Friday, January 07, 2011

Religion's Fatal Flaw

It has been said that hidden within your greatest strength is the weakness that will ultimately lead to your demise.

Everything we do has consequences.

Everything we believe also has consequences.

The world is filled with thousands of religions – in a myriad of forms. Not all of the religions of the world have this fatal flaw. But the big organized traditional religions (such as Christianity, Judaism, and Islam) do.

And what is this fatal flaw? It is the down side of what has made them so popular. Traditional organized religions have relied on centralized power based upon wisdom gleaned from a particular era. The down side of that is that they ignore the wisdom of anyone outside of the power base – and wisdom from any time other than the chosen time frame.

Traditional organized religions' inherent weakness is that they stifle innovation – which encourages established powers to stifle innovation also.

Our world is constantly changing, and has changed so much in the past century that we need to consider all the innovative ideas we can get. But that isn't happening. There are those who don't want change because they're making too damn much money doing things wrong.

The best imaginable economic system would identify and promote the best ideas. But, we don't have the best system imaginable. We only have what we've inherited from simpler times. Unfortunately, our economic system has repeatedly failed to adopt the best ideas – often because our economic system has been manipulated to maximize profits for a few (who only have control over the old ideas. Example; fossil fuels.)

It shouldn't be this way.

There are almost seven billion of us on the planet. That's almost seven billion individual perspectives on humanity's predicament. That's almost seven billion creative minds addressing unique challenges with unique ideas. Most of these ideas aren't particularly helpful to the rest of us. But some of these ideas have immense potential.

Humanity likely has the capacity to deal with our new challenges.

However, if the good ideas get ignored; we face unnecessary painful consequences that could ultimately risk our civilization.

In the real world, our economic and political systems strongly support the established powers-that-be. The established industries, established social classes, and established leaders have the upper hand – by inherent design of the systems... They designed them. And the established organized traditional religions essentially support this – because the established traditional religions resist change.

The mindsets that we have within our economic and political systems are that of much greater respect of established power over that of new ideas. Or, in other words; “money talks, bullshit walks.” Obviously, this is not necessarily a bad outlook. However, when a good idea does come along, it will have a long uphill battle if those with established money don't see any direct benefit for themselves. And that uphill climb will be even greater if our religious beliefs unwaveringly resist change on a deep emotional level.

Change is not necessarily good. However, if we resist all change, history will leave us stranded in the past – while those who encourage sound change overwhelm us.

Of course, when you think about it; religions that base their whole existence on documents thousands of years old have essentially committed themselves to living in the past – at least to some extent.

Change can be good – essential, even. Good ideas are often the keys to what keeps us alive. In other words; the stifling of innovation is often slow suicide.

Traditions can also be good – essential, even. But relying solely on wisdom from the past ignores wisdom just learned. And relying on a society that reinforces the dependence on old ways of thinking (and consequently; old technologies) just strengthens the hand of the powers-that-be who only support change when it benefits their bottom line.

In other words; religious conservatives and traditionalists are being used.

Fundamentalist religions are being manipulated to support the greedy – with no regard for the long term consequences.

For example:

The Christian Religion didn't start out as a way to make money. But, in many ways today, making money appears to be one of the primary functions of many Christian organizations. And obviously; these organizations get their money from people with money. Which makes them beholden to those donors (and their for-profit ideologies).



It appears that some Christian organizations have even evolved into what are effectively non-profit profit machines. And some of these religious “leaders” are just swimming in money. Why would they want to change anything? They wouldn't. But that's not traditionalism. That's not conservatism. That's just simply greed.

You may recall that Jesus said that it would be easier for a camel to get through the eye of a needle than a rich man to go to heaven.

Why do you think he said that?

(We can only speculate – but I think that's a good thing – because that means I get to speculate.) Allow me to speculate:

When accumulating far more money than one needs becomes more important than making the right decisions, we end up making the wrong decisions. One of those wrong decisions is to choose short-term profits over better ideas.

And when our own religions promote behavior that reinforces the suppression of innovation, we are at real risk of making some terrible choices... which could eventually lead to us mistakenly creating a man-made Hell on Earth.

Maybe that's what Heaven and Hell really are in practical (this world) terms – mental images of what we can create – stories of our possible futures.

Maybe we have been distracted by a politically expedient interpretation of Heaven and Hell. Maybe religion isn't about death after all. Maybe religion is about life. Maybe we have focused too much on the life-after-death Hell, when it is our own life's future we need to focus on. I'm not saying that the Bible is wrong. I'm saying that it has been misinterpreted (possibly for manipulative reasons). And I'm saying that the Bible may be referring to a figurative Hell (right here on Earth).

If you ask most anyone who considers them self religious, they will tell you that religion is about faith – not logic. OK. Then why does the interpretation of the Bible have to be literal? This is about faith. Only logic would require that the Bible be interpreted literally. Not that that means the Bible is illogical. It's just that religion is about faith. So, what does that mean?

Our traditional image of Hell is a fiery hot place where people suffer for eternity for their sins.

Our image of a man-made Hell on Earth is a planet suffering from extreme global warming, with people (who have developed the technology to live far longer than we think we will) suffering for centuries for our sins of excess.

I don't believe it is a coincidence that these two stories are so similar.

It appears that, in a way, we are being warned... use our best ideas or end up in Hell.


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