Humans are meaning–makers, and religion is one way we make it. There may never have been a time when humans—Homo sapiens sapiens—were without religion. While our religions change, our need for religion doesn’t.
For example, we Jews outgrew (with the “help” of the Babylonians and later the Romans) a religion of animal sacrifice, coming up with two first century alternatives: rabbinic behaviorism and Christian spiritualism. Neither left the sacrificial world completely, of course. The rabbis fantasized, albeit half-heartedly, about the rebuilding of the Temple and a return to sacrifice, and the Christians built their entire religion around a God who himself was sacrificed.
Sacrifice is as old as religion, and probably comes from our observation of nature and the fact that death is often a prerequisite for new life. The difference between natural and human sacrifice is that nature puts limits on the destruction it causes, while humans do not.
We are, I suspect, in the final decades of a great sacrifice. Our age is defined by unending war, ecological and financial collapse, plutocracy, mindless consumerism, meaningless work, and the ceaseless murder of our fellow citizens by other citizens. The religious response to this collapse has largely been to ignore it. Mainstream religions tell us to pray our way out of this, while new age religions invite us to wish ourselves happy. Our gods demand nothing of us, and want nothing more than for us to be good consumers and cogs in the capitalist machine.
Religion hasn’t brought us to this impasse; it simply reflects it and excuses it. While it is true that throughout history there have been individual spiritual giants challenging the status quo, if we wait for them to rescue us we are doomed. We cannot wait for them; we have to become them.
I call these latter–day prophets Holy Rascals. They are holy because they stand against the madness of our zero–sum civilization steeped in arrogance, cruelty, violence, pornography, ignorance, and greed, and for a non–zero civilization rooted in justice, compassion, peace, dignity, friendship, eros, and love. They are rascals because they use humor, irony, and sarcasm to pull the curtain back on the great and terrible wizards of the Guns–Gore–God–Greed complex that runs our lives, and reveal them for who they are: little men (and sometimes women) with big megaphones.
I invite you meet some of these Holy Rascals at holyrascals.com/. More importantly, I invite you become one of these Holy Rascals at our next Holy Rascal Revival slated for April 25–26 in Portland, OR. Check in with holyrascals.com for more details.