These are the people who are not strong enough to stand on their own. They are easily led. An acolyte is someone who lights the candles or participates in the services – an active follower of a religion. They like obeying rules and doing what they are told. Usually lacking in imagination or critical analysis they take everything at face value. If it’s written down and Abraham says it happened it must be true.
All despots love acolytes. They are very handy.
Adam & Eve
According to the mythology that is religion Adam was the first man. He was made by the great supernatural, all knowing, eternal fairy, out of dust.
Eve was an after-thought and was made out of Adam’s rib when the fairy realised that Adam might be lonely. The fairy hadn’t thought it all through to start with, had he? So much for all-knowing.
The pair of his new creations were plonked in a perfect garden and told not to eat the fruit of knowledge. Of course, the fairy had previously created all manner of plants and animals (equipped with sex organs and mating rituals) for Adam and Eve to eat and play about with.
Eve was tricked by a serpent (what was that serpent’s function?) into eating the fruit and persuaded Adam to eat it, too (henceforth, used as justification for reviling all women as evil temptresses who must be hidden away in shapeless gowns). They lost their innocence and were kicked out of the garden by god.
So what can we learn from this?
- This is a classic creation myth. Every culture has one. You can imagine them sitting round camp-fires telling their stories. Primitive people were extremely ignorant but just as intelligent as us. They tried to come up with plausible stories that fitted in with their limited understanding. Story telling was an art. It didn’t have to make sense. It just had to sound good and capture the audience. Naked people, innocence, sex, serpents and beautiful gardens with running water and fruit – what could be more appealing to nomadic desert folk. Very dramatic.
- This myth does not make any sense. Dust, ribs and talking serpents, magical forbidden trees, wondrous gardens and a god who doesn’t seem to like sex and is pretty harsh about it. It is a creation myth that had its roots in pre-jewish culture.
- The god described, who was meant to know everything and know what was to come, seems to have been remarkably amiss. Why put the tree there in the first place? Why punish Adam and Eve when he knew what was going to happen? It’s the usual muddled nonsense. But makes for good drama when told around the campfire, with the flickering flames and the twinkling desert stars and everyone asking the eternal questions – what is this all about? Where did we come from?
- The basis of misogyny is laid down here in this myth. Eve has a very subsidiary role. She was made out of Adam’s rib. That’s hardly equality. She is also blamed for man’s fall from grace; she tricked Adam into eating the fruit and thus all women are to be forever blamed. That sounds fair doesn’t it? But that fits in with the prevailing misogynistic culture of nomadic Arab society where women were subservient and a commodity to be bartered.
It is quite incredible how far-reaching a primitive creation myth can be. The misogyny of those primitive pre-Abrahamic cultures resounds down the ages. It contributes to the whole disgusting business of female genital mutilation and whole cultures putting their women in sacks and treating them like dogs.
It’s the same as before life. Somehow the universe got on without me for 13.77 billion years, give or take a minute or so. I’m sure that it will manage without me for a few billion more.
It will be a great shame not to be able to open my eyes on to all this awesome beauty.
Best appreciate it while we can. It only lasts a short while and then it’s gone.
Nothing gold can last!
So, I will not be meeting up with my dead friends and relatives. I will not be coming back as an earwig. I will not have beautiful handmaidens dropping grapes in my mouth by the side of nice cool fountains. I will not be singing in any ethereal choirs.
The idea of an after-life was made up by people long ago because they couldn’t imagine themselves not existing anymore.
I can. But then I can’t. As a conscious human being I find it quite hard to believe that this life is all pointless, that it is an exceedingly wonderful accident of chemistry, and that one day soon I will cease to exist. Surely I’m much too important for that to be the case?
Instead of waking up with a bevy of virgins my brain will cease firing electricity down neurones. My consciousness will dissolve. I will be unaware as the bacteria and worms dissolve my flesh. I won’t care at all.
There will be no tunnels of light, choirs of angels, gates and cherubs, no men in long robes. No ice cream. No music. No sex (no wonder puritans like the idea).
I will no longer be aware of anything. Nothing will exist for me. The universe will slowly run down due to natural entropy and I won’t be around to see it. That’s a shame.
No amount of wishful thinking will make it any different. We’d best grow up and get on with it.
There is no wondrous purpose or anthropomorphised vision of paradise and heaven; we die.
After life there is merely rotting and oblivion.
But wasn’t all that stuff about eternal ecstasy (or grotesque torture for the bad guys), meeting up with loved ones and living forever so reassuring and great. Shame that the bad guys took it over and used it as a power tool to get people to conform and put up with lousy conditions (they’ll be pie and ice-cream in the sky), to fight and blow themselves up in the certain knowledge of eternal life – oh, and no hanky panky (except for them) got it?
Age of Enlightenment/Age of Reason
The Death of Theocracy.
A lot was at stake and far fewer were burnt at stake.
This is simply the most important thing that has ever happened. It began as a philosophical movement in the mid eighteenth century, gathered pace and has changed the whole cultural landscape of the Western World for the better.
The premise for the Age of Reason/Enlightenment was to challenge ideas based on tradition or religion and move to a system based on reason and scientific method. This inevitably took religion out of controlling people and introduced the present secular states where tyrants, despots and conmen were free to either directly set up rigged systems or pervert democracy in order to gain power.
A great improvement. Well, at least people were no longer publically beheaded or buried up to their shoulders and pelted with rocks for blasphemy.
People could at last ask to see photographic evidence of tablets being passed down, burning bushes or audio recordings of conversations with supernatural forces in caves or up on mountain tops without fear of torture.
As soon as religion was taken out of the equation we experienced rapid progress. Science ruled. In contrast those cultures still ruled by religious superstition continued to stagnate.
I do not make the case that everything is hunky-dory. That is far from the case. In many ways the Age of Enlightenment heralded all sorts of moral and social problems that we are still battling to address today. It has unleashed a chaotic state. This needs addressing. Religion gave people structure and purpose even if that was madness and stupidity. Freedom from religion has left many people directionless and aimless with only hedonism to fall back on. I’ve nothing against hedonism but ultimately it is vacuous. What is necessary is for the State to provide purpose and impetus before the fanatics of religion rise up to fill that hole. Nature and creativity are good for that.
Without religion there is still plenty to marvel and wonder at. Life can be full and satisfying.
Politicians have so far not been particularly inspiring in this direction. They had better get their act together. The alternative could be religious oppression and back to the scourge of misogynistic conservatism stifling thought and expression – the thought of that is dire.
However the writers, artists, poets, dancers, musicians and other creative folk have been doing a great job in making life worthwhile and filling the hole religion used to occupy. Long may they continue!
An agnostic is someone who has realised that the whole concept of god and religion is utter bollocks but is still psychologically unable to completely overthrow their childhood, and cultural, indoctrination. They still hope against hope that, despite all common sense, there just might be a god.
They are wishful thinkers who want to hedge their bests.
They have got over the fact that Father Christmas, the Tooth Fairy and Pixies do not really exist. They have, despite a residual liking of Tolkien, also accepted that Goblins, Hobbits, Orcs and Dragons are fanciful creations of human imagination.
They none the less are a little open to ghost stories and a yearning for a possible purpose to their life and the comfort of an after-life. They sort of believe that magic might be real. They doubt that there is a heaven and are not prepared to fly planes into buildings, strap on bombs or fight for Jesus, in the hope of waking up in eternal bliss or endless sex with twenty-four virgins, but they are hopeful.
They’re a bit weak and sad really.
Perhaps they’ll make their mind up one day?
This is the search for the Philosopher’s stone that can turn base metal into gold and the hunt for the elixir of life that will give you everlasting life (there’s quite a few politicians and businessmen/women that I hope don’t get their hands on this.).
I’m not sure I’d appreciate everlasting life. Just imagine sitting on the planet when the sun expands into a red giant and envelops us. That might not be too pleasant. I doubt you’d live through even if you had the elixir.
I’m not sure I’d want to be there billions of years in the future when the universe is running down to darkness with just hydrogen and heat dissipated to next to nothing. You’d be left sitting around in the frigid darkness with no ice-cream parlours, gigs, books or cinemas. That’d be boring.
I bet even sex gets tedious after the first billion years.
Now we know about atoms I’m sure at some time we’ll be able to manipulate them to create different elements. It won’t be alchemy. It will be science.
But then science came out of alchemy.
It is another fanciful dream. It even beguiled as good a mind as Newton’s. Just goes to show how gullible we are.
I wouldn’t mind living fit and healthy for a few hundred years. That’d give me time to fit everything in. But that’s it. I think I would have had enough. Science will solve that and give us a span of a few hundred years to look forward to, if the religious nutters don’t wipe us out first.
As for alchemy, well – it is just another red herring in the litany of wishful thinking.
Aleister Crowley was an occultist who also went under the names of Frater Perdurabo and The Great Beast 666. He was the founding father of Thelemite philosophy and at one time was described by the Press as ‘The wickedest man in the world’.
I think Vlad the Impaler, who liked shoving people down on big spikes that stuck up their anus, or Pol Pot, Hitler or even Stalin and Mao, might have something to say about that. Compared to them Crowley was a pussy cat. He merely spouted a lot of mumbo-jumbo and scared the shit out of the religious minded people who do not like other people’s mumbo-jumbo.
Aleister was born in 1875 and rebelled against the current stodgy religious thinking. He was a showman who did a lot of stuff to shock the bourgeoisie but came to see himself as a prophet who was ushering in the new Aeon of Horus. Perhaps it was his drug taking that put them off him? He was a libertine and his motto was ‘Do what thou wilt’. He would have been happier living in the 1960s.
He was largely seen as a promoter of witchcraft and the study of the black arts. Any allusion to the old pagan British and European religions was thought wicked. That’s due to centuries of persecution and terror driven propaganda put out by the prevailing christian church. Aleister was probably attracted to the naughty sacrilegious overtones and the effect it had on the religious believers. It also attracted in a host of nubile acolytes who probably made his days (and nights) quite similar to the muslims view of the after-life. Like Charlie Manson he had a great time.
Aleister loved the power and notoriety it gave him. He may even have deluded himself into believing it. Obviously not everyone gets it right. We are all the product of our time and place.