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Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Focus on God, forget about religion and the clergy

Why is atheism more prevalent, and symbols of godliness so pervasive in popular culture?

The sole reason for the existence of organised religion and the often misplaced reverence for clergy is privileged and restricted access to God. This is reinforced by the fact that the two most distinguishing characteristics of human species is language and fealty to superior intelligence. Recalling atheism and travesties visited by man upon fellow man in the name of God, we should contemplate the issue of religion and God much more closely and rationally.

Does God exist? And if so, does the clergy (or theologians) have unique, unlimited and privileged access to His will? Should a fellow infallible mortal, intercede, on your behalf, with your loving creator or maker? Did God create man in His image, or, has religion (clergy) fashioned God in the image of man?

Human experience has provided complete and conclusive answers. I believe that God exists.

But there is good reason, too, for atheism, agnosticism (God too mysterious to know), polytheism (many gods), deistism (intelligent creator but impersonal god) and the widespread appeal of secularism as opposed to state theocracy. The main reason God remains remote and mysterious is religion. God does exist.

Einstein, Stephen Hawking and others however tentatively, suggest the same; even if theirs is a deist god, creator of the universe but impersonal. More scientists and philosophers state that God’s existence and non-existence are equiprobable. Scientist Pascal Wager recommended a solution: His consequences of non-belief are bleak and unchangeable; better to err on the side of belief. Now, how does religion explain God’s existence?

From Thomas Acquinas “Five proofs”, St Augustine’s theology and intelligent design theory to Islam’s direct dictation, religious contemplation and explanation of God is eventually lost in mysticism and embedded in “belief in belief”. Whenever religion fails to explain God, it resorts to coercion, blackmail and manipulation. A sophisticated tool theologian’s use is NOMA – Non-overlapping magisterium: there are separate questions which religion and science can each, separately, answer, and one is unsuitable or incapable in each other’s realm. In summary, incapacity of religion to explain phenomena cannot be filled by science; which is another way of claiming infallibility.

Religion is careering out of control. Osama proselytises damnation on all infidels. The Christian fundamentalist church in the US has evolved a new line of proselytising, which shifts unquestioning support of Israel to the centre of Christian duty to God, while Israel itself condemns Palestinians to a bantustan existence on some scriptural notion of Eretz Israel. And then there is the prosperity gospel and its contradictions in poverty ravaged Africa. God is not religious, because the essence of religion is ritualism. And ritualism is meaningless without mysticism and sophistry. Just think of the most revered religious symbolisms of the major religions...

The most cantankerous religions in the last 2,000 years are Christianity and Islam. Two to three thousand years of organised religion is infinitesimal in the long human experience. Besides, a leading biologist researcher established years ago that species get extinct after 100,000 years of existence. Our time as human species is soon up. Why should organised religion detract us?

Is it not time we dispensed with religion and focused on God? God’s key attributes are well known. Let believers directly access God and celebrate His grace and mercy. Let every day be a day of devotion and supplication. Man's cultural DNA demands not religion, but submission to a supreme being - God. And religion is largely irrelevant and unnecessary in this intercourse.

True, religion serves some purpose: social communion, comfort and fellowship organisation. But never does being religious equal godliness. The next tinderbox pitting God’s people could be religious; not due to irreconcilable clash in civilisation, but rather, inadmissible failure on the clergy to interpret God’s will. Clergy of all religions have created God in man’s image, and thus, intercessors with God on behalf of, and for, God.

The greater lesson is that whoever has elected to believe in God must seek direct access through prayer and submission. The clergy seek territorial expansion foremost to win greater prestige and influence, and only secondarily serve God better.

The lesson we must learn as believers, therefore, is to focus in God. Period.

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