July 26, 2010

Religion – Holy Brain Damage

Posted in Religion tagged , , , , at 6:49 PM by E. M.

Not only is Steve not contrastive, he’s a lousy parent

As an interlude to our examination of the first dispensation we’ve been looking at some of the terms that the Eden narrative introduced – the first being justification and in the last couple posts, the specific form known as “religion”.

Religion consists of actions we engage in to justify our wrongs and/or pay our guilt debt.  In last week’s abbreviated post, I showed how religion gains galvanizing strength by being a communal worldview as well as a personal justification.

Like all comparative thinking, religion is easier and more comfortable than the alternative.  Religion does not require objective, critical thought. In fact it discourages it. There is no need for independent thought when you have established dogma to guide your actions, and a high priest directing your mentality (and by high priest, I don’t just mean guys in ceremonial clothing.  Al Gore, Karl Marx, Richard Dawkins, Carl Sagan, and Oprah count as the high priests of their particular sects)

It’s easier and more comfortable to keep following the rituals you grew up with and may have been in your family and/or culture for generations than to break with entrenched tradition

It’s easier to embrace a system that makes you feel good and superficially addresses your inherent knowledge that you are less than perfect, than deal with the idea that you can do nothing to be perfectly righteous on your own.

It’s easier to believe that this world is all there is and that you can perfect it (and yourself) by “saving” it via environmentalism or activism, than it is to see the world as fleeting and transitory.

It’s easier to believe that there is no God, and that Right and Just are effects of the universe instead of it’s cause, than to accept the idea that the existence of absolute Righteousness would require that we be accountable for our actions.

Because religion is a socially acceptable form of mass comparative thinking, it is readily and easily embraced.  Because it does such a good job imitating contrastive thinking, it is extremely effective at discouraging the pursuit of true righteousness. And because it encourages the vain comfort of self-righteousness (perhaps the most toxic form of comparative thinking) it is extraordinarily difficult to let go of.

But for the remainder of this post, I want to specifically focus on the damage caused by religion done “in the name of God”.  Performing works to justify yourself and slapping God’s name on it does not make it righteous.  In fact, its self-delusion because God specifically says that our works are unacceptable in relation to true righteousness.

So why do we do it?  Pride.  It is easier to take some credit for our righteousness than to accept our relative inadequacy before a perfectly righteous God.  If we feel that we have “partnered” with God for our righteousness, it makes us feel a little better about ourselves.  It gives us a little self-esteem and self-worth.  But a little pride is still pride.

The reason that religion is so damaging is that it associates itself with God while being in diametric opposition to God’s way to gaining righteousness! When non-religious people are exposed to religious adherents, their subconscious recognizes that religion is just another man-centered form of justification that damages the brain and really does nothing to alleviate guilt.  However, since religion clothes itself in divinity and falsely associates itself with God, people come to believe that God Himself must be as illogical, self-contradictory, hypocritical, comparative, oppressive and futile as the people who practice religion.  So they throw the baby out with the bathwater and completely reject all things called “God”.  Thus, they put themselves in danger of missing the meaning of life.

But it’s even worse for the religious adherents themselves.  At least those who use non-religious Justification of Man to deal with their guilt subconsciously know that they are merely rationalizing their wrongs.  They are under no theological delusions regarding the source of their justification.  The lack of guilt-satisfaction they get leaves them open to the possibility of being contrastive at some point.

But religious adherents are convinced (or have been convinced) that their religious efforts are required, needed, and/or appealing to God.  So when their Acts of Justification do not alleviate their subconscious guilt, religious adherents don’t get contrastive (because they think their actions are divinely inspired), instead they figure that they are not being religious enough!  So they get more religious!  They intensify their acts of justification.  They get more comparative!  It’s a vicious circle that escalates the more it’s practiced.

If the contradictory irrationality of Justification of Man causes brain damage, then religion is brain damage to the Nth degree!  This is how religious people can rationalize and justify suicide bombings, inquisitions, holy wars, holocausts, ethnic cleansing, etc.  This is how certain religious Jews in the first century justified the torture and killing of the Son of the God they claimed to worship.

But isn’t the Bible full of rules and rituals that people were instructed to follow in order to please God?  Next time we’ll wrap up our discussion of religion by looking at man’s first religious act, exploring why Biblical doctrine is often confused with religion, and finally, we’ll begin to see where atonement comes in.  Stay tuned.

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July 17, 2010

Religion – Interlude

Posted in Religion at 6:15 PM by E. M.

Sorry folks, I just didn’t have the mental or temporal bandwidth to do a full blog post this week (in fact my posting regularity my be a bit sporadic for the next couple of months.  Lots of stuff on my plate), but I wanted to put a little something up.

Based on some reactions I got to the last post I think I need to add some clarity to the definition of religion.  Philosophically, “religion” is far broader than just actions centered around the metaphysical or a “god”.

Be it the “great religions” of Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Judaism et al or the “secular religions” such as humanism, The New Age, Nazism, Communism, political activism, and atheism (yes, virulent atheism meets all the tenants of  a religion), the crux of the matter is the same – religion is the spiritualization of Justification of Man
It takes Justification of Man and turns it into a worldview, a metaphysical expression, a “higher purpose” – it essentially attempts to give an answer to “What’s the Point” without accounting for the absolutes of Right and Just.  Religion externalizes, homogenizes, and communizes Justification of Man.  By de-personalizing the struggle with guilt, diffusing the responsibility for justification and turning it into an external communal process, religion tends to strongly galvanize its adherents.

This is one of the reasons that religion causes so much damage, because in the end, it is a substitute for the meaning of life. And since its adherents believe they are fulfilling the real meaning of life, it is extraordinarily difficult to get them to consider the idea that they might be on the wrong path (contrastive thinking).  And since contrastive thinking is the only way to righteousness, the more religious you are, the more difficult it will be to get to Heaven.

I’ll expound on this more in a week (hopefully)

July 8, 2010

Religion – Acts of Justification

Posted in Religion tagged , , , , , , at 12:31 PM by E. M.

In the last post, we saw that when we do something wrong, we feel guilt which drives us to seek some type of justification for our wrongs.  We can either choose the “Justification of God”, which begins with contrastive thinking and can lead to God’s righteousness, or we can choose the “Justification of Man” which begins with comparative thinking.  This week I want to examine another aspect of Justification of Man.

The last post also showed that Justification of Man consists primarily of denial or rationalizations; thing we say or think to justify ourselves.  This other aspect consists of things we do to justify ourselves.  I call them “Acts of Justification” – more commonly known as “Religion”.

One of the most controversial pages on this blog seems to be the “About Me” page.  (I never thought my identity would stir up so much trouble).  I’ve received several public and private comments deriding my statement that I am not religious. Some people think I’m delusional (which is fine, I’ve been accused of worse).  Or they superimpose their own definition of religion (ignoring the one I give), and accuse me of heresy.  The truth is, the reason I am not religious is because I want to go to Heaven, and religion won’t get me there.  Hopefully this post will add some clarity to my position.

If you ask the average person how you get to heaven or earn God’s favor, they will probably tell you that have to be a “good person” (a good person being someone who behaves in a socially acceptable manner and performs some degree of charitable actions or “good works”).

There are a couple of huge problems with this idea.  The first problem is that “good”, in this case, is an extremely subjective measurement.  What one person considers good may not be good or even acceptable by the standards of another person or culture.  Furthermore, just how “good” do you have to be to please God?  Its not like we have a cosmic “goodness meter” we can check.

That’s where religion starts to come in.  Islam tells us that if our good works outnumber our bad works at the end of life, then we go to Heaven.  Hinduism tells us that by doing enough good works and earning good Karma during our lives, we will be reincarnated as a higher being (and if we earn bad Karma we’ll come back as a dung beetle or a Jonas Brother).  Buddhists . . . well, they believe that the meaning of life is to achieve “nothingness” so their opinions are irrelevant.

Even some Christian groups teach that we can only reach Heaven by being a part of their specific congregation, abiding by their definitions of good works, and performing their rituals in order to please God.  So there is not much of a consensus on how to be “good enough” to get to Heaven.

The other huge problem is that the Meaning of Life post showed that you only get to Heaven by being like God.  You don’t get there by racking up “goodness points”, you get there by being righteous, and being right begins with contrastive thinking.

Religion is not contrastive it is comparative.

Remember, when we do wrong, we have a guilt-debt to pay.  We inherently know that we owe that debt because of the existence of Right and Just. Those of us who acknowledge God as the embodiment of righteousness and justice understand that the debt we owe is to God.  Performing good works in order to try to please God is the act of attempting to balance the scales of justice with our own efforts.

This is Religion.  The insidious thing about this kind of justification is that it seems like you’re being contrastive at first.  You do acknowledge your wrongs, but instead of turning to God for righteousness, you try to cover your bad actions with good actions. This is the opposite of Justification of God.  This is another form of Justification of Man.  Justification of Man is comparative thinking.  Comparative thinking is Pride.  Religion is an act of pride.  It is impossible to be like God when you act in pride.

So am I saying that it is wrong to do good works?  Or course not.  Being charitable, helping others, and being kind are all great things.  Even performing religious rituals is not bad in and of itself.  Its not so much what you do, it’s the motivation behind what you do.

If your good works are performed to justify your wrongs, appease God’s justice, or earn salvation, then it is Justification of Man.  Nothing we do, no effort we make on our own, can ever undo the wrong we committed.  Believing that it can, will lead you away from God because anything you do to justify yourself is pride.

The meaning of life is to be like God.  To be like God, you have to be righteous.  To be righteous, you have to be contrastive.  Religion twists contrastive thinking and increases comparative thinking.  Religion is Acts of Justification that lead away from God’s plan.

And that is why I am not religious.

In the last post I mentioned that religion has the most damaging effects of any form of justification.  I’ll explain why next week.

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