Saturday, May 14, 2011


Want a "God" that agrees with you in everything? 

Just go out and find him or simply manufacture him to your own specifications.

Everybody else does.  It's been going on for millenniums.  As long as humans have existed in their super aware state.

If reincarnation happens to be true, perhaps I was there when some of what I am about to recount went on.  However, I could have no conscious memory of it, as no USB cord comes with at least most of us to access such things, so I can only claim a limited level of accuracy in what I am about to put forward.  It's all based on the history and archaeology we are aware of and observations of human proclivities and habitual thought processes.
Our distant cousins in the rest of the animal kingdom just take life as it comes.  They have no real awareness of past or future.  They just exist for the present in a world limited to themselves and whatever they interact with.  The concept of something beyond right now and beyond this life, especially other possible dimensions, doesn't bother them because they don't have the mental capacity to grasp such concepts.

Man does.

Humans worry about the future, plan for it, know death will come at some point and have the intellectual capacity to wonder what it's all about, why things are as they are.  Where did it all come from?  What happens when we die?  We find it hard to grasp the idea that it's all chance, that our existence might be finite, that no one is in control.  It's hard to imagine not existing past this fleeting life.

It didn't take long for our ancestors to notice that they could make things with a little thought and effort.  It was easy to conclude that somebody must have made them and everything around them, but WHO?

When children asked their parents, they told them some great being, or beings, must have done it and soon gave him/her and them names that differed from group to group.  Sort of like the "boogie man" people invent to keep children from venturing into dangerous places and situations.

This being, or beings, also served to explain and bring order to sometimes capricious aspects of nature, like storms, lightning, earthquakes, illness versus health, plenty versus famine, etc.  To explain the seemingly malevolent aspects of the natural world, they had to conclude that there were some expecially unsavory kinds of supernatural beings that became known as devils and demons.

Way back in prehistory, when our ancestors existed in roving hunter-gather bands and small tribal units, each little group had its own way of explaining what creation, life and ultimate reality was all about.  The brainiest, most outgoing and most imaginative individuals came up with stories they thought explained it all.  There was the usual cross-fertilization that led to similar myths and legends spreading from place to place with localized modifications being thrown in along the way.  That's how things like the Bible account of creation started out in Mesopotamia and ended up in a revised form in Jewish accounts.

At first, since the female is the life-giver, most imaginary deities took on a female guise.  Thus, many of the first archaeolodgical representations of imagined deities took the form of mother goddesses.  These were somewhat benevolent, mothering-type imaginary beings and representations of them often appear in a pregnant state.

Political power was not a very prominent aspect of those early societies.  They just tried to get by and only looked to deities for hoped for support and sustenance.

This state of affairs soon gave way to larger established villages and city states. 

This was a man's bailiwick!

Men, being stronger and more aggressive, soon rose to positions of political power in these expanded societies.

Men had always, because of size and strength, taken on the natural role of protector and defender that women had to depend upon.  Because of their compartive weakness and the necessity of caring for children, the ascendancy of men to this protective role was inevitable.

If a woman had one child at her breast, another on her knee and a third "in the oven," she was at a great disadvantage when smilodon (saber toothed cat) came looking for an easy banquet.  She and her little munchkin's certainly filled the bill.

Many of the wily, seductive female traits we all recognize became set in the evolutionary fabric of our kind back then.  Those most adept at attracting and holding some macho hunk of a man were the ones most likely to survive, along with their offspring.

Men are aggressive.  They get things done.  Their goal is hegemony.  The most aggressive, impressive and seemingly superior indivuals became "top bananas."  They set the rules for everyone to follow and organized small armies to defend against anyone and anything that posed a real or imagined threat to them and the community.

What had formerly been household gods soon morphed into community gods that they prayed to and feared to anger.  Gods soon replaced goddesses at the forefront of these pantheons because a male deity would be more in keeping with the attitudes and goals of the male leaders.  Shamans soon morphed into full time priests to lend better organization to religion.  Settled theologies began to develop.

It wasn't long before one city state ruler decided his little territory was too confining.  He wanted more territory and resources and could see the obvious advantages in getting rid of a lot of competing, warring little fiefdoms.  The most aggressive and tactically superior "capo" eventually succeeded in forcefully uniting a whole bunch of little fiefdoms into one big nation.  He became the "capo di tuti capi," otherwise known as a pharaoh, king, emperor, etc.

Finally, real wealth and power!  That's what it was really all about.

The priests also profited.  They banded together or eliminated their rivals and set up standardized religions that blended together regional differences and created one unified religion for the whole nation.  Differing gods and goddesses soon filled well-defined niches and presided over set aspects of life and the afterlife.  As writing entered the scene, it became easier to develop and codify standardized theologies.

The power grab drive kept on growing.  Soon nations began eyeing neighboring nations and lusting for their wealth and power.  Nations morphed into empires.

Religion went along for the ride.  Often, the political leader was just the useful figurehead.  The real power behind the scenes was the priesthood.  This was certainly true of the Holy Roman Empire.

Along the way, some thoughtful individuals concluded that this great pantheon of gods and goddesses didn't add up. 

Monotheism was born.

As ususal, when humans differ in opinion, conflict was the result.

One Egyptian Pharaoh became so convinced of the monotheistic concept that he tried to stamp out polytheism.  This didn't sit too well with a lot of disenfranchised priests who bided their time until the demise of that Pharaoh and came charging back into power under his successor.  They tried to expunge that Pharaoh's record from history.

The monotheistic philosophy caught on with a fairly large segment of the world population and led to centuries of argument and outright strife.  The desire to deify outstanding individuals, even in supposedly monotheistic societies has never ended.  It shows up as saints in Christianity.

It was amusing, after Elvis Presley's tragic death, to see the plethora of ecstatic reports by his idolizers that he was really still alive and they had seen him.  In a prior age, he would have probably been added to the pantheon.  I'm rather certain some ecstatic individuals actually talk to him, like Christians talk to saints.

In the final analysis, much remains the same as it did centuries ago.  Humans are still humans, and there is no end to the mental quirks they can exhibit.

Although the gods of conquering kingdoms tended to come to ascendancy in subjugated areas, the ancients were usually rather tolerant in their attitudes toward their neighbors' deities.  Even Solomon didn't demand that his foreign wives and consorts give up their ancestral gods and goddesses.  Ancient Irael wasn't the strictly monotheistic society most people imagine it was.

As monotheistic concepts gained ascendancy throughout most of the western world through the power of totalitarian rulers and the military they controlled, tolerance pretty much fell by the wayside.  There is no room for competing philosophies in an authoritarian monotheistic setting.

The concept of freedom in religion is a fairly new concept that had no chance until the advent of democracy and free thinking.  It has never prevailed anywhere in the Middle East, except in Israel, a democracy surrounded by monarchies and dictatorships.  If you would advocate religious freedom in those despotic nations, your life would be in serious jeopardy.

So, we now live in a fractured world that is in a constant state of tension and potential warfare over mental concepts put forth as ultimate truths by opposing camps that are all convinced they have the one and only revealed truth.  Choices are pretty well limited in most of the world.

Here in the Americas and in Western Europe, its pretty much a "the skies the limit" situation where religious faith is concerned.  New sects and denominations spring on the scene with wild abandon.  So do contrary organizations defending atheism, agnosticism, deism, etc. That situation drives pople like Muslims nuts.  They can't abide people being able to decide their own beliefs and opinions, especially if it's total unbelief.

As confusing as it all is, the only really acceptable situation to a truly rational thinker is the one existing in the Western world.  As long as human beings seem by inborn nature to have a need to create gods as psychological adjuncts, the more freedom the better.  It is easier to avoid the horrors of state sponsored, religiously backed terror.  Men can think freely and science can flourish.

Without the Western approach, modern science could never have carried us to the technological heights the world now enjoys.  The oppressive Muslim world would have never allowed it.  Yes, they were at one time the main center of learning after the western Roman Empire disintegrated.  That was primarily due to the fact that they inherited and preserved the Roman and Greek knowlege partially preserved by the Byzantine Empire they conquered.

So, if you have a psychological need for a "faith" and live in the free part of  the world, I have good news for you.  Just about anything that would appeal to your own concepts and psychology is already available or can be easily created by none other than YOU.

You probably won't have to go to that kind of effort.  Numerous others have been very busy for centuries creating and promoting a dazzling array of differing opinions, doctrines and prejudices.

People who feel uncomfortable or guilty about sexual desire and expression will often be Catholics, even priests, monks or nuns.  that doesn't mean they will be successful in shedding the drives and desires they are running from, but it does allow them to put up a "front" that looks good to those they are trying to impress.  Behind the scenes, what can and often does take place is both shocking and revolting.

We're all aware of priests who don't succeed in sublimating this overwhelming drive and molest little boys and also girls.  One of my ancestors left the Catholic Church when he found out a priest had taken liberties with one of his daughters.  Since he lived in Minnesota at the time and not in the Bavaria he was born into, there was no societal judgment on his decision.

In the mid-1800s, along came the Seveneth Day Adventists to appeal to those who just knew Christianity had to adhere to everything the Bible contained, including Saturday sabbath.  Ellen G. White's insistence on vegetarianism didn't sit too well with some people, so there was plenty of opportunity for splinter, like the Church of God Seventh Day.  Out of that organization came Herbert Armstrong, Ambassador College and his Worldwide Church of god.

Herbert never denounced sex as such but got very vehement about things like necking and masturbation.  In private, he himself was "jacking off" regularly and kept detailed diaries that became known as the "flog log."  In his latter years, in the guise of "sex education," he would invite college students over for dinners and show lewd pornographic films that deeply embarrassed a lot of female students.

There's a psychological quirk that often leads people, especially those who are seeking to put themselves forth as some kind of special or godly example, to vehemently condemn some of the things they are secretly doing but feel deeply guilty about.  They hide behind a facade and project an aura of special reghteousness and morality.  I don't know what it's labeled in psychiatry, but in religious terms, it's hypocrisy.

This has created a great deal of psychological suffering for untold generations through the condemnatory teachings of many misisters and churches.  Masturbation, for example, is a normal and thoroughly natural release of sexual drive and tension that members of the animal kingdom engage in all the time as a matter of instinct.  Many societies openly accepted it and some of their gods were said to practice it.  These malevolent and pernicious teachings debase what should be a thoroughly natural, beneficial and harmless part of private life and turn it into something evil.  To cover up their private "lapses," the condemnation is magnified and the feelings of guilt with their attendant psychological damages are perpetuated.  It's a vicious cycle.

Those who think only seriousness and austerity are godly and that rather trivial pursuits like card playing, dancing, etc. are an improper and sinful waste of time will turn to some sect with a "god" that shares a similar opinion.  One such minister once said that dancing was wrong because a man couldn't hold a woman that closely without having sinful thoughts.  To his mind, the natural sexual response to members of the opposite sex was a sin.  It was lust to him, and lust was evil.  Anything that might trigger it had to also be evil.  Thanks to that "evil" being a part of inborn nature, you and I are here and the human race continues.

Some of the "church fathers," like Augustine, felt so guilty about their youthful debauchery that they concluded sex was evil for anything outside reproduction.  Thus, we have millions of Catholics going through life feeling guilty and in constant fear of venial sin because they have thoroughly natural desires and sometimes fulfill them.  Many Catholic husbands and wives sleep in separate rooms to minimize their temptation to engage in non-reproductive sex.  Catholic families are often thrust into unnecessary poverty through a surplus of children because practicing birth control would result in that very "sin."  The only acceptable birth control, according to Catholic doctrine, is abstinence, although they will grudgingly allow the rhythm method.  Practicioners of that method are usually known as "parents" (parents with big families).  "Viva Papa!"

Those who think every hour should be spent groveling before a despotic deity and using his name like a mafiosi uses the f-word will be attracted to Islam.  It's clear that Mohammad had some psychological quirks and hangups. He certainly was a "control freak" and "male chauvinist pig" who wanted everyone saddled with a strict regimen of prayer and groveling.  It's brainwashing, pure and simple.

Do you like money and power, what people refer to as "success?"  There are plenty of gurus out there promoting that kind of "god" and ready to tell you that "greed is good."  You can do it too.  Just think of a unique new wrinkle or steal what someone else teaches, reword and rearrange it and make it your own.  It's done every day.

You get the idea.  All the great religious organizations and the families of offshoots that arose from them were set up by people or groups of people with a particular belief or concept they were convinced was the only belief or concept pleasing to "God."

If there is a human  attitude or quirk some lonely or domineering person wants to find support for in a group, there usually will be something out there for them.  If not, or if they just want to be the big authority and are determined enough, they can create it for themselves and usually be able to find numerous others with a similar bent to join them.

The easier mass communication becomes, the easier it is to do.  Things like the worldwide web, desk top and e-book publishing and Facebook make the old methods of print, radio and television of just the recent past look like ox carts by comparison.  The acquisition or manufacture will be easy.  Nothing material and tangible need come into play.  The idol is totally conceptual.


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