Our core beliefs shape and define the inner self and the outer world. We must learn to look below the surface, to see what’s there. We must take responsibility and accountability for our actions. Are you ready to ready for this challenge?
It’s hard to talk about something as large and diverse as humanity without finding some way to categorize it. So, we’ll keep it straightforward. One way to do it is to organize people by a specific trait. So, imagine humankind as a tree with two main branches. One limb we’ll call believers, the other non-believers. These are the two branches of humanity.
How To Group Humanity By Religion
The first major branch is the believers; these people believe in one or more Gods. The second branch of this tree is the non-believers. This branch is everyone who does not ascribe to an imaginary friend or enemy of some kind.
It’s essential to learn the distinction between the two. One is a religion, and the other is not a religion. Atheism is not a religion.
Both approaches define the inner self and the outer world of an individual. The inner self is a reflection of our values and what we believe. Mythology and superstition are the basis of the values and beliefs of organized religion. Non-believers use evidence.
Believers use the term Atheist to describe those who don’t have an imaginary friend. It comes from Greek ἄθεος (atheos), meaning without god (s). The “A” is short for anti, meaning to oppose. We only use this terminology when talking about God.
For example, if you don’t believe in bigfoot, we don’t call you Abigfootest or Antibigfooter? No. We don’t attach a disclaimer for our disbelief in many other things. If you don’t believe in aliens or vampires, we don’t label people as “athe-aleien” or “athe-vampire.
Shaping The Inner Self and the Outer World
Religious beliefs shape the thinking and values of the inner self. For example, if we believe God chooses us to commit violence, we will act violently and have a clear conscience. After all, we are acting on God’s behalf. So, the framework of the inner self affects the outer world in significant ways.
Let’s look more closely at those who make up most of the believers. The Abrahamic religions of Christianity, Islam, and Judaism make up about 40% of the world population. The religion of Hinduism also has gods, and it accounts for another 14%.
So over half the worlds’ population believes in gods, which means even if you don’t, you are still affected by the social mass of these folks.
Our Core Beliefs, A Look Below the Surface
We’ve known for several decades that organized religion is the source of all of the ongoing conflicts around the world. The belief in an imaginary friend is a slippery slope that leads to delusional thinking.
“Religious people claim that it’s just the fundamentalists of each religion that cause problems. But, there’s got to be something wrong with the religion itself if those who strictly adhere to its most fundamental principles are violent bigots and sexists.” — David G. Mcafee
Organized religion uses a constant system of indoctrination which distorts our core beliefs and moral compass and substitutes bias, prejudice, and discrimination. It justifies everything from genocide to genital mutilation.
There are three primary levels of religious belief. There are those on the fringe, those who are moderates, and those who are extremists.
The path beyond religion is different for everyone. People who follow organized religion are not all the same. There are different levels of investment and involvement. We’ll look at the three levels of believers’ characteristics: the fringe, moderate, and extremists.
The Fringe Group
Today the fringe group makes up 40 to 50% of those in these religions. And this percentage is growing, but this is a new trend. In the 15th Century, this group made up only about 10% of those in organized religion. Here are the characteristics of this group:
They still profess the label of Christan, Jew, Muslim, or Hindu. More often than not, they come from families and communities where these regions hold a great deal of power. So, public declarations of faith are the way to fit in. In some middle-Eastern cultures, it’s mandatory to make public affirmations and participate in regular meetings and rituals. If you do not, you can be subject to punishment up to and including public execution.
However, of the three types of believers, they spend the least time at services or private practice of the dogma. Nor do they align with all of the doctrines within the religion. Although they make a public show of their association, they do so because of social pressure, not because they agree. Often their ability to earn a living depends upon their religious allegiance. Otherwise, they may not study or practice the rituals of attendance at all. They rarely understand the origins or evolution of their religion.
Often, the people in the fringe group are born into their belief systems. When they gained their independence, they begin to question dogma and doctrines. They become more aware of the inconsistencies of the system. Unfortunately, they often stay bound to the system by family or cultural tradition. They haven’t rejected the label of their religion. Yet, these people are less likely to be manipulated by religious rhetoric.
If they live in an oppressive culture, they give the outward appearance of allegiance because some cultures do not accept freethinkers. So, they may partake in comparative religious research on their own. What is important here is that they acknowledge their religion is mythology and superstition. They are the most likely to leave the religion if they can. They can see how distorted thinking within the paradigm affects the inner self and the outer world.
The people in the moderate group account for 30 to 40% of religious believers. It used to be the majority of believers, but it has declined rapidly in the last decade. Here are this group’s characteristics.
These believers meet at least once a week or more in their places of worship. They are the financial backbone supporters. Because they attended regular meetings, they are more susceptible to groupthink manipulation. They tend to reject science and give preference to the direction of their religious leaders. This group accepts whatever attributes of the mythology their leaders teach, even if it conflicts with common sense. They do not see their religion as mythology.
This group includes those born into the religion but also those who are converts. People join a religion when they are vulnerable and seeking help, and it makes them easy converts. They do not question the mythology or the teachings.
The people in this group see their religion as a significant part of their identity. Because of this, they will defend points even when it is contradictory and illogical. They are also more likely to slide toward extremist views. It all depends on the whims of their immediate leadership.
What’s important here is that they can become either extremists or fringe believers. It all depends on their level of integration in the system and their opportunities to explore other ideas. Because they are the majority of the financial support, the religions spend considerable time linking them into their flocks. They intertwine as many relationships to various groups like those who are single, elderly, etc.
Extremists are less in numbers, but they are the most vocal and most vocal and active members. They may only make up 10 to 15% of the total religious population, but they tend to gravitate to leadership authority figures within the sect. Here are their other characteristics:
People at this level use any power necessary to further religious discrimination and preference. They use whatever means possible, including violence. Extremists lose their identity. The belief system becomes blinders of their intellect and common sense.
It is almost impossible to change the mindset of someone with an extremist worldview, and no argument or fact will change their beliefs. Their need to believe is all-consuming, and it negates their ability to reason. Comparative Analysis is a structured form of comparative religious study. It’s a process that can help them see their beliefs from a broader perspective.
Our core beliefs don’t just affect our own lives; they affect the world. If you are a victim of indoctrination into a religion as a child, it is not your fault. However, you do the responsibility and duty to fix your programming. Please do not subject the next generation to the mind-numbing groupthink manipulation tactics of organized religion.
Have the courage to look below the surface at what is driving your thoughts.
Are you interested in spiritual exploration? Check out the blended learning process at the core of our teaching process. It reflects what Joseph Campbell called the Hero’s Journey (1). Our learning options include both face-to-face and virtual learning sessions. Please consider donating and supporting our mission.
(1) Joseph Campbell & Joseph Campbell’s book The Hero’s Journey, Wikipedia