April 7, 2007

That scam called Religion - Part I

I have been thinking about religion since some time. And in the following post I will pen (rather type) my thoughts. I have been looking closely at religion and it looks to be one of the best scams ever. One person or a group of persons have built a set of rules and guiding principles that have to be followed by the multitudes. Mostly these were based on what the founders thought to be right. I don't mean the technical founder but the guys who took over after the new philosophy was propounded. I am not an authority on the various religions of the world but I know a bit about Christianity. Lets start there.

Contrary to popular belief Christ was not the founder of Christianity. His disciples were. Christ did not write the New Testament in the Bible. His disciples (mainly fisherfolk and possibly illiterate with the exception of Matthew who was a tax collector) did. Most of the accounts were also written down when the disciples were old somwehere around 80 AD. Point being that Christianity was shaped by what the First Believers penned, the rules they enforced and the tradition they established. Todays Christian doctrine has also been hugely influenced by famous patrons, most notably Emperor Constantine. Over the years the Christian religious leadership has assimilated what these influences have borne, the Nicene Creed (popularly known as the 'I believe') being the most famous. Are there deviations from Jesus' original philosophy? Were the non-controversial Gospels chosen? Were controversial Gospels discarded? What has been hidden under the carpet? We will never know.

These interventions by power hungry administrators have manisfested themselves in small disparities in our Holy Texts. For all His divineness and humility Christ seems to have been a little vain as chronicled by the line at the last supper, "Do this in memory of Me". Do what? Follow your teaching (i.e. 'Break yourself for others') or just break bread symbolically? The former would make sense, unfortunately the Church has chosen the latter and over the centuries we have forgotten the former giving us a ritual which does not go with the character of a person who has a high degree of moral goodness.

Herein, I feel, lie the first seeds of control as sown by the authors or interveners. The setting up of systems, processes and rituals that the rest should follow. The Church then comes up with a verdict (possibly to get errant Christians on track) saying that missing Sunday Mass (the re-enactment of the Last Supper) is sin. Somewhere along the line they also classify sin as venial (smaller transgressions) and mortal (larger transgressions). Obviously missing Sunday service is classified mortal. Why was Sunday chosen? Apparently that is the day God rested i.e. the Sabbath. Ironically Christ Himself has attacked the concept of the Sabbath in the very same Gospels where His disciples propound it.

Religion is based on fear. Bertrand Russell calls it the fear of the unknown. Over centuries religious leaders have capitalised on this fear by setting the rules. Those who deviate or 'sin' will be punished on a deferred basis i.e. in later life or after death in places called Purgatory (another fancy creation, a tool of fear and power). There is no mention of Purgatory in the Scriptures. Yes there is something mentioned about 'weeping and gnashing of teeth' but then I doubt neither weeping nor gnashing a method of spiritual cleansing. And i am sure Someone who is omniscient will agree. Fear. Thats what it is all built on. And since nobody has come back from the netherworld the fear is all the more credible.

So who decides what is sin? As per the old cathecism pre-Vatican II (A conclave where the Church decided to move with the times) of the Catholic Church there are seven capital sins (Small digression: There is also a movie starring Kevin Spacey called 'Se7en' where he murders people who commit these sins). If God gave us freedom then he surely has no right to punish us. The concept of Hell is also something I do not agree with. Everlasting punishment goes against the very nature of a forgiving God that we learn during Cathecism.

I have taken the example of Christianity since I have been educated about it. Looking at the disillusionment all around me I can sense that a similar malaise exists in other religions. The core of the message / philosophy has been lost over time and has been replaced with rituals which concentrate power in the hands of a few.

(To be continued ... )

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