Can you think of 1 idea that unites millions of people around the world and yet divides them at the same time? An idea that bonds hearts and brings love and yet stirs hate and contempt? An idea that brings so much good and yet terrible evil to the world around us?
This 1 idea may fascinate you or make you cringe in disgust. But it will not go away anytime, whether you like it or not.
It is Religion….but wait, that’s not the full answer yet.
Now before you classify me as some atheist who denounces religion..let me assure you I am not. I practice a faith but yet have observed many religions and seen how this simple concept has sprouted a range of effects on our world. But if you observe closely with a rational distance, you may realize that it is not exactly religion by itself that has accomplished all of the above.
But we all need to believe in something, don’t we? Whether it is a faith, values, a code or science, we do have to place our beliefs somewhere. Living without any central personal belief is like a barren land, full of void and death. And the void is so discomforting, empty and souless that we desperately search for a truth to fill that void. We just need to believe in something. Anything!
And that is where your answer to the above question comes in…That one idea is Organized Religion. Is it just another word? Maybe…but look at the world around us closely and you realize that there are differences between a faith and organized religion. And the systems of faith that run the world today are all Organized Religions.
A faith is simply a belief. Organized Religions are “mind controlling” governments based on a Faith.
So you believe in a Supreme being or you don’t. Whatever the case, you will have your own way of life. But Organized Religion is truly a ruling structure that uses the Faith and our needs to believe to build a commanding presence over every aspect of our lives. It is no wonder that while Faith is generally based on a ethereal Being, Organized Religion is usually heavily based on a human personality, be it Jesus, Buddha, Mohammad…and many a times…the writings and sayings of these people are usually reproduced by people and saints (and by hearsay) who came generations after them. So, you actually have no proper way to discern whether such rules, traditions or behavior was truly the way of the “Prophets”.
That’s the irony…“the more mountains of data you have about some person, the less you actually really know him/her.
A Faith generally links an individual to a Creator or The Universe. Organized Religion is a Hierarchy that “religious scholars” use to control large amounts of people and tell them what to do.
Churches, mosques, temples and religious bodies know that organized religion offers a bounty of ways to influence and create a following which a mere Faith alone can’t. You can invent traditions, cults, and your own laws that are supposedly “inspired” by those prophets or deities and use them to preach and entrance people to follow along. And surprisingly, there are large amounts of people who would just follow along in all of these without any question. if there is any form of government that has held unquestioned power over people over centuries, it is Organized Religion. And why is that?
Organized Religion is pillared by the sheer volume of followers and Powerful Preachers
If you were in a church filled with thousands of believers singing and praising, would you dare stand up and voice a doubt about the Pastor or of the message he preaches? The emotions in Churches sweep so powerfully across people that it is almost impossible to find a distance to be skeptical. Think Groupthink. Unless you want to be frowned or worse, in some cases, punished, you would not dare voice an opposition there. Ever wondered why Congregation and Gatherings are a big part of every Organized Religion?
And oh yes, these emotions are usually manufactured by some powerful saint. The Pope, the captivating Pastor, the Shekih or religious scholars or some leader who has the charms and charisma to stir groups onto their feet. Think Joel Osteen. Think Zakir Naik. Look at the powerful passionate following they have. They don’t just have followers like we do on WordPress. They have armies and they know full well how to keep these crowds alive and engaged. And the larger these armies get, the more easier it becomes to attract new people.
(I am a fan of Joel Osteen, btw)
A Faith promises Redemption and Peace. Organized Religion promises much more…
What does the Qu’ran offer a believer for being Faithful? A “Garden of Peace and Springs”…the Satisfaction and Mercy of the Lord…but what do the so-called “clerics” say that Paradize has? Gold…pleasures of all kinds..maidens..72 virgins..none of which are actually promised in the Faith itself…but all so alluring to eager believers who just want more and more. If you have heard of the “Prosperity Gospel”, you know..some promise fortune, great tidings, victory..these words are so captivating…you cannot not want to believe..then you look at some of these Pastors..in their huge mansions, sports cars, beautiful families..successful books and seminars and you wonder..
That’s when the Pastor raises his hand and thanks God for all the Blessings that have rained down on him for being steeped in religion. Well, you should also pay close attention to the times when they preach about Charity and Good Causes and then suddenly the donation collectors go around and with thousands of followers, the coffers fill…no they overflow with gold.
“Us vs Them”
If you thought following traditions blindly was dumb, this is where it gets dangerous. Organized Religion is known to stir its followers into violence. Of course, Christianity has had its terrible History but it seems that the Organized form of Islam has taken its place. I have observed such hate messages in both churches, mosques and temples and I think I feel the reason why. The Pastor identifies a particular group that is “devious” and “evil” or the “unredeemed”. They preach about how this group is out to destroy their faith and strangely, this seems to unite the followers tighter. The creating of”enemies” bonds the group and allows these “leaders” to stir emotions of hatred. It also closes the followers minds to other values of other cultures and thus closes their minds to reason.
These “enemies” could be “The Humanists”, “The Secular Space”, “The Gays”, “The West”, “The Americans”. Christian Pastors and Muslim Clerics are equally guilty of this crime and even the older Popes in the Middles Ages have waged wars on this dynamic.
So what, then is the alternative?
I am not a Priest or Scholar or a Pastor. I don’t have any solutions but I guess we could all do well with Reason and our Faith. Question the traditional practices and really feel whether it is what God wants of us or just some supposed practice that someone preaches in the name of your Faith. Open our eyes and question yourself, your faith. The Qu’ran tells Muslims to do that and so do many other faiths. And if there is one Faith that is so marred by Organized Religion today, it is Islam.
Organized Religion will continue to prevail because unlike Faith, which is based on God and Nature, it is based on Power. and Power is irresistible and there will always be new “Saints” who are hungry for that power. So some Organised Religions may bring good to our world, many of them need to be critiqued and questioned and tested against their own Faiths.
SO the next time you hear your pastor, your scholar, your sheikh or someone talk about the way things should be and the way people should be…ask yourself what is it that you are really believing in.
We all need something to believe in. Let that just be a Faith.
[These are just observations and my personal thoughts that I have shared with a distanced and rational view on Religion and in no way is this a outrage or attack against any of your Faiths. You may agree or disagree and I welcome both. If this post offended you in any way, I graciously apologize.]
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