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Stop Blaming Religion for the World’s Problems

March 4, 2009

I think that we ought to stop blaming religion for the world’s problems, whose roots I believe lie in the animality within basic human nature.  If anything, religion and to a larger extent, spirituality, is one of key forces that gives human beings a chance to refine their animal nature and become civilized.  The fact that many people, throughout time, in their quest for power, have abused religion and used arguments of moral superiority as a tool for political persuasion, imperialism, and manipulation of the masses, does not lessen the authenticity of the world’s religions and our basic human need for spirituality.  Nor should the possibility be denied (ref. Dr. Andrew Newberg) that human beings may be wired for spirituality.  Lastly, we should consider the positive emotional and health benefits that spirituality, when practiced with honest intention and seriousness, has brought to millions of people throughout time.

I respect the scientific movement, and encourage the investment of time and energy to the pursuit of scientific discovery.  Just like religion, science has many schools of thought and different interests that are closely intertwined with it.  It is very exciting actually, that we are able to grasp shreds of truth, in order to continue verifying the divine wonder of the Universe.  However, often scientists, out of what I believe comes from their hubris, insecurity and difficulty dealing with the unknown, resist the reality that people have existed throughout human history (like Aristotle, Plato, Rumi, Muhammad, Jesus, Buddha, Ptolemy, Nostradamus, and many more) who could not only grasp, but who were able to confirm for themselves as well as expound to others, many of the universal truths which modern science is only just beginning to get a glimpse of.  All the way back to the early days of Islam, the Faylasufs played the role of bringing the rational process into the discovery of God.  The origins of science grew out of this type of spiritual inquiry.  In the end, most of the great philosophers concluded that God was beyond purely scientific analysis and could not be approached solely by methods of logic.  One had to become closer to God through their emotional center, which is connected to the Spirit (ref. Ouspensky, Gurdjieff).  I can imagine and understand why extremists from the scientific community, who by the way, can be just as irrational and irresponsible as religious extremists, would scoff at such remarks, demanding tangible proof and replication of such statements in a laboratory setting.  Well, even these cynics are being proved wrong through the most rigorous scientific methods as we enter the era of Quantum Physics (ref. What The Bleep for a good introduction to Quantum Physics).  We are finding that the God experience is an emotional one, and that spiritual practices, like meditation and prayer, have tremendous healing and health benefits.

The amorality of most scientific practice is, I believe, a flaw and major hindrance that prevents its findings from being significant.  We must introduce ethics and components of morality and emotions into science – to make it more of a holistic process, and encourage interdisciplinary studies between various segments of science, philosophy and religion (see recent Time Magazine cover story for some recent strides in interdisciplinary approaches to science and spirituality); else, it remains something cold and removed from reality.  This concept of specialization (ref. Scott Peck), while useful in terms of achieving depth of knowledge in a particular area, has major drawbacks; it is like chopping off parts of the human body to see how they work independently, and then never bringing what we learn back into the big picture – it is insufficient and leads to erroneous and incomplete results.

This is not about being moderate or extreme – it’s about being supple, rigorous and holistic in our approach to Truth.  My hypothesis is that the deepest spiritual truths of the universe will always remain elusive to the masses, as well as the majority of religious, political and scientific ‘leaders’.  The esoteric teachers throughout history have cloaked their knowledge in symbolic language and passed it on through a process of transmission to worthy initiates.  There is good reason why this power has not been freely dispersed to the masses, for in the hands of the wrong people, it is generally abused for selfish and destructive purposes (see Lord of the Rings for an analogy).  As Shams-e-Tabriz of ancient Persia said to a cynic, “God needs no proof.  It is your existence which needs to be verified.”  And therein lies the process of Spiritual Work, and its importance for each human being.  It is, I strongly believe, our life’s purpose to prove, and make the most of, our own existence.  And spirituality, in some form or another, is the only way to achieve that purpose.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. June 30, 2009 10:18 pm

    Just watched Bill Maher’s Religulous, which I found to be a perfect example of what I advise not to do above – “blaming religion for the world’s problems”. I could not disagree with his conclusions and premise more. It is a big statement that he makes, and one that I think exposes some of the well-known problems of human nature – man’s inclination towards violence. To put that on religion is not a valid position in my opinion.

  2. Anonymous permalink
    June 30, 2009 10:38 pm

    arman, people r too stupid to handle religion and just end up twisting it to their needs. spirituality is one thing, but a blind faith to a dogmatic religion is a practice that just needs to die already

  3. July 13, 2009 2:13 am

    I understand why the last comment came in as Anonymous, and considered deleting it. However, I think that it is important to be open and invite people’s feedback, even if I strongly disagree with it or if others may find it offensive. Yes, I agree that “blind faith to a dogmatic religion” OR ANYTHING for that matter (including science, nations, man’s law or technology) is something that can cause human beings to regress. It can make us lazy to simply lean on this other force and accept everything that its representatives tell us without using our own intuition and other internal resources – life experience, reason, good judgment, emotional intelligence, etc. All Spirituality calls on us to “have faith” at some level, but this should never be blind. What that means to me, in my better judgment, is that we should remain open to the mysteries and all the possibilities of life. I am confident that for those who approach life with this type of open mind and heart, instead of a cold, skeptical mindset, they will eventually discover their faith. It is not something that you should blindly give, nor something that one can simply decide on – it is rather something to be achieved, as an internal, individual process. It is when we come to a certain level of awareness that we attain a sense of the connectedness of everything. We come to be in awe of the Universe, its diversity and its beauty – the precision of the planets, clockwork nature of the Sun and the Moon. We start to sense that the whole mysterious and sometimes chaotic phenomenon of life actually has some kind of order to it. Higher forces – forces greater than, but interconnected to man – become undeniable. “Higher” means that these forces are above man in the Universe’s hierarchy. Essentially, that is how I define true faith.

    And for the record, I do not believe in what the Anonymous commenter said, that “people are too stupid to handle religion”. I would say that religion has many colors and aspects to it, just like human beings do – and some of those colors are dark and deceitful, but many of them are very bright. There is no quick conclusion, nor is there one particular religious authority to hold accountable. The danger lies in the reality that any group of people who share some common belief system or interests – which could be a religion, a country, a state, a political party, special interest group, etc – hold a degree of power that can be abused if the group and its leaders do not possess impeccable integrity and work hard to maintain truthfulness throughout the group. As soon as the group begins acting solely for its own interests, in a way that excludes, competes with or degrades others, it’s a sign that things such as “blind faith” and “dogma” generally show up. So again, don’t blame religion for the world’s problems. Human nature is complex and prone to error. Yet through our conscience and minds, we have the opportunity to recognize our errors, solve our problems and evolve.

    • Anonymous permalink
      September 28, 2009 12:14 pm

      I agree with pretty much everything you said and that is exactly why I am don’t like the major religions. Listen, do I think all religious people are “bad” or out there blowing each other up….of course not. I know many “religious” types that are wonderful people, besides being religious. In talking to them about it the conversation invariably gets down to its essential elements. They simply have found the truth that has evaded so many others. In reality this “truth” they have found has been passed down their lineage much like their DNA has. These people had zero input about what they believed?!?!?! The truth of the matter is they believe what their parents believed what THEIR parents believed and this is largely based on geographic location. Born in the IRAN? You are now a Muslim. Born in Mexico? Welcome to Christianity. Born in Israel? Welcome to Judaism. These are the Paris Hiltons of the spiritual world, born into glory. I’m sorry Arman, unquestioning and lazy just aren’t two attributes I associate with the search for a cosmic truth and yet that is exactly what force fed religion offers. I’m sure there are people that have come to a religion from other sources and I respect those people. They “worked” to get there and I have no problem with them as I also do not have a problem with the basic philosophy of most religions, they almost universally preach good basic virtues (its when taken literally that we get into a problem). In the end Arman we are saying the same thing, you are just saying it a whole lot nicer. We are both saying that it is OUR fault as humans.
      PS>You are a talented writer and I enjoy your blog

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