Not Cease from Exploration

Friday, May 29, 2015

A [Conservative] Religious Guide to Sabotaging Your Life (with commentary)

I read this on the Facebook page of Kissing Fish, which is a great source for religious thought that has more to do with compassion than it does control.  Anyway, you can find Kissing Fish, and this specific article, HERE.  As noted in the article, the original listing comes from Jim Palmer, Notes from (Over) the Edge.  You can find that book for sale HERE at amazon.com.

A 16-Step Religious Guide To Sabotaging Your Life:
1. Begin with the premise that there is something hopelessly and incurably wrong with you.
2. Believe that your humanity is an affront to God, an obstacle to overcome, and an evil to repress or eradicate.
3. Pin your hopes on the afterlife, and don’t get too attached to the herelife.
4. Mistrust what you most deeply think and feel.
5. Give others the power and authority to determine what your beliefs, values, opinions, goals, desires and views are.
6. Fear, reject, condemn and close yourself off from anything that doesn’t fit with what you got in #5.
7. Focus on behavior modification, checklists, do’s and don’ts, obedience, and keeping the rules when it comes to living your life.
8. Give up or kill off all your needs and desires as a sign of spiritual maturity and call it "dying to self."
9. Make sure everything and everyone in life is assigned a label or put into a box.
10. Label science, psychology and art as “secular,” “carnal,” or “worldly,” and stay away from it.
11. Consider talk of love, unity, harmony, peace, beauty and oneness as childish, foolish, idealistic or dangerous.
12. Draw a line between "sacred" and "secular" and divide up the world accordingly.
13. Divide the world up into "us" and "them," and stay away from "them" and judge them from a distance.
14. Lock up and throw away the key to your sexuality and get busy focusing on something that is holy.
15. Put forth a valiant effort to project and maintain an image that lines up with the expectations of your religious community, and hide the ways you don't.
16. Don't ask questions, rock the boat, challenge authority, think for yourself, or listen to that voice inside... just keep doing or believing even if it violates something deep inside of you.
- Jim Palmer


My commentary is in dark red text.  I'll confess that much of what I've written comes from my religious upbringing in the Roman Catholic Church, but some is also very applicable to other conservative religious systems as well.

* * * * * *

1. Begin with the premise that there is something hopelessly and incurably wrong with you.
I listen to conservative Roman Catholic radio from time to time, and it's amazing how true this statement is from that particular perspective.  Growing up, were told it was called "original sin", but that's a short-hand way of saying "you are incurably bad because of something Adam and Eve...well really Eve...did".  Of course for this to all to work one has to believe that Adam and Eve actually existed as human beings, living in a garden ages ago.

Anyway, believing that you are "bad" from the start creates a need to be fixed.  And the fix?  Well it depends on which group of mostly older white guys you happen to be exposed to as a child.

2. Believe that your humanity is an affront to God, an obstacle to overcome, and an evil to repress or eradicate.
This is the concept of an "Angry God", which I could never ever quite understand.  If God is all knowing and all seeing, He surely knew that this creation of His, namely man, would make mistakes.  Why then the anger at what He already knows is going to happen?  I know, "free will", but even then, an all-seeing and all-powerful God, existing outside of how we understand time, would already know how we are going to behave in any given situation.

3. Pin your hopes on the afterlife, and don’t get too interested in the herelife.
I'm sorry, but I do believe that you only get one life to live, so you need to live it well.  In truth, I don't think most people, even those who profess a strong religious belief, actually swallow this one anyway.  See Cardinal Bling (and countless others) for examples.  The worst part though?  Many religious really want YOU to believe this.

I also find this to be a great excuse for the whole "God wants you to suffer" line as well.  Saying that it's "okay to be poor" and "the poor will always be among you" are great lines coming from people that live in nice houses and who have more than enough to eat.

4. Mistrust what you most deeply feel.
Given that not everyone is able to articulate or understand what they "most deeply feel", I agree with the sentiment to a point.  A teenage boy may "deeply feel in love" with his first girlfriend, but that doesn't necessarily mean that this feeling is really all that deeply rooted or fully understood (such a teenage boy probably loves the idea of a girlfriend more than he actually loves the girlfriend).  The bottom line is that this point is dependent on the person and the situation.

Anyway, I do agree though that a large measure of control comes from the ability of some to get you to behave in ways that are contrary to your deepest feelings.  This explains just about every cult in the world.

5. Give others the power and authority to determine what your beliefs, values, opinions, goals, desires, and views are.
Sadly, I think much of religion comes from a desire to control behavior, not out of love, but instead out of a desire for the power that comes from such control.  Me?  I don't believe that God plays favorites.  This means that I have the same powers of moral discernment as any Bishop, Pastor, Rabbi, Cardinal, Imam or whatever other jobs come with funny hats.  I don't have the same dogmatic training as these kinds of folks, but my powers of understanding right and wrong are just as good as theirs (or maybe even better, as I've never molested anyone or anything, nor have I ever ordered anyone killed for writing a book either).    


On another note, some actually believe that the Church needs a greater role in secular society (read the book Return to Order by John Horvat for an example, a book which I actually did read...and which I will not promote via a link), which is frightening.  For the record, I find it interesting that some decry religious domination of secular society in some parts of the world, but seem to have no problem with it happening here.  

6. Fear, reject, condemn, and close yourself off from anything that doesn’t fit with what you got from the above.

Again, it's about control.  I firmly believe that God has given each of us the powers of logic, reasoning and compassion.  To deny the use of these gifts seems to me to be an affront to God.

7. Focus on behavior modification, checklists, do’s and don’ts, obedience, and keeping the rules when it comes to living your life.
I do believe in focusing on behavior modification, but not when it is directed from someone who inherently believes that they have been called by God to control me.  Yes, we all do need rules, but those rules need to be obeyed not because we are told to but because we know it to be right to obey them, and the underlying rationale behind obedience has to make sense.  For example, it's wrong to steal, something most of us understand.  However I don't understand the rule that says to Catholics that they shouldn't eat meat during Lenten Fridays, yet it seems perfectly okay to gorge oneself on pizza and seafood instead.  One of those rules makes moral sense; the other is just about control (and even then it doesn't seem to work).


8. Give up or kill off all your needs and desires as a sign of spiritual maturity and call it "dying to self."
Why would God create sexuality if he didn't want humans to express it?  Oh, and let's simply kill the "to procreate" argument right here and now because individuals who are sterile still (barring other conditions) have a need to express their sexuality, as do those who have aged beyond typical child-bearing years.  

9. Make sure everything and everyone in life is assigned a label or put into a box.
Let me be blunt:  Stupid people see the world as this "black or white, good or evil" affair.  Viewing things in this way I think is an assault of the very nature of creation, as it is a way of reducing the wonderfully complex universe into moron-sized chunks fit for human understanding.  Yes, some things are always evil, such as harming children or animals.  Other things, like political philosophies (be they conservative or liberal) are simply not.

10. Label science, psychology, and art as “secular,” “carnal,” or “worldly,” and stay away from it.
The ability to solve problems, the ability to create art, the ability to help others, the ability to better understand the universe all seem to me to be gifts from God.  Why would anyone think these things should be oppressed?

11. Consider talk of love, unity, harmony, peace, beauty and oneness as childish, foolish, idealistic, or dangerous.
Getting someone to deny the obvious seems to be hallmark of unhealthy control.  


12. Draw a line between "sacred" and "secular" and divide up the world accordingly.
I actually think we need a mix of both in our lives, although I also think that there are many "sacred" things that you will never find in a church.

13. Divide humankind up into "us" and "them," and stay away from "them" and judge “them” from a distance.
Here's a thought:  assume that all of God's creation is wonderful and worthy of respect, unless proven otherwise.  Go from there.

14. Lock up and throw away the key to your sexuality and get busy focusing on something that is holy.

See #8.  Believing that sexuality only serves the need for procreation seems, well, ridiculous.  I also think that the repression of sexuality is the cause of more than a few unhealthy things for many folks in our society today.  

Speaking of sexuality, there is also something of a paradox in this area when it comes to homosexuality: One has to believe that non-heterosexual behavior is a choice in order for it to be considered "bad"; if you don't believe that...namely that you believe that it is part of how some people are created...then the whole house-of-cards comes falling in when it comes to those against gay (also known as "human") rights.  Why? Well if it is not a choice, you must then believe that God made a mistake in creating gay folks.  How many hard-right social conservatives want to sign onto the "God made a mistake" bandwagon?  Not many I bet, but here's where it gets interesting:  If you believe that homosexuality is in fact a choice, then heterosexuals must then "choose" to be straight.  Yet as a heterosexual male, I could never "choose" to be homosexual; it's simply not who I am.  Nor could the Reverent Pat Robertson, I suspect, either.  If I can't choose to be straight, then others can't choose to be gay.  To quote my favorite fictional Vulcan, "Logical, flawlessly logical".

15. Put forth a valiant effort to project and maintain an image that lines up with the expectations of your religious community, and hide the ways you don't.
The sexual abuse of children by clergy and the resulting blindness to (and at times active covering up of) it is a great example.  It's worth noting that, while he is now a saint, the late John Paul II basically turned a blind eye the this issue (citation HERE from the National Catholic Reporter).  While listening to conservative Catholic radio one day, I heard a commentator defend the late pope by saying something along the lines of "...the late Pope was incapable of understanding that this kind of thing was happening within the Church...".  Sadly I agree, and for the record that's a pretty horrible defense.

16. Don't ask questions, rock the boat, challenge authority, think for yourself, or listen to that voice inside... just keep doing or believing even if it violates something deep inside of you.
Growing up in the Catholic Church, in those wild west days after the Second Vatican Council, it wasn't like the above statement; in fact, there seemed to be encouragement of individual thought.  Those days ended in the early 80's as the Church grew more conservative, more dogmatic and more inwardly facing.

I recall reading once that a certain conservative Catholic thinker describe that voice inside as being part of the "stain of original sin", with the implication being that any thoughts that arise questioning dogma must be impure.  How very sad.

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