Sunday, August 26, 2007

Religion: A Thing Of The Past.

This post is not meant to offend anyone who holds a religious viewpoint, only to highlight the relationship religion has with the past. Religion is the past, isn't it? I mean, it obviously molds the present and hopes to dictate the future, but its very existence is in the past. In other words one's religious perspective is completely derived from the past, without the past, without the traditions, cultural signposts, ritualized practice, memorization, indoctrination, etc. there would be no religion as we know it. There may be an awe of God, an awe for the unknown, an awe for the splendor of life, but the interpretation of that awe into static, defined, habitual viewpoints from books and the tales of past human experience would completely cease to be. In a much broader sense, one's identity, the clinging of the mind to particular static forms, would entirely cease to be as well, for identity only exists in relation to the past.

Describe to me, for example, the difference between protestant and catholic, Shiite and Sunni, or Christian and Jew? You would have to tell me a story from the past, wouldn't you? And not just a simple story, but a history, meaning a refined story unfolding through many, many years of development. There's no other way. You may be able to presently distinguish a devout Sunni from a catholic, based on their appearance and/or mannerisms , but all of that is only the present appearance of learned historical traits and traditions being played out. Religion is part of one's identity, a piece that makes up the yet to be completed picture of myself. And like we just stated, all the pieces that make up the story of myself are collected from the past. Once collected they are remembered, studied, memorized, and acted through, and upon. Tradition and ritual, the trained physical habits dictated from a story passed down by others, is but one way of embodying, and therefore, remembering and becoming a product of said storyline. An identity says, 'I belong.' And not only 'I belong,' but 'I know I belong.' There is a sense of absolute certainty and security in having an identity and the stronger the identity, the stronger the sense of security, righteousness, morality, certainty, etc.

However, what if identity were only capable of creating a false sense of security, for the very nature of identity is fleetingly false itself? Look at the results of our identity with a particular religion. The three most populous religions on the planet today are Christianity, Islam, and Hinduism, with a combined 'flock' of about 4 billion people. Each of these three religions have sacred books written long ago, sacred beings to mold one's life around, and the message of their lasting redemption and enlightenment somewhere in the distant, or not so distant, future.

In a simplified sense, Christianity believes Jesus Christ is the messiah, liberator of the world, and that he will return in the future to liberate the 'chosen ones' from this plane of existence to heaven. Islam believes Muhammad was the last and greatest prophet of God that restored the original lineage of Abraham. Islam holds that both Judaism and Christianity are in their lineage, only that they have been misguided and, therefore, gone astray. Islam also states a messiah will come in the future to liberate true believers from this world, just that that messiah is not Jesus. Islam considers Jesus a prophet, a man, not the son of God. Hinduism believes in one God as well, only with many different aspects likened to lesser Gods and Goddesses. They believe in reincarnation, or the transmigration of the soul through countless human births. This process refines the soul until it reaches the perfect state, enlightenment, sometime in the future. All three religions are future based, all conform to practices, rituals, and words from the past that direct their present actions and all tell stories that ACTUALLY divide humanity even though they claim to EVENTUALLY unite it. In other words, identity, in this case religious identity, creates insecurity, for it divides people today in order to unite them, in their own particular way, tomorrow. Isn't it time to stop the madness?