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11/27/14

Divine Religion or Secular Humanism?

By Rachel Eliasi Kohan, Thanksgiving 2014, New York

Religious beliefs have been deeply rooted since pre-historic times; nonetheless, religions are still prevalent among many humans in the modern world today. Religion was the inevitable conceptualization of primitive psyche of humans and perhaps hominids; they must have felt a sense of void from the apprehension of the unknowns, their lack of understanding of self, natural phenomena and catastrophes surrounding them, their trepidations form the after death conundrum if it factually exists, and as a result the premise for eternal heaven and hell. The notion of revering celestial objects as the sun for instance (sol invictus) was among the first gods worshipped; Mithraism and Zoroastrianism are the aftermath outcomes of such belief in the sun, light and sacred fire, as anchored on good vs. evil. Upon inception, each religion rapidly became the most effective ploy imposed by the emerging elite caste for socio-economic and political exploitations of the majority and the “other” infidels, and for the self-indulgent and greedy concentration and expansion of power, land and natural resource confiscations, and wealth. If one were to fully grasp the human intrinsic instinct for spreading and expanding his dominant “super” gene through replications as the case is for all living species, and for the aggregation of resources to safeguard the survival of such propagated gene successions, then religion was and still is the “natural” vehicle to fulfill such megalomaniac objective. Simply put, believing in an unseen supernatural “god” was one thing personal to respect, but the proliferation of religious rituals and rules, superstitions, miracles, alms, and the demagoguery, which collectively constituted the fallacy for a religious business enterprise, was just the other ramification to be reckoned with.

The vacuum created by lack of enacted civil, criminal and penal codes and common set of rules and laws and the punitive consequences to bear for culprits and their criminal acts, was then filled with religious juris prudence and decrees as “eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth” or that scared the commoners and serfs from committing heinous crimes or wrong deeds to face burning in hell forever; except when such self-righteous acts were for the mischievous purpose of serving “god” (read that as serving the ulterior motives of the established elites). Most religious founders and their successions then resort to proselytizing, evangelizing or crusading wars in order to expand their socio-political hegemony. Other religion from the outset made the conversion of others extremely difficult, thereby making it only accessible to an original exclusive cult as they went after others’ capitals. The governing cults were in many historic instances and locations especially on the Mesopotamian plateau the religious theologians themselves; in some other instances, the rulers were anointed and enthroned by the self-appointed religious figureheads again, representing god on earth.    

With better understanding and the empirically derived rationale for natural phenomena, be it earthquake or floods, lightning or thunder, comets or meteors showers, plagues, famine or other death epidemics, and although the belief in a personal god remained rather strong in most societies, many religious rituals and icons, superstitions, decrees and edifices lost their lusters by the passage of time.  This religious reformations or quasi-detachment there from, and the so-called separation of religion and state (that has not necessarily been the case even in developed nations as the U.S.), was actually institutionalized throughout post renaissance when scientific discoveries explaining many of the natural phenomena and technological breakthroughs became rather ubiquitously spread out.  Public education and literacy, global communications and travel, improvements in food, medicine and shelter, enhancement in health, life expectancy and conveniences of daily life that followed since, has further weakened the need and merit for unquestionable belief in a religious establishment or its demagoguery.  The enactment of common laws, the rule of civil statues and secular governments, as triggered since Magna Carta in particular in Europe and the U.S., has further weakened the pillars of organized religious business enterprise.

Can one surmise of another most lucrative capitalistic enterprise than religion, whereby certain imaginary products, salvation after death, a chamber in heaven and the privileges thereto, are pre-sold at prime cost?! One must hasten to stress the true liberal thoughts and policies did not eradicate or deplore religious thoughts per se, but in fact it allowed it to prosper synergistically along with others emerging non-religious philosophies, so long as it did not become the exclusive dominant force to be reckoned with, or to subjugate masses in modern society. That said however, and whereas the Jury might still be divided on the need and merit for religion, one must acknowledge in much the same manner that myriad atrocities and injustices have been inflicted on humanity in the name of one religion or the other, that atheism or post renaissance colonial egocentric Occidentalism especially when tooled with modern technologies (media, weaponry, etc.) has inflicted as much if not more calamities on human race and mother nature.

It is interesting to note that the word god in Persian is Khoda, which is linked to the word god presumably through Sanskrit Gotta or Hutta. Khoda means self-actualize, that is, to understand your own sense of being and the lifelong role one must play in the context of his/her surroundings, that is one’s consciousness, is it not?!

And in so far as the science is concerned, well, it still has not addressed the birth or the very beginning of the universe, i.e., t0 at Big Ban or better yet t-1 second. And yet it is argued simply because the quandary has not yet been empirically resolved, there should still be no reason to believe in certain supernatural (s) as we do not in reality believe in a unicorn or a griffin either!  That said, there is a respectable group of scientists and educated commoners who believe in god; nonetheless, they draw the RED line right there and do not believe in the organized commercial or politicized religion. Notwithstanding, faith, one’s inner-belief in god, goddess, life, family, humanity, universe, Supreme Being, etc., should be respected.

Irrespective, an ecumenical secular humanism, be it anchored on universalism/naturalism, then earns much credence as it ties humanity with humility to other fellow human beings, the mother nature and the universe through a clear sense of self-guided consciousness and quest for the truth; duties toward family and community, ethics and rationales, aesthetics and tranquility, love and affection, sympathy and compassion, humility and empathy, logic and facts, and justice and empirical evidence then become the hallmarks of life.  I should emphasize show that religiosity should not any longer be allowed to exert exclusive monopoly on these guiding pillars of life, but rather, these could be independently envisaged and practiced by any non-religious human.

In summary, and as inscribed on the entrance arch of the U.N. Headquarters in Geneva, perhaps no one has ever articulated the true essence of humanity as Sa’adi the 13th CE century Persian Poet did:

All Humans are integral members of One frame
Since all at first, from the same One essence came.
When by hard fortune One limb is oppressed
The other members lose their desired rest.
If thou feel’st not for others’ misery
A Human therefore, is no name for thee.

And Confucius’  (551-479 BCE) statement, “Don't do unto others what you don't want others to do unto thou,” will more than suffice for all humanity, does it not?


The Author,
born in Iran in a diverse family comprised of the Shiite and Sunni Muslims as well as Jewish, Armenian Christian and Zoroastrian lineage, is a naturalized American who has resided in the U.S. for nearly forty years. As the steward of nature, she has come to believe in and advocate for secular universal humanism and equal justice for all on earth.  


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