“…the amount of destructiveness to be found in individuals is proportionate to the amount to which expansiveness of life is curtailed.”–Erich Fromm, Escape From Freedom
This is true of religions in general, and was a study of Eric Hoffer in The True Believer:
“When hopes and dreams are loose in the streets, it is well for the timid to lock doors, shutter windows, and lie low until the wrath has passed. For there is often a monstrous incongruity between the hopes, however noble and tender, and the action which follows them. It is as if ivied maidens and garlanded youths were to herald the four horsemen of the apocalypse”.
Faith is generally greatest where experience is least. Those with experience in the effects of change are not too excited about creating it. Those who see a vision and have least experience in bringing it about are filled with the greatest zeal to change the world. It is often the young who are most effectively exploited in such undertakings.
It is not too hard to see the connections, then between Jesus’ predictions in Matthew 24, which links false religions, followed by “famine and pestilence”. The principle is basic to science in fact, known as entropy. The more organization in one area, the greater the resulting chaos in related areas, simply because energy can neither be created nor destroyed, and therefore must be borrowed from one area to “organize” another.
The more successful the organization of religion, the greater the resulting disruption of those areas now “converted’ to the new religion. The greater its success, the more it must “borrow” from other systems to maintain that success.
Because such movements are not driven by those with experience, they tend to follow patterns of “shallow logic”, as I pointed out earlier. The great zeal and charisma, the energy and success of the movement, will capture converts whose attraction is one of faith, not of organization. It is, as Paul Davies pointed out, a simple replicating command which says “copy me” or “print pattern“, and seeks only to extend itself into the environment as far as possible.
It is most likely we are easily attracted to the “charisma” of such movements because at the most basic level, that of the genes, we are driven to replication, and to control of our surrounding environments. The urge takes the form of narcissism, which is the extension of one’s self in a linear fashion into the environment, and proselytizing, which is the religious equivalent of the same drive. It “feels good” because it is so basic to our existence.
As Hoffer points out:
“There is a fundamental difference between the appeal of a mass movement and the appeal of a practical organization. The practical organization offer opportunities for self-advancement and its appeal is mainly self interest. On the other hand, a mass movement, particularly in its active, revivalist phase, appeals not to those intent on bolstering and advancing a cherished self, but to those who crave to be rid of an unwanted self. A mass movement attracts and holds a following not because it can satisfy the desire for self advancement, but because it can satisfy the passion for self renunciation.”
As we have already seen, the self renunciation of the individual permits killing, hatred, bullying, and torture in the name of a higher cause, and that cause need not be identified. If our own individual lives have no value, taking the life of one who disagrees will not be important, since our own life has no value, except to the “cause”.
As Fromm’s statement at the beginning of this article suggests, when our life cannot unfold as freely as we need, we feel out of control. It is only natural, therefore, to seek control by whatever means happens to be available at the moment. Those for whom no means of control is available may tend to seek the cause of a mass movement, largely in the hopes that sheer numbers can augment their effectiveness in the search for a meaning to their own existence. “Meaning”, as we saw earlier, is summed up genetically in the need to maintain equilibrium with our environment, and those whose growth is frustrated more and more will seek to find equilibrium by combining, often violently, with others. The degree to which violence is employed will tend to be in direct proportion to which growth is not allowed. The more any group may feel oppressed or discriminated against, the more militant they may become.
A government whose philosophy is based on the inalienable rights of individuals, therefore, will tend to foster individuals who resort to violence in different forms as a means of achieving personal ends. Those who are best at making us aware of our “violated rights” are most financially successful at wealth by organizing the collective response.
Having seen the history of violence in collective religions seeking to serve God, the United States, maintains that “Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion, nor prohibiting the free exercise thereof“.
Religion, therefore, not only flourishes freely, but is actually encouraged by such measures as tax exemption for religion or churches. The problem, however, is that truth is not easily discovered, and less easily obeyed, which means that religion, given free reign to organize outside of constitutional control, will tend to splinter into thousands of different points of view and ideas. Driven by the concept of the inalienable rights of the individual, religion can splinter and speciate until there is a religion for every individual, but this very freedom requires a need to be protected, and that protection is offered by government.
The more freedom individuals have in the search for God , the less certain they are that their own belief is in fact correct. While they have complete freedom to act according to their beliefs, providing they harm no one, the more they tend to seek collective protection in the form of armed might by government, since they cannot organize to defend themselves.
This amounts to a “con” by the government: “We give you the freedom to believe whatever you want, but you must pay us to help secure that freedom. Freedom, after all, isn’t free”.
Consequently, it doesn’t matter what you believe as long as you pay for the right to believe. The more you insist on the right to maintain your personal beliefs, the more the government is required to support that right, and work out all controversies between you and those who violate your rights. It stands to reason, therefore, that government’s interests are best served in the long run by declaring your individual freedoms against all restraints, to be decided only by the individual decisions of government itself.
An example of this freedom is found in Planned Parenthood v Casey, given by Justice Anthony Kennedy:
“At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life”.
What does this tell us about morality or truth? Nothing at all. “I” can define the meaning of existence the universe, or the mystery of human life, and so can “you”. So how is it worked out? The government can “construct” excluded interests so that they are constitutionally protected by statutes and regulations showing “clear causal connections”.
Suppose your definition of the “mystery of human life” includes a mother’s right to have an abortion? You will be in direct opposition to one who considers the “mystery of human life” to protect an unborn infant.
Who benefits by such declared “mystery”? Obviously the government, since they alone are empowered to enforce the power to explore the very “mystery’ they themselves created.
A simple principle not recognized by most: The more “freedom” the government guarantees individuals, the more it must ultimately be involved in the limitations of that freedom, which requires greater enforcement, greater costs, and the necessary growth of government to enforce our ‘freedoms”.
Obviously, since our own moral freedom and individual growth is stunted, we turn to political forms of violence, which includes greater religious involvement to secure “religious freedom”, which generates greater counterviolence of those who reject our freedom, escalating to the point that government must step in even more to “umpire” in more violent forms of enforcement.
The strange paradox is the more freedom we are “given”, the more frustrated and stunted we tend to feel, primarily because there is no sense of direction or knowledge in our lives. This drives us to seek answers often in religion, which attracts leaders who enjoy tax exemption for churches, which invites corruption, which further forces us to find solutions in government, which ultimately means that all religions not in alignment with government can be ‘thinned out” by our own requests.
Ultimately the rich will seek tax exemption by giving money to those religions that are in alignment with government interests, and the poor, faced with a decision to economize, will choose government over religion out of necessity and jail time.
The overall “gain” is greater frustration, less sense of meaning, and more government control. The more you seek to organize, the greater the opportunity for counter-organizations, and for government to umpire the potential violence.
Hoffer seemed to have grasped it best with the quote from Genesis 11, regarding the Tower of Babel: “And slime had they for mortar“.
Another quote, attributed to Buddha, also sums it up: “Do nothing. Time is too important to waste”.