Thursday, September 13, 2012

The Mythmakers: What is Religion?

       In my August 20 Mythmaker post (which you can access here), I talked about the Mythmakers' agnostic/humanist view of god, which covered the first five Precepts.  This post will skip to Precepts 10 and 11 and will discuss the nature of religion, which is something quite different from a consideration of the nature of god or spirituality or belief.

10. The Right Way is universal; the Truth is parochial and divisive.
       Here the important thing is to define terms.  I define religion as the organized promulgation of a body of dogmatic beliefs that claim to be the exclusive truth, anathematizing all other beliefs -- turning them into the work of infidels who don't worship the True God and therefore should be either coerced to believe the "Truth" or else expunged from the Earth. That's the most extreme view, of course, but you can see the evidence of such situations everywhere in our modern age and, in fact, throughout history. Whenever a belief system is in its infancy, it is persecuted.  As soon as it attains dominance, it begins to persecute others. The Romans persecuted the Christians, who won the fight and began to persecute the Jews. Then Islam arose, and Christians and Muslims began to seek to destroy each other, each religion claiming to possess the ultimate "Truth" and calling the other "infidel." That's still going on in our own enlightened times.
       Of course, this doesn't happen only on a global scale; these religions can't get along within themselves, inevitably splintering into ever smaller groups, each of which maintains it has the one and only "Truth." Unfortunately, in my view of future history, the conflicts among these religious entities only get worse until all institutions manage to destroy one another and themselves (see footnote).
       The "Right Way" is a term found in many Mythmaker works.  It represents the common thread that human beings can draw from within themselves as to what constitutes right thinking and behavior.   But that Right Way of thinking and acting is not Truth with a capital T. The Right Way can be attained by many different paths.  "Truth" is an absolute term -- I alone (or the group with which I identify) knows what the Truth is and all other beliefs or ways of thinking are false.   Any person who in this way declares he has found the "Truth" is dividing himself from the rest of humanity. This is why the open practice of "religion" has been proscribed by the 28th century in my version of future history.

11. Institutions that grip souls merely for the purpose of gripping souls will always become destructive.
       This related Precept reinforces the dangers of institutions that proclaim they have found the "Truth."  Such groups can be religious in nature, or they can be political or social. "Gripping souls" implies proselytizing for one's "Truth" and converting (brainwashing) others into the same belief. Collect as many "souls for god" as you can. Destroy indigenous beliefs of native peoples because they aren't the "Truth." But since deity is unknowable, who are you to say which beliefs about deity have no validity?  The same applies to political ideologies. How many individuals have been destroyed in the name of the "Truth" of Nazism or communism, or simply to maintain the power of the regional tyrant?
       I want to make it clear that religious organizations are rarely evil in their totality; they can do a lot of good when they take a wider view and remain willing to tolerate others' beliefs. The doctrines of all religions and mythologies contain positive elements, and that's why the Mythmakers use the symbolism of myth in their writings. Since the paths of the Right Way are many, to reject all myths simply because they are promoted by misguided individuals would be to throw out the baby with the bathwater. In my future history, only institutionalized religions are banned; you can believe anything you like as long as you don't promote your beliefs publicly, practice them openly, or organize in order to force them on others.  Proselytizing is a imprisonable offense. 
       But "remnant religions" do still exist, either in manifestations to which EarthGov chooses to turn a blind eye, or under the guise of cultural phenomena, or in specially set-aside enclaves, within whose boundaries belief systems can be practiced openly.  I talk about all this a lot in "The Man Who Found Birds among the Stars," my big, formless, unfinished, impossible novel.  
       So, if you like, you can privately worship a big Termite Queen that dwells nameless among the stars.   But even my termites have their problems with intolerance and with "infidels."  You'll begin to learn about that in v.2 of "The Labors of Ki'shto'ba Huge-Head."
       The next time I work on the Mythmakers, we'll touch on some of the Precepts that deal with social relationships.

Note: Here is an extract from "My Future History."  There is undoubtedly enough material in this paragraph to write a dozen works of dystopian fiction.  I did expand a little bit on one aspect of this part of future history in "The Man Who Found Birds among the Stars," but I don't know if it will ever be published.
       "The militant religionist movement that began early in the 21st century resulted in a succession of conflicts known as the Zealot Wars. Fundamentalist believers took over the organizational structures of all ancient religions, which fought openly both among one another and among splinter groups within themselves. The fanatical Romish Letin Revival of the 22nd century led to the first bombing of the holy Islemist and Judish sites in Arbia and Israil. This movement in turn saw its last Pope assassinated in 2310 by a faction of Kristen Scripturists. Later reconstructions of the Middle Eastern holy sites were ultimately obliterated in 2341, not by Kristens but by radiant bombing perpetrated by insane Islemist and Judish tyrants." 


  1. Great read, Lorinda - kudos! Religion is the root cause for most of this world's devastation.

    1. Thanks for commenting, Debbie! Always nice to find a fellow apostate! Nobody should expect me to "get religion" just because I unexpectedly developed cancer!

    2. You're dealing with it realistically. Here's hoping all goes well for you! I wouldn't change my mind under any circumstances either.