Religion has caused a lot of unnecessary pain to mankind, despite whatever truth and good intentions their followers may hold. Restrictive, false and dangerous religious beliefs abound throughout the world, and dominate the mainstream teachings of organized religion.
Some of these dangerous religious beliefs fool you into thinking you can out-source your morality, ethics or spirituality to some external organization. Others prevent you from taking full responsibility for yourself and your actions, thus hindering you from stepping fully into your power. Others goad you into a false sense of security where there is none. All of them limit you and the deeper realization of Who You Are, and all of them stem from the single fundamental delusion of separateness, i.e. that we are discrete and separate beings, that some people are better than others and that there is somewhere better you need to get to. It is an idea based on separateness leads to judgment and exclusion, and can never be as true and powerful as one based on connectedness.
You may think that beliefs are harmless. They can be, but they can also have serious ramifications. Remember Voltaire’s quote: “those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.” If you can convince people to follow you or your group, and that they will get rewarded in some way by doing this (e.g. get to Heaven, get fame, money, sex, knowledge or power, receive safety and security, etc.), you are well on your way to getting them to commit acts of unconsciousness.
Next comes tests of loyalty: will they lie for you? Will they cover up for you? Will they cheat for you? Will they die or kill for you? Beliefs can have horrible consequences. If you can’t tell truth from lies, you pave the way for corrupt people to seize power and manipulate you with deceptive propaganda. How many people have murdered in the name of God, or committed heinous crimes in the name of religion, all stemming from their dangerous religious beliefs?
All of the following common religious beliefs are disempowering obstacles in the way of true freedom.
Dangerous Religious Beliefs #1: God is on My Side
So many people get stumped on this one, and all sorts of horrendous division, judgement, condemnation, war and bloodshed has occurred over it. It takes on various forms: god is on my side (not yours); my god is better than your god; my god is the correct god (not yours); god will favor and reward me (not you), etc.
Let’s reduce it to the basics. What is God? For most people, it’s their idea of the infinite being, the creator of all. Another way of saying this is that God = All That Is. If we literally insert the phrase “All That Is” into sentences that contain “God”, look at the results we get:
God is on my side => All That Is is on my side
How exactly can All That Is be on your side? How can All That Is have any sides? If it did have sides, how could it not be on all sides at the same time? After all, it includes everything.
My god is better than your god => My All That Is is better than your All That Is
How can you have my or your All That Is? How can you possess All That Is? It’s everything, so it belongs equally to everyone, if it is even able to be possessed. Now, you may have an idea of All That Is, which is your idea to hold onto, but that’s just your idea. It’s your perception or understanding of All That Is. It is not All That Is itself. So again, by inserting All That Is, we reduce the sentence to meaninglessness (reductio ad absurdum as they used to say in Latin).
My god is the correct god => My All That Is is the correct All That Is
Like the one above, this becomes nonsensical. How can there be a correct or right All That Is? All That Is is simply All That Is. It just is. It’s neither correct nor incorrect; it’s all of it.
God will favor and reward me => All That Is will favor and reward me
More exclusiveness. I’m “in” and you’re “out”. I’m part of the “in” club, and you are not. This is a powerful delusion and one of the most dangerous religious beliefs. It underpins many of the following religious beliefs.
Dangerous Religious Beliefs #2: My Religion is the Only True and Correct Religion
The very word “religion” is derived from the Latin verb religare, meaning “to bind”. Thus, etymologically, religion describes the binding of oneself with God. Some people such as the founder of the Sufi tradition in the West, Hazrat Inayat Khan, have suggested that each and every human is a religion unto themselves, because of their unique and individualized relationship with the Infinite. (Sufism, by the way, is the Path of the Open Heart, and is inclusively open to anyone of any religion, and is not, as widely believed, a subset of Islam.) There cannot be one true religion, because religion itself is a belief system, a lens, a set of perceptions about what Life and God is. Most people adopt the religion they are born into through coincidence of birth. Life is about remembering and experiencing our own connection with the Infinite, not mentally adopting someone else’s belief system.
Dangerous Religious Beliefs #3: Non-Believers or Infidels are “Evil”
Psychologically speaking, humans want to belong and to feel accepted. This primal need is exploited by many religions, and twisted into a compulsion to make themselves right and everyone else wrong. If you’re in the club, and your club is the true and correct one, then by definition, everyone else must be wrong – and sometimes evil too. The non-believer or heretic is not only an outsider, but also someone who doesn’t deserve full moral treatment, and often can be seen as less than human. History has shown us that just by thinking differently and independently, you frequently run the risk of being condemned and killed for your trouble.
There are a plethora of examples of how people outside a certain religion are considered evil. Look at the dreaded Inquisition whose goal was to suppress heresy at any cost. More recently, documents have shown how British 3 year olds were told that non-Jews are “evil” in a Kindergarten worksheet handed out at ultra-Orthodox Jewish schools in north London. In the Torah, slaves taken from among outsiders don’t merit the same protections as Hebrew slaves. Islam has the concept of “dhimmitude” which is a set of rules to deal with non-Muslims (monotheists are more highly regarded than polytheists). You can check out these Bible quotes to see what Christianity thinks of non-believers. In the end, it is often simply too much for religions to tolerate the free-thinking non-believer, since he or she threatens the illusion and shows that people can be completely free, happy, kind and content outside of religion.
Dangerous Religious Beliefs #4: We Are The Chosen People
The idea that “God” has a favorite set of “Chosen People” is another one of these silly yet extremely divisive and dangerous ideas that you find in numerous religions. It is a central tenet of Judaism that Jews are God’s chosen people. The Bible states that Christians are the chosen ones. In the faith of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, there are exactly 144,000 places reserved in Heaven for the chosen people. Calvinism contains the concept of predestination which teaches that a certain special few (God’s elect) are to receive eternal life and salvation by grace, while the rest get eternal damnation for all their sins. In monotheistic religion in general, you are condemned to Hell, eternal damnation or some other kind of imaginary Doom for making the wrong decision in this life for not “believing” in the “official” way it is – according to the supposedly enlightened leaders of those organized religions.
Dangerous Religious Beliefs #5: Jesus, Mohammad and Other Prophets Were a Special Kind of Human that You Can Never Be
Many of the world’s main religions love to teach that there is something special or magical about their prophet, as opposed to other religions, spiritual paths and traditions, and also as opposed to YOU! This is another example showing that most organized religion is based on separation, not connectedness. Jesus is the ONLY son of God – you are not. The false notion is that all the prophets are not leaders you can emulate, but rather godly beings who you need to put on a pedestal and worship. You can never be as good as they were, because you’re just a dirty little sinner. All this, of course, is in direct contradiction to what Jesus actually said, if we are to believe the Gospel of John 14:12:
“I tell you the truth, anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works, because I am going to be with the Father.”
Greater works than Jesus – I wonder how the Christian censors let that one through!
Dangerous Religious Beliefs #6: Sacrifice the Now for a Better Future
Many religions achieve power and popularity through psychological trickery. One of the most effective ways to control people is to promise them a better future – especially if that future is an afterlife about which it is difficult to prove anything. By making elaborate and grandiose promises of Heaven-like afterlives – whether they be full of angels, milk and honey, or hundreds of virgins – you can fool people into accepting horrendous conditions in their current lives. You can also stifle people’s motivation to do anything constructive about their situation now. After all, if this life is nothing compared to the pending glorious afterlife, why bother?
Of course, the tendency to deny the (real) now and live in the (imagined and not yet real) future is ego-driven dysfunction and insanity. Eckhart Tolle in The Power of Now sums it up best:
“(The ego) constantly projects itself into the future to ensure its continued survival and to seek some kind of release or fulfillment there. It says: “One day, when this, that, or the other happens, I am going to be okay, happy, at peace.” Even when the ego seems to be concerned with the present, it is not the present that it sees: It misperceives it completely because it looks at it through the eyes of the past. Or it reduces the present to a means to an end, an end that always lies in the mind-projected future. Observe your mind and you’ll see that this is how it works.The present moment holds the key to liberation.”
There is a place in life for thoughtful planning and long-term thinking, however this is not the issue here. The problem is compulsive thinking and too much attention focused on the past and future, rather than an embracing of the now and the present moment – which is all you truly have anyway.
Dangerous Religious Beliefs #7: Obey Us or Go to Hell
Invented afterlife notions provide further fodder for the cunning to exploit the foolish. Bribing people with eternal life works well, but conversely, you can also blackmail people with eternal damnation. Christianity, Islam, Buddhism and others have all concocted ideas of a fire-and-brimstone Hell-like afterlife, replete with pain, never-ending torture and demons. AsValerie Tarico writes:
“Most Buddhists see hell as a metaphor, a journey into the evil inside the self, but the descriptions of torturing monsters and levels of hell can be quite explicit. Likewise, many Muslims and Christians hasten to assure that it is a real place, full of fire and the anguish of non-believers. Some Christians have gone so far as to insist that the screams of the damned can be heard from the center of the Earth or that observing their anguish from afar will be one of the pleasures of paradise.”
Dangerous Religious Beliefs #8: The Indulgence System (Paying for the Right to Do Evil)
Organized religions such as Catholicism championed an ingenious business model during the Middle Ages, which still persists in various forms to this day. It was the Indulgence System. Indulgences were the right to do evil. If you have the say over what God allows or not, why not make some money off it? As the website Grand Design Exposed states:
“Apparently, the Indulgence System had been a Church tradition since Pope Leo III had begun granting them in the year 800, payable in the money coined by Pope Adrian I in 780 … Indulgences were floated on the Church’s credibility, rather like government bonds are issued on the credibility of states today. In 1491, for example, Innocent VII granted the 20-year Butterbriefe indulgence, by which Germans could pay 1/20th of a guilder for the annual privilege of eating dairy products even while meriting from fasting. The proceeds of the Butterbriefe went to build a bridge at Torgau. Rome’s indulgence economy was as extensive as America’s income tax system today. And it was every bit as fueled by the people’s trembling compliance, voluntarily, to a presumption of liability.”
In 1515 Pope Leo X (whose father happened to be the great Florentine banker Lorenzo de’Medici, of the Venetian Black Nobility) issued a Bull of Indulgence, which authorized a whole array of indulgences:
“(Leo) authoriz(ed) letters of safe conduct to Paradise and pardons for every evil imaginable, from a 25-cent purgatory release (the dead left purgatory the instant one’s coins hit the bottom of the indulgence-salesman’s bucket) to a license so potent that it would excuse someone who had raped the Virgin Mary. For the payment of four ducats, one could be forgiven for murdering one’s father. Sorcery was pardoned for 6 ducats. For robbing a church, the law could be relaxed for only 9 ducats. Sodomy was pardoned for 12 ducats. Half the revenues from Leo’s indulgence went to a fund for the building of St. Peter’s Cathedral, and the other half to paying 40% interest rates on bank loans subsidizing the magnificent works of art and architecture with which His Holiness was establishing Rome as the cultural capital of the Renaissance.”
What a profitable racket! It’s business as usual for the Vatican, who still use the Indulgence System to manipulate people, such as this absurd attempt to get Pope Francis more Twitter followers …
Dangerous Religious Beliefs #9: Christ Died to Pay for Our Sins
This one is obviously from Christianity, but you may find parallels in other religious doctrines. This one requires a serious perversion of reasonable and clear thinking. Christian doctrine declares something like this:
“We celebrate Christ’s death, because it is only through his death and atoning sacrifice that we are reconciled to God and have forgiveness of sin. Every time we partake of the communion of the bread and cup, we are celebrating the death that purchased our redemption.”
This is utter nonsense – and I mean that literally. It is non-sense. It is completely non-sensical. It requires a suspension of ordinary logic and the adoption of a twisted way of thinking to even try to turn this idea into something resembling a cohesive notion.
First of all, why focus on the bloody and gruesome death of Jesus, when the point of his life was his ability to love unconditionally? This is twisted perversion by turning black into white, reminiscent of Satanism, as covered in the article Are Parts of Organized Religion Satanic?
Secondly, how can a person dying 2000 years ago “pay” for our “sins”? Your own actions, thoughts, feelings and state of being determine your outcome – period. Only you can “redeem” yourself – by forgiving yourself, apologizing to another, and changing your behavior going forward. What Jesus did or didn’t do a long time ago can’t absolve you from the fundamental truth that you are the creator of your own life and destiny. There is nothing to “pay” for, because a real God of Love doesn’t require humans to prostrate down before it and sacrifice themselves.
The word “sin”, by the way, can be better translated as “to miss the mark” or to err, which strips it of all its moral guilt-laden overtones the Catholic Church loves to use on its followers. If you merely make a mistake or error, which every single human does all the time, depending on whom it affected and how it affected them, there may not be anything to “pay” at all for it.
Dangerous Religious Beliefs #10: Holy Wars
Many of history’s wars and genocides have been fueled by dangerous religious beliefs, including the Christian crusades of the Middle Ages and the many bloody battles recounted in the texts of the Koran and Torah. Even within religious sects there can be a holy war, as can be seen with the constant in-fighting between Sunni and Shia Muslims. Sadly, today we have still not as a species risen above the delusion that war and mass murder can be holy, noble, pious and “the will of God” … although the will of God always seems to be interpreted for us by learned religious scholars and leaders whose word is untouchable. The recent rise of ISIS shows that religion can still be used by some to justify heinous crimes such as large-scale theft (of oil and land), rape and murder.
Conclusion: Religion is Beset with Madness
These 10 dangerous religious beliefs just go to show that most organized religion has long been infected with madness and insanity. The history of religion shows that, overall, it is a highly distorted lens through which to see the world, whatever good it may bring to individual cases. Ultimately, humanity is entering a new era of consciousness where religion and priestly middlemen are no longer necessary. If religion is to survive going forward, it needs to drop all its dangerous religious beliefs, rigid doctrine, stale dogma, sense of superiority and outdated notions in a big hurry – before it becomes an antiquated irrelevance.