A Voyage Into Religion

Since I was a little girl, I always wondered why they never taught us about other religions in school. All what we learned about others is that they are either idol worshippers, or infidels who tampered their religion (Christians and Jews). What about other religions? What does each one basically teach? But as I grew older; I realized that it would take a miracle for us to have such comparative studies.
One of the biggest contradictories of Islamic preaching is that it believes in the freedom of choice when it comes to religion, at the same time it forbids conversion!!! When a young child is born to a Buddhist couple; he naturally adapts his parent’s religion, and a Moslem couple would naturally bring up their children on the preaching of Islam. Then where does the freedom of choice lie, when the mind is only saturated with one ideology since birth? How can one choose to convert if there are no other comparative elements against which he can value his belief?
Then the big question comes; how can one know that he’s on the right path? Ok I’ll answer this one:

You are at the path of correct because THEY told you so.

This childhood curiosity had given me the incentive to search that for myself. And after years of research; I found out that religions are all the same, they only change color according to culture. In other words; religion is culture and traditions, or intermixed cultures. Islam, for example, stemmed from the Arabian culture and spread that culture as it conquered other places. It affected that culture and also got affected by it. It had it’s effect on Hinduism, for example, and as a result Sikhism was born. Buddhism, on the other hand, had it’s effect on Islam and sophism was born. In other words, if we want to trace the origin of each religion, we’d end up convinced that it’s all man-made.

And man had not stopped creating new religions or intermixing different ones throughout history, each day a new fellow comes up with a new trend, which eventually evolves into religion, or a cult with many followers.

Few months ago, while I was strolling down El Castro, a big banner on one of its many shops grabbed my attention. The banner read “Scientology and Dianetics; the way of life”. My curiosity led me inside where a lady sat behind a high bench in a large hall that looked like a lecture hall with chairs and highly sophisticated electronic devices around a white board. Large colored posters, each explaining an aspect of scientology, covered all the four walls. And beneath each poster racks of books and DVD’s were displayed. The hall looked peculiar; its vast space was relatively empty. But as soon as the receptionist called for assistance, a nicely groomed gentleman, in a very nice suit appeared from another room, and asked me to fill out a form. He seemed very eager to help me understand the concept of scientology. It was obvious from his attitude that he had gone through extensive training to promote his product. That was obvious from the questions he asked me; like, do I do drugs? Or am I an alchoholic? Another question was if I had any problems whether physical or emotional, claiming that scientology has a cure for every problem. And as we went through the posters where he did a lot of explaining, I interrupted him several times with my under the belt questions. And he seemed confidant enough at first, but when my questions started increasing, he offered to show me a one-hour documetary that would clear all my doubts as he put it. And as he directed me through another hall, I was amazed by the number of the employees, all young, good looking and in elegant suits, and the many offices inside the building gave the sense of wealth. And upon my departure, he gave me loads of pamphlets and booklets. And invited me to a lecture that was conducted the same day with free dinner. It was going fine except that I made one mistake: I gave them my e-mail and mailing address on that form, and that was all they needed.

Ever since that day my e-mail is bombarded with their ideology; no different from the Islamist e-mails I get in my junk mail every day, although not as much. And in addition, I get the same thing in my regular mail including free dinners, free lunches, free personality test and so forth. And that gave me the feeling that they are disparate for new converts. And imagine; they are trying to convert me!!!

In a nutshell; my opinion about scientology is that it is psychology intermixed with Christianity and Far-Eastern relegions. And to add some flavor; they added some primitive scientific devices for testing purposes to give legitimacy to an illegitimate cult of science.

Now let’s see what others say about scientology

Btw; that handsome guy asked me to have eye contact procedure, where I had to stare into his eyes and tell him what I saw. I guess he was trying to hypnotize me, but all I could see was his beautiful eyes. LOL

Now let’s see what the church of Satan or devil worshiping has to offer, and where they come from:

How about New Age religions, are they really new? Let’s check one; Eckankar

The Bahai Faith:

The VooDoo Religion:

And the list goes on. Yet; with all the damages religion inflicted on humanity; one can not deny the fact that it (religion) had played a vital part in human civilization; especially when it comes to art. The myth provided a fertile ground for creation. Great works of art like “The Last Supper” by Da Vinci, and sculptures like that of “David” by Michelangelo, and many more great poetry and folklore were produced.

Buddhism Art Dance

And the more I dig into religion, the more I realize how irrational they all are. And may be that’s why they never taught us comparative religion in school. They were not afraid that we’d convert one day, since each religion has its own misgivings. And Moslems excel in pointing out shortages in other faiths, while deliberately giving a blind eye to theirs. They didn’t teach us that because they were terrified that we’d discard religion all together when we realize that it’s nothing more than folklore.

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28 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Stephen_Dedalus
    Jun 22, 2007 @ 01:27:08

    Hello,

    I’m an engineer, and yogi, and somewhat of an old-fashioned Irish Catholic, but please don’t hold that against me ;-). I was directed to your blog by a friend who shares your interests, and I was very taken by this post. I’m also an occasional visitor to San Francisco, my favourite city in the US.

    My own spiritual experiences lead me to the conclusion that to attempt to confine the divine to the literal content of a book is analogous to trying to contain the ocean within a small shopping bag. No-one has a monopoly of the truth. Occasionally, if we are fortunate, we get to see a little glimpse of what He might be up to, but for any human, or group of humans, to believe that we know the entirety of the divine will is an act of supreme arrogance. The most important thing I know about Him, is that he has granted us all a sense of humour. We may need it.

    Reply

  2. Farid
    Jun 22, 2007 @ 06:03:35

    Ironically, there are some points in this post that I do agree with. I wouldn’t blame the schools for not teaching comparative religion though. They’d most likely have parents pulling their childrens out left and right if that were the case.

    Sects that have branched out of other religions obviously have a lot in common with the religion that they branched out from. While, I also believe that the main religions have certain similarities even if they appear to be completely different.
    ———————
    “And man had not stopped creating new religions or intermixing different ones throughout history, each day a new fellow comes up with a new trend, which eventually evolves into religion, or a cult with many followers.”

    That’s pretty tough for me to swallow. Not only is it hard to believe that so many intellectual people can be coaxed into following specific ways of life that don’t have ANY truth in them, but the risk of doing so completely outweighs the benefits.

    Jewish prophets were killed at the blink of an eye for preaching what they believed to be the truth. John the Baptist (pbuh) was killed. What did Moses (pbuh) gain from saving the children of Israel?

    In my opinion, knowledge of the truth deteriorates through time. The children of those that follow the truth start their own innovations unknowingly which make their religions appear to be so completely different from everyone else’s.

    I do agree that creating a religion is a great money-making scheme today, that is if it’s reasonably well pulled off. But, claiming that Judaism, Christianity, and Islam have were created by people that didn’t believe in them is extremely hard to swallow. I’m also sure that Hinduism and perhaps even Buddhism have some truth within them as well.

    Reply

  3. حمودي
    Jun 22, 2007 @ 09:13:05

    جميل هذا الكلام بس عشان جذي الدين الاسلامي حرم التفكير بالله والبدين

    Reply

  4. ony
    Jun 22, 2007 @ 20:46:57

    Since I was a little girl, I always taught my friends about other religions, I “enjoyed” how similar all the religions are, it was very amusing to me. Because of my upbringing ive learned acceptance and respect for all the different believes, I remember as a teenager my friends where fascinated by my theories of how similar religions are, even in their stories and myths.. I particularly remember how I would correct some radical conceptions the religion teacher try to implant in our young brains.

    I also liked to contemplate the theory that if everybody created their own religion the world would be better, peaceful akeed. If no one is to talk about their spirituality, if
    people don’t wear their religion? What if I don’t know anything about “when” does the “other” pray or ” how”.

    What if people concentrated on practicing religiousness instead of religion?

    People crave religion, the human nature relate it to spirituality, which makes people “sleep” better at night, people feel safe when they belong to a group, some crave extra attention so they join an extremist group or join some classes to “strengthen their faith”, and some go all the way to converting to a whole other religion! Conversion is frowned upon from society which makes it a harder decision.

    A friend once told me about his theory on the similarity between homosexuals and converters, they both seek attention they both are unhappy with society both get a kick from society’s funny looks hehe.

    Reply

  5. AyyA
    Jun 23, 2007 @ 07:00:41

    Hi Stephen; it seems like except for you being “somewhat of an old-fashioned Irish Catholic”, we share a lot in common 😉
    “for any human, or group of humans, to believe that we know the entirety of the divine will is an act of supreme arrogance”
    Very deep and intelligent remark, thanks. You and your friend are always welcome, feel at home.
    Farid
    “Christianity, and Islam have were created by people that didn’t believe in them is extremely hard to swallow”
    Generally speaking, it’s not only hard to swallow, but also almost impossible for the preprogrammed mind to accept.
    Hamodi
    I absolutely agree, thanks.
    Ony
    Thanks for sharing, and welcome aboard.

    Reply

  6. Farid
    Jun 23, 2007 @ 07:19:35

    “Generally speaking, it’s not only hard to swallow, but also almost impossible for the preprogrammed mind to accept.”

    I don’t think you give theists enough credit Ayya. Your everyday Muslim/Christian/Jew is probably pretty much influenced by what they were taught by their parents or at school. I too think that they should re-examine their beliefs.

    On the otherhand, there is a big number of those who don’t fall into the “preprogrammed” category. Not everyone that is “born into a religion” will believe in everything that is taught to them. Some develop their own beliefs about their own religions, while others convert to other ways of life.

    I also doubt that scholars of any religion have been born with the exact same beliefs that they preach.

    Reply

  7. AyyA
    Jun 23, 2007 @ 08:07:27

    Farid
    “On the otherhand, there is a big number of those who don’t fall into the “preprogrammed” category. Not everyone that is “born into a religion” will believe in everything that is taught to them. Some develop their own beliefs about their own religions, while others convert to other ways of life.”

    True; but when preprogramming is done since birth and by loved ones and trusted ones; like teachers and older people that we respect, we become emotionally dependant on this “truth”. Chances are that the majority would take it with its faults and try to find lame excuses for these faults. Just like what is happening now, when someone argues a point only for the sake of silencing other voices. Any criticism is not only unaccepted, but also is considered an insult, even if the person who they are debating made sense. It’s not easy to reject one’s religion, it’s emotionally very tiring. And besides, not many would be willing to declare their honest opinion, If not for the fear of execution, at least, for the sake of acceptance in the society.

    Reply

  8. Stephen_Dedalus
    Jun 23, 2007 @ 13:21:33

    Thank you Ayya, Namaste,

    A digression:
    I’m pleased to see you’re a Berkeley alumna. I few years ago I was given the task of mentoring a young lady who was studying Mechanical Engineering, at my Alma Mater, Imperial. She decided that she wanted to do her postgraduate studies in the US, so she looked around, and I wrote her references. We were both delighted when Berkeley came up. She had spent 3 years keeping her head down at Imperial, so I told her that if she was going to do her Master’s in the Bay area, and wasn’t going to take time to smell the roses, I’d never forgive her. She sent me a postcard from Vegas 🙂

    Back on topic:
    Have you ever read Carl Jung or Joseph Campbell on the evolution of human spirituality? I think you might find their perspectives interesting. I would warn you though, that Campbell’s primary text on the subject comes in four volumes and is heavier reading than ‘The Golden Bough’, which also covers some of the topic.

    Reply

  9. Farid
    Jun 23, 2007 @ 16:05:41

    Stephen, I once read a few pages from Joseph Campbell’s “Hero with a Thousand Faces”. It was due at the library so I had to return it back. Is it worth a second look in your opinion?

    Reply

  10. kila_ma6goog
    Jun 23, 2007 @ 17:31:54

    موضوع حلو

    🙂

    Reply

  11. Stephen_Dedalus
    Jun 23, 2007 @ 18:37:21

    Thank you Farid,

    This is Ayya’s blog, and I wouldn’t want to take advantage of her hospitality, but I hope she will allow me use her space to say, yes, absolutely, it’s worth several looks. Campbell’s major work on comparative mythology and religion is known as ‘The Masks of God’. It comes in four volumes, separated into Primitive, Oriental, Occidental and Creative. It’s quite a bit longer than his piece on the heroic archetype to which you refer.

    Reply

  12. AyyA
    Jun 23, 2007 @ 22:31:54

    Stephen
    Actually, I only did my sophomore year at Berkeley when I was studying Architecture, after that I got married (bummer) and moved to Tennessee. I graduated in Electrical Engineering, computer design from UT at Knoxville.
    And about Joseph Campbell’s “Mask of God”, I got the book (first vol. I guess) last year after watching his DVD “The Power of Myth”. But didn’t get the chance to read it, and it’s still in Kuwait. I think it would be worth it to check the other volumes out. Thanks for the info. And feel free to use as much space as you want, anything that would enrich the conversation, or provoke thinking is highly appreciated.
    And the same goes to you Farid.

    KM
    Thank you 🙂

    Reply

  13. MHG
    Jun 24, 2007 @ 00:28:07

    Hi-

    I’ve been following your blog for quite sometime, and you do have some interesting views. This is an interesting article, but I do have some points to make:

    1-The study of comparative religions, by no means is indicative to the COMPARING of religions. The discourse is that the department produces courses that allow in-depth study of A religion, and in rare cases where a cluster of religions are incorporated in one course, they are never compared yet the course (usually thematic) addresses the theme qua the religion(s) themselves.

    Nevertheless, I do agree that CR is a pivotal study and its quite pitiful that Middle Eastern states do not incorporate that into the university-level educational systems (Israel, Iran, and Turkey do not as well).

    2-In regards to the raising up of a child to believe a certain religion. That’s true to many issues. We believed (as a human race) that the world was flat and there was no reason to doubt that.

    When it comes to religion, however, it is necessary prior to embarking on introducing other religions, one must understand their own faith-or so I believe. The fourteen years spent in mandatory religious classes in Kuwait has taught be nothing vis-a-vis the 2 years spent studying Islam in a Western educational institution. I think that is a more pressing issue.

    3-Finally, your point regarding culture as a driving source to religion is interesting. I think you contradict yourself there by stating that religions (all religions) have a connecting thread to them, so where does culture break them. It’s an interesting conclusion, and I would urge you to consider addressing it in a more in-depth entry.

    You’re in SF ay, a great city. Do you study there? I am in Boston myself, but California and New York are true gems!

    Thanks.

    Reply

  14. AyyA
    Jun 24, 2007 @ 07:14:08

    MHG
    Ahleen

    “The study of comparative religions, by no means is indicative to the COMPARING of religions.”

    I never indicated that, what I was addressing is at least a general knowledge about all faiths, the comparison part is then left to the person himself.

    “When it comes to religion, however, it is necessary prior to embarking on introducing other religions, one must understand their own faith-or so I believe.”

    I do agree; yet at the same time I don’t believe that we should over do it as it is done in our schools. And at the same time, I think that other religions should also be included in the curriculum.

    “I think you contradict yourself there by stating that religions (all religions) have a connecting thread to them, so where does culture break them.”

    I’m suggesting that the “connecting thread to them” is man, and not God. I only gave the examples of the new religions to give a general feeling of what have gone in the past. Man had created religion, as well as his own God. The rituals themselves stemmed from culture, and with interconnection with other cultures it evolved to what we have today.

    And finally; I am a retired engineer, and living with my two sons who go to school here.

    Reply

  15. Farid
    Jun 24, 2007 @ 08:06:28

    “The rituals themselves stemmed from culture, and with interconnection with other cultures it evolved to what we have today.”

    I had a professor who argued that climate is what creates distinctions between people. Climates in one way or another influence type of clothing and the types of food we eat.

    He later explained that climates also influenced the creation of languages. I think he also mentioned something about climates influencing certain aspects of religions.

    Err… I can’t really agree with that, or I don’t really see any scientific evidence leading to his remarks about language and religion. The “Dhaad” is letter exclusive to the Arabic language. I mean, did all the heat in the Arabian Peninsula lead to the usage of the letter “Dhaad”?

    ————————

    “Man had created religion, as well as his own God.”

    I think that you’re giving man too much credit. Not only is creating a religion an extremely painful and risky act, but I also can’t think of any person who has benefitted (through worldly gains) by creating a religion.

    I believe that even if I didn’t follow any religion. I think I’d have trouble believing that there are billions of people following certain ways of life if there was absolutely no truth within them. Stephen pointed out earlier something like there is some truth in religions. I completely agree with that. At the very least, I’d be curious enough to take a few looks at these religions for the sake of some of that truth that they carry.

    Reply

  16. AyyA
    Jun 24, 2007 @ 09:16:31

    Farid
    “I think that you’re giving man too much credit. Not only is creating a religion an extremely painful and risky act, but I also can’t think of any person who has benefitted (through worldly gains) by creating a religion.”

    There are many benefits of creating a religion. History told us that man had always struggled for power and control of the masses. Creating a religion goes in juxtaposition with creating a system of life. And the ones who created that system would naturally take control and eventually assume power.
    And yes; all religions have some truth in them; yet what we call “the truth” is not only relative to each community, but also to each individual. In other words; it’s we who decide what is the truth. And our truth will always be biased to what we already accumulated as a solid belief.

    Reply

  17. Stephen_Dedalus
    Jun 24, 2007 @ 11:38:54

    As for creating a religion. Yes, people have done it, and within living memory, for various nefarious reasons. They do have to draw upon pre-existing spiritual and psychological material though, to have sufficient suitable material with which to attract the vulnerable and unwary.

    L Ron Hubbard created Scientology predominantly because it gave him much more income than writing science fiction. From his writing career, he noticed that some people were more suggestible than others, and so that’s who he aimed at. To do this, he drew upon pre-existing bits of Hindu and Buddhist philosophy, without much of their cultural content. I also suspect that he used Wilhelm Reich’s psychology to construct a framework around. I might add that, like Ayya, I have seen them in action. I wouldn’t let them within a mile of anyone I knew who was emotionally or psychologically vulnerable.

    I would also point out that Heinrich Himmler created a pseudo-religious cult among the SS, which drew upon elements of pre-Christian Teutonic mythology (including elements of Nietzschian philosophy and Wagnerian opera!) . The warrior mythos created allowed the perpetrators of numerous atrocities to find internal justification for their own acts. Both Jung and Reich comment on the numerous psychological manipulation techniques used by the Nazis to enable their followers to do inhuman things.

    I could also go on to describe the cults of Mao and Stalin, but that might take some time. Have I made my point?

    Reply

  18. you-sif
    Jun 24, 2007 @ 22:54:40

    هل نملك غير الانحياز للدين الذي نعتنقه

    التساؤل الكبير الذي طرحتيه وأجبتي عنه بالخط العريض : لأنهم علمونا
    وهو جواب صحيح ومن الطبيعي أن يتهود أطفال اليهود ويتنصر أطفال النصارى ويسلم أطفال المسلمين والقائمة تطول .. ولكنه ليس الجواب الوحيد لأنهم أخبرونا ثم علمونا ثم دلونا .. وعند الكبر وجدنا حرية التعلم والاطلاع على ما نريد ومن ثم الاقتناع من عدمه بما علمونا وليس التسليم المطلق
    فلسنا عبيدا للذين علمونا .. ويمكننا الاعتقاد بما نشاء .. كما تفعلين أنت الآن فأنت تؤمنين باللادين وهو بحد ذاته دين بشكل مختلف

    الاسلام كما تؤمنين أنت هو من صنع الانسان .. وهو من عند الله كما نؤمن نحن
    وهذا هو بيت القصيد .. الكل حر بما يؤمن ولا أحد يستطيع جر الجميع بما يؤمن به وهذه طبيعة البشر وهي الاختلاف
    إذا اتفقنا على ما سبق .. فليس هناك مايدعو الى لوم الشعوب بتعليم أبنائها الدين الذي تؤمن به

    Reply

  19. AyyA
    Jun 25, 2007 @ 00:18:37

    Stephen
    Thanks bro, you may go ahead if you feel like it, I’m sure your insight is very educational to many readers including me.

    Yiu-sif
    No we don’t have any choice, and that’s the main issue. In his book “The Virus of Faith,” Richard Dawkins called the teaching of religion in schools as child abuse “It’s time to question the abuse of childhood innocence with superstitious ideas of hellfire and damnation. Isn’t it weird the way we automatically label a tiny child with its parents’ religion?” this may sound a very revolutionary thought, yet it makes a lot on sense. And I think eventually, deep religious studies of one’s faith should be left to other religious institutions and not to schools. This way parents at least have a choice to extend their children’s education in this field if they chose to do so.
    And how many people do you know that have had the courage to reject their religion openly, especially in the Islamic region? Or how many are welling to even go search for themselves? Chances are that even if they decided to self-educate themselves, their insight is always biased to what they were brought up to believe. Besides, this search is emotionally tiring, and it needs time and effort as well as guts.

    Reply

  20. Farid
    Jun 25, 2007 @ 00:34:47

    “And how many people do you know that have had the courage to reject their religion openly, especially in the Islamic region?”

    Honestly? Not many. That’s not because of their completely faith in the religion, but it’s because they are so indifferent about learning. It has nothing to do with courage.

    “Or how many are welling to even go search for themselves?”

    Interestingly, I find the Muslims that are more in touch with their faith to be the ones that would search for truths. While the average Muslim is pretty much indifferent.

    Reply

  21. AyyA
    Jun 25, 2007 @ 00:54:08

    Farid
    Courage has a lot to do with it bro, not only in declaring one’s opinion openly, but also in the process of search itself. Let me give you an example, for years I have reached the belief that religion is all man made, yet, it was only a year ago when I had the courage to open Quran and read it with a critical eye, even when I did that my hands were trembling. After all, I was brought up to believe that these words are the direct words of God. At certain time of the month I wasn’t even allowed to touch the words for being najisa (a Moslem woman is not allowed to touch the words of Quran during her period). The sacredness of this book was too much for me to break although I was convinced that it’s not the words of God, rather of Mohammad himself.

    Reply

  22. Farid
    Jun 25, 2007 @ 01:50:45

    Wow, that is interesting. Well, I am impressed that you try to be objective when searching for truth.

    I was talking more about the youth and their attitude about religion. It doesn’t really take much courage to say, “I don’t feel like going to the mosque.” In fact, doing that is sometimes seen as the cool thing to do. But yeah, I can see where you are coming from.

    Reply

  23. MechanicalCrowds
    Jun 26, 2007 @ 20:39:59

    Didn’t know you’re in San Fran!!

    Reply

  24. G - Kuwait
    Jun 29, 2007 @ 09:20:44

    I tried to believe in a religion, but my mind can’t accept such weak arguments!
    I’m an Atheist

    Reply

  25. harmonie22
    Jul 08, 2007 @ 09:45:25

    I share similar views and your approach to religion. After reading some more of your blog posts- especially this one, I have to say you make me proud.

    But do you not feel that because you are ‘existing outside of the box’ that you have a lot more latitude to think and express yourself freely?

    I am in the process of editing a paper I wrote entitled “The shaping forces on creative expression among Kuwaiti women writers” and I will send you a copy, I think you would be interested in reading it. It examines how freedom of expression impacts divergent thinking in Kuwaiti society and ultimately social growth.

    Reply

  26. harmonie22
    Jul 08, 2007 @ 09:46:56

    By the way, I’m also Kuwaiti.

    Reply

  27. AyyA
    Jul 09, 2007 @ 01:08:39

    Harmo
    “do you not feel that because you are ‘existing outside of the box’ that you have a lot more latitude to think and express yourself freely?”
    I lived all my life inside “the box”, my education did not exceed the normal education of many Kuwaitis. I have to admit though that my father’s open-mindedness has generally shaped my outlook on life. Yet, I believe that an adult should not rely on his/her directed education. The biggest problem that one has to tackle is educating oneself. But in this era, where information is readily available, and search engines are at our fingertips, ignorance has no excuse
    I would be delighted to read your paper, and I won’t be hiding a secret that I learn a lot from my readers everyday. I’m also willing to give you my two cents on the subject if you like me to do that.
    You can send it to my e-mail: theultimate.rubies@gmail.com

    Reply

  28. Trackback: Buzberry…. » Blog Archive » The Source of Religion

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