Organized Religion
vs
Spirituality




1 - Introduction

Organized religion refers to any religious ideology dictated by an actual organization of self-appointed men who claim to be God's representatives on earth and the only ones who have the necessary, exclusive tools to decipher God's words and will, with an intricate authoritative hierarchy that meets regularly and deliberates the "truth" among its members before turning their conclusions into creeds and dogmas for the masses to consume unquestioningly.

Spirituality, on the other hand, refers to the human experience with metaphysics and mystics: the one and only Creator. It is the original meaning of religion: a bond between God and every human individual, without intermediaries.


2 - The Straight Path

Jesus Christ confirmed the Torah as a true holy book from God, every letter of it1. And yet he discredited the rabbis and the teachers of that holy book, predicating that they had gone astray2 and that he was sent to guide the Israelites back to the Straight Path of the one and only God. Likewise, Muhammad confirmed the Torah and the Gospel as true holy books from God, while simultaneously rejecting the priests and rabbis for misleading their followers. Moreover, he rejected the predominant polytheistic religions of Arabia as also having gone astray from the Straight Path of the one and only God, the Path he was sent to guide them to. And 500 years before Christ, Buddha had done the same thing with Hinduism, discrediting the Hindu Brahmins (priests) and their teachings, and called upon people to return to the Straight Path of truth3.

Moses, the adopted son of Pharaoh, too, found the sons of Israel had gone astray from the religion of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and had adopted idolatry worship in its stead, and bowing to pharaoh. He rebelled against the established laws of his country, freed his enslaved people, and called upon them to return to the Straight Path of the Covenant.

It is undeniable that all of today's great world religions were founded by prophets and messengers who were also rebels. They rebelled against the organized religion of their people. The stories of Noah, Abraham, Lot, David, and Solomon, peace be on them, all confirm the same theme – guiding the misguided back to the straight path. And in the depths of China, Lao Zi wrote a book made of 5000 characters and called it the Tao, which translates to "the Path." So what is this Straight Path that all true prophets and messengers have spoken of over the past 5000 years?

A Buddhist hymn goes: "We ourselves must tread the Path. Buddhas only show the way."4 Muslims recite from the Quran several times a day the words: "Guide us to the Straight Path. The Path you have shown the People whom You have blessed...."5 Taoists recite from their holy book: "It is one and unchanging.... I do not know its name. So I call it the Path."6

The Straight Path is the ideal way of life for a human being to follow, no matter what era or geographic location. This path is a belief system, that there is no god but the unseen God (meaning that you do not serve or worship any other human being), and that you do good and resist evil. The scriptures were once the words recited by the prophets and messengers of the one God to their respective peoples, and they were meant to be a guide to that Straight Path, without intermediaries of priests or clerics.


3 - Prophets Discredit Organized Religion

Jesus was so upset with the organized religion of his people that he taught them not to pray at temples, but to pray at home with doors closed; and to stop referring to rabbis and scholars with those titles, for they are all brothers and they all have but one Lord who is unseen7. And in his final act before getting crucified, Jesus led a march onto the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem. They entered and turned over the tables of the money changers and destroyed the merchandize of the corrupt businessmen who were using organized religion to make profits. Muhammad attempted at the beginning of his mission to replicate what Jesus had done. He led the first Muslim believers in a march onto Mecca's temple, the Kaaba, and tried to enter and destroy the idols within its walls, but they were successfully blocked by the elders of Mecca. After 20 years; however, Muhammad, unlike Jesus, survived long enough to see the total destruction of idolatry in Mecca, as his second march onto Mecca's temple was an army of 10,0008. Moreover, he accused Jewish rabbis and Christian priests of being corrupt and manipulative on numerous occasions, as the Quran shows9. He didn't point fingers at Muslim clergymen because they did not exist yet, but found it sufficient to warn them not to follow in the footsteps of organized Judaism and Christianity.

Unfortunately, soon after the deaths of Jesus, Muhammad, and Buddha, their devout followers turned against their true teachings, re-establishing organized religions that were political in nature, along with creeds of faith, whereby the ones who did not follow the religious authorities were considered second class citizens at best, and infidels at worst (in our era of nation-states, an infidel would be called a traitor). Opposition to the ruler (pope, king, or caliph) became equivalent to heresy and disbelief, since the ruler always proclaimed that he ruled by the will of God (if God had not willed it, they would not have ruled). Thus, opposition to the ruler became opposition to God, and the blind masses were easily convinced to justify putting infidels to death.

This, of course, is in direct violation of the scriptures that stated that all people are free to believe or disbelieve, and that it is God who judges on matters of belief in the afterlife10.


4 - Holy Books Discredit Organized Religion

Organized religion is, thus, in violation of the teachings of the Holy Scriptures. Popes and Caliphs, imams and rabbis, priests and bishops and muftis and pastors and Brahmins and lamas; none of them were appointed by God, nor by the prophets and messengers peace be upon them, nor do they receive their authority by any written consent from the Scriptures. They are self-appointed, and they thrive by dividing people into sects. Thus, if the founder of so and so sect disagrees with the founder of another sect, then all the followers of the first sect become intellectual enemies of the followers of the second sect. Today we have Catholics accusing Protestants of reneging from the authority of the Church in Rome, labeling them as traitors, and we have Protestants accusing Catholics of being false Christians. And it is the same in Muslim and Buddhist sects, even Jewish sects.

The pinnacle of religious corruption manifests itself when organized religion dominates the political scene, as Einstein described political Judaism: "...my awareness of the essential nature of Judaism resists the idea of a Jewish State, with borders, an army, and a measure of temporal power, no matter how modest. I am afraid of the inner damage Judaism will sustain." And we have seen this marriage between organized religion and politics so many times, most notably when the Roman emperor recognized Christianity as Rome's official religion (whereby anyone who was not a Christian was a traitor to the state and deserved the death penalty), and when the Muslim Brotherhood gained political power in several Arab nations, most recently in Egypt.

And with political power, the authorities of organized religion dictate what clergymen are allowed to discuss in public and in temples, what books of history and religion are allowed to be published and distributed, and what the media can or cannot say about faith. Thus, children grow up generation after another, not knowing what the true message of the prophets and messengers was. They grow up believing that God has somehow appointed or at least approved of the appointment of these corrupt clergymen to their positions of authority and power.

But luckily, the salvation from these political pseudo-religious authorities is contained in the very Holy Scriptures they prevent others from studying independently, in the name of protecting the religion from corruption. It is with these Scriptures that Jesus, Muhammad, and Buddha fought against the hypocritical rabbis and teachers of the Law, and it is in these very Scriptures that we can find true guidance to the Straight Path, where we are all equal, and no king but God; and no god but God:

"Say: I beseech the Lord of people (1) The King of people (2) The God of people (3)". Quran - The People (Ch. 114).

"Say: God is One (1) God is unchanging (2) He was not born nor does He give birth (3) And He has no equal (4)". Quran - The Devotion (Ch. 112).

"Remind them, for you [Muhammad] are but a reminder (21) You are not to control them (22) As for who turns away and disbelieves (23) God shall punish him the greatest punishment (24) To Us is their return (25) And upon Us is their judgment (26)". Quran - The Overwhelming (Ch. 88)

"Had your Lord willed it, everyone on earth would have believed, all of them entirely. Who are you to force people to become believers? (99)". Quran – Yunis (Ch. 10).

So if God Himself proclaims through the mouth of His messenger, that only He has the authority to determine who is the believer and who is the disbeliever, and only He has the authority to reward belief and punish disbelief; that not even His prophet and messenger Muhammad (peace be on him) has such an authority, how can a mere successor (a caliph) of Muhammad appoint himself with that authority on earth? How can a Christian ruler persecute and burn and execute non-Christians in the name of Christ, when Christ himself never gave such orders, let alone appoint anyone as his successor, and commanded the believers never to call anyone on earth 'father'?11 The only successor that Jesus spoke of before his ascension to heaven was the "Councilor" who would come after he was gone, and would speak the words of God12.

You owe it to yourself to read the Scriptures again and find the truth about organized religion: it was never mandated by the prophets and messengers nor by the Holy Scriptures. Religion was always meant to be in one's heart – a contract between one's soul and his or her Creator, without a human intermediary. For the Scriptures said that on Judgment Day, no one can say in their defense that so and so clergy told them to do such and such, for God told us that such a defense will not be accepted:

"How do I seek anyone's judgment but God's? Wasn't it He who bestowed upon you the Book fully explained? (114)". Quran – the Cattle (Ch. 6).

"If you follow most people on earth, they shall lead you astray from God's Path, for they follow nothing but conjecture and all they do is falsify (116) It is your Lord who knows more who has gone astray from His Path, and He knows who are the guided ones (117)". Quran – the Cattle (Ch. 6).

"Some people take other humans as equals to God, they love them as they love God. The true believers love God most. As for the unjust, they shall see on the day of judgment how all power belongs to God alone, and that God's punishment is severe (165) On that day, the leaders shall disown their followers when they see the punishment, all their ties will be severed from one another (166) At which point the followers will say: 'if we can only get another chance, go back in time, and disown them as they now disown us.' God will show them all the regret of their deeds, and they shall not get out of Hell (167)". Quran - the Cow (Ch. 2).

"Those who, relying upon themselves, it is they who shall reach the topmost height" ... "Be lamps unto yourselves; work out your salvation with diligence" ... "Buddhas only point the Path; work out your salvation with diligence". – Buddha13.

"(1) Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: (2) 'The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat. (3) So you must obey them and do everything they tell you to do. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. (4) They tie up heavy loads and put them on men's shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them. (5) Everything they do is done for men to see: They make their phylacteries wide and the tassels on their garments long; (6) they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; (7) they love to be greeted in the marketplaces and to have men call them 'Rabbi' [Hebrew for: Lord]. (8) But you are not to be called 'Rabbi' for you have only one Lord and you are all brothers. (9) And do not call anyone on earth 'father' for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. (10) Nor are you to be called 'teacher' for you have one Teacher, the Christ. (11) The greatest among you will be your servant. (12) For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted. (13) Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the kingdom of heaven in men's faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to. (14) They devour widows’ houses and for a show make lengthy prayers. These men will be punished most severely. (15) Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as you are. (16) Woe to you, blind guides!...". Gospel of Jesus through Matthew (23).


5 - Conclusion

Follow other men, and they will lead you astray from God's Straight Path. Follow God, who can hear your prayer and see what's in your heart before you ask Him, and you shall find His Straight Path; said the Scriptures.

Jesus told his disciples to spread the Gospel to all peoples, not to start up a new sect and name it Christianity. That's what the disciples of his disciples had done on their own initiative. Muhammad, too, accepted the truth bestowed upon Moses and Christ, as the Quran confirmed them as true prophets and confirmed their revealed books as true holy books from the same God. The Quran referred to all holy books simply as "the Book," including the Quran, and referred to all followers of holy books as "the People of the Book," and asked them to submit to the one and same God. Thus, Islam is not meant to be an organized sect, but a confirmation and fulfillment of the truth revealed to those who came before, as the Quran and the prophet have proclaimed. The teachers never disagreed with each other, but their followers have. It is as Bruce Lee (a legendary martial artist and a Taoist philosopher) had said: "Put every great teacher together in a room, and they'd agree about everything; put their disciples in there and they'd argue about everything."

Jesus did not direct his speech to popes and bishops, but to all people. And Muhammad, too, was asked by God to direct his words to all people, as Quranic verses start with "O believers" and "O people," not "O scholars; O imams." Jesus and Muhammad were true teachers, and they left behind Holy Scriptures to guide us; us meaning everyone, not through a select elite of clergy! Human beings have been endowed with spirituality, a craving for knowing God, and it is part of our spiritual growth to seek the truth and to seek God and His Straight Path on our own; not to have it spoon-fed to us by clergymen who most often than not lead us astray. The more you read the Holy Scriptures on your own, the more this truth becomes evident to your senses, emotions, and intellect.

Remember that organized religion's source of power is people's ignorance. Their power is based on the illusion that they are closer to God; that they know God better than others, and that only they can truly understand the Scriptures. Do yourself a favor and release yourself from the chains of organized religion, and experience God in your heart and mind first hand. Read and learn for yourself and by yourself. Seek the truth that God has said He had embedded inside your soul before you were even born:

"Direct yourself, then, to religion, inclining to the truth: the essence that God has created all people endowed with. None shall alter God's creation. That is the correct religion, but most people don't know (30) Adhere to it, turning in repentence to Him; be righteous and uphold prayer and do not associate others with God (31) like those who divided religion and became sects, every faction rejoicing in what it has (32)". Quran - the Romans (Ch. 30)

Follow the Straight Path, and do not follow other paths or you shall be led astray from His Straight Path. That is what He has commanded you, in the hope that you become righteous14.

 

Oday Baddar
Dec 31, 2012


 

Afterword
Panoramic View

Organized religion is so ubiquitous and entrenched in society that it has become inseparable from a people's culture. Thus, culture and organized religion become so intertwined that most people can no longer tell them apart. Socio-religious problems arise when culture, which is dynamic, naturally evolves due to structural factors, and the authorities of organized religion cannot (or refuse to) cope with these changes. So for instance, when contraception devices became available, the Catholic Church declared its opposition, claiming, based on its own interpretations and unanimous deliberations, that contraception is an offense to God, as though it was an intervention in God's will. Why can't we presume that the very invention of contraception is also part of God's will?

Or take for example when western attire became fashionable all over the Muslim World in the last century (as Arab and Muslim attire had once become fashionable all over Europe during the Islamic Golden Age). Men switched from togas and cloaks to desiger suits, blazers, ties, jeans, and leather coats; and women switched from thowbs and shals to skirts, cardigans, and pantie-hoses, in Muslim countries where religion is more organized, like say in Saudi Arabia or Yemen, Muslim clergymen declared their opposition, claiming, based on their interpretations and unanimous deliberations, that western attire (especially for women) was an offense to God's laws, as though God had provided a dress code for all seasons. Instead, they marketed Saudi fashion (garments designed especially for desert dwellers) as Islamic dress code, and audaciously claimed that it was God who mandated it. So that now you find Muslim men living in modern cities in Cairo, Beirut, or Dubai, wearing knee-high togas and a pair of slippers (extremely suitable for living in a desert), proclaiming that this is the appropriate Islamic attire, or that it was what prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) wore 1400 years ago, completely ignoring the fact that prophet Muhammad was wearing what everyone else was wearing in his desert city of Mecca!

More often than not, organized religion seeks to preserve a static culture that is completely resistant to any outside influence, unless of course it passes through their own filters of official fatwas. Take for instance when the internet first became available to the Muslim public in the early 1990s. Certified imams quickly opposed it and claimed it to be anti-Islamic. But after they learned how to utilize it to their advantage and build their own websites of propaganda, the internet was no longer Satan's arm corrupting the souls of young Muslims. And in countries where religion is too organized, governments have blocked thousands of websites in the name of Islam. We have to deduce that if these so-called protectors of Islam and Christianity one day possessed the technology to insert chips into our brains to control what thoughts we are allowed to have and what thoughts are to be filtered out, they would not hesitate the least bit to enact a law to do just that, and they would have no problem in saying that it's what God wants.

On the other hand, the proponents of organized religion would claim that without a central organized authority to direct what is religiously right and wrong, kosher and forbidden, there would be total chaos, as every individual is given complete freedom to interpret the religion on their own. Let me repeat this once more: the proponents of organized religion claim that without a central organized authority to direct what is religiously right and wrong, kosher and forbidden, there would be total chaos, as every individual is given complete freedom to interpret the religion on their own. What a horrible day that must be to clergymen, when they finally abide by the Holy Scriptures that have stated that there is "no compulsion in religion;" that "righteousness and sin are innately known by every human being" with a brain. Indeed, what a horrible day that must be for clergymen, when their dictatorial powers are taken away from them, and every individual is given the freedom to lead his or her own life, to make his or her own choices, and let God be the judge of each individual on the Day of Judgment, as the Scriptures have said!

But as noted earlier, organized religion has become so intertwined with a people's culture that its proponents see the disolving of organized religion as an attack on culture, tradition, norms, and values. The proof of it is that many proponents of organized religion are very comfortable with purely cultural practices that are openly against the Holy Scriptures, e.g. honor killing, declaring wars against innocent nations, or the worship of unelected kings along with God. Organized religion does not mind such horrindous acts that violate the core of the Holy Scriptures because they have been successfully incorporated into the religion in societies where organized religion is embedded in government. Thus, the 12th century Crusades on Palestine, wave after wave, were sanctified by the Holy Church, and the Pope (God's mouth on earth) declared that the killing of infidels was not murder, but the path to heaven. And even today, churches across the world have organized charities where the victims of natural or economic disasters were forced to attend sermons before they were permitted to have food or medicine. Sounds exactly like something that Jesus or Muhammad would approve of, doesn't it? I must have missed it when I was reading the Bible where it said that feeding the poor and helping the needy is dependent on church attendance.

I truly wonder if Muslims really mean it when they recite in their five daily prayers "We worship only You, and we seek no one's assitance except You. Show us the Straight Path... (Ch.1 al-Fatiha)." I wonder, because right after they recite these words, they turn to clergymen for guidance and assistance! Do they not see the contradiction? Likewise, I truly wonder if Christians really mean it when they say they believe in Christ and follow what he said, like when he told them not to pray "standing in the temples and on the street corners to be seen by men," but "go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, don't keep on blabbing like Pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. This, then, is how you should pray: Our Father in heaven. Hallowed be your name... (Matthew 6:5-9)."

I pray for the day that spiritual people finally understand the words of Buddha, who said "be lamps unto yourselves. Work out your own salvation..." and the words of prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), who said: "You are all shepherds. And you are all responsible for your flocks," and the words of Christ (peace be upon him), who said: "you are not to be called 'rabbi' for you have only one Lord, and you are all brothers. And do not call anyone on earth 'father', for you have only one Father, and He is in heaven." Amen.

 

Oday Baddar
Dec 31, 2012


Notes

  1. ^ Matthew 5:17-20
  2. ^ Matthew 23:1-37
  3. ^ Shown here in the 4th paragraph.
  4. ^ Huston Smith, The World's Religions, pg 123.
  5. ^ The Quran, Chapter 1, verses 6-7.
  6. ^ The Taoist Holy Book, Chapter 25.
  7. ^ Matthew 6:5-8
  8. ^ There was no fighting upon the Muslim army's entrance and return to Mecca, as its elders had willingly surrendered.
  9. ^ Quran – The Repentence 9:34.
  10. ^ Psalms 7:8-9; Matthew 5:7-11; Quran – the Cow (2:113); Women (4:141); the Pilgrimage (22:69).
  11. ^ Matthew 23:9
  12. ^ John 16:5-16
  13. ^ Quoted in Huston Smith's World Religions, pg. 97; 121.
  14. ^ Quran – the Cattle (6:153).