I may be just one of a growing number of people who choose to claim a secular stance when it comes to religion. However, it appears that, despite a rejection of religious doctrines, religious oppression has already shaped many of the guidelines for how we see and relate to the world. Christian hegemony may have created a “business as usual” feel that makes it difficult to decipher all the ways that our cultural biases could have stemmed from the influence of thousands of years of religious indoctrination. While people may be waking up to the realization that, as far as the economy is concerned, we are operating on a playing field with rules that were established in an exploitative fashion; it's much more difficult to quantify the impact that religious oppression has had on shaping our preconceived biases in thought and action. By accepting certain constructs of reality, our worldview may be limited by the beliefs and dogmas that support the dominant culture and leave us with a reactionary strategy that stifles our attempts to dismantle the intersecting forms of oppression that plague our world. Perhaps this is what the philosopher William James meant when he said, "A great many people think they are thinking when they are merely rearranging their prejudices."
Our language allows us to use metaphors as tools of perception to see the world in one form or another. However, it becomes problematic when our metaphors and models, our words, are consistently accepted as if they are equal to some kind of an objective reality. As the founder of general semantics, Alfred Korzybski, has explained that we are constantly confusing the “map” with the “territory”. While the author Robert Anton Wilson used the phrase, “all that is is metaphor” when making the connections about how language makes up our subjective world, it appears that if there “is” anything, there is consciousness. It's hard to deny that something is going on, certainly something is being experienced. While science has provided us with a useful and particular way of understanding the natural world, it seems necessary that it stays focused on only the measurable aspects of how consciousness is being experienced. Actually, a scientific mindset may be conducive to opening one's mind up to an appreciation of the experiences that are not quantified, but, despite this possibility, I'm afraid that religion's particular influence on our language habits has limited the way that we imagine and connect to the world.
Religion appears to have hijacked concepts and invented terms such as “spirituality”, which, despite its nonsensical nature, seems to play a role in one's experience of reality. By establishing its models of spirituality, religion has placed limitations on the ways that we can discuss what it means to be alive. Christian monotheism seems to have shrunken the dimensions of our awareness and ended the glorification of nature and planet as something that is inseparable from the human condition. In this sense, or “nonsense”, religion may have established an implicitly “anti-spiritual” world view from which to operate; as Sartre stated, “nature is mute.” By separating “spirit” from earth and flesh, we become alienated from nature and continue to be complacent with the acceptance of incomplete models that tend to drive us towards a culture of fear that is solidified with ethnocentric perspectives. This isolation from the natural world and each other can force us to seek ways to transcend the feeling of alienation by finding ways to expand on how we experience consciousness. However, we seem to have fallen into a kind of cultural psychosis that is, as author, Graham Hancock, stated, “obsessed with ego, money, and the sugar/alcohol drug complex.” It appears that our inability to escape our fears and experience consciousness as that which is intrinsically selfless, has lead to a distinctive culture and way of life that is dominated by a belief in commodity consumption as the source of well-being, and it has given rise to the perpetual destruction of our planet.
Now, we seem to have found ourselves in a condition of extraordinary circumstances. The rate of information and technological growth appears to be exponentially increasing. Technology may allow us to create models that are more compatible with reality; models that that do not try to limit our range of experience through linear pathways or “either-or” dualities. We are finding ourselves in a position where we are only limited by the scope of our imagination and the need for clarity and awareness is greater than ever. If we are ever going to expand our consciousness, we need to, first, expose the ways that it has been conditioned. Science can be used as a source of inquiry that utilizes questions as its principle intellectual instruments. As we understand more about the world, our models may continue to grow and show us patterns and connections that liberate ourselves from the constrictive reality that appears to disenfranchise the human condition. However, without a critical lens, we may be even more susceptible to accepting new models that may be designed to create further limitations on our scope of reality. We may need to alter the way we think about educating future generations, and decide exactly what kind of public we want to create. By providing people an equal opportunity to expand on their wonders and experience new perspectives, we might begin to establish a platform where equality and true communication can take place. Perhaps we can empower each other by providing tools to hack into our current modes of perception by exposing the habits of thought and eliminating the filters that remove us from reality. The world may not be the way we see it, but our survival and well-being will ultimately depend on how we, as a collective, choose to experience it.
Dan Greene has a Bachelor of Science in biology and a minor in chemistry from the State University of New York at Plattsburgh. He is currently working for a Master of Science for Teachers degree at the same institution.