If there is one thing which I struggle with it has to be the concept of faith. When I look out into the world and see the damage which Christianity, Judaism, and Islam have done I am left wondering how anyone can still hold onto something which has become so perverted by the men who claim to understand it best. Each of these faiths has taken what is essentially a guide for living and turned it into a means to shackle the minds and lives of whole populations for the promise of something that isn’t theirs to give. The sad truth is that more lives have been destroyed in the name of, and through the practicing of, faith than have been enriched.
The refining of faith from ancient times until today is an interesting one. Before the major monotheistic religions there were polytheistic ones. There every aspect of the world could be explained, every event had a god or goddess controlling it, somehow the deities themselves were a little more human. Everyone had a place and there was a deity for everyone. It wasn’t perfect, but in the absence of science there was a means to understand the natural world and to understand ourselves and there was a story to cover every eventuality. In moving to just one deity a schizophrenia creeps in and abuses of the central belief become more easily hidden. By endowing a single being with all the needs and beliefs of humanity that being has to become vengeful, judgmental, angry, loving, and all the other things which we desire answers to. But with each of us being individual to try and claim the same god becomes an impossibility. If two groups disagree on the tenants of faith then how can they both be the children of the same god. Surely if all are to claim heaven they must all believe exactly the same things with no contradictions? The trouble is that they don’t. The things which are similar tend to be lost in the smug satisfaction that they hold the truth, they are the only ones who will get to heaven, and that leads to radicalism. Faith turns into a weapon through words and guns, innocent people die, and lives are destroyed. And isn’t it wonderful to look out over a world decide it is less than you and feel you are the only one who can save it if it will only let you control it?
In fact it is very easy to see how old beliefs have been hijacked, reworked, and in the end fed back to the masses as a fresh idea. Zeus becomes Jupiter who in turn becomes the God of the Christians. The pantheons of the Greeks and Romans become the Saints. Hera the queen of Olympus becomes Juno and then in turn becomes Mary. Even these cme from older faiths and beliefs. Changed as society changed and the need of man to control new ideas grew. The same stories born out of the same very basic human needs are reborn and given new names. But when we come to the idea of having only one God and forgetting our need to explain everything we become diminished because the deity just can’t cut the mustard.
When we look at the idea of a single god it becomes impossible for us to cover every question we have about this world. How can one god allow bad things to happen if he loves us so much? How can one god punish the righteous and the unrighteous in a single event such as an earthquake? How can he not punish the people who hurt in his name? How in the end can we trust any of the imams, rabbis, or priests when each faith has so many factions within it and all of them claim to be the only path? When we had Zeus the Thunderer, Poseidon the Earthquaker, and the rest of the pantheon interacting with the world became easier. In the end I believe that it’s time to actually throw out the church, the temple, the synagogue, and the mosque and instead take responsibility for our own faith. That way we all hold our key to the gates of heaven and no one can hold us hostage because of their “faith” and if we want to follow a single god then we must claim him as ours and accept that he will not be the same for others. God in fact needs to be moved back into the individual and away from the group. Only then will we hear his voice again and not the echos of our own guilty subconscious remembering the prejudice of others. Only then will we leave the last homely house on the road and truly have to live our faith robustly and without fear.
Imagine for a moment a world where you could have your own faith which gave you a path to the paradise of your own choice. Imagine that there were no rules except the ones that you imposed onto yourself. Imagine that your God spoke directly to you and that you were your own prophet. Imagine that no one else had the right or ability to define what that faith, how that relationship with your god was. Now imagine living in a world where that applied to everyone, where everyone made their on moral decisions and lived according to their own faith. We would have to change dramatically in how we interacted with the world. Three things would happen immediately. Firstly everyone would have an equal right to claim access to their afterlife. There could be no hi-jacking, no damnation by another because we would all know deep in our hearts that we were acceptable to our God.
We live on this planet for a reason. It’s not a waiting room for the paradise to come, it’s actually the sum total of our existence. What happened before we were born and what will happen after are places that none of us can prove beyond a shadow of doubt, and so we have to accept that it is in the here and now that we must live. We have to ensure that our faith is in line with the needs of the moment, not just focusing on a future which may or may not happen. We may accept the views of others but we have to be sure that they are our beliefs and that there are no grey areas if we are going to wear them as our own. In short faith has to become visceral and allowed to live freely. It becomes something that we have to live completely if we are to live it at all, and we also have to live in this world completely too.
When we take charge of our faith and see that it is ours alone with no right to comment on another person’s path, humility and personal responsibility are allowed in. We remove the right to judge others because we respect that another person doesn’t believe exactly what we believe. We become our own priest, our own imam, our own rabbi and we are responsible to ourselves for upholding those beliefs. Morally we have to be flexible because we must live in a world where ours is only one voice and it is no more important than any other. In that world everyone has to form and follow civil laws which are obeyed for the good of society not force our “beliefs” on others.
In this ideal world we would find that there were areas of crossover. Most people would agree that murder, child abuse, rape, theft, etc. were not part of their personal moral belief system. Usually the motivation would be “if I don’t want it to happen to me then I do want other people to do it” and so civil laws can be made pretty easily. Because they are based on majority assent and for the greater good of society a a whole these laws are able to adapt as society and people grow in understanding. They can evolve. Laws based on gender, sexual orientation, even age would become obsolete. These have very often been defined by faith not fact. The woman vilified because she is not a man and is property has no place in the world. In a right thinking society women are equal to men and should be treated as such. They aren’t property and have rights over their own lives. Men in seeking to control the production of children and the success of their own genes chose faith as the means to tell women they are less than they are.
When you look back at the motivation for laws that defined women, even into this century, it always seems to come down to reproduction and the control of the next generation. In controlling our own faith and living for it we would give every woman the right to her own body and it would be her decision how it is treated. Abortion, birth control, and the right to be other than a “good wife” are all part of this. The catholic church preaches that birth control is wrong, not because it’s in the worst interest of the woman, but rather because with birth control there are less catholics. Less catholics means less chances to control the lives of those who though the church condemns i.e. everyone who isn’t catholic they want to dictate to. Every faith does the same, at its core it is about control of the womb which is the ultimate power, and when a group has that they are truly powerful. Time to loose the bullshit and say a woman is her own being and has total say over her life in every aspect. She is not a vessel for future generations she is a living being with a right to enjoy the world and live in it as she sees fit.
The same would be true of the current debate on rape. At the moment faith controls how we view women. Whenever there is a debate it is always the woman who should dress more modestly in case they inflame a male’s base desires. It is always the woman who shouldn’t have walked where she did. The ideas again come from the definition of women according to religion. When we take religion out and put individual responsibility in it becomes our own fault and we don’t like that. Instead of the woman it becomes society’s fault that we allow men to view women as sexual objects and don’t teach them to control themselves. Faith has made the human body and intimacy taboo except under prescribed limits and they just don’t work. Instead of making it sinful to look at someone and see beauty and desire we should be doing the opposite. We should rejoice in it and teach children that their bodies are beautiful not shameful. We should teach them that everyone has a right to decide what they do with their body and that we have no right to insist they use it for our pleasure. The danger is not in allowing sexual freedom it is in restricting it, in turning it into shame, and not recognizing that there have to be ways of expressing it healthily.
It is time to stop the obsession with guilt and sin that pervades our society and to start living as human beings were intended to. When we accept personal responsibility for our faith and give the same right to others the churches would close but we would all see each other as we truly are, spiritual but equal, with no one person having control over our life. It would mean leaving behind the need to be sheep, led not living, and instead have the courage to live according to our convictions. Courage, in fact, to live as we were designed to live, free and equal. The road beyond the homely house is full of wonder and where we can truly thrive and make a better home.