Mar 11, 2011

Wrapped, Tied & Tangled Up: Religious People

Once Upon a Time ...

We were impressionable little children, and were taught to believe in fairy tales and a fairy-tale God, but we are not little children anymore.

This thing that we refer to as God, I believe, is not a fairy tale at all - on the hand it is much bigger than the fairy-tale God that we were taught about before, and in some instances, up and until now. However, 'it is time to leave the principles, and the good story-teller preachers, some who I know personally, and go on to perfection. We've heard enough about 'the God of religion', let's learn more about the God that transcends religious constructs.

Okay everyone, as I understand it, the term religion means 'to bind', and now I am stuck on that theme. For if ever in your lifetime, you were to experience a group of people who were 'bound, wrapped and tied up by their beliefs, perceptions and what they were taught from childhood, simply go and find some religious people, particularly the more fundamentalist ones.

I would like to think that most of us are intelligent enough now, to be told about or introduced to what we call God, as sentient and mature beings. And once we do, we will get secularist's on board as well!

The fact of the matter is that religious people are in a bind, because they have to co-sign whatever they have been taught to believe by their particular religious groups or institutions, even when they have doubts or know better that what they are being taught - otherwise, they will risk ridicule or even banishment. And what is truly instructive about all of this is, that two out of three religious people, from whatever persuasion they come from, rarely agree with each other when translating, mistranslating, explaining, interpreting sacred historical texts or telling somewhat else what God is, and what God expects from humans. What does that tell you?

In fact, anyone who has not come to the same conclusions that they have been told to arrive at, within their respective groups, will risk, in addition to banishment, being labeled a heretic or apostate, until they do. And even worse than that, they are also in line for eternal damnation, typically in the form of a hell fire, according to their religious teachers. Most religious groups teach that what they believe, comes directly from God, and that God is as limited and intolerant as they happen to be. Prophet Jonah and others founds out that God was not like he and others at all.

Why do I care so much about this theme? It is because I am still trying to figure out why, religious people of all faiths, sects ... appear to be so nutty, deft, impressionable, occasionally mean-spirited and gullible! Answer this question for me, what other individuals or groups of people that you know of, are so confident that their perceptions are the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth? Well, there are politicians who believe that too, however, we will broach that topic another day - many times their political beliefs carry ingrained religious bent alongside their political ones.

Clearly, whatever you or your religious group and its hierarchy believes in, has more to do with a group need to agree (whether you believe or not) or a core set of ideas, as opposed to whether whatever their dogma happens to be or represents the absolute truth or not. Sadly, whatever they believe becomes sacrosanct, and is assumed to have come from God (at least that is the consensus of the group). I watched this dynamic take place within a religious group that I was raised in. One night, the pastor instructed the group that from hereon, no one was to say, “something told me” when they had something to say, instead, and from that day forward, whenever someone had something to say (that was a part of their inner-circle), they were to say, "Gold told me”.

Er herm, and before you judge the religious group, that I hail from, the difference between our group and most other's, they only said aloud what other groups believed within! Sadly then, both the followers, their leaders and their respective deity or deities, were bound by the limited conclusions drawn by said believing group. The power of belief can be certain, uncertain and dangerous, all at the same time, I find out. And even an errant belief, can carry you for a long way.

Someone once said that 'a person acts and behaves according to what he or she believes'. It really doesn't matter whether what the person believes is true or not, the belief itself becomes a reified-construct within the believer and his or her group, and can therefore become binding for the believer and everyone else that is associated with the group. Does the name David Koresh mean anything, or followers from groups like Heaven's Gate or Jonestown does that mean anything to you?

Other individuals, who come in from outside of the group, will be weighed according to the internal bindings of said group of believers, acolytes who will in turn spin, and even spend a considerable portion of their time trying to convince a new convert that what they have concluded to be true is the absolute truth. But should we accept religion, over what is really God, that is the question?

Both the person, and a group's personal deity are both in agreement that most everyone else has to die for their trespasses and sins, for example. And that would include the ones who do not see things as they do, that also happen to be religious and believe in God too. Many moralistic and religious people cannot understand just how their super, uber or supra-figure, could have tolerated and permitted their enemies, the great unwashed, for so long, especially to permit them to get away with not having been punished for so long for their innocuous sins and misdeeds.

What one believes can become so powerful, that they will conclude that other people will also die who are not like-minded. And therefore, they have conjured up a system of punishments that awaits their perceived enemies and other non-believers. That's what I believe, they say, and therefore it is true, because God and me talk.

Oh come on, are you telling me that humans never fantasize or make things up that is to their liking, or suits interpretations of events? Even killers like Moses, David, Goliath and others believed that individuals who did not see things as they did, deserved to die. Today, Pat Robertson, a preacher no less, wants Hugo Chavez of Bolivia ... to die, for example. And there are religious acolytes on the other side that want him to die too. He apparently believes that it is not a problem with his God, for him to think that way!

What I am talking about here folks is human nature at work, as opposed to divine nature being at work, or having anything to do with what is being taught in most religious camps, I suspect. For what other explanation is there to explain why any individual or group of individuals, would be so sanguine as to claim for one moment, forgiveness for themselves and at the same time expect eternal judgment for anyone else who doesn't see things as they do.
Religious people do it all the time. Oddly enough, the non-religious among us do not!

Many religious organizations and religious people have concluded that people like them, especially their friends, family-members, or individuals who believe as they do, are going to be saved and live eternally with them and God, mind you. And, add to that they also believe that the overwhelming majority of all other people, even the ones who were here before they got here and will be here after they are gone, are going to the Gehenna, where they will burn forever (that is, all of the ones one's who did not come to the same conclusions that they came to during their lifetimes).

And how long will the eternal punishment last, that they want non like-minded individuals to experience? Will it be a twenty-year sentence? No, for on the other hand the sentence handed out will last beyond a million, billion or trillion years or forever without end.

At the same time, the one who ascribes to such a belief system, expects to be shown mercy and excused for all of the mistakes that they made, before or after they were 'saved or converted'. For instead of an eternal sentence in the unquenchable fire, they will be reincarnated in order to sit beside God as if watching a professional basketball game while other humans burn. What will they do, nudge God and say, “look at that sinner suffer, he got just what he deserved and, by the way, pass the grog or beer nuts"?

Now does that make any sense at all, or does it sound more like a man made construction, and if someone is bound up in a certain belief system? A good religious person, or a group of sycophants would say, "yes, it sounds like God, and that they the great unwashed, even you Solomon, got and will get just what you deserve one day, just wait and see".

However, I am certain that even the God of most religious groups "the fairy-tale God, including the God of the King James Bible at times, has better things on 'ITS' mind, than smelling or watching human flesh burn (throughout eternity), even if it could burn throughout eternity. For after all, "what is man, that God is mindful of him"? I suspect that God would have better things to do in eternity than to spend it watching humans burn!

Folks, when you think about it, what crime could a human being commit, even if it were possible to do so, that one would earn a sentence of burning (every second) throughout a unending eternity? A conservative estimate would be for trillions of years). And how much is just one trillion? I know what you're thinking, so Solomon, you're saying that the Canon is wrong? Or, on the other hand, are you thinking that Solomon is simply an abuser of grace, and wants to do away with hell (a place that he is likely headed for, right)?

My answer is unequivocal in that regard and it is simply this? Men wrote the books that are contained within the canon and other now sacred texts. And humans by nature are often mistaken, prideful, twisted, egoistical, insouciant, self-absorbed, vengeful, wrongfully motivated, self-absorbed, sadistic, manipulative (and that's just the religious ones)! Also, we weren't told to worship a book put together by humans, were we?

Second, the need for humans to have a book or set of rules that is skewed to their liking, and would justify their need to avenge their enemies is a common thing among humans, just consider the books of jurisprudence. If you believe something long enough, pretty soon it will no longer be considered a belief, soon it will become 'the truth'! So believe it or not, I am not trying to do away with hell, as it has been taught before, I sincerely believe that hell is a human construct, and that it is true as far as a fairy tale is concerned.

And if I end up there, I trust that one of you will at least bring a bit of water, cold mountain water if you would, and drop it on my tongue! Again, even the most intolerant religious sycophants, would have to admit that a super figure, would likely have more to do eternally, than satisfy a human taste for blood revenge, and to see human beings burn baby burn in eternal agony, that is unable to burn up and cannot turn off the pain!

I know that there are other other religious groups besides Christianity that I could write about, but I would prefer to talk about the one that I know something about. Many of the tenets, beliefs and practices in Christianity, reflects that of too many other religious groups.

To wit one person or group, is always better somehow, or more sanctified than the other. It is not our group that is going to hell and burn, it is your group that will burn, some believe. And not only that, to the winning, group or individual, goes the spoils, which is what many humans wanted all along – the spoils.

But here is a caveat that ought to be considered, even in the canon one writer wrote, "that God is not a man", think about it. And in another canonical text, it is written:"your ways are not my ways". What these writers are saying is simple: that the nature of God, differs far and wide from that of human beings. Imagine, pulling out those texts that appear to be twinged with human thinking and human biases, that pretty much wipes out most of the canon.

And therefore, when I juxtapose the nature of one other against the other, I have serious doubts about what has been compiled and voted into the canon, seeing how humans are responsible for its contents as well as its construction (Constantine, Eusebius, Erasmus, Origen, Justin ...). And, one must consider then, and I repeat, that what is written in most books, even canonical books, reflects the nature of human sources, that have been projected on to God.

Folks, not even the most vicious animals are as vicious as humans can be at times, and the lions don't even go to Lion Church. The lion will bite and hold the neck of its prey, an impala for example, not only to kill it, but instinctively to minimize its sufferings.

Humans on the other hand, prefer and will inflict intense pain and suffering on each other, for example cutting out one's entrails, and allowing the victim to die a slow and painful death, or to burn baby burn, forever and ever. Or mercifully, there is burning at the stake (their fellow human beings in fire ..., these are just a few of the means or methods of inflicting suffering and pain) that humans came up with and have deployed against other humans, throughout history, i.e., 'man's inhumanity to man', in the name of God.

Another canonical writer wondered, well, what is man that you are even mindful of him, God? Following his logic, what would God get from exploiting, what is really 'man's inhumanity to man'. Concocted? Over a prolonged period of time, humans have added a man-made twist to what God intended and intends to take place in the human family. My arms are too short to box with God, but some humans on the other hand. The real question is, are we in conflict with God or with other human beings and other human systems?

Part II

I just read somebody's mind, they're thinking, Solomon that apostate is confused and is going to destroy somebody's faith.

But consider this for example, what if I help to free some person's mind, so that they can pursue other than the God of the Riddle, the real "what we refer to as God", and not the God of the tale.
I really do wonder why other religious people cannot understand how the extreme ideas that most humans come up with and record in their sacred books, as if they were derived from God, serve a historical human need for revenge, vengeance ... particularly against other individuals, and also a need to validate and vindicate oneself.

But somehow their must be some justification for hurting, burning, crucifying, imprisoning, impaling the other, usually, the personification of themselves. That is what too many religious people want us to believe that God wants to get them (the other side) for the perceived wrong that they did to them. Man, it God starts getting people for that reason, then God has to get all of us, because all of us do or have done something at one time or another to someone else. I am a nice guy, but I have hurt some people too. How do I know? They told me!

Intentionally, I wouldn't hurt a flea, however, after I was apprised of the facts, even I understood, wow, I really did that person wrong. So, if the person who wronged me is to burn, then I suspect that in turn, I have to burn for the person that I wronged. And if that if it is true of everyone else, that we will be punished for the individuals that we have wronged, then every one will burn. In other words, you won't have to walk that far to bring me a drink of Perrier! Syllogism?

Yet, too many religious people are 'wrapped, tied, tangled and bound up in this kind of non-sense. Too many of us have grown up in a culture where they have been taught and conditioned to believe in 'fairy tales', even fundamentalist religious tales!

Teaching fairy tales to children is primal and a part of the socialization process that is used to teach children in their formative years. For it is during the formative years that children are taught fantastic, vicious, salacious and murderous fairy tales by their parents, grandparents and school teachers that will shape them for life. Consider the plot in the story of Hansel and Gretel. In it, there is this vengeful witch that wants to consume little boys and girls. What a great story to start kids off in the formative with, correct? And most of us heard tales like this when we were the most vulnerable.

And along with evil fairy tales, we were also taught about a God of love, who was also a God of vengeance, one that wanted to kill or burn up little boys and girls and their parents someday, if they failed somehow to do what they should do or were taught to do by their parents, the minister or God. During the early stages of life, the formative years, it is often instilled into little boys and girls that someone wants to hurt them, which causes many of our children to wake up during the middle of the night, screaming, as a result of a horrible nightmare.

I truly do appreciate what the well-intended writers of most of our sacred texts had in mind when they wrote. However, much of what ended up in the Canon did not come from God, men wrote what is contained within the 66 books, and many of the texts were subsequently tampered with, trampled upon, mistranslated, some voted in and others voted out. And all too often, the texts derived from dreams, nightmares, riddles and historical tales.

As much as the writers want you to believe that God dictated what they wrote, that is simply not the case. And sadly, what was written and included in the canon, for example, has become sacrosanct over the years, is above question and cannot even be examined for errors.

I like what Jesus said to his Apostles, when referring to an often quoted text: "You have heard by them of old time, an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, but I say unto you..." Jesus, thankfully did not attribute the saying to God, and he made it clear that what he was saying, "came from him and not from God”. Too often many statements or quotations have been attributed to God, that were inspired by humans, human conventions, human wisdom, riddles and fairy tales from the past.

If you were to investigate the sources and the motivations behind what has been written in the canon, ..., don't be surprised if you come away wondering, am I crazy for believing in this stuff at all, in deference to pursuing what is real. Much of it has human fingerprints on it, as I have discussed in some of my other writings. Most people are afraid to engage in such a strenuous exercise, that is to seek the real truth, because they are afraid of what they might find out, the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth happens to be. Can we learn from writers of the past? Of course we can?
But what can we learn today, if we were to get off of our ducks and go after 'what we call God', in the present.
And also by doing so, true or not, iou were to do so, you could be banished from your significant other groups if you were to stop believing in myths ..., and take the responsibility of pursuing what is real for yourself .

I can recall as a young man, when we were discouraged at our church from attending. 'The Cemetery', as they referred to it then, the latter being the Seminary. It was difficult enough to go to the worldly college (and then later a religious school anyway) given what I was taught, seeing how God had already explained to our fundamentalist leaders,that my people needn't go to any of those devilish colleges. God told them that!

And guess what happened when I went to college? I was taking a philosophy class, and one day the PhD. professor referred to a scripture in the bible, taken from a letter that was written by the Apostle Paul to the church at Corinth. My professor uttered these blasphemous words, he said: “Paul was wrong, when he wrote that the greatest of the 3, faith, hope and charity was charity “.

Uh, oh and check please. I sat there in shock, while feeling the fire and brimstone of hell nipping at my heels, as I listened to this unwashed blasphemous heathen say that something in the bible was wrong and Paul was wrong.

Then I thought to myself, “They told you not to go to college”. Well, I kept going anyway, not knowing that I had become somewhat of a positivist myself. The fact that I went anyway over the church's teaching to the contrary, proved that. In fact as I began to study more intensely over the years, and learned even more about the Apostle himself, I realized that the Apostle Paul was an authoritative character who often shot from the hips just as my philosophy teacher did, and that the Apostle was in need of a bit more scrutiny himself. I know, "blasphemy"!

One of the telling things that he wrote in his letter to the Galatians was this: "I didn't go up to Jerusalem to study with the Apostles ..." What he did was to repeat what he had done before, when he garnered letters and set off to bind up the people of 'The Way', individuals who did not see things as he saw them at the time. And just as he set off 'to bind up people, the first time, literally with letters and bindings[, this time he set out to bind up people with his untested interpretations, and without training from the other Apostles.

Paul said, wrote, taught and engaged in practices, as he saw fit, and according to what he believed to be true. The fact of the matter is that the Apostle went with off on his own with him, in some instances, untested conclusions about matters that were of importance, without having his ideas tested beforehand. Try pulling that off in one of today's Christian churches.

Now, what religious group or organization do you know of today, that would tolerate any one of their leaders to behave in such a manner as the Apostle did, on yet another occasion, just as it did first following his training under Gamaliel, on the Road to Damascus? However, even the Apostles compromised, and allowed Paul, wide latitude, even in terms of 'his writings', as Peter put it, something that today we refer to as scriptures today.

Were Paul's writings scriptures? I ask you? I think not. For much of what is contained in Constantine's canon, and considered to be sacred, particularly in the new testament, derived from a man. And ironically, Paul is the same man who wrote to the church at Thessaloniki (modern pronounciation), instructing them "to test everything and see whether it stands up". Who tested Paul and his writings?

The fact of the matter is that some of what he wrote fails to stand up under scrutiny -I am in trouble now. For example, consider what we refer to as 'the rapture', as an example. Frankly, the Apostle has people 'bound up' to this day, in my opinion, given his writing about the so-called rapture. And he has done so to the extent that many readers are afraid to test what he wrote, by simply "asking God", if all of what he wrote was true or not, or divinely inspired or not.

Thankfully, when it came to certain matters, he admitted that God did not inspire him to write what he wrote, when it came to certain topics. What Paul concluded and wrote about, is what matters to most Christians today. I have set under religious leaders and teachers who behaved in a similar manner, they would yell, degrade, bind you, castigate, humiliate, you publicly ..., simply, and that would happen when you would ask them a simple question.

In fact, some of them would quickly dispose of anyone who did not believe as they did, or blithely ignore anyone any of scholar ... who did not draw the same conclusions as they with regard to a canonical text. Questioning, debating or probing was completely unacceptable. Now that folks is what I refer to as 'binding someone up'. For either you accepted what you were taught as being true when you had questions, or you would be disfellowshipped.

The Apostle Paul, would on occasion separate, have punished, prisoned, excoriated, delivered for capital punishment ... that questioned his conclusions. As I close, I suspect that it is time and has been time to begin the unbinding, so that we can pursue all of what is real, as opposed to being limited to some other, well being at times, individuals proprietary explanations for what is real.

The former has and will only lead to more disastrous consequences and conclusions, I believe, that is if we don't change course. If nothing else, it will give us the impetus, if not a feeling of justification for 'literally binding and murdering other people', that fail to interpret ideas or events in the manner that we have been taught to do!

Too many of us have been bound up for too long ourselves, and have not been loving people "Christians or not". Instead, we have become intolerant authoritarians who use a top-down approach to force others into conformity. We have become Jonah-like Christians, anti-secularist, sexist and unloving apologists for doctrines that were conceived and in some cases contrived merely by humans.

To imply that all of us should live by fairy-tale-rote, seems to me to be an grave injustice to what God, as we refer to him as, intended. Folks, it is time to put fairy-tales, myth, parables and good stories, into their proper historical contexts and to move on.

I moved on, because I am certain that there is more to life than riddles and myth, the kind that most people have been taught to believe. I believe that if God is what most religious people have concluded that God is, that there is one phrase that he might in fact agree with that is recorded in the Canon, and it is this: "They said, I said, and I never spoke to them". Is God speaking through me? Test it, don't just accept it!

Wouldn't it be fascinating, to hear 'what we call God has to say'? The Apostle James, instructed dispersed Jews to do just that. He wrote: If any man lacks wisdom, ask God? Wait a minute James, God not hear a sinner's prayer. In the case of believers, wouldn't they be required to go to the priest, or some other mediator and have them ask God? I can recall when a 9-year informed his mom and I, that God came into his room and spoke to him in the wee hours of the morning.

I asked, "and what did God say", when you asked him, "where are you"? Well, according to the child, God apparently got smart with him and said, "I AM IN YOUR ROOM of COURSE". Now, was God in the child's room? Did God speak to him? I am convinced that the child had a real experience?

Why don't all of us, religious people and non-religious, start over again, accepting the fact that we have been taught about God in the manner that one would teach a child. When on the other hand, something that is so important ought to be taught on what we could refer to as on a more collegiate level. By the way, most of the religious groups who taught that college was the wrong place to be before, have their own colleges now, and you can go there now.

What's the difference, really not that much, except, you might hear a bit more about God, than you would in a secular college, at least than about a fairy-tale God. More individuals today are interested in the scientific God. Oops, I said it. Blasphemy!! A God of science? Well, if what the tied and tangled up believe is true, that God created science: Then where did entropy, gravity, wind, water, firmaments, life ... come from?

Perhaps, we should all be willing to admit that we, religious people, have made some terrible mistakes over the course of history ourselves, just as other disciplines have done, even in terms of our misrepresentations of what we refer to as God, the nature of God in particular what God happens to be.

We already know that some of what we have taught in the past, as a result of quoting from faulty texts, that we assumed at the time were accurate, might have been misinterpreted, mistranslated and certainly misused before they were passed on to us.

And who knows, if we were to do so, perhaps what we refer to as God would reveal ITself, and what is true. One thing I know for sure is this, that if we don't do something soon, God will continue to be misrepresented as presented as a fairy-tale God.

In a religious court, God wouldn't be found innocent either if he didn't conform to the rules, and teachings of some religious groups. I'm not even sure that God would be ordained in some religious circles, if IT were to apply for ordination. It is time, I believe to reconsider our fabulously inspired and conspired religious paradigms, the ones that are often are often derived from poetry, epic, myth, fairy tales, allegory, speculation and mistranslations!

I am not saying that it is time to get away from what we refer to as God, in fact we need to come to understand IT better, get closer to IT and leave the nonsense behind. I suspect that IT, would want us to do so, instead of being described in a fairy tale manner. After all, how many times has your principle preached or taught, "We Need to Leave the Principles and Move on to Perfection", only afterward, to insist that you or your congregation remain land-locked 'within the principles". And don't be too hard on the secularists, for as I listen to what they have to say, I must agree with them that it is religion that bothers them the most, not God – they don't believe that there is a God - and they abhor fairy tales!

I don't and never have said things capriciously, but I have uncovered evidence to support my thesis, that it is time to move on, embracing history, but moving into the present while at the same time being connected with our source in modern times!

Peace & Grace Prince & Princess

Addenda: The title of this paper, derives from the lyrics of a song that is typically sung in black pentecostal churches. Even blacks are wrapped, tied and tangled up (in the limited amount of information that they have received) in the west, that has been filtered through euro-western culture, and religion.

We have to step outside of our frameworks, from time to time, and test whether or not our foundations are as firm as we believe or have been conditioned, with time, to believe!

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