Lately I have been thinking quite a bit how many similarities there are to the processes of democracy and religion in the past 200 years. Arguably, most democracies and religions start on a fresh, positive premise to offer mankind a new start in life, whether it be one of personal freedoms or just a fresh start for one's conscience. But very soon the "human factor" and rationalizations impact the original premise until nothing really remains true to the original cause.
We have seen this the longest in religions where an originator presents a case for profound new beginnings and then the followers start adding their embellishments to what he/she said or stood for until the founder of a faith would be hard pressed to recognize what they began. If Jesus or Mohammad were physically walking around our world today, I doubt either one of them would recognize the religions carried on in their names. Bibles and Qurans are written by various men under the influence of their religious leader(s), then some hierarchical group or "Diocese" hundreds of years later declare WHICH writings are mystically inspired by "God" and which aren't. Then we have a couple thousand years of "holy wars" to see who is right and wrong on the God question. Quite barbaric if you look back honestly on the history of war and religion. I'm not sure that we are any more enlightened on this today than we were 200 or 2000 years ago. We have put God in a box, and branded him to look and act a lot like..."us". Scary business.
Lately many people have started predicting the death of democracy as we once knew it. What originally started as pursuit of "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" has turned into a frothing free for all of the governed looking to vote in whoever will promise to lead them and take care of their every need. The original Greek meaning of the word Democracy. "power of the people", had turned into "power of the government". Elections are bought and paid for the world over and the populace continues to vote based on popularity contests and the best media manipulation money can buy. When the people start disbelieving their vote or opinion counts in a democracy, that is the beginning of a quick end to that system's existence.
As I read and understand the USA's constitution and "Bill of Rights", the foundation of America's democracy was to protect the rights of the individual from the "tyranny of the majority". We have to give credit to this original concept even though it took over 150 years to grant equal rights to minority races and women...that only after one of the world's most costly civil wars to force the concept of "liberty and justice for all". Yet, many critiques of democracy are now pointing out the unfortunate evolution of this imperfect system of government. It has now morphed into a huge majority of DEpendent, unprincipled masses run by weak leaders arguably controlled by the financial elite...bankers and international money funds. Money in the end truly rules the world. Money buys vote, influences weak minds through media and even spreads it's rationalizations through many organized religions. After all, many religions claim to stand for peace and justice while laying claim to being the driving force of democracy's forefathers. While religious principles were obviously part of America's forefathers morality model, it was hardly their sole motivation. Meanwhile it is primarily religious fascism that is fighting for control in many of the world's countries, supported by the need of humans to BELONG to a cause. There seems to be some innate part of many humans who respond to mystical calls of dying for your belief and/or country. It is somehow selfish to think for yourself, have your own opinion or beliefs in many countries. Humanity strives to label each of us based on our race, creed, religion or borders. The individuality and self reliance that was foremost in the minds and experience of America's forefathers is in my opinion a dying breed in this day and age.
I think most thinking people would admit that there is no true, perfect government or religion in today's world. Yet, we continue to do battle between religions and governments for dominance and power...if simply over control of the minds of the masses. Many Christians believe the USA is a "Christian" nation even though the faith's founder never suggested such a connection between faith and government was desirable. The world's largest religion, Islam, has become as multi-faceted as Christianity with its many sects and fiefdoms...with only the most radical/fundamental getting any press or attention. Perhaps they are the world's fastest growing religion based on their claim to accept Christianity's Jesus as one of their prophets while fundamental Christianity ONLY accepts Jesus as leader/Messiah. And of course the strong ties between Christianity and old testament Judaism only add to the millennial inbred conflicts between these oldest of religions.
One would like to think that a couple thousand years later mankind is a little more "enlightened" to what is real and what is not. You would think that the cause and effect of Western Civilization the past 400 years would find us having more participants in the "age of enlightenment". Yet it seems the masses of the world continue to find itself enslaved to physical cravings and impulses more than mental stimulation and reasoning. Instead of doing the heavy lifting of thinking for ourselves, we deed over our reasoning to the "authoritarians" in all our institutions...from families to churches to governments. I know this probably sounds like a never ending theme to those of you who read most of my blogs or carry on dialogue with me. Yet, I feel I can't over emphasize the folly we are committing to not think and take action for ourselves based on the direction our religions and democracies are going. Real religion and democracy is "going away" as far as I am concerned and being replaced with the continued rituals and blind adherence to disproved fables and follies. Original premises of faith and democratic government are being over run by the manipulation of reason and even the manipulation of markets and finances...which are used to "sell us" the latest concoction of unprincipled thinking and continued manipulation of "mob rule".
We have too much "noise" in our lives to be able to think clearly. There is no unity in the human experience. Our daily lives are filled with conflict, disagreements, consumer pitches for the good life...various calls for escape from reality and reason. "Eat drink and make merry, for tomorrow we might die" rules much of the universe. Very few religions or governments believe in empowering individuals to think and act responsibly and independently. If something bad happens, people think they must have some evil lurking within their souls deserving such bad fortune or they think the government should be there to bail them out of their dilemmas. Person to person responsibility and good will have been replaced by government and religious programs and "fund-raising". Escape into drugs and alcohol continues to increase especially in Western Civilization while only fundamentalist religious experience seems to insulate many in the masses from that same fate. The prisons are fuller every day with those who would buck this system and refuse to capitulate to "the majorities" instituted lifestyle or acceptable behaviors.
In my opinion, our only future hope is to return to the "power of one" I have periodically talked about on this blog. It would be prudent to be careful what we accept as fact in modern day media and even philosophical/faith oriented readings. The amount of deviation on core facts and historical perspectives is mind-boggling, and the reality is a vast majority of humanity have no time or education to analyze what truth really is. For those of us who do have that time or background...it is very troubling to sort through all the distortion and mis information to arrive at reasonably justified positions on most any subject...and on top of that this is a very lonely path to take in life.
The major irony of this whole subject is that the institutions of religion and government have gotten so far from their origin of purpose, they actually work as an antithesis of what their original purposes were. Religion was supposed to unify man around core beliefs and principles of morality that would unify, protect and explain the meaning of life and community. Instead religion has turned into the great divider of mankind...turning ourselves on each other towards some Darwinianesqe nightmare process of survival of the most committed...instead of focusing our attention on the truly divine or awe of that which cannot be explained. Instead, we count on religion to explain everything to us so we don't have to pursue truth for ourselves or on our own terms.
When it comes to contemporary democracy...we once again have allowed the institution of government to overrun the actual "will of the people". The will of the people seems now bent on being protected and "taken care of" versus having to face the world individually and make the most of it that we can as individuals. The labels of self are now focused on what you "do", believe, whether you are right, left, moderate or independent. It has nothing to do with your qualities or most inner self anymore. Self has been sacrificed on the altar of "the common good". The pressure is to conform, or be ruled as inconsequential.
Finally, I leave you with a few favorite quotes on religion and democracy...
"I do not feel obligated to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use." Galileo (1632)
"Those who say religion has nothing to do with politics do not know what religion is." Ghandi
"My country is the world, and my religion is to do good." Thomas Paine
"We have put God in a box, and branded him to look and act a lot like..."us" ...me
"Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end, for they do so with the approval of their own conscience." CS Lewis
"Naturally the common people don't want war; neither in Russia, nor in England, nor in America, nor in Germany. That is understood. But after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine policy, and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is to tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country."...Hermann Goering (Nazi leader)
"The spirit of democracy cannot be imposed from without. It has to come from within." Ghandi