Monday, December 7, 2009

Is Religion Stopping You?

George Carlin was onto something when he said, "Religion is bullshit."  If you have never had the opportunity to view this classic performance, please watch the YouTube video below:

I say that George Carlin was onto something, but I won't entirely dismiss the validity of religion.  Here are two good definitions of religion from the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary: (1) : the service and worship of God or the supernatural; (2) : a personal set or institutionalized system of religious attitudes, beliefs, and practices. 

The key words for me in these definitions are "supernatural", "institutionalized" and "attitudes." 

Supernatural means, "of or relating to existence outside of the natural world", according to the Free Online Dictionary.  The last time I checked, we humans hadn't really achieved a perfect grasp of the nature of ourselves or the universe.  Do we have perfect knowledge of our bodies?  Where is that elusive cure for cancer?  Many diseases of the body are still categorized as idiopathic, meaning that they lack a clear cause.  How much do we know about black matter?  In China, people believed that the Earth was flat until the 17th century.  It was not until 330 BC that Aristotle unveiled observational evidence of a spherical Earth.  Since I am siding with the atheists on the issue of Creationism, I will cede the point that our planet has clearly existed for much longer than 6,000 some odd years.  Apparently since the dawn of man and continuing to this day, there are still open questions as to what constitutes Nature itself.  That being the case, how can we get a precise definition of "supernatural" in order to then destroy it?  The phrase "existence outside of the natural world" seems very slippery to me.  Do our dreams count as natural?  Seriously, are there a lot of people out there diligently drawing lines around what is natural?  If so... cool.  I hope they are jazzed. 

Obviously there are many problems with any system that is "institutionalized."  If something is institutionalized, that means that people have created a construct with sets of rules around it and then imposed the construct upon a wide group of individuals.  Our government is an institution.  The Roman Catholic Church...obviously an institution.  High schools are institutions.  I have to agree with George Carlin on the idiocy of worshiping an institution.  People are fallible and all.  I'm sure the Pope is a great guy, but...

We are all familiar with the problems caused by our "attitudes."  Again, it goes back to the fallibility of everyone.  Can you honestly approve 100% of anyone's attitude?  I for one do not want to serve or worship any attitudes.  I can see how George Carlin would have had a problem giving money to a guy who claims hold to the most powerful "attitude." 

My reason for holding onto the baby while I throw out the religion bathwater is this: the common definition of religion includes, wrongly or rightly, notions of spirituality.  Even Richard Dawkins, author of The God Delusion, won't say that there is no such thing as spirit.  He equates this with denying the existence of fairies or unicorns.  Since he doesn't have definitive proof of the non-existence of spirit, he cannot logically deny its existence. 

How do we arrive at definitive proof of spirit?  Some people claim to have sensory proof of spirit.  They have seen visions, heard voices, and felt the touch of a non-human force on their bodies.  Not all of these people have been diagnosed as mentally ill.  Should they be?  Who knows?  How can we even prove the existence of our consciousness?  That has been a topic of philosophical debate since philosophers came into existence.  If we're not even sure how to draw a line around our conscious mind, how can we know with certainty that a spiritual realm does not exist?  No intelligent person claims this capability--not even Stephen Hawking or Richard Dawkins! 

Many people are afraid to ask questions about spirituality.  Many are afraid to venture outside of their given religion.  Many are so turned off by religion that their spirit doors are permanently locked, or so they believe. 

I have absolute confidence in my belief in spirit.  I also have an absolute faith in the Divine.  Faith in divinity crosses all generations and all cultures.  I believe that we can learn more about ourselves, the natural world, and all other phenomena through opening our minds to all of humanity and focusing on the common points.  I am thankful to have many highly educated friends who also believe this way.  Some of them are Christian, some are Jewish, some are Muslim, some are Buddhist and some are Hindu.  I can talk about concepts such as prayer with all of these people.  I have experienced visions and heard spoken phrases while meditating.  I have had prophetic dreams.  I have had psychic experiences.  I am not ashamed to admit these things, and why would I be? 

I respect atheism as a belief simply because I find no value in resisting it.  I find no value in negating any belief system unless such system results in harm.  It is not for me to say that atheists are harming themselves by closing off all spiritual avenues.  How am I to know what journey they are on?  I have not walked a mile in their moccasins. 

If I have one idea to offer here, it is this:  no one is alone in his or her dislike of religion, but that does not have to stop anyone from following a spiritual path.  This idea is far from original. 

If you are not on a spiritual path, good for you.  If you are, good for you.  If religion is blocking your spiritual path, I say... don't let it.

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