April 2002

I can understand your disillusionment with religion after growing up the way you describe. Life is a very complex set of components, however. In some ways the philosophies we develop in our lives, the minds and thinkers we choose to listen to, our ideas become our own personal religion of a sort.

Beliefs and philosophies have been different for even all the founders of religions, founders of new ideas, discoverers of inventions, great minds, mystics. Where is the line drawn to say it is religion per se and bad bad? Do you think it is when a leader has followers or they step over the line of expecting others to act and be a certain way? Even Jungian philosophy, for instance, has its set of beliefs and practices. Even saying "think for yourself" can be like a religion. I don't think the answers are black and white. Everyone believes and thinks something. Some may say believing in God is being religious. Others just know God in their being and live it, but may not even think or know they believe or know God.

China probably has killed more people in their history than anywhere on the planet (of course their history stretches farther back than anywhere), and they do not have religion or believe in God as a society. America -- the "Christian" nation of the world is known for its benevolence in many circles. Many would like to debate that question. But America is the country that usually tries to help the downtrodden in the world, no matter America's own problems and idiosyncracies. Maybe we are that way in spite of the Pat Robertson types. But does Pat Robertson represent generic religion?

What of the fact that the great percentage of Americans believe in God or a higher spiritual power? Isn't that religion in a way? It is not something you find across the board in China, for instance, where religion is outlawed. God bless all the Asians out there by the way. And many of you became Christian or Buddhist or took on other philosophies when you came to America when you found there were other ways -- and Confucian/Taoism is still a part of you -- though not considered a religion per se, and some still hold to commusism outlooks.

I just don't understand how one can make the blanket statement that religion is synominous with hate. Is it the word God you don't like? I mean really, China is not considered a religious country; they don't believe in God. Where is it that one steps over the line do you think? With another twist to the discussion, Greeks and Romans killed new wave thinkers -- Socrates and those types. That wasn't religion but maybe just balking at the systems and politics. But then maybe actually thinking for oneself is really bad because it is believing something -- and is that religion? Most religious leaders were mavericks and began by having new ideas different from the norm. I think we really would need to get Websters out again and clearly define religion, take surveys and find out what religion means to people. Maybe it is dogma and outworn doctrine that is bad bad.

Well enough is enough for now.

Kay Kay SuryaCuzco@aol.com

Thanks for your thoughtful letter: I would define organized religion as "any set of practices or beliefs which require adherents to give unquestioned obedience to a self-appointed authority OR scripture." By this definition, communism is a religion. More specifically, faith-based religions have leaders who rely on other-worldly sponsorship or who claim to belong to a "lineage" of spiritual appointment. Religion turns to hate when adherents justify "righteous indignation" and believe they have the divine right to take (sometimes violent) actions against non-believers.

I separate belief systems into two categories--open and closed:

Open belief systems rely on critical thought and continued questioning--even of themselves. I would classify free-thought and Jungian psychology in this category. Notably, open belief systems do not try to control or influence others who disagree--except to engage in spirited dialogue.

Closed belief systems cannot withstand critical scrutiny, and usually try to spread themselves and control the actions of those outside their ranks. They use peer reinforcement to maintain internal discipline. To influence the world and gain new members, they use propagandistic recruiting techniques and conceal their true nature. Communism, fundamentalism, and even some multi-level marketing schemes fall into this category.