Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Fr Georges Massouh: When Our Religions Enslave Us

Arabic original here.

When Our Religions Enslave Us

Religious people in general all agree that religions were founded for man, not man for religions. Man is the summit of creation and the noblest of creatures, God created him "in his image and likeness", made him His "vicegerent on earth" and entrusted him with the entire world.

Let us also not forget that man existed for millions of years before the appearance of religions. Man alone, among all the visible creatures, has been promised eternal life by God. Everything will pass away, say the religions, and nothing will remain except for God and those humans He has chosen to live in His presence forever. Then, even the religions, laws and commandments will pass away, because in the presence of God they are pointless.

Nevertheless, historical realities are not so glorious as the intentions of foundational texts and theological theories. History shows us how concepts have been turned on their head. Instead of being the central point of concern for those in charge of religions, man has become a pliable tool in the hands of religious decision-makers. They have exploited religious sentiments among their followers and manipulated them, under the guise of defending religion, in the service of their political  or military alliances with the princes of this world.

Religions, which were founded in principle for the service of man, make man their servant when they transform into ideologies that must be defended at any price. The conflicts that we have seen over the course of history until today have religion as their basic motivating force, under whose banners wars have been waged between nations or within a single country.

In all these wars, man has been crushed in the name of religions. Instead of being master over creation, like God intended, he became a servant to his religious institution through its clergy, jurists, priests and leaders. Man has become a slave to his sheikh and his teacher, like a disciple who has no will of his own, like a ring on the finger of his master. Man became the means instead of the end. Man's death for the sake of religion is the end and it came to no longer be the case that the end is life for man's sake.

As for us Lebanese, we are not different from this description. People are provoked over time in order to protect the honor of the sect or religion. The sect's glory or the religion's honor deserve to have lives sacrificed for their sake. Instead of God being the object of veneration and worship, the religious sect takes God's place. Shirk is not only when one takes another god besides God. Shirk is also when sect or dogma becomes an object of worship alongside God. God created man free, but man enslaves himself of his own will to his religion and its dogmas.

Man is in a state of idolatry, in a state of slavery. He can only be saved from it by reconsidering reason, something praised by all religious texts. Instead of reason, ignorance and superstition prevail. Instead of building the future, the return to a distant past prevails, and the evocation of conflicts.

If religious discourse remains as it is today, inflammatory and divisive for the sake of boosting religions or sects, then people will lose more and more of their humanity that God created them with. Religions will not have any true meaning if people are not liberated from worshiping them and religion does not return to God alone who has no partner.

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