Many believe religion to be a relic from the infancy of human history and that they themselves have moved beyond such silliness. I have many nonreligious friends who assume that, because I call myself religious, I must believe in invisible beings, and pray for magical powers. It is rare that such friends can listen long enough to get past that image of religion. The reason I call myself religious is a bit hard to talk about but might be put in a kind of parable we might call the “Hair of the Dog”. Imagine a hair growing out of a dog became conscious and trying to understand its situation. It would face three paradoxes that would make the task difficult, if not impossible.
First, the hair could not detach itself from the dog to get a picture of the whole of which it was a part. It would have an imaginary picture of the whole but, of necessity, that picture would be extremely partial and always from its own point of view.
Then, the hair would see other hairs, but it could not hold them at arm’s length to realize they were other versions of itself. They would appear to be isolated and separate objects. More importantly, the hair would have no way of realizing that it was not seeing others objectively. It could only perceive other beings as their image reverberated within itself.
Perhaps the strangest situation of all would be that the hair was was actually growing out of what it was trying to understand. It would not be merely “on” the dog it would also “be” the dog. But this relationship would be invisible to the hair, because it would literally be unable to get out of its own light.
Religion, or metaphysics, is not an arrogant attempt to pierce the veil of reality to find a supernatural core. For me, metaphysics is working with our perceptions of the human condition. Religious concern is not with reality as it is in itself, but only in reality as we live it subjectively. The insights of religion are put in stories so we not only think them, but feel them as well. The symbols of religion (so long as we do not take them literally) can be humble reminders of the warped nature of human perception. They can be a kind of corrective lens so we can remember not take our perceptions at face value. The symbol “God” can be a reminder of everything too large, too deep and to immediate to grasp.
The symbols of religion can remind us that there is always an infinity beyond our biggest idea of things. It recognizes the “whole” will always be a mystery to us. The symbols also remind us that we do not perceive other beings objectively, nor are they here for our purposes. They, too, are a mystery. And, finally, religion is remembering that we ourselves are not orphans of the universe, we are its children. Religion is remembering that our deepest essence cannot become an object of our perception either. Strange as it is to say, we are an inscrutable mystery even to ourselves.
Again I ask, are you sure you’re not a yogi? 😉 What happened to so much of Christianity that it doesn’t feel like that’s it’s message?
Ever since I was a child that was my question. How do we get from the sermon on the mount to the kind of judgment and superstition that scars so much of the church today. Schweitzer said we must choose between two Christianities. One is the Christianity OF Jesus as found on the Sermon on the Mount, and then there is the Christianity
ABOUT Jesus with its creeds, rituals and rules. I am paraphrasing but when I saw that idea I knew it was true.
That makes sense. I think I’m on that path. I don’t think of myself as a Christian, though, even though I was raised going to church. I think because I’ve seen (or assumed I’ve understood) what too many other people mean when they say they are Christian, I don’t want to be that. So then the challenge is in the part of your parable where the hair sees the other hairs and thinks they are SO different. I know they aren’t … but maybe they don’t think so differently, either.
But I also I think it is wise for you to be cautious around those who have wounded you. Maybe the trick is to see them not “Christian” or “non-Christian” hairs, but as other versions of yourself. Then, if necessary, you are filtering out their words and actions, not who they are in themselves. What do you think?
I’m a christian. My church is the Eastern Greek orthodox, however I view all human beings as my fellow brothers and sisters, regardless of religion, race, or ethnicity! I love everyone equally! This is what Jesus taught in the gospels. I just want to answer the question about how Christianity went downhill! This is my opinion on what went wrong!
When Christianity became the state religion of the Roman Empire, many (well more accurately far too many) people have became Christians, not because of sincerity, but as way to enhance social prestige. Another reason was because it was fashionable, kind of a way to fit in, not feel as the outsider! There was also a case of people converting to Christianity out fear of Roman Authorities For instance, St. Augustine wrote that his own church in Hippo contained many insincere Christians, who were there out fear of Imperial legislation! I do not know exactly how widespread it was, but the fact that St Austine was writing about these things, should warrant attention! When Rome was finally gone in at the end of 6th century (In the west), Germanic tribes converted to Christianity to simply become more Roman, and the Romans were not always a good role models for these new Christians. Germanic tribes were a warrior cultures, and their understanding of Christianity was ofter rudimentary. The did not fully understood Christian demands, and if they did they tried to find ways around it. Another factor was as Church and state wed, Church officials cared more about power and money. For instance, an important Church father, St. John Chrysostom was appalled at when he saw at Constantinople at the end of 4th century. The bishop had tons of money , lots of good connections to the ruling classes, and his office was adorned by a fancy furniture, all at the same time as the poor were starving on the streets. Another telling example is when Visigoths laid siege to Rome in 410 A.D, situation became so desperate that even the pope has considered a resumption of pagan sacrifices if it could help lift the siege. Note Pope put his trust in Pagan gods, and not in Jesus! If he was a true Christian he would have to done that now, would he? In summary, Christian church has grown wealthy in material possessions and worldly power, but poorer in virtue to borrow the phrase from St. Jerome.
Another thing that I want to say is that there is this belief that Christianity has caused dark ages in Europe. I want to argue against that! While, I would agree that Christianity played a part in leading Europe to the Dark ages, The trend started long before Christianity made it’s appearance. In the first century A.D, Roman philosopher Seneca lamented what he saw as a waning interest in philosophy, during his lifetime. Many of the things that Ancients have left partially investigated were being forgotten. Ptolemy in the 2nd century A.D did not make any new discoveries, but basically summarized all the science discovered, during last 800 years. This was Roman Empire at it’s height, long before decline started. Many roman observers back in the first and second centuries have already noted trend toward superstition and ignorance, ironically at the moment when Roman Empire was at the pinnacle of it’s power! it will still be 200 years, before Christianity became state religion of the Roman Empire.
Anyway keep a good work, we need a lot more people like you. i really admire you for speaking the uncomfortable truth to the corrupt system!
Happy Easter to you and your family!
Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
Thank you for taking the time to give this background. I couldn’t agree more that Constantine making Christianity the religion of the empire was a very sad day for the church and for the world. It was nice of you to spend so much time giving people this information.
Well we cannot fix the mess we are in, if we do not know how we got here!