April 27, 2020 1:59 am
Perspectives on Religiocism vs. Humanism by RUMI the Persian Poet, circa 1200’s C.E
”One day a son asked his father, “Which is the best world religion?
‘He answered, “None! As this does not concern me any longer
The father further enlightened’ I give no merit to any religiosity since ‘
when a revised religion is “revealed”, it only intensifies conflicts and human misery
It repeats enmity & hatred, and again inflicts religious “holy wars” of self-righteousness’
a new religion ubiquitously sheds blood of the innocents, over & over again
Thence, I am neither a Muslim, nor am I a Christian or a Jew,
‘since I obey thinking, tinkering, logic and rationales
Wisdom impels me to embrace happiness through co-existence,’
with all humanity and in harmony with flora and fauna
Paradoxically, religion commands that the bloods of the infidels
when shed would yield the “soldiers of God,” infinite rewards in the hereafter
Beheld, diverse bodied minds are also humans
‘Perplexing why any religion should write off as legitimate slaying?
Now you know my son why I have no faith in any religion
It is because to avoid shedding blood of my human peers
”My advice to you my son is to follow your own judgement ‘
to attain the ultimate supreme enlightenment and wisdom
Just remain in solidarity and comradely with all humanity ‘
as that is the best religion of them all
From as far back as the early Stone Age, our ancestral hominids must have developed a cognition to discern whether or not a certain invisible being was responsible for punitive afflictions. Amongst their reckoning was to attribute supernatural incidents to a supreme being whom they subsequently named God. Whereas the early God(s) worshipped were inanimate such as the sun (Sol Invictus and Mithraism), subsequent generations believed in omnipotent, invisible gods. What’s most intriguing is that only a few humans from the hunter-gatherer-forager communities grabbed the moment to exploit fear of the unknown to make the masses capitulate to their powers. Hence, the ruling and religious business hierarchies were founded.
Despite the ever-expansive explanation of natural and cosmos phenomena through scientific inquiries and discoveries, we still have not convincingly proven (or disproven) who or what must have existed a fraction of a second before the Big Bang explosion 13.8 billion years ago. One fact is certain, as we have acquired a deeper, broader, and better understanding of the Universe, we have shied away from superstitious and competing narratives by conflicting religious theocracies. However, that has not diminished the greed by two elite ruling/religious classes to exploit natural calamities as a means of herding sheep/humans to blind conformity. Simply stated, subjugating humans has paved the path for theocracies to attain their self-serving ulterior motives.
Human civilization has steadily advanced through settlements as was seen through the development of agriculture, animal and plant domestication, arts and crafts, foods and shelters, tools and weaponry, health and wellbeing, reading and writing, technologies and disaster prevention. In contrast, the politicized/economized religions, shamans, charlatans and shysters have continued keeping serfs and slaves in bleak darkness. The proliferation and imposition of religious doctrines, one copied from an earlier one and traced back to tens of thousands of years ago, spiked three rounds from the first millennium BCE through 650 CE; it has since however, subsided markedly. Ancient anecdotes such as the epics of Gilgamesh, Hammurabi’s Codes of the Babylonians of Mesopotamia (along with its reference to Ten Commandments) and a number of edicts in part from Persian Mithraism, Zoroastrianism, or Mazdeism, became the pillars for three holy book sequels: Torah, Bible and Qur’an.
What has remained most grotesque is that every new religion anoints its own loyal zealots and [blind] followers as the chosen righteous “believers”, thereby granting the holy warriors carte blanche to pillage, plunder, and defame non-believers as heretics or blasphemers. Whereas a religion when practiced by a minority group still remains benign or even progressive in instances, it is the domineering politicized religion which resorts to waging holy wars to annihilate the infidels, confiscate their property, enslave them (especially their women), and/-or impose heavy taxes on them. The religious/ruling pontiffs promise a never before seen HEAVEN as the reward for the sufferings, self-flagellations or self-mutilations of their followers on earth; they pledge the imminent return of a messiah (God’s son or a descendent of a prophet) to emerge from occlusion to establish the God’s just kingdom on Earth.
Certain philosophers have argued the need for religion to maintain order and security. They instilled immense psychological guilt and fear of one committing bad deeds; this may have had merit in lieu of the lack of secular laws. Such emerging religious kingpins later coalesced with rulers along with the most influential landlords and merchants to form sectarian clerical states. At the outset, a new religion may have been portrayed as progressive, but it soon deteriorated to inflict pain and suffering far more excruciating than most natural disasters. Later, a secular paradigm shift centered on life and humanism emerged, which competed with and was in stark contrast to religiosity. The new school of thought was manifest by propagating literacy and the development of human minds resorting to facts, logic, reasons, morality, and ethics; these became the pinnacles of the universally subscribed Golden Rule (Treat others as you’d expect them to treat you).
Throughout the past one and a half thousand years, superstitions, the belief in, and submission to a god as evangelized or proselytized by self-anointed prophets and their apostles or successors, peaked. They demanded the believers to sacrifice their livestock on holy days or amid a catastrophe. Believers were further demanded to pay substantial taxes. In addition to exorbitant taxes levied on citizens by governments, the persistence of religious hierarchies on collecting taxes still exists today in some cases (Jewish taxes are terumah, ma’aser, leket, shikchah, peah and machatzit hashekel; Christian taxes are alms and tithes, and fiscus judaicus required from the Jews in the medieval era; and Muslim taxes are zakat and khoms, and Jizya from non-Muslims). A self-anointed god acting prophet, or his apostles on earth, pledge in return to absolve one’s cardinal sins, giving them safe passage into a never before seen paradise. While excommunicating a disobedient infidel in the past meant burning, crucifying, or beheading at the altar, it nowadays refers to out casting one with dishonour or ridicule.
”Whereas one could only surmise that religious and ruling oligarchs first emerged as two distinct hierarchies, nonetheless, they soon converged as two sides of the same coin, or even two appearing on the same side of the coin! In modern times however, the more technocratic governments addressing the welfare of their sovereigns are secularly democratic. They are held accountable to uphold natural, civil, constitutional, common, and criminal laws. Anchored on human consciousness, liberalism, and the conservation of natural resources, such governments still protect the faith based practice rights of citizenry while ironically giving tax exempt status to religious institutions. Consequently, these elected governments (Scandinavian countries) have more than adequately served all their citizens well. Individuals’ inalienable rights to freedom of thought, expression and religious practice remain accepted.
‘Over time, a progressively larger number of people accepted a scientific explanation for natural phenomena, even if they still ‘freely’ held onto a faith or a god. Faith is especially deepened when one is stricken with hopelessness due to sickness, death, after-life fears, poverty, pandemics, disasters, violence, or injustice. Technological solutions can help us predict, control and minimize the impact of eclipses, meteorites, volcanoes, floods, earthquakes, fires, diseases, epidemics, famines, and droughts as we better understand interstellar collisions. As to random acts of nature, most people no longer perceive these disasters as the “wrath of a god or a goddess” against cursed groups or individuals.
Still, the illiterate, those on the lower socioeconomic fringes and disenfranchised masses, trust their life’s fate, pre-destined before one’s birth, to god’s purported lobbyists on Earth. This quenches one’s innate yearning to better oneself and uplift communities through questioning the very essence of god and nature. If everyone believes in self-empowerment and interconnectedness, it yields far more discoveries and technological advances that in turn inextricably enhance human communities on earth. Historically, it must have been the interchange of the ancient enlightenment amongst the Persians, Egyptians, Mesopotamians, Indians, Chinese, Egyptians, and the Greco-Roman philosophical thoughts of life and society that kept the torch of enlightenment intensely lit as the beacon of hope on the hill.
In particular, with the first world empire, the Achaemenes of Persia, founded by Cyrus the Great (5th century BCE) and credited as having enacted the first Declaration of Human Rights for his 34 federated sovereign states across three continents, and the golden age of the Athenian Pericles that followed, the foundation for (inter-)independence of thoughts, reasons, logic and rationale were laid. Exploration centers of learning in Alexandria of Egypt, Gondi-Shahpour of Persia (Iran) and the school of Athens became the beacons of enlightenment on the hills to question and describe natural phenomena. Philosophers such as Hippocrates, Plato, Socrates, Democritus, and Persian polymaths as Avicenna, Razes, Algorithm, Khayyam, Ferdowsi, Biruni, Farabi, and Averroes, and renowned physician Maimonides who followed his Judaic predecessors as Abraham ibn Ezra, Isaac ibn Ghiyyat, Moses ibn Ezra, Yehuda Alharizi, Joseph ibn Tzaddik, and Samuel ibn Tibbon, laid the foundation of explaining nature, the human body and free human will to shape and enhance quality of life amid the past 1500 years and against the dominant periods of religious ruling demagogues. Following several waves of Roman crusaders razing Mesopotamia to quench the existence of the progressive thoughts by Jews and Muslims in the Levant, and the rapid expansion of Islam and the submission to Caliphs, a shift to an enlightenment platform in Europe ensured, followed by a regressive inward mysticism in the Islamic hemisphere.
Magna Carta Libertatum (Great Charter of Freedoms) decreed by King John of England in 1215 CE, ushered in a new progressive era whereby individual rights, habeas corpus, due process, legal representation, and fair trials were eventually instituted. Reaching its zenith in the 18th century Renaissance, this further presented the opportunity for all to question anything and anyone, leading in turn, to freedom of expression of thought, the arts, free assembly, and proliferation of scientific discoveries and technological breakthroughs. Nothing, or no one, was deemed sacred any longer in the Western hemisphere. Ironically, the eastern peoples, especially the Iranians, who were among the pioneers of contributing to progressive thoughts and novel ideas since antiquity, went dormant under the rapidly overwhelming amount of regressive Islamic religiosity and its embedded superstitions that was triggered back in the 13th century but reached its zenith in the 16th century. The Iranians were coerced to take an opium stricken, mystical inward, and backward nostalgic seat. It was only after the downfall of western colonialism’s grip in Asia, Africa and the Americas post WWI that the indigenous citizens in these strategic regions, especially the Iranian and Persian Gulf hemisphere, began to achieve a slow but steady reawakening.
One reality is inextricably clear: with socioeconomic, political and educational progress, people’s belief in religiosity and superstition subsides. Religiosity, at the very least, retracts to a faith in a god in one’s heart and condenses into a universally accepted golden rule of good vs. evil (do onto others what you expect to be done onto thee). Simply, even when one believes in a god or a supreme being, a believer should not resort to oligarchic priests turned aristocratic rulers on earth to fetch him favors with his god. As such, this god must be recognized as the ultimate source of intelligence, competence, power and knowledge. Such a god should not be denigrated, resembling an angry man, with urges for genuflecting or prostrating before him. For millennia, the name for God in Persian (more aptly, Proto-Irano-Indian) is Khoda and earlier referred to as Goda or Gotha, which literally means “self-actualize”. Sa’adi the 13th century Persian poet recites, “Getting to know thyself is equivalent to getting to know ‘God’ in thy heart”. God, in the gnostic sense, is one’s innermost consciousness after all. This will then guide us to execute our calling and legacy in life.
Pragmatically stated, I savour a pomegranate at this moment over a promised quadrillion fruits of paradise in the never seen world hereafter. On my daily walk, enjoying the plants and flowers in our neighborhood, I become intoxicated in hearing every single chirping of each bird as I gaze at where they each are hiding on trees, rooftops or deep into the plant hedges. My family, community, and my students each give me much strength and a clear sense of purpose to play a role toward safeguarding justice for humanity, and sustaining nature. So, what else should I yearn for except what I have remained blessed with?
In an ever increasingly intertwined web of our short lifespan, not only for humanity’s sake, but also for all living species and the inanimate on earth, we remain ecumenically far more interconnected and interdependent than ever. Accordingly, the purpose of life and our individual calling should be articulated by us via inquiry, observation, experimentation, mimicking and controlling nature while anchored on logic, morality, ethics, ethos, facts, and science.
Let us conclude with the sage words of Sa’adi, the 13th century Persian poet (inscribed on the arch entrance of the UN Geneva Headquarters):
Humans are all integral members of one frame’
since all, at first, from the same essence came.’
When by hard fortune one limb is oppressed
‘the other members lose their desired rest.
‘If thou feel’st not empathy to allay other’s misery
‘a human, thence, is no name for thee.’
Alas, in search for God I visited synagogues, churches and mosques
I eventually found God through self-actualization & in the holiest temple of them all,
God is in my heart and not above the seventh skies, or in a sacrosanct mausoleum
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This post was written by Freeman Ure