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Educating the Religious Mind and Heart
By Martin LeFevre
Jul 24, 2021, 10:32am

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Though Jesus didn't prophesy the Second Coming of Christ, if he were to return, the first thing he would do would be to disavow any connection with Catholicism and Christianity.

Jesus was a revolutionary of the heart, and a radical renewal prophet in the Jewish tradition. He was not the founder of Catholicism and Christianity, which are largely antithetical to his teachings.

For over two thousand years, theologians have tortuously tried to circumvent and explain away Jesus' last words on the cross: "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me."

That very human cri de coeur means that Jesus himself, in his dying breath, did not understand what went wrong.

Clearly, Jesus did not fail, but his mission did, and he took it back on himself. The history of Christianity is largely the history of the attempts to refute this truth, and insist that Jesus' mission was a history-altering success after all.

None of Jesus' disciples had the courage to be present at his crucifixion. As Jesus predicted, Peter disowned him three times in one night. Decades later, a principal persecutor of Christians, Paul, poured the theological foundation for the Catholic Church. Then came Emperor Constantine, who welded a growing, disorganized Jesus Movement to the Roman Empire at the Council of Nicaea in 325. That's why it's called the Roman Catholic Church.

Given decades of pedophilia by priests on every continent, and decades of cover-ups by bishops, archbishops, cardinals and popes of the molestation of children; given the killings by neglect and abuse of untold numbers of indigenous children in Canada and other countries; given Vatican financial scandals that will never see the light of day, it's a cosmic mystery how any thinking and feeling person can continue to call themselves a Catholic.

Being raised Catholic (Latin Mass six days a week, five before school and Sundays) I sympathize with Novena-Nirvanas and Jew-Bus. However Catholics and Jews who become Buddhists have been trying to graft a living branch onto a root-dead tree. In the process they've merely been speeding up the death of both the Judeo-Christian and Buddhist traditions.

Religions are one thing, and the religious mind and heart another. The religious impulse arose in the mists of pre-history out of a subconscious awareness of the inherently separative and fragmentary nature of symbolic thought.

As long as people have been self-aware, they have been aware, at some level, of human alienation from nature and the universe. Religion, in one form or another, filled the vacuum and mitigated and explained our alienation. Even the etymology of the word reflects this; 'religare' means to 'tie back.'

There's a prevailing notion that man's present crisis of meaning is basically a problem of Western civilization, encapsulated by the deceptively self-deprecating term "WEIRD" - Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich and Democratic. But there is no more "West" or "East," "North" or "South;" there's just one interconnected, chaotic, and increasingly unhinged world.

The current fashion of atheism deserves mention, though little more than that. Not because its 'thought leaders' are wrong in their critique of organized religion, or because humans have an innate need for religion. Rather, because atheism's basic premise - of a completely random, mechanistic, atomistic and relativistic universe - is false on the face of it, a projection of the human mind's separative and fragmentary nature.

There's something to be said for what has been called "a Cambrian explosion in New Age thinking," resulting from the failure of Modernism and Postmodernism, with the regression into tribal politics, and the decline in organized religion, without anything meaningful taking its place.

However equating meditation and mindfulness with magick, Wicca and taking acid is a dismissive sleight of hand that offers no insight into the way ahead. The horns of humankind's spiritual dilemma are as old as man -- direct experiencing of the numinous versus any and all attempts to organize and manipulate religious experience -- experiencing wholeness and unity with all life.

That includes latter-day shamans and teachers of "guided meditation," as well as conventional, organized, hierarchical religions such as Catholicism. To someone who truly experiences "the peace that passes all understanding" on a regular basis, the old and new religions are unnecessary and meaningless.

The idea that "the new wave of spirituality is the direct descendent of both the decline in organized religion and the influence of the Protestant Reformation which drew us closer to a focus on our interior states while minimizing the importance of institutional religion" is poppycock. The dilemma is both universal and much older than that.

With respect to "the sense of the truly sacred that lies beyond our own egos," it's religiously reactionary to suggest that what's required is a "return to what bona fide religion really captures: the communitas, the ecstasy, the ritual...and finding meaning in our Christian roots."

"Bona fide religion" is an oxymoron; and "finding meaning in our Christian roots" is a fool's errand. The question is, what will take the place not only of fading organized religions, but the muddled attempts to replace them with 'spiritual but not religious' superficialities?

We need to let go of both the old crud and the new crap. We need to tend to the garden of our own hearts. We need to pull up the old roots and new weeds and allow impersonal love to grow. We need to be still, and know the immanence of God beyond the word, creed, church, synagogue or mosque.

Link: "Is Religion Coming Back?":


Martin LeFevre is a contemplative, and non-academic religious and political philosopher. He welcomes dialogue.

Published with permission of the author. All copyright remains with the author.

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