The Endless Flow of Society: On the Topic of Religion
The Endless Flow of Society is a piece I wrote throughout October of 2015. On the topics of society, religion, mental health, and government, I put my own “personal philosophy” down for people to read. I debated what to do with this piece. I considered publishing it as an e-book, putting it online as a PDF for everyone to read, perhaps getting my local newspaper to put it up bit by bit. I’ve been debating this with myself since I finished it, but I’ve decided to post it as a series on my personal website. So, I give to you the “manifesto” of my mind, a collection of unedited thoughts of mine.
ON THE TOPIC OF RELIGION
The problem with any idea spurring from any religious text is the human tendency to create a personal philosophy. In which the religious man or woman decides that they agree and disagree with specific aspects of their so-called Holy book. Thus, instead of acknowledging the flaws from within their own spiritual beliefs and embracing those passages of which they dearly adore, we see cherry picking in which the ‘wrong” chapters – or in this case those passages which do not coincide with the readers’ beliefs – being ignored completely.
In example, using Christianity: most people belonging to this in-group of religion will claim that the completely outdated and unmoral factions of the Bible (such as those belonging to slavery, of open racism, of “rules” that nobody wishes to follow in modern life such as the so-called sin of wearing two fabrics) are merely poetic metaphors and prose in an “Older Version” of the book. Then, those passages that do not coincide with the readers’ modern beliefs are all (such as most liberal ideas presented through the books, and any of the actual passages that make any attempt at modern morality and virtues) are being “taken out of context” and should not be taken as the seriousness that comes along with the other topics from within. Finally, any passage that coincides and fits in with the religious man or woman’s personal philosophy is cherry-picked. Those words, according to them, are “the literal word of God that everyone needs to know.” This is where we the current day religious war stands – within this category of cherry-picking and personal philosophy – on the topics of gay marriage, abortion, etc.
In summarization, the religious individual breaks down the institution of religion and makes it into what they believe in; mixing personal philosophy – the sense of self – with the institution’s influence upon them. These personal judgements create nothing more than a contradiction with what the religious faith wishes them to think.
When the idea of any personal philosophy is created, it immediately creates the world in its own image. Everyone and everything who happens to fall outside the poignant spectrum of this personal philosophy’s dominion is unheard of. Thus being referred to as an out-group, which further plagues the relationship between different deities – or in the modern day kerfuffle between the New Atheists and Conservative Christians. We allow ignorance to prosper in our so-called tolerable society, in which we see the literal and metaphorical executions of people (and their ideas) for merely going against and disagreeing with the personal philosophies – the dominant ideas which are being formulated by those of which who keep them – of our modern day religious war.
Which brings me to a possible question to ask: throughout this entire epoch-aged struggle between those who are enlightened by their own idealism…is there even such a thing as a true religious member? Is there such a thing as a true Christian – one who believes in every single word of the Bible – refusing the cherry-pick a single word and remaining with the morals of a 3500-year-old society? One who takes every single word of the Old and New Testaments completely to heart without creating a personal philosophy to shadow out anything that they don’t necessarily believe in themselves? And on the other hand, is there such a thing as a true atheist? One who is so dominantly against any moral or value within any Holy book to such an extent that they go against every justification and belief from within? Or is all faith within our society composed of nothing more than transforming ideas and thoughts in the form of personal philosophy? Has contradiction with the original elements caused terms to be worthless?
Religion itself is an institution. It fits the quota perfectly, if you look closely at the goals pertaining to faith as an in-group. The whole point of an institution is to regulate the laws and ideas of society while spreading its own influence towards the general population of individuals to stay dominant. We see the institutions attempt to work around personal philosophy in order to stake claims into the society itself, growing more powerful in nature and appearing strong to those who consider themselves apart of it. Those individuals within an institution oftentimes wish to be protected by such. Those who are against powerful institutions oftentimes keep opinions and ideas to themselves in fear of being placed into an out-group that cannot participate within the interdependence of society. Religion has all of these points and then some, creating the perfect manifest to become a literal face of the institution itself.
Religion cannot continue if it has no people to spread the word of their deity. Religion cannot evolve through the stages of society if it has no members to devout their lives to it. Religion cannot spread their influence in order to create the first concept of rebirth if it has no individual to lay claim to the institution. Religion, as a Column that manages to keep society in tact – whether this be good or bad in the opinions of personal philosophy – will fail the Old and allow the New if it is breeched by the loss of values handed down from individual to individual. The whole concept of the structures supporting religion has corrupted itself into nothing more than a frivolous pursuit of power and lengthened support in our society. It’s been like this since the beginning.
The concept of religion is what any society starts with. All society starts with the individuals coming together in search of interdependence to create the first institution, oftentimes based upon culture. Nothing, not the Old or the New, can continue without these concepts. A society can only hold control, regardless of the institution, if it holds some sort of value to the people; whether this be of currency, of culture, or of conquest. Our society can be broken down in three epochs of thinking, according to Auguste Comte in The Course in Positive Philosophy, which I can break down into my concepts of THE OLD, THE TRANSITIONAL PERIOD, and THE NEW:
THE OLD – The Theological stage was the first stage in our philosophical development. The beginning idealism – especially in the tension between individual and institution – behind mental growth can be seen in our society, rooting to the later stages of worship and culture. It started simple enough through fetishism, the primary stage of theology in which the primitive people of our original foundations, long engulfed by the abyss, became curious of its surroundings. Incapable of understanding the world around them and struggling to create the first society – the first institution made from the first individuals – they began to believe that inanimate objects, such as trees or the stars, had spirits. Thus, the worship of nature, whether it be biotic or abiotic, began.
Eventually, fetishism evolves into polytheism, the explanation of the world around them through multiple gods and deities. Still primitive but with more capacity to their perspective, the people of this so-called sub stage of Theology began claiming that the spirits of the natural forces worshiped within fetishism were controlled by natural forces known as Gods. Thus, instead of worshiping an individual tree and their local pond, the people banded together in order to worship a specific God of Trees and God of Water. Etcetera, etcetera.
Centuries go by, and the Theological stage reaches its final evolution: the creation of monotheism. After generations accompanying centuries of stories which tell mythological tales of multiple Gods and deities controlling nature, the primitive mindsets evolve into merging all of the different pieces of nature. Now, instead of believing in multiple, the people began to believe in one God which had complete theistic control that was responsible for more than just the trees and water around them, but the existence of everything.
THE TRANSITIONAL PERIOD – After long domination, the institution of a monotheistic religion in the Theological stage began to extend into what can now be known as the Metaphysical stage. Instead of believing in a concrete God, the ideas and personal philosophies of individuals turned worshippers into critiques – philosophers themselves, if you will. People often tried defending the belief of individual thinking, claiming that God could be an abstract being. Instead of having a concrete God which created the entire universe, the idea of having an entity existing as a mere thought – an idea itself, even! – Within the minds of those who believed…but not having any physical form.
Thus, we have the theory of having a moralistic injustice arising from a divide splitting between the believers and the nonbelievers. Enlightenment hits hard, dominating and creating the thoughts of a New while replacing a centuries-dominating Old. With Enlightenment, a movement on its own, comes Revolution; society began to shift completely for the first real time. How could our world handle more than one dominant idea, or more than one relatable way of thinking? The Metaphysical stage – the first transitional period, what we are witnessing ourselves – began questioning everything that had happened up to this point, tearing down everything our theological culture and reshaping the boundaries of science. In comes the ideas, which turned into theories and later facts, of astrology. Of chemistry. Of physics. Of biology. Of science itself! The domination of the dominion belonging to our determined deity-dependent individuals began to radically fall apart, and the New became a reality.
THE NEW – After the Metaphysical stage, we see the process of scientific explanation become the majority when it comes to our sense of idealism. We are no longer primitively worshiping a tree, or a God of trees, or a God of the universe as seen in the Old (the Theological) but turning to scientific methods in order to justify new theories and to better understand the world around us.
This can be referred to as the Positivity stage in Comte’s works, a pure intellectual way of understanding our surroundings; whether it be the River of Life which represents our society or the individuals around us through psychology and sociology. Instead of coming up with new stories and hymns, humanity learned to establish the difference (and the transition) between a cause and an effect. While we will never be able to get rid of our past culture, the foundations of the very first Old (whether it be the influences of fetishism, polytheism, or monotheism), the majority dominance in our psychological sovereignty will support the concepts of Positivism unless told otherwise.
We see no change in this today, as Religion slowly loses its ground as one of the Four Columns of teaching society’s values and morals. Thus, we see the modern day religious war – that of which remains between those remnants of the Old (those who still have influence of the institution regardless of change) and those of the New who despise thinking of the Old. However, as stated before, there is no such thing as someone so adamantly on one side. Even the strongest atheist holds some of the basic morals which had once stemmed from the theological stage, regardless of what those morals may be. Even the strongest religious individual subconsciously holds their personal philosophy and psychological sovereignty above that of the religious books, whether they wish to accept it or not, through the cherry-picking of their own faith. Regardless, we still witness tragedies erupt between these two groups – one of in-group and one of out-group – fighting for the dominance within society’s way of thought.
Of course, in the works of Auguste Comte understood the possibility (or realization) of all three of these stages coexisting within the same society – even within the same mind. Those of agnostic beliefs would be an ideal model of showing a divide within the mind, along with the divide of society since science currently (and most likely forever) coexist with theology. Thus, the Old and New coexist as well in my theory, just one dominating over the other in different reactionary periods. History, as mentioned previously, is a continuous cycle which allows the Old and the New to swap roles every transitional period – whether this be through war, through political assassination or turmoil, through scandal, through revolution, or through the majority rule simply switching sides.
And speaking of the topic of warfare: wars, movements, revolutions, etcetera all form through religion in the cycle of history. We saw the Crusades; and we see political assassination (a form of ideological conquest) and mass homicide (especially in the unfortunate mass shootings in our society) relating to the concept of different religion. Extreme wars of terror and conquest based entirely on Holy books have stained the pages of historical progress; and the modern day religious war on science and possible progression has continued since the birth of the Enlightenment and the Metaphysical era. The Dark Ages – or Middle Ages – that came before the “end” of the Old, fueled mostly by religion, to some extent ruined all progress given to us through the Ancient and Classical ages before being picked up by the Metaphysical transitional period. Of course those who are not religious share the blame here as well, as nobody is perfectly clean in a world washed with blood. The modern day religious war has two sides, and oftentimes one of them are clearly marked by those against religion.
Undoubtedly we owe some form of gratitude to the Theological stage. Without it, our embryonic footsteps would have never been discovered. Without the Theological – regardless of how “flawed” it may or may not be – we would have never been able to reach the Metaphysical or Positive. Without the Old, there would be no transitional period to the New. However, the cherry-picking and sense of self within the institution’s horrendously corrupted structure has ruined all regards towards their influence. While it will undoubtedly coexist with the New for eternity, we will always look back at the cycle of history of being influenced by it in both negative and mediocre ways. No credit is taken away by those with their own faith, despite them using their own personal philosophies to endorse their beliefs into the establishment of religion.
Unfortunately, those who believe the transitional period, change in majority, and the coexisting New can be boiled down into the “persecution” of their religion fail to realize how the cycle works. That they have done the same “persecution”, which is nothing more than creating new ideas which evolve into theories or construct, to those who have different faiths (or even slightly different personal philosophies within their own in-group!). Thus, we can see ignorance within humanity’s decision to claim a role within any organization. Ignorance and bias work hand in hand to keep the individual’s influence with the institution.
Undeniably, the collapse of the Column of Religion has led to a change in the Old morals. Thus, we see the creation of what can be seen as modern morals; those of which go against the passages written back in the Theological Stage. Radical changes scare society, since society is made up of institutions that wish to keep power and influence. Hence, we see this as either a very good establishment of progress or a very bad destabilization of the past – depending on your position as a liberal or a conservative in the social construct.
Disagreeing is one thing, one that every mindset has the natural right to have – and ability to create his or her statement in the form of an idea; supporting a claim with little to no foundation and awkward evidence, however, is another. Those who preach faux-wisdom on how society would be better if we just forget the Metaphysical and Positivity and go back to a biblical or foundational way of life has successfully cherry-picked. Those who claim to believe in every racist, sexist, unmoral, unmodern element of their faith has shadowed their own personal philosophy, creating ignorance and true disproval of their entire argument. Those who claim the obvious progression presented in the Metaphysical and Positivity are nothing more than sins fail to count the sins they have within their own in-groups. Those who claim I’m one-sided within this piece on the Theological stage did not read or failed to comprehend my introductory statements and the gratitude given to all three stages that made our society what it is today, proving that they even decided to cherry-pick this piece of writing.
Thus, we introduce the cause behind the cherry-picking of most religious extremists and radicals: the God Complex.
A person with the undiagnosable disorder of god complex refuses to admit the possibility of any error or failure, even in the face of irrefutable evidence. Highly dogmatic in their views, the one suffering with god complex will speak of their personal opinions, regardless of proof or foundation, as if they were universal law. In short, the person could never possibly be wrong in their own eyes. They show no regard for the basic demands of society in any way, requesting special consideration and considering themselves a part of some illegitimate privilege. They, in some way, believe that they are, in short, divine in their intellectual standpoints.
We all have the god complex in some way, shape, or form. Now, human nature dictates egotistical behavior in all of us — we tend to be self-centered, or at least consider ourselves, in most occasions. Of course, this is a generalization. Most people, when asked, would claim to be more generous than the average person. This, statistically, could never be correct. Most people can’t be more generous than the average person. This brings us, as a society, to one of the faults in our society. We have millions of questions, yet we have no definitive answers.
But throughout our history, we’ve desired definitive answers. We’ve desired having everything intellectually handed to us, evolving from the philosophical spectrum of Ancient Greece to the modern day expansions of science. We’ve had somewhat of a black hole inside of us, as a species. One that sucks in the world around it and, in a rather confused state, attempts to make sense of it all. We desire the details of a broad picture: the beautiful portrait of life that fades right before our very eyes. Hence the desire to have something — anything, no matter how contradicting or confusing — to explain it all to us. To fill in the gaps and spaces in between our universal limited knowledge.
The first stage of any society, including our own, is one of theology. In this Theological Stage, primitive people go through sub-stages of belief, allowing their thoughts to process. The first of these sub-stages is known asfetishism, according to Auguste Comte’s Law of Three Stages presented in his work The Course in Positive Philosophy. Fetishism, in short, was the first attempt at understanding the world around us. Throughout this sub-stage, society believed that inanimate objects — especially those that they needed to survive or desired out of greed — had living “spirits” inside of them. This is known as animism, the view or perspective that spiritual essence exists within everything. People worshiped inanimate objects like trees in order to explain the world they lived in. Food grew best when sunlight was plentiful, so the sun must be good. Families survived when animals were plentiful, so the animal must be good. For example, we see the indigenous people of North America using every part of animals they hunted — such as the buffalo — because they felt thankful that the animal existed so they could prosper. Of course, as history moved forward, we would see less of this form of thinking.
Look at religion today: a standoff between different cultures across the globe on what exactly could possibly be right. We have dominant religions gripping tightly on separate regions, and none of them tend to agree with each other on the foundations of life despite sharing the core foundations of monotheism (and in some cases polytheism).
Oftentimes, religious differences cause incredible tensions between countries. As evidence, we’ve seen religious wars, such as the Crusades, throughout our recorded history. These religions were formed in an attempt to create answers for questions we as a society had, collectively. What is life?, what are good morals?, why does everything exist the way it does?The second and third sub-stages of this primitive form of philosophy is the creation of religion itself. Trees were great, but why did the trees exist? The sun was great, but why did the sun exist? The animals were great, but why did they exist? Our minds and intellectual capacities expanded, bringing further questions into a world that still lacked answers. The idea that all natural forces had to be controlled by different Gods formulated.
Thus polytheism, the belief in multiple deities assembling together to create the world around us, eventually sprouted from fetishism and animism. Eventually, our thought process expanded again. The collection of trees, the sun, and all the animals were great, but how did they come to be in the universe everything was settled in? What was life, exactly? How did everything come together to create a so-called harmonious way of life? Society formulated monotheism, the belief that everything — including the very existence of the universe, or what very primitive world we understood — could be attributed to one supreme deity. One God.
Now, that’s fine and all. A lot of you are probably wondering how exactly any of what you just read ties in with the aforementioned god complex. How could wanting answers to questions be considered egotistical? How could religion, oftentimes a culture created as a way to promote selflessness and “unity”, symbolize something as self-centered as the god complex? One of the main pillars of our society’s morals and judgements, religion that is, creates a vacuum of knowledge. Society, as shown in the wonderful map above, has — for the most part — accepted religion, no matter which one, as the answer for many of our philosophical questions. Many have stopped questioning everything from basic logic to new ideas because they’ve accepted religion as proper. And when presented with evidence that might go against that, such as the later stages of society present in the Metaphysical and Positive? Many refute it, citing their own religion as the proper law or way of life. We replace the philosophical drive inside us with ignorance, refusing to accept even the slightest bit of questioning against what we believe in. Nothing could possibly change our mindsets on religion, as an overall society.
We once questioned the world around us. We’d use limited, innate intelligence, taking initiative to accept information and create inspiration. Our intellectual process of exploring the world around us led us to the institution of religion. However, our own ignorance has created the very opposite. We’ve incapacitated our pursuit to understand the world by undermining anything that goes against our way of current thinking. It’s lasted for centuries, going on thousands of years. Sure, we’ve seen many intellectual revolutions throughout history as well. The Enlightenment brought new ways of thinking, a flaming torch in the dark days of religious conformity. However, we’ve failed to necessarily reach the next level since. The French Revolution brought us to a point where we questioned the ways of government, but fell short in revolutionizing our religious way of thought after Robespierre attempted de-christianization. The Industrial Revolution managed to upgrade our ways of life in business, consumerism, and political ideology, yet our faith remained an important part of lifestyle. The modern day “Atheist Revolution” against the theological way of thought is failing to dent the mindsets of many radicals, including the Christian Conservative base of American politics.
We’ve created a new sense of the god complex, a rather ironic one, that we couldn’t possibly be wrong in the sense of religion. How could your religion be wrong? How could anyone else, whether they be apart of a religion other than yours or against the concept of religion all together, possibly be right? They have to be wrong, and you have to be right! This is true for those against religion, as well. Atheists tend to have a smug sense of self-importance, and if you go to any of the popular atheist social media accounts you’ll see nothing more than anti-religious posts that, at many points, become nothing more than intellectual slander themselves. It’s pure bias, honestly. Egotistical bias. One will never acknowledge the rights or ideas of the other side in this endless religious debate. Each side will always promote a style of propaganda against the others in attempt to boost their own credibility, even if their own side lacks it.
We’ve created a god complex that boosts the ego of everyone — from Christians to Muslims to Hindus to Buddhists to Atheists — while refuting any idea, proposal, or belief coming from the other sides. Even when religions share an idea, we let religion spin differences that don’t exist, oftentimes relying on other sectors of culture to poke at. We even see infighting between these religious standings. The dominant institutions of religion don’t agree with themselves! In Christianity, we see the historical differences between Protestantism and Catholicism, especially in English History. In Islam, we see the historical differences between Sunnis and Shias. Our society’s religions have individually created a form of “I’m right, and you’re wrong!” in almost every aspect of their existence.
What happened to questioning everything around us? What happened to the philosophical drive that our primitive society held dearly, questioning why things happen and why we exist? Long gone are the days of Socrates and Aristotle, those early thinkers who attempted to discover the world around them. Long gone are the days of Nietzsche and Voltaire, the philosophers of the religious ages. We’re living in an age without philosophy — because why would we question the world around us when we’re too stubborn to expand our knowledge? Why would we question the meaning of life when 3,000 year old desert books explain it for us? Why question what we’ve determined to be the unquestionable, despite the scientific advancements we’ve managed to make since then?
Because of our religious god complex, that’s why.