Young, professional hipsters, who on any other day would scoff at religious zealots, are being swept up in a frenzy of emotion that is very reminiscent of an old-style tent revival. Frankly, their behavior is rather cult-like, and it has me pondering the nature of humanity.
Man, by his very nature, is religiousI believe it was St. Augustine who said that man by his very nature is Christian. Dr. Stephan Hoeller of Ecclesia Gnostica modified that a bit to say that man by his very nature is religious. Many of the educated people that I know would laugh at this thought, but I think the recent behavior of the Obama crowd has actually proven this point better than anything else.
People need something to believe in, whether they want to admit it or not. For many, organized (and not-so-organized) religions fill this need. For others who may claim to be agnostic or atheists, you can see signs of a fervent belief in other areas, such as environmentalism, Global Warming, libertarianism, baseball, politics, Wall Street, etc. It's not necessarily a standard religion that they are participating in , as there is no ascribed "higher power," but it is the religious behavior of adoration, dedication, recitation of lines, study, and chanting.
Don't believe me? How about sports fans who sing their team's song, paint their faces, and don the team uniform for the games? They study the team's stats, members, coaches, history, etc. They can tell you how many times their team won in the regular season, in the post season, or in the playoffs in the past 10 years. When their team wins, life is great. When they lose, visible signs of depression are evident. I don't know how this isn't considered religious behavior.
So, why isn't this energy devoted to one of the many world religions instead of politics, sports, or social issues? Maybe we've just outgrown the ones that we have.
Belief, Bibliolatry, and EvolutionConsider what it takes to be fully immersed in the faith of one of the major world religions, specifically Western religions. In Christianity, Judaism and Islam, the world was created in 6 days by Jehovah, Allah, God, Yahweh, or whatever name is appropriate. These religions also purport that the world is only about 6,000 years old. In order to be a full-on believer, you have to tell your mind that all of our discoveries are wrong. The world isn't millions of years old; it's only 6,000 years old.
Additionally, you must accept the fact that the particular holy book of the religion is inerrant, infallible, perfect, and complete. You mustn't, for instance, question the authority of the Holy Bible, its Author (because men didn't write it), or the many potential editors in its history, as it went from Hebrew to Greek to Latin to English. It is not symbolism; it is fact.
In Islam, many of the adherents believe that everything man needed to know and have was already in existence at the time of the Prophet. Therefore, you'll see many Islamic countries that seem to be stuck in the Middle Ages in their attire, their worldview, and their treatment of their fellow humans.
What you must do in order to be a "true believer" is shun the progress of human understanding of the world and the universe around us, and you must place God in a nice little box, because "He" isn't big enough to encompass this "new fangled" world. For fear of being too humanistic, our abilities to affect our lives have been relegated to what we can do within the scope of what deities, angels, and demons will allow.
A need for a new religionI think we can say pretty confidently that we need something to believe in. Without a moral and ethical compass, we are little more than intelligent animals, and that's exactly what we'll act like. But, what we have right now in terms of religions in the West offers very little without tremendous compromise in our ability to progress and evolve as humans. I would go as far as to say that our current religions have kept us from evolving and reaching our full potential.
Always at odds with the physical world and our natural tendencies, religion has taken upon itself the task of building fences rather than shepherding us to higher planes. Men have warped these systems of philosophy into sects that agree with their worldview, and they've locked those worldviews in place, never (or rarely) to change.
Are their deities or at least one big Deity? Are we deities? If not, are we capable of becoming like them? What in our religious texts is true, and what is chaff that needs to be separated from it? Is there a single vein of truth that runs through all religions? Is our journey as spirits an external or internal journey? Are we a distinct body and a soul? Or are we a body, a soul, and a spirit as Platonists suggest? And are we supposed to fully integrate those parts or focus on one aspect of our selves?
These are questions that humankind should be mature enough to ask. And we should ask them together. Our separate religions have done nothing but engender the potential for hatred and elitism. We've done pretty well in evolving our methods of killing as a result, but are we any better off. Where might we be as a species if we had evolved our religion as we evolved our understanding? Would despair and hopelessness be a thing of the past? Would petty greed drive us as it does now? Are there latent powers within the human mind and body that would have been released by now?
I don't generally like to be Utopian about things, but this is a question I've been asking myself as of late. Has our quest for power and dominance over one another retarded the growth of our spirituality, our civilizations, and our potential? I think so.