We all hold beliefs, each belief somewhere on a continuum from “deep/core” to “hmm/maybe.” Often religious beliefs are so intertwined with ideological beliefs that they are actually religious-ideologies, or “relideologies” for short.
Choosing a Religion
If religion is a belief system in something transcendent accompanied by rules and rituals, then only extremely rare human beings have no religion. Obviously a devout Roman Catholic has a religion, but so does an atheistic scientist, by this definition. The scientist may believe that scientific truth is transcendent and he follows the rules of the scientific method and the rituals of publishing his findings. An agnostic environmentalist believes in nature, and rides a bike and recycles. The scientist and the environmentalist find meaning in their religions and they preach as fervently as any backwoods Baptist.
Religion in the USA
Organized religion is a big deal in the USA, but unorganized religions are a big deal everywhere. To further complicate matters in the USA, political ideology is all mixed in with Christianity. I first discovered the extent of this mixture during the 2008 elections, when I was attending a home Bible study. My friends were praying and fasting for the defeat of Barack Obama, since they thought he was a socialist. I asked why they thought he was a socialist. They said he was going to nationalize the banks. I pointed that GW Bush had done so the week earlier. Obama was going to disarm the citizens, and he might also be a Muslim. I pointed out that they seemed to be full of fear and that was not what the Bible taught. It got so bad in Deep South, USA, that anyone who wasn’t a conservative Republican must be an infidel. I miss my friends.
Using Religious Beliefs for Elections
The above scenario is an example of relideology: the mixture of religion and ideology. It is a powerful mixture. My friends are really Christians. They are kind and loving and generous, but currently, very fearful people. I feel that they have been hijacked by people with an ideological agenda. “Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by rulers as useful,” is attributed to the Roman Senator Seneca, a politician, and politicians have not changed. Their prime goal is to get elected and they will manipulate the deep core beliefs of voters to do it. Of all the rotten things politicians do, surely this is one of the most rotten.
How Religions and Ideologies Rise and Fall
With so much time on my hands since my friends don’t want to talk to me, I’ve been studying religious history and various ideologies. Anarchism, libertarianism, socialism, communist, capitalism; there are dozens, at least. They have in common that they all have a bit of truth, they all refer to something transcendent, and not one of them has all the answers for every question. Another thing they have in common, and have in common with religions, is the way they rise and fall.
From Movement to Mess
They rise on a movement, often initiated by a visionary man. When the man dies, the followers try to organize the movement, which was spiritual in origin, into something temporal. They begin to argue about who will lead and break into competing factions. This happened in Christianity, but it also happened in Islam, Buddhism, and all the rest. The factions set up a power structure, make rules, fight the other factions, and attempt to gain ascendancy over all other belief systems, sometime by persuasion and sometimes by bloodshed-as if there is any earthly force that can change a human’s heart. Their schemes and violence cause observers to blame God for what is all-too human. Ideologies follow a similar pattern, starting with transcendent ideals and degenerating into selfish squabbles.
The formula for the rise and fall of relideologies is as follows: (Movements divided by Men>Monuments and Myths>Mess)
When the MESS becomes unbearable, a new movement will arise, like a blade of grass pressing upward through concrete, and the MESS will try to stamp it out. The life force in the grass hasn’t been absent-individuals have felt it in their hearts all along-the spiritual forces of freedom, truth, and beauty. But these individuals aren’t interested in power, so they are seldom mentioned in history books.