Jamaica Gleaner / From time immemorial, religion has strived on fear, despair, and hopelessness. And despite promising salvation, it has left a bloody trail that is hard to erase.
Indeed, there is evidence that the authority once enjoyed by the sacerdotal class is fading, increasingly challenged by a new consciousness with a shift in individual and social awareness.
Traditional concepts of God are being redefined. The anthropomorphic God has given way to deism, the belief in an immanent spirit.
The jealous, wrathful, impetuous, incendiary God – a product of patriarchal minds is dying a slow death.
Yes, traditional concepts of God are being laid to rest by reason. And surely, twitching in their last death throes, religious leaders are desperate to shore up their moribund institutions.
As humankind struggles to find meaning and tranquillity the need for spirituality – not religion – has grown.
Religion, long infected by crimes against humanity, remains static, hamstrung by its own bureaucratic paralysis. Confined to its own self-created world, it has failed to keep pace with a new global dynamic.
There is a silent, and sometimes open, uprising at odds with decaying, anachronistic religious institutions. It is a pervasive dynamic that began for earnest in the 1960s.
Social movements clamour for justice, equality, reparations. Women rally to be heard, to preach.
Indigenous peoples are no longer intent to remain sheepish. They have even managed to democratically wrest power from centuries-old oligarchic rule as evident in Bolivia.
NARCISSISTIC RELIGIOUS LEADERS
Meanwhile, religion continues to hold fast to biblical injunctions that promote division and hubris. So many religious leaders, like politicians, have exhibited narcissistic personalities – exploitative, entitled and obsessed with power – manipulative.
They have betrayed their august positions, feeding their ego, controlling the gullible, while safeguarding their lot. In their delusion and duplicity, they have sullied the Creator.
When Gustavo Gutierrez’s liberation theology responded to poverty and oppression, the Catholic Church balked, for fear of invalidating the teachings of the Magisterium.
And competing with the Church for souls, evangelicals have stepped up their missions, all the while touting prosperity theology. Their churches have become dens for thieves.
But spiritually is rejecting the charade, the duplicity.
And in the face of overwhelming scientific evidence, we know that evolution is irrefutable. Why then does the Christian right deny truth?
Still, orthodoxy remains unbending. A sky God created Adam, the first man. But a groundswell of awareness will not accept this literalism, this specious doctrine.
Religious authority is being questioned in every clime and culture. In theocratic states, human expression is stifled.
In 2011, ‘The Day of Rage’ in Iran was aimed at overthrowing the yolk of oppression. The Imams who promote their infallibility are nought but deceivers for they know that they are mere men with no access to divinity.
NOTHING SACRED ANYMORE
And in the distant lands of Wudang, the home to Taoist temples in China, monasticism has surrendered to commercialism. Sacred grounds are trampled by tourists who dole out money for a photo opportunity with monks. There is nothing scared anymore.
In India, sacred texts are interpreted by the priestly class to justify the caste system, one of the most egregiously inhumane norms.
In Japan, the Butaku fair no better against the discriminatory practises by those who follow Buddhism and Shintoism. And in Yoruba Africa, titles of ‘Chief’ and ‘Priest’, are bought and sold to the highest bidder.
A new Enlightenment is upon us. Like the 18th-century Enlightenment, this dispensation is marked by discernment, enquiry, introspection, research, and progressive ideas relating to God.
This is the new era of theothanatology – a rejection of traditional theism. It builds on the work of Friedrich Nietzsche, Paul Van Buren, and William Hamilton, and embraces the transcendentalism of William Blake and Immanuel Kant.
The death of this man-God is liberating. This threatening alter ego of patriarchal societies is being replaced with a creative, immanent essence that can be experienced.
Former Jesuit priest and Jamaican, Martin Schade, advanced this thesis in an article published in the Caribbean Journal of Religious Studies (April 2008).
In Riddum of Creation: An Incarnation Expression of Caribbean Theology , Schade wrote, “All is sacred in its origin (and) our starting point is Original Grace not Original Sin.”
Original Sin is replaced by essential goodness and we are not damned to hell eternally for infraction of social laws.
EAST MEETS WEST
Today’s enlightenment absorbs and synthesises new concepts and philosophies – east meets west leading to greater understanding and tolerance.
The Pew Research Center validates this movement towards spirituality. In ‘Americans may be getting less religious, but feelings of spirituality are on the rise,’ David Masci and Michael Lipkan penned that “the rise in spirituality has been happening among highly religious people and the religiously unaffiliated”.
According to the report, some atheists and agnostics are also embracing a spiritual lifestyle.
Writing for Christianity Today Ed Stetzer uncovered some sobering statistics. According to a December 1, 2014 article, 27 per cent of young adults said that they wanted a break from religion; 26 per cent said church members seemed judgemental and hypocritical; 20 per cent didn’t feel connected; and 15 per cent felt unwelcome.
That religious attendance is sharply declining is hardly disputable.
The disaffected are well aware that religion continues to promote separatism, even in the grave. In a final act of divisiveness we are buried in separate grounds, each according to his faith lest our rotting flesh be infected by another who held a different belief.
– Dr Ashby is the author of ‘The Believers: Faith and Spiritism in the Caribbean Diaspora’ and’ Anam Cara: Your Soul Friend and Bridge to Creativity and Enlightenment’. Feedback: [email protected] or follow him on [email protected] .