CNN on-line offered a story today entitled, “When Religion Becomes Evil.” Now, of course, we immediately think of “them”, that vast category of people who believe differently than we do, and say of some of them, “Yes, evil!” But, evil is possible even with noble ideas, even those that you and I hold. For, with noble ideas like the teachings of Jesus, we can find ourselves suddenly being obnoxiously intolerant and blatantly overbearing and even brutal. Well, we can make this discovery if we are honest and most of the time we are dead set against that! You might want to read the article at the following link: http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2013/04/28/when-religious-beliefs-becomes-evil-4-signs/?hpt=hp_c3. The author, John Blake, suggests four signs that you are verging on evil with your religion:
1. “I know the truth, and you don’t.” When you run into someone cursed with this illness, you have learned to turn around and walk the other way. There is no way to have an intelligent conversation with them. They are, to use the title of an Eric Hoffer book, “True Believers” which is tantamount to saying they are Taliban-ish.
2. “Beware the charismatic leader.” Charismatic leaders often carry great wisdom but it is necessary to “try the spirits to see if they be of God.” For charismatic leaders are often in love with themselves and are enthralled with the power of having throngs of people subscribe to their beliefs. Witness Jim Jones and the Jonestown, South Africa tragedy of 1979. Witness also many of the contemporary tele-evangelists.
3. “The end is near.” Well, technically it is as at any minute we could drop dead from a multitude of circumstances and ultimately scientists say that our universe itself will collapse in upon itself. So, sooner or later, one of those “end is near” guys…and they are usually “guys”…will be right. I think that the global catastrophe they prophesy has already occurred…deep inside their own heart.
4. “The end justifies the means.” If you feel you know the truth, then you inevitably feel that you are justified in taking any means necessary to bring about the arrival of truth. The alternative would be to merely believe in Truth, and humbly live your life in patient faith and hope and allow that Truth to become manifest in due time without your ego-maniacal machinations.
The word “religion” has at its stem the same as that of “ligament.” Just as ligaments tie muscles together, religion purports to “tie together” a fragmented soul. We need religion because we know, in the depths of our collective hearts that we are fragmented, but we inevitable create ersatz religions which only blind us to reality. But in the religious sentiment, if we allow a spirit of humility to visit us on occasion, we can find glimpses of that re-integration and find that, in faith, it is in process in our lives…and in the lives of people who believe differently than we do!