This was perhaps my most personal essay.
And clearly outlines what true religions shold be like. Very short, around 2500 words.
Two dogmas of rationalism.
I have a proposition that is radical and subversive: one should never believe in anything that one has not thought about first for himself. This certainly sounds unfortunate to the majority of enterprises that have hitherto been successful. My task is to put an end to the strange superstition that has been plaguing our planet since the beginning of time. Philosophy and not mythology shall chart the course for the way our lives are to be lived. Rational thought alone should be the tool to assess the viability of our potential actions. Not authority, not gut feelings and not impulses. Religion is a notion that is without any proper definition. It has fallen prey to the low materialism that has been plaguing humanity ever since Buddhism long before Christ. And now in this present age of Phariseenism, the apotheosis of Philistinism has been finally reached.
Verily stands Christendom before us, loaded with contempt, expelled from all honest spiritualities—laughing stock of all other creeds, like a prostitute who sells herself for sordid hire—today to one, tomorrow to another and the present day theologians can not think clearly—their minds disorganized by the non-sense of sanctimonious traditionalism. Once upon a time there lived a humble scholar. He was a deeply pious man, moderate in all his passions, yet possessed a long and a querulous melancholy streak. Those who knew him often wondered what was going on in his head, he seemed so deep in thought as to appear as he was not of this world. But they knew that it was thought that he fell in love with, and thought for him was synonymous with God. Beauty and truth came to mean the same thing to him in light of the Christian truth. This humble fellow’s name was Johannes Climacus (who was later debunked to be Kierkegaard) who in his age once took note of the way the Church philistines have made a fool of God and prostituted their identity for the appeasement of their niggardly masters. They always paid lip service to their titular authority as they knew that the Church was the source of all the ‘goods’, and at the beginning there was a word and the word was with the Church. At once it all was just simple, witless polytheism, but later on it ripened into full-fledged religious sanctimony where those same Olympic gods have become the most servile lackeys to whatever the whims of the masters that be shall command. This Johannes Climacus was a terribly wicked man and the Church was far too astute to have this escape their notice. And they thoroughly enjoyed whatever persecution of this man that their duties have accorded them to. It was indeed true that their devotion to religion has vitiated them to the point of sheer reprobation and no evidence of candid thought has been found in their veins.
The reality of the situation was much more stern than it appeared to be. God was being strangled by sham theology, and the creed was overtaken by religious cant. What must be done about this? It was clear that religion had nothing to do with God who was reduced to Jesus, and Jesus was reduced to an ordinary man. Such was the poverty of their imaginations. Accordingly, they have imposed their vain prejudices onto what they could never fathom: God. Kierkegaard took note of this and did not miss out on an opportunity to expose their sanctimony for what it was(Attacks Upon Christendom).Truth was subjectivity! He exclaimed, yet, ‘no, no’ said the sanctimonious traditionalists, ‘truth is exactly the way it is written in our book of dogma and the mother Church can modify it whenever its whim shall command!’. Truth is to be lived out, not to be known, insisted Johannes Climacus, and they responded half-wittedly: no-no, there wrong you are our friend! You impudent fiend! Truth is written in stone in our book, it is immutable and totally literal. Do exactly what it says in here and you shall be exalted! There shall be a house made out of Gold in paradise branded in your name! We all shall live in milk and honey! The heavenly Gates shall fling open in front of your very eyes! You are a rope between eternal bliss and reprobation! Take this book my friend and do exactly what it says, you shall never be wrong! Don’t you know what atheism is!? Imagine the world without love, there you shall know what it’s like and imagine yourself in that state for all eternity!’ So pleaded the Pharisees.
It was clear that this could not have been anything other than hypocrisy. The Church has murdered God and replaced Him with its own stature. Dostoevsky once had a portentous character in his novel the Devils: the nihilist Kirilov. This could have been a caricature on Nietzsche’s purported nihilism, but this of course would have been non-sense. Kirilov insisted that if God does not exist man must replace him. And if this happens(as it did with the church in the case of Christendom that Kierkegaard was fighting), we shall have full freedom. And then we could get to the ultimate question of philosophy: to be or not to be. Kirilov would insist that it is better not to be since life in itself has no meaning and meaning can only be found in death, through sheer exaltation of one’s passions, through a mere act of heroism. The crass perversion of Nietzsche’s teaching here was manifest and unpardonable. Nietzsche advocated neither suicide nor nihilism. He insisted that the individual should transcend the social conventions and make his own ethical framework, and be guided by the standards that have been set forth by nothing other than his own thinking. He was very much hostile to death and glorified life. In the Anti-Christ he has inveighed Schopenhauer for being hostile to life. Schopenhauer, Nietzsche asserted preached altruism and self-abnegation because he considered death a good thing(which he indeed did), and therefore the more we do for others, the more we secretly harbor a death wish. Therefore we have to do all we can to guard our lives by embracing this wild force that Schopenhauer’s once called the Will, but for Nietzsche these were just mere passions. As his prophet Zarathustra once exclaimed
''In all writing I love only what is written with blood. Write with blood: and you discover that blood is spirit. I want gremlins around me, for I am courageous. Courage frightens away specters and creates gremlins for itself. Courage wants to laugh. I no longer feel as you do: this cloud which I see beneath me, this darkness and heaviness which I laugh at, precisely this is your thundercloud. You look up when you desire to be exalted. I look down because I am exalted. Who among you can simultaneously laugh and be exalted? He who climbs upon the highest mountain laughs at all tragedies, real or imaginary. Courageous, unperturbed, mocking, violent--- this is what wisdom wants to be: wisdom is a woman and loves only a warrior''
Therefore to be strong and to be wise undoubtedly mean the same thing. At one point in the scenario a snake crawled into the peasant’s mouth; ‘Bite its head off’ insisted Zarathustra, and so he did. And then ‘verily, verily my friend’ thus spoke Zarathustra ‘you’ve over come your life’. This is the true nature of heroism that Nietzsche spoke of, it had nothing to do with suicide.
This is a glaring example of how one’s teaching can be perverted to mean nearly opposite of the message that was initially intended. Indeed such was the case with Jesus and Christendom, contemporary and past. Jesus was a humble man who taught spirituality, how to find God, or how to be in tune with the finer things in life, how to find one’s genuine mission in life through surrendering to a higher purpose.
Accordingly, what came out of this would strike him as nothing other than appalling. Jesus once preached: he who humbles himself will be exalted. No, Nietzsche responded: he who humbles himself wants to be exalted. And this clearly described the deplorable behavior of religious communities all through-out history. It is obvious that the current religion of Christendom is not satisfactory. What must be done to replace it?
First and foremost, what needs to be replaced is not a set of rituals, not a set of holy teachings, or for that matter nothing that can be perceived within the external world.
“So the Pharisees and teachers of the law asked Jesus ‘ Why don’t your disciples live according to the tradition of the elders instead of eating their food with ‘unclean hands’ He replied, ‘Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites, as it is written: ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.’ You have let go of the commands of God and holding to the traditions of men’ 14 Again Jesus called the crowd to him and said, ‘Listen to me, everyone, and understand this. Nothing outside a man can make him ‘unclean’. 20 What comes out of a man is what makes him unclean. For from within, out of men’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance, folly. All these evils come from inside and make a man ‘unclean’ Mark 7:27
In order for this problem to be solved one’s inner mindset has to change. This means that following stipulations may not be sufficient enough, or even re-writing the rulebook. So what shall the dogmas of rationalism be? The first dogma is that there shall be no blind obedience to arbitrary authority. Reason shall stand firm to the end and be the master of all things. Accordingly, my perception of the way the World works is not in any way inferior to that of the Church, or whoever is the most prolific influence at the time. Power means nothing other than an opportunity to get one’s views out to a wider audience.
It is clear that in the present day and age (as always has been) most people are not capable of thinking for themselves and only capable of doing what they are told and believing what is said to them. So for this reason whoever can wield his sword better is frequently mistaken for one who possesses the truth, as he happens to be the one in the position to preach his gospel most frequently. It is indeed the case that religious truth could only have been decided on the battlefield. As Dostoevsky’s legend of the Grand Inquisitor tells us about when Jesus came down to Earth, he was seized by the 90 year old Grand Inquisitor and after having raised a four year old girl from the dead was told that he shall be burned at the stake as the vilest of heretics and be sorry for having disturbed the Church. Every single person in the crowd who has applauded Jesus on his previously performed miracle bowed to the Inquisitor after he has commanded for Him to be seized and taken to the tower for torturous death. Had the first dogma of rationalism been in tune this would not have happened. But dogmas by their nature are antithetical to reason, as they insist on ideas being accepted entirely on trust. Accordingly, this one will have to go against the grain of rational thought in order to make sound reasoning possible in the future. Much like a democracy may need to be forced on the third world country despite their ostensible remonstrates. This should be the case because only in a democratic society can we really know what people are really saying, in a totalitarian society it could just be their leaders speaking through them as means of propaganda. Much like only through the instantiation of reason, dogmatically if necessary, as it is, could there be any sound thinking.
The second dogma of rationalism is as follows: one shall be entirely responsible for his life, and can do as he pleases as long as he does not interfere with the welfare of others. Utilitarianism is a necessity in this case. So one can behave in a way that is morally reprehensible and a way that will clearly do him more harm than good, but if this does not hurt others, he should be allowed to carry through with the act. Hence he can commit suicide, but he can not go suicide bombing. This should take care of all practical politics and necessitate an extinction of religious bureaucracy along with whatever sanctimony we may get as baggage of that. Why must this be done? As I have stated in Module One, an institution does not need to have public aspects in order to be called a religion. It must have a coherent worldview and purport to answer the biggest questions of life. According to this definition, my rationalism is not religious. Yet at the same time it endows one with the greatest virtue that one can find as a human being, one of being able to think clearly and autonomously. This will be accomplished if these two dogmas are kept intact, they are both necessary and their veracity shall be incontrovertible. The first is necessary in order to establish the primacy of reason over superstition, and the second is necessary in order to ensure that the sanctimonious traditionalists do not manage to subvert it. Hence this does not constitute a religion, but offers one every necessary ingredient in order to concoct a sound worldview and much more than that. Finally will man emancipate himself from the tyranny of customs and roles that are imposed upon him. This, Bertrand Russell once referred to in one of his most famous and most despondent essays, as the Free Man’s Worship. True freedom consists in being in control over one’s life, and this is only possible through reason and not blind obedience to arbitrary authority. Man is only fulfilled if he is granted an honest opportunity to chart his own course. Shall we commit the same error as Goethe’s Faust? Will this Free Man’s Worship really be the same Mephistopheles that the rationalist shall sell his soul to? No, spirituality is a personal endeavor, and reason can do nothing but shed light on it. Far from killing the soul, it will force man to see a distinction between sham spirituality (Phariseenism/Conventional contemporary religiosity) and honest pursuit of divinity. Reason will not force man to chose one or the other, it can be nothing other than a weight-less mirror of the world, and it shall show one what it truly means to be free. It will have extricated man from his self-imposed immaturity. The instructions for this essay have once inquired “ what rituals will this religion have’ and ‘what is it about this religion that will attract people to it’. My answer to this is very simple: nothing, and there will be no rituals, public aspects to spirituality debauch its integrity. True spirituality is not about man, it is about something bigger than man, and the truth of the universe is not contingent upon man’s vain prejudices or our cultural beliefs (as the ignorant Post-Modernists believe), but on something bigger than man could ever fathom. Rick Warren started his Purpose Driven Life book with these words “ it is not about you’, the sanctimonious traditionalist that he was, he indeed has come up with one idea of value, and it certainly was the only worthwhile claim that could be found in the entire ‘best selling masterpiece of the year’. It is time for a religious revolution. It is time for us to stop posing as prophets and forcing our vain prejudices on the divine, God’s are not to be judged, we are only to be judged by them. It is time that we stop hoping for others to take responsibility for our actions or for our names to be expiated in the book of life. Only through careful reflection can man be saved, we must stop falling back on religion as means to deny responsibility for our actions. Mankind is destined to take one of two paths: revert to barbarism or salvation into independent thinking through philosophy. Philosophy is the only path to meaning in life, and by these merits our existence in the world shall be justified. Perhaps in our turn we could justify religion, as it badly needs justification.