Thursday, February 7, 2013

2/8/13—Leaving Religion in the Past

Today's Draw: The Hierophant from the Tarot of the Sevenfold Mystery in the What to Leave in the Past position from the Deck of 1000 Spreads. Do you follow a certain religion? Have you left a certain religion? Either way, why?

Before I begin what could be a controversial and to some, even blasphemous, entry I have something I have to say. When I first flipped through the Tarot of the Sevenfold Mystery the other day, this card stopped me in my tracks. The green robes with the blue headdress...simply breathtaking. 

OK. On with the show. 

Robert Place defines the Hierophant as representing "exoteric religion and morality." Exoteric means that it's designed and/or communicated in a way that it would be easily understood by the general public. I had never heard that word before, but that's an interesting nuance on how I normally see the Hierophant. I normally see him as the guy in charge of spiritual or religious dogma. Often called The Pope card, he's in charge of presenting religious doctrine as being incontrovertible. 

While I think the Hierophant is actually both, I find the idea of "exoteric" to be compelling in regard to religious doctrine. I'll use the Bible as an example, but there are many religious tomes to which what I'm about to say can apply. 

As an advertising copywriter, the crux of my job is to compel others to take action, whether that be to visit a website or buy a product. I've been doing it for 25 years, so I'm well versed in how everything from the words you choose to the tone of voice you present them in can put a person in such a state as to incite action. And this doesn't apply just to advertising. It's the basis of any communication, whether promotional or not, fictional or not. 

So let's say the action the Bible wanted to compel was "belief". It would be written with such words, tone and story as to make you want to believe. Add "exoteric" to the mix and it's written in such a way that everyone—not just the well educated, the uneducated, the female, male, rich or poor—would believe. 

So it would make sense that they chose to write a story, one with love and violence, sex, good and evil. It makes sense that they would develop characters for that story that would support the idea of belief. So characters that didn't believe would meet horrible fates and those who did would be cast in a favorable light. And the hero of the story—he's the guy we want to believe in—so let's make him so formidable that, to not believe, would not only make you a bad person, but it would also put you in danger of a horrible fate. 

Finally, as for tone, let's base our storyline on some historic knowledge...knowledge that people already believe. That would make our entire story appear to be fact...facts so undeniable that to doubt them would make you seem foolish. And let's make it so authoritative that the uneducated would believe if they only knew the words and the educated would believe for the subtext beyond the words. 

That would certainly be the way anyone with the kind of knowledge I or screenwriters or journalists or novelists have for communicating to the masses and inciting action. Those with oratorial skills—such as preachers and presidents—would follow some of the same techniques, using the parts of fact that support their message and intent, punctuating certain parts and raising up the energy toward the end to inspire and motivate. 

OK. So here's the controversial and possibly blasphemous part—that, to me, is what religion is. And you'll notice I'm not talking about any religion in particular, but religion overall. It has a message designed to incite the action of belief that may or may not be based on actual events. It's communicated in such a way that everyone can understand. And the actual information—the spiritual teachings (note my use of spiritual here, versus religious)—are really secondary to the (ok, I'll say it) manipulation used to get you to take get you to believe. 

So this card...the card of the priest and exoteric in the What to Leave in the Past position. Which, to me, is saying it's time to move away from it. Most of the people reading these words are already there. Some are just part of the way. 

Here's the way I see it. The belief in God or a higher power is a good thing. The following of many religious teachings is a good thing. "Love thy brother" rocks, for example. The following of many moral teachings that come from religion is good. I LOVE the Golden Rule. But the idea that we have to buy the whole package to believe the parts is what's outdated. Because as far as moral and religious teachings are concerned, "love thy brother, but don't love them in certain ways if they're same sex as you" doesn't work for me. And "do unto others as you would have them do unto you...with the exception of judging them for their beliefs and condemning them to Hell for thinking differently than you" also doesn't work for me. 

In my mind, religion teaches a lot of fear and hate, which is why I don't partake. I don't believe God is the mass murderer depicted in the Old Testament, for example. I also don't believe I'll go to hell for saying that or for saying I think Jesus was a man. 

The fact that people should believe in a God that would give humans the power of free will, then condemn them for using it is something we need to leave in the past. The thought that we're any less able to hear God's guidance than a priest or Moses or David, is something to leave in the past. And, seeing as how even God himself couldn't foresee having a son when he carved the Ten Commandments and dictated the Old Testament, it's quite plausible there are many other things he couldn't have foreseen that have happened in the past couple of thousands of years. 

So what today's draw is saying is that this strict adherence to teachings born in a different age with different social mores is something to leave in the past. You hear the voice of God in your head just as clearly as anyone else who has ever walked this earth. If it tells you to toss it all aside, then that's the path meant for you. If it tells you to go all evangelical on its arse, then that's the path that's meant for you. The higher power made each of us an individual for a reason. The idea that we were created as individuals just so that we would all think the same way is not only contradictory, it's something we—and our religious leaders—need to leave in the past. 

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