It was spring, 2005 and I was sitting in a coffeeshop in Amsterdam toking up some sinsemilla, while the TV on the wall played images of people mourning the death of Pope John Paul II. Maybe it was the dope, but I was profoundly melancholy, thinking that like so many before him, the Pope was a very spiritual, caring and well-meaning human being – who would leave a legacy of poverty, ignorance, and despair for his followers.
Note: This is a series of posts studying the six most important categories of core beliefs in terms of the self-esteem you develop and how happy and successful you ultimately become. Last post we looked at the crazy beliefs about sex and sexuality. This one we are exploring your beliefs about god and religion. (Because of the length, I'm breaking the topic into two or three posts.)
Pope John Paul II was infected with so many destructive mind viruses, he had no idea of the desolation he was creating. He fought Communism in his native Poland and around the globe, but I believe he was still infected with the Communist brainwashing that it is virtuous to be poor, and wealthy people are immoral. He came to the U.S. seven times, and denounced American materialism each time, castigating Americans for not sharing more of their wealth with the world’s poor. In fact, he scorned the effects of capitalism at every opportunity – except when the collection basket was being passed around the Papal Basilica of St. Peter.
Of all the people I have coached in removing their prosperity blocks, the unworthiness issues created by religion are the hardest ones to bust. That’s because religion is so emotional for most people, and core religious beliefs are usually hard wired by the time you are ten years old. These beliefs can create havoc for you your entire life.
Pope John Paul II reached out to other faiths – while never missing a chance to let them know that the one door to salvation was going to be slammed in their face in the moment of truth. He was forceful in his rejection of homosexuality, birth control, divorce, remarrying after divorce, and women or married men in the clergy. And because he appointed 95 percent of the Cardinals who chose his successors, his rigid Orthodox theological vision has continued to this day.
Even now, another generation of kids in church Sunday Schools and private Christian schools are getting infected with self-loathing, guilt, and worthiness issues, as the church marches on. More gay teens will take their lives, believing they have been forsaken by their god. More women will receive the message that they are second-class citizens. More people will stay in joyless marriages they never should have been in, living their entire lives in dismal resignation.
When it comes to spreading negative mind viruses, organized religion has reigned undefeated champion for centuries. And of course, the Christianity cult is usually near the top of the list. But the same type of brainwashing is happening in many other temples, mosques, and synagogues around the world.
We need a cure for religion.
Millions of people have outsourced their critical thinking skills and code of morality to an organized religion. The most harmful memes to watch out for in the God/Religion category of beliefs are:
Let’s begin with pervasive memes that program you to believe that it is somehow noble, virtuous, or spiritual to be poor.
If you are able to unplug the religious dogma and think rationally, you instantly recognize how utterly senseless these beliefs are. Poverty causes people to lie, cheat, steal and even kill. There is nothing inherently spiritual about it. And what would be the argument that it is somehow virtuous or noble? No free-thinking person could find any rationale or logic in such a premise.
Still this meme has subconsciously infected millions or even billions of people. Think of the many ways this is demonstrated in all of the Datasphere driven stories, shows and movies that we discussed in the earlier posts. Notice how it has infiltrated your everyday language. Have you ever said someone was “poor as a church mouse” or someone else was “filthy rich” because they had so much money? Mo’ Money, Mo’ Problems makes for a catchy rap song, but I faced a lot more problems when I was broke than I do being wealthy. And worrying about how to keep the food in the refrigerator from spoiling because my power got turned off distressed me a lot more than deciding which car to drive today.
Next, we must explore the premise that there is an all-knowing supernatural power that controls your destiny.
There are a few notable issues this belief can create for you. First, as I mentioned in this post, once you brand yourself with a label – even if it’s Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, etc. – you have created an identity for yourself that you will instinctively defend – and have thus reduced your ability for rational and critical thought. For many religious people, as soon as their religion is mentioned, their thought process freezes, and their knee-jerk emotional programmed reaction kicks in. Brilliant people, capable of great mental genius, are often reduced to broken-note automatons, parroting the phrases they were programmed with when they were seven or eight years old.
Essentially most religions today operate as mind control cults, ministering to their armies of eager volunteers. These believers choose to forgo rationality and logic to believe in superstition, in the hopes of a heavenly reward. The Greeks thought Artemis was the virgin goddess of the hunt, although she later was promoted to the moon goddess. The Romans had a counterpart in Diana. The Greeks believed Poseidon was god of the seas, while the Romans worshiped Neptune for all things saltwater. When it comes to the big boss deities, the Greeks went with Zeus, while the Romans genuflected to his counterpart Jupiter. Over the centuries, as people became wiser and science helped unfold some of the mysteries of the universe, these beliefs faded away, becoming the grist of folklore, superstition, and fodder for superhero movie scripts.
For most (but not all) people today, we look back on these myths, thinking they are quaint, and wondering how people could hold such illogical, irrational, and outlandish beliefs. Yet there are still a couple billion people alive today who have adopted updated versions of these illogical, irrational, and outlandish beliefs. These replacement beliefs are just as bizarre and no less implausible. Yet these people are convinced that their own beliefs are historical facts, and everyone else’s beliefs are crazy delusions.
Many readers get angry with me or think I’m being snarky when I reference religious beliefs as skygod superstitions from the Stone Age, but if we’re being honest and rational here – that’s exactly what many of them are. You may think that these are just harmless personal beliefs, and if they console people and help them process traumatic events like the death of a loved one, or a bad medical diagnosis, they serve a beneficial purpose to society. That may be true. But it raises the question of whether religion has led people away from the critical thinking necessary to create prosperous, meaningful lives.
What many people call faith is on the razor-thin line of irrational delusions. There are people who believe Noah carried two dinosaurs on the ark, Indra was born fully grown from his mother’s side (though they can’t agree if he had two or four arms), Buddha was born and instantly took seven steps to proclaim, “I alone am the World-Honored One!,” and Jonah swam around in the belly of a large fish for three days and three nights before the fish vomited him out in Nineveh, where he bought a timeshare on the beach. (I may have embellished that last one a bit.) Millions of people believe a touch or blessing from the Pope can cure disease or save them from death – even though the last Pope retired because of health challenges and the 264 before him have all died themselves. To believe some of these outlandish stories requires a thought process somewhere on the scale between absurd and psychologically disordered.
Another problem with all of these captivating myths is they can’t keep the story straight, and they contain more plagiarism than a cut-n-paste test sent to an online university.
Buddhist scholars acknowledge that story of Buddha’s birth may have borrowed from Hindu texts of the birth of Indra from the Rig Veda. Likewise, the Veda, which many believe is sanctified, is the product of many authors and shows numerous signs of having undergone considerable revisions over time. After Alexander the Great conquered central Asia there was extensive intermixing of Buddhism with Hellenic ideas. (Even Buddhism says the Buddha was not a god.) And the bold pronouncement “I alone am the World-Honored One” is in direct conflict with the Buddhist teachings on non-theism and anatman. There is also speculation that the tale of the Buddha’s childbirth was “upgraded” when traders returned from the Middle East with stories of the birth of the baby Jesus. Of course key elements of the baby Jesus story (Virgin birth, December 25th birth, turning water into wine, “the Son of God,” “the Good Shepherd,” etc.) are stolen from fables of Mithra and the Greek God Dionysus, shared hundreds of centuries before Christ.
So we have Mormons who think their magic underwear protects them from evil, Christians certain that Noah brought dinosaurs on the ark, Hindus who believe Indra was born fully grown from his mother’s side, Scientologists who imagine they are extraterrestrials from a previous lifetime, and Jewish Rabbis who fly on airplanes sealed in a hefty bag because the flight path goes over a cemetery.
At some point we need to ask, are these beliefs really taking people forward toward a prosperous life?
If you believe that certain things are “God’s will” and out of your control (A quarter of a million people die in a tsunami, kids get cancer, and the Padres can’t win the World Series) – does this bleed into the rest of your thinking, in areas like staying healthy, being happy and becoming successful? What’s the difference between giving your personal power away to an addiction like drugs, versus religion?
It’s not my job or goal to convince you to be an atheist. But if you do believe in a supernatural entity, these questions are worthy of some critical thinking.
Next post, we venture into the “you’re born a sorry sinner,” “you’re not worthy” and “you’ll get the good shit after you die” memes that religion regularly dishes out. Until then, would love to see your thoughts below.