Sep 1, 2008
Beliefs vs. Dogmas: The Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde of Religious Faith
by Charles Carreon
A hot chick I knew in the seventies had a bumpersticker that said, “Sorry my karma ran over your dogma.” Would that it were often so. Rather, it seems to be the reverse. Suffering the karma of having others inflict their dogma on the rest of us is far more common. Examples are not hard to find, from Iraq to Auschwitz, from Hernan Cortez to Mao Tse Dong, people with iron-hard beliefs have split skulls to make their points. Superstitious Christians have celebrated their faith on repeat occasions by killing their neighbors. Witch trials, tortures and executions arise from prayerful motives. Witch-killing is just a form of human sacrifice with a different justification.
Lucretius, the groundbreaking Roman materialist philosopher, evoked the spectre of ritual sacrifice when he explained his preference for reason over religion in the introduction to “On The Nature of the Universe,” evoking the image of Iphigenia, the royal princess sacrificed by her father Agamemnon to secure a favorable wind for the fleet sailing to lay siege to Troy:
Thinking back to the Judaic roots of Christianity, we remember the story of Abraham's readiness to sacrifice Isaac, his own son, until the god Yaweh stayed his killing hand, and the policy of human sacrifice was ended by heavenly decree. In lieu of killing his son, Abraham killed a fat bullock. Looking farther back, to the Judaic creation story, we remember that Cain, the jealous vegetarian, killed his brother Abel, the devout shepherd, because Yaweh spurned Cain's offerings of grilled vegetables, and approved Abel's more traditional barbecue offerings. As a result, Cain was “marked” in some way left unclear and open to misinterpretation by future generations of believers. The lesson in both stories, however, is that people should kill animals, but should not kill people.
For a welcome contrast in beliefs, let us examine those of the Hindus descending from the Vedic tribes. Their highest priestly caste consist of Brahmins, who must be pure vegetarians. They perform no type of blood sacrifice whatsoever. Indeed, they would sin grievously by killing a bovine of any sort, or by eating any creature, from snails to water buffalo. that moves of its own volition. This discipline has lead to a noticeably thinner physique among many Indian people, to the point where stick-thin limbs are visible everywhere among the young and aged. It is a great relief to see people with ordinary-sized arms and legs in India, but you may have to go the Island of Goa, where fish-eating is permitted among the Catholic natives, who benefited at least in this way from Portuguese colonization. But your average Indian would not start eating fish to improve their physique. The virtue of not eating killed animals would easily offset the observed deficit of lower protein intake.
Many other differences could be noted between Hindu believers and Christians. Brahmins are total abstainers from alcohol, nor will they smoke cannabis, but greatly relish imbibing a milk-sugar-cannabis drink called bhang, which is said to greatly enhance their devotional and musical practices. While Christians sometimes rhapsodize about being swept up into the ecstasy of “the Spirit,” and Pentecostals are given to shaking, trembling, falling into fits and uttering streams of nonsense syllables like their personal, divine dialect, referred to as “speaking in tongues,” it is hard to take these ecstasies seriously, or at least as serious as they'd be if they had consumed a Brahmin-strength marijuana milkshake. One strongly suspects that much of the hoo-ha at the Baptist convention is a form of sublimated sex, as it is only in the depths of prayer-arousal, as we might describe it, that these highly-restricted personalities are allowed to shake their belt buckles.
For Western evidence that strong oral doses of cannabis open a door to an entirely other world, we need look no farther that the works of Baudelaire, who divided hashish intoxication into three successive phases of hilarity, synaesthesia, and serenity. At the last, “There is a sense that one has transcended matter. In this state, one final supreme thought breaks into consciousness - "I have become God.” Well might this experience aid in the establishment of the Brahminical faith, that is based on the recognition of this principle, also called “self-realization,” and may even account for the eschewance of meat from their diet. However beneficial a believe in such a path to divinity may be, mob-maddened Hindus are quite capable of ignoring the injunction against killing, and have regularly exterminated hordes of Allah-worshippers found on the wrong side of the Indian “border,” notwithstanding that the Hindu gods are gods of all the earth, and the parents of all human beings.
Coming back to the subject of dogmas that promote murder as an act of faith, we cannot help but arrive at the current predicament of the United States of America, where the hypocritical mouthing of pious “Christian” sentiment is required from every would-be national politician. The sight of yet another politician pledging him or herself to Christian ideals is repugnant to any person who wants an honest representative to send to Congress or the White House, because it is obvious that those who burnish their religious credentials to ascend to public office are merely simulating spiritual belief to gain material benefit. They should not be trusted to run anything with greater ethical requirements than a whorehouse, which is just how they run Washington, and what the people should expect, were they not so naive.
We might end our condemnation here, but for the staggering losses in human life and $400 Billion dollars in six years. But for the fact that our soldiers continue killing people in their own country, who never asked for our “help,” and were attacked only after our leaders concocted a packet of lies about their leader, who was lynched in a disgusting spectacle in which only he retained dignity. Our young people are being trained to confine as criminals people whose primary crime has been defending their own country from an invasion. In Afghanistan and Iraq, our young people are hard at work propping up regimes that have no popular support under the guise of crusading for “democracy in the Middle East.”
America's global orgy of violence, ostensibly justified by the Fall of the Three Towers and the discovery that “they hate our freedoms,” was fanned into white heat by the bellicose sentiments blaring from Christian churches and right-wing radio, blasting the nation's middle and lower-class whole-hog into the business of war with a sense of righteous mission. Being a soldier had lost all its cachet due to the Vietnam debacle, but after the Fall of the Three Towers, young people had a reason to go to war at last again, to enjoy the approval of girls and men, to escape a jobless future in boring peacetime, and enter a career fighting terrorism, a career promoted by preachers, politicians, and the captains of industry as the future of America.
What is the dogma behind all this muscular assertion of American dominance? You know already. After all the noble speeches about democracy, and all the analysis about economics and strategy and world oil consumption, the average dogma-driven American believes what he or she has seen a thousand times on film – the killer wins. The human brain is trained to believe what it sees acted out in front of its eyes, and cinematic fiction is a recent development for which we are neurologically unprepared. Hollywood, the gunmakers, and the human nervous system have a threesome going that has made us fools for murder. When the great masterminds behind the Fall of the Three Towers got the networks to replay the image a hundred thousand times, each time they fell, it triggered a fear-revenge circuit in millions of human minds. Puppets of their own neurons, few were left in doubt. Pacifists hastened to rethink or discard their principles. The Dalai Lama stopped talking about world peace. The Pope accepted the Medal of Freedom, kind of like Jesus taking a medal from Rome. And the bombing began.
The great irony of it all, of course, is that the Christian faith is founded on the Judaic “Ten Commandments,” ostensibly “carved in stone” by the hand of Yaweh himself, and brought down from the Mountain to guide the people forevermore. But if I ask a Christian how they feel about the Sixth Commandment, they are usually caught short. It is, after all, the Commandment that has been rendered null and void, so you could hardly blame them. The preachers go on and on about the First Commandment, “Thou shalt have no other Gods before me.” That one fills their collection baskets all year 'round. But they never recite the stern injunction of the Sixth Commandment, the one that made explicit what everyone had known since Yaweh scoffed at Cain's alibi, “I'm not my brother's keeper,” and turned him into a marked man. You will never see a preacher, Pentecostal or otherwise, dancing around in ecstasy on one foot in a black robe, black book raised high above his head, screaming, “God damn the killers! God damn them all to hell for they have slain his children!” No you'll never hear them saying to their flock, “Oh my brothers and sisters I beg you not to kill, or find excuses to kill, or to send your children to kill, or to send money to Washington to pay for your killing.” No, you'll never hear that, will you? But you never asked yourself why, did you? That's the power of dogma.
We can distinguish beliefs from dogma, because beliefs are chosen as a conscious decision to follow a moral path enunciated by a spiritual teacher. A dogma triggers a conditioned response on the emotional plane. Beliefs and dogma are jumbled together in the doctrine, but move adherents in different directions, just as Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde wear the same clothes and live in the same house, but pursue entirely opposite goals – healing versus murder. Beliefs are like Dr. Jekyll, intelligent, kind, and decent, like the commandments that tell us not to kill, steal, lie, or have sex with the wrong people, or the generous, altruistic beliefs in the Sermon on the Mount, which seem quite impractical, but not ethically dangerous.
Dogma, on the other hand, is like Mr. Hyde, an agent of dark forces dressed in the clothes of a decent man. Some of the Commandments are fine, but others are dangerous Commandments with vague application that become the vehicle for psychically hijacking believers. Like that First Commandement -- Thou shalt have no other gods before me. What on earth does that mean? That Yaweh's people should kill unbelievers? That Constantinople must be liberated from the Jews? That Yaweh's people must own Jerusalem, or the Golan Heights? Or that goodhearted Americans can't stand still while an evil Saddam Hussein holds an entire nation in thrall to his depraved, Caligulesque appetites? Yes, yes, yes, yes. It has meant all those things and more. Just like the legend of Cain's “mark” has been interpreted to mean that his descendants were marked by the color of their skin, which means that Cain's children are the Africans, disfavored of God, who should be enslaved and domesticated for their own good. But kept from enjoying the fruits of their labor, and prevented from enjoying sexual relations with white people, which would lead to the pollution of the white race.
So it was that the preacher's daughter might attend the lynching of innocent black men, the zealous village priest might officiate over the murder of poor women guilty of poverty and age, and in today's world, the decent young Christian soldier might end up gunning down civilians in Iraq. I do not discuss the murder-suicides of the Arab world at length, because there is enough shame on my side of the planet to occupy me, but all of these human tragedies are cast from the same mold, and if Islamic hypocrites and Christian hypocrites bother to think about the issue, they know they are indispensable to each other.
Like dragon's teeth that give birth to new worms to predate upon humanity, so cruel dogmas sprout and take root in the mass consciousness of our time. The murderous dogma of our age is not religious, nor is it unique to any belief system. It is a destructive feedback cycle of fear and revenge that has been initiated by visually dramatizing the purifying power of murder to solve problems. From Harrison Ford to Mel Gibson to Arnold Schwarzenegger and the next generation of action heroes, the problems of life are solved by killing, and sexual conquests will follow as easily as James Bond's, once you have a license to kill. The military lifestyle is the lifestyle that is bathed in the purifying blood of human sacrifice, the only offering acceptable to – to – uh, wait a minute, what god were we worshipping?
Copyright 2008, Charles Carreon, Prime Publications, September 1, 2008