Why Fundamentalism is Anti-Religious
by Rev. First Speaker Schol-R-LEA;2, LCF JAM POEE ELF KCO KoR BiWM MGT GS TGIF
To describe the Universal Process in words is not the same as experiencing the Universal Process.
- Lao Tse
Many Thelemites mistake the phrase "Do What Thou Wilt" as meaning, 'do whatever you want to do.' This is a grave misunderstanding, one which Crowley himself railed against. To say, "Do What Thou Wilt", to someone is the gravest of charges. Far from an invitation to self-indulgence, it is a command to follow one's heart's desire, one's destiny, without reservation or regret.
Many readers of Robert Heinlein's novel Stranger in a Strange Land mistake the phrase "Thou Art God" as meaning, 'you are above the rules.' This is a grave misunderstanding, one which Heinlein himself warned about. To say, "Thou Art God", to someone is the gravest of charges. Far from an invitation to self-indulgence, it is a command to know that you have you are a part of a greater whole, and must seek to act with God-like wisdom, without reservation or regret.
Both phrases espouse that ultimate responsibility for one's actions lies with you. To follow your True Will is to do not what you want to do but what you >must> do - and to have the self-awareness to know what that is. To be God is to have the burden of acting wisely and decisively.
Now, I am no one to speak of decisiveness and responsibility; you will rarely meet anyone who is so self-absorbed, over-cautious, and irresponsible as I am. But I at least have the sense to realize this about myself.
You may be wondering what this has to do with religious fundamentalism, or the dichotomy of the True Tao and the False Tao. All will be made clear shortly, I hope.
Today I heard a young Baptist arguing with an older Episcopalian sociology professor. The younger man kept insistently asking if the professor thought that the Biblical stories of Adam and Eve, the Flood, etc. were actual events. The older man, who saw that the younger man was trying to trap him in a contradiction, was evasive, but made it clear that he didn't. The Baptist hammered on the topic, hoping, it seemed, to get the older man to confess that he wasn't a real Christian. To him, the idea that the King James Bible was anything but the received, absolute and unvarnished Truth was nothing short of evil.
The laughable part of this, to me, was that the younger man mentioned the Prodigal Son along the way (at least, I thought that that was what he was referring to). I think that the professor missed that part, but it struck me as particularly absurd: this was a parable, a story told by Joshua Magus to make a point, and he even explained the meaning of it after telling the tale. Yet this younger man was going against his own Lord's word in taking it literally.
And here lies the fundamental error of fundamentalism. Most of the Gospels, and many other parts of the Bible, are not literal stories, and were never meant to be taken as such. The Christian Scriptures are heavy with allegory; most of the meaning of them is only clear on careful contemplation, it's messages intentionally obscured so that it would only become after after meditating upon them - because a flat, direct telling could never carry the message adequately. I'm not a Christian, yet I can see this well enough to make me wonder how anyone could miss it. These are works which generations have found profound meaning in, yet the modern fundamentalists, in reading them literally, extinguish the Divine spark in them and turn the into empty words.
Take, for example, the story of the loaves and fishes. The surface story is of a miracle working, one of many in the Gospels. But even a few moments meditation on it will show that it this is the least important part of it; the real message is written between the lines, in the compassion and sacrifice behind it, the allegory about sharing it holds (of which the modern Stone Soup story is an echo). To see it as being about creating food and meat from nothing is to reduce it to a children's fairy tale, something it most definitely is not. There are other meanings to it, at least one of which is so outrageously blasphemous on the surface that I laughed out loud when I noticed it - a sure sign, in the Discordian world-view, that I was On To Something. I'll leave it to those with minds as dirty as mine to work that one out for themselves.
The transforming of water into wine seems practically banal when you read it as it is written - another miracle, ho hum, yeah Jesus sure had amazing gifts, y'know? Taken literally, it is barely even a miracle - one could even ask, with a Joycean wit, if it was just as miraculous when he turned the wine back into water the same night. But buried in it is one of the most profound homilies about honesty and preparedness in any religious work I've seen, one which hardly anyone seems to notice.
As for Easter, let me state this unequivocally: anyone who reads the story of the Resurrection as it's surface meaning and no other, IS NOT A CHRISTIAN. To see this, the core article of Christian faith, as nothing more than a miracle story, is to completely miss the point.
While I do not know much about the Q'ran, or the Vedas, or the Sutras, I think it is safe to say that the same is true for any Scriptures. To read them literally, as words rather than as allegory, is to commit the second worst possible heresy one can, regardless of the religion in question. One must interpret them oneself.
And this brings us back to responsibility, because the worst heresy one can commit is to let someone else interpret them for you, without question and without attempting to seek your own Truth in them. Fundamentalism, especially when part of a cult of personality such as , is all about abdicating the responsibility that makes one human. It is saying, I cannot make decisions for myself, and will not try; instead, I will hand my fate over to a book, a priest, a pastor, a leader, someone, anyone else, and refuse to take on the burden of being a sentient adult with my own free will.
Can you really say that you are an adherent to a religion if you cannot bring yourself to try and understand it, to dig below the surface to the wisdom hidden there? Or are you only pretending to be a member, mouthing the words, ever in fear of being unmasked as a fraud? How many zealots have died, not for their faith, but because they were afraid of their lack of faith? A true believer wouldn't need to prove themselves, would they?
Fundamentalism, not atheism, is the ultimate rejection of faith.
This explains many things, not the least of which being the peculiar phenomenon wherein many non-Christians seem to know the Bible better than many Christians do, and how the more pig-headedly fanatical the believer, the less they seem to understand about their faith. Atheists, agnostics, maltheists, Pagans, and others who have left the religions they were raised (or should I say, indoctrinated) in, are people who have sought their own answers, and many of them struggled long and hard with it. While many of these people are as stubbornly closed-minded as their opponents, they have, as a rule, at least given some deep thought to the matter, and tried to find answers on their own. Right or wrong, they haven't simply accepted another's word, at least not in regards to religious positions other than the one they now hold.
Last edited by Schol-R-LEA on Sun Jul 26, 2009 10:49 am, edited 1 time in total.