Note: This is a continuation of the last post, so you might want to start there first. So then what is the point of religion? To some, religion is simply a way of deterring those that might do wrong. For a number of people, the fear of punishment is enough to deter them from committing an unjust act against another – whether that be lying, stealing, killing, etc. To others, religion is a means of growing spiritually – a path one takes to achieve new levels of understanding themselves and the world around them. Like so many things, though, when you try to do 2 completely separate things at once – when you have 2 messages instead of 1 – either one takes a back seat to the other or neither get the attention they deserve. It is very hard to serve both targets and so you get the split that plagues so many philosophies: the masses and the enlightened.
The argument is that the masses aren’t capable of the spiritual growth that can be achieved through study and reflection. They are much more interested in performing the rituals and blindly following the doctrine spoon fed to them by the religious elders. They are content to know that if they follow this set path, one day, they will be rewarded for their efforts… So going through motions is good enough. Besides, they don’t have the time or energy to think about their spirituality on a higher level. The second group – the enlightened, who take great interest in understanding themselves and the world around them – who long for something that intellectually stimulates them while personally challenges them – soon grows tired with the mindless conformity to rituals. They question why they do these rituals. What meaning did they have when they were initiated? How has that meaning changed? And is that ritual the best way to express that meaning at this point in time? Can it be done better a different way? And so on… the enlightened ones, those on a quest for meaning, are those that are engaged in their religion, who enjoy the understanding that comes from thousands of years of thought and debate…
The masses, however… those who believe blindly because they never questioned why they do what they do are the dangerous ones. They are the ones who are content to believe that they are the Chosen people, the ones that God loves best. The ultimate problem then becomes well, numerous belief systems claim to be God’s Chosen and in a world where global boundaries are diminishing, ultimately it’s only a matter of time before one Chosen people meets another Chosen people. And this usually occurs when one set of people has something (like land) that the other group wants. Suddenly, there is motivation to fight – in the name of God of course – the Spanish fight the Aztecs and force them to convert to Catholicism, the Israelis fight the Palestinians over the right to biblical Israel – and so forth. Each side is 100% certain that they are right, so in their absolutism, it never occurs to them that the other side may have a point. That maybe there is no absolute truth but they are all looking at the same situation from slightly different angles.
The enlightened are more willing to accept that while their own mythologies – the stories and allegories from ages past – are just that, a framework for which to interpret the world around them. But they must be looked at critically and debated with others. Other evidence, such as other writings, stories, and archaeological evidence must be used – like a trial whereby the prosecutor submits all evidence available to make the strongest case possible while the defendant does the same. The verdict comes when all those together agree on a story… but unlike the justice system, archaeology is coming up with new evidence to create a clearer picture all the time. Scholars are always debating pieces and finding new ways to interpret scripture in light of something else. With each discovery comes a new piece that can be added to the grand puzzle.