the message that the variety of languages we have developed is a punishment from God for arrogance.
The Bible Bangers
I am beginning to think that genetic engineering plays a major role in how people think and act. Apparently, some of us have such a short attention span we cannot follow a single idea to its logical conclusion and must rely on others to do our thinking for us. This happened to me in parochial school where I memorized a great deal of information long before I began understood its meaning.
In 1980, Conservative Christians began to regroup from the shock of the hippie drug culture and losing the Vietnam War. Concerned parents and shrewd politicians joined forces against the Indian Gurus, reality-altering chemicals, and the Eastern religions that threatened traditional Christian family values.
Evangelical Christians appeared on television, speaking in tongues, performing faith healing and swooning in the spirit. They broadcast the Word of God through a global network with the promise of a heavenly reward in exchange for cash.
TV viewers could reach the "
In the beginning, I was merely curious about this emerging media phenomenon and wondered how long it would last but I had no idea how powerful it would become and how quickly it would spread. As more players entered the game some of these hucksters began to appear in the news on charges of tax evasion, misappropriation of funds, statutory rape, prostitution, and homosexual activity. Not wishing to be left out the Catholic Clergy made their headlines with a bumper crop of pedophile priests.
Apparently, anyone can become a spokesperson for God. All you have to do is graduate from a seminary or appear in public with a microphone and start reading scripture. If you wish to attract a global following and collect enormous amounts of tax-free cash, just talk to God right in front of a live camera that broadcasts the signal worldwide.
Talking to God is a euphemism for talking to yourself - an indicator of a mental disturbance, especially in public. Zen masters practice inner silence to quiet the internal dialogue - not engage it in conversation.
The Partnership of the Corporate Church and State
Over the last thirty years, a groundswell of Christian activism has moved traditional values of God, country and family to the top of the political agenda. Church supported politicians began to win elections by promising to get rid of drugs, pornography, homosexuality, abortion, gay marriage, alternative lifestyles and non-Christian religions.
Evangelical ministers urged the faithful to donate money and volunteer their services to convert faith-based doctrine into government policy. The ultimate goal of the movement was to gain control of congress and the White House by electing candidates that promoted Christian values. The fact that this violates the constitutional separation of church and state did not matter. Under the growing pressure from the Christian Right, God became more important than the Constitution.
One way to assist this process was to force tax-supported public schools to include Creationism in their science courses. Creationism is a religious doctrine that presumes the existence of a Creator God. Because Creationism is a familiar religious term, the promoters of this plan changed the word "Creationism" to "Intelligent Design."
Intelligent Design says, "Certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an "intelligent cause", not an "undirected process" such as natural selection." On the surface, this appears to be splitting hairs but if you examine it closely, it presumes the universe lacks intelligence and needs someone or something to be in charge. Since Fundamentalist Christians have a deep seated fear of a life without purpose or meaning they invented a Creator God and put Him in charge. This Creator God is none other than the biblical God in Genesis.
Intelligent Design lost its bid to enter public high school science courses in the 1990 Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District case when U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III ruled that intelligent design is not science and "cannot uncouple itself from its creationist antecedents."
Undeterred, right wing political Christians continue to push their religious agenda. The founding fathers made it clear that tax-supported public schools that educate children from different religious backgrounds should not teach any religion in their classrooms. Religious instruction can be taught at home or in privately funded schools and churches. These institutions are already tax exempt and perfectly free to carry on these activities with their own money.
fathers knew that religion was a powerful form of indoctrination that had
caused untold human suffering throughout history. During the time of the
Catholic Inquisition, and the Star Chamber, the Church Government could have
Corporate Religion, Politics and the Media
When I was a child, I remember how boring it was to watch Catholic Mass on our 12" black and white TV. On Saturday, my mother would iron clothes and watch Bishop Fulton J. Sheen give his weekly sermon called "Life is Worth Living." He was a strikingly handsome gray-haired man dressed in his red robe and cap. He was also a brilliant speaker who was so confident in his beliefs that millions of Catholic viewers viewed him as a living saint.
However, things have changed since then. Religion has become a billion dollar media circus that broadcasts infallible Bible quotations over worldwide networks. The Word of God does not have to make sense as long as the size of the audience, the righteousness of the preacher and the special effects added by the graphics team crew convinces viewers to send in their pledges. The contributions finance the building of churches and Christian universities, where each new generation of students learns to replace thinking with scripture.
The Conservative Christian movement began around 1980 and within ten years, it had become a powerful political/corporate force that could elect officials to public office and pass legislation that favored faith-based initiatives. The founders of these new religious corporations hired experts to study human behavioral triggers. They discovered that frightened, lonely people respond well to singing, talking, and consoling messages from authorities such as Jesus and God, in exchange for contributions.
How Religion Began
Becoming human is a slow and difficult process that requires effort, intelligence and guidance.
Just as a child playing in a sandbox will create imaginary playmates, so will adults create imaginary characters that will console and guide them through difficult times. The founders of ancient civilizations understood the need to invent external deities to whom they assigned tasks that were beyond the reach of human beings. What began as a mental product of the imagination took shape as temples, statues, paintings and other "holy" objects. The intent of the worshippers turned these fictional characters into powerful beings that could influence human affairs. Through repeated rituals, what was once inside the human brain now appeared outside, in the external world.
Religion is a Response to Not Knowing
Religious authorities promote the idea that they have the answer to the mystery of Being. The game begins when the seeker wants to know the answer. When you make inquiries into a Christian group, they will offer you Bible based religious literature, which contains all the answers you seek. You may talk for a while before you take the material home and begin reading. If you read with an open mind you will soon notice the narrative contains passages, which make you think to yourself, "This makes no sense." You must decide to question the literature or accept it on faith. The Bible cult has a large following because it is easy for symbol-minded folks to believe in Bible stories than to question them. After all, the Bible is the product of centuries of research by professional historians and religious scholars. Who am I to question the authorities?
The men and women of long ago who wrote the manuscripts that scholars assembled to create the Bible, based their work on a simple premise – that a white, super-human, male monarch called God created the human race and that we had rebelled against His authority. So here we are, stuck in the middle of nowhere carrying on with our sinful ways.
Freedom is the right to explore and experiment with consciousness in a way that does not endangers others. Consciousness altering is not a crime but a normal and healthy activity practiced by people in all cultures. There is and always will be a percentage of society that fears this activity and tries to prohibit it. Ancient mind-altering plants such as cannabis, magic mushrooms and peyote can change human perception to such a degree that the experience may forever change a person’s outlook on life.
Devout Catholics condemn the use of these power plants and insists that swallowing a round white wafer and pretending it is Jesus, God, or the Holy Ghost is the correct path to salvation. Based on years of personal experience, I saw no benefit from this practice.
Entheogens change the way the brain converts energy into sensory data. Entheogens release huge amounts of energy that can trigger profound changes in thinking and behavior especially in people with a strong desire to explore the Zeitgeist, the known limits of human experience and knowledge. Traditionally, shamans used Entheogens to induce visions in themselves and in their clients – to transcend normal awareness and confirm the presence of "God within".
It is the endless prayers, sermons, and Bible classes spent “trying, yet failing” to believe, that often leads spiritual seekers to search for truth outside mainstream downtown institutionalized religion. The fact that the left-handed path to enlightenment is forbidden and illegal makes it even more attractive for some. Adam and Eve were the first to disobey and sampled the forbidden fruit from the tree of knowledge. For those willing to risk arrest and a possible prison term under today’s puritanical drug laws, Entheogens offer an experience far beyond anything offered by the Church.
Despite their differences, Entheogens and esoteric religion share a common goal - to reveal the true wonder and mystery of existence. A carefully planned episode can shatter long-standing beliefs and alter forever the course of one's life. Of course, anyone can alter reality by starving yourself or subjecting your body to extreme measures or by getting drunk on legal alcohol, but this cannot compare with witnessing the innermost structure of your body and the world around you with the aid of power plants. In fact, many people give up drinking after such an experience.
For centuries, religious institutions have condemned and persecuted those who used Entheogens, and with good reason. Once you sense the underlying unity of all things, you are more likely to view the world as an extension of yourself. A dramatic shift in perception is therefore a huge threat to the socially constructed ego called “I” that is built on separation from God and which dissolves at death.
Catholic theologians argue that prayer and the Eucharist (the body of Jesus taken symbolically at Communion in the form of a round, flat, white wafer) and not drugs, is the correct way Jesus taught his disciples to communicate with His heavenly Father.
As a former Catholic and participant in the
Sacrament of Holy Communion for nearly twenty years, I can assure you this is
not the case. Swallowing a compressed wafer of white flour manufactured in
It is true that Entheogens are dangerous if taken in an unsupported environment by people who are not prepared. Most of us have no understanding of the mechanism we call consciousness. We learn about particle theory in physics and chemistry, yet we never include ourselves in these descriptions. In my case, I was willing to experiment with chemicals to find out if science was telling the truth. When I discovered my nervous system was a mass of living circuits, composed of electrically charged particles I could not believe it. It left me to wonder, what exactly am I, anyway?
In my opinion, those most likely to have a bad reaction to heightened awareness are people who believe the condensed and separated world of matter is the foundation of reality. When that begins to dissolve into the underlying unity and transparency of all things the change may come as a shock.
The casual and irresponsible mixing of entheogenic compounds with alcohol or other drugs has caused deaths and injuries. Recently the Justice Minister of Amsterdam, a city well known for its liberal drug policy, called for an end to the commercial sale of fresh magic mushrooms - after reports of over one hundred mushroom related trips to the emergency room and one death (from a fall) in one year. Most of these panic attacks happened to British tourists.
Lawmakers sometimes ban a substance from the legal market when a bereaved parent launches a national campaign after losing a son or daughter to an overdose. (Notice that doctor prescribed pharmaceuticals, tobacco and alcohol kills hundreds of thousands each year but remain legal - with warnings.) Banning a popular substance without removing the demand simply shifts production and sales to the black market where entrepreneurs reap the profits. The demand for a commodity does not go away because lawmakers in Congress pass a law to ban it. People who are making millions of tax-free dollars on prohibition don't give a damn about the law and law enforcement officials know they can never enforce it.
The hostile attitude of international lawmakers toward mood-altering
drugs is largely the result of decades of
Freedom of Choice
During my years as a heavily programmed Catholic, it was impossible for me to imagine a life outside the Church because every avenue of escape both real and imaginary was guarded by threats of punishment. During this period, it never occurred to me that freedom was as much mental as physical and it would not become available to me unless I changed my thinking. That change took place when I smoked the leaves and blossoms of the cannabis plant and under its influence, my brain transformed the world into a magnificent sensory experience. For the first time in my life, I had tasted forbidden fruit …and I liked it.
The only way to free yourself from religious indoctrination is to assume responsibility. The process begins with a desire for greater freedom and a willingness to do whatever it takes to acquire that freedom.
Requirements for freedom from religious doctrine
1. Practice a healthy lifestyle to build strength. Higher consciousness requires more energy.
2. Trust in reason to answer tough questions. The answers provided by religion offer little or no evidence to support its claims. Instead, much of it, though not all of it is superstition that rides on blind faith in symbols and long ago people you will never meet.
3. Study the origin of all religions to see how they came to be what they are today. Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia is a great source for quick answers.
4. Develop calmness of body/mind through daily meditation. An agitated body/mind cannot hold the attention steady long enough to acquire a thorough understanding of complex issues. Memorized information no matter how relevant is only a precursor to understanding.
5. Let go of God and Jesus and think for yourself. If you lack intelligence, common sense or a conscience, then you have no choice but to depend on God and Jesus for guidance. Just remember - you create them inside your head.
6. Develop a sense of humor about everything, especially religion. The most common mistake religious seekers make is to go overboard in their zeal to attain holiness. In extreme cases, individuals become insane and engage in holy wars, church bombings and persecutions in the name of Jesus who said "Love your enemies" and "Though shalt not kill." The best way to prevent violence is to take time out for a good laugh.
7. Stop expecting a reward for doing the right thing. Mature men and women do the right thing because it feels good. The reward is in doing it.
8. Treat death as an ordinary and natural event. Death is our best adviser because it gets rid of the guff and reduces us to nothingness.
Requirements for dependency on religious doctrine
1. Join a religious group and believe everything they tell you.
2. Do not trust your own thoughts if they conflict with dogma.
3. Denounce other religions.
4. Ignore contradictions - just keep plowing ahead.
5. Pray constantly to God and Jesus for guidance.
6. Never joke about religion.
7. Expect a reward for obedience.
8. Regard death as an enemy. Seek eternal life in Heaven.
A Short History of Sin
Webster’s Dictionary defines sin as "an offense against God, religion or good morals." This also includes "an offense against any law, standard, code, etc. including a sin against good taste."
Over the centuries, the Catholic Church has compiled a list of offenses that cover nearly all human impulses including those that are natural and pleasurable if properly managed.
One of the first written references to offensive human behavior appeared in the Book of Proverbs called "seven things the Lord hated." Other spokespersons for the Lord modified the list until the 4th century when the monk Evagrius Ponticus detailed them in his writings as the eight evil thoughts.
The list reads as follows. Gluttony, lust, greed, sorrow, anger, despair, envy and pride.
I have indulged all of these impulses at one time or another in my life so I know what they do. They cut off the flow of energy - a condition I call "sin".
The term "deadly sins" is an exaggeration used by writers in a culture trapped in fear and superstition. Here they are:
Gluttony is eating more food than you can digest. It creates toxic waste, which weakens the body. You do not need to be punished by God for engaging in this activity since it creates its own punishment.
Lust is a normal expression of sexual energy for the creation of more children (which we do not need) - or simply for pleasure. For those who have no interest in marriage or children, consensual safe sex between unmarried adults or guilt-free masturbation is neither a crime nor a sin. Overpopulating this planet with human beings is a sin. “I will make you stewards of the Earth.” (God)
Greed is the driving force behind our economic system of wealth and power, which we call Capitalism. However, unrestrained greed is dangerous and can destroy economic systems.
Sorrow is a normal reaction to pain or loss. No one can eliminate sorrow from human existence, but those who practice Zen - the art of detachment - can reduce it to the point where happiness becomes more possible. Struggling to survive in a world of violence, hunger and disease is painful. Even love is a cause for sorrow when the loved one dies or leaves you. Learning to let go of the world is essential to happiness.
Anger is a normal response when faced with loss of control or self-esteem. A short burst of anger relieves stress but protracted anger damages the nervous system and destroys happiness.
Envy is the driving force behind consumerism. Example: Your neighbor shows you her big screen HD TV, so you want one too. What is wrong with that?
Despair is a normal reaction to a life-threatening situation. It is not an offense against God.
Pride in one's achievement is normal and healthy. Arrogance or false pride is pride taken to excess.
None of these impulses is bad in moderation. The danger lies in trying to suppress them completely. Trying to crush impulses that arise spontaneously can lead to depression. Moderation is the safest course to follow. Gotama Siddhartha the founder of Buddhism taught his followers to follow the middle path.
Sin is built into the game of life to provide us with entertainment. Without sin there would be no victories or defeats and the news media would have no crime stories to report to its eager audience. We need sin. Even so, avoiding sin increases the flow of energy, - which is happiness.
My definition of sin does not involve guilt or punishment. Sin is a failure to conduct and store energy in the body. Think of the body as a rechargeable battery. Any action or inaction that depletes or obstructs the flow of electricity through the body runs the battery down. Death is a dead battery.
There are no universal rules in this game that apply to everyone. Action that weakens the life force in one body may not affect another. Everyone is unique and must determine through trial and error what constitutes an optimum lifestyle. This is why I do not follow a fixed set of rules.
Out of the Jungle
One of my favorite pastimes is to read crime stories posted on crimelibrary.com especially those in which human beings kidnap, torture and kill other human beings. I have always wondered how this situation fits the description of a Creator God that cannot make a mistake. It seems that God gave us the means to kill one another while at the same time forbidding us to do it. Theologians call it free will but it makes no sense to me.
The Bible maintains a strict separation between the animal and human world, which helps to explain why our animal behavior presents such a mystery to crime investigators. When I was a child in Catholic school, the nuns made it clear to us that we are not animals. I now know that we are animals. We are part of a food chain that involves slaughtering and eating other animals - a process that differs from the jungle environment only in its mechanization of food delivery systems. We no longer snap the chicken's neck, chop off the goats head or electrocute a cow. We hire others to do it. This separation from the killing process makes it easier to believe that God created us special and independent of the animal kingdom.
Devoutly religious people have a hard time accepting the reality of serial killers, human sacrifice, child molesters, and the government sanctioned mass murder we call war. It is only when I accept my status as an animal in the human form that everything begins to make sense. My fascination with people who resort to violence is evidence of an animal gene in my DNA. As a person who wishes to get along with my fellow men and women I have built mental barriers (filters) against certain impulses that I know would damage my reputation as a “good” person. A small percentage of people in a civilized society breach these barriers we collectively refer to as a conscience. In order to experience the thrill of power and control over their victims, they have to destroy the conscience and become con artists in order to hide their true nature.
As an individual develops more awareness, the lower reptilian brain plays a diminishing role in making decisions and the upper mammalian brain becomes dominant. The desire to experience pleasure by inflicting suffering and death on others is replaced by a desire to experience happiness with others.
This is just a theory but I believe that a lifetime of intelligent, conscious action changes the structure of DNA, which affects the entire gene pool. In other words, we are both slaves and masters of Nature.