Choose a religion that works for you, abandon the religion that drains value from your life.Antony Kagirison
What is Religion?
Religion has no universally accepted definition, and for this reason, I will define it based on its etymology. Religion is derived from the Latin word, religio, which refers to duties and obligations that are needed to maintain good relations between the world of human beings and the divine realm. I use this definition in All is Work to explain how religion and its rituals can be compared to the process of generation of matter from energy via the mediation of mathematics. This definition is suitable because it is congruent with recent findings in neuroscience that the human brain is hardwired to seek communion with the divine.
People who fulfilled their religious duties and obligations were described as pius (the root of the English word pious). The process of fulfilling these religious duties and obligations can be described as piety. On the other hand, excessive fear of the divine realm was called superstitio (which is the root of the English word superstition). Therefore, we can relate piety to superstition in the following way: excessive piety can lead one to become superstitious.
Superstition is what turns religion from a system of understanding and relating with reality into the only system of understanding and relating with reality. At this point, religion becomes the only source of knowledge, and other methods of studying and understanding the nature of reality are proscribed, censored, and ostracized.
Consider the following two events. Some Muslim clerics during the Umayyad Caliphate condemned mathematics because its use of symbols caused the learner to “commune with demons”. To date, Muslims still ask if studying probability is compatible with Islamic piety.
Rationality, Non-Rationality, and Value of Human Existence
In terms of human relationships, religion serves to promote reciprocal altruism i.e it ensures that people who share the same religion help each other when in need. In my opinion, another utility of religion today is to prevent extremely toxic irrational ideas from becoming mainstream.
Hitler’s ideas of the Untermensch (sub-humans), the Aryan Übermensch (superman), and the need for the Übermensch to exterminate the Untermensch is an example of what happens when there is no religion to hold back the mainstreaming of extremist irrational beliefs into national value systems. The result of using those ideas to prosecute a genocidal war was that Germany was invaded by Soviet soldiers (whom Hitler described as Untermensch) and during the Battle of Berlin, Hitler declared the surviving Germans as Untermensch whose lives were disposable. (Ironically, nazism was a heresy of communism). In Nietzschean Blond Angels and Who is a Gnosophist? – Understanding Kagirison as a Gnosophist, I explain how the ubermensch described by Nietzsche was misinterpreted and turned into a pathology of humanity by the National Socialist German Workers’ Party. Essentially, the idea of the Aryan Superman and the Jewish Subhuman is not based on empirical scientific research, but they are based on irrational ideas developed by racialist political ideologues of the time, as well as the Vril Society, which ironically called itself the Wahrheitsgesellschaft or the Society for Truth.
Naturally, science places little value on the human ego, and its intrinsic property of truth before face means that its priority is to understand the laws of the universe, not soothing the human ego. When Galileo Galilei and Nicolaus Copernicus discovered that the earth was not at the center of the (then) known universe, and thenceforth publicized their discoveries, they were essentially telling people that the universe was not created to serve human beings. The Catholic Church had taught that the entire universe existed to serve human beings because God created everything in existence for man to use and subdue. Basically, religion teaches that the human being is the most important creation in the entire physical universe.
So, what do I do when I meet someone who insists that the earth is at the center of the universe? I simply use the principle of postmodern relativity to agree with them. By this principle, I can describe the Earth as the center of the universe because this is the only world where human life can exist. This means that I make human life the raison d’être for the existence of the universe. What happens if human life is not the reason for existence of the universe?
In The Atheist’s Guide to Reality: Enjoying Life without Illusions, Alex Rosenberg uses science to defend his arguments that the universe has no purpose for existence and there is no meaning to life and thus the existence of a human being serves no purpose. This atheist dogma that life has no meaning can birth suicidal ideologies like anti-natalism.
“Human existence is totally pointless”, said Raphael Samuel, a 27-year-old Indian Atheist who was suing his parents for giving birth to him. The idea that giving birth to a child is harmful is called anti-natalism. Anti-natalism is based on the idea that human life is ultimately pointless. However, mainstream religions object to such ideas. “And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it” – Genesis 1:28. This verse from the Hebrew Bible explains why humans must exist on earth and why they must reproduce. The Hebrew Bible is the basis of Judaism and Christianity – two of the three Abrahamic Religions.
Historically, people have been attracted to the irrational and non-rational that makes them feel valued and gives them a purpose for living. Kabbalah developed during the zenith of Aristotelian supra-rationalism in Medieval Judaism. Interestingly, Kabbalah developed in opposition to this supra-rationalism. Rabbi Moses de Leon – who is regarded as the author (or one of the authors) of Sefer ha-Zohar – was well acquainted with the work of Jewish rationalists, especially Rabbi Moses ben Maimon’s The Guide for the Perplexed. Rabbi Leon was critical of rationalism and regarded it as dangerous to the existence of the Jewish people because it broke down the religious barrier that prevented Jews from converting to Christianity. As expected, Kabbalah won the war for the Jewish mind and Maimonidean supra-rationalism failed to stop the mainstreaming of Kabbalah in Judaism.
The Kabbalists were not the only people who were opposed to Aristotelian rationalism. When speculative scholastic theology – otherwise known as ʿIlm al-kalām – was mainstream during the age of the Arab caliphates, a forged work titled The Theology of Aristotle (or Theologia Aristotelis) appeared. To me, this work was deliberately mistitled so as to demonstrate that Aristotle believed in a God similar to the God of Abraham, and thus show that Greek rationalism cannot be used to present arguments against the revealed Abrahamic religions – Christianity and Islam. In reality, Theologia Aristotelis was part of the Enneads that were written by Plotinus (who is considered the founder of Neoplatonism). Some commentaries made by Porphyry to the Enneads can be seen in Theologia Aristotelis. Ironically, the Enneads are the primary work of Neoplatonic mysticism, not Aristotelian Atomism.
A benefit of studying history is that I have learned that masses of people are ready to destroy institutions of learning if they are convinced that those institutions teach subjects that do not value these masses. This is how Bishop Theophilus rallied masses of illiterate and semi-literate Christians in 391 AD to destroy the Mithraeum in Alexandria, an act that provoked Egyptian Neoplatonists to attack Christians. In retaliation, the Christians demolished the Serapeum – which served as the school for Iamblichean Neoplatonism. This set the stage for the destruction of the rival school of Neoplatonism – the School of Theon that was run by Hypatia of Alexandria, a Plotinian Neoplatonist. In 415 A.D. the extremist Peter the Lector – with authorization of Bishop Cyril of Alexandria – led a mob of Christians to murder Hypatia.
In The Wild Religion, The Domestic Religion, and The Toxic Religion, I categorize all religions that have ever existed in human history into three types: wild religion (which is how most religions start, except for Gnosophy), domestic religion (which is essentially a wild religion that has been reformed so that it sustains a civilization), and toxic religion (which is basically a religion that harms its adherents – creating both short-term and long-term harms). The capability of a toxic religion to generate long-term harm to its adherents and itself (as a religion) explains why Islam cannot be regarded as a toxic religion as Islam aims to have the largest number of adherents across the globe. This ensures that Islam exists for as long as possible. Ironically, the most well-known toxic religion is classical anti-natal gnosticism, which as expected drove itself into extinction with its suicidal anti-natal doctrines.
Do some of the harm caused by a wild religion or a toxic religion present as symptoms that can be diagnosed and managed by a healthcare practitioner?
Religious Trauma Syndrome
In What is Religious Trauma Syndrome?, I define Religious Trauma Syndrome (RTS) as a medical condition that presents as a set of adverse health effects that negatively impact the mental, physical, and social well-being of a person, and the cause of this deterioration of health can be traced to the adoption of spiritual doctrines, beliefs, and practices (by the affected person). I developed this definition from the initial description of RTS. I then explained how RTS causes conversion disorder.
Conversion disorder is recognized as a psychiatric condition in the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-5) and it is assigned the ICD-9-CM code 300.11. The International Classification of Diseases (ICD) was developed by the World Health Organization [WHO] as its official coding system for diseases. The 9 in ICD-9-CM stands for the 9th revision of ICD, and the CM simply means Clinical Modification, which indicates that WHO has allowed American health authorities to modify the clinical presentation and symptomatology of classified diseases.
Conversion disorder usually presents as altered neurological function e.g muscle paralysis, abnormal limb movements, speech problems, delusions, and hallucinations. Also, no organic (or cellular) cause of these symptoms can be determined and thus these symptoms are said to have a psychogenic origin. Conversion disorder is associated with dissociative amnesia, depression, and derealization, which are recognized in DSM-5 as psychiatric conditions. Dissociative amnesia is different from normal forgetting. It describes the inability of the affected person to recall events and autobiographical information because (s)he has suffered fragmentation of identity (i.e s/he existed as two different people) and thus cannot recall information or events that happened to him/her when s/he had adopted his/her alternative identity. This is due to discontinuity in identity e.g if the patient is Jane when in college and Mary when in her cult. This results in discontinuity in memory e.g Jane cannot remember what happened to Mary.
Religious Trauma Syndrome (RTS) is not recognized as a psychiatric condition in DSM. Also, WHO does not recognize it as a disease, hence it had no entry in ICD. So, is RTS really a health condition? In Who is a Gnosophist? – Understanding Kagirison as a Gnosophist, I explain that all human diseases have a molecular basis, including bone fractures which cause injury to cells called osteoclasts and osteocytes (that are found in bones). I also explain that any psychiatric condition that does not have a molecular basis is not really a psychiatric disease, and it should be managed as a psychogenic condition. Psychogenic conditions do not necessarily require pharmacotherapy or polypharamacy.
In 2012, the psychotherapist Marlene Winell provided a comprehensive definition of the term religious trauma syndrome, which she and initially coined and explained in her published work, Leaving the Fold – A Guide for Former Fundamentalists and Others Leaving their Religion. She used this term to describe a constellation of symptoms that included low self-esteem, perfectionism, loneliness, anxiety, grief, anhedonia, confusion, depression, and trouble making decisions. According to Winell, these symptoms negatively impact social function as it inhibits the ability of a person to form meaningful relationships which allows one to fit well in a society. This results in the affected person feeling that (s)he does not belong in non-religious societies (or non-religious world), and his/her best option is to return back to the religious fold. Winell attributes these symptoms to priestly authoritarianism and toxic theological doctrines such eternal damnation, original sin, and demon possession. Winell’s description of RTS belies a salient fact – how much the affected person understands his/her religion.
Stages of Knowledge Acquisition
There is nothing like spontaneous knowledge acquisition. Knowledge acquisition occurs in stages, which can be broadly classified into 3 stages: stage of simplicity, stage of complexity, and stage of informed simplicity.
The first stage is simplicity which is how a toddler starts to know something. As the child advances in his education, s/he reaches the stage of complexity in the terminal years of high school when s/he has become a teenager; and this stage persists until (s)he completes an undergraduate course and graduates when s/he is a young adult. After graduation and gaining experience in applying the learned knowledge to solve real-world problems, the level of knowledge that the adult graduate has can be best be described as informed simplicity because he can now understand complex ideas easily and deconstruct them to their simpler building blocks which allow him/her to explain these ideas to common people, as well as recombine the simpler building blocks so as to generate new complex ideas. In other words, informed simplicity is an enlightened level of knowledge competence i.e one has in-depth knowledge. In Gnosophy, informed simplicity is described as enlightened ignorance because one understands what is not known in his/her field of specialty, and why it is not known, as well as what can be remedied so as to solve the mystery of the unknown.
If related to RTS, it is clear that this condition affects people still at the learning stage of complexity when they have understood some of the complex concepts about their religion but have not yet mastered the breadth of knowledge about their religion. According to Winnell, RTS manifests after one abandons his/her religion. I do not fully agree with this because some people may be suffering from RTS while within the religious fold and are unable to abandon their religion because they do not want to lose their social support or lack financial means of survival or lack marketable skills that can allow them to gain meaningful employment. It is for this reason that I offer RTS management services to people who cannot abandon their religion entirely. Also, to protect their identities and to honor the doctor-patient confidentiality covenant, I do not use the details of my clients as social proof.
The definition of RTS provided by Winell is Christianity-centric. In 2013, another psychotherapist Alyson Stone worked to universalize the definition of RTS by purging its definition from elements of Christian theology. Dr.Stone argued that religious experiences, messages, and beliefs can cause psychological damage. He also noted that RTS usually occurs during the what he calls religious formation i.e period when one is learning complex ideas about his/her religion, or what I have described as Stage 1 of knowledge acquisition. This has resulted in RTS being described by less accurate terms such as spiritual abuse, spiritual violence, and religious abuse.
I would extend the definition of RTS offered by Winell and Stone to include polarization of emotions. In Abrahamic religions, emotions are polarized into a binary system. i.e an emotion is either good (acceptable) or bad (unacceptable). This polarization fo emotions allows one to know which emotions can be expressed during different scoial settings, thus ensuring that one fits well within his/her religious community.
Is Piety Unacceptable?
The feelings of inadequacy and shame tend to predominate RTS while one is still a member of his/her religion. These feeling occur because one wants to be the best of himself/herself within the prescribed religious environment.
A person who wants to excel in religious virtues that (s)he believes in should not be declared a sick mind, but instead be honored for trying his/her level best to become an exemplar in his/her religious community. It is for this reason that I use narrative therapy that allows the affected person to explain his/her journey in his/her religious faith and what missteps and unaccomplished religious goals have made him/her to feel that (s)he is a – to use a Christian term – spiritual failure.
I have studied Christianity since I joined elementary school. About 15 years ago, I started studying Judaism, first with the intention of converting, but dropped this when I discovered Gnosticism and realized that Kabbalah was derived from Gnosticism. I still study Judaism, Christianity, Gnosticism, Hermeticism, and Classical Greek Mystery Schools; and I have combined the knowledge from these studies with knowledge from life sciences, physical sciences, philosophy, logic, and mathematics to create Gnosophy. So, I am best placed to deconstruct religious beliefs that are harming a person. A normal non-religious psychologist cannot be able to deconstruct such beliefs. Take for example, the belief in demons(sheddim)and impure forces. How can an atheist psychologist or psychotherapist (without previous religious education) explain their origins and why one should not fear them? For me, assuming that I am dealing with an Orthodox Jew or Christian who subscribes to the Sacred Name Movement, I can explain the origin of demons to them.
Where Did Demons Come From According to Judaism
In 13 Types of Evil, I explore the pre-Kabbalistic mysticism that existed during the Middle Ages. I discuss the origin of demons as described in the popular pre-Kabbalistic work, Shiur Qomah – Measurements of Divine Anatomy. According to Shiur Qomah, God has superfluous thoughts which because they fail to be executed, they cannot materialize, and hence they emerge into the world as dematerialized/disembodied demons. The Kabbalists would transforms these demons into aborted thought worlds because of their interpretation that every thought of God creates a world.
A member of the Castilian Circle in Medieval Spain, Rabbi Yizhak ben Yaakov ha-Kohen wrote Treatise of the Emanation of the Left Hand Side. This work predated what Helena Blavatsky and her Theosophical Society came to call the Left Hand Path (an idea she adopted from Hinduism). This para-Kabbalistic work strives to synergize the 10 sephirot of the Sefer Yetzirah and Sefer Bahir with the sephirot system developed by the Iyyun Circle of Southern France. Rabbi kohen does this by stating that the tenth sephira of malkhut contains 3 sephirot that serve to redirect divine energy back to the first sephira thus forming a closed energy loop analogous to the closed electrical circuit. This idea of a closed loop of divine energy system was first developed by the neoplatonists. What HaKohen did was to set the ground for the innovative Kabbalist, Rabbi Isaac Luria (the Ari) to develop the idea of Shevirat ha-Kelim (Breaking of the Vessels) whereby the fifth sephira of Gevurah could not hold the divine light and ended up breaking apart in an explosive event.
This breaking of the sephira/vessel of gevurah caused the divine light to mix with impure forces and this mixing caused the impure forces to gain life and become demons. What is interesting is that Angels who governed some of the Sephirot e.g the Angel of Scream also caused parallel worlds to be emanated. Basically, Kabbalah teaches the existence of parallel worlds unlike the Talmud which teaches that a sequence of worlds were created and destroyed because of their imperfection until our world was created in perfection, hence its existence and future transformation into Olam HaBa (world to come).
The beauty of Judaism is its ability to blend Kabbalistic emanations with legends of the Hebrew Bible, thus giving credence and legitimacy to both the Torah and the Kabbalah. The Catholic Church was unable to perform such blending of Gospel writings with existing Christian mysticism, thus forcing Christian mystics to learn and practice their ideas outside Church control. If a person is troubled because (s)he believes that (s)he has failed to achieve goals set by some Christian mystics, then (s)he needs assistance from someone who can deconstruct and explain these mystical beliefs, and even better, explain where they came from and hypothesize why they were adopted. This is what I aim to achieve.
Gnosophy respects Atheism and Secular Humanism and gives them their due credit. However, the RTS management I offer is not deconversion services or any services that promotes clinical delinquency. It is not my aim to create more atheists. So, why am I opposed to atheism as a way of life?
Meaning, Purpose, and the Noosphere
“To live without hope is to cease to live”Fyodor Dostoyevsky (1821-1881).
Adopting the ideas of post-structuralism and philosophical postmodernism, Thomas Nagel argues that their no meaning to reality, and human beings are the ones who create meaning. Postmodernism rejects the idea of discovering meaning as the first process to creating a grand narrative. To postmodernists, meaning does not exist and thus cannot be discovered. So, why does meaning exist according to postmodernists? To them, meaning is invented. The postmodernist argument that there is no meaning extends into science where it argues that no order exist and any attempt to find order is an attempt to create a grand narrative. In fact, postmodernism considers science as a grand narrative that must be deconstructed.
For engineers, physicists, and astrophysicists, order and harmony exist in the universe and mathematics is used to discover this order and explain its laws. This is what allows scientists to build equipments that can operate in this universe such as spacecrafts, radio-imaging machines, and hydroelectric dams. In other words, the philosophical axioms of the postmodernists break down when they are used to describe physics, engineering, physiology, cytology, immunology, and astrophysics (among other hard sciences). This is one of the reasons that postmodernists disparage and distrust science, even going to the extent of describing it as a grand narrative. According to postmodernism, grand narratives are unacceptable and should be deconstructed. However, human beings need grand narratives to create sense-making models of reality.
Another reason why I oppose atheism is the value of religious altruism.
Akshaya Patra Foundation is a religious organization that offers a free school meal program that feeds about 2 million children daily in India. The food is cooked in 65 kitchens staffed by committed volunteer and paid workers, and the cooked meals are distributed to about 19000 schools. In Rajasthan, India, another spiritual organization, Brahma Kumaris, runs a free meal program that feeds 40,000 people daily. Its kitchen is run only on volunteer workers, who can be as many as 2500 volunteers during celebrations like Baba Milan. It would be difficult for an atheist organization relying on paid workers and donors to achieve such a feat. This explains why religious institutions have played a key role in educating children from poor families thus improving their odds of success in life.
Also, atheism lacks community spirit and promotes individualism that could potentially destroy the beneficial social network that a person has. It is this social network that benefits members of a religion. Aren’t Hindu Americans described as the wealthiest community in America? Isn’t the Hindu American identity based on a religious identity? Compare this with the fact that atheistic Black Americans are among the poorest community stuck in inter-generational poverty and crime-plagued neighborhoods. In fact, a member of the Nation of Islam (NoI) has a better life outcome than an ordinary ADoS living in black neighborhoods. ADoS means an American Descendant of Slaves, a term which differentiates Black descendants of slaves from Black African immigrants who have acquired American citizenship, as both groups of people are grouped under the same racial designation – Black Americans. Aren’t many ADoS artists and athletes mentees of NoI or NoI members, which explains why they have Arabic and Muslim names?
Also, religion creates a noospheric community e.g Jewish Americans are a noospheric community that is relatively wealthy and politically powerful (especially when their political influence is compared to their proportion of the voting population). On the other hand, the poverty-stricken, crime-plagued ADoS are an anoopsheric community with individualized/atomized members who cannot organically create and sustain family institutions or any institution of cultural production or knowledge generation.
Noosphere simply means the collective mind of a community or a civilization (and it is related to the idea of the egregore).
A good example of a well-to-do noospheric community is the Jain community, which is a low-profile community – of about 6 million people globally – whose members have had high impact on human history. Jain community practices Jainism, a dharmic religion that was founded on the teachings of the naked sage, Mahavira, who lived during the period of the Sramana Movement – a religious reformist movement that challenged the Hindu caste system and questioned the legitimacy of the Hindu Vedas. The present Jain community is made up of the majority Svetambara and more ascetic Digambara branches. This shows that Jainism underwent reformation. In fact, the Svetambara adopted ideas from Zoroastrianism.
The noosphere maintains community solidarity, encourages self-regulation, and generates self-help systems. It is this lack of a noosphere that partly explains why wealthy ADoS flee black neighborhoods while the noospheric Jews work to transform their poor neighborhoods into great neighborhoods. For this reason, the management I offer for religious trauma syndrome is not aimed at creating anoopsheric people. I also recognize that a toxic religion can degrade the noosphere of a people. The Sumerian dark ages, the European dark ages, and the Persian dark ages are evidence of what happens when a wild toxic religion becomes mainstream in a community.
Another reason why religion is important is that it the human brain is hardwired to seek the divine.
The God Spot in the Brain
“If God is dead, then all is permitted”Fyodor Dostoyevsky (1821-1881).
Neuroscience has developed the concept of the God spot to describe the anatomical regions in the brain regions that are activated during concentration and are responsible for forethought, pre-planning, mental time travel, and interpretation of symbols (which allows for comprehension of written symbols and appreciation of art).