the christ has been part of our lives from the time our ancestors formed groups and small societies. It was a means of explaining the mysteries of nature and life and became a method of regulating some aspects of social order and morality.
Throughout western history since the first century it has been the church that dictated and enforced morality according to its own rules while sometimes violating them. Through power, wealth, and intrigue it dominated societies. It brainwashed the populace into believing that ordained clerics were the only direct conduit to God, the only interpreters of the divine. Even in pre-Christian times this has been the case.
The Maya, Aztecs and other pre-Columbian cultures endured the brutal theology of their priests that demanded the blood sacrifice of thousands of lives to appease their insatiable gods.
In ancient Egypt, priests controlled the society and absorbed much of its wealth. For example, the priests of the monumental temple of Karnak, an architectural marvel, had control over 81,000 slaves, 240,000 head of cattle, 83 ships and exacted tribute from 65 cities and towns. In essence, it owned 7% of the population and 9% of the land.
Likewise, the ancient civilizations of Greece, Persia, Carthage, Rome, China, India had their own versions of god and theocracy. The minds of the citizens of these various nations were corrupted, prejudiced, and socially controlled by the priestly cohorts. Power and wealth were motivators for these minions of the gods just as much as a concern for spirituality.
The spiritual quest has had a far-reaching influence on society. It has caused wars, migrations of people, opened trade routes, sparked industries, revolutionized social orders. It has preserved knowledge and it has suppressed knowledge. It has united peoples and it has divided them. It has been the source of great injustice, terror, and suffering. All in the name and service of a god or gods who may or may not exist.
All influence has not been negative. The positive side of this domination by the religious elite has been the legacy of marvellous architecture and art they inspired and sponsored. Ninety-nine percent of the great monuments from Stonehenge onward have had their origins in religion. The great temples at Luxor, the complexes of Angkor, Hindu goporams, St. Peter’s Basilica, the Parthenon, many of the worlds great paintings and sculpture and literature would not exist had it not been for our obsession with the mystical and the diversion of funds by our religious leaders into projects in its pursuit, praise, glorification and appeasement.
Would we be poorer if the concept of god and the religions it inspired had not existed. Yes.
In spite of its numerous drawbacks, pursuit of the mysteries behind life and the universe has enriched every aspect of our existence. We are creatures who must know who we are, where we came from, and how did all this begin.
In the twenty-first century, science rather than religion is where we turn for answers to these immemorial questions. Perhaps when many of the questions are answered and the complex, interlocking mechanisms which underlie the architecture of our being are revealed, we may see that, after all, there really is a mystical force we can call god. Our error was not in conceiving this force but in the dogmatism and ceremonial flummery with which we concealed it’s true being from ourselves.