As institutions go, religion is a pretty hot mess. From radicals, zealots and fanatics to abuse and systemic corruption at the highest levels in most major faiths—religion has seen better days… oh wait, no it hasn’t. Throughout the entire recorded history of mankind, religion, as an institution, has been causing huge fucking problems. (Note, if you’re either easily offended or super closed minded you’ll want to stop here. I hope you enjoyed our time together. Yes, the blog is quite interesting. No, you’re not allowed to read it if you’re going to be a total snowflake on me, now go!)
To be very clear, I don’t mean spirituality has been a problem or God has been a problem. I mean, the religions: the organizations built around God and spirituality that espouse a certain set of particularly fashioned beliefs, rules and agendas.
Where was I? Oh yes, religions, generally speaking, have been a huge fucking problem.
Let’s start with the whole ‘more people have died in the name of religion than anything else throughout history’ thing… completely true. Nearing 1 billion by most estimates.
And there’s a reason that the words “religious liberty” are a lit stick of dynamite in American politics.
Even the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, arguably one of the worst most violent conflicts of the 20th century, is largely over control of the holy city of Jerusalem, considered the holiest in the world as it’s home to the most important religious sites of Islam, Judaism and Christianity; the world’s thee major religions … are you sensing a pattern?
Speaking of Jerusalem, you know, the holiest city on the planet, did you know that (over the course of its long history) it’s been fully destroyed at least twice, besieged 23 times, attacked 52 times, and captured and recaptured 44 times. I’m sorry but that’s a shit ton of violence for one city!
So why are the odds never in Jerusalem’s favor? BECAUSE OF RELIGION!!!!
Alright then, what gives?? Why has religion caused more divisiveness and bloodshed than anything else in the history of the world?
You’re Special and Unique. Just Like Everybody Else
Little known fact. Each different religion—at it’s most core teachings—is actually the same.
Oh no no no, this just would not do! Not in a world built on ego, where we want to feel distinguished and self righteous, in a world that honors borders and boundaries and politics and power so far above actual spirituality. Because, unfortunately, no one can see or quantify spirituality and I think we all know how much humans hate it when things can’t been seen and quantified. We’re sort of a bunch of bean counters like that.
Ego Births Ideology
Well naturally then, each religion must prop up their own more specific ideas and requirements to stand out. To find a way to measure themselves against the other. This is ideology. It’s human interpretations of the meanings within sacred texts. Sacred texts, in case you’re keeping score, have all been created by and deemed sacred by … you guessed it, more humans!
Let’s Get Crazy
Conveniently built into many of these interpretations is an exclusivity clause; believe in THIS or go to hell, because you know, only they know the one truth (eye roll). What invariably happens next is that some of these religions start to get really excited about theirs being the only truth, which causes them to get really excited about their specific rules and original ideas (and by ‘really excited’ I do mean things like attempting to convert the world or chopping off your head).
So ideology is really what distinguishes one religion from another.
These rules and specific ideas are what religions are built upon; What is the name of the God we pray to? How are our people to conduct themselves and what rules and guidelines are they to follow? What does our specific holy book say and how do we uniquely interpret it? Catholics believe in praying to saints, while protestants don’t, Buddhists and Hindus believe in reincarnation and Christians don’t, Jews believe Jesus was a prophet but not the son of God and Muslims believe 72 virgins are the eternal reward of martyrdom!
When it comes to religion what you believe is what makes you who you are, essentially. But how do religions decide what they believe? Alright pay attention, this is where things get really weird. This is what fascinates me most!
I recently published a fantasy novel that supposes reincarnation is proven real. Scientifically. That the number of lifetimes a soul had lived, previous to this one, could be revealed in our DNA (total page-turner, you’ll love it! it’s available on Amazon and everywhere books are sold!)
But it’s the story’s subject matter, reincarnation (which doesn’t bother it’s legions of fans worldwide) that has caused a couple of well meaning people to feel concerned … “Are you trying to say reincarnation is real?” “Exactly what are you trying to do?”
It’s worth noting that the book is fictional (Fantasy and science-fiction if you want to get technical) and that I’m not sure people assume J.K. Rowling thinks wizards are real because she wrote a fictional fantasy book about them, but what I began to realize was that because my novel has to do with reincarnation, which has to do with religion, people’s wires get crossed! Their signals get scrambled!! Turns out it’s much harder for people to suspend disbelief when it come to religious concepts when in fact religious concepts are all about suspending disbelief (a.k.a faith)!
I know, ironic, right? Oh hold on to your pop tart, it gets better.
Because then I started digging (and if you knew me a bit more you’d be like, ‘of course you did…’ eye roll)
Prompted by a few emails from mostly Christians honestly (bah, my own team!) who took the time to contact me to tell me they would not be reading my book, even though most admitted to wanting to (darn you forbidden fruit), because it went against their religious beliefs (we’ll assume these good Christians didn’t read Twilight and I am certain they are not watching The Walking Dead). I started to become very curious about this whole doctrine and ideology business, wondering specifically if Christians really can not believe in reincarnation, according to Christianity.
That is when I googled seven little words “what does the bible say about reincarnation” and my mind blew open.
No, Dorothy, no! Don’t Look Behind the Curtain!!!
Being a lifelong card-carry member of Christianity (with 12 very long and very plaid years of Catholic school to prove it) I was astonished (yea, we’ll go with that word) by what I found. I didn’t know if I just entered the matrix, or left it (Yes, I am Neo in this story. No, you can not be Neo, I am Neo.) and let’s just say it was a good thing I was the Catholic who found this; me and Catholicism have always had what I’d describe as ‘an open relationship,’ so it didn’t plunge me into an existential crisis, but it did strengthen my suspicion that something was very amiss in the world of religion.
When I found this smoking gun…
Reincarnation was Removed from Christian Doctrine in the sixth century!! Say what??
Fact: There was a Roman Emperor named Justinian (the dude in the middle there, the one being depicted as a saint… looks like church and state have always had a torrid love affair), turns out that guy made arrangements for reincarnation to be removed from all official Church doctrine in 553 A.D.
Here’s more proof that Christians believed in reincarnation before 533 A.D. which I found in about 5 minutes
The Truth: A Bitter Pill
So reincarnation was once in Christian church doctrine, but because of this one guy in the sixth century who rigged a vote at a stinking meeting, it now goes completely against the contemporary Christian church’s philosophy? What. The. Heck??
One of the most interesting reasons I’ve read as to why this particular doctrine was axed is that if reincarnation is acknowledged and research demonstrates that souls can change religion from one incarnation to another, a religion’s claim to exclusive truth is negated. Which, ironically, is completely counterintuitive to the premise of religion in the first place; Religion, for the truth seekers.
Like most Catholics I assumed our church did not believe in reincarnation. Now or ever. I’m shocked at this revelation and sort of bewildered by what that all means.
‘The afterlife’ is kind of a main thing, if not the main thing, in all religions.
The fact that reincarnation was once a pillar of Christianity and is now considered nothing short of heresy kind of just speaks to a long and bloody history of people needing to calm the fuck down about their specific religion and its very specific rules and ideas because, more likely than not, there’s some odd story or other reason more human than divine (like our good friend Justinian), as to why you don’t eat pork.
So, do what you want, but remember that almost everything your religion believes in was decided by humans just like you and the rest of it is a lot like every other religion! So no one else needs to buy your particular brand of what may very well one day be considered bullshit (hey, welcome to the club my friend), and certainly no one needs to lose their head over it! You know, I’m starting to think there may have been a reason that when John Lennon was writing ‘Imagine’ he was like…
“… nothing to kill or die for … and … and you know what? No religion too.”
(Disclaimer: I have zero proof the following conversation ever took place)
“Really, no religion John? (British accent)” That’s Paul, or Ringo, whichever you want it to be 🙂
“Yeah man, no religion too.”
“Damn mate, are you sure? You know John, people are not gonna like that line. They’re not gonna like it at all.”
“You’re right. So… I think we should probably say it then.”
“Oh, bloody hell.”
Can You Even Imagine?
No religion, I don’t know what that would even look like, and despite discovering I’ve basically been lied to I actually like my religion, but I do think maybe we should attempt to understand, on a deeper level, what Lennon was trying to say.
Maybe it’s that divinity and spirituality come straight from the source but religions are built by humans, created largely of ideologies. Maybe it’s the ideologies of our religions that aren’t as important as we’ve always thought. And we don’t have to throw out our faith in a divine source, since it’s all essentially the same in the end—humanity is one, and God is love—at least, you know, according to every single religion on earth.
Written by Tiffany FitzHenry, author The Oldest Soul Trilogy
“FitzHenry’s The Oldest Soul Trilogy, being hailed as “The Da Vinci Code for Twilight fans.”
Voted #1 “The Best New Adult Series” – Goodreads
Eve has no idea she’s the oldest soul on earth, with a pre-wired connection to every other soul on the planet and that the boy she’s mysteriously drawn to, named Roman, has been her soul mate, her love of nearly three hundred lifetimes—until he tells her.
But what Roman doesn’t mention is that the new genetic test called Animus will soon expose what she is to the whole world and that he’s being tasked with the impossible; steering her, into the open arms of another, a boy named Jude. She’ll learn that Jude’s the only brand new soul on earth; the one who’s come to change the world, and that the future of humanity rests in their intertwined destiny.
“Highly recommended if you’re looking for a quickly paced, page turner! Watch out Katniss Everdeen, Evelyn O’Cleirigh is here! Five stars!” – Goodreads review The Oldest Soul – Animus
Buy Animus Today:
Available everywhere books are sold!
Warning: This is only for the people with a good sense of humor. All others, proceed with extreme caution.