‘FREEDOM’—Chapter 8 The Greatest, Most Heroic Story Ever Told
Chapter 8:16I Less Guilt Emphasising Expressions of Religion
As humans became more upset religions were adapted and developed to be less guilt emphasising. Within Christianity, for example, rather than following a denomination that focused on the study and acknowledgment of the integrity of the words and life of Christ, a person could select one that emphasised worship, adoration and ceremony, such as Catholicism. The emphasis in religion could be shifted away from self-confronting honesty, introspection and interpretation of the deeper truths contained in the religion’s scriptures to simply worshipping the prophet as a more indirect way of glorifying and supporting the truth he stood for, and to simple, literal, non-interpretative, dogmatic propagation of the religion’s scripture. And, overall, to counter the increasing waywardness of the greater levels of upset, to even more strict obedience to the cooperative ideals and principles espoused by the religion. The popularity of literal, fundamentalist expressions of religion—especially simplistic, emotional, euphoric, ‘evangelical’, ‘charismatic’ forms of Christianity and fundamentalist representations of the Islamic faith—have increased so much in recent times that they are now the fastest growing forms of religion in the world. An article about the evangelical, charismatic, Christianity-based Hillsong Church that began in Australia in 1983 reports that it now ‘operates in 14 countries from Europe to South America’, and describes ‘Stadiums packed with screaming fans’, and an ‘11-piece band that is the world’s biggest Christian rock group, listened to by 50 million people around the world’. In the article a former member describes how non-self-confronting, basically guilt-and-honesty-stripped-yet-emotionally-satisfying it is: ‘Hillsong is a very easy religion to be a part of. They don’t ask anything of you personally. They don’t talk sin, forgiveness, they literally say we don’t ask people to change. It’s incredibly exciting and incredibly rewarding. There’s a very big community element to spirituality…You’re being told that you’re part of changing the world, you’re part of making the world a better place’ (‘Hillsong Church to release Let Hope Rise in 2015’, News.com.au, 1 May 2015; see <www.wtmsources.com/178>). In the case of fundamentalist representations of the Islamic faith, stories about its spread appear in newspapers daily, especially about the frightening expansion of ultra-fundamentalist and militant Islamic groups like Al-Qaeda and ISIS.
Basically, the more upset and thus insecure and guilt-feeling we humans became the more fundamentalist or literalist we needed to be. Mindlessness saved us from hurtful mindfulness. The Gnostics were an early Christian sect who encouraged self-confronting introspection and analysis and interpretation of the Gospels. Gnosticism stressed self-knowledge and the need, as they said, to ‘find the Christ in yourself’. (The word ‘knowledge’, which means ‘to know’, has the same roots as the word ‘gnosis’.) The Gnostics also practised living a frugal, ascetic, ‘pure’ life. But since the majority of people found such dedicated introspection and interpretation of the Gospels far too confronting and a life of frugal purity unbearably devoid of much needed self-distraction and escape from their upset reality, Gnosticism eventually died out. In fact, around 1230 a branch of Gnostics in France called the Cathars were viciously persecuted and eventually destroyed by emissaries from the Roman Catholic Church. As mentioned, the Catholic branch of Christianity especially caters for the more upset by emphasising worship and a more literal interpretation of the Gospels. Rather than austerity and self-confrontation, Catholicism instead emphasises self-distracting pomp, ceremony and ritual. As a result, they viewed the Cathars as heretics and burnt many of them at the stake. Catholicism also emphasises, to the point of venerating, Christ’s mother, the Virgin Mary, because, for the overly corrupt, it was obviously much easier to identify with the Virgin Mary and her world of gentle nurturing than relate to the strong, secure, confronting truthfulness of Christ. Other branches of Christianity, such as the Anglicans, aren’t so upset-adapted and thus escapist, self-distraction-focused and fundamentalist in their orientation.
The more upset and thus insecure humans became the more literal and non-interpretative of scripture they needed to be; and the more they needed to emphasise deferment of self to the prophet through worship as opposed to emphasising confronting self-analysis; and the more they needed to express their faith through the adornment of their churches and through elaborate ceremony, as opposed to expressing the commitment to the prophet’s embodiment of the cooperative ideals of life through living humbly without extravagant adornments and ceremony. Sir Laurens van der Post observed how humans’ religious images reflected their degree of alienation when he wrote: ‘It seemed a self-evident truth that somehow the sheer geographical distance between a man and his “religious” images reflected the extent of his own inner nearness or separation from his sense of his own greatest meaning. If so this made the conventional Christian location of God in a remote blue Heaven just as alarming as, conversely, the descent of his Son to earth was reassuring’ (Jung and the Story of Our Time, 1976, p.31 of 275). While the increase in the artificiality of life that accompanied increased upset was extremely ‘alarming’—an issue I will return to shortly—when people became excessively upset, trying to be any less artificial (by adhering to a less artificial form of religion) was too confronting, guilt-inducing and depressing. It is only now that we have found the dignifying understanding of the human condition that the upset human race can afford to demystify ‘God’ as the personification of Integrative Meaning; and explain that Christ was, in effect, the ‘Son’ of God, the uncorrupted expression of God; and that the ‘virgin mother’ of Christ was a metaphor for the exceptionally innocent mother needed to nurture an exceptionally innocent child who would be capable of becoming a denial-free thinking prophet; and that the ‘resurrection’ of Christ after his martyrdom was emblematic of the opportunity he gave upset humans to be ‘born again’ or raised up or resurrected from their corrupted, effectively dead state by living through support of him; and, as explained in par. 746, that the trinity of God the Father, Son and Holy Ghost (or Spirit) is a perfect pre-scientific representation of the three fundamental aspects of existence on Earth: God the Father is Integrative Meaning; God the Son is the first great tool for integrating matter, namely the gene-based learning system that gave rise to our integratively orientated instinctive self that Christ, for example, was an uncorrupted expression of; and God the Holy Ghost (or Spirit) is the second great tool for integrating matter, namely the nerve-based learning system that gave rise to our conscious self or intellect—particularly a Godly, Integrative-Meaning-acknowledging, inspired and guided intellect.
Of course, for the religious faithful—and especially those who have held a more literal and non-interpretative, fundamentalist view of scripture—having God demystified, the prophets explained and humanised, and all their religions’ articles of faith, such as, in the case of Christianity, the Resurrection, the Virgin Mary, Christ’s miracles, the Biblical stories of Adam and Eve, Noah’s Ark, Cain and Abel, etc, etc, explained scientifically (having religion and science reconciled), as this book does, will be a lot to have to adjust to. This sudden demystification of religious scripture forms part of the ultimate ‘future shock’ that Alvin Toffler anticipated in his 1970 book by that name. The physicist Paul Davies summarised the problem when he said, ‘A lot of people are hostile to science because it demystifies nature. They prefer the mystery. They would rather live in ignorance of the way the world works and our place in it…many religious people still cling to an image of a God-of-the-gaps, a cosmic magician’ (‘Physics and the Mind of God: The Templeton Prize Address’, 3 May 1995). Fortunately there is an absolutely wonderful way to cope with this sudden and extreme exposure, which is the subject of the final chapter (9) of this book.
With regard to Sir Laurens’ observation that ‘the sheer geographical distance between a man and his “religious” images reflected the extent of his own inner nearness or separation from his sense of his own greatest meaning’, since God is representative of the cooperative ideals and ‘his’ presence, in effect, stands in judgment of humans’ non-ideal state, religions, such as Buddhism, that didn’t emphasise God, sin and guilt, and instead focused on extinguishing the mental trauma of upset through austere practices like meditation and recital of mantras, became increasingly popular in the latter stages of the last 200 years when upset became extreme. As one convert said of Buddhism, it’s ‘non-judgmental, there’s no notion of sin, there’s no notion of good and evil, you don’t embrace negativity’ (Light at Edge of the World: Science of the Mind of Buddhism, National Geographic Channel, 2006). (While the thrust of this comment is true, to say there is no notion of good and evil in Buddhism is not entirely correct because Buddhism does recognise a sense of ‘karmic’ heaven and hell.) The problem, however, with focusing on ways, such as meditation, to extinguish the mental trauma of the upset, human-condition-afflicted state was that they undermined the essential responsibility of being a conscious being, which is to think and understand, ultimately to find understanding of the human condition—as Nikolai Berdyaev wrote: ‘Man sought to escape from that terror [of the truth of man’s…exile from paradise] by extinguishing consciousness and returning to the realm of the unconscious. But this is not the way to regain lost paradise’ (The Destiny of Man, 1931; tr. N. Duddington, 1960, p.41 of 310). The point being made, however, is that as upset increased, more and more escapist strategies for coping with the human condition simply had to be adopted, despite how irresponsible and destructive that trend was of humanity’s heroic struggle to find knowledge.
Indeed, for some people, complete denial of God became the only acceptable option. Atheism, disbelief in God, and secularism, the rejection of all forms of religious faith and worship, gained popularity. In fact, in recent years the resentment and anger towards God for ‘condemning people’ (What the Bleep do We Know!?, 2004) and for being a ‘stupid’, ‘utterly evil, capricious and monstrous’ ‘maniac’ ‘who creates a world which is so full of injustice and pain’ (comedian Stephen Fry, The Meaning of Life, RTÉ TV, 1 Feb. 2015), and towards religion for being ‘the church of perpetual misery’ (from a 2005 animated TV cartoon), has grown so much that secularism is on the rise everywhere—as commentator Phillip Adams wrote, ‘More than ever He, She or It is a redundant notion. So it’s time to dump your shares in religion…We’re free to live our lives without risk of damnation…The only meaning our existence has…is the meaning(s) we choose to give it’ (‘The Big Whimper’, The Weekend Australian Magazine, 3 Dec. 2011). This now extreme resentment and anger is palpable in Richard Dawkins’ statement referred to in par. 938, that ‘“Faith is one of the world’s great evils, comparable to the smallpox virus, but harder to eradicate. The whole subject of God is a bore”…those who teach religion to small children are guilty of “child abuse”.’
Yes, the extreme, ‘alarming’ danger of guilt stripping religion—of making all forms of religious faith less confronting by avoiding emphasising God, sin and guilt, and by trying to ‘regain lost paradise’ through stopping thinking, and even by atheism’s complete denial of God/Integrative Meaning—is that the great benefit of religion of the presence of its honesty is lost. Sir Laurens pointed out how dangerously ‘starved and empty’ of its truthfulness, guilt-stripped Christianity has become when he wrote that ‘Yet the churches continue to exhort man without any knowledge of what is the soul of modern man and how starved and empty it has become…They behave as if a repetition of the message of the Cross and a reiteration of the miracles and parables of Christ is enough. Yet, if they took Christ’s message seriously, they would not ignore the empiric material and testimony of the nature of the soul and its experience of God that [Carl] Jung has presented to the world. He did his utmost to make us understand the reality of man’s psyche and its relationship to God. But they ignore the call’ (Jung and the Story of Our Time, 1976, p.232 of 275).
This brings us back to the issue of ‘materialism envy’ and the resulting unbridled greed, dysfunction and destitution in the less functional, materially poor, 20-year-old and 50-year-old equivalent populated ‘developing’ countries.
While the traditional forms of religion have been losing favour in the more functional, affluent ‘developed’ parts of the world, religion, especially the simplistic, emotional, ‘evangelical’, ‘charismatic’ forms and the extremely strident, fundamentalist representations of religious teachings, has continued to grow in popularity and influence wherever the increasing levels of upset were also accompanied by impoverishment and/or lack of education. It requires a degree of material comfort and education to be able to engage the subtleties of life under the duress of the human condition, in particular the issue of how to manage the guilt associated with being an upset, non-ideal person. When mere survival is a struggle, thinking about your psychological state is a luxury. Also, without some education you lack the base of knowledge with which to think intellectually and sophisticatedly about the dilemma of being an upset human. As will be described shortly, while entirely new forms of pseudo idealism that are much more sophisticated than religion in avoiding guilt have developed in the more functional, materially wealthier, ‘developed’ parts of the world, for the impoverished and/or uneducated in the less functional, materially poor 20-year-old and 50-year-old equivalent populated ‘developing’ countries, religious faith has been the main way of countering upset. In fact, with ever greater numbers of people in the world and an ever greater frustration and resentment of the widening gap between the materially fortunate and the materially impoverished, the attraction and influence of religious faith, especially the simple charismatic and fundamentalist representations of religious teachings, has only increased amongst the materially less fortunate. Over time, however, with greater levels of upset developing everywhere—coupled with the growing anger (and even, as the Muslim sympathiser Tessa Kum said, ‘hate’, or as Clancy McKenzie said, ‘absolute hatred’) arising from ‘materialism envy’, and the loss of self-esteem amongst the less fortunate as the result of the burgeoning gap between the materially ‘rich and poor’—extremely strident, even militarist and terrorist expressions of fundamentalism began to be adopted by those less fortunate. This can be seen in the rise of the Boko Haram Islamic militants in Nigeria, and Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State/Daesh Islamic militants in the Middle East. Since religion has essentially been about indirectly maintaining the search for knowledge, this strident form of fundamentalism amounts to a dangerous form of anti-religion, of degraded-and-debased-truth-and-honesty-obliterated misrepresentations of religious teachings. It is threatening the essential need the human race has for there to be sufficient freedom of thought to continue the search for knowledge, ultimately self-knowledge—the liberating understanding of the human condition. In the race between self-destruction and self-discovery, the rapid and extreme degradation of religion has fast been leading humanity to self-destruction.
As will be described in chapter 9, ultimately the only thing that could end this race to terminal alienation and destruction was the finding of understanding of the human condition because that alone makes possible the great change of direction from living selfishly to living selflessly. Of special significance are pars 1254-1255, which point out that “it is only when the less fortunate see those who have been more materially fortunate making the great ‘change of heart’ from living selfishly to living selflessly, [that] they will finally be released from feeling the injustice and humiliation of their situation. When selfless love finally comes to Earth, the hearts of humans everywhere will be flooded with enormous relief and incredible joy.”
What will now be looked at is how the adoption of more guilt-free forms of pseudo idealism in the more functional, materially wealthy, ‘developed’ parts of the world has also been seriously threatening humanity’s all-important journey to enlightenment. As we will see, extreme forms of pseudo idealism, such as politically correct postmodernism, are as stripped of honesty and thus as alarmingly dangerous as strident forms of religious fundamentalism.