CHAPTER 32. NEED FOR A RELIGION WITH A HIGHER SENSE OF MORALITY
What's Wrong with Religion?
The main problem with religion is that it is primarily a justification for and promoter of the self-interests of the members of that religion as a whole. And if a religion fails to justify the self-interests of their members, that religion will be abandoned for a new one that does justify the group's self-interest, as the American south did when Anglicanism did not justify slavery.
Religion can and does justify and promote the self-interests of its members, but it is wrong to say that religion in and of itself is the primary cause of these self-interests. In the United States different groups have political interests running from ultra-conservative to ultra-liberal and there seems to be a religion for each of the positions along the political continuum. While religion can and does reinforce the self-interests of its members, religion does not create the self-interests themselves.
In one sense, the members of various religions are guilty of worshipping themselves, because religion is an expression of the very self-interests that the members worship. And in this sense, religion can be a great supporter of social cohesion (or of social repression, depending on the nature of the society).
Religion is too often guilty of the violation of Christianity's first commandment: thou shall have no other gods before me. For instance, American Christianity is guilty of deifying materialism by being just another expression of American capitalism.
(I always laugh over the logic of Calvinism. God has chosen those who will be saved. But how does one know he/she is among the chosen ones? Well, if one does well in this world by accumulating great wealth or other success, one can be fairly certain of having been chosen. Now, you may call that a religion, but it would seem to be one that worships wealth above the concept of God.)
An issue that I often ponder is that American Christians are not really Christian because their worship of Christ is devoid of much of the message of Christ. They have so modified their interpretations of the message of Christ that their religions are ones without Christ. Rather their Christ is one who approves of all they believe: materialism, nationalism, regionalism, culturism, moralism and racism.
What Would a Religion be Like that Did Not Worship Itself and its Members?
To illustrate just how much religions worship themselves, just think how upset its devotees would be if their religions disallowed the worship of one's own self-interests.
A religion not worshipping itself would be opposed to all "isms," that is against the ultra expression of one's own self-interests over that of the self-interests of other groups. (The conservatives in the United States love to say that they take "individual" responsibility for their actions. But to illustrate how weak this line of thinking is, where is their "social" responsibility in this commitment to individual responsibility?) Increasingly in America, the conservatives refuse to take care of the less fortunate, in a sociologically racist ideology that puts the onus on the poor and people of color for being poor.
The traditional 10 commandments themselves are primarily concerned with individual responsibility, but this presents a low level of morality. What is needed is a higher calling with higher moral standards that include social responsibility.
For instance, a religion purged of self-interest would not allow:
the self-worship of nationalism (including what passes as "patriotism" in the United States) because it is in one sense just an extension of tribalism; (there is something immoral with a sense of patriotism that allows the killing of between two and three million Vietnamese in an impossible pursuit of victory in Vietnam during the Vietnam War);
the self-interest of materialism, (including the fear of the poor and worship of the wealthy);
the self-interest of regionalism (such as the Southern worship of their sense of "Dixie");
culturism (the belief that one's culture is superior to all others);
etc., etc. and on and on.
But can you imagine how many people I have insulted with just this small list of these few "isms" as the worship of false gods.
As most of the born-again Christians are whites that tend to be racist, they are already eliminated from being considered religious. For to be truly religious one cannot be a follower of a God that only asks for individual responsibility. Like false prophets, there can be false religions, born-again Christianity being one of these.
What's Right with the idea of God?
We have discussed elsewhere the fact that evolutionary social development left human beings a species with the necessity to employ lying and deception in order to survive. And as societies became more complicated the greater the need for the survival techniques.
One of the biggest lies/self-deception is that of the second Genesis of human beings, human beings not as evolutionary beings but as being primarily molded by society and culture. To sociology it is not acceptable to think of humans as animals with shared evolutionary backgrounds and common evolutionary brain systems.
It is not that the sociologists are less intelligent than those who accept the full consequences of a shared evolutionary path, but they are closer to preacher than scientist. Since sociologists overemphasize the influence of culture and society on human behavior, it is not surprising that they demand a social science that supports their views of how a liberal society should behave. About social evolution, they say "I don't like it." Not that it is false, but that they don't like the political implications or the political motives of the supporters of the impact of evolution on humans.
We cannot trust the social sciences to be truthful. Social scientists demand that the facts conform to support the current liberal political ideas of the day. And since the social sciences and social scientists are so corrupted, we have to find a more truthful basis for judging the truth behind human behavior.
Today's intellectuals seem to be so lost that they advocate that truth is relative. One man's truth is another man's lie. To say such a thing about natural science would be totally unacceptable. There is one truth about the development of life and that is evolution. And there is no "real" dispute among natural scientists (and some social scientists) over the truth of the theory of evolution. The same has to be said about the social sciences: there is one truthful theory about human behaviors and that theory has to be based primarily on evolution.
Man as a judge of his own behavior is too easy on himself. Their standards of judgment are too limited to be of much value in bringing about a better world. And because man is a liar through and through, we need a higher moral code beyond the many "isms" of man. To avoid religion as self-interest, we need a more socially moral code.
Since social thought is not based on the idea of truth, social thought among intellectuals tend to support the liberal ideas of any current period of time. And the current liberalism of any particular day is largely accepting of the evils of the day, with the emphasis on a few necessary changes to change the very worst of these evils. Liberal thinkers are too forgiving of the transgressions of the present, to tolerant of the foibles of human beings and therefore do not have a system of thought that can judge human behavior in terms of eternal truths. (For instance, a racist "religious" person is not religious at all but just another idolater of themselves.)
But one cannot be an effective thinker if thinkers are willing to make themselves prisoners of their own political times without ideas that transcend the day and time. Effective thinkers have to have certain truths that are beyond
Since we cannot trust what passes as truth among our social scientists or thinkers in the humanities, we must look past them to eternal truths. The eternal truths are that racism, moralism, culturism, speciesism, materialism, etc. are sins of the "good" human being and those supporting these ideas are not truly religious, but participate in a false religiosity and religion.
Once I had a minister tell me that I could never be the leader of the next civil rights movement because I did not go to church and just stopped speaking to me. And he wonders why I can't go to church. I can't go to church because the churches support one or many of the ideas that violate what it means to be religious. They live in a times of racism, moralism, etc. and I am not one to sit and listen to a man who pretends to be a follower of God justify and sanctify one or more of these isms. I am not one to hold my tongue and sit quietly when listening to foolishness or blasphemy (i.e., as judged by eternal standards, not the common political ideas of the period).
Religion is helpful, useful, fulfilling if one follows a an eternal religion than one that worships man himself. We cannot effectively judge ourselves or other or societies on the basis of constantly varying political ideas of the present. It is safer if one goes along with the day's current religions, but it can never be truly satisfying. God has to be seen as eternal truth and eternal justice, not as Man writ large justifying the current evils of the age.
Man is totally arrogant to make God in His own image by saying that Man was created in the image of God. That is a damned lie and insult to the very idea of God. To even suggest that "Man" is even close to complying with the ideas of eternal truth and justice is to be blasphemous. Man's arrogance has allowed himself to feel superior over every other living form of life, to be King of the World, and thereby contribute to the current ecological destruction of planet Earth.
Man wants to believe that He/She is created in God's image because they want to justify their position of King of the World, if not of the Universe. But the idea of God as eternal truth and justice rather than a kindly human father would dethrone Man from his own pedestal of arrogance. If God is like man, I don't want anything to do with God.
God as eternal truth and justice, now that's something to strive to follow because it is a true religion, not a false one. .
What's Wrong with Liberal Criticism of Religion?
If the reader is going to understand this chapter, he is going to have to understand that the thrust of this book has been to show just how corrupt are the liberal and conservative views of the world. We live in a world of politicized sociology and therefore a politicized social science. Part of this politicization is the liberal bias against religion and spirituality, areas tainted by too much association with conservative causes and beliefs. The problem with the liberal view, however, is that it is based on a series of wrong assumptions. Liberals are lying to themselves and each other as much as the conservatives, but in different ways. The problem with liberals is that they assume that they are not lying. And it is this arrogance that is so disturbing to someone interested in pursuing the truth.
Liberals often pride themselves on their stress of a need for a secular version of life -- a more humanized version, rather than a religious version. But this secular stress has actually been harmful to the pursuit of the truth. For if we use the liberal, secular view of life and science, we are forced to use a politicized model of the world, where the liberal view of what is politically correct at any given time is the proper way to think. The views of the liberals are always politically correct at any given time, but it makes the liberal views too subject to following the political prejudices of any given point in history.
Shall we take a humanized view of life that forces us to conform to the politics of the day, which are almost always corrupted by who is in power at any given time, or shall we seek higher, more spiritual goals that are freer from the politics of any particular point in time? Shall we follow man's view of life that tends to excuse man's behavior? Shall we be apologists for human behavior? Or should we strive for a science and social science that is more independent of man's corrupted views of himself and his world?
Human beings were evolutionarily designed to be liars. They are always lying to themselves and each other. This trait of inherent deception is reinforced by the power structure of society at any given time. The idea of the prophet serves to illustrate how extremely rare is the individual who does not conform to the political prejudices of his times, be they conservative, liberal, or radical. Therefore, in science it is important not to accept this tendency to lie, but rather to assume that what man chooses to say is a lie and to seek the truth elsewhere.
Taking a spiritual view of life helps the scientist focus on what is eternal and not on what is merely politically acceptable; it helps the scientist focus on the truth because it assumes that humans are lying to themselves; it holds man to higher standards, to the truth in short, rather than to what is politically correct. The problem with the liberals is that they assume they already have the truth, when they are actually merely reflecting the prejudices of their times. Needless to say, it is just this type of attitude that is so antithetical to the pursuit of the truth.
Shall we take man's view of the world, with all the lies and deceptions, or shall we take God's view and understand that we as yet do not even strive for the truth but merely strive for what is politically acceptable? Shall we take standards that are higher than those of corrupt man and seek the truth independent of politics, or shall we declare with the liberals that we already know the truth (politicized as it is)?
Prejudice Against Spirituality
A new world order is slowly arising. Therefore, there will be a need for a new religion more in line with the spirit of cooperation and internationalism. Many of today's religions are so mired in racism, culturism, nationalism, puritanism, and plain selfishness that a new spirituality is needed for a new world order. (Here the word spiritual is used to avoid the negative connotations associated with the word religion.) Liberals and radicals should remind themselves that for every major idea system, there are always conservative, moderate, liberal, and radical versions. The problem is not the idea system itself, but rather the society that chooses to take a conservative interpretation of the ideas. Similarly, it is not the idea of religion that is wrong, but rather the version of religion that the society chooses. Having this type of guide may sound strange to liberals. Many of them will be threatened because they are always monitoring for what supports their liberal beliefs. But this author does not care about sacrificing truth for liberal politics and policies.
Liberals are certainly uneasy if not downright prejudiced against talking about religion or spirituality (except in a negative sense). For instance, when the television talk show hostess Oprah Winfrey wanted to talk to her audience about how to lead better lives, more spiritual lives, the liberals would respond with such hurtful, prejudicial comments as "bad church." (The truth is that Oprah has performed many a good service to people who have not been educated in the realms of psychology and psychiatry or spirituality. There is a lot of ignorance out their in the television audience and Oprah does provide some enlightenment about these important issues.)
That reveals something about their attitudes. They see spirituality as "bad church." And it also says something as how they view church. They cast aspersions on spirituality by comparing it to those things you learn in church. And many of the liberals are just like all other Americans, in a pursuit for wealth, status, and prestige. They know these are the important goals in life, not those one learns from "bad church."
But why do we have to listen to all these biased opinions of liberal journalists? Their outlook on life is just as biased and politically influenced as the opinions of conservative journalists. They just happen to support different politics.
Although there are numerous liberal and radical objections to religion, there are still obvious reasons why religion is important. The sociologist Emile Durkheim held that belief systems are a projection or representation of the group, and, therefore, religion exerts a unifying force on social life. Religion takes the believer beyond his or her own self-interests to strive for higher goals. It also gives life meaning by providing moral guidelines. Furthermore, science has shown that prayer, contemplation, and meditation are "good" for human beings because they relax the body and the mind. This helps reduce the stress that causes so much physical and mental damage to humans.
American Culture: More Materialistic than Spiritual
Americans especially are taught to be conformists in a materialist culture. They chase after many ephemeral articles of life such as wealth, prestige, success, power, material goods, youth, beauty, etc. If they do obtain a modicum of these material goals, they are often surprised to find that, even after a long pursuit of these goals, they are still not happy. It's a funny thing about material objects: it is a never-ending pursuit of these objects and one really has a hard time ever getting enough of them. Far too many materialists end up in a never ending chase of material things and they often find they have no time for anything else of a more nobler pursuit. One thing they certainly don't have is time. You talk with these people everyday. You talk with people who say "I would like to go with you on the Saturday walk, but I am just too tied up. I have a million things to do."
It is an old saying that money can't buy you love, that money can't buy you happiness, but far too few Americans really act as if they believe these sayings.
They are involved too much in a rat race in pursuit of more and more money to enjoy their lives. You can see their frustration on the American highways where people are so angry and frustrated that they act as if they want to (and sometimes actually do) kill those drivers who impede their progress. (The funny thing is that these reckless drivers are in such a hurry with the feeling they don't have enough time to do anything, always seem to have enough time to fight with those other drivers who in anyway object to the reckless driving of the road rage driver. So are they really as harassed as they purport to be? Or are their lives just out of control because they have overextended themselves?)
American capitalism is brutal on the nation's children. At every turn, businessmen fight such innovations as flex time and national standards for day care. In the absence of laws to protect them, businesses overwork their salaried employees. Children in a two-career family are likely to feel especially abandoned as both mother and father are working way over forty hours per week at their jobs. The end result is a lot of screwed-up kids, but American business does not really seem to care about this. (Except when they have to make platitudinous speeches at social gatherings.)
Many a child in a materialistic family is left feeling emotionally abandoned. Sure mom and dad constantly say they are bedraggled taking the children to this event and that event, or this lesson or that lesson, but they are never really spending time with their children. They are letting someone else be with and teach their children.
So after we have discussed and hopefully busted through the liberal and American cultural prejudices against spirituality, maybe now we can talk about the importance of spirituality.
Spirituality is another word for the best guide lines for human behavior. Other words that it would encompass would include ethics, the sense of goodness, and guides for living.
Not to be spiritual is like not caring about one's overall guidelines for life. It's living life without an ethical rudder. Without spiritual guidelines, one is apt to make the easy choices, to opt for that which brings in the most money or the most prestige.
So American business contributes to a nation of screwed-up children and then American business can more easily use these children as they will not be spiritual, but more materialistic, making them better workers who will constantly work so they can constantly spend buying goods they hope will fill up those holes in their souls left partly by the very American business culture that help make the holes in the first place. But money and prestige will never fill up that hole in one's soul. Just ask addicts whether they are successful in chasing away the pain by chasing after gambling winnings, or sexual heights of pleasure, or the bottle if they ever get enough of what they pursue so wantonly? They answer is that they usually destroy themselves and their families long before they ever get even close to getting enough. And those in pursuit of wealth, fame, and success are like addicts. Always in pursuit of something that can fully satisfy them.
The fact is, you'll never really be happy without a spiritual guide.
Characteristics of Spirituality
Spirituality recognizes the evils inherent in racism, moralism, culturism, and nationalism. It also recognizes the inherent worth of every human being. It rejects the notion of the equality of opportunity thesis with its implication that the rich are good and the poor are bad. In contrast to the selfishness engendered by equality-of-opportunity racism, an important part of spirituality is a commitment to help others.
The new spirituality should be compatible with science. Indeed, all belief systems should be flexible enough to adjust to new scientific findings. This flexibility should also help prevent the establishment of a self-satisfied and self-serving clergy that refuses to change even in the face of great human suffering. (The same cautions can be applied to American social scientists.)
Spirituality leaves as optional the belief in a physical after-life or God as a father/mother figure. Theoretically at least, there is no conflict between religion and science because God is an idea that can neither be proved or disproved scientifically. Where religion gets into trouble with science is when religious people use religion instead of science to describe the finite world. Regardless, as Confucius said, the idea of God belongs more to the realm of human ethics than to science.
It is Good for Humans to be Spiritual
Many of the great religions of the world started out as codes of conduct rather than religions. Buddhism and Confucianism are just two examples of this. Over time, the leaders of these ethical movements became deified. It seems more comfortable for people to think of God or religion in terms of a nurturing father or mother. This is not necessarily bad, but the importance of the ethical side of a religion should not be underemphasized or cheapened.
Scientists have shown that prayer and meditation are good for human health. We can also say that it is good for human health and human society for humans to be good, to behave themselves in a proper way. Emotions like anger, jealousy, pettiness, and many negative feelings have deleterious effects on human relationships, and, therefore, on human health. (Not to mention the terrible consequences for human societies.)
The close connection between the attempt to be good and live a spiritual life and human health has been so closely established that now even health insurance companies are endorsing spiritual approaches to better health. The program of meditation, yoga, group support, and vegetarian diet put forward by Dr. Dean Ornish has now been endorsed by forty major insurance companies as an alternative to various types of surgery (Newsweek March 16, 1998:50). Love is good for humans and good for their societies. Even the love for pets is good for humans, for instance, dog owners tend to live longer than people with no pets.
Do bad people get punished in this life time? I do believe that they do. Often Americans cannot see this because they are too busy being impressed by the materialistic goods or the offices obtained by those who cheated, lied, or stole their way to the top in different fields of endeavor.
But look beyond the material situation. The sadistic father who lords over his daughters cynically preaching the value of family as a cover for abuse, finds himself with his adult daughters moving as far away from him as possible. The sadist has a big house in Scarsdale, Westchester County, New York, but he has no real daughters.
The minister who lied and cheated to oust a good, decent man from his post as head of a college finds himself going mad. Henry W. Powell of Lynchburg, Virginia, who as a young man knew Vernon Johns, has reasoned on a macro level that those who oppose those who work for the will of God will not prosper in the long run. The selfish moves of a man may gain temporary, fleeting gains in the short run, but he will always lose in the long run as people uncover the selfish motivation of their efforts. Henry Powell came to this insight through the study of the selfless work for his father for Virginia Seminary, located in Lynchburg. His father's successors may have blackened W.H.R. Powell's reputation in the short run, but in the long run the truth has come to light and the truth restored.
The rich man who primarily selfishly pursued wealth for its own sake ends up dying with very few friends or relatives at his side.
Now, of course, bad things can happen to good people too. But at least the good person is apt to have good people at his side to help him or her out.
Hopefully, this book has helped somewhat in promoting the idea of the new world order and the need for a new world spirituality. Increased human understanding, free of the biasing effects of racism, moralism, culturalism, and nationalism will go a long way to help in the creation of a better world.
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