Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Religion's Ills

I am reading a book called Orthodox Psychology, a fine exploration of Orthodox Christianity. The book makes the case that Christianity is not a religion but a healing science. In so doing it spills the beans on religion: religion is based not on health but on illness. Before any religion can offer you its cure, it must first infect you with its disease.

The disease for which Christianity is the cure is Original Sin. Original Sin refers not to the creativity of your sinning, but to the First Sin, Eve’s Sin, the sin of eating from the Tree of Knowledge. So before Christianity even makes sense, you have to believe in Adam and Eve and the Garden of Eden as historical fact, and the inheritance of sin as a metaphysical truth.

I love the story of Adam and Eve. I love the idea that Eve is willing to die for wisdom. She is the Hebrew Prometheus stealing the fire of wisdom from the god of the Garden. She is my role model. I only wish I had her courage. But I do not take the story as history. It is myth, not in the modern sense of falsehood, but in the premodern sense of metaphoric truth. The truth of the story is that wisdom costs you big time.

Christianity isn’t the only religion to sell us disease. They all do. The disease of Judaism and Islam is failing to live up to God’s commandments. The disease of Hinduism is mistaking illusion for reality. The disease of Buddhism is mistaking ignorance for truth, and thereby desiring permanence when none exists.

Now you may believe you have one or more of these diseases. I think I suffer from all of them, which is why I am open to all religions. But I only think this way because I was taught to think this way.

But what if none of these diseases is true? Then none of these religions will help. When someone tells you what religion they follow they are also telling you what disease they prefer.

I prefer to be healthy from the start. I prefer a faith not rooted in illness but in health. Is there such a faith? I don’t think so. But there are hints of this in every religion. To sight but one example, each morning observant Jews say, “God, the soul you place within me is pure.” This is the opposite of Original Sin. Your soul, your true self, is pure. Pure what? Pure Godhead!

So start with that. Whatever else you may do during the day to screw yourself up, remind yourself first thing each morning that your true self is pure, unstained, sinless, wise, and real. Build your faith and that, and see where it takes you.

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