Sometimes, have you ever had the impression that religious communities are divided into 2 categories of believers/worshippers? Well…I have!
The first category is composed of those who I define as “deeper spirits” who are not very clung to religion precepts but have a considerable empathy towards everyone (also the MVS, Most Valuable Sinners).
On the far bank, we have the “rules tacked” who behave as the doctrine merely revolves around the commands and more frequently, are keen to judge and alienate the MVSs. I’m going to argue below.
The deeper spirits are those who embrace a creed, not for its scriptures or characters’ accountability but its essence. They are attracted by it and therefore are always looking for a deeper truth. Sometimes they like to develop creative conjectures to interpret the sense of morality. You recognize them while they lose present cognition staring at something because their mind is delving into the innermost existential dilemmas. They could get lost every moment, while drinking tea, playing videogames, watching the kitchen’s wall, or even right after sexual intercourse (also at the moment). Their mental capacity is so big, spurring them to question anything and apparent reality or concepts are not a satisfying answer. In front of a command, they immediately track down all the possible facets of what could be fair or improper. They are very sensible and therefore, don’t like to judge others, being prone to first question themselves and then to identify themselves in other people’s shoes. And here is the missing feature in the rules tacked, standing out for a lack of depth and empathy.
To make it clear before continuing, this is not an equal deployment, in fact, the latter faction frightfully outnumbers the deeper spirits, probably forming the 95% of the total of worshippers, and this is scary!
Can you imagine a ceremony followed by dogs, where the priest preaches that in order to be saved (or have an endless avalanche of cookies) they need to recite “woof” for 7 times, and thereafter the dogs in a choir: “woof woof woof woof woof woof woof”? I might be inappropriate, but that is likewise for human ceremonies. The rules tacked (95% of worshippers) don’t follow the services because are looking for a deeper self, but because they want the cookies, they want blessings, they want salvation. It’s like punching the clock so at the of the month I can show my boss that I’ve always been present…”Now give me the paycheck!”
We have a big problem with that. Such an intricate and delicate spiritual heirloom undersold to a breed of profiteers that only care about the return, and that’s why we have so many complications with religion: hypocrisy, consensus, and even violence.
Rulesticked are shallow, their faith is flat and are comparable to those, who before an exam, learn by rote the book’s plotline. You might pass the exam, but you skipped the essence of the book, the learning, the knowledge, your competence enrichment and therefore, your skills will be mediocre (mediocrity is a choice). Rulesticked are like this… blinkered by the desire of reward, they think that going deeper is a big waste of time and hence, memorize the rules and play the game. “Ok…Let me review…Rule n.1, Don’t cheat! Rule n.2, Don’t steal! Rule n.3, Don’t kill! Rule .4, 5, 6, 7…..Ok! I got This! Imma be saved!”
The funniest thing is that these guys presume to be the Truth-keepers! They pretend to be spotless because they know the plotline! They feel entitled to render sentences out of their super condensed knowledge nearly always conveyed by “pastors” (often with unclear prestige). But they are human too, and for this reason, they are the first to trespass the rules and as I mentioned before, they don’t really like to question themselves, and instead, they feel entitled to label abominations (generally, sins committed by others) away from small “justifiable” transgressions (generally, sins committed by themselves). Now we set the fire for the cauldron of hypocrisies. Ready to be served, here is the main course!
A big example… Have you ever had a chat with somebody that was so bothered to not eating pork or drinking alcohol but also referred about his fornications with nonchalance (especially males)? I’m not talking about the value of the rules or morality, but how can we emphasize some commands, while completely disregarding others, just considering our comfort? Plus, most of the time, the same people that nonchalantly preserve a fornication track record, are those who scandalize because somebody ate pork or drank alcohol! This applies to any form of transgression and so, how can we be so severe judging others for ancillary rules, while in our everyday life we are plunged in lies, bad language, disrespect, and greediness?
In part, having received a “Christian-imprinted Nigerian education”, also myself had been through comparable situations. Nigerians are very religious but generally, I don’t think that they are truly conscious of their beliefs background. Christian-wise speaking, it seems that the doctrine had been superficially infused by the use of tales (by the colonists to control the population but, this is another story) and now, the audience is supporting precepts not really knowing where and how all of this came from.
While in Nigeria, I was triggered every time I was supposed to attend a surprising amount of mass services, or I had to be stuck to certain traditional (regional) rules in order to be a good Christian. They were putting so much emphasis on these points that it seemed that no matter how bad or good I behaved in my personal life, but if I’d followed the steps I would have been accepted in the promised land. Going to church wasn’t useful to learn, but rather was certifying my appearance and appearance seemed to be the only thing that people really cared about.
I grew up in Italy with its old and austere Catholic tradition. I’m not a big fan of the Vatican but I recognize it to be the pioneer of all the Western institutionalized Christian organizations and I was distraught when I experienced the misinterpretation and misuse of the doctrine by the Nigerian clergy. The concept of reward was amplified to ridiculous, and money, offerings (tithes) seemed to be the only medium to connect with the Divine. I witnessed Christian rites completely invented and the promulgation of crooked and nonsense sermons. People were really believing and enjoying these things but I can tell that almost everything was about the material, nothing about spiritual growth. That’s crazy! Being aware that also the Vatican and Protestant institutionalized traditions have controversial positions compared to the original Christianity, but here I found the crooked controversy of the controversy.
I understand that people are very attached to their native customs, but at this point, I want to remind the notion expressed in the previous article that conviction of righteousness is a form of arrogance. I was born in a Christian Catholic context and of course, I grew up with Christian Catholic values but if I’d been born in a Muslim context, I’d probably be a convinced Muslim by now.
In general, the thing that really bothers me is that the masses don’t recognize that Abrahamic doctrines, at least Christianity and Islam (the ones that I know better about), are the result of ages of human re-elaboration and I’m pretty sure that everyone knows that the Bible has been rewritten many times in ages past, changing the meaning of the scriptures for political purposes. This is the most prominent example.
Growing up with this very intense Christian formation shaped my mindset but also made me investigate deeper. I am a convinced believer, but I’ve never been totally convinced about anything except faith and sense of morality hence, I’ve never been too much stuck to ancillary rules because of this reason: re-elaborations.
History has been written by conquerors, never by the oppressed, and so religion did, obscuring and even by eliminating (with violence) its opponents. Many rituals and creeds that we have today, never have been proclaimed by God (or a god) before, but merely are the heritage of pre-existing civilizations. “Prophets”, “Gurus” or just prominent people extrapolated elements of previous cultures in order to gain consensus and facilitate the process of conversion. I shall cite few examples…
During the first Council of Nicaea, the Roman emperor Constantine and his fresh new selected crew of catholic bishops, decided ex-ante who (and when) was going to be worshipped as a saint (some of them were killers) and that Jesus birthday had to coincide with the winter solstice (21th-25th December), a pagan celebration. In this way, it would have been easier for 90% of Rome pagan citizens to embrace Christianity. The veneration of minor deities was replaced with the veneration of saints and angels, and celebration of god Saturn (winter solstice) was replaced with Jesus’ birth. No wonder why the Orthodox celebrate Christmas in January, and still I see shallow people waiting on Christmas eve with so much emphasis acclaiming and lauding (as to punch the clock) for an uncertain date. This is just one of the countless re-elaborations that we take for unquestionable thinking that originated from God but in reality, were established for advantage by men. And we can further find analogies in rituals and systems of government like the presence of Orphic, Dionysian, Isis and Osiris Mysteries references in Christian functions and Sunday services rituals, Christian elements in prophet Mouhammed’s ideology inherited by his mentor Bahira, the appropriation of former Arab pagan legislation (Sharia) and cults (Black stone embedded in the Ka’ba) and so on…
I don’t want to push myself further than this, but I really want to stress on these points because in my opinion, if you support a religion only by the use of its rules, you are completely wrong, especially if you are only concerned about your life salvation. As many gurus of time quoted that real beauty is in the process and not the achievement, the same applies to spiritual life. The process isn’t following the script, isn’t accomplishing all the instructions. That’s more a kind of worker and employer relationship. The process is personal growth.
And at this point, I suggest to ask yourself 2 questions:
1- Once Confucius (one of my favorite masters) said that people who rely on morality as a guide of life don’t need rules or laws to be benevolent. Rules and punishment were introduced to keep order over a society driven by materialistic purposes and fear, only moral and mature mankind could live without them. Therefore, the question is:
” If all the rules and damnation warnings were rescinded, how would you behave? Would you let morality to be your driving force or not fearing a god would draw out your true self?
2- Considering that almost every believer affirms to love God (even though I think is not true) and real love is supposed to be unconditional. If you didn’t expect God to give you any material reward, would you still “love” Him?!
I have no intention to provoke with these questions, but rather I want to solicit an honest self-examination. When I first questioned these things to myself I felt disturbed and confused, but then I discovered that I was carrying an overvalued version of myself, rules were driving my behavior but my inner will and inclination were different. I was a worse person compared to what I always believed myself to be. And so, to conclude, don’t be too much stick to rules and question yourself (be honest). You won’t find all the answers in the scriptures, I’m confident that you can find the most essential rule within yourself.