Friday, November 03, 2006

Why religions fail while heretics succeed

True religion is the life we lead, not the creed we profess.
- Louis Nizer, lawyer (1902-1994)

What Nizer called true religion, some today call spirituality. Or something close. We don't have a good word for someone who is spiritually in touch with God but doesn't conform to the dictates of a religion.

Many people equate "religion" with organized religion. They feel so strongly about membership in an organized relgion being the only definition for "religion" or for being religious that they consider another who is not a member to be an atheist or a pagan. Christianity even adopted the word pagan to mean anyone who does not believe in the God of Christianity.

If membership in an organized religion is what determines whether or not a person is religious and organized religions have been guilty of heinous crimes and violations of their own principles, it's no wonder that people have trended away from "religion" in recent decades.

To understand statistics regarding religious affiliation as iterated in the media, we need to understand that not declaring affiliation with an organized religion does not make a person non-religious, nor does it make them atheist. It just makes them non-practising adherents of a total religious belief set.

It means that a person has beliefs that are not expressed in accordance with the doctrines of major religions. Being accused of being a member of a religious sect, for example, makes a person a social pariah, so people would rather declare no religion than admit to being part of a small religious group that might be called a sect.

What name do we have for a person who has sought out their own spiritual identity, who believes in a power greater than that of humanity and who has committed their life to follow a life course that is in accordance with what he or she believes is the right way to live? Atheist? Agnostic? Heathen (another favourite word of Christianity, though Jews and Muslims use it as well)? That's religious name-calling, something that the principles of organized religions insist should not be done.

Some people call themselves "humanists." These people often do so less because they don't believe in a supernatural power and more because they reject the teachings of organized religions about the supernatural. They don't commit themselves to belief in a supernatural power, instead preferring to help other humans in ways that would have made Jesus of Nazareth and the Prophet Mohammed proud of them.

In a sense, religions have soiled their own beds. Then they condemn others who refuse to join them.

Cutting through all the semantic crap, Louis Nizer said that what is important is how we live, not what we say we believe in. For there are many who profess their beliefs openly and strongly, but fail to act in ways that would affirm their oral commitments. They are people that Jesus would have condemed as hypocrites (he used the term 24 times in the Bible). No doubt the Prophet would have used similar terminology.

Often a person who claims that he doesn't believe in God, when questioned intensively admits that he believes in God, just not in the kind of God that members of organized religions profess to believe in, the kind of God they have given unreasonable and unprovable characteristics and attributes and one that inevitably disappoints because He doesn't live up to the advertising of His loyal followers.

God is not who the Pope or the Ayatollahs say He is. God is not who religious fanatics say He is. God is not who the religious faithful say He is.

God is who He is. He doesn't have to explain Himself to anyone or prove Himself to anyone.

For those who are unable to see the existence of God around them or to feel His extraordinary presence within them, God probably doesn't exist.

God can live with that. Just don't live like a total screw-up.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, striving to put life in perspective.
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Seven Star Hand said...

Hello Bill,

Interesting post and info about TIA. The following is another viewpoint on atheism and the Creator. Beyond that, read my blogs to see what I have to say about helping to fix people. Contemplate the Doctrine of Two Spirits. A true solution to humanity's problems and ending the creation of broken people is to eliminate money, religion, and politics and to replace them with verifiable wisdom. A civilization built around those three deceptive delusions can never be fixed. A civilization built upon true wisdom can establish and maintain a true paradise.

Analyzing the Creator Debate

Did you ever consider that atheism arose because certain people saw that religious characterizations about the nature of an omnipotent "God" were seriously flawed and then concluded that religion and the Creator were the same things? This is the exact same conclusion at the base of religious beliefs; namely that the Creator and religion are inseparable. Consequently, both atheists and religious followers are arguing over a flawed assumption without considering that other possibilities negate the common core conclusion of both groups. These arguments are actually over religion and whether it represents a reliable model of reality. The answer to that question is of course not. Religion is not only flawed, it is purposely deceptive! Though atheists are certainly sincere in their conclusions, the fact remains that they and religious followers are locked in a debate that cannot be won by either side because both base their positions upon whether the same flawed premise is the truth. In order for this debate to conclude with a truthful answer, a greater level of discernment is required.

One apt clarifying question is, if someone tells lies about you, does that negate you or make you a liar or a lie? Certainly, the image cast about you would be a false one, but that is their image, not the real you. Consequently, faulty religious assertions about the Creator of this universe do not negate the existence of a Creator. Considering the possibility that this universe is not by chance leaves the door open to how it arose, which leads us to seek what could have created and maintained it. Since neither religion nor science has yet adequately answered that question, it is safe to conclude that those who argue about the Creator based on either are most certainly wrong on one or more aspects. Thereby, another point of view and additional knowledge are required.


Bill Allin said...

Well put about the two sides of an argument having nothing to do with the real question L.W. They are so caught up in details and trivia that they have no idea what the subject of their debate is about.