Monday, July 14, 2014

Blame the Mechanic

If we can’t transform our secular humanist, consumerist worldview into one in which we have this sense of responsibility, awe and wonder for the planet and all life, then we can’t invent a global ethic. Yet we need it to create a transnational, mythic structure to sustain the global civilization that’s emerging. 
- Stuart Kaufmann

Pretend your car breaks down. You bring it to the mechanic who assesses the problem and tells you to come back in a few hours. You run some errands, have lunch, and return at the appointed time.

"All done," says the mechanic as he hands you the  keys. You pay the man and drive off.

Now say you drive a block or two and hear that clanking noise again, or smell something burning, or notice the temperature gauge rising quickly. Say you're at a red light and smoke starts billowing from the hood.

Upon returning to the garage, would you give the mechanic a piece of your mind for doing such a piss-poor job or would you criticize his tools for the faulty repairs?

When people attack religion and blame it for humanity's problems, they're blaming the wrench for the mechanic's mistake.


Just as a wrench can be used to repair or bludgeon so too can religion be used to unite or divide.

Just as it can bring people together, give them hope and purpose, and promote love, peace, and cooperation, so too can it be used to justify racism, sexism, and bigotry, ignite conflicts between different faiths, and control the masses.

The tool is always without blame. Those who wield it inappropriately, on the other hand, should be reviled.

One can't argue that people have perpetrated atrocities of the worst kind in the name of religion. But that's just the point, isn't it? Religion can't be blamed for the actions of tyrants and con-artists. Religion isn't a person, it's a notion. It's formless and without power until it takes root in someone's mind.

And even then religion can't force someone's hand. It can't transform an otherwise loving individual into a hateful bigot. The believer is always responsible for his actions not matter how he justifies them.

Every holy book contains virtue and vice and rarely in equal parts. It's up to individuals to decide what principles they take to heart and which ones they disregard altogether.

Scripture and doctrine belong to us: they aren't written in stone or divinely inspired.

Primitive men scrawled their ideas on clay tablets and launched them into the future where they eventually fell into our hands. On their own scriptures are neither good nor evil, only a jumble of words. It's our interpretation that determines their value.

The problem is that most believers are spoon-fed their beliefs.

Don't rely on the guidance of so-called authorities. Self-proclaimed prophets, visionaries, and spiritual leaders are mere humans, no less flawed or biased than you or I. 

Don't let scripture intimidate you: you possess the only tool necessary to decipher verse and passage. and separate timeless truth from primitive nonsense. The rational mind, when stripped of distractions, points to truth as a compass points north. Put your faith in reason and you wont easily be deceived.

As a tool, religion may yet guide humanity to salvation--not a future-salvation but something both tangible and possible in our lifetime.

Any salvation worth pursuing must exist in this world, not a hypothetical future time.

By salvation I mean the continued survival and prosperity of the human family; the elimination of war, poverty, and needless suffering; the destruction of imaginary borders; and freedom from oppression and injustice.

Things are changing rapidly and our stubborn refusal to adapt, to learn, and to evolve threatens our very existence.We must replace the supernatural, the subjective, and the historical with the scientific, the objective, and the timeless. We must abandon old doctrines that promote divisiveness, violence, hatred, and divine authority in favor of those promoting unity, peace, love, and personal sovereignty.

Where should we find these new doctrines?

In  the very faiths we endeavor to supplant.

Judaism, Christianity, and Islam all promote principles of love, peace, acceptance, generosity, and forgiveness. Buddhism, Zoroastrianism, and Hinduism promote principles of oneness, interconnectedness, and harmony. Add to these the various secular and new-age philosophies and you begin to form a concrete picture of what a truly modern, truly universal religion might look like.

We humans yearn to give ourselves over to something greater, a cause, principle, or belief system that transcends the flesh and makes us feel connected, not only to others like us but to the universe itself--to God.

In the absence of something meaningful to fill this void, people worship money, celebrities, national identities, and sports teams--to disastrous effect.

Or worse, they fall prey to the desperate spokesmen of repugnant pseudo-religions and cults. These ones are keenly aware that their time is drawing to a close and they wish to delay the end as long as possible.

Until there's a viable replacement or alternative to the world religions of old, we will continue to see progressively more backward and dangerous fringe movements and sects rising to fill the vacuum of belief and propagating a culture of false dichotomies. 

In order to regain our collective center again, we need a modern belief-system rooted in the knowable universe that forgoes super-naturalism in favor of principles of peace, love, and harmony. 

Whatever you think of the old religions, you should at least admire the minds that birthed and carried them from the dawn of civilization 5,000 years ago to the present day. Clearly there is something compelling in these holy books or else they would've died out centuries ago. Sure, they got a lot of things wrong but they also contain slivers of truth that might not have survived otherwise.

It would be a shame to ignore timeless human truths simply because we hate the vehicle in which they come to us.

/rant over