Religion in Society

End of the World? When May 21, 2011 Backfires

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There are in the world thee monotheistic religious traditions. The largest, called 'Christianity', started as a single monolith sometime around two thousand years ago, but now compromises thousands of different denominations, large and small. They all have different, competing versions and visions of the same claim which is: 'we' have understood the mind of God!

These claims, often embellished with layer upon layer of historical tradition are not easy to penetrate. The second thing they all have in common, is that in spite of their conviction of having a 'hotline' to the almighty, not one has ever been able to offer any demonstrable prediction of that divine will. A number have tried yet always without success. And every time it happens, the failure demonstrates just how dead, stone cold that hotline has gone. They are all dressed in the emperors new clothes.

The anomaly should be obvious to all, but even love is not as deaf, dumb and blind a religious conviction. In the modern world, we have become used to having claims demonstrate themselves by the active process of trust called faith, a process that offers a result upon which to make a judgement. In all aspects of life, everything from from our human relationships to scientific and commercial claims.

Trust in action, called faith exposes what works and what doesn't, what's true and what fails the test. That any sphere of intellectual intention, which makes claims to understanding, should demand and expect to be outside this intrinsic accountability for those claims, sits uneasily today for a growing part of humanity. Yet this is what religion demands.

If proof of the profound 'unknowing' of that potential called God were necessary, one Harold Camping, an American evangelical and radio broadcaster, is about to make it crystal clear once again; he has fixed the date for the return of Christ and something called the 'rapture' for May 21 2011. Given that no attempt to fix a time or date, for any act of God, by any religious or tradition has ever proved correct, may be why so very few ever attempt it now and risk the considerable humiliation when the bubble of their credibility bursts so publicly, demonstrating to all their own illusions and which itself may provide a general insight into the efficacy of the claims religious make for themselves.

An earlier attempt by this same wannabe prophet to predict Christ's return already failed in 1994. According to him, because of a mathematical error of  calculation. As if God were subject to mathematics? And while old traditions may snigger, they wouldn't dare make any similar prediction of their own. Such is the empty confidence they have in their own 'understanding'. They rely on 'tradition' to obscure that fact.

But lets humour the idea for the moment and consider. There are so many potential implications to muse over: If such an event ever does take place in our lifetimes, the 'Apocalypse' that the religious promise will rain down on the rest of us is much more likely to land on their own heads first, hard and heavy! First of all, 'Christian' institutional forms have been cracking up in disagreement for the whole of their history. Beginning with the origins of the Roman church, unresolved divisions started even with the choice of scriptural material that was was later to become known as the Bible. However suggestive scripture material may be, there is no recorded document or teaching of a specific 'revelation' ever being passed on to anyone by Christ or his followers. Most likely because it was always an oral tradition, a moral teaching, to be shared privately between individuals.

In the modern world, religious claims and false prophets are a dime a dozen. And however one may pay a politically correct lip-service respect to them, history continues to slowly pull the rug out from any creditability they might pretend to. Whether pedophile priests, acts of terrorism, false prophecies or dangerous intolerance, the foundations of all religious claims remain questionable. I don't intend making a case here against the potential for God nor in favour of atheism, but have no hesitation about openly questioning the efficacy of religion as we have understood that term via history. For if there is a God, tradition, instead of bringing us closer, has taken our minds and lost them among the obscurantism of scholastic theology!

The Christian religion as we know it in all of its forms, ancient and modern, is a theological construct. A human intellectual attempt to comprehend the mind of God. Theology therefore only exists because whatever Christ taught in ancient times is unknown, was lost and nothing has been revealed since. The question is this: is theology, upon which all of Christian/Judeo tradition is founded even a valid human intellectual endeavour? Or just the height of human intellectual pretensions, arrogance, spiritual vanity and folly? Probably. For that reason history has chronicled 'tradition' breaking, from the inability to agree on the nature of meaning, into thousands of pieces one can observe today. And anyone, priest, scholar or private individual, who opens up a Bible and thinks they have 'understood' is playing the theology game, and falls into the same trap. And that game may not be as harmless as it might appear.  

Whatever knowledge or insights might be embedded and hidden among the metaphor, allegory and parables of scriptures, Whether that recored is even complete, it is obvious that natural reason has been unable to penetrate it's secrets. However, these ancient texts are unambiguous about one thing. With more that two hundred references, both direct an indirect, warnings of false  teaching, false witness, lying interpreters, anti-Christs and of course the arch deceiver, unexposed and presumable at large, there must be in the world individuals, organisation and institution teaching falsely in the name of Christ.

So any true revelation must provide a path for human reason to follow, leading to understanding and the difference between what is from God and what is not, so a right choice to be made among so many completing claims. That 'key' and essential insight is what has been missing from all of religious history. As all tradition is theological, and all is without this key, what can be true if no one is false? But is it possible that everything we have come to understand as theologically based 'religion' is simply institutionalised wishful thinking?

Even the name 'Christ' is problematic. We are so used to hearing the expression 'Jesus Christ' as if this were a first and second name. When in fact, the word 'Christ' is a title for the 'one who reveals'. The bottom line is that if a second coming should take place in any form, what must be among the first priorities for such personage is to expose those whose claims are no better than chasing after wind. And to do so, such a person could very well 'reveal' a message at odds with all existing orthodoxy?

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Things could get very interesting confronting an entire history of human spiritual self deception. No doubt there will be much gnashing of teeth. Imagining the fall of two thousand years of intellectual and institutional form would be nothing short of revolutionary. But maybe such a revolution is necessary to force a critical self scrutiny of the human condition on a humanity that avoids confronting or considering it's own limitations, and exposing our 'system default' to gullibility and vanity might offer a useful lesson in humility.

So the idea of 'rapture' is down the drain and could quickly become an unexpected nightmare for the religious.  A second Christ is not going to welcome any form of 'theological' based truth or faith, but come to expose it!  If that is the case, what might the nature or character of a true revelation be that could distinguish itself so clearly from all human theology, dogma and doctrines?  That missing 'key' is the answer.

The very thing history has tried for centuries to convince us cannot exist: What science, religion, philosophy, theology, psychology, Hawkins or Dawkins thought impossible, a teaching that was itself a fully demonstrable proof of the living God. A teaching that by an act of faith is directly confirmed by that absolute reality. A teaching that delivers the first ever religious claim of insight into the human condition that meets the Enlightenment criteria of verifiable, direct cause and effect, evidence based truth embodied in experience. A moral teaching that represented a paradigm change in the nature of faith and in the moral and intellectual potential of human nature itself;  untangling the greatest  questions of human existence: sustainability, consciousness, meaning, suffering, free will and evil.  

Take a deep breath and think about it for a moment. There is nothing in scripture that contradicts such an iconoclastic idea, and much to support it. Only existing theological traditions don't have such a proof to offer. And as they have throughout history provided the dominant body ideas that make up our conception of God, ironically, none have done more to discredit the very idea of God than religion. It is no wonder that reflective, thinking individuals are now leaving religion in droves, atheism is on the rise and religious ideas are coming under increased critical scrutiny from outside.

There are few things other than the secular nation state that have been as destructive and divisive among humanity as religion. The opportunity to resolve the God question, should that opportunity ever exist, must be at the top of any dream list for Progressives. Even if that means questioning what has never been questioned before, beginning with ourselves as  species. The final act of that ongoing tragi/comedy we call civilisation may very well be for humanity to discover the greatest roadblock to progress, other than human nature itself, has been and is religion.

For all our idealism, neither secular nor religious thought have provided the values to reach out and satisfy the greatest longings of the human soul, have failed to deliver an enduring peace, quench our thirst for a higher justice or secure a  sustainable materialism. We have the dream but not the means. What has held those aspirations prisoner is rarely imagined, but if the catalyst with the necessary authority to realise the Dream were ever revealed, who would care enough to act?  Unfortunately, the world has usually preferred the soft, the easy and more convenient paths of intellectual vanity, political correctness and spiritual confectionary than the honesty and courage to confront human nature itself.

The 'world' is what we've made it and that's a pretty big mess. I wouldn't mind seeing the 'end' of it! If that simply means accepting a little help from above as the price for certain progress. But first we need to discover and know the difference between the illusions of men and the mind of God…. absolutely.

Without doubt, nothing is going to happen on May 21 2011 Existing religion is a human fabrication founded upon a vain intellectual imagination, yet the aspirations they represent are both real and mostly sincere and deserve better then the existing empty hope traditions offers. What might happen if they were pointed in the right direction? Our understanding of ourselves and our universe is far from complete. For all it's pretensions, science has little voice in the God question, but in demanding the scrutiny of any claims, visible or invisible, they are spot on. Should a time ever come, when the human imperative is to escape the gravity of our own thought, having as little prejudicial baggage to dump, religious or secular, could be a considerable advantage!