If given a chance to live my life again, upon reviewing my life, there are some things I would choose to keep them some things I would choose to leave behind.

That is being human. Cultures and things inside those cultures like religions are all produced by human beings. Therefore you can say of cultures and things inside them like religions that there are some things you would choose to keep and some things you would choose to leave behind.

People like national leaders who are put in charge of cultures and religious teachers who are put in charge of those things inside of cultures called religions have a job to do and that is to perpetuate the way things are set up at that time. This is basically a political operation for both national leaders and religious teachers are politicians. That is because their job is to organize groups of independent people into a single social body. That means negotiating with individuals so they surrender their own liberty in exchange for the right to give the responsibility to decide on their conduct to a religion or a nationstate. In exchange people derive a sense of belonging and some degree of room and board and a police and a military to establish some security and social order for them to live in and defense from others without.

This political relationship between national leaders and cultures and religious teachers and religious institutions is all a product of our shared humanity.

But negotiation is by its nature a surrender of one's liberty in exchange for a payment from your society. And accepting that payment your obedience and expressed support is understood to be the deal of the deal.

Therefore when we look back at various cultures and religions in those cultures we are looking back at the deals people have made in the past and asking ourselves if we would make the same deal ourselves. Did what they get, in the end, seemed worth what they paid for it.

At this point it is good to point out that every religion makes mutually exclusive contradictory claims with all the other religions. They can't all be true. The only 2 alternatives left is that one of the most true and the rest of them is not true, or they are all false.

Because modernity is built on the notion that you can test an assertion about the physical universe by constructing a test to either demonstrate or fail to be able to that assertion’s falseness, our model called the standard theory of physics is a theory in which the various elements can include each other in the same picture and do not contradict themselves with the evidence of the world around them. This makes the scientific method and the physical model of the universe that we have based on it not only something that everyone can benefit from because it proves consistent and full of information we could use to understanding our universe and technology, but it doesn't put us in the quandary that religion does.

Religions are based on assertions about the universe they cannot be tested either piece by piece or as a whole. Religions are systems of ideas that are mutually exclusive to other religious systems. They are always internally inconsistent.

What can we do with religion?

Well we can look back at the past and see that acquiescence to one religion or another was necessary admission price to the security of society was going back to the era before written history began. Religions were a big bundle of assertions, not just about different ideas about gods and goddesses and different dimensions of heavens and hells. Religions included mythological and legendary stories that also carried information about how to organize social conduct as far as ethics and even carry out tasks like farming and animal husbandry and how to go about things through the year. In other words religions were like encyclopedias of what you needed to know, or in the case of what goes on after you die or in some other dimension, things you only think you need to know.

So religions aren't stupid or useless. Human beings are part of nature and nothing in nature survives if it doesn't have some utility or at least has the good quality of not bringing about a species extinction.

So you have to ask yourself what is it that a religion does that is worth doing?

I think that a form of cultural tradition that carries and mythology and legends that help us remember the difference between good and wicked conduct and supplies us with little models of what it's like to be human beings in human situations has a very, very useful and therefore necessary part of human culture.

Because I don't believe in an afterlife, (because there is no evidence of such), and I don't believe in supernatural beings or other dimensions, (because there is no evidence of such), I have little use for the kind of information that supposedly tells us what we think we need to know about gods and goddesses and other dimensions.

And I find the exhortations to save my soul or not make one God or another angry with me very hollow and so much hot air. Why am I so intransigent? Because all religions make mutually exclusive claims about such things and are internally inconsistent, none of them can claim to be the one that is true. And that only leaves “none of them is true“as the truth of the matter.

But I can entirely relate to the affection people feel for their own religions which is given them the language to both think about and express the meaningfulness but their lives and the world has for them. I can entirely relate to the affection people feel for religious celebrations which are official occasions in which instead of thinking about yourself you can think about your place in your community, and how valuable community and those shared moments of being part of a community are.

But that kind of appreciation, both a sense of ethics and conduct and a shared belongingness with other people are aesthetic experiences. That means that a sense of our place in the universe and our place in the community are like our taste in art or music. They are subjective forms of judgment mapped onto an infinite, impersonal machinery of the universe.

But now we come to the reason that I think we have to be very concerned about religion in our lives. The world and the universe is of itself an avalanche of amoral cause and effect played out through trillions of trillions of mechanical transactions all of them within the operation of the 4 basic natural forces of the universe and entropy and the various forms of higher order in molecular structure and carbon-based life form evolution.

Yes, it is a big impersonal machine. But that big impersonal machine has no sense of itself, it is not made of pieces that have a relationship to each other, so those pieces that don't exist can't have any meaning, because they're meeting would be created by the relationship. The universe is an infinite just what it is.

But it is also the truth that we experience ourselves as distinct from the universe and each other. We experience the universe as being built up of parts they can have a relationship to each other and therefore have meaning. Now I have to ask you an important question. Just because something has meaning to you but you alone, should you become upset and say that nothing has any meaning?

Of course not. If something has meaning to you it has meaning. It's truth comes from its establishment of a factual relationship between you and your own life. And because we are all human beings, it should come as no surprise that we all share in much of the meaningfulness of our lives. That's where community is just as real as the laws that govern the thermal nuclear fires at the heart of stars.

It is only the selfish, self-serving childish attitude that our meaning should be as important to other people as it is to us that makes us get upset about the fact that it is an impersonal universe and it has no sense of us is even existing.

Religion is the natural cultural institution of preserving social meaningfulness in an impersonal infinite universe.

It is as real as the taste of tears or blood.

Without our commitment to live up to the ethical importance of our experience of meaningfulness, we are just animals with a brain. A brain dedicated to make us dangerous with selfishness and technology.

Where ever you have a social face of humanity you also have a personal face of humanity.

The personal face of humanity is called spirituality.

Spirituality is a person's own commitment to pay attention to that interaction of self and life that has meaning. The stages that everyone goes through in life, birth, old age, sickness and death, these are all shared experiences and our commitment to understand our mutual experience using these as doors to open up our hearts to others is the ethical commitment of a spiritual living human being.

It is our job as social human beings to constantly put our personal experience of spirituality back into the community expression of religiosity to keep it alive and useful to the survival of the community.

In modern terms that means creating religious poetry and religious mythology like we would write hymns or Psalms as a vehicle to provide a platform of shared meaningfulness so that the culture and the religion of that culture is renewed and a living religion and culture.

But now we come in to confront the fact that we are all human.

As you recall nations and religions are administered by national leaders and religious teachers whose primary job is not spirituality, but politics.

This is why traditional religions have fought tooth and nail for the last 2000 years to allow the understandings of science and modernity has brought the world to displace them as the standard understanding of the universe shared by all people.

In other words, the first priority of those in power is to stay in power. And if that power is represented by a flag or a statue of a deity or a oath of allegiance or a series of spiritual assertions, then, by God, you don't change those because if you change those you diminish the imperative of their nature as being asserted to be law.


And because we are human, for the last 2000 years, starting with such people as Lucretius and his “on the natural world” and the atheists of today, a very human resentment and resistance is been built up on the part of those representing a liberated knowledge of the universe, a knowledge that makes modern life possible yet a knowledge that is denied on every front by the most conservative and fundamentalist leaders of every religious sect.

From the persecution of Galileo to referendums in school districts across the United States to make “creationism” a dogma taught on an equal standing with a presentation of the theory of evolution, you have an ongoing struggle to keep the mutually exclusive and internally contradictory institutions of dogmatic religion in the position of determining what passes for the blessed view of the world in every one of our societies on this world.

And in response all of religious mythology of such is been dismissed as just so much poetry and puffed up neurotic hallucination.

This kind of predicament is very human.

The fact is that we must accept that religious mythology is the poetry of meaningfullness, and reestablish ourselves as the authors of our own spirituality and religious life by making such poetry a valued community activity, one that we know comes from ourselves, but it has its value in that it expresses the essence of what it is to beat us.

There has been traditions in China and among the Sufis to indulge the value of poetry to express spirituality on a par with anything that tradition is passed down in big difficult books.

Take a look at that.

Now if you look around this we can see that many computer games are starting to incorporate gods and demons from the comic book alternate universe and I cannot help but think of that as expressing a desire to start making the games we played meaningful again.

Take a look at that.

Look at the way we create an impromptu mythology of heroes and gods and goddesses of our pretty if vapid music and movie idols. Obviously the need to worship models of socially valuable behavior are there as part of us.

Take a look at that.

Every nationstate drums up the value of the immortal hero at battle, someone who is willing to be slain for the social good. But the thing is that once we have our important little wars we leave them behind us like a cat leaves a pile of vomit. We immediately rushed off to the next little war like a child after a butterfly. And how many speeches of “we will never forget this fallen hero?” Has this poor world had to suffer, even as that hero turns to dust and their name is forgotten as soon as the sports news is announced on the next day's newspaper or radio or TV.

I look around me and I can count 20 actual military battles where people died on both sides that the United States has engaged in since I was a child, and most people in public discourse only mention 3. I think that most soldiers die for nothing beyond the goodness of the heart with which they were able to give up their life thinking of others. Doesn't that thought sober you?

But we accept this process of war because it fits the mythology of a small group of people wandering in the desert, slaying dragons, struggling to find their way back to the garden of Eden.

Take a look at that.

How are we as a world going to “reclaim the means of production” our spirituality, in a fashion that we can overcome our own avalanche of industrialized inhumanity in consumerism and in perpetual war?

So when I look at my own religion, Buddhism, I look at it as a human invention, which is only appropriate, because I need a spiritual sense of my humanity.

2,441 Words by Leo Rivers, the garage house, Cottage Grove, Oregon, Sunday, April 21, 2013 12:15:39 PM

 © Leo Rivers 2013