Posts Tagged ‘History’

“Religion is what keeps the poor from murdering the rich.”
Napoleon Bonaparte

I sometimes try to think about what our lives would be like if we had no religion. Would chaos and anarchy rule supreme without some spiritual moral compass to guide us? Would we as a civilization just instinctively know how to treat our fellow man, or do we require a “reward” in exchange for our good behavior. This is a hard question to answer since the concept of religion is engrained in every man, woman, and child in existence. This will continue to be the case till end times, so we are for better or worse stuck with religion.

I often times write and speculate as to why religion was created in the first place. I have two theories which I feel answer this age old question. The first being the fear of the unknown and unexplainable and the second being social control. I personally think religion was first created to subdue early mans fears, but then when the slightly more intelligent man realized how much influence it had on the masses he transformed it into a form of social control. Since this discovery; generations of generations of people have fallen victim to the soothing swan song of religion.

I have always wanted to write several books on the topic of religion, and one such idea is building a religious timeline; starting from the very first religion all the way up to where we are today. I would track the origins and expansion of said religions. I figured I wouldn’t get too detailed I would just provide the basics of each religion. One detail I would touch on is the impact the featured religion had on the civilization. There were about eight other things I would cover, but are not pertinent to this post. I started this project last year, but when I was faced with the grand scope of the project I decided to shelve it until/if my “Dylan Thomas” books took off.

I really cannot think of one thing other than religion which has had a bigger impact on human existence. Religion although sold as a ticket to salvation and as a guide on how to properly treat your fellow man, it has also been a tool to control the masses. The rulers of old used religion as a tool to give the masses some spiritual guidelines. These guidelines were necessary to keep order, and the people who were being ruled feared for their life hereafter, so they fell in line with their spiritual leaders. We can look out in the world today and still see religion being used by political leaders.

In reference to this specific quote I think we need to look at civilizations through history. I wrote about such a time period a year ago when I touched on the alliance between Rome and the Catholic Church. This was a time when there were two classes the rich and the poor. The rich Romans during this time had the power and influence of the Catholic Church on their side. They parlayed this influence to socially control the people. They fed the fear of hell into each and every one of them, so the thought of standing up against their repressors equaled eternal suicide into a lake of fire. I am not too familiar with Napoleon time period but I would be willing to bet it resembled the time period I wrote about. I think I may just have to read up on this a bit.

The poor will only stand so long being the class which is shit on for so long before the people realize they out number the rich and decide to take over. Religion is the perfect tool to keep social order amidst such repression. I think this point is illustrated even in today by studying some of the countries in the Middle East. In America religion is still a dominate force, but I do not know the extent of social control it has today. I suppose it keeps the religious nuts focused on salvation instead of murdering and having sex with small little woodland creatures. I suppose in this case religion is doing something worthwhile.

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My theory and many others on why religion was created is because the fear of death and the unknown. Ever since man developed complex emotions, and were then confronted with the realization of death and the knowledge of what a hardship is; they needed to construct something that would ease their fears and give them peace of mind in a chaotic world. These forefathers of religion created sun gods and moon gods. They worshipped these things because they had no concept of what they were; all they knew is somehow these two things had massive affects on their daily lives. I would also like to quickly point out that many civilizations did rituals and prayed for rain. They had no concept of how rain worked so they tacked it on to their religious beliefs. Not only did the earliest man need explanations for things they didn’t understand; they also needed to find something to ease their fears of what happens to you when you die. This fear of the ultimate unknown is the sole reason we have religion today.

It takes a strong individual to live their lives knowing they will somehow cease to exist. I know all to well this is a heavy burden to bear. We all want something more to believe in. We all want to somehow feel special. We all want to know somehow we will live on. These are the key driving points for the construction of faith. To illustrate this point I would like to quote a comment from my post “Religion and Anxiety-Reduction Theories.”

“If God and religion are all man-made constructs and there is nothing after this life, then why bother?”

I think this comment illustrates my point perfectly. I have grown to admire this reader’s thoughts and opinions and in no way am I saying she is weak. She was most likely raised to believe this. I do however think this shows a small chip in the armor of her faith. I have heard this comment before, and usually follow with “Is this your driving force to believe?” I tend to stump people on this point because it forces them to re-evaluate their beliefs. If they believe simply because this is the only way to give life meaning, or the only way to quell their fears of death then their faith is flawed. In essence their belief acts as a band-aid to cover up the deeper fears they have inside. We bother because it is our moral and ethical duty to improve the lives of our fellow man. We are here to cultivate a positive way of life for other generations to come. We do not need religion to dictate us to achieve these things; we only need to look into our hearts.

Religion has evolved over time, but every religion is built upon one another. With each new version declaring they are the only version. The concept of a virgin birth was described well before Christianity was created. For example the birth of Buddha was described as a virgin birth in the “Nidanakatha”

“The Brahmans said, ‘Be not anxious, O king! Your queen has conceived: and the fruit of her womb will be a man-child; it will not be a woman-child. You will have a son. And he, if he adopts a householder’s life, will become a king, a Universal Monarch; but if, leaving his home, he adopt the religious life, he will become a Buddha, who will remove from the world the veils of ignorance and sin.'”

This is but one example;virgin births were also described in Assyrian, Babylonian, Egyptian, Mithra, Mithras, and the Greco-Roman Mythology. This is by no means the complete list I am sure it goes on and on. In addition to this Muslim, Hinduism, and Taoism also have stories of a miraculous births. The one I find most interesting is one that precedes Christianity and Judaism the ancient religion of Persia “Zoroastrianism.” In this religion it not only describes a virgin birth, but it also has the messiah, death and resurrection, a final battle between good and evil, and the resurrection of the dead to stand judgment. This and others are perfect examples to describe the evolution of religion.

Creation stories, miraculous births, the death and resurrection of a messiah, and end times are all parts of every religion past and present. Each and every religion is just built upon one another. With each new edition religion evolves into something different than what it was before. Religion is like a fable passed on from generation to generation. In a sense it is like playing telephone, with each new generation the original concept gets changed and turned into what we have today. I feel there have been no new changes to religion because we live in a society that does not allow a change to happen. Everything is set as is, and everyone knows what is on the table. Trying to change a religious concept via word of mouth is simply just not possible. Those who try ultimately end up being defined as cults. In the end the purposes to believe in religion are all the same. We ask the exact same questions are ancestors asked, and we share their same fears. We cling onto religion because it just makes sense. We tend to look at other religions and judge them compared to our beliefs. We turn our nose to them claiming we are right, and their beliefs are silly. I am just as guilty of this as they are.

I came up with the quote “conceived in the weak” not because I am calling the religious weak. I am illustrating how our beliefs at their core are because of our fears. I think I am the perfect example of this. Right now I consider myself as being weak, because I have lost the strength to accept the reality of nothingness. Once this fear crept into my conscience I immediately sought out religion to ease my fears. I am searching for answers to questions which cannot be answered. If I were to latch on to Christianity to make myself feel better I really wouldn’t be a Christian because the only reason I am a Christian is because I fear the great unknown. I would be a fake; a liar, and a coward. I desperately need to find faith, but I am hindered by my reasoning and logic. Perhaps all my new religious readers who have offered me guidance are the sign from God I have always asked for, but perhaps it is all just a coincidence. These are the questions I ask myself. I ask them because of the intense fear inside of me. Perhaps God is placing this fear inside of me, and delivered me my readers to bring me to God, but perhaps the fear is there because death is really f’ing scary.

If we did not fear death, if we did not fear the unknown, if we didn’t need to see the light within chaos there would be no need for religion.

I don’t want any of my regular readers to freak out but I am going to think like a Christian for a moment. I have always pondered on when, why, and how our country started falling apart. I am pondering this question and some verses from Proverbs stuck into my head. This got me thinking about God, and the role he played in peoples lives many years ago. The people who founded this country were religious God fearing people. Although they believed there should be a wall of separation between religion and the government; most of them were still god fearing people. Our ancestors passed on this love and worship of God unto their children, and they passed it onto their children. Using God as the foundation for our nation and everything she stood for is what made us great. We lived by the commandments of God, and followed His teachings.

“The light of the righteous shines brightly, but the lamp of the wicked is snuffed out”

Proverbs chapter 13 verse 9

Years ago a population of our people were not happy that God was still in our government and in our schools. They believed this impeded on their 1st amendment rights to religious freedom. The people demanded the wall of separation between church and state be enforced. Many were unhappy prayers were still going on in schools, while others were unhappy religious principles and such were used in government. I have always thought this was one of the greatest things to happen, but in looking through the eyes of a Christian I can see how this decision has altered our country.

“If you forsake the LORD and serve foreign gods, he will turn and bring disaster on you and make an end of you, after he has been good to you.”

Joshua chapter 24 verse 20

We as a nation have turned our back on the Lord by throwing him out of our government and our schools. This got me thinking about two verses in Proverbs. In the book of Proverbs it gives many lessons on how to live a just and righteous life. I compare Proverbs to the Tao Te Ching because of the philosophical and moral guidelines it gives the reader on how to act and behave. I do not remember every single chapter and verse but there are two I remember which are pertinent to this post the first is Proverbs chapter 14 verse 34 “Righteousness exalts a nation If righteousness causes a nation to be powerful and right in the eyes of the Lord then surely unrighteousness will destroy it.

“But rebels and sinners will both be broken, and those who turn their backs on the LORD will perish.”

Isaiah chapter 1 verse 28

There are many out there who believe the origin of the downfall of this nation started when we turned our backs on God. We were once a God fearing nation, because of this we were the greatest nation in history. I am trying to view this conception through the eyes of a Christian and to be honest with you I can see some truth in this. In this mind frame I am apt to believe the separation between church and state is the work of Satan. Thinking this way I can see how Satan has infiltrated our country. I also he infiltrated our churches by changing the Sabbath from the seventh day to the first day. In doing this we are breaking one of the commandments on a weekly basis. I think this is another way Satan has deceived us.

“If you seek him, he will be found by you; but if you reject him, he will reject you forever.”

Chronicles 1 chapter 28 verse 9

Have we written our own death sentence by turning our back on the Lord? Have we led our children into a life of sin, by keeping God away from them? There was a time when America had the best schools; since we have restricted the worship of God they have gone downhill. If we continued to teach our children about God, would we have had school shootings? We were once the mightiest nation in history, but could our downfall have to do with throwing God out of our government? There are many countries that have a separation between the church and the government. I would like to point out one that does not; Norway. I ask you this; when was the last time you heard about the moral decline of Norway. Have we allowed our people to become not right with God? If they continued to teach the Bible when I was in school would I be the cynic I am today? Would I be consumed with mental illness if I had someone or something to turn to? Have we taken the hand of the deceiver and allowed him to lead us astray? In the Bible it has many lessons for the glory the righteous will receive, and for the torment and despair the unrighteous will experience.

“For the LORD loves the just and will not forsake his faithful ones. They will be protected  forever, but the offspring of the wicked will be cut off;”

Psalms chapter 37 verse 28

Okay time to step back into my shoes. I am not a believer in the Bible, and I do not believe the words inside are the Word of God. I still have doubts if my beliefs are correct or not. I have seen shows on the Bible Code which makes me think. My father also tries to get me to read the prophecies to show me these things are coming true. I still find a sense of serenity when I read the word, but like I said before I feel the same way when I am studying the Tao or various other teachings. The seed of fear is still inside of me, that fear of eternal damnation. This was planted in me as a child, and still affects me till today. I wonder if I should be like millions of Christians out there who believe because they would rather be right and live in heaven then be wrong and spend an eternity in hell. I do not think this is the proper motive to worship God. I consider myself a Taoist who studies other religions for fun. In my life I have never felt better and whole then when I am studying the words in the Tao Te Ching. This is what fills that hole which is inside of all of us.  I must say though there are times I read the Bible and question myself on whether I have it all wrong. This doesn’t last for to long… or does it?

I just finished reading “Billy Budd” by Herman Melville. It was a good book, although at times was rather dry to read. The one appealing part of this book to me was the moral dilemma it called to order. Melville challenges his readers by asking; which is the right decision; choosing between what is morally right and wrong based off emotion, understanding, and compassion for your fellow man, or should society’s laws dictate to us what is right and wrong, regardless of our emotions; all in the name of order. This was the central struggle behind this book.

“Billy Budd” was Melville’s last book, and was written the year of his death in 1891. The story takes place in 1797 on a British navel ship the Bellipotent. The main character Billy Budd was an uneducated, simple and just man. He was well liked and respected by his peers on the ship. His superior officer Claggart was the one man who despised Billy for his gentle nature and popularity among the men. Claggart in an attempt to frame Billy accused him of attempted mutiny in front of their Captain. Billy unable to express his feelings in words became frustrated and hauled off and punched Claggart; he ended up dying by the blow. Captain Vere assembled a military tribunal to proceed over the trial with Vere as the sole witness. The internal struggle Vere and those presiding over the trial caused me to question my moral opinions.  

The struggle Captain Vere went through in testifying against Budd was interesting in that there appeared to be no struggle at all. Yes he felt emotional over this because he was fond of Billy, but knew that military order came before any emotional feelings. The feelings of those who presided over the tribunal were not as cut and dry as Vere’s. They believed Billy to be a morally sound man who although made a mistake, was acting justly considering the circumstances. They had compassion for Billy, and for the situation he was in. Vere on the other hand was very matter of fact in his stance that military law reigns supreme in this issue. He expressed to the tribunal that he two felt bad that Billy was on trial but was also the main person who convinced the tribunal to convict Budd of this crime.

Veres stance was one of this; had the trial been a non-military trial then the jurors could afford Billy the compassion and mercy he deserves, but since this is a military trial then compassion and mercy do not apply. Billy had either done it or not. Since Vere had witnessed the crime, and Billy had admitted to it then there was no room for discussion. Billy must be sentenced to death. He feared if Budd was not convicted and word got out about his acquittal then the integrity of British military law would be under minded. Vere could tell the men standing over the tribunal were having a difficult time with this decision, and therefore pleaded to them.

Seeing this and knowing what was at stake Vere made one final speech to the officers. He said “but the exceptional in the matter moves the hearts within you. Even as mine is moved. But let not warm hearts betray heads that should be cool. But something in your aspect seems to urge that it is not solely the heart that moves in you, but also the conscience, the private conscience. But tell me whether or not, occupying the position we do, private conscience should not yield to the imperial one formulated in the mode under which alone we officially proceed?”  He made the argument that it is human nature to feel for a man who they see as right with God, but called to their attention the buttons they were wearing. He said “do these buttons that we wear attest that our allegiance is to Nature? No, to the King.” In the end Budd was convicted and hanged.

This story holds many different outlooks on morality. In one hand you have Budd who was a good man with good morals who accidently committed the most immoral crime one can commit. In this scenario is Budd a good or bad man? Well this is tough. It is not as though Budd killed a man in self-defense. He killed a man out of anger, because he was not properly educated enough to express complex emotions. In this scenario you could say this was a crime of passion, because it was fueled by anger. I think Budd is guilty of the crime, but I disagree with the punishment. I feel the only time murder is warranted is when it is in self-defense. This should be the only exception to the rule.

Next you have the officers presiding over the tribunal. They wanted to give Budd a non-guilty verdict because they believed he was a just man who was right in God’s eye. There compassion reigned over their duty. They knew what kind of man Claggart was, and believed he had it coming to him. They also understood the severity over the accusation of mutiny, which by its own standards also carried a death sentence. There desired decision was to hand down a not guilty verdict. They truly struggled with this decision. The question is if judges used personal feelings in deciding sentencing then the whole system becomes less about justice and more about personal feelings. Can we afford to live in such a system? This is a tough question for me because there are some crimes I think do not warrant such harsh penalties and others I think are not harsh enough. This is a slippery moral question to answer.

Finally we have Captain Vere, who I believe holds the key dilemma of morality in this story. Should he be condemned as an evil man because of his abstract notion of duty blinded him to true justice and compassion? Or should he be considered a hero who rose above sentiment to meet the need for order, authority, and law in human affairs. I battle with this question because I think there is a huge grey area in-between that is hard to quantify. I think your own personal answer will show what side of morality you are on.