Since about the dawn of civilization, depending on where you place that on the timeline of humanity, our species has claimed divine relationships, yet held a far less righteous agenda. Prior to that, when there were fewer of us, scattered farther afield, conflict was rather rare, resources abundant, and sentiments towards other populations relatively benign. Those phenomena out of our control we assumed were the doings of gods, and we had proper reverence for them. Salmon runs. The wet season. Our lack of knowledge kept us in our place: frightened on the one hand, grateful on the other. My how times have changed.
The consequences of our changing social and cultural climate have resulted in divisions and hostilities we should have averted, but must now devote considerable resources to mediate, repair, and end. This is not going to be an indictment of science, but a reminder of our animal nature, our ability to overcome it, and a plea for a shift in focus.
…. we revere religion above God. We hold sacred our technology instead of creation. We aspire to material wealth instead of peace, enlightenment, and humility.
As biological entities we are selfish organisms, like any other primate, mammal, or even insect. We have to be that way if we want to perpetuate our genes. Science has revealed that we are not as special a species as we would like to think, and we react angrily to that notion, especially if we are of certain religious persuasions. We should find joy and solidarity in our fundamental instincts and shared physiology with other animals, yet we actively deny it instead. This attitude serves not the Creator, only our own ego.
Today we revere religion above God. We hold sacred our technology instead of creation. We aspire to material wealth instead of peace, enlightenment, and humility. Do you sense the pattern here? God is good. Religions, at least the militarized ones? Not so much. If you are fighting your holy war with anything more violent than battle hymns, you have pretty much broken your covenant with God and taken up with the Devil. The means of asserting your rights have violated your belief system. Your definition of God becomes “warrior” if not executioner, or plain thug. No one considers God villainous until their religion needs It to be.
Religion, we should remind ourselves daily, is a human institution, and as such serves a human agenda, not a heavenly one. We conveniently interpret scripture, from whichever source applies, to uphold the favor of our race, our male sex, our male gender, our perceived dominance over other human individuals and populations, as well as other species. God is most certainly not a specific race, sex or gender, nor even a species. Other living things have souls, or none of us do. Why create a living being and then not give it a soul? Religion has created more atheists than science ever will because of its insistence that we are somehow a product of greater divine attention than anything else.
One aspect of humanity that does make us unique is our ability to recognize ourselves as animals, with all that this implies, and yet behave in ways that avoid obvious self-interest. We can put others of our species, or our entire species, ahead of ourselves if we so desire. The more specialized we become as individuals, too, the more it behooves us to preserve our collective diversity. To put it another way, the less well-rounded we are in tasks, knowledge, and social interactions, the more we need others to cook for us (speaking personally here), solve complex problems, and resolve large conflicts, to name but a few important skills.
”…. meaningful change will happen from individual choices made daily in the marketplace, the workplace, the church congregation, the public agency, the private enterprise, and the personal household.
If our human diversity is so vital to our collective survival, then why are we still at war, why is there still racism and other forms of discrimination, and why does poverty exist? If we have the capacity to acknowledge the negative ramifications of purely selfish acts, why are we so reluctant to be altruistic, charitable, and accepting of each other? Simple, and yet complex. The human institutions we have created for the organization and advancement of our species have proven terribly vulnerable to corruption, abuse of power, and other inhumane and criminal actions. Government and business and religion are all rife with atrocities that amplify our worst individual tendencies. Politics compounds the dissonance created by the other three institutions, framing everything as an us versus them scenario.
How do we overcome? Some advocate anarchy or libertarianism. Others see democratic socialism as the answer. Ironically, perhaps, meaningful change will happen from individual choices made daily in the marketplace, the workplace, the church congregation, the public agency, the private enterprise, and the personal household. Choosing to reward your definition of excellence, asserting your right to freedom from violence and discrimination, and committing to a better understanding of others will be how we solve our most intractable problems. Speaking honestly and authentically, and doing our best to withhold judgment of others, is the process.
Celebrate the right things, resist the temptation to confuse the divine with the human. Hold yourself to higher standards. Be critical of your own choices not only in the voting booth, but in products and services. Spend as much time as you can listening without speaking. Admit your mistakes and squelch the impulse to put down others for theirs. Realize you are going to fail, repeatedly, until all of it becomes second nature. Forgive yourself in the meantime.