RELIGION plays a very important and valuable role in adding stability and structure to human lives.
But, like all belief systems, it also by definition presents mental obstacles that prevent people from finding out what is really happening in the world.
I write from personal experience.
My life-long search for truth had already seen me take a very peripheral look at different religions and various aspects of the occult including spiritualism.
I had no interest at all in the established church which appeared cold, boring and full of empty ritual.
But when I discovered a lively evangelical church encouraging my belief in supernatural power, I was raptured – almost literally.
Being part of that church did benefit my personal life to a certain extent. From being nervous and lonely, my confidence increased as I found myself primarily in the company of positive young people.
There was also the vibrant teaching that God was real and able to influence and improve our everyday lives.
But there was a negative side to my experience too.
Due to Biblical teachings, I came to believe that all other religions were somewhere between misguided and servants of The Devil.
More damaging still everyone born into the world was born in sin and remained in that state unless they confessed Jesus Christ as their personal Lord.
Those who died without becoming born again Christians – clearly the vast majority of people in the world – would almost certainly spend an eternity in hell.
The practice of homosexuality was, alongside all sex outside of marriage, a sin and worthy of judgement unless an individual became a Christian and turned from their wicked ways.
My point is this.
Because of my new-found beliefs, my entire filter on the world was affected.
I would regard the views of anyone who said they weren’t a Christian – or who, in my opinion, wasn’t ‘born again’- with less value than those who were part of our church.
Any news of apparently positive developments in other religious groups was greeted with scepticism because I thought this would take people down a false route.
Sad to say I was also quite aggressive towards any gay people I met.
I almost feel ashamed to admit it now but I did believe that Aids was a judgement from God on their way of life.
I know that sounds ridiculous and far-fetched now to 99 per cent of folk but, through my evangelical filter, it made perfect sense.
Religion also plays a big part in what an individual believes to be possible.
For example, I immediately dismissed any talk of UFOs or aliens because there doesn’t appear to be any mention of them in The Bible – something I would strongly dispute nowadays!
By this time, most of you are probably thinking how fortunate you are not to have a religious label.
But every one of us has a belief system or a series of core beliefs gained from what we have been taught and our personal experience that has a similarly mixed effect on our search for truth.
Our conscious mind is our personal guide to what is and isn’t possible.
For example, if a scientist talks about the earth being round we immediately give credence to his words because that tallies with what we have been taught.
But, if they argue it is flat, we reject such a person as a crackpot.
Our problem is this. We are taught a very narrow view of the world in the west that majors on what we can see and hear, plus a very biased view of our country’s past.
Certain points are emphasised again and again to reinforce our beliefs.
Our narrative is that Britain is essentially good and only goes to war to keep the peace or remove evil dictators. America is historically our friend and therefore, although it may be prone to foreign policy excesses, it is the land of the free.
In contrast, the old Soviet Union, modern day Russia, is a heavily state-controlled place where personal freedoms are suppressed. They are the guys most likely to renew any world conflict.
As far as the supernatural is concerned, we can’t see it, hear it, touch it or feel it, so therefore it doesn’t exist.
We give far more credence to the views of scientists whose mantra is that unless they can reproduce something in a laboratory it is unlikely to be true.
Establishment figures are largely treated with respect.
People in white coats know a lot more than we do about how our bodies operate and drugs are produced by pharmaceutical companies whose main aim is to help us as much as they can.
And here’s an even more important core belief. Governments, although fallible, mostly tell the truth and any other interpretation of what they are doing is a ‘conspiracy theory’ and therefore should be instantly filtered out.
We may as well be wearing blinkers and being asked to read a number plate in my opinion.
Those core beliefs – and clearly, they vary according to an individual’s state of awareness and experience – ensure we never get past a five-sense level in our knowledge of the world.
Here’s an example.
Mainstream media – the main enforcers of core, establishment beliefs in society – report that Princess Diana died in a road accident.
Now let’s consider how that is received by most people.
Firstly, we consider the source of that information. It comes from the BBC, a tried and trusted name in broadcasting, so an important box is duly ticked.
We know that road accidents do happen, look at the photographs of the heavily damaged car and accept that what we have been told is true.
And, of course, it was.
But when someone claims she was murdered with the crash being no more than a cover story, our belief systems click into action.
Could the establishment murder a very famous person? We have been told that the authorities are essentially good and therefore reject the notion.
Who is making the claim? It’s not the mainstream media, so that’s a cross. Instead it’s the alternative media and we’ve been told they are full of ‘fake news’.
So, we come to the obvious conclusion – it’s a ‘conspiracy theory’, therefore it’s wrong.
Much the same with claims that 9/11 was an inside job.
Our minds search for the American Government and recall that it is essentially good.
Countries, organisations and individuals that are supposedly anti-American such as Iraq, Al Qaeda and bin Laden are filed in our minds as ‘bad’ and therefore we accept reports that they could be the culprits.
That’s how the so-called ‘war on terror’ was created in many people’s minds.
‘Waking up’ to a different way of thinking doesn’t come naturally. Particularly as most don’t realise they are ‘asleep’ in the first place.
People go to school, work for most of their lives, tune into their televisions and generally soak up what the authorities tell them.
Yes, I hear many saying ‘don’t believe what you read in newspapers’ – but that’s usually whilst they are holding a copy of the Daily Mail.
Then they snuggle up to the goggle-box for BBC News.
Today we have less excuse for our ignorance however.
For the Internet has opened up a whole new library of information.
We don’t have to accept what the British government is saying, we can find an alternative view of world events from another country’s perspective at the touch of a button.
We don’t have to limit ourselves to the dogma of five-sense reality when a much more convincing view of our human potential is freely available to us.
Yes, there’s rubbish out there – and plenty of it.
But nothing more outlandish than the core values the majority regard almost unthinkingly as gospel.