The Ego of Man

P religion world

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With all the Rapture-mania yesterday, it really made me think about the role of religion in the world and I had a sort of epiphany:

Religion is created by Man.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying “yea” or “nay” to the existence of God or Goddess or even multiple celestial beings. But the rules and regulations governing any religion are all created by Man.

Please note that I am intentionally using masculine pronouns here. I believe that women have played a role in the maintenance of religious belief over the years. I am also aware of the more feminine face of past religions. But I think that the origins of modern religious behavior come from man because women’s voices simply were not allowed or heard. Most women could not read. Most women could not write.  So, when the guides for any of the current major religions were “set in stone” the most likely people to do it were male.

Even if we accept that the guiding books were dictated to us through God, ultimately man wrote the so-called “rules” down. And man is not infallible, he can make mistakes and adjustments to anything based on his own understanding and interpretations.

In current society, people choose to interpret those teachings in different ways–in ways that support or explain their own individual belief systems as well as make them feel superior to anyone who believes differently. Thus leading to the idea that only “Good Christians” would achieve Rapture. But what, I ask, is a Good Christian? Peas and Cougars posted a comic  Flowchart yesterday that went viral. If you browse through the comments you will find some hilarious reflections, as well as some angered ones that reveal the hypocrisy of it all. The chart mostly referred to the restrictions from the Old Testament, which led to several people reaming P&C for not understanding or misinterpreting or whatever. That in itself supports my theory of religion being created by man. Think about it (but please correct me if I am misrepresenting something):

  • Jesus was a Jew. So, unless he set out to rebel against his own religion (which I don’t think he did) he would have been following the rules and regulations of the Old Testament.
  • Christianity still has, as some of its basic tenets, the Ten Commandments.
  • So, when the New Testament was created, the creators picked and chose which elements of the Old Testament to embrace and which to discard. And I believe that was written down well after Jesus’ lifetime.
  • In many interpretations of the Bible, it includes the possibility that we have “Free Will” which suggests that God would expect people to make choices, and perhaps make mistakes.  And, as I’ve written about here, I refuse to believe that a true all-powerful being would sweat the small stuff.

Now, that’s only reflecting on the Judeo/Christian aspect of religion. But, you can go further back (or perhaps simultaneous to) and look at the Pantheistic religions. Those gods created their own rules for mankind to live by, and the rules changed at the whims of the gods. Many of those rules, whether from many gods or just one, are simply ways to function and control how we interact with one another. In other words, they make sense if we want to live in some sort of peace. But, obviously, they don’t work.

Also, if we accept that these words were handed down by a creator of some sort, than we must also accept that that being has the final say in everything. In other words he/she has the power to change his/her mind. So, we, as humans have no power to dictate when or if anything is going to happen. We cannot predict the end of the world, because God can make it happen when he/she feels like it. It is mere ego for anyone to assume that he/she can predict the decisions made by a more powerful being.

Of course, given our free will, we can probably speed the end of the world by simply making poor decisions ourselves. God may look on and say “Well, you have to make your own mistakes” just as any good parent would do.

In addition, the Bible was compiled at a time when the calendar was different. It was not the same calendar we use today, so how can we predict anything accurately?

So, ultimately, the rules and regulations of religion have been created by man. All we can do is live our lives to the best of our ability, embracing the fact that we are all connected, whether through spirit, energy or simply by the fact that we share this earth. The rest is silliness and ego.

See you in 2012!

Hell is Living in the Bible Belt

Roadside Religion

Image by jcbwalsh via Flickr

Has this ever happened to you? You are driving along at a decent clip on a long distance trip, reading the occasional billboard as a distraction from the monotony of sun glinting off of cars and white lines moving into the distance. Then larger than life you see in big block letters:

AVOID HELL! REPENT TODAY!

TRUST IN JESUS!

Signs like these appear out of nowhere offering redemption for those who accept Jesus into their hearts. But it is also signs like these that make me feel like I’m already living in hell.

I don’t know what I believe happens after death. Maybe I will go to hell, burning for eternity in a torturous world of flame and agony. (I’m sure many people reading this are nodding their head envisioning me engulfed in flame). Maybe I will float around with wings listening to angelic music. Maybe, given my fascination for the paranormal, I will return as a ghost to haunt the location of my death or the memorable places of my life. Maybe I will be reincarnated into a better being, with more knowledge and understanding than I have now. Maybe I’ll come back as a slug. Or maybe I will simply crumble to dust after having an epiphany on my death-bed (as I’ve written about before).

I really don’t care what happens. I am concerned with living the best life I can while I have this life; living in joy, day by day, and doing no harm.

But then I pass signs like this dotting the highway through Indiana and Missouri. These signs and symbols announce in gigantic glory that I am going to hell. But no, I realize, I am already there.

T o me hell would not be a place of torture and heat, but rather a place where I am not free to question and think, to challenge ideas and form my own beliefs and understanding of the world. My idea of heaven would be a place where the basic tenets of belief were: “I believe what I believe. You believe what you believe. As long as our beliefs don’t hurt each other, then all is good.”

But sadly, I am now living in a place where I feel the need to censor myself. Now, don’t get me wrong, there are warm and wonderful people here.  Yet, I am always conscious of being different somehow. I think differently. I was raised differently. I have different beliefs. That difference is subtly glaring, like I have horns growing out of my head that true believers can see.

I admit, when surrounded by people who embrace certain beliefs as passionately as people here do, I cling even harder to my difference. I’m not really a religious Jew, but when confronted by a wall of Christianity my Judaism shines like a menorah in the window. It is a defensive act. I know I cannot win against the unspoken judgments that surround me, so I hold tighter to my own understanding of the world.

I would call myself more spiritual than religious, incorporating into my own personal religion the ideas and attitudes that are welcoming and comforting. I cannot condone any element of religion (in any religion) that says one group is better than another, or one sex is superior, or only one lifestyle is correct. That is where religion fails.

I don’t know the true answers. I do believe

“There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,

Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.” (Shakespeare, Hamlet I.5)

In many ways I envy people who are true believers; who can live life with blind faith and trust that Jesus (or whatever god) will solve their problems and bring them safely home. If heaven is home.

But I can’t.

So, while I respect the right of each individual to believe whatever he or she wants and I recognize the importance of free speech, I would really appreciate it if I didn’t have to be reminded that I am doomed as I innocently drive down the highway. That makes for an uncomfortable ride.

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