Essay or Religion and being Human
John H. Leeper
Man is by nature a religious creature. To deny this is to ignore thousands of years of human history. It is to dismiss on faith, and faith alone, all recorded instances of supernatural interference in the natural world.
Even an atheist is a devoutly religious creature in the final estimation for he must make the same leaps of faith common to any true believer in a religious dogma.
The problem that all religions of the world, past or present, propose for thoughtful men and women is that they simply fail to measure up to the highest ideals their founders proposed. Adherents give lip service to concepts such as compassion, mercy or non-violence, but are inevitably at the head of the van when the time for shedding of blood arrives. While this leads critics to charge that religious believers are hypocritical, in truth, the problem runs much deeper than that. All religions suffer from schizophrenia - a split personality.
One could not find a religious teacher who talked more of peace and compassion than the Dharma Buddha, and yet, parallel to his teachings are those of Sun Tzu in his "Art of War," which claims there are no moral restraints upon individuals involved in combat. Devout Buddhists historically have hopped from one philosophical rail to the other with incredible ease and with no apparent tremors of conscience. It is a condition that can be equally applied to the true believers of all the world's religions, great or small.Schizophrenia. Not hypocrisy.
But, what is the cause?
The nature of man.
Men tend to create a personal spiritual framework on the basis of some religious dogma that dominated in their home, family, or community. As they explore - hopefully explore - the supernatural world in search of personal truth, they cannot help but work from the basis of that original dogma. Even if they turn from it altogether, the philosophy they settle upon will usually be crafted as a reaction to that which they have rejected.
The Chinese have a saying: "Life is like a ladder. Each step is built upon the rung before it."
Many - most perhaps - never question the obvious schizophrenia of their spiritual framework; and when it is pointed out to them by skeptics, they usually become angry. When their beliefs are discounted out of hand by true believers of a competing dogma, they often become violent.
The nature of man.
There are many religions that
have no supernatural element to them. Patriotism is one
of them. In fact, supernatural dogmas are often invented
to serve the god of patriotism, as in ancient Rome.
While logically irrational in light of the convoluted history of man with his temporal city states, fiefdoms and nation states, patriotism remains a powerful religious dogma as strong in the modern world as it was in the ancient one.
Why does an irrational devotion to patriotism exist?
The nature of man.
Man has the ability to unravel the secrets of the universe. The more he learns, the more former religious dogmas, mired in their ancient myths and errors of facts, are questioned. Yet, man does not easily embrace new discoveries. The more ancient dogmas are challenged, the harder man fights to hold onto them, often to the point of ignoring the obvious and living in denial that causes harm to himself and others.
What causes him to do this?
The nature of man.
Man has great capacity for destruction and, at the same time, great capacity for goodness. A man can one day be capable of great acts of mercy, and the very next, horrid acts of murder.
How can this be explained?
Wolfpack theology is not a religion. It is a spiritual frame of reference - a viewpoint that requires faith, as all philosophies do, secular or religious, political, economic or supernatural in nature. But contrary to the majority of dogmas this approach accepts the obvious and, in doing so, can help adherents predict the direction of human events with great accuracy.
Wolfpack theology begins with two foundation principles: first, human evolution is a fact and, second, mankind has a god-breathed soul.Evolution:
If there were not tens of thousands of scientific proofs to validate evolution of the human species from less complex life forms to more integrated ones, observation of man's behavior should suffice. He carries within his nature the husks of ancient instincts that drove his actions for millions of years, and they still guide his choices today. You do not have to scratch very deeply beneath the veneer of civilization to find the beast in humanity.
Scientists tend to dwell excessively on man's status as a primate. Evolution links man with many different species and, in reality, he has more behavioral characteristics in common with pack predators like wolves than with herds of primarily herbivorous gorillas. A wolf-pack theologian goes further than that. He says that to study the nature of a wolf is to see human social order in simplified form. Man may be higher than a wolf mentally and spiritually, but millions of years of evolution have left him with a similar predatory pack nature, and it is only with great daily effort that man overcomes those instincts and lives in a manner God intended for him.
Evolution, in and of itself, does not invalidate religion. It is merely an explanation of a biological process - how something became what it is today over time. The fact that man has the ability to defy his evolutionary instincts are proof that something beyond biological evolution is at work inside man.
Soul of God and Men:
A wolf can bay at the moon.
A man can imagine the spatial differences between planetary
objects in the solar system.
Sentience, however, does not separate man from his evolutionary past. He was a predatory pack animal and that inherited nature calls to him loudly. Sentience merely gives him the ability to choose. He can choose to be a wolf, or he can choose to be the human god wanted him to be. He makes that choice day-by-day and minute-by-minute. The conflict between pack instinct and the divine within man can be seen throughout the course of human history. Sadly, the pack instinct wins most of the time.
This is the meaning behind the ancient Jewish story of Jacob and his brother Esau. Esau ran in the wilderness like a wild animal and was not pleasing to god. Jacob, while he possessed a multitude of shortcomings, "dwelled among the tents of men." He was human. Over time, he grew spiritually. He became "better" while Esau did not. Esau chose to remain the wolf.
This is why an isolated individual is capable of great acts of mercy and compassion but once this same person is placed in a pack environment with territory to protect, be it physical or intellectual, he is capable of incredible acts of barbarism.
A human pack may have any number of organizing principles - or several - but it is still easily recognizable as a pack. A pack may be organized along the lines of ethnicity: Jewish, Irish, German, African, Arab, Native American, etc. It may be organized along the lines of economic or political philosophies: capitalist or communist, conservative or liberal. It may be organized along the lines of religious theology, and that would also include theologies that do not have the concept of a supernatural god. Even the modern political nation state is a product of the pack instinct in man.
There are four basic principles that govern all human packs:
Survival of the pack.
For ease of memory, they are called here the "Four S's." These Four S's are evident in every human culture in the world and every social system or institution, religious or secular, created by man. They are born from his evolutionary nature.
That, however, explains only
the animal side of man. There is another element to him,
the divine, and in that is great hope. It is that spark
of god in man that strives to overcome the animal instinct.
The divine in man - the essence of God in man - is at odds
with the pack instinct. The "higher" nature wars
against the "lower" nature and in many religions,
but within Christianity especially, this conflict between
the natures is the subject of intense theological discussion.
No matter what period of human history or what particular religion existed in a region of the world, there are evidences of God attempting to instill divine principles into humanity. Divine principles can be found in the teachings Buddhism, Islam, Christianity, Judaism, Zoroastrianism or any number of ancient primitive religions. They look to the interests of the individual at the expense of the pack. They are selfless and eternal in vision where pack vision is selfish and trapped in a narrow time frame. They seek unity with the rest of creation to which mankind is tied via evolution. They ask for something better, higher, nobler in man than the temporal interests of the pack. This is god attempting to communicate with mankind, trying to make human beings something better than mere ravenous predators.
There are amazing similarities between the writings of the early mystics of any of the world's great religions, which indicates there is a common thread tying all religions together. Read the Sufi poet Rumi, the Dharma Buddha, the early mystics of the Christian faith - all have radically different visions from the destructive, violent behavior of modern-day religious zealots. They were men enlightened by the same god who enabled them to conquer the wolf. The similarities between the teachings of Jesus and Buddha are so striking that some religious historians have, erroneously I believe, said Christ was influenced by the latter's teachings. In reality, what both men said were simple reflections of god, who has been trying to tell mankind about himself since offering the gift of sentience.
The greatest religious teachers
of any age - those around whom religions are built - are
men who have more of that supernatural element of the divine
in them than the average person. The spark in most of us
was a flame in Jesus, Mohammed, Buddha, etc.
"Our pack knows the truth because it is obviously the strongest. We are superior to your pack, therefore you must obey our dogmas. You must no longer disturb the order of the pack. You must become us." Throughout history this concept has been known as "might makes right," and all packs practice it.
Wolf-pack theology offers a simple explanation for such destructive behavior. While mystics may touch the mind of god, packs cannot be built on mystical principles. They are too individualistic, self-critical and non-authoritarian. Dogmas are required. A pack needs solidarity and structure to survive. All human packs seek order and dogmas support and reinforce them.
Modern religion is more an expression of the pack than it is of the divine. If a man truly follows the teachings of Jesus, the pack dissolves and a higher order of thought takes root. That is why mankind is not particularly devoted to religion. It is wed to dogmas that define religions. Religion is a general outline of a world view. Theological dogmas provide a systematic analysis of a religion, permitting it to become the organizing principle for a pack.
To say, "I follow the teachings of Jesus," is a statement of religion. To say, "I am a Southern Baptist," is a statement of devotion to a certain theology within the Christian religion. Fundamentalist Christians or fundamentalist Muslims are members of well-defined packs.
Example from Christianity: A theological decision was made to strike the Book of Barnabas from the canon of Christian scriptures. There is no question that Barnabas, Paul's companion on several missionary journeys, was in error over the breeding habits of weasels and the mythical Phoenix. Does that also invalidate all of the statements he made concerning the nature of God and man? If so, then much of St. Paul's teachings would also have to be considered false as he and Barnabas held scores of common beliefs. Those beliefs are also included in the Book of Barnabas. Why would a Fundamentalist in the South challenge the veracity of Barnabas but not the veracity of Paul? There is no logic in it. There is no higher reason in pack order. It is driven by animal instinct.
It is a simple fact that an early Christian transported to a modern, old-time religion Protestant church in America would not recognize the faith he followed. Modern Christianity and Early Christianity are so radically different from one another that they may as well be separate religions altogether.
Paul and Barnabas are both theologians defining for their followers the "whys" of God's actions concerning Jesus Christ and the reasons Christ said and did certain things during his short earthly ministry. They are creating the first dogmas of the Christian faith based upon their experiences as members of early Jewish packs. The number of dogmas increased geometrically with each passing generation.
The instinctive drive for pack
order and unity causes Muslim, Christian, Jewish, Hindu,
or Secularist packs to seek to destroy or dominate rival
packs. Both the Christian Crusades or the equally bloody
Muslim campaigns in the Balkans were examples. No human
religion can claim it has not spilled innocent blood; and
neither can packs organized along economic or political
lines. Communism and Facism claimed millions of victims
"for the greater good" of the pack.
Animals can't imagine evil or good. In the animal world such concepts are irrelevant. They are outside the evolutionary order. They are supernatural, and the divine in man recognizes them, considering, of course, he possesses sufficient spiritual understanding to separate one from the other.
Good deeds and evil deeds alike have their own natural outcomes. They are like ripples made by a falling stone in a pond, disturbing the placid nature of the water over a vast distance. Lives of the just and unjust alike are affected by the ripples created by a good deed or a bad one. Man is the source of much of the evil that occurs in life, and also much of the good, not supernatural entities. God can ameliorate pain. He can interfere on occasion and affect outcomes related to a small area of the pond, but the ripples of good and evil still flow outward touching the lives of many. Men make those ripples by their choices.
They can choose the good. There is hope because of god's gift.
God is essential goodness, therefore the divine in man offers the opportunity for good. He can overcome the wolf. He can be better than a pack predator. It is not a physical process. It is a spiritual one. No test tube or genetic experiment will make a better human being, merely a creature that lives longer or is physically stronger or has more capacity to store facts in his brain.
When Jesus Christ said, "I am the way, the truth and the life. No man cometh unto the father but by me," he was right. Unless you choose to live the kind of enlightened life that Jesus, the Sufis, the Dharma Buddha or the ancient mystics taught, you cannot become what god wants you to be. You cannot be good.
The wolf demands knowledge and understanding from god for selfish reasons. He wants to bring order to his life and those of others. And in that selfish pursuit, he turns away from the light, fashions erroneous dogmas that ultimately bring darkness and death. Most religions are rooted in the truth of god, yet all bear false fruits.
The human seeks salvation in union with god, not in the dogmas of a pack. The real god wants us to overcome our destructive animal natures. He wants each man in a deeply personal and loving relationship with himself and the world he created by the stroke of his divine imagination.
One man. One god. No pack.
Love, joy, peace, mercy, patience, hope, courage, faith, compassion, selflessness, wonder, creativity.
God is truth. Truth is eternal.
Nothing else is relevant. No dogma is necessary. No human words have meaning in the presence of god.
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