Friday, September 22, 2006

A Christmas Carol

Religion. To some people merely a jumble of letters but to others it is the soul of humanity, for better or for worse. From the very earliest men to the highest peak of our civilization it has been there to hold us together, or to make us fight. But is this a good or a bad thing, has it benefited us or hurt us, will it eventually destroy us. We can only speculate as of yet whether it will destroy us or not but we can decide whether or not it has benefited us. But that is the matter for our essay. The stance taken by this particular ramble is that yes the world has benefited and, if we carry on our particular course it will most certainly destroy us.

But where is the proof, what has caused my ideas to be so formed. To what gain is this essay written. To the latter, it is simply theological rambling in an effort to explain the who, what, where and why of humanity (I also thought it’d be a bit of a laugh). To the former, the proof shall come, be patient and you will see, you may even be sucked in and pushed onto a train of your own theological rambling.

Firstly, what is religion? It is the belief in a powerful controlling being like the Christian God, something far beyond us in power. But not necessarily something good or perfect, just look at the religion of the ancient Greeks. To them gods were more powerful than man, but they were also jealous, backstabbing, cruel, and uncaring. The gods of Ancient Greece fought each other constantly; the famous Trojan War was purely caused by the three lead female goddesses fighting over who was the prettiest. So I feel that religion is simply belief in various beings who have power greater than that of mans.

To begin with we must address the beginning - although one may start from the other end and work back, like starting with a laugh and creating a joke. Where is the proof that religion has affected us? The evidence is all around us as plain as the eyes on the person in front of you, although in a small number of cases you must look behind the sunglasses of the world to find it. To fully impress how evident our religion is today, take a stroll through the streets of Thailand and look at their shrines that litter the streets. Maybe then pass through Japan and see the many thousands of temples, or through any European country and view the hundreds of churches. Now, if just seeing a lot of religious shrines everywhere doesn’t prove they’re effect for you, have a look at how old they are, and see how long our religions date back. Finally look at our history, a history that relies largely on the records of wandering religious groups like the Jews or the aboriginals in Australia, one of the oldest pieces of literature still around, the Gilgamesh, is a piece of religious fiction. Religion has been believed and proven to exist since the early Stone Age.

Surely something so currently debated upon cannot have lasted this long, but for thousands upon thousands of years there has been no such debate. Not until the past few hundred years has there been any indecision on whether religion is real, all that’s ever been debated is which is the right one, a debate which is yet to be finished. Religion has existed and controlled people in its way for thousands of years. Wherever religion goes people seem forced to follow. So we get to modern times and it is still here controlling the vast majority of the world, indeed many of our worlds most potent political leaders are strongly religious, or at least they say they are. Take the Taliban, a religious group stirring up religious wars (at least that’s what America keeps telling us) and they affect the entire world. Many more examples could be listed on whether or not religion has affected us but that would mean dragging out the essay by several hundred unnecessary pages so I will assume you, as the reader, are not completely ignorant.

Now, the hard part, is the effect good or bad? I say good and to prove this we will simply look at the cultural side of the world. The renaissance, a massive bloom of art and culture centred largely in Italy. Most of the greatest, most appreciated architecture and art came from that time and it all contains an element of religion. Da Vinci’s last supper, st peters cathedral, the pantheon (a bit before the renaissance but I feel we should include it anyway). These examples are all religious and all beautiful. Then we’ve got Greece about 2 thousand years before that with the Parthenon and their famous vases. Or in China with its many incredible temple and the Great Wall of China. All of this is just a small fraction of the incredible art and architecture that covers the world. Religious people were among the first to write and record and some of the world’s greatest principals come from it, like the anti materialism of the Buddhists or the human rights of Christianity.

In a sense art in all its forms derives originally from Religion. This is why I believe that religion has benefited us. Of course there are two sides two every coin (well technically they have three) and only showing one would distort the reality of this essay over much. So we must get on to the dark side of religion, all the bad things it has done, which are not inconsiderable.

The worst possible thing about religion is the way it has controlled people and forced them to do things against their nature. People seem to do anything they’re told by their religion, whether by leaders in the name of religion or actual religious leaders like the pope. Look at some of the huge wars in history. The current war in Iraq is supposedly a fight between the Islam and the Christians. The battles between the Islam and the Hindus in India and Pakistan. The crusades, massive invasions to reclaim the ‘Holy Land’ by slaughtering thousands of people and literally removing their right to live. The terrible thing is Christianity is all about forgiveness and human rights. Most if not all religions have some basic principal, like, this that is good and kind. But some people distort this principal either through evil intentions or through misinterpretation of the holy texts. Mistakes of this kind are devastating to the regard of the religion and after the event that has occurred everyone downs it completely but there is no denying the fact that nearly everyone followed it gladly at the time. Then there are people doing things in the name of religion yet they do things that defy absolutely everything the religion is. Like the LRA (Lord’s Resistance Army) who are a group of rebels in North Uganda attempting to overthrow the current government in the name of a strict Christian rule. These people who are supposedly supporting Christianity are raiding villages at night killing and mutilating random people and kidnapping children to use as slaves and fighters. These children have been forced to kill other people under threat of their own death. How does this hold up Christian values? How can some one say something and do the opposite. Its more that sacrilegious its inhuman. Finally there is the opposition between religions. Christianity is probably the worst, its God claims he is the only god and the rest are all devils and its worshippers pagans. So the passionate Christians decide to hurt the worshippers of another religion by destroying their sacred areas and converting their people through the bribe of forgiveness if they repent. This sort of thing happened in Ancient Britain when the roman Christians wiped out the druids and various ‘pagans’.

So now we have seen both sides of religion and you’re probably feeling that religion couldn’t possibly be considered good in the long term when so much evil has happened through it. But if you look at the lasting consequences you’ll see that while the bad was terrible the good has survived and helped billions of people through charitable deeds and so on. I feel very strongly that we, as the people of this earth wouldn’t have made it as far as we have if it weren’t for religion. This is because we have a strong need to comprehend our environment. It is part of our being and one of the things which separates us from the animals. For a long time we have relied on religion to explain the extraordinary and recently we’ve had science, but we still have to have something. We must understand or we will have no knowledge and without our knowledge we are in a void filled with meaningless shapes and nonsense images. Without our knowledge we cannot learn to read or write and we cannot grow beyond the basic mindset, the bare necessities. So we have religion and, unfortunately, it tends to controls us and always has.

Now we get on to the future, in all its expansiveness. Will we be destroyed by religion? I have said I believe so and my mind set hasn’t changed during the course of this essay. So how and why will it destroy us? What can be done to stop this eminent destruction? Read on and you’ll find out.

Look at religion today. It is severely divided. We have five lead religions and thousands of smaller more exclusive religions like Wicca or Shinto. Of our main five we’ve got Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism. Most of these religions are at odds with one another. They all distrust one another and some are even at war. Christianity is at current fighting the Muslims in the form of America versus the Terrorists. The Muslims and the Hindus are fighting between India and Pakistan. There are plenty of wars in the world and a good lot of them are caused or based on Religion. Surely if religion is our excuse for war it will bring us down. We cannot survive too much longer without some disaster, such as a nuclear war, (the nuke being the divine weapon given by god to bring justice to the non-believers) destroying us. In fact the only thing that can save us, other than the complete abandonment of religion (not a good idea as people like to have a little faith and our current politicians don’t seem to fill the gap), is a united religion. But it cannot be one of the existing religions because the only way to achieve that would be a global jihad, indeed a global religion may only be achievable through war. But should we somehow achieve this global religion it would have to be one without too many rules other than pray and be good otherwise it would become as controlling as the old ones and sub sects would form with different interpretations of the rules and we’d be back to the drawing board. Also it must allow for science so we may expand our technology.

To conclude this extraordinary essay (well is say extraordinary…) I’m afraid I must ramble some more. Religion has been necessary for our progression but it cannot take us any further. We must now abandon it, too some extent, to science. Science forces us to fully comprehend everything and figure out, from how it came into being what to do with it. Religion just says god did it so don’t mess with it. Or instead of running to science alone we could form a balance, something that allows for progression but also allows for faith. For instance we could have a faith similar to the Ancient Greeks. They did not believe the gods made the world the gods were simply there as a separate race, homo extraodinarius or something. This allowed the Greeks to progress, which is why so much math and science and philosophy comes from that time. We must learn to create a balance in all things but especially in our faith or we will destroy ourselves and all that our faith has given us.

Thank you for travelling this philosophical ride with me, William, I hope you have enjoyed your trip. I may be commissioned to write further essays on a subject of your choice. If you are interested leave a comment with this blog. Thank you and good-bye.


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