“Faith does not give you the answers, it just stops you from asking the questions.” – Frater Ravus
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, or 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, Roman Catholic and various Protestant sects of Christianity, and the various Judaic sects. While all of these groups worship the same God, they see Him differently and see themselves as loyal and others as corrupted and somehow evil.
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 adepts. It takes a religious mind to accept the basic Christian premise of Jesus’ death and resurrection providing a vehicle for atonement and forgiveness. The scientific mind would require some logic, some evidence or some examples. The religious mind accepts improbable facts and unreasonable restrictions without question.
The first example of this is, of course, The Old Testament, where some old men pretended to know right from wrong, to be able to read the mind of God and interpret it correctly and, most unbelievable to me, to know what was going to happen in the distant future.
Throughout many centuries following, a massive number of people, my mother and at least two of my grandparents, took these writings verbatim, without a single grain of salt.
The next example I am aware of is the writings of a dogmatic zealot named Saul of Tarsus who renamed himself Paul and again feigned knowledge he clearly did not possess. What was somewhat unique about Saul was his intolerance for any other ideas but his own. This was a completely new intellectual stand, this intolerance for any deviation from dogma, and, when it finally got a foothold through a reconciliation between his followers and the Roman Empire, it hit the ground running and never looked back, driving out almost all the tolerant parts of Christianity for the next millennium and a half.
What makes Judaism, Christianity and Islam so difficult for much of the rest of the world to deal with are 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 Africa and 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 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.
Today, religion wants you to believe that there is a vital difference between Christians and Moslems and that God cares which dogma you were born with or chose. This is leading both sides to Hell on Earth, not Heaven as both sides doggedly cling to their narrow and uninformed viewpoints.
THE SCIENTIFIC MIND
The scientific mind isn’t necessarily a mind trained in science. 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 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. 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 is the result of science. Electricity which starts your car, brightens the night and controls the temperature of your home, your car, and your workplace in 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 war.
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. 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 significant difference between these two groups. And we inhibit our empathy for these “others.”
The Golden Rule should be applied to everyone without exception, yet over and over, we fail in our compassion when others are shunned or scorned.
If we teach it bigotry, 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 world 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 ourselves and our planet.
©David N. Dodson, December, 2015, Phoenix, AZ