Soma (with deference to Huxley's Brave New World) comes in many forms, not the least of which is religion...
Following a recent post, I received some feedback about how human nature is flawed and how God was the answer to injustice. While I believe the individual concerned missed the basic point of the post, namely that action of a significant scale is often required to right wrongs, his views were rapidly "liked" by a few people expressing the need to simply (excuse the cliche here) "let go, and let God." Surely after 2000 years of Judeo Christian action, we would be somewhat closer to a solution for some of the more common issues I raised if that were the case.
To set the record straight from the outset, I do believe in an eternal spirit, God, Allah, etc. but I am also perplexed about misrepresentation of the divine being. If He was human, I am almost certain there'd be defamation suits aplenty for such. Many people seem to carry on like He is their fairy godmother (you have to enjoy the pun in that), who will one day wave a magic wand and all these problems will be fixed. And the best part is you don't have to DO anything! The boys from Monty Python supposedly once tried to use God for their material, but found that most of the material was far better suited to religious people. Enter Brian! So what is it that makes the religious communities feel an overwhelming desire to simplify the answers to life's puzzle to a mere sharing of a philosophical perspective? A lot of people do good in their communities and beyond from a foundation of religious fervour, yet religion itself often gets quite a bit of bad press.
The answer, I believe, lies in the externalising of responsibility. If one believes in an all knowing, all powerful and all loving God, and bad things still happen, then it is clearly the fault of evil because God is love. While the basic concept is fine, what that idea then enables me to do is to remove responsibility for doing something about this wrong, and justify it as the consequence of evil, and how can one individual be expected to fight a world full of evil. What is even more concerning, is that so many dogmatic religions, cults, sects and splinter groups can use a book of philosophy to justify almost anything they wish to in a practical sense. If it were that simple, then why is there so much division? I have heard the bible quoted to support the environmental movement and to condemn it; to justify injustice and to fight it; to embrace life and to take it. I have sufficient knowledge of theology to be able to use some choice quotes to try and convince many a religious zealot of the merits of my views, but this is only buying into an already flawed and narrow pool of evidence, if indeed you could call it evidence at all. Religious belief is not a coherent nor valid argument against an individual's moral obligation to act decisively to defend universal rights and ideals. What's worse is that this is not a new phenomenon. It is as old as religion itself, and it will continue to be a point of great debate and division.
When I wrote about an unfolding ideology, I was not referring to an unfolding dogma. The ideology I am proposing should be one of rigorous debate, but founded in immutable truths such as political freedom, equality of access and opportunity, sustainable social and economic structures, or freedom of faith. When our rights, in this context, are infringed by those exercising their rights, we have an obligation to act to restore equilibrium to the social fabric and thus avoid the destabilising effect of excess. While there is a place for faith, in some ways Karl Marx was right in referring to it as an opiate for the masses. He was, in fact, not dismissing the spiritual component of faith, but rather underlining the sheer lunacy of using faith as an excuse to do nothing. Religion is not the problem, religious people who abuse its virtues however, are.
P.S. I intended to post another piece today allegorising soma, but felt this far more pertinent.
To be continued...