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Belief Systems

Henry See

Looking back over the history of the monotheistic religions, one could make a pretty good case for the argument that:

  1. They are systems of control used to manipulate groups of people within societies;
  2. They are systems of control used to provoke hatred between peoples who worship different aspects of the overall monotheistic theology;
  3. They discourage independent thought and critical thinking;
  4. They encourage ritualistic behaviour the real meaning of which has been lost and is not understood by the practitioner;
  5. They have taken whatever germ of spiritual truth they may have had initially and crushed it;
  6. Their impact on human life is overwhelmingly negative.

The foundation of the monotheistic religions are the books of the Jews, works that are claimed to be the word of God himself, but which were more likely to have been artfully cobbled together from various sources during the exile in Babylon to give a common history to disparate tribes. No archaeological work has ever uncovered anything in the way of remains of the supposed Temple of Solomon, nor does it show Jerusalem of the Davidic epoch to be anything more than a "typical hill country village" during the period ascribed to David. You can be certain that both Jewish and Christian archaeologists have been spending years looking for such hard evidence because so much is riding on the find, but they have found nothing to confirm the glorious tales of David and Solomon as told in the Bible.

If the historical veracity of the great kingdom of David goes down the drain, the rest of the Bible goes with it. But the Temple is not the only historical problem.

The story of Moses and the slavery of the Jews in Egypt appears to have been a rewriting of events that occurred during the time of Akhenaton, perhaps mixed with the history of an exodus from Egypt that occurred much earlier. The curious result of accepting the Bible as history is that it is then used to date Egyptian dynasties, usually by Christians from Europe who had a vested interest in making Egyptian history fit the "Biblical record". As result of this, the dating of the reign of Akhenaton is several hundred years after it is most likely that he lived. Events of Akhenaton's rule appear to us to match the period of the eruption of Thera on the island of Santorini which has been dated to 1628 BC. For more information on these topics, we refer you to The Secret History of the World by Laura Knight-Jadczyk.

The Old Testament is not history, it is fantasy. What about the history of Jesus? Was there an historical figure from Nazareth who was crucified by the Romans, whose story is accurately recounted in the Gospels?


Textual analysis of the gospels shows us that they were put together at different times and for different audiences. They were based upon an earlier document, known as Q, that collected the sayings of a Cynic-like teacher. The earliest documents mention nothing of the crucifixion, nothing of the life of the man behind the teachings. That story, in other words, "the historical Jesus", was put together much, much later, and there exists no historical evidence from the period that would independently confirm the gospel stories. All we have to go on are the religious texts of Christianity itself, which as we have seen from the Jewish texts, are being promoted by people with a vested interest in the outcome of the debate.

Islam claims to be a further development of the same tradition. Yet if the historical basis for the first two have been shown to be invalid, then the religion of the sons and daughters of Ishmael is also deprived of its foundations. All three appeal to a divine source, a source that cannot be put into question by mere mortals. Their authority rests upon this divine source and the belief that the texts are literally "the word of God". The literal believers of the Word of God, be it the Judaic, the Christian, or the Islamic, are put into a corner because modern archaeological and textual research have removed the foundations of their belief systems, and we know what happens when someone is backed into a corner and is given no way out. They will fight to the death to preserve themselves. And since each version of monotheism invalidates its predecessor, they must fight each other as well as that modern demon, secular society.

There is something about our root systems of belief, and this extends beyond religion to the modern, rational forms of belief such as humanism, or certain forms of belief in science or even democracy, that they seem to us both self-evident and unquestionable. To question the basis of our beliefs is to put ourselves as individuals into question because we identify so strongly with them. A fervent evangelical Christian could no more put this system of ideas and beliefs into question than could the Pope, the settlers in the occupied territories killing Palestinians to steal their land, an imam in a Moslem country, or Richard Dawkins at his desk at Oxford.

However, we see that these beliefs are constantly under attack because the mere existence of another system claiming the same status as final arbiter of behaviour, custom, and thought, and therefore, of identity, is a threat. There can only be one absolutist position, one place at the top of the pyramid, one boss. Therefore, the true believer must draw around himself a line in the sand that circumscribes Truth, within which stand the faithful, and outside of which are found the pagan, the heathen, the non-believer. Here we find a second level of identification, a negative form of "all that I am not" whereby one takes all attributes of "good" and "holy" for oneself and assigns the opposite attributes to the Other, to those outside of the circle. Having done this calculation, it is then very easy for the believer to be manipulated into believing that the Other is less-than-human. Such demonisation is necessary during periods of conflict and war. When the two sides have thoroughly demonised the opponent, they will stop at nothing, no humiliation, no form of torture or brutality, because inflicting such punishment is a way to reinforce one's own specialness.

This process is repeated by each and every member of any absolutist belief structure, which means just about every person on the face of the planet. No wonder things are such a mess.

In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries with the rise of rationalism in the West, the religious structure began to be replaced by the scientific mindset which displaced the Earth from the centre of the universe, posited the existence of other worlds in the Cosmos, and proposed that mankind, rather than being created in the physical image of God, was the result of a long process of evolution from simpler forms of life. The Word of God as transcribed in the Bible was put into question. Identification with national structures became more and more pronounced, so that one's nationality took precedence over one's common religious affiliations in many Western countries. To reconcile the religious and the national, politicians would claim that God was on their side. Many Jews continue to place their tribal or religious affiliation before their national identity, while among the Arabs, there is still a strong pan-Arab sentiment that is closely tied in with Islam.

Against the modern way of structuring the world arose the first forms of modern Christian fundamentalism, an attempt to return to the old days of certainty and unquestionable rules, coupled with the fervent belief that no matter the trials and tribulations in the here and now, there was a better world awaiting in the hereafter for those who maintained their faith in the face of their earthly suffering.

In Arab countries, the existence of corrupt, secular states that were beholden to Western interests laid the groundwork for the rise of calls to a return to traditional Islam, or the return to Islamic law, the Sharia. Here, religious, national, and pan-Arabic structures all come into play because with globalisation, Western customs are imposed, in this case, with appeals to the divinity of "the market", and traditional ways of life, which may only be tangentially linked with Islam, are lost. This interweaving of different levels heightens the tensions. The ruthless use of force on the part of Israel, the United States, and their allies in imposing the belief structures of "the market", Judaism, or Christianity on the Arab and Muslim people calls forth a resistance. This reaction is normal and quite mechanical. Newton described it in his third law of dynamics: for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. When one body exerts a force on another, the second body exerts on the first a force of equal magnitude in the opposite direction. We should therefore not be surprised that there is a reaction on the part of Muslims to the modern Crusade launched by Bush and his neocon friends.

As this reaction is easily predictable, the next step is for the aggressor to seek to control it. We know that American intelligence agencies were in Afghanistan while the Russians were there, supporting the Islamic "freedom fighters". This was, of course, before these same people became "terrorists" after the Russians were expelled. There are sites that offer evidence that British intelligence has long been connected with the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. None of this should be surprising. It simply makes sense from a strategic point of view for the occupier to infiltrate and seek to manipulate the resistance.

While we may appear to have moved away from our initial discussion on religion, it should be clear that religion is a powerful motivator because it appeals to absolutes. Things are always all or nothing. One is saved or one is not. One is a believer, or one is an infidel. It is a zero-sum game where only one player can win, and every gain for one player means a loss for another player.

Clearly, the only way out of this impasse is to get rid of such belief structures altogether, but as they are so tightly bound with our ideas of who we are, as they are the foundations of all we think and believe, the work of rooting them out can only take place one individual at a time. Such work cannot be imposed on anyone because it would then become nothing more than the replacement of one structure by another, based upon an appeal to the authority of the one with the power to impose it. Rooting out belief structures must be done by each of us, at our own speed, motivated by an internal drive to be free. Only then can we put our basic assumptions into question. A group of like-minded individuals is also necessary because we often are blind to the deepest of our beliefs. They are so "self-evident" that we don't see them. But, here again, the group is not there to impose its point of view. It exists to help us free ourselves and find the answers for ourselves, or to be able to admit where there is not enough data in hand to come to a response and so the answer must be held in abeyance.

Such a liberatory structure is more a method than a system of answers because any answer has the potential to be revised when new data arrives. Furthermore, the more we learn, the more we learn how to learn so the method itself is open to constant improvement. In short, nothing is fixed except the direction we wish to move. When we start, we may not even know enough to have more than an intuition of what the destination is like. We do not have the knowledge to judge it or to know it in detail beforehand.

But of one thing we can be certain from observation: the monotheistic religions are traps. Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are walls we erect within us to keep us apart and above others on the ladder of power. Whatever spiritual truths they hold come from a far older tradition, one that encouraged people to see the world objectively and free from the type of all-encompassing explanatory and belief structures these religions have become. It is likely that these religions arose in opposition to this older tradition, as means of co-opting it and turning its deeper, spiritual truths into a tool for power in the material world.

The first step to the spiritual life is the renunciation all forms of belief systems, and that includes religion.

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