The Paradox of Dogmatic Religion

3 December 2001 (revised 2006)

Perhaps there is a double irony to the existence and origin of the Church. And from this, even those who have rejected formal religions may find something from which to benefit themselves.

Many people reach a certain point in their lives where they are unable to live within the constraints of the Church. There is a rebellion of some sort, then a rejection of the doctrine. Some are open-minded enough to understand that religion is beneficial to others and may peacefully coexist.

Much of the rebellion stems from the doctrine of control. That is, the formalities beyond the quaint philosophies that seem interesting to those from other backgrounds (e.g., Christians seeking Buddhism).

But maybe there’s more to the back-story than just a moral code issued for the health and well-being of the individual and society at large.

Perhaps there is a discipline to be learned, and rejection is the first step to comprehending that there is more to the world than what we are told.

By rejecting the dogma, we reject the Church’s reality.

Many ex-Catholics see the dogma as binding the masses and the individual.

But maybe the bounds to be broken are not of the dogma but deeper within the self.

Consider the idea of sadomasochism, regardless of whether you personally would participate or not. Those who swear by it claim the heights of ecstasy come from realizing pleasure and pain stem from the same feeling. Plus, there is a fine line between submissive and master in this context. In some ways, the submissive controls the master, just as an effective leader must listen to the followers.

In another extreme example, the power is observed by the only rebellion a victim has over an attacker: by rendering an utter lack of emotion in response, the victim denies the attacker the very prize and purpose of the act.

Perhaps dogmatic religions put us into this relationship with ourselves and the world– our reality even.

It might work like this. We are seemingly oppressed by religion. We thrash and struggle. Some rebel and attempt to escape. But even fleeing, we lose. Replacing one religion with another only stalls for time.

By not struggling yet not giving-in, the slave ultimately controls the master.

But how do we accomplish this?

See religion as a machine, a system. Whatever energy we put into it, it utilizes on us. Specifically, if we put fear into our beliefs, we have reason to fear in life. If we put rebellion into our actions, we face rebellion. “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction,” Newton’s Law.

Back to S/M. If we can make a comparison between religion and S/M, it’s this. The oppression of religion on the self is the master and we are the submissives. The sense that pleasure and pain are the same stems from spiritual growth. When we challenge ourselves, we benefit, we know we benefit, yet so often we resist. Just as the experienced role player will tell you, it takes skill and talent to give yourself wholly into the pain to find pleasure. So too, with spiritual growth.

By learning to thrive on spiritual growth– as opposed to financial well-being or maintaining the status quo or resisting all things religious– the gains will be greater, perhaps even ecstatic.

Perhaps those who originated dogmatic religions understood this. Perhaps they created the structure of dogma knowing that some would accept it at face value. This would perpetuate the superstructure through conveyance of religion as an idea.

This might explain why there are so many different religions yet each seems fundamentally opposed to accepting the others. Most religious practices– and hence the religions themselves– preach conversion and that theirs is the one true faith.

But when we see that religion as a concept is merely the carrier of subtext, the deeper message becomes all the more significant. And for the rebels who exiled themselves from formal religions, this is the stuff they dream of– yet completely missed.

And that hidden message, I propose, is to find value through identifying ourselves with the pain and discomfort which leads to growth.

After all, for those who endured so much agony because of religion, you are no stranger to discomfort, self-torture on various levels and what seems like oppression.

Understand that a situation and circumstance offers a pathway to maturing your soul, and the obstacles become as much part of the fun as the track-and-field star takes to the hurdles.

So then, dogmatic religion becomes the training by which we unknowingly get into shape. For some, it’s from being indoctrinated within a particular religion. For others, it’s dealing with the insanity caused by other people’s belief. But at the core, it’s the established formal religions that contribute to our preparation.

But prepare for what exactly?–that’s left as an exercise for the reader, of course.

My recommendation is to begin the next stage of your destiny by embracing paradox. Learn to live with it. More– comprehend how awareness would be pointless without paradox.

Copyright © 2001, 2006 Daniel Joseph Pezely
May be licensed via Creative Commons Attribution.