Beginning today, we’re bringing you a series by guest blogger Mark Derewicz that was originally posted on his weblog, which he calls Mark Derewicz’s Weblog. Mark describes himself as someone who likes to write and says that he has “lots of ideas and opinions, mostly about religion and myriad lesser and sillier things.”
Here, without further ado, is Mark Derewicz, guest blogger.
In the past I could lash out against organized religion with such a vengeance that you’d think the Pope had sold me a defective toaster that burnt my house down.
From the get-go there’s a major problem: a woman is more or less blamed for original sin. Man’s favorite scapegoat—the wife. Skip ahead a few thousand years to the Zealots of the pre-Christ Jewish state who were keen on assassinating those who differed theologically. Then, a few hundred years after Jesus was martyred the Church simply decided on what was Canon and what was not. The four Gospels were deemed divine. So were books entitled Romans, Acts, and Revelations. But there were many that the Church simply decided to not include.
The Inquisition, the Crusades, witch hunts, the KKK, Kashmir, and most recent, Bin Laden, the Taliban, and John Hagee. Some form of organized religion spawned them all. And, I have to say, I can’t blame any Catholic who is furious at the idea of organized religion in light of certain atrocities perpetrated by priests.
And that about wraps up this post.
Oh. Wait a second. I was supposed to defend organized religion.
The way I see it, organized religion is like organized anything. It involves people who are less than loving, people were simply born into a belief system, others who joined a religion to be part of a community, and of course the saints, those grand souls who are beacons of spiritual light–Martin Luther King, Jr., Gandhi, the Dalai Lama, Mother Theresa.
The thing is that pretty much the same thing can be said for every organized group on the planet. Think of governments. I have a problem with even the best governments. I think they are more or less political machines that involve some very good and very bad individuals. You could say that they’ve caused massive wars and millions of deaths, way more than any organized religion could lay claim to. Think of the ungodly Stalin, Hitler, Mao, and the Khmer Rouge. Do we want to go without government?
I suppose the real argument against organized religion has to do with groups of people organizing around certain beliefs–say, the belief in some unprovable entity called God. And that these groups clash over these beliefs. I suppose right-thinking people say, “geez, why bother. Can’t we just go without these religions?”
I agree that it’s better to go without religion if it causes division. But religion doesn’t cause division. Believers do. For instance, two people can look at the same Bible passage and can come up with two vastly different interpretations. One can lead to hate and exclusion. The other can lead to love and unity. When people say the Word of God is alive, they’re not kidding. It changes color depending on who looks at it.
Religion is kind of like The Force–it has a dark side and a light side. It can be used for good or for ill. I’m of the opinion that people who are antagonistic toward organized religion–again, I used to be one of them–simply ignore the spiritual power some people find in religion. Do you really think MLK would’ve had the resolve to accomplish what he did without his core beliefs found in the Word of Christ? Do you think Gandhi became steadfast out of thin air? Do you think Christ endured what he did out of some form of insanity? No. The spirit provides power.
But I digress. Organize is what humans do in “modern” times. A lot of us seem to relish in community. We organize according the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. We organize in defense of the environment. We organize to form fan clubs for our favorite rock bands.
With all these groups the problems are always the same–the members are human, and humans are imperfect.
At their worst, humans organize to form the Taliban. At their best, religionists organize to help their fellow man, to feed the hungry and cloth the poor and give money to the needy and council the grieving and inspire the downtrodden and on and on and on.
Religion, after all, is just the form. It is the template. It is the means to an end not the end itself. In other words, you pray and meditate and go to church and believe what you believe not because you’re supposed to but because it helps you progress as a spiritual being with the ultimate purpose of transforming society . . . slow though it be. The old Gandhian cliche is true: be the change you wish to see in the world.
When these organized religions teach hate or intolerance they should be called out. But, really, if an organized religion spreads hate or intolerance, they might be organized but they’re not religious. They’re not spiritual. They’re not of God.
I’d rather make this distinction than throw baby Jesus out with the bathwater.