Religious practitioners of various types tout their religious views as the cure for the common man.
Islam, Judaism, Christianity, Taoism, Buddhism and others all proscribe actions, teachings, incantations, confessions and remedies for making us better human beings, or simply providing a get out of h-e-double-toothpicks free card.
Christians, for example, embrace the concept of Original Sin, Church Father St. Augustine of Hippo first popularized in 397-400 CE in a book entitled Confessions. It is a treatise dripping with descriptions of sinful, nasty thoughts (mostly of a sexual nature), deeds and contemplations that Augustine reasoned angered a “vengeful,” but forgiving, God.
The traditional, Abrahamic religions of Islam and Judaism require appeasing a “jealous” god, and heap mighty burdens of guilt on their faithful subjects. All forms of prostrating, denying pleasures, obeying commands and sacrificing are required to keep their impetuous deity at bay.
The Eastern religions bypass the guilt trip in favor of impossible goals of self-restraint and discipline as the price of admission to heavenly pleasures and oneness with his/her Holinesses. Those achieving the highest levels obnoxiously lord it over the rest of humanity.
Of course, those who adhere to their deity’s demands religiously are rewarded with Brownie Points by the Almighty that enable them to treat the rest of humanity with scorn, vitriol and, in some cases, violent punishment, retribution and even death (in the name of _____________).
This has caused a world of suffering for the poor slobs who either refuse to, or simply cannot believe, convert, genuflect, grovel or who willfully ignore the preaching and instruction of their gods’ words, predictions, proclamations, condemnations or commandments.
Even more violence and condemnation are meted out to those who act in ways that diverge from the holy proscriptions divined from the heavens or written in THE BOOK. Homosexuals, for example, are the favorite target of almost every patriarchal, ecclesiastical group on the planet.
It took mankind well into the second millennium of the Common Era before he realized that the holy words and proclamations of all the gods were just collected tales and moralistic stories written by lonely scribes who contemplated the wonders of the universe, and were looking for raison d’êtres. Later generations considered these contemplations, and turned them into dogma. Much, much later, these dogmas became doctrine, and religion was born. But by then, it was too late, because entire INSTITUTIONS were built around the deities – most particularly around the BIG THREE.
The Revolutionaries of 18th century France and America sought to relinquish themselves from the bond of religious dogma that dominated and restricted enlightened citizens. They forged secular societies that relegated religion to the privacy of individual confessions, while maintaining their traditions and philosophies, but took them out of the public square. Secularization brought an end to the Holy Wars of previous generations.
Every now and then, these old dogmas resurrect to condemn human behavior that doesn’t conform to the ways of old, or when encountering “The Others” who are different from “Those Whom the Deity Loves.”
Worse, “reformers” determine that we must get back to the purity of the original ways, thus obliterating thousands of years of progress.
The abuse of religion is its most heinous when it seeks to demonize those who are outside of the chosen faith. Radical fundamentalism is a dangerous and toxic brew that threatens the social order.
Toward that end, I propose the following Hippocratic Oath for Religious Practitioners:
I swear to fulfill, to the best of my ability and judgment, this Covenant: …
I will respect the hard-won scientific and cultural gains of our common society, and I will subsume such knowledge into my religious beliefs, and adjust my dogmas accordingly.
I will apply, for the benefit of humanity, all measures which are required to live happily among mankind, avoiding those twin traps of fundamentalism and dogmatism.
I will remember that there is art to religion, and that warmth, sympathy, and understanding may outweigh the preacher’s wrath or the zealot’s fervor.
I will not be ashamed to say “I know not,” nor will I fail to call on the collected wisdom of humanity and other faith-groups when the tenets of my own are wanting.
I will respect the privacy of my neighbors, for their problems are not disclosed to me that the world may know. Most especially must I tread with care in matters of life and death. Above all, I must not play at G-d.
I will remember that when I offer counsel, I do not counsel a demon possessed, or moral inferior, but a suffering human being, whose illness or issue may affect the person’s family and his or her personal stability. My responsibility includes these related problems, if I am to care adequately for those within and outside of my faith.
I will prevent ignorance whenever I can, for prevention is preferable to cure.
I will remember that I remain a member of society, with special obligations to all my fellow human beings, those sound of mind and body, as well as the infirm.
If I do not violate this oath, may I enjoy life, love of family and friends, and my faith; respected while I live and remembered with affection thereafter. May I always act to preserve the finest traditions of my religion and may I long experience the joy of helping those who seek my help without judgment or condemnation.