RELIGION VERSUS CULT: AND OUR QUEST FOR TRUTH
By Fahim A. Knight-EL
There is an old African saying: “When they first came; they had the bible, we had the land. We now have the bible and they have our land”. The two terms religion and cult have created controversy throughout human history and philosophers have argued Theism, Deism, pantheism, monotheism, existentialism, etc., for a very long time and today there are new debates going on about the concept of Intelligent Design. Philosophy is defined as the “Theory or logical analysis of the principles underlying conduct, thought, knowledge, and the nature of the universe; a study of human morals, character and behavior”. This writer had a philosophy professor named Dr. Clack who taught philosophy at North Carolina Central University. Thus, in my junior year in college, I took a course under Dr. Clack titled the "philosophy of religion". This professor was a heavy thinker and with an extremely analytical mind.
The first day of class, he asked the question, did God create man or did man create God? Dr. Clack could not phantom some intangible and formless being or entity possessing more of a rational and logical explanation about human existence than the quantitative values associated with cause and effect. You are not taught to question religion, but only to follow the tenets and precepts espoused by the clergy and further conveyed in the various interpreted so-called holy books. (Reference: Joseph Campbell; “Myths to Live By”).
The class was taking totally out of their familiar theological and intellectual comfort zone of perhaps having for the first time, in their lives, to think for themselves, as opposed to having others to think for them, which they had become so accustom. Dr. Clack’s line of questions were an exercise in thinking more so than some atheistic attack on religion, at least after almost thirty-years later that came to be my conclusion of those deep philosophical discussions.
The majority of the students were Christians and this writer could tell by the expressions on many of their faces that they were baffled and at a lost for words. For someone to dare pose such an awkward and off limit question (at least from their neck of the woods) it was considered so-called taboo. It was equally amazing how this single question within a split second had visually turned their vulnerable belief system topsy-turvy and the only thing many of them had to rely on to answer this question was their holy book, the Bible, because they were taught early on that this book contained all the answers. (Reference: John G. Jackson; “Man, God, and Civilization”).
Thus, many of them started or made attempts to quote scripture as definitive response statements of truth and they started stating that the Bible was divinely inspired by God. This writer some time ago was given a book by a friend; it was written in 1928 by Dr. Bhagat Singh Thind titled, "Divine Wisdom" Thind writes from an Eastern base philosophy and he gives a dictum relative to good intentions and it sums up my views on religion.
Dr. Thind stated, "There is a story of a monkey who was tamed by his master and who was fanning the master while he slept. One day a fly seated himself on the nose of the master and, of course, he was disturbed in his slumber. The monkey was well-meaning and full of love. He said: 'I will kill that fly, because my master is feeling very much disturbed.' He took a big stick, aimed at the fly, and killed the master. Lots of people are sincere, all right, but they are fools. A man can be a sincere man and a fool man at the same time. As far as their sincerity is concerned, we can praise them; as far as the foolishness is concerned, we can only pity them." (Reference: Bhagat Singh Thind; "Divine Wisdom" pg. 9).
This writer does accept that there are good people that practice religion and no doubt, they have good intentions, but the above cited example, of the monkey and master led to the monkey having good intentions about killing the fly that was disturbing his master. His good intentions directed to him relieving the master of this pest by killing the pest, but he also killed his master in the name of good intentions.
Thus, as far as my fellow student’s lack of intellectual ability to defend and wrestle with a mindset like Dr. Clack they had relegated their arguments to mere emotionalism and became very defensive in posture. This only got them into further trouble with the philosophical minded Dr. Clack. He definitely did not buy into some religious history book that had some special sacred validity. The Bible, as well as all so-called holy books were perhaps viewed by Dr. Clack, no differently than he would view any other so-called secular history book written by men (in which history tells us they were not divinely inspired).
This writer knew that these above stated views according to Dr. Clack’s perspective had no moral entitlement or lofty divine privilege to reserve space in the minds of rational human beings and not go unchallenged and unquestioned. To him this was mere superstitious propaganda given credibility by earthly beings perhaps more for mischievous intent and purposes other than religious moral and ethical values.
Hilton Hotema in the “Genesis of Christianity” maintained that “the Priesthood frighten the people, and to keep the Priesthood in high places, and to drive the multitude into the church, for sake of profit and power.” Control benefits the status quo and those who possess the power, has always been at the center of religion and theologians have for the most part interpreted and waged war either covertly or overtly by reinforcing dogmas which benefited the symbols of power. (Reference: Hilton Hotema; “Genesis of Christianity”).
This writer believes that Dr. Clack was trying to lead us to a better understanding of the scientific method of reasoning according to the authors Otto T. Solbrig and Dorothy J. Solbrig in their book titled, "Introduction to Population Biology and Evolution" stated, "The scientific method is based on observations of nature, hypotheses formulated to explain those observations. and experimental testing of deductions from those hypotheses. New observations are constantly being compared with old observations and theories. Errors are detected and theories are modified as new information becomes available. Consequently the scientific view of the world is provisional and uncertain. This uncertainty does not deny scientific progress but, rather makes it mandatory, since misconceptions, which are inevitable, given the fallible nature of humans, are constantly being cleared up. Scientific precepts, like common sense, are opinions, but opinions based on observations rather than arbitrary dicta." (Reference: Otto T. Solbrig and Dorothy J. Solbrig; “Introduction to Population Biology and Evolution" pg. 25).
Yet, simultaneously religion had been leading the masses to negotiate their earthly existence by appealing to a heavenly requirement that is rooted in someone's interpretation of what is determined as good and evil. Religion does not free individuals it does just the opposite, it enslaves and compel human beings to conformity which is often steeped in religious anxiety teachings.
Wikipedia defines a Cult in this manner: this quote was taking from the work of Louis Jolyon West "A cult is a group or movement exhibiting a great or excessive devotion or dedication to some person, idea or thing and employing unethically manipulative techniques of persuasion and control (e.g. isolation from former friends and family, debilitation, use of special methods to heighten suggestibility and subservience, powerful group pressures, information management, suspension of individuality or critical judgment, promotion of total dependency on the group and fear of [consequences of] leaving it, etc) designed to advance the goals of the group's leaders to the actual or possible detriment of members, their families, or the community". (Reference: Wikipedia on line research site-- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cult).
Man originally established external belief systems because he was in search for answers to explain his existence and the universe; this mental exploration only left him with more questions. Thus, from this essential question arose perhaps a loosely religious structure and gave way to the inception of a culture of religion that would be based on a so-called divine hierarchy, headed by a Supreme Being with infinite wisdom and possessing extraordinary powers and abilities. This is probably more characteristic of Western religious culture.
This arcade social arrangement allowed man to satisfy his inquisitiveness and to establish a superficial affirmation institution which to answer the six basic questions of who, what, where, why, when and how. Sociologist would perhaps refer to this as Ecclesia; it "Is a religious organization that claims the membership of everyone in a society or even in several societies. A powerful, bureaucratized organization with a hierarchy of full-time officials, it gives complete support to the state authorities and expects the same from them in turn. People who are born into a society with such an "official" religion become members almost automatically." (Reference: Ian Robertson; "Sociology" pg. 416).
The professor continued to systematically deconstruct all of their religious arguments, as the students tried desperately to convince their constituents and the professor that the words written in the Bible were absolute. This writer in the deepest recess of his mind knew that Dr. Clack's over-all intellectual position held substantial credibility and was irrefutable within the realm of logic. This writer subconsciously at that moment had a mental paradigm shift and made a silent psychological commitment to never again allow untried and untested ideas to be imposed on me including my own faith tradition.
This class led me to become a Free Thinker, I did not say, I became an atheist or an agnostic, but I have no phobias or bias opinions of those who are—they have a right to intellectually weigh-in on the subject of God and religion and I am completely comfortable with their conclusions; even if those conclusions may differ from my religious worldview. This writer after coming in contact with Dr. Clack was willing to consider the possibilities and not negate trains of thought that might-be contradictory and opposed to tradition.
This was not just a creation versus evolution discussion, but perhaps for the first time it was getting people to think and at that point mentally I had broken with tradition and had come to the realization that religion was a straitjacket—with four defined walls and there were no allowable room for one to deviate and those questions that arose to challenge theological and/or religious inconclusiveness were systematically relegated to faith.
This furthered muddied the water for me, but I looked up the word Faith in the dictionary and it defined Faith as "belief in, devotion to, or trust in somebody or something, especially without logical proof." So accepting this definition of faith, religion can offer a religious culture base on a set of teachings, values, norms, mores,' folkways, etc., but a logical explanation isn't a necessary prerequisite to justifying an overall belief system, in fact Faith defies the question of logic. There are certain things giving in all religions that aren't up for discussion, it requires silent devotion and the search for answers (proof) isn't important within the religious scheme and often any contradiction deviating from the popular view will be viewed with suspicious and met with resistance.
Yet, you will often hear the word tolerance being tossed around and associated with the religious worldview, as though it has a ting of meaningful conviction and a level of truth intent. Religious tolerance is only an acceptable attitude agreed upon by the religious clergy to protect the central theme and there is no room for judgmental attitudes and broadmindedness; these attributes are unwelcome.
The more this writer gathers his thoughts and how we define Cults, it is evident that the two—meaning organized religion and Cults share some similarities in the overall concept of religiosity and both are more closely akin to the mandate of having to unconditionally adhere to a set of agreed values that are closely guarded, which certain aspects isn't up for discussion and/or negotiation. However, in Western culture, we are taught, assuming that if a group or organization is defined and characterized as a Cult—there is a negative stigma or connotation attached and we automatically compartmentalize this to be something that has deviated from mainstream thought and function within the realm of a subculture or counter-culture.
Wikipedia further define a Cult as, "A group's cult status begins as rumors spread of its novel belief system, its great devotions, its idiosyncratic practices, its perceived harmful or beneficial effects on members or its perceived opposition to the interests of mainstream cultures and governments. Persistent rumors may follow relatively small and recently founded religious or non-religious groups when they are perceived to engage in excessive member control or exploitation” Logic is defined as a”sensible rational thought and argument rather than ideas that are influenced by emotion or whim." (Reference: Wikipedia; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cult ).
Logic viewed as a philosophy is defined as the “branch of philosophy that deals with the theory of deductive and inductive arguments and aims to distinguish good from bad reasoning." Cult if we can define it by Western definition perhaps would encompassed ancient civilizations such as Egypt (Kemet), China, India, Persia, etc., in which the majority of our present day religions, cultures, and sacrament rites proceeded, developed and evolved as we know it in the West from these various ancient societies. (Reference: Kersey Graves; “The World’s Sixteen Crucified Saviors).
But it is very interesting how the West became the greatest influence in which thought and institutions were corralled and took on new meanings reflecting the dominant society and culture interest. And from this a body of religious ideas left its maternal origin of Cult societies and transitioned into being so-called legitimate organized religion, accepted as mainstream expressions of faith tradition. However, the Cults from which they sprung immediately became demoted as illegitimate and pagan and more so than that, become demonized and classified as being anti-establishment. (Reference: Gerald Massey; “Ancient Egypt the Light of the World”).
Perhaps these ancient civilizations did not necessarily need some single Supernatural Being, but understood best and accepted the delicate relationship balance—between nature, the universe and himself. They were able to explain and articulate their existence by viewing their lives, not as some detached entity who were in an antagonistic and entrapped evolutionary predicament, but instead, often embraced the reality that there lives were inclusive of the natural order of things—reflecting a microcosm of the macrocosm universe, which ultimately was an extension of the cycle of life.
It was what the Western world perceives as Cults that gave life to religion, a lot of religious folklore and mythology teachings are steeped in the tradition and histories of Cults. There is little doubt in this writer's mind that the majority of our religions, if closely examined parallel more ancient civilizations. Cults have subtly bought into the language of definition as assigned by the status quo and as religion continues to gain societal momentum; the so-called Cults have not reminded the religious zealots that they owe them a debt of gratitude.
Our media perception of Cults are unfair, bias and possess negative implications, but religion is more or just as guilty of creating fanaticism, human division, war, extremism, intolerance, human suffering and doing it all in the name of God. There is one name for it, religious totalitarianism. Yes, Cults have inflicted similar acts of man’s inhumanity to man; but even in these instances religion is not permanently subjugated and dismissed as being inheritably evil and unredeemable. However, Cults that violates the so-called societal norms based on the political, economic and social rules that create similar infractions are doomed to a lifetime of ridicule and unacceptability.
Dr. Clack’s teachings and words loom’s even higher to me in 2008 as it relates to the concepts of religion and God. This article was partially motivated by the overt hypocrisy that this writer sees in religion and of course reflecting back on the visionary professor Dr. Clack. He might-be quite happy, if he ran across this article written by one of his former students who made the transition to becoming a Free Thinker.
Karl R. Popper in his article titled, “Is There An Ultimate Source of Knowledge?” Stated, “I believe that it would be worth trying to learn something about the world even if we merely learnt that we do not know much. This state of learned ignorance might be a help in many of our troubles. It might be well to remember that, while differing widely in the various little bits we know, in our infinite ignorance we are equal. If only we look for it we can often find a true idea, worthy of being preserved, in a philosophical theory which we must reject as false. Can we find an idea like this in one of the theories of the ultimate sources of our knowledge. I believe we can; and I suggest that it is one of the two main ideas which underlie the doctrine that the source of all knowledge is super-natural. The first of these ideas is false, I believe, while the second is true”.
Popper continues: “The first, the false idea, is that we must justify our knowledge, or our theories, by positive reasons, that is, by reasons capable of establishing them, or at least of making them highly probably; at any rate, by better reasons than that they have withstood criticism. This idea implies, as I suggested, that we must appeal to some ultimate or authoritative source of true knowledge; which still leaves open the character of that authority—whether it is human, like observation or reason, or super-human (and therefore super-natural). The second idea—whose vital importance has been stressed by Russell—is that no man’s authority can establish truth by decree; that we should submit to truth; that truth is above human authority. Taken these two ideas almost immediately yield the conclusion that the sources from which our knowledge derives must be super-human; a conclusion which tends to encourage self righteousness and the use of force against those who refuse to see the divine truth.” (Reference: Tim C. Leedom; “The Book Your Church Doesn’t Want You To Read” pg. vii).
The author Walter Williams in his controversial book titled, "The Historical Origin of Christianity" stated, "Whether you set these religious in a present or historical settings, where their true attributes can be extracted and displayed, you will find these attributes to be cold, calculated, deceptive and devious lies. Western religion is the ultimate deceptive psychological ploy, primarily because religion professes to encompass the word GOD. Therefore, to accept another religion over Western religion is to be ridiculed and reduced to an uncivilized savage. To deny these Western religions altogether is to damn your soul to eternal suffering. Cosmetically, these religions are embodied with high principles and valued ideas, but underlying this surface is the most devastating psychological ploy imaginable. Unsuspectingly, believers offer little resistance to their acceptance of these religions because, typically, religion is introduced to them by their parents. The orchestration and embellishment of these religions are a primary function of the mass news media to visually bring myths and lies to life, to lend validation to them and make them believable in the eyes of the masses." (Reference: Walter Williams;” The Historical Origin of Christianity" pg x & xi).
Dr. Clack stated he had more empirical proof that cause and effect gave more definitive answers to explaining our human existence and our relationship to other creatures, as well as to the universe than the God and religious theories. He definitely viewed the science and the universal laws of possessing more definitive credence than unproven faith that was rooted in myths, fairy tales, magic, tradition etc., unscientific "beliefs" that are substantiated by "faith" which often defies logic and reason would not be acceptable in his world.
In the book authored by T. Williams, Richard B. Pilgrim and Ronald R. Cavanaugh titled, "Religion: An Introduction" stated, "Religion as a specific system of belief in God, including a group doctrine concerning Him, and His relations to man and the Universe". Clack through philosophical deductive reason drew the conclusion that man needed to explain his own existence and therefore invented religion and the concept of a Supreme Being with omnipotent ability and pointed to him to explain what he perceived as the unexplainable—this not only included his origin but how do you explain our five (5) billion year old planet in all its magnificence? It became easy to say God was responsible and this answer has quasi satisfied a large portion of humanity’s inquiry to know. (Reference: T. Williams, Richard B. Pilgrim and Ronald R. Cavanaugh; "Religion: An Introduction” pg. 6).
Fahim A. Knight-EL Chief Researcher for KEEPING IT REAL THINK TANK located in Durham, NC; our mission is to inform African Americans and all people of good will of the pending dangers that lie ahead; as well as decode the symbolisms and reinterpret the hidden meanings behind those who operate as invisible forces, but covertly rules the world. We are of the belief that an enlighten world will be better prepared to throw off the shackles of ignorance and not be willing participants for the slaughter. Our MOTTO is speaking truth to power. Fahim A. Knight-EL can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
STAY AWAKE UNTIL WE MEET AGAIN,
Fahim A. Knight-EL