Our position on religion is subjected to individual belief systems, and ultimately to “Faith’. It is therefore difficult to apportion, aggregate and to be averaged. Consequently, I can only provide my individual perspective on this. My biases are that I am a Functional Atheist and Philosophical Agnostic, since it is impossible to prove a negative. To be an atheist, requires that I adopt an absolute belief state, which I cannot prove, and which will necessitate a dependency on some ‘faith’ which I am intrinsically skeptical of. Again since it is Faith based, it is not subject to rational logic and only to faith.There are two aspects to most religions, (i) mysticism and (ii) morals and ethics. The later, morals and ethics, like the judicial system of justice, is one of the threads that keeps the fabric of societies together. Religion therefore, since it already exist, has a role to play in our social organization, not that this role is exclusively theirs. It should be noted that several social institutions addresses these issues without any religious inputs or participation and historically many religions have participated in immoral and unethical acts, even against their own adherents. However the mystical, supernatural component, Re: (i), have been frequently and traditionally used to impose the second component. In my opinion this is substantially flawed, outdated and without foundation or merit. This again, in my opinion, is derived from us humans being a ‘creating’ animal and every thing we perceive around us must be the result of some creation process. Since everything we create decays or is otherwise destroy then everything has only a temporal existence and so religion becomes obsessed with the end of time and of things, Eschatology. I do not think that ‘lower animals’ like the cow, dog, horse, rat or birds, are involved in, or meditate on these thoughts. In fact we have no way of telling since we cannot engage in higher level communication with them. And it should be recognized that these animals have a sense of consciousness too, if not of ‘self’. I have heard it expressed, almost in cliche form, and rather arrogantly too, that these lower animals only exist in the moment, in effect that their consciousness is fleetingly temporal. Nothing can be further from the truth – don’t the lowly bird prepare a nest to sleep in or lay it’s eggs, or other animals store food to tide them through the winter? So much for existing in the moment! Or perhaps we can simply deprecate it to instincts.
There are, or have been about twelve major religions worldwide. Each having its own, version or perspective of the world, its origins, purpose for the existence of the individual, etc. The worldview of their followers dictated solely by faith, has influenced and determined history, human behavior, attitudes and politics to each other. These are viz: Baha’i, Confucianism, Hinduism, Paganism, Taoism, Buddhism, Jainism, Islam, Shinto, Zoroastrianism, Christianity, Judaism, Mormonism, Sikhism,
Baha’i: Monotheist, offshoot of Shi`a Islam, similar to Christianity as an offshoot of Judaism. Belief in the unity of God, Religions and all Mankind. They believe that doctrines of hierarchies based on race, national origins, social class, caste, and gender are impediments to their third core postulate, the unity of Mankind. They also believe God is the creator of all things in the Universe, however their belief is that the Universe and God are eternal with no beginning or end.
Buddhism: A religion and philosophy based on the teachings of Siddhartha Gautama (the Buddha). Buddhism does not believe in a Supreme God, instead they believe in attaining the state of Nirvana, a stress free state in samsara. Samsara is a continuous state or cycle of life, death and rebirth. The Buddha Gautama is viewed not as an atheist seeking to disprove the existence of God but rather as one seeking the greatest good. Gautama actually regarded the belief in God as unhealthy and considers speculation on the origins of the world as useless.
Christianity: Monotheist, offshoot of Judaism, with a core belief in the teachings of Jesus Christ and his Apostles. Like Judaism, there is the belief in one God, the creator of the Universe and everything therein. Genesis Chp. 1
26 And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.
The subsequent five churches that evolved after his death, the Pentarch, developed an elaborate hierarchy that became integrated in their practices. The hierarchies that developed placed everything, ‘God, Angels, humans, animals, plants and stones in their unique positions’. They even did this for Satan all the way down to sins were classified. This is exemplified in the “The Great Chain of Being”. Armed with this set of reasonings it is a short walk to justify the taking of fellow man and even women in order to “subdue it” (them), and taking “dominion over” them. Especially if one classifies them “as less than …”, in some hierarchical scheme of existence.
Confucianism: There is considerable debate as to whether or not Confucianism should be considered a religion. Although it addresses morals and ethical issues, it does not concern itself with the ‘soul’ and the supposed ‘afterlife’. His teaching, applicable to the socio-political order establishes the ruler and the subject in their respective roles, but admonishes that the ruler must be virtuous to rule effectively. Much of his teachings were rooted in traditional Chinese belief systems. In this belief system the story of Creation is varied. Creatio ex nihilo (out of nothing) mythologies are not evident. In one, there was chaos, Yin and Yang became harmonized and out of that chaos came Pangu. On the death of Pangu the various parts of his body give rise to all the component of the universe.
Hinduism: The main religion of the Indian sub-Continent and the oldest living religion of the world. It is not always recognized as a religion, some view it as a culture of multi-expressive religious traditions. It is an aggregate of several philosophical thoughts. laws, and moral practices rather than having a unified single sourced monolithic development. There are several texts that contribute to the religious ideas, the Vedas, the Bhagavad Gita and several others. On the origins of the universe, Some Hindu lineages do subscribe to a theistic creation but one without any beginning or end, rather a perpetual cycle of reincarnation (samsara), the creation myths is believed to be initiated by the dismemberment of Purusha by the Devas (Dieties) with the body parts forming different parts of the cosmos, castes, plants etc. An interesting feature of this religion, with its cultural penchant for playing with large numbers, places the cosmos rebirth cycle at about 13 billion year, pretty close to what astrophysicist now calculate as the age of the universe, 14 billion years. The core of the religion centers on karma (cause and effect), dharma (the teachings) and samsara (reincarnation and rebirth), like the Baha’i and Buddhist religions which are derived from it.
Islam: A monotheist religion with origins and much of their myths seeded in those of the Judaistic schools. The Judeo-Christian-Islamic creation story is identical and held in common. Many Hebrew and Christian stories are present in the Qur’an. They see Abraham, Moses and Jesus, as prophets. The Islamist believe that Mohammad is the last prophet and that the word of God should not be changed or altered. This is one of the core differences between itself and Christianity on which they see Christianity as being corrupted by many changes over the years.
Jainism: A religion of India, distinct from the Vedic tradition but emerging at the same time and parallel with it, advocates non-violence to all living things as it regards all living things as having a soul. Their influence on Hinduism enabled the abolishment of animal and blood sacrifices in that religion.
Judaism: A monotheistic Abrahamic religion that influenced Chritianity, Islam and the Baha’i faith. Its philosophy is spelled out in the Tanakh, the laws and commandments are supposedly given by God to Moses on Mount Sinai in the form of the Torah (the first five books of the Tanakh [Book of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy]). A record of Rabbinic Discussions on Law, Philososphy, practices etc are enshrined in the Talmud. Rabbi Mosheh Ben Maimon laid out the Maimonide’s Thirteen Fundamental Principles of Faith, There are 613 commandments in the Torah directed to different groups of people, men, women, farmers, priests etc. Although developing an elaborate set of codes of ethics, it differentiates ethics to be applied to members of the Faith from that to be applied in general. Ex. in Deuteronomy 23:19-20
Mormonism: A form of Christian religion based on the perceived need to return the church to its original state in order to correct deficiencies within it. This movement is referred to as Restorationism or return to Christian primitivism. Several movements emerged under the umbrella of the Protestant Reformation of which the Mormon is just one. Mormonism is spectacularly idiosyncratic and some have denied them any categorical association with Christianity or any form of it. Mormons believe that the church structure should be organized into prophets, apostles, priests etc. They differ in the belief of the Trinity, at least from the perspective of the Nicene Creed. This creed, promulgated by the Western Church and rejected by the Eastern Church, added the ‘Filoque’, the expression – “and the Son”, to the procession of the Holy Spirit. This schism occurring in the church in the 6th century, reflected the split between the Greek and Latin (Rome) influences in the church and itself reflected the greater political split(s) accompanying the collapse of the Roman Empire into the Western and Eastern (Byzantine) Roman Empires. Mormonism, advanced by Joseph Smith Jr., was more concerned with the correctness of the dogma but the teachings eventually drifted into other areas, such as baptism for the dead by proxy, polygamy. They believed that God and Jesus were mortal men with physical bodies and only the Holy Spirit was purely of the Spirit World.
Paganism: A broadly used term referring to any Non-Abrahamic religion from a Judaistic perspective in reference to Gentiles or Heathen. It includes many Polytheist, Non-Theist, Pantheist and Animist. Although it is not possible to extract a common set of beliefs to define this group into a single religion, one feature is common or nearly so. In many of these groupings, there is an afinity with or to cyclical natural effects of Nature. In the case of the animist, they do acknowlegde the existence of a God or multiplicity of Gods, but that supplications to the Gods must be done through the intervention of the ancestors, hence the worship of the ancestors.
Shinto: The religious connection of the Japanese people enshrined in the Kojiki and Nihon Shoki of the 8th century. It teaches that everything contains a spirit (a Kami) and the worshiping of the spirits at a number of shrines, some public and others private. Worshiping involves rituals, usually with the recital of prayers and the purification with clean water.It places its focus not on life after death but life in this world. On the matter of the creation of the universe, Shintoism in the Kojiki, refers to the Kami’s, five dieties all in the center of the heavens. Then the union of the deity Izanagi or the Male-Who-Invites, and his younger sister Izanami or the deity the Female-Who-Invites giving birth to other Kami’s brothers and sisters. Ordered by the other heavenly dieties the two were ordered to give birth to the Islands that drift, the Island of Onogoro first and then the eight Islands of Japan.
Sikhism: A reformist monotheist religion of India, containing elements of Islam, Hinduism. They rejected the caste system and much of Hindu rituals. Sikhs believe that all are equal in God’s eyes irrespective of race, sex, or religion, and women can lead in prayers. The teachings of the founder, Guru Nanak (1469-1538), are embodied in the Granth, the central text of Sikhism. The teachings are not founded on the targets of heaven and hell but on achieving a spiritual union with God, thereby obtaining the resultant salvation. Failure in achieving this state results from Maya – an illusion or “unreality”, caused by the Five Evils, the ego, anger, greed, attachment, and lust.
Taoism: Also spelled Daoism. There is no official spiritual text or original institutionalization. The philosophy is based on the thinking of Laozi during China’s feudal period. Several schools of thinking evolved, which have been subsequently institutionalized. The core philosophy or tradition emphasizes living in harmony with the Tao, where the Tao is the essence or source of everything that exists. It clearly emphasizes the eternal namelessness of the Tao, which can only be experienced, if it has a name then you do not know it. The recognition and naming of things is only a manifestation of the Tao in the thing. Hence, meditation is a key means of establishing harmony with the Tao. An important aspect of achieving this harmony is when one acquires the state of “Wu wei” (action through non-action); wei – meaning action or effort, and wu its negation, implies natural action. This natural action, “effortless action” as occurs in various state of equilibrium is here defined as the paradox “wei wu wei”. Taoism is central to much of Chinese philosophy and thought and has given rise to Confucianism, Zen Buddhism and many other aspects of the culture.
Zoroastrianism: The first recognized monotheist religion, originating around 1200 BCE. The origin was in Persia (Iran) and today adherents are reduced to just about 200,000 and are scattered in Iran and India. Adherents in India are known as ‘Parsis’. According to the mythology, the founder Zoroaster received his enlightenment from the one God, Ahura Mazda. Cyrus the Great, a Zoroastrian, in establishing the Persian Empire (~550 BCE) permitted exiled Jews to return to Jerusalem. They took with them much of the Zoroastrian teachings with them, allowing these to permeate Judaism, Christianity and Islam. The God, “Ahura Mazda” is worshiped but his prophet Zoroaster is not worshiped, only followed. Zoroaster therefore provides a directed path of truth and righteousness leading to God. The God is – Omniscient; Omnipotent; Omnipresent; Inconceivable by humans; unchanging; an absolute creator; and source of all goodness and happiness. The divine attributes of Ahura Mazda is defined and personalized as an entourage of immortals, and one can know God by way of these immortals (attributes). The Zoroastrians developed a twofold dualism in their philosophy, one moral and the other cosmic. The moral dualism identifies the good and evil sides of the human persona while the cosmic duality is illustrated by God and Angra Mainyu who is the destructive spirit. This duality provided the basis for the Heaven, Hell concept that is pervasive in the Judaism, Christianity and Islam religions
The non-moralistic or non-ethical concepts outlined for the various religions mentioned above, although nice sounding, creating a fuzzy feeling etc. are NOT VERIFIABLE. Therefore, from our definitions under the “Facts vs Opinion” page they must fall into the categories of Opinions. They can therefore be ‘Theories’, ‘Valid Opinions’, ‘Imagination’, ‘Falsities’ or ‘Absurdities’. Since there are no plausible premises to support any arguments, they cannot be classified as Theories or Valid Opinions and would fall into the realm of Imagination.
The importance of religion in the context of these pages and site, is that a significant portion of global reasoning and actions can be based on criteria that are unsubstantiated, or not capable of substantiation either. This can have an inordinate impact worldwide on social, human, economic and political conditions of society and of people. It can be used and have been used, as an institution and instrument to justify the exploitation, torture and war, against other peoples.
It is to be noted that several religions do not include a belief in a God as one of its postulates or tenets and can therefore include atheist or agnostics in their body of followers.
WE THEREFORE ADVOCATE THE COMPLETE SEPARATION OF RELIGION FROM THE STATE, GOVERNMENT, AND POLITICS.
However, since many religious zealots, insists on imposing their non-moralistic or non-ethical concepts (i.e. mystical or metaphysical concepts) into the socio-econo-political arena we will have to address these here.