I’ve been thinking a lot about the harm to the infant psyche, that being raised from birth in a religious belief, does to us. Later – as adults. The inherently coercive and corrosive effects of religious indoctrination.
I had an Uncle who was a lay minister at a local Assembly Of God church, where I grew up in Idaho. And I also spend a good many Sundays, as a young boy, sitting on wooden benches, or hard metal folding chairs, attending the fundamentalist, non-denominational services that my paternal grandmother often hauled me off to, when she wasn’t hosting the services in her own home. It was a prepubescent, pre-televised world of “.. Well, they say …” And mostly based on the unquestioned “Word of God,” as found in the bible.
And though I had ample opportunity to hear the Word of God being extolled – Chapter and Verse – I have to admit that, beyond wondering what it was that had made all these folks so sick and tired of this life, and ready to move on to the next – many with their self-righteous humility intact – I spent a good deal of time lost in my own thoughts. Most often concerning the many mysteries surrounding the Good Book, and the Almighty myself. But one thing I gradually became aware of, was the fact that the word of God often depended as much on who was extolling it, as it did on where they claimed to have found it in the Bible.
And then there was the pure drivel, propounded by those who were proficient in the use of their concordances, to endlessly cross-reference snippets – if not single words – often taken completely out of context, to infer meaning that was either never originally intended, or not particularly insightful. Kind of like a cross between Ann Coulter and Joyce Meyer – for a complete lack of intellectual honesty, and just mind-numbing banality.
The truth is, if you’re looking for gems of truth and beauty in the bible, it can be a lot like panning for gold in the Klondike. You pretty much have to separate out and discard vast tons of the dross, drivel, and despicable sexism, before you can even get down to washing away some of the muddy madness, surrounding the more well known people and stories of the bible.
So why do so many people actually espouse reading from it? Yet look to members of the clergy to extract meaning from the words of this little black book of horrors?
It’s because, once canonized in head and heart – as the actual word of God – meaning becomes so enigmatic as to leave people trembling and at a loss to make any clear sense out of this train-wreck of compiled works from antiquity. And as such, it becomes open season for every denomination and sect to derive whatever meaning they choose to ‘find’ in it.
Certain enigmatic memes proved especially able to work their way into my imagination. One of my grandmother’s favorite was “Straight and narrow be the way, and few there be that find it.”
Again, much of the success of this is due to the presumption that people won’t actually try to make sense out of it for themselves. Which is why we have entire communities of Pulpit-pounders, Bible thumpers, and televangelist’s, to help us eke out the inscrutable meaning to be found, in often quite meaningless passages from the bible.
Indeed, at the bottom of every creed is a dictum that says “you’re not smart enough to reason this out on your own.” Or, “it’s not nice to question the word of God,” or some such appeal to the denial of your own intellect. And besides, those that do try are rarely able to get past the false illusion that they are attempting to elicit meaning from the actual – though horribly mangled and enigmatic – words of god.
This, of course, proves mighty handy, if not patently self-serving, for the ruling oligarchy. And it’s easy to see how sects everywhere have used this particular rock of obfuscation as a working template. To cover-over with their own cut and color of cloth, in order to set themselves up in the business of selling tickets to god. And you’ll find that, as such, it is the real Rock that any sect’s presumed authority actually crawled out from under.
So, after being left to wrestle with a handful of enigmatic conundrums – many of which turned out to be merely false dichotomies – or rhetorical “deepities” - as Daniel Dennett has so wonderfully put it – I gave myself permission to experience life first hand. And explore some of the deeper mysteries, behind some of the meanings we put on it.
And after what, looking back, now seems like a lifetime, I’ve come to realize that truth, like life itself, is a process of unfolding discovery. That we come to discover and appreciate a broad range of infinitely more subtle truths, than any of those expounded on – and grossly oversimplified – in the Bible. But only as they are allowed time to gestate and come to full term in the nurseries of our own hearts and minds.
But this can only happen if we’re allowed time and permission to bear the seeds of germane thoughts and ideas, as we nurture and prune their development. In order to more faithfully reflect those lessons learned, and the insights gleaned, from those life experiences of our own, and others. Sometimes over the course of a lifetime.
And that presupposes an intellectual ‘right to life’ that I think the founding fathers especially dedicated themselves to protecting, when they followed up and enlarged on the notions first put forth in that wonderful document, The Declaration of Independence, by establishing a constitutional government freed from the gruesome grasp of religion.
It also points to the absolute horror that I still see taking place, when it comes to the murder-by-abortion of innocent inquiry, in the minds of our very young. By hyperactive zealots of our own endemic brand of religion. Who would cut out this – dare I say – God-given seed, and make forever barren this amazing womb of the mind.
First, assaulting and scarring it, by introducing the foreign points of some brittle doctrine. And then, by cauterizing it closed beneath the burning brand of some espoused religious belief.
The mere fact that they can then parade the newly minted zombies about in their Sunday best – as examples of exemplary child-rearing – is doubly horrifying to those of us who can only mourn the damage already done to the curiosity and clarity of mind. Due to brainwashing that has already significantly dulled the mental prowess of these young victims.
Simply put, a child’s intellectual right to life should be protected from early abuse, at the heavy hands of religious indoctrination.
One way to minimize this damage, is to explain – early on – that there are a great many people in the world, who believe in a great many different forms of religion. That they are all good people, for the most part, but they certainly can’t all be right – when it comes to making claims about having discovered the absolute truth. Any more than those dogmatic claims made by their own particular brand of religion, can be expected to be right. And that it is completely ego-centric and narcissistic, to think otherwise.
Oh, and if Straight and narrow be the way – and few there be that find it? It’s because, like an ant ascending the trunk of a large tree, there are so many opportunities to simply get sidetracked onto one particular branch of religious belief or other; astrology, or some other form of pseudo science. Branches that, once started down, are almost certain to continue splitting off – into infinite levels, of evermore highly refined confusion – and ultimate dead-ends; That – if Straight and Narrow be The Way – it is The Scientific Method that is The Path.