In Pursuit of a Greater Good

It is difficult not to get seriously depressed by the kind of news you get today, such as reports about the absolute savagery in the ongoing civil war in Syria by survivors of a deadly attack in Khan Sheikhoun describing chemical bombs being dropped from planes, while directly contradicting the government’s version of events. But then, on occasion, you can find something at the opposite end of the spectrum that will lift your spirit and bolster your faith in people once again because it shows an astonishing degree of enlightenment in thought and action, even so since it was expressed as early as 2000 BC by the ancient Zoroaster faith in a hymn from the Farvardin Yasht:

We worship this earth, we worship those heavens: we worship those good things which stand between the earth and the heavens and that are worthy of sacrifice and prayer, and are to be worshiped by the faithful man. We worship the souls of the wild beasts and the tame. We worship the souls of the holy men and women, born at any time, whose consciences struggle, or will struggle, or have struggled, for the good.

While “worship” or “faithful” or “holy” or “sacrifice” and “prayer” are typical terms as applied by the formalized, totalitarian religions as a means to keep the great unwashed under their thumb,  they can stand perfectly on their own without reference to a 3rd party – an imaginary deity of sorts,  i.e., God – by applying them to the way in which we pursue the truth about ourselves.

That is, we pursue these truths faithfully, for their own sake, and without coercion from anyone, and to the benefit of all mankind. And what we will find is the good inherent in all of us, and it is this truth that is “holy” and should be “worshiped” in the sense that we will put this above everything else that we treasure about life in the world.

By “sacrifice” we might well have to be less selfish than usual on occasion, in order to put the greater good ahead of ourselves. And by “prayer” we need to do nothing more than express the hope and belief in ourselves that we are here for the right reasons, which is to realize the common good in ourselves as we rise to our full potential as human beings.

I can’t claim to have any special insight here, but it seems to me that, first of all, it makes sense to pursue the things that benefit us most as a species, and not look at sacrificing some individuals to the betterment of others as a means to advance the human race as a whole. This has to be a fundamental truth about ourselves, but sadly, the sum of human history to date shows primarily the exploitation and slaughter of the many to benefit the few. And if this proves anything all, it is that the formalized religions have been absolutely no help at all to the betterment of humanity, and in fact can be seen as the instigators – and in many cases the perpetrators – of much of the murder and mayhem that has befallen the many people of this earth for reasons that make no sense at all.

And so, yes, we can get there without religious totalitarianism, or the need to be murdered or murder for them, and especially without the Islamic religion in its most virulent and primitive form,  and which uses its ancient tribal laws – known as Shariah law – in an inhumane and brutal manner in order to keep its adherents in line. Clearly, life has no value there, when it is so easily denigrated or even dispensed with in order to prevent dissent.  I’m referring to caning people in public, hacking off hands and stoning people to death  … Barbaric acts that have no place in a society that values the sanctity of life.  I guess that happens in communities where folks are absolutely not allowed to think for themselves and must accept some ancient doctrines “on faith”, or else ….

Of course, all this coercion in the name of a ‘higher” authority has nothing to do with achieving some mystical purpose or aspiration involving a god, creation or eternity, or whatever else a religion might be about. In the end this is all about the few having the means to control the many in everyday life, and where women and girls are devalued to the level of cattle, to be used and abused at will because it is their duty to comply. How much more morally and ethically backward – or primitive –  can you get?  Clearly, no effort towards the greater good is happening here.