I am not a believer in any of the major book religions. You know, the type where the entire belief system is from one undeniably convoluted, infallible, inerrant, word of god book? The kind where the god speaks, people (men) write it down, and it passes through hundreds or even thousands of years, through tens of thousands of transcribers, translators, and conquerors, unadulterated and pure? You know, the kind where the god sets lots of impossible to follow requirements, says some pretty ludicrous things, sets ultimatums, orders slaughters, offers his (in book religions, it’s always a ‘he’) favors IF and only IF you worship HIM and only HIM.
This is consistent throughout the Abrahamic religions. Unfortunately, I’m not familiar with other book religions. The main three Abrahamic religions are Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Each one is based on a book, and each one has a common element found in just one single book (although none of them started with a book, it’s just that the books took over and became more important than the religion they represented). Why does it seem so obvious to me and so many others that the stories held within the pages are the stuff of myth? These books are so clearly based on human faults, suffering, etc. It is no god of which they write.
In those, the god character claims to be the only god, and is unusually jealous. The god requires certain behaviours and also has some pretty strange outrageous demands. Book religions require revelation from the top down. It is a rule book which self declares it’s inerrancy. It is an imposed spirituality, not requiring thought on the part of the partaker. Any one or anything that has the line: “then God said,” falls in this category.
But the problem with book religions does not end at them. Any religion can have a top down flow, requiring all subjects of the religion to follow it’s precepts. It almost seems that is what religion is for! It certainly has been used that way throughout the ages. But there is another type of belief, another way of revelation and that is personal revelation. Allowing yourself to be open to revelation… experiencing it first hand. This is bottom up spirituality. It is intensely personal, and in my view, far more authentic. It is open and unbounded. There are no rules imposed upon you, only the constraints of earth and sky. A person is left with their own moral fiber, not a rule guide dictating what is” right” and “wrong.” It can be more frightening, encountering Deity on your own, with no intermediary or instruction manual. But it can also be more authentic. Encountering the Mysteries on your own, with all of what you are, is what we were meant for.
You’d think fewer people would favor the book religion model, yet you can certainly understand why they do. Having something of such depth and meaning handed to you in an “infallible” manuscript means you no longer need to examine depth and meaning on your own! No questioning needed! Instead, those who adopt the book model, simply delve into the book, making it everything, and missing anything else. And that is probably the biggest error of the book religions. Not that they have a top-down approach per-se, but that they stop there. They don’t see the stories in the pages; they don’t honor the myths. Taking it all as the plain text it appears to be, so much is lost. So much is missed.
I think this is why I’m so drawn to Paganism*, where we speak not of revelation from the top down, but inspiration from the bottom up. Most Paganism is Earth based, which means it is grounded in our experiences. Yet, just as a seed lay in the dark ground, it soon sprouts, grows and blossoms into pure beauty. But that is just the beginning. And a thorough description of Paganism would contain volumes (most likely because it has as many manifestations as there are people who have practiced it).
In this day and age, you’d think people would shun jihads and crusades and myopic ideas of the god concept. You’d think they’d be done with fundamentalist group-think, and open up to the freedom of self-discovery. But no. Sadly, that is not meant to be. I leave you with this:
… the modern world of international communications, trading, travels and migrations — which brings every religion and culture into contact with every other — can no longer afford to indulge the rabid myopia of monotheistic fundamentalism, with its attendant holy wars, crusades, missionaryism and inquisitions. As Thomas Paine said, “The most detestable wickedness, the most horrid cruelties, and the greatest miseries that have afflicted the human race have had their origin in this thing called revelation, or revealed religion;” and “No falsehood is so fatal as that which is made an article of faith.”
– Oberon Zell-Ravenheart, being interviewed on a local television station in Sydney Austrailia, during his first visit there in 1985
* by Paganism, I am referring to the modern interpretations of ageless beliefs. Sometimes known as Neo-Paganism, but drawn on countless ancient forms.