Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Legislate Spiritual Experience

In the recent NY Times Op-Ed by Maureen Dowd, Is Pleasure a Sin? which highlights the current discussion of "Just Love: a Framework for Christian Sexual Ethics,” a book by Sister Margaret Farley — a 77-year-old professor emeritus at Yale’s Divinity School, past president of the Catholic Theological Society of America and an award-winning scholar, we once again are confronted with organized religions attempt to control human activity that many argue is personal and not subject to religious laws. I would go further and say that this applies not only to sexual activity but the use of recreational drugs like marijuana, psilocybin mushrooms, peyote, etc that all at least mimic spiritual experience and many would argue, actually induce real spiritual experience.

Why does the United States have laws against sexual acts still on the books of several states? It is still unlawful in many states for heterosexual couples to engage in certain sexual acts even if married and in their own homes. In some states, the forbidden acts (sodomy, oral copulation, etc) are only illegal if performed by same-sex couples. I would argue as Sam Harris does in his book End of Faith, that this state of affairs is the logical extension of The Inquisition which though now less barbaric and intrusive on daily lives is still the attempt of a Christian society to impose control over personal activities that have no impact on society.  Read this rather long excerpt from End of Faith if you want to grasp the full extent of how religiosity in the United States is maybe the most dangerous phenomenon facing us as a society. Here is one brief part of this section in case you passed by the link above.  
Under our current laws, it is safe to say, if a drug were invented that posed no risk of phys­ical harm or addic­tion to its users but pro­duced a brief feeling of spir­itual bliss and epi­phany in 100 percent of those who tried it, this drug would be illegal, and people would be pun­ished mer­ci­lessly for its use. Only anxiety about the bib­lical crime of idol­atry would appear to make sense of this retributive impulse. Because we are a people of faith, taught to concern ourselves with the sin­ful­ness of our neigh­bors, we have grown tol­erant of irra­tional uses of state power.
Yesterday while reading a book on Chinese qi gong I came across this passage by Dr Yang Jwing-Ming. He nicely summarizes the differences in Eastern and Western thought and lends some credence to those in the west who have adopted Buddhist principles in their lives and strayed from Christian ideals.

However, if we reflect sincerely on our past, we realize that, very unfortunately, we have also been seriously abused by many religions which have misled us to continue killing each other. I deeply believe that this was not the original intention of the teachings passed down to us from those wise holy men. For thousands of years, religions have been used as an excuse for killing and conquering. If you step into any European historical museum, you will discover that nearly 80% of the arts created in the past are related to religion and war. Our spirit has been channeled and misused by religion to fulfìll the wishes of those in power. Glory, dignity, wealth, and power have been the symbols of religion. I believe that this was a wrong turn.
Maureen Dowd, Dr. Yang Jwing-Ming, Sister Margaret Farley, and Sam Harris are all singing a similar tune that though the individual lines are different, it is part of the same song. Our irrationality born of blind faith is both killing us as individuals and our society as a whole. As Sam Harris points out in his book, we can see vividly what happens right now in the 21st century when faith overrides logic. The application of Sharia law in Islamist fundamentalist societies is abhorrent to westerners but is very similar to what was happening during The Inquisition. What is less apparent but no less important is how Christian faith has led our own society down an equally frightening path that since we are the frog in the pot of water with the heat turned on, we are less inclined to feel and  believe.

Get out of the pot. Read the Sam Harris book End of Faith. Open your eyes and try to see beyond the dogma we have been fed by society since infancy. You can be a self-proclaimed atheist and still carry around dogmatic beliefs without even realizing.