THE RELIGIOUS MIND
Religion is, by its nature, conservative in that it attempts to preserve and promote a set of ideas well-laid-out and rigidly fixed in their conclusions. Change causes religions to splinter; one sect welcoming a revised understanding and the other sect steadfastly resisting it. Additionally, individual dissent provokes excommunication, ostracism, and other drastic responses. By and large, a religion lags its constituency; resisting change and being dragged forward only when intransigence is no longer viable.
As an example of splintering, we have the schism between Sunni and Shiite sects of Islam, Greek Orthodox and Roman Catholic sects of Christianity, and the various Judaic sects. The Roman Catholics further split into many other sects during the Reformation. Some Jews see themselves as Orthodox or Zionist while others value their heritage but no longer believe they have a right to exclusive favoritism. Today, many American Catholic leaders accept birth control as legitimate while the world leaders of Catholicism disagree. Furthermore, while all three groups worship the same God, they often see Him differently and see others as somehow corrupted and disavowed by God.
The religious mind is loyal and accepts a number of stated and implied assumptions wholeheartedly. For example, I’ve never heard anyone in church or Sunday School question why we no longer have any prophetic abilities when our ancestors were assumed to be so adept at it. Many no longer believe the story of Adam and Eve as literal or factual and yet still consider The Holy Bible “the word of God.” Few question the ethics behind the story of Abraham obediently willing to sacrifice his son, Issac, because God demanded it. And it takes a religious mind to accept the basic Christian premise that one must believe Jesus died for two and a half days almost 2000 years ago so that God can forgive one’s sins today. The scientific mind would require some logic, some evidence or some examples. The religious mind accepts improbable facts, unfair and unreasonable restrictions and bizarre rules without question or doubt. The Trinity makes no logical or rational sense, yet it is a fundamental Christian belief – few Christians would ever even think to question its validity. Jesus being Jehovah is absurd to me because the two have almost nothing in common and yet the religious mind accepts this with perfect ease and tranquility – like a duck to water.
There are still many Christians who believe that The Holy Bible is the word of God, that each and every word comes to us from God Himself with human intermediaries as mere conduits of wisdom. Nothing sways or discourages this belief. Steadfastly, these people pretend that evolution is a hoax despite massive and growing physical evidence, despite human changes to animals due to breeding, despite the sciences of medicine (which is currently fighting a battle with the evolution of bacteria and no longer recognizes sin as causing disease), astronomy (where only a few parts of our galaxy are near enough for the light to get here in 6,000 years), geology (which dates the Genesis Rock found on the Moon at 4.46 billion years b.c.), paleontology (which records a number of world-wide catastrophes which killed many species though none with any mammal larger than a small squirrel, let alone human), genetics (which puts the parent of modern mankind in Africa some 1-2 million years ago and finds unused genetic material from our distant genetic past) and despite the findings of diligent scholars who researched the history of this most popular book in all of history and found human influences and inconsistencies throughout its history and, of course, The Holy Bible itself saying it was written by men.
What makes Judaism, Christianity and Islam so difficult for much of the rest of the world to deal with is the arbitrary and capricious rules by which others are excluded. The history of all three religions include sanctified wars of conquest carried out in supposed obedience to the dictates of God.
Jewish wars of conquest are chronicled in the Old Testament and reiterated in Israel’s creation. Christian conquests include early raids into the Holy Land by the Roman Empire, the Crusades (a series of senseless invasions by mobs of people without the means to sustain themselves), the ruthless conquest of the Western Hemisphere for the past 500 years, the unwavering support of Twentieth Century Zionism, and the Apocalypse. Soon after its creation, Islam was spread by warfare all across the Arab world, through much of Africa and into Spain and eastward all the way to the Philippines.
This brutal warfare was, in every case, seen by the invading society at large as righteous, justified, and in the best interests of the people being invaded! This tells me there is a spiritual disconnect hidden within it; a blocking of the loving concern Jesus implored us to exercise; a blindness to the humanity and goodness in others who, because they had different customs and beliefs were labeled with a derogatory word or phrase such as “evil” or “infidel” or “savage” and thereby dismissed from kindness or empathy; murdered, robbed or enslaved without guilt or remorse. When there was guilt, Christianity even devised a way to remove it without seriously trying to change the offending behavior.
Furthermore, this book that so many Americans revere would have us believe that God sanctions territorial expansion, killing and slavery with “covenants,” unbreakable and permanent legal pacts between God and a Jewish leader. It would have us believe that the Jewish state of Israel was decreed by God. And they conveniently forget, for the moment, that this “promised land” extends over most of modern day Iraq.
Today, religion wants you to believe that there is a vital difference between Christians and Muslims and that God cares which dogma you were born with or chose. This is leading both sides to Hell on Earth, not Heaven.
THE SCIENTIFIC MIND
The scientific mind isn’t necessarily a mind trained in science in school. It is a mind that questions and tests, that accepts something only when presented with convincing proof through demonstration or rational argument with facts and logic.
I’m not talking about studying books to get facts. If it were that simple, I would believe in the telepathic horses of Valdemar, Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, and the fire-breathing Dragons of Pern.
I believe in the laws of Physics not just because I learned them in school but because I tested them and I saw them work reliably over and over again.
I believe in science because it fits together for the most part and, where it doesn’t fit together (such as the Big Bang Theory), I don’t believe it.
Just look around you. The ease and comfort you enjoy was the result of science.
The electricity which starts your car, allows you to see at night and controls the temperature of your home, your car, and your workplace in both summer and winter is the result of science. Had religion continued to control Western Thought, you would still be in the Middle Ages, freezing or sweltering as you lived in darkness and squalor. Religion has fought science all along the way, demanding that you believe things which you’ve never seen and can’t explain. Science demands no belief. Rather, it demands that you suspend judgment until sufficient evidence is accumulated in order to make an informed and rational appraisal.
The scientific mind might reason that if God exists then He is the same being for Jews, Christians, and Muslims, whether or not they view Him in the same way. A scientist might be inclined to question the self-aggrandizing claims all three groups make about whom He loves and what rules He wants us to follow. This thoughtful person might even look at what works and what doesn’t work rather than relying solely on conflicting and conflicted belief systems which almost always lead to conflict.
THE SPIRITUAL MIND
The spiritual mind is closely tied to our physical bodies. It is loving and loyal and allows us to function in groups. We are a sophisticated herd animal and it is our compassion and empathy, best exemplified in The Golden Rule, which allows us the intricate social interaction we see today. Our spiritual mind uses empathy and loving concern. The preeminent feelings of the spiritual mind are love, loyalty, and compassion.
Love and loyalty, however, sometimes override compassion. This happens with tribalism, racism, sexism, nationalism, and dogmatism. We erect an arbitrary barrier: an “us” and a “them.” We buy into the premise that there is some essential and significant difference between these two groups. Thus, we inhibit our spiritual mind from empathy for these “others.”
The Golden Rule should be applied to everyone without exception, yet over and over, we’ve failed in our compassion when some group is feared, hated, shunned or scorned.
If we teach it bigotry and lies, the spiritual mind will believe us. If we tell this loving, loyal, and trusting part of ourselves that certain types of people are evil and not to be listened to, we easily exclude people who might otherwise be friends.
If, however, we realize that we are all on this small planet together and are all part of one group and one single family, then we might proceed in a more loving, creative, and mutually-supportive manner. We might even find new ways to cooperate and better ways to sustain our fragile world.
©David N. Dodson, Phoenix, AZ, 2015-2017