The violence of the belief that you have found the way all others must conform to, must give in to, is rarely evident before there are concrete collisions between two different groups with this perspective. But those collisions happen frequently enough that the assertion this belief is violent, is not controversial. It also seems most of us become entangled in these type of struggles in some form.
The universal experience with traumas of one sort or another makes us all susceptible to (or even ruled by) fear. As a result, the understanding and practice of freedom and love in their most natural, primitive and sustainable forms, become casualties to our efforts to save ourselves from these fears. Very frequently, the inspiration at the foundation of a religious practice becomes deeply perverted by these efforts, by these arrangements we make for our own salvation. Shared with a group, there is a sense of deeper validation for this violent perspective.
The false notion that science is uniquely free of this bigoted, religious spirit is quite common these days, especially among those that are insufficiently grounded by first hand experience in the diversity of universal religious forms present in religious experience. Thus, those raised in a nominal Christian household or a household that is essentially (traditional) religion free are at a disadvantage because they are less able to recognize religious behavior in its many disguises, including the current bigoted form of science as a religion.
While I am a Christian in a deep organic sense — and I certainly believe things that the materialist and atheistic thinkers will see as deeply deluded — I believe that Jesus did not come to start a religion, even though I believe he was God in human form, and that his life, death and resurrection form the universal singularity through which all life flows.
The true, spiritual inspiration at the foundation of every religious tradition invariably morphs into religious, institutional forms over time scales associated with how inspiration works. Without constant innovation and deep renewal to overthrow the religious, institutional instinct, the original inspiration is captured and perverted.
It is very important to underline the point that I do not consider primitive Christianity — that organic, deeply personal walk with God, intrinsically individual, based on a direct and living connection between the individual and God — as a religion. It is also clearly not possible to institutionalize this path.
There are similar, organic paths in other religions, likewise avoiding the religious, institutionalized paths.
The principle to understand is that the religious instinct is a universal human instinct, powered by the very real need for connection. But the instinct is particularly vulnerable to the corrupting influence of the drive to save ourselves from fear. It is also true that this instinct, in and of itself, has nothing to do with a belief in God or faith in some mystery, and can just as easily emerge in, for example, an atheistic ideology, because those carried away by any ideology are still human.
The deepest crimes against humanity have always been perpetrated by those motivated by a religious zeal. While deeply evil individuals, amoral and without consciences, have often been key players in these deep crimes, these individuals are rare enough that, without the masses gripped by the religious fervor of that moment, they would have been powerless to inflict the catastrophic harm that ends up being inflicted. Nazi Germany is a classic example of this fact.
While I believe the depth of what Jesus taught in its fullest form is absolutely breathtaking and inexhaustible, this would be true, even if you looked at his teachings as insights into everyday wisdom. His thoughts were universal, deep at every scale, to every perspective. But this is lost sight of because he is seen as belonging to one religion.
Turning inspiration into idols, we are enslaved and robbed of life and light.
We have come to a time when underneath the dogma of almost every group lies a bigoted violence ready to rise up and dismember those that disagree and dissent. While the burning at the stake is not yet a literal experience again, the metaphorical experience is not rare when one questions the dogma in a way that is considered threatening by the group in question.
Take, for example, the battle between conservatives and liberals.
Broadly, crudely, conservatives do not mind philosophical dissent as long as it stays completely philosophical, but dissent that costs money or property becomes something to hound out of existence. Liberals go on the attack when the ideas are heretical, because ideas are somehow the the fundamental touchstone, perhaps because they are less obviously driven by financial greed.
But both groups are capable of great violence, if violence is measured organically, intrinsically, and not just by its grossest, most primitive physical forms. The liberal class uses weapons of ridicule and hate, attempting to bludgeon dissenters into submission, while the conservatives use authoritarian control and financial dominance and subjugation. (At the highest levels, the two methods of operation merge — dissent is fought with every tool in the toolbox of the powerful.)
In very similar ways, the conflicts that fill a world divided into warring tribes have moved us closer and closer to a world ready to sacrifice the foundation upon which everything worth living for is built — the foundation of freedom, powered by love.
Watching this process, we learn that freedom is a delicate thing — it is strong, even invincible, only when powered by a deep, transformative love.
The deep, created harmony of all things, disrupted by equally deep violence, presents a puzzle for an incomplete worldview.
I believe the resolution found in the story of creation and a great controversy between between love and freedom on the one hand and fear and slavery on the other, understood in its deepest, most profound form, passes Occam’s test — it is the simplest, most elegant path explaining life, the universe and everything.