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Roy Bourque

Aerospace Education Officer for Cadets, Civil Air Patrol

TEDCRED 30+

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What is the true purpose of religion?

For many people, religion is a system of beliefs that are taught from childhood and expected to follow unto death. Many choose to follow whereas many choose to fall away from what they were taught.

I was raised as a Roman Catholic. I was disillusioned by the age of nine, but not in the basic concepts, rather in how the concepts were being presented. In searching for answers, I went way beyond what the church was teaching. A spiritual experience led me to an awareness of God that was totally foreign to what the church was teaching. From that point on, I followed my own path, guided by an inner awareness.

In time I came to study Eastern philosophy. I found myself reading my own thoughts. The convert is not expected to merely believe what is taught. The convert is expected to act on what is taught to come to one's own understanding. The premise is; until you understand, you haven't been taught anything. It is in coming to an understanding that religion begins to reveal its secrets. Most never get that far.

When the Catholic Church attacked Galileo, it divorced itself from science. Since then, science has revealed many secrets which are objected to by religious fundamentalists. But religious fundamentalists are word junkies. They can quote the scriptures, but when you ask them the meaning, they just quote other scriptures that pertain to the same thing.

The word "theology" used to contain a reference to "that which is revealed by nature and reason"; taken from a 1904 dictionary. The modern definition contains no such reference.

My point is that modern religion is a mockery of what religion is supposed to be. Less than 100 people wrote the bible out of thousands who lived. Very few people understood it then, and not many more understand it now; which is just what Jesus said "The way is narrow, and few there be that shall find it". In my opinion, religion needs a complete overhaul.

Let me hear your thoughts.

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Closing Statement from Roy Bourque

This debate has two sides; what is there in religion that has value and is worth pursuing, and what is the perceived current purpose of religion.

Some notable comments;
Don: a fight between good and evil thinking.
Natasha: religions are based on collective experience of being one with nature and the whole. Religion is a kind of residue of the real experience.
John: Religion offered a framework for explanation and served as a forum for debate on those issues that plague the human mind.
Debra: A quote from Micah 6:8, and another from Mahatma Gandhi “as long as you derive inner help and comfort from anything, keep it”
Charles: to keep people in touch with the notion that there is “something more”, transcendent, mysterious, beautiful…
Mitch: To experience truth; look up MAYA (illusion).
Rhona: To control other people by people who probably declined to control themselves.
Franz: see quote from St. Catherine of Siena.
Mark: Pure science, material power, and formulas are incapable of knowing love and mercy.

I believe the true purpose is to lead the initiate back to the source of creation so as to allow the initiate to effectively participate in creation (gleaned from Eastern philosophy).
It has seven stages;
SELF – recognizing who you are.
SEX – procreation of the species.
POWER – learning to exercise control over human affairs.
HEART (the center of being) – recognizing yourself as a part of the creator.
PURGATION – learning to tame the animal passions within.
TRANSCENDENCE – expanding your awareness beyond perceived limitations.
CHRIST – becoming one with the creator.

Modern religious institutions have become domineering, hence Rhona’s and others comments to that purpose.

Religion united people. In times of stress, it became the cohesive force in war and conflict. Religion has both the power to enlighten and the power to lead astray. It’s greatest warning was the power of deception.

My advice; Let go of blind faith. Question everything. Seek to understand. Hold on to what enriches life.

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    Aug 23 2012: The purpose of religion - to maintain the status quo.

    Religion is fundamentally a political construct. Strip away the political aspect and you simply have each individual’s personal belief system.

    Religion is a set of traditions (practices and beliefs) shared by a cultural group. It defines an “us” and a “them”. Again, this describes the political motive. To unite the community to defend itself against others and to define the others as less than human so that they can be eliminated if desired.

    Of course, individuals participate in religious organizations for their own personal benefits - to be part of a community, to comfort them in times of trouble, etc. But what is it that defines religion as distinct from other social organizations? It is the esoteric set of traditions which separates one religion from another. Again - the political motive. The means of maintaining the status quo.
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      Aug 24 2012: You are only seeing one side of it, although I can't disagree with your logic. The fact that it seems to be that way is the problem I am trying to understand. Since I was a child, I have seen a side to religion that does not conform to what mainstream religion teaches, but one that is truly worth pursuing. It is the mystical path that leads to awakening of the mind to higher spiritual dimensions.

      Religion united people. In times of conflict, it became the motive to drive the will to survive against competing groups. In that way, it was very political. But that is not the only side to religion. The "born again" experience is about spiritual ascension. There are too many quote "born again" Christians who are only toying with the term, but don't really know what it means. To have an experience that takes you beyond current knowledge is a truly enlightening experience. I was aware of the principles of quantum mechanics eleven years before I would receive any instruction on the subject. The experience has never left me, and it continues to inspire me to this day. That is what I am trying to convey.
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        Aug 24 2012: Roy - I commend you on your life journey of enlightenment. It sounds like a real trip.

        But as I like to say - it’s not God I have a problem with, but religion.

        Yes, religion has many aspects, but it is the political aspect which makes it religion.

        Your answer is like the soldier who is asked “what is the purpose of the military?” responding “it provides me employment”. Yes, religion utilizes many tools in its purpose of control. It taps into many aspects of the human psyche to empower it. It uses music, architecture, spectacle, need for community, desire for enlightenment, etc. to implement its core purpose of control.

        Look, we can glory in the magnificent structure of a medieval church without accepting religion.

        Religion played a role in humankind’s social evolution. But now that we are a global society it is time to leave it behind. Our spiritual quests don’t require its restrictive basis in constraining traditions. What do you think?
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          Aug 24 2012: Tim, good insights, very thought provoking.

          If it were not for spiritual experience, I would be a hard-core atheist today. I don't believe I would've had the experience I had as a child if it hadn't started out as religion.

          I too don't have a problem with God, but a big problem with religion. I don't believe that current religion can survive if it doesn't change its ways. The constraining traditions all need to be exposed as just that. But how do we bridge the gap from current traditions to spiritual enlightenment? Science deals with the patterns in nature, and with spiritual experience, there are no set patterns, they differ from individual to individual. I don't think that science alone can fulfill that role.

          I agree that getting rid of current traditions may be in order. But there must be something to replace them with, and it can't be just science. I believe that there has to be a new movement that deals with spiritual experience. I'm not sure what that would look like, but Eastern philosophy seems to be a good place to start. I know that there are a lot of books that deal with the subject. I wrote one of them.

          Adriaan Braam speaks of Swedneborg. Other people have commented on the Jewish Kabbala. These, along with Eastern philosophy, are advanced learning centers that take you beyond fundamentalism. None of my Sunday school teachers and ministers made any mention of such teachings when I started asking deep questions. Nor have I heard of them recently in any of the mainstream churches. Current traditions don't offer a means to advance one self on the spiritual path. And yet I believe that that was the original purpose of religion before it was corrupted with political motives. How do we get back to the original purpose? I believe that we are currently moving in that direction.

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