The view from down here
Truth Or Consequences
July 17, 2008
When it comes to religious choice you must decide to either follow the facts where they lead or pick a belief and focus on the practical matters of your spiritual practice. You must follow the way of truth, or suffer the consequence of being left behind.
A lot of people like to hold up their sacred stories and call them the Truth. Of course they do! That's what their religion tells them. I am the truth and the way. Nobody comes to the father but by me. Really, why would he say it if it weren't true?
No, I'm talking about a search for truth not as a destination, but as a journey. It's easy to get off your horse, pitch your tent, set up a fire and sing the truth of your belief. What happens if you stay on your horse and keep riding, keep asking, keep looking, and decide not to rest until there are no more unanswered questions. Then stay on your horse just in case?
I realized early on the basic difference between religious truth, which is more or less fixed, and scientific truth, which by design grows and adapts when more data becomes available.
The hard part about following the facts where they lead is that you must be open the possibility that there is no god, never was, and never will be, except for the perceptions that exist in your own imagination. For a long time I was very open to the possibility that what was told to me in church was true. Even today, if someone can summon up real, unbiased evidence that proves there is a god, then I'll even consider that.
However, I was also willing to consider the alternative, that there is no god. It has been my experience that once you open the door to the possibility of no-god, and are willing to consider this as a legitimate possibility, you will eventually see religious faith and truths in a very different light.
The question that you must face as an atheist is this: If there is no god, why does everybody think that there is?
This is the cross-over point. Once your journey takes you this far and you face the question of why churches teach what they teach and say what they say, and consider this in the context of no-god, you will see these religious truths differently.
If Jesus is not really the son of God, what is the driving force for churches and church leadership to promote that idea? Certainly and by far the most common reason would have to be that the church leaders really believe that, and they believe they are doing good by teaching that.
But that alone doesn't make it true. It merely means that these ideas are popular.
You must look at the history of the church, how it was founded, why, under what circumstances, and how it has changed through the centuries. Certainly, if you would like, consider the possibility that Jesus died on the cross, and that his death and resurrection offers salvation to anyone who believes that his death and resurrection offers salvation to those who believe. But is that the only viable explanation under which the Roman Catholic Church and its descendants could have come to this particular configuration?
The role of a church in a society can offer stability to an unstable people. Telling people that an angry god will punish them can have quite an impact. Can you think of any institution that has an interest in promoting its ideas, attempting to maintain membership and interest, and acts in the interest of maintaining the institution? That's right - all of them.
It is certainly possible to see why a church organization would prosper and proliferate. Rome never fell. It just changed shape from republic to empire to ecumenical.
Then there are the easy questions such as, if god loves me why would he want to torture me forever? If my salvation comes through the sacrifice of Jesus, why isn't he still dead? I mean, that's not much of a sacrifice now is it? If we are made in the image of God, where is the Goddess? Why does God need so much money?
All of these questions, the simple ones, the silly ones, and even the deeply philosophical ones, all have answers in both secular and religious paradigms. When you put the secular no-god answers next to the miraculous god-said-it answers, the religious side tends to look a little silly.
Bring in the gnostic gospels and set them alongside the canonical texts within the historic Hellenistic backdrop of the mid-to late Roman republic. Suddenly the story of Jesus takes on different, perhaps richer context. Borrowing from the Egyptian Isis and Horus, Dionysus from the Greek tradition, as well as Moses and Joshua from the Torah, early Christian texts seem to be telling the story of personal spiritual transformation through ritual baptism.
As a mythic icon, dying to a life bound in suffering and awakening in spirit, the death and resurrection of Jesus mirrors our own awakening. His transformation becomes our salvation as we too ritually die to a life of sin and carnality and rise into a life of spirit.
Bound to the modern perspective which requires adherents to accept Jesus as a literal figure, and the circumstances of his birth and death as critical physical anomalies, we lose the opportunity to understand the point of the original Christians and must be forever bound in pointless and pathetic arguments about how many angels can dance on pinheads.
Modern religion demands that we lose all historical and mythical context, and with it the possibility of understanding a truer and deeper awakening than you can get by following the literal storybook version.
The Church teaches that to question The Church is not merely wrong, but a sin. With the carrot and stick, love and torture, they keep the story going so they can keep the story going.
You have to be able to throw the entire thing away and stand utterly naked before the void before you can begin to put the pieces back together in a meaningful way. The truth is we don't know everything about the Truth, and our journey is not yet complete.
But you can't take that journey until you step out from under the stories and lies told to children to keep them afraid and under control. If you prefer, stay in your bed and hide under the covers from the monster in the closet who will bite your toes if you get up.
Maybe the bulk of religion is just a way to keep the kids sleepy and in bed so the grown ups can have some fun.
As Paul Harvey used to say, "...and now you know, the rest of the story." Ain't it the Truth!
Copyright 2008 Daniel LaFavers