Views & Voices

Lost to Religion… ‘To thine own self be true’


There was a boy, a very mystified boy, who never realized he had the opportunity to live and love everything he experienced.

His parents told him only certain things were permissible, and that all else was forbidden. His school restricted what he was taught. His family limited his thinking to expectations of how best he could contribute to the society in which he lived.

Two gay Iranian teens, hanged in 2005 because they were gay.

He was expected to grow up, find a job, a wife and sire children.

His life would slowly fatigue him, becoming sullen, perhaps even sullied with what he had been told were impure thoughts that he barely recognized as even existing.

And if he did spontaneously react to such thoughts, he knew he would accept his punishment for his transgression as fitting.

Eventually he would die, without any real life achievement other than the one that had been outlined for him in the unwritten laws of behavior of obedience to his culture.

He never knew that there was a taboo on his knowing who he was. Who he could be was confined to who his community wanted him to be, needed him to be, for its own sake and never for his fulfillment as a moment of existence, aware of itself.

Indeed, he never knew who he was until he was dying, and his final words in salutation to his passing were, “Too late, it is finished.”

Contained in this moribund description, which is all too common for too many people, is the essence of what we have allowed ourselves to become, or not become, as the case may be. We have mistaken our traditions, our systems, our concrete enclosures, as the most important things we leave for the following generations.

Conformity has replaced the encouragement to discovering and knowing one’s self. It has gone so far that even to mention ‘one’s self’ seems pretentious, elitist and alienating. We have been taught that selfishness is only to be defeated by ignoring who we are, and that is the true horror of slavery; ignorance of knowing what freedom really means.

Yet, without a sense of self, life is incomplete.

Religions and cults play on this even though they may not be aware of it. Imparting a false sense of self for the sake of the cult is nothing new. Whether it be for the city-state of the ancients, or the empires of more recent times, giving the individual a sense of self for the purpose of serving the culture is echoed in the fabrications of the ‘teams’ so beloved by modern corporate industry.

Nothing is more self destroying than being told to be a team player by believing as everyone else does, to conform to the congregation’s aims in denial of your own life’s sense of self.

Every now and again someone rebels, often without knowing why, against the enforced customs under which they have been raised. Sometimes that rebellion is instigated inadvertently, imperceptibly, possibly even deliberately, by a person who is aware of the taboo on knowing who they are; that there is a self to love, without which we cannot have a capacity to love and be loved.

If the boy described above had met such a person, he would have had a different life.

He might have been content to wonder at the dawn, to absorb the rays of the sun and to lay on his back looking at the stars in the night sky. He could well have wanted to learn all that he could about all there is, or might have been content to live and toy with the universe, as his plaything, handing it down to his children for the fulfillment of their lives and awareness.

He could have thrilled to new experiences and discoveries that would enrich the lives of us all, not because he was restricted into being some kind of automaton decreed by his culture to perform, believe or respond in a limited way, but because he was free to give of himself; free from the myths of the supernatural, free from the demands of the greedy, free to be who was. And when he died, the love of life that he had experienced continues in those who knew him. This is the only thing we have that comes close to immortality.

But that is not what happens in our cultures. We indoctrinate our young to fear life and misconstrue freedom. We stop them from knowing that they are life experiencing itself because we enslave them to conformity and then toil in some insane sense of patriotic or religious duty.

It is perhaps no wonder that in the face of the taunts from those who have been coerced to submit to fear and hate, to cower in the shadow of ignorance, developing young minds attempt to cut short the journeys of their lives.

It seems so pointless if the self is culturally controlled, chained to the predetermined falsity of an avaricious culture, not free to be itself, unable to become aware of itself in adapting to its unique experiences, that it appears there is no love in life, and therefore no life is worth loving or of being loved.

This is what our cultures have done for the sake of religion, politics, profit and power. They have denied us the right to realize who we are, to be free to grow into rational loving human beings.

The result is that we end up with raving madmen shouting their religious tenets to limit human rights, to deny us our freedom, and to expose us to the ever present danger of them shooting innocent individuals to justify their ludicrous convictions. Instead of having faith in human goodness, they assume life is evil, that sex is filth rather than an expression of love, and so condemn us all to having no sense of self worth.

And the various authoritarian “Family” organizations in the U.S. wonder why they are regarded as extremist right wing religious haters.

Religion? Life gets better without it.

To thine own self be true.

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