Currently I'm writing a new story, not intended for my blog... about the question: who owns a character: the author or the director? Or the actor? Who gives it spice, life, and personality?
I might as well extend the question to who owns a religion? Our Creator, or those who play the role of religious leader here on earth? Or maybe its followers?
I believe that some parts of the big religions, and some lesser movements in their entirety, are not owned by God. They are created by his 'ground personel' using His Name, however you may spell that name.
I shan't comment on the intentions behind it, because I could only guess at that... and I don't want to run down any good intentions. But I know that the quality of the message shows the ownership is not always claimed Above. The message of Wisdom, Love, Forgiveness and even Responsibility- which may result in disobedience if necessary- .
I think most of us will feel or know what I mean all by themselves, but maybe a few examples of what I mean would serve as affirmative illustrations? Or illustrative affirmations.
I have already mentioned them as usually being entirely man-made: sects. Main characteristics of sects is that the movement often turns out to be -economically- profitable for its leaders. So what, everyone is at risk of losing his fortune to a smooth talking and treacherous person some time in his life. Even outside the field of religion. Far worse is that many sects use fear as a tool to sustain itself. And how easy is it to use on those who are drawn to a sect, people who are desperate for fulfilment, for some truth to hold on to, for belonging. People that are -at least at that moment- vulnerable and weak.
The new religious movements are often, not exclusively, inspired by Christianity or oriental religions. Some are interesting mixtures,... a drop of this, a sniff of that, stir a little … enjoy. Enjoy until you feel the message of your new religion is not as satisfying, as truthful as you thought. Then you find out you're caught: leaving is impossible. Or extremely difficult, dangerous.
Obedience is required and the system will make sure you'll stick to that. It must, or else the system might not survive. If it doesn't offer loyalty, it doesn't expect it in return either, right?
So instead of loyalty the system uses severe punishments and an unforgiving attitude to bind it's members. How else can a system, OK a belief, set an otherwise healthy person up to participating in organised suicide, for instance? An interesting phenomenon for an evolutionary biologist like myself. Even Natural Selection doesn't require this from it's subjects. [Read post 3b about Trust Living according to the rules of natural selection is a basic level to live your life.]
Another religious movement that is being criticized, and doing a bad advertising campaign for it's source of inspiration is the catholic church. Some of it's followers need therapy too, like people who have fled from a sect.
I always marvel at the existence of a -mostly masculine- 'army' complete with ranks and promotions in a christian system. How can such an old religious movement go against it's own Inspiration?
Take mother Theresa who wanted to live the life of the Good Samaritan: the church tried to forbid, and at least discouraged her to try to change the ways of the order into a life inspired by the bible and it's message of Love to all. Equally. Regardless.
What about the -to some priests untenable- vow of celibacy? Is it biblical? Is it christian? [Saint] Peter was married -even had his mother in law in his house ☺ - yet he was chosen by Jesus for becoming an Apostle. And not the least of the Apostles.
The celibacy is an unnecessary rule and a dangerous one in a system that survives by obedience. The punishment for breaking this rule must be severe, seeing that it is broken often secretly, [ab]using innocent followers who hardly dare to protest, afraid of the retribution passed on to them...
See how a fear based system works: those who suffer from fear, make others suffer the same way. If no one has the guts to stand up against it, it will be passed on perpetually. A cruel example of the Droste Girl.
Does my ranting on the functioning of sects and the catholic church mean that I believe the ownership of a religion lies most often in the hands of its leaders? No. I don't think any leader would have effect if he had no one who followed him or at least supported his belief. Followers are pretty good at maintaining their community using fear as tool. The strict forms of protestantism, like the so called 'black stockings church' in my country use “social control”. Now if it were based on a desire to help one another in being their unique selves... it would be great. Alas, the social control often means backbiting and telling on each other. Which is, to use an old fashioned word, disgraceful. Good word anyway: it means grace, benefaction, beneficence, benevolence, favour, generosity, goodness, goodwill, kindliness, kindness , is absent . It definitely is.
Isn't this a struggle as old as humanity? To see the difference between true spiritual worship and the influence of human rules and need for control, shaping religion? From the golden calf, past Jesus' arguments with pharisees and clearing the temple area from the profiteers, to [st.] Paul and other evangelists reprimanding the new christian communities in their letters. How much human influence did these authors try to exert already?
And who am I to judge? I am just as human and fallible as those others I have now been writing about. God knows, maybe I was picking at the speck in my neighbour's eye, while having a log in my own eye. [That's Matthew again. 7:1-5]
There is a similarity between judging and forgiving! They both have the same effect on the one who passes it, as on the one who receives it. Both are a sword that cuts at both edges. But only the cuts from judging are hurtful.
Judging is better left to God. I don't think he needs me for it. And may do so very little. You'd be surprised at who you'll be meeting in heaven ☺☺
Instead, you'd better spend your energy on living a positive, radiant life. Keeping faith pure, in the absence of the One you're supposed to trust, is hard. And the less reinforcing messages you receive, the harder it is to keep on trusting and believing. [See again post 3a on Trust and Faith.]
You can seek advise and support from fellow followers and spiritual leaders, but in the end, it's up to your own conscience and responsibility to stay as pure and close to God as you can.
I have rule of thumb... I wouldn't want to worship God through a religion that makes Him less forgiving than we humans can be towards each other.