Monday, June 05, 2006

Fundamentalism and Da Vinci

I've been thinking lately about the problems of the world (as I often do between work and errands, and life), and I was beginning to come to the conclusion that religion seems to be playing an ever greater role in so many of these problems. Then I began to think though, that the religious impulse is something that also seems to be intrinsic to mankind; as an anthropologist I can think of no culture that has ever been devoid of some sort of spiritual component, with the possible exception of the Soviet Union, but that State Denial of religious experience was both fraught with, and the source of, many future disasters, and also could well be conceived of as just another type of religious experience within itself: a religion of Collective Control.

But being the case that religious experience seems central to the human experience (even for atheists-the religion of no religion-which consists of many pious followers), I then began to question as to whether it is religion that is the cause of so many problems, or is it how religion is conceived of. And then it began to boil itself down for me. Fundamentalism is the problem. It seems to be, as Nietzsche would say, a grab at, or a "Will to Power", disguised harmlessly enough as a wolf in sheep's clothing, in pious beliefs and grand overviews . People who believe, and say that their religious interpretations are the truth, and the sole truth, are grabbing at power through means of exclusion. If my beliefs are right and "true", then by definition yours must be wrong and "false". The interesting thing in all of this, is that these views cannot be proven; they are held in what is called "faith". Some religious traditions,like Buddhism for instance, do not hold to such exclusivisity of truth by means of faith, while others, such as Christianity and Islam, do.

In the drive for the "Will to Power", elements of these religious belief systems find that as they become increasingly oppositional to what their central tenets would profess, they create striking paradoxes which are covered over by ever more appeals to "faith", appeals that can cover over the most amazing inconsistencies as long as one still professes belief and adherence to the central claims of the system. We are living in a world now that seems to be going increasingly backward; as it gets warmer, as conflict between "truth" groups is ever on the rise, people cling ever further to their "faith", which states that they are in the right, and everyone else is therefore wrong, even though paradoxically, all fundamentalists believe this exclusively for themselves.

Jesus was a man who lived in the Greco-Roman milieu of the Middle East. He preached to his people for reform; to prepare themselves for coming times of great turbulence and strife, but with the knowledge that the Kingdom of Heaven is a potential, to be realized individually by one's efforts toward righteousness. His message was to his people, Israel. When he died, his followers, realizing his greatness and special nature, deified him, in the tradition of the time for those who were exemplary, or powerful, within the Greco-Roman world (something unthinkable from within the Jewish perspective). He preached and taught on the ethical and moral life, in a way so profound, that others (the Greco-Romans)wanted to be part of that message, even though the message was only for his people, Israel. And so, a new religion was subsequently born, and a Christ was proclaimed. And people, simply by aligning themselves with this new version of the story, became able to do the most incredible things in the name of this Christ, because Christ became Truth, and anything outside of the Greco-Roman Christ became untruth, and therefore "evil" and worthy of destruction. If you would only just believe, if you would only have "faith".

I still believe in a Jesus, however mine as been stripped of his Greco-Roman veneer, and is probably more Jewish (as he in fact really was) in his outlook; one who preached on the ethical and moral life, and also the one who told the Pharisees that it was in fact proper to pull a man out of a well on the Sabbath (contrary to the proscription against any "work" being done on the Sabbath) because a man is of infinitely more value than any rule, and that the rules were meant to lead one toward the Way. That was the message in a nutshell, and not that the way was to follow all of the rules. That view would be what is called fundamentalism.


Blogger willowtree said...

I dont think the fundamentalists care that they exclude. Many seem to take pleasure in knowing/believing that they, and they alone are right.
I dont deal with that very well, I know what I believe, but I dont feel that I must push what I believe down anyone's throat, but sometimes, I feel like a "bad Christian" because, Im not knocking people down with a hammer.
There is a religious board that I frequent, and the issue of the phrase "one true church" came up. It was funny really. Everyone is split up into their own little groups every other day of the week- Catholic here, Protestant there, Baptist, Pentecostal, Evangelical, Muslim. Everyone has their corner, but when the phrase "one true church" was banned everyone got together to protest it. They all believed they had the one true church. In their protest they became a collective 1.
It was one of the funniest things Ive ever seen, because it seemed that not many of them realized it.
Of course when the ban was over turned, everyone was separate and fighting again.

8:47 AM  
Blogger Frank said...

I think these belief systems really need to evolve more along the lines of, say, Buddhism, so that they can tolerate other systems without the fear of loss of power. Power over others really isn't the message, is it? Yet, if you look closely, that's what it comes down to.

That phrase, "one true church", boy if that's not all about power and control! That's something you don't really hear from Buddhists, or even from some Christians like the Quakers. That board proved that there is about 500 "one true churches" out there.

1:21 PM  
Blogger willowtree said...

Hey Frank, what do you make of this Al-Zarqawi business? A coincidence that at Bush's lowest approval rating, the Haditha scandal, and people questioning this war for real, the US finds, and kills, the #2 man after searching for him...for years.
(let's not mention Bush strutting around like a proud peacock, like he did something, and the military showing the photos of the dead man like...spoils or...a prize or something. And stupid people claiming some type of victory saying- this is what "we" went to Iraq for. What the hell?)
Or am I just cynical and it's just dumb luck!

I think they have Bin Laden chilling somewhere, waiting to pounce on him until Bush REALLY screws up!

5:52 PM  
Blogger willowtree said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

8:28 PM  
Blogger Frank said...

Yeah, we didn't go to war because of Zarqawi - he was a result of the war; he joined up after, to repel the foreigners (and only then claimed Al-Quaeda affilitaion), but dumb people will say we went to get him! Outrageous!

I do think though, that they've been trying to get him for a while, because he's done a lot of damage to U.S. forces; they just weren't able to locate him. I can also imagine though, that someone said recently, "let's really turn the heat up on this guy if we get any info on him", because it would really, amongst other things, raise the president's dismal image a little (although, really - why?-as you note-he didn't do anything).

Now, with Bin Laden, I think they have just let him exist for the last 5 yrs., because the "War on Terror" (or, the "Restructuring of America", a truer name) can go on, potentially forever, or at least until they've dismantled the last vestiges of democracy here.

They might actually decide to launch a campaign to get him,if the president's numbers go below, say 10%, and impeachment becomes more of a reality. How transparent that would be.

12:26 AM  
Blogger Frank said...

On the other hand though, his face did look pretty smooth, for a guy who just had two 500 lb. bombs dropped on it. Maybe you're on to something here...

1:14 AM  
Blogger willowtree said...

Im just so skeptical. Hehe.

8:05 AM  

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