“If the universe does consist of a battle between the devil and God, the final analysis should conclude that religion would have been the devil’s most brilliant move… and science, God’s.” – Dr. Steve Maraboli, Unapologetically You, pg. 176
Ok. I have to admit that when I first read this, I giggled. I think, by now, anyone that reads this blog regularly knows my stance on religion, God, the devil, science, but, just in case, I’ll state it plainly.
I am not fond of organized religion. I find that too much group thought occurs way too often, leaving those affected by this group thought often somewhat close-minded to those outside of that group, among other things. This is not to say that I hold a prejudice against anyone that finds something that they need, want, from organized religion. Kudos for them. I think everyone needs to find what it is that works for them, whether that be organized religion, a solitary practice, communing with nature, praying to the great unknown (whatever that may be), or whatever it is that gets you in touch with your soul and the belief that there is something more, something that makes us yearn for a personal, intimate connection that speaks to us and makes us feel whole. Personally, I do not find that in organized religion.
Science has tried and tried, again, to prove or disprove the existence of God with out being able to do either. This does not stop science form continuing to search for a clear answer in either direction. I think if I were God, that would probably be the plan I would want to use to keep people coming back to whether or not I existed. What better way to keep people coming back than to be elusive even to the greatest thinkers of the population? In a way, I think it embodies faith, in many ways. God has not been proven or disproven and the search still continues for the answer, with the belief (faith) that one will be found.
In my opinion, if the question of the existence of God is ever proven or disproven beyond a shadow of a doubt, the world will be a much poorer place for it. Faith in a higher power would disappear either through knowledge of actuality or dismissal of myth. The fact that God, whatever that means to you, is not something tangible, something that is disputable, means that one must believe without proof, and I think that is something each of us needs, to some degree. Maybe not. Maybe an atheist has found the same thing in concrete knowledge. Again, kudos for them.
Now, about the devil. I, personally, do not believe in the devil, or, at least, that if the devil does exist, an all loving God would not allow such a negative to be something that could influence or hurt his/her ‘children.’ I don’t know about you, but, if someone or something is going to try to lead my child down that path of self-destruction or attempt to hurt them, I’m taking that person or thing out. Sure, kids sometimes are prone to self-destructive actions, but I think that is just part of figuring out who the heck they are or are going to become. Trial and error.
As a parental unit, the most I can truly do is give them all the knowledge I have, mostly gained through experience, and hope it is enough to save them from having to go through some of the less than awesome things and feelings I have gone through. If they still self-destruct, it is not ‘the devil’ I blame. In fact, I tend not to bring blame into the equation, since it serves no purpose other than to shame. I find it is better to look at what went wrong, what actions caused the grief and discomfort, and go from there.
Now, let’s pretend there is a devil. I could see how religion could be the most effective form of the collection of souls to ‘the dark side.’ Usually, a large group of people from similar backgrounds, joined together by a common belief (faith) and a feeling of community (belonging, connection), a set 0f values (rules, guidelines), and prolonged moments of vulnerability (prayer, church service).
I used the term group thought earlier, and I still think the term holds its own, though it may not be exactly the right term. Like-minded people, joining together to worship God, sharing their faith and lives with each other. This is not a bad thing. In fact, I think, to some degree, it is an extremely healthy thing. But this group affiliation paired with faith can be, and sometimes is, an extremely dangerous combination.
People can be very protective of their faith. With the right seasoning of open-mindedness and integrity, that protectiveness is as it should be: “This is my faith, my belief. It is what I find sits gently in my heart and soul and gives me strength and solace when I need it. You can not take that from me, because it is mine and within me.” Perfect. It is when religion begins to judge the worthiness of others or convince you that your faith/belief/practice is wrong or not good enough or looked upon as a child’s myth that I begin to take issue, and where I believe the whole devil’s plan comes into the quote above. Community becomes a force of disconnection from others outside of your group. Vulnerability turns into a suit of armor to be worn in the battle to save those not part of your group. The set of values of your group become the only acceptable source of guidance. This, in my opinion, is religion gone bad. One could even go as far as to say that this is religion manipulated for the betterment of the devil.
So, I know this post may stir the pot a bit for those in organized religion and for those of other practices. My aversion to organized religion comes from experiences I have had with some of the close-minded parishioners of different religions. I have also met some amazingly wonderful people from organized religion. I believe that it is the closed-minded ones that give me the most to dislike. If you are not even willing to hear what it is my thoughts are on faith, what works for me, then you probably don’t really have much to offer me otherwise. Share your religion, your faith with me, allow me to do the same with you, and we are golden. From my studies of different religions, I believe that is how it is supposed to be. Take what you need, leave the rest, and harm none.