Aljazeera...arguably the best objective news media source in the world today...with a program about the power of the Catholic church, the Vatican, and religion in general. The program is called "Empire" (here is a link to the program which I hope remains long term) and much of the conversation was about the changes and "de-centralization" Pope Francis is extending via his new role as Pope of the Catholic church.
In this interview, we have a Jesuit priest, a media specialist and an secular author on Catholic issues discussing the possible changes to come in the world's largest religion and Christian denomination. I believe this was one of the most objective interviews and discussions I have seen about religion, especially Catholicism, and the issue of power and empire building based on that religion.
Without reviewing the broadcast linked above, I want to comment on the basic issues that it represents. Anyone who has studied history from an objective and secular viewpoint must give credence to the role of religion in cultures and historic events of the past 2000+ years. We only have to go back a few decades in modern history to see and understand events such as "Vatican 2", the new Evangelical movements within Protestantism, and other religious movements to see its affect on modern day governments and civilization as a whole.
The first Vatican council was in 1868. The second ran for three years and closed in 1965. My what a difference those 100 years made in positions and standards of the world's largest religion, Catholicism. Anyone who claims that religion has no affect or role in global events is simply misinformed or ignorant at best. Historically governments have used religious fervor as a preface for actions it wanted to take. Why is that? Because religion is the most fundamental emotion at the core of human behavior and action. Most people in the world have a fundamental faith of some kind...and this "fundamentalism" drives every decision and position taken by this majority of humans. While secularism is growing in the world...we must still take religion very seriously in world affairs. After all, most politics, wars and economic divides are based on religious/cultural divisions that are used and manipulated by powers that be to deliver the subterfuge that those powers exist by.
Without boring you with a long historical rendition of examples, we only have to look back the last century to see how politics and religion have conspired together to affirm each other. Going back to WW2 and Nazi Germany, we see the struggle between Catholic and Protestant churches to survive during this political plague of extreme egotism of the secular Nazi state. It is obvious that many "accommodations" were made between political and religious leaders of the day in order to sustain power and influence on both sides of this equation. Neither side of this divide were honest or out front on their positions regarding the other, because both sides wanted to survive and found ways to manipulate each other to secure their powers and influence. Meanwhile, you had Jews and fundamentalists like German preacher Bonhoeffer who could not or did not change their "spots" to accommodate the powers of that day...and they paid the ultimate sacrifice for their identity or beliefs.
While I could go through many other examples in this current century, lets jump to today's reality of "church and state". At the highest levels, today's international conflicts are being waged based on cultural and religious heritages midst the expanding melting pot of human migration because of globalism. The "western world", dominated by "Christian" traditions and values, is in direct competition and conflict with Eastern religions and/or Asian secularism. Today's conflicts are many...between Catholics and Protestants in many parts of the world, especially Ireland, and between Shia and Sunni Muslims in so many Middle East and Eastern countries. The religious "masses" are all laying claim to their dominance, or "future" dominance, based on the apocalyptic fundamental beliefs they have maintained for thousands of years. Yet, as a growing secularist, one has to ask...where does this all end...and to whom goes the "spoils" of these conflicts?
I have come to the point in life and belief where I think this is all a game of smoke and mirrors played out by modern day "Wizards of Ozs" who make the masses think they have democratic control, or should be "thankful" to be taken care of by the great ruler or government over them, which pays homage to a "God" of their persuasion. All the same, these "leaders" or rulers are playing a game of "Charades", using the media and financial backing to create an image of competency, belief or leadership that does not truly exist. Yet, because of the ease of mass manipulation, these people get away with their roles of power and influence purely based on mass appeal versus true character or identity. There is a caste system of "king makers" within most religions and governments. They are about sustaining the status quo more than what is in the best interests of the masses.
In recent eras of American politics, especially at the the Presidential level, we have seen tremendous distortions and contradictions in statements of our aspiring leaders. Because most people have no true understanding of what real Christianity or Islam is all about...we really aren't clear on whether our current President is Christian, Muslim or totally Secular. I get almost daily emails from various factions making claims on all sides of that equation for President Obama. In the end, I don't know and don't care. I just want him to be a man of his word and a true leader of the best interests of ALL Americans.
I continue to believe that power corrupts, and "absolute power corrupts absolutely". I have seen it personally in religious and political organizations...and I also often see it in corporate or business environments. When humans reach a certain point of "success" or "following", they tend to meta-morph into authorities and ideologues whose positions and statements go largely unquestioned by the masses who follow them. Somehow, we humans just need someone in flesh and blood to follow and believe in to feel safe and whole in our vast universe. We love to suck on the hind tit of popular thought and reason to settle any mystery we have about life.
I believe that the influence of "power" supersedes all religions and governments. It is very difficult to find a truly objective or centrist leader in religion or government. Contradictions exist everywhere. Case in point the previously mentioned new Argentinian Pope Francis. On one hand he purports an agenda of humility and identification with the poor masses of his following. At the same time, he continues to uphold centuries old and outdated dogmas such as prohibition of contraceptives and sexual abstinence of clergy in the Catholic church which continues the cycle of mass poverty and unrealistic expectations of human behavior. When will a church leader ever step up and give human sexuality its due in the course of real human life, desire and connectivity? When will we rid ourselves of the guilt complexes most of us continue to grow up with in this supposedly enlightened age?
At the end of the day, I believe people who want power go in either of three directions...religion, politics or executive management. In the pure sense, I have no problem with the human drive to lead and succeed and "making a difference" in humanity and progress. At the same time, it is hard to find a leader in any of those three "practices" who is completely transparent about who they are and what they REALLY believe. It seems that to grow in power almost demands that we often must cover up our real thoughts or beliefs. We must be "acceptable" to the majority...which is not always the most moral.
I have met many Republicans who are closet Democrats, and vice versa. I have met many Christian clergymen who quietly question the fundamentals of Christianity. I have met many Corporate leaders who are all about their own egos, power and influence in the corporate environment. They will do "whatever it takes" to succeed or be liked and supported. In the end I believe they do this because they want to have power and influence more than even money. They want this more than to be true to themselves. They want this more than "truth" itself. And many discover the truth about their beliefs or positions far too late in life to admit change or failure of those positions.
Power has no religion...and religion is extremely about power and control over humanity. Truth and "power" are quite separate bedfellows. Just study objectively your history...and you will see it too.