Understanding religion requires the setting aside of doctrine in favor of the investigation of anthropology. As you might imagine, this is not encouraged by any religion.
We come closest to such investigation when we study comparative religion with an open mind. This is not easy to achieve and even Kinsey, Darwin, Freud and Marx all had to face conflict with religious indoctrination in order to gain a sufficiently open mind that allowed them to realize their important contributions to human understanding.
(It is a test of objectivity to see if it is possible to mention Marx’s name without inciting a subjective personal riot in the reader’s mind. Despite Marxism being applied to societies that were totally unsuited to its precepts, Marx’s theories on social reforms and struggles are perhaps being mirrored by the Occupy Wall Street movement, even if they are unaware of the socialist, let alone the communistic implications inherent in the OWS objectives. As far as this article is concerned, we are only interested in Marx’s distinguishing between political and human emancipation, and in that regard, the role of religion in society and his statement describing religion as “the opiate of the people”.)
Just comparing religions is not enough. We must look deeper to discover the symbolic nature of religious myth as discussed by people like Jung and Fromm in their various articles on the psychology of human development; individually, and collectively as a society.
Again, this is the real fear that lays behind the reaction of religious people when it comes to those who reject or do not subscribe to the doctrines of any religion.
Believers have generally accepted the myth of the religion which explains the origin and purpose of life in terms of a god. Worse still, the doctrines, the dogmas, the myths have been ingrained in innocent and naïve minds of the believers’ children to such a degree that questioning religious belief is all but impossible.
The first belief that is ingrained in the unsuspecting child is that the child must have a belief. The reinforcement of the religious values and beliefs is equivalent to the rape of intelligence, which includes the substitution of intelligence with nothing more than the religious belief. Entrenching belief is nothing more than creating a closed mind.
This is, psychologically, murder of the individual’s cognition.
When the cognitive process is so compromised, any intellectual argument purporting to convey facts will be obstructed, if there is no clear emotional correlation to the religious belief held. Interestingly, the cognitive process may still work for specific areas of study, or consequences, if the means or the outcomes do not intrude on the religious beliefs.
Rational argument is not immune to religious manipulation. Anything can be ‘verified’ by twisted interpretation of religious text, and ingrained belief represents a brick wall to any questioning of the mythology.
Understanding the psychology of religious symbolism is one of the great challenges if we are to realize the truth of our existence. It is in our search for truth that we most need our cognitive processes intact and unfettered by religious conditioning, and evolving to its potential in each of us before we die.
If we are to continue our human development towards discovering why we are aware, we must perceive, learn, and reason without the shackles of religious belief.
Note, this does not mean that the individual must be forced to vacate belief in a god. That would, in itself, be a violation of the human right to think whatever one wants, and is just as unproductive as entrenched belief.
There has been so much effort put into overcoming the religious authoritarian control over human societies and individuals, that we must not risk a return to the power and control of the priests of burden. Another Dark Age of superstition must be avoided, made impossible, or we are going to find our technology, freedoms and human rights being subjected to the whims of irrational fears.
Sadly, frighteningly, it appears that without rational thought, believers are intent on imposing religious repressions on the full variety of human cultures.
Many of us, this time, will openly refuse to submit to the stupidity of superstition. Too many will be destroyed on the altars of unfounded, unsubstantiated beliefs, or enslaved for the sake of inept political and economic expediencies, resulting in dying cultures.
Our achievements towards the freedom to live our lives in natural harmony with each other, without being persecuted for whom we love or wish to marry, is threatened in many cultures, by ignorance; under penalty of incarceration or being killed.
It’s all happening because of the primitive explanations that occurred to our ancestors for their survival and their own awareness of existence. They used their cognitive powers to create symbolic reasons, mythical explanations that we no longer need for survival, and if we are to continue to evolve, must abandon. The myths have served their purpose.
Anthropologically, our story must become one of discarding all beliefs that stop us from becoming fully human, and encouraging us to relate to each other with compassion and love.
If the story doesn’t develop that way our descendants won’t know and the cosmos will never know about itself through human existential awareness.