Sunday, April 10, 2011

Des Downunder On Sundays

By Des Rutherford, Adelaide, Australia- Questions
Cindy Jacob's video is seen as invitation by many of us to ask the question, "Why the hell are the NORMAL everyday Christians NOT calling these people on such blatant hate?"
I note that many of the comments that appear in response to her video are mostly sarcastic dismissals of Cindy Jacob's state of mind, so I ask, “Is she insane?” Yet another question demands attention, “What gives rise to the phenomenon of the self-proclaimed religious prophet preaching personal moral views, proclaiming biblical interpretations as exactitudes, and the public demand that they be obeyed?” Discussing that question may reveal some of the reasons normal Christians remain silent on the preachings of perverted prayers.
Those Christians who do dare to speak out against fundamentalist ravings show an acceptance that does not deny individual rights, does not demand that others believe only as they do, and does not avoid discussion of differing perspectives. I would go so far to say that, like Karen Armstrong (Charter for Compassion) and Annie Besant (Theosophist, 1847-1933), they have a propensity to not only live and let live, but to also entertain the value of comparative religion and philosophy in revealing compassion, and appreciation of human goodness and diversity. This can be viewed as part of the individual's quest to understand the human condition, to explore the question that our awareness of life poses. In our era, both recent and present, this amounts to appreciating that the lineage of freedoms gained over time and developed in the US Constitution protects the right of the individual to boldly go where no one has gone before. In less dramatic context it simply means having the freedom to explore life without being oppressed by the beliefs of others, or the culture itself.
What then of the silent Christians, who do not speak up against the, (to be polite) extreme moralists? Are they silent because they agree with the extremist position, because they fear it, or because they deem it as being unworthy of taking seriously?
Consider the Catholic Church since the Reformation. The Pope is as conservative as they come, he holds the position of infallibility, and therefore I think most people who attend a Catholic church are unlikely to speak out in public against him. By extension, so too, will those who simply regard themselves as Catholics but only attend services on rare occasions.
We have seen in recent times some of these people, including priests, actually disagree with Vatican policy, much like Luther did, but perhaps not with as much passion. Nevertheless, they still argue from within the confines of the religion, if not from the point of view of other denominations. This holds true for most other religions also.
Other sects, like the southern Baptists, are more inclined to hold power over their flock with threats of fire and brimstone by emphasising sin, shame and guilt, all of which amount to control by fear, fear of not reaping an eternal existence after death. (Life after death is either a threat or a promise and need not concern us in this article as its existence cannot be proven one way or the other. Choice of religion based on the promise of an afterlife is a personal decision which defies the fact that the afterlife is a constant question.)
There is less escape for those who follow these (shall we call them puritan?) sects as they do not offer the full extent of the brilliantly conceived Roman Catholic private confessional sanctuary, which leads people to believe it is possible to sin Monday to Saturday if they confess on Sunday. The extremist cults, in general, demand public repentance, (openly in the congregation) and by so doing attempt to prohibit public dissent and inhibit private discussion, and personal questioning, under threat of eternal damnation or exile.
At the extreme this is far worse than Catholic excommunication (for heresy) which is an expatriation from the church, but leaves the individual to come to terms with God, to some degree at least. Catholicism understands the value in keeping even the excommunicated in touch with the deity. (Papal curses are rarely used on individuals, exorcisms not withstanding.)
So these observations are indicative of the internal control over the believers, and generate fear not unlike the Inquisition's idea of putting the accused to the question, (torture until confession) which resulted in the population keeping very quiet and fearful indeed. Throughout history we can find examples of religious and political regimes generating fear in the populace to the point where the fearful’s only legacy was to advise their children to never discuss politics or religion.
However, the difficulty is accepting that quite rational people, who in daily work and life, adhere to scientific principles, still believe the idea of human nature being intrinsically evil and in need of redemption. These otherwise intelligent people rationalise original sin theory as being paralleled in Darwinian theory of evolution and somehow combined with Freudian primal monsters from the id trying to survive and manifest themselves as daemons with only fight or flight as possible, until the deity is accepted as saviour. This allows them the ability to continue believing in the principle of being fallen (from the Grace of God) whilst simultaneously being able to work with scientific methodology in practical matters, even if they thank God for any achievements, rather than human skill and intelligence and our natural tendency to help each other. This latter is, in particular, conveniently forgotten. If humanity was as sinful as is claimed, none of us would help anyone.
Any point on the scale of religion from personally benign to organised regimentation is a likely influence on the culture, detrimental to the individual's discovery of reality, of his or her personal truth being dictated by either the culture, or any religion.
Adoption of another person's religion is an avoidance of answering The Question posed to each of us by our birth, by our awareness of our existence. The moment one of our ancestors assigned a deity, as reason for a natural phenomenon, the seed of religious explanation for the inexplicable was established. This was an explanation, the ancestor's answer in response to awareness of reality. Not yet fully aware of his own reasoning, or even of his own awareness, he sought answers to phenomena which challenged explanation, and concluded in the only way his burgeoning powers of reason could, with an extension of his own existence, but assigning it to a greater being than himself. Psychologically this model (patriarchal) is based on the ancestor's father figure whether present or past, real or deceased, imagined or remembered.
At some, presumably later, time another ancestor, a little more aware of his own existence, consecrated the concept of the deities (eventually, and rationally destined to become monotheistic) to the tribe in the form of words he would claim to have been given to him by the gods; to be obeyed lest the deities become angry and visit tragedy on the tribe in various forms; flood, famine and other catastrophes. This was followed by the foundation of the rational moral laws, to be later extended into irrational and unnecessary laws which become infringements of individual freedoms, (e.g. slavery and persecution of minorities.) Much of the work of progressives is in re-establishing those intrinsic human freedoms. Those laws are observable in most primitive tribal situations where they are usually incorporated into the totemism and idolatry of the culture; in civilisations from Egypt to China, from Norway to Germany, from Israel to the post Roman Empire era of Christianity. There is a temptation for me to add, from Europe to the United states of America, but that requires further elaboration on the nature of the pilgrims who sought a religious freedom in the New World. A freedom which paradoxically was a restriction on what their people could freely believe, even on how they lived and worshipped the deity of their fathers. What should have been a New World of freedom to divest the human race of superstition became an invasion of Old World Biblical constraints and slavery. Once again the fear of the unknown gave rise to a repression of intelligent awareness, but this time there was a ready made belief system which offered solace that many would accept as the reality they had sought with hope and expectation.
It was in fact an attempt to return to the psychological safety of a previous era where individuals obeyed the collective will of the tribe rather than explore The Renaissance upon which the constitution of the United States would be so heavily influenced by those Founding Fathers who were in turn enamoured with The Enlightenment philosophy of reason and individualism. Hence the first Amendment's protection of the right to practice a religion without interference from the state. What seems to be overlooked or not often understood is that it also means freedom from having to belong to any religion for both the citizens, and the state.
This is however not meant to be a history lesson. It is rather, a brief outline of the potential growth and evolution of human intellectual awareness, and its resultant oppression when the individual is indoctrinated with dogma which inhibits exploring his or her own individual answer to the question of existence. This is what sets individuals apart; that he or she has worked through the question of their awareness of their own existence. Indoctrination interferes with this, where education has faltered or been replaced by irrational unsubstantiated belief, political corruption, or cultural filters to manipulate limited awareness of personal intellectual freedom. Freedom to think. Freedom to be critically aware of reality as it is, and not as a convenience contrived for the cultural.
Alternatively the individual can commit philosophical mental suicide and submit to a cult with a predetermined religious answer to the question of existence. It is important to note that the priesthood of such a religion may or may not believe such answers as provided by the sacred texts, they only need to appear to believe to be accepted. Effectively the same thing results when a new religion or a cult is established based on little more than variations (sometimes bizarre) of the old superstitions.
Psychologically, the individual can try to seek refuge in denying the necessity to answer the question posed by his awareness of his existence in trying to return to a prehuman, preconscious existence, denying the faculty of reason; to, in brief, become an animal again and thus in tune with nature, (sometimes facilitated by drug use.) It is in fact an attempt to return to the unconditional protection of the mother which is the origin of the matriarchal psychological model of a priestess, goddess, or mother earth. Cindy Jacob is responding to her internal (grandiose) image of herself as a mother figure, a self-proclaimed, redeeming prophetess, an oracle, not to be confused with oral, even if her mouth does run away with words of climatic events.
The rise of the prophetic mindset is historically consistent with individuals having assumed an insight into a vision or extension of thought which they find so profound that they feel obliged to preach it, even enforce it onto other people in their family, village, nation, world. This is not confined to religion. Political regimes, philosophies of life and economic systems are all prone to manipulating and influencing a culture. Any of them can become the dominant factor in a culture at the expense of the human condition.
In our own times the public platform of the Internet is just too much temptation to resist. It is a worldwide pulpit for anyone who feels they need to convince others on how they should live, as well as what they should believe.
Prophets and profits are both concerned with poverty, but neither are necessarily conspiratorial in achieving that end. It is merely a by-product of their underlying motivation. Politics are another matter. Politics is conspiracy by another name, for the sake of the culture, sometimes for good, sometimes not.
The other side to the Puritan settlement of the American continent must also be mentioned.
In an attempt to overcome the arrogant aristocracy of ruling monarchies in the Old World, the American Constitution enabled, (mostly by accident rather than design,) a New World arrogant aristocracy of Corporations and corrupted politicians for the purpose of fleecing the people for profit, subverting the people, and enslaving them or at least their minds, except where they can be ignored because of their extreme poverty. The Republic, as a democratic representation of the people, operating under rule of law, has its own share of problems but suffice it say, we have yet to discover a better alternative. The question is whether or not we have stopped looking.
The argument in favour of the free market capitalist system being based on human nature, which is defined as avaricious, is a faulty logic based on the nature of the culture itself. Somehow or other we build cultures which do not always admit our innate goodness, and it must be considered that the so-called 'American experiment' is under serious challenge on more than just political or religious issues. The culture, despite the best intentions in the Constitution, is in dire need of evolving the economy to conform with those intentions being realised and advanced in line with the human need to be as fully aware of reality as we can, as individuals.
Within that culture however, there are those who would practise avarice in the name of God, like Cindy Jacob and the other mega church religious denominations, including the smaller extremist cults of fear, of fire, of brimstone. It has, for more than many of them, become a source of riches, of money, of power, of depriving the underprivileged of everything except their poverty.
They seek power and control over others, restricting intrinsic human rights in the name of a belief, and manage to be paid handsomely for doing just that. Whether the prophets are convinced of their divine connection, or are charlatans, both will claim the increase in their worldly riches are because of divine intervention on their behalf. The fact that real people are left destitute by their actions is rationalised by the fundamentalists' Holy rituals in praise of their God.
If what remains is a blithering, undereducated, shell of a human being deprived of his ability for awareness of reality, then they offer to pray for him. How kind. These people prey on the illiterate, the uneducated, the superstitious and it is no wonder that their policies are oriented around promoting ignorance as a virtue, often by limiting education.
There are those who remain silent, quietly getting on with their lives, seeking what humans have done since we emerged from the trees. They are the ones who are just happy to be alive, to have a family, to feed them, to love each other, (regardless of gender.) They have found an expression of their lives which does not infringe on the freedom of others. I suspect they are as befuddled by the antics of the extremists, as the progressives are in their despair at the inequality which trickles down on the poor, the blacks and the LGBT people, and other minorities, all of whom are fast becoming an underprivileged majority, denied their ability to pursue their human potential, let alone their happiness .
These are silent folk. They may be Christians, they may be atheists, agnostics or any of the myriad of belief systems that abound. They are the ones who should be encouraged to change the culture away from its principles of hoarding, greed, and acquisitiveness at the expense of being sane; to be awakened to find their own answer to the question of their existence.
To not question one's existence, to not try to find one's own answer instead of one's own fiction, is not just to invite insanity but to ensure it. Cindy Jacob and her ilk are for me people who work tirelessly to oppose the dignity of human rights. They are proof that ignoring reality for the sake of having a belief is madness.
And in that, they have forsaken not only their religion's reverence for life, but have abandoned what even we agnostics hold as the only sane and satisfactory answer to the question of existence; Love, but you have to make the effort to discover that for yourself. No one else can do it for you, no matter which deity they claim to represent and you certainly do not have to pay someone to achieve for you what is rightfully yours as a human being.
In our cultures today we can see the effect of the absence of love, not only in the hate groups, in the organised religions, and in the fundamentalist extremists, but also in society as a whole. The above article, however brief, (insert canned laughter here) is an attempt to question the various conditions which have contributed to the lack of understanding love in our cultures.
It suggests we can consider re-evaluating the basis of not only our economic and political systems, but our relationship with reality when it is untarnished by unsubstantiated belief systems no longer conducive to advancing our potential as loving individuals aware of life.
Or to paraphrase Erich Fromm, “To have faith in the possibility of love as a social and not just an individual phenomenon is a rational faith based on the insight into human nature.