Unification News for September 2005
August 7, 2005 (Originally published 9/27/03)
This article is about beliefs. Not the formal doctrines that fill so many weighty tomes, but rather the concepts and viewpoints that folks live by every day. People do guide their lives by some belief system, whether they admit it or not. Usually thatís a good thing, but not always.
All religions wish to separate their adherents from the sinful, mundane world. Whether itís ancient India or the modern United States, secular society continually tempts believers. Therefore, itís good to have strong faith.
Modern culture loves to denigrate believers, especially Christians and members of new religions. Many scientists, presumably the smartest and best-educated people around, are atheists. A whole bunch of people can relate terrible experiences with their childhood religion, and will run the other way whenever itís mentioned.
Why is this? Many reasons. Do believers themselves the blame? Unfortunately, yes.
In the 1720s, the Lady Wortley Montagu of England learned about smallpox inoculations during a visit to Turkey. Despite its obvious effectiveness, most people remained wary. When London was hit by an epidemic, desperate physicians finally utilized her method. Even then, some British preachers resisted, claiming that smallpox was Godís method of judgment.
In fairness, the prominent American minister Cotton Mather did advocate smallpox inoculations, even after angry mobs threatened his life. But then, around 1750, certain pastors made the same kind of irrational objection, in opposing Ben Franklinís newfangled lightning rods.
Around the year 1900 silent movies were first developed, and huge scandals erupted over the depiction of men and women kissing. Preachers thundered that such films (originally, about a minute long) would ruin society. If they saw half todayís TV shows, not to mention the rest of our pop culture, theyíd probably have a heart attack. (Hmm . . . could they have been right after all?)
Today, a lot of people (including one lady I knew) are Young Earth Creationists. Not only to they bash Darwin, but the entire weight and canon of science! They claim the universe is about ten thousand years old, so that items such as dinosaur fossils, ancient craters, and the Milky Way must either be debris from Noahís Flood, durable misunderstandings, or Godly deceptions.
Every religion has its zealots. Most are small scale annoyances, and a few are vengeful crusaders. In almost every case, they arenít doing anyone, including their own religion, much good.
What sets them apart? More than strong conviction, itís a powerful emotion and will, accompanied by little, if any, deep thought.
These fundamentalists have latched on to some leader (or tight-knit group), and to his (rarely her)doctrine, and proceed to believe and do anything theyíre told. If that trusted leader says so, itís enough. No doubts or questions are entertained, just instant, emotional agreement. At worst, there are infamous clerics who justify, encourage, or even conduct terrorism; be it in Iraq, Sri Lanka, or Northern Ireland.
On a personal level, fundamentalists can be equally harsh. They usually have a deep but narrow certainty, because they assume their every idea and opinion is also Godís own. Thus, anyone who doubts or disagrees is not only wrong, but evil. This sort of woman might feel sad about that; or a man, contemptuous. And then, with a shake of their heads, anger rises instead of compassion, and "righteous" punishment is administered. These days itís popular to bash religion for producing such people, but other belief systems have fundamentalists of their own. It could be a political ideology, or some nutritional theory, or the gansta rap culture. Because they lack Ďinternalí skepticism, their mindset also sustains a host of wild conspiracy theories. (Listen to talk radio shows and youíll hear plenty.)
Fortunately for humankind, genuine fundamentalists are rare. Your author has met several hard-shell Old Time Religion ministers, and all were friendly, at church and at home. As with lawyers, a nasty few give the rest a bad name.
(Itís rare for now. Billions of Saudi oil dollars are funding Wahhabi madrasa schools all over the world, churning out ignorant, hateful young people as fast as they can.)
Another common religious belief, which can be found in almost any town or fantasy novel, is Dualism. (I donít mean Cartesian philosophy here, but thatís another tough issue.)
Theologically, you often find Dualism blended into New Age beliefs. (Most of those folks donít know it.) Originally begun by Zoroaster, in Jesusí time it was popular as Mithraism. Later, in Europe, it revived as the Cathar heresy.
Dualism is enjoying another big revival. My writer friend Candace Gilmer put the concept succinctly: "There will always be a balance between darkness and light, always between good and evil. There is no top without a bottom, no left without a right, no up without a down, and of course, no God without a Devil."
The popular Star Wars genre is perhaps the greatest fount of such ideas. The theme of "bringing balance to the Force" can easily be interpreted as Dualism. It may be a coincidence, but Candice operates one of the largest Stars Wars Ďfan ficí web sites out there.
Ultimately, Dualism is hopeless belief, since it makes God and Satan eternal and coequal. Thus, neither ourselves or the universe could really be cleansed of evil, contradiction, or suffering. Itís nearly the opposite of the Principle.
Dualism doesnít accept One God, but atheists donít acknowledge a God of any kind. Iíve been participating in a couple of discussion groups, online forums that include many scholars and technicians. Always fascinating! For every believer who speaks up on a topic, thereís an atheist to respond, and so on.
It turns out that atheists can be as passionate, and defensive about their belief system, as anyone else. For example, theyíll slam critics of Darwin in a manner that would make a gossip columnist proud.
Not all leftists are atheists, but in virtually every case, their God is so wishy-washy they might as well be. Among thinkers on the left (the handful of folks who have followers of their own), squabbles get just as intense as the ones between theologians. At places like Berkeleyís KPFA radio, arguments and scandals often erupt; sometimes over ideology and tactics, but also from clashing personalities. This is Marxismís special version of "how many angels can dance on the head of a pin." In the past, it became just as deadly as any Catholic inquisition or Sunni-Shia war. Just ask Leon Trotsky . . .
Most American clergy accept the Bible alone, and our Unificationist belief in the Principal has been a challenge to unity. We need to emphasize our clear understanding of Jesus Christ, and his life and mission. This leads to an increased reverence for Jesus, and to a heartistic closeness.
We can meet Dualists halfway, in seeing Godís love and design in nature. Also by offering them clarity, and the path to untainted, eternal love.
As for leftists and atheists, their own ancestors and intellectual forebearers, now in the spirit world, are working to open their eyes to a greater reality. Meanwhile, itís often possible to engage them intellectually, and plant a few seeds of Divine truth. Because of mental and emotional factors, a fundamentalist would have a difficult time doing any of this. Only folks who will ask serious questions, and are able to see major issues from different points of view, can engage in effective give-and-take. At the Bay Area Family Church weíve been talking about a Ďpracticableí spirituality. Weíd like to establish the best possible standard of belief, and of believers, for this savvy and skeptical region of America. In our True Parents, and now in Hyung Jin Nim, we have great examples to follow.
by Paul Carlson
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