|Religion 21st Century|
“My religion consists of a humble admiration of the illimitable superior
spirit who reveals himself in the slight details we are able to perceive with
our frail and feeble mind.”
The basic truths
Gods are invisible and secretive agents, projections of the human mind. Gods assume many forms and there is little agreement about what he, she, or they look like, where they live, their likes and dislikes. Gods are polymorphic, numerous and noumenal. Humans include Gods in their stories as attempts to explain how things got started and who controls events that happen.
Some Gods prefer only one group of humans, ignoring or punishing others. Some create a God who is interested in petty gossip and enjoys punishing people who have erotic fantasies. Many Gods are angry and punitive but some Gods act like benevolent parents and friendly counselors. In the past, some Gods were friendly only if you killed innocent children or fair maidens as sacrifices. Gods who enjoyed killing humans are no longer as popular as they once were. There is a close connection between God and blood in the human mind. Humans kill to eat and indulge in a curious fascination with spilling blood. Religious rituals all over the planet, presumably for thousands of years have involved killing animals and fellow humans, eating their flesh, collecting and offering their blood to satisfy the bloodlust of their God. Christian communion still involves symbolically eating the blood and flesh of Christ.
Pollsters ask: do you believe in God? They report a percentage of people who answer yes. The question and its answer are meaningless. Nowhere can you find a single God nor any consistent belief. There are tens of thousands of distinctly different religious groups and most groups claim a special relationship with one or many Gods, a unique history, moral superiority and special privileges.
Some journalists have claimed that humans are “hardwired for God”. Other say “hardwired for religion”. But God is a polymorphous invention who is not found everywhere in human groups. Superstitions, myths and beliefs are found everywhere. Institutional religions are not found everywhere. God is the imaginary CEO of corporate religion who rules the world by proxy. The phrase “hardwired” is also not appropriate to describe the brain which is soft like jello.
The native populations of the Pacific Coast, where I live, faced the often brutal treatment by European immigrants and later Indian children were abused in Christian residential schools. Chief Bill Wilson of the Kwawkgewlth people of northern Vancouver Island stated rather succinctly the position of most of humanity: “My grandfather explained Christianity to me. He said that the white man had only one god while our people had many gods because of the work that needed to be done. He said that that the white man’s god must be very angry because they keep him locked up in that little white house and only visited him once and a while. Our gods are everywhere, in the air, the sea, the mountains and the land.”
Smart and nice people thrive without believing in a Santa-Claus version of God who is keeping his list and checking it twice. Some have denied the existence of God and placed themselves at a disadvantage when confronted by self-righteous individuals who have God on their side. As visiting anthropologists, we recognize that belief in Gods and membership in religious organizations are social commitments with social benefits and costs. Beliefs have little or nothing to do with truth or understanding how humans and the universe work.
Everyone is free to invent one or more Gods and free to join or create a
group with beliefs and rules. When everyone has a personal God, free of
institutional involvement, then everyone is free to claim the moral authority
that Gods offer true believers. Everyone is free to engage God in his or her
way. Without this egalitarian distribution of God’s authority, people with a
false sense of moral superiority remain a problem for rational citizens who
champion a free, civil society.