The Case for a New Religion, Part II


COMATOSE BUT NOT DEAD

With all due respect to my atheist friends, in their eagerness to count religion out, they are missing the point.

Religion is very much with us today.  One can hardly open a newspaper without coming across some manifestation of it one way or another.  But one need not even have to go that much trouble.  An honest conversation with his mirror image would do.  Over hundreds of thousands of years, religion has become engrained in our psyche and no intellectual protestation can banish it.  I challenge religious skeptics to visit a cathedral, or listen to an oratorio or attend a religious ceremony without experiencing some mystic rumblings deep within themselves.  And even if they have become so desensitized to spiritual stimuli that they feel no response to these sensations, I would urge that they take themselves to their nearest neighborhood neurologist who could, with a bit of drilling, insert a few wires into their heads and prove that, like everyone else on earth, they possessed a site in their brains dedicated to religious impulses.  In short, consciously on unconsciously, we are all to some extent religious whether we will it or no.  We simply can’t wash religion out of our hair.  Nor need my atheist friends agonize over their plight.  It is, as I will try to show in the following text, a good thing.

As history records and present events confirm, religion is not only ubiquitous, it can induce incredibly powerful reactions. Think of religious rituals in which Muslim adherents deliberately slash their backs and in which Malaysian zealots tote heavy loads uphill that are secured to their bodies with hooks driven into their skins.  Or consider the deprivations, persecutions, sacrifices, ridicule, poverty, captivity, torture, and even death itself people subject themselves to out of devotion to one religious cause or another. Yes, we can tut-tut from the sidelines and look down our noses on such acts as misguided fanaticism. We can dismiss them as aberrant embarrassments to the human race and smugly remind ourselves of our own rationality.  But there is nothing rational about failing to take into account what such acts are screaming at us.  Indeed, intentionally ignoring facts that are staring us in the face borders on criminal stupidity.  Zealotry, along with other such compelling evidence on all sides, is proof of religion’s potency–potency that can be transmuted into the strongest redemptory force known to man—potency that practically demands that it be put to work!

LIGHT AT THE END OF THE TUNNEL

Religion’s tenacious hold on the patently indefensible holy books forces it to exhaust its energy and resources in unproductive, self-preservation measures on a wide front—measures so commonplace we scarcely give them a second thought despite the huge cost in their expenditure.  Contrast these attempts to hold together religion’s crumbling dogmas with the science’s effortless survival.  What it takes to keep the Bible afloat, for example, versus the serene life and times of say an innocuous textbook on trigonometry.  Does anyone feel obliged to attend weekly sermons attesting to its validity?  Have costly edifices been erected as proof of its substance?  Are thrice daily pledges of allegiance to its author required? Is the reader asked to contribute to its promulgation among trig-adverse heathens? Are there learned tribu­nals arguing the merits of its various interpretations? conflicts?  No?  Why not?

However flippant these conjectures may sound, the point is that scientifi­c truth stands on its own.  It does not need external life support.   What if there were a religion with the same credentials?  Imagine religion being given a new life and then rising from the floor, bursting its chains and ridding itself of its archaic encumbrances.  Religion, hand-in-hand with trigonometry standing on its own two feet?  Religion resuming its historical role as one of mankind’s vital survival mechanisms.  A giant striding forth to set the world aright.

UTOPIANS TO THE RESCUE

In my book about a utopian planet, “Homage to Luxenben,” the good citizens of that place, aware of their own fallibilities, wisely decided that they needed a religion to keep in check their emotional impulses that were scarcely better than our own.  Not being bound by precedent, they were free to base their new religion on any system they chose.  Looking over their shoulders at earth’s disarray, they recognized, however, that this apparent latitude carried with it a danger that could wreck their entire enterprise.  Were they to select a faith based on arbitrary assumptions, it was bound to be challenged, sooner or later, by a competitive arbitrary system and unwanted conflict would arise.

To gain lasting, universal acceptance, they realized they needed to structure their faith on the bedrock of an indisputable truism.  After casting about for ideas they settled on the most fundamental precept they could think of; the fact that they were a species of animal and, as such, lived within nature’s dominion and were subservient to her laws.

For some, this humble statement seemed no more than an unpromising dead end, but its supporters pointed out that much could be securely built upon it and thus won the day.

The Utopians’ next step was to name their new religion.  Being of a scientific bent, they were well aware of how big a part feedback played in all of nature’s systems and thus was necessarily destined to play a major role in their lives as well.  To solemnize this obligation, they chose “Cartism” to evoke the image of an ancient wooden cart, representing their civilization, creaking its way down the road of time.  As they rolled along, the cartwheels were pictured as gathering information from the road and feeding back that information to the planet’s organizations being carried on the cart’s bed.  Once the organizations made adjustments appropriate to the received data, the changes would then be taken by the wheels back down to the road for testing after which the never-ending cycle of improvements would repeat.

When the Utopians undertook the task of defining the provisions of Cartism, they, of course, turned to nature for guidance.  Again wary of allowing arbitrary prejudice to enter into their decision, they adopted the only injunction of nature they had complete confidence in; the one commandment that she addressed to all her life forms: “Thou Shalt Survive.”  All that remained was to implement that injunction.  So it was that the Utopians created twelve behavioral sub-commandments to which every Cartist was expected to subscribe.

THE CARTIST’S TWELVE SUB-COMMANDMENTS

The first four sub-commandments come straight from the horse’s mouth as it were—that is to say behaviors that can be dependably inferred from nature’s all-encompassing demand:

ONE: THOU SHALT PROMOTE THE EVOLUTION OF YOUR SPECIES

Nature expects every member of a species to help better its condition.  Cartists are therefore expected to engage in constructive work, to instruct the young, to conserve resources, and to assist the needy.  By the same token, they shall refrain from counter-productive, anti-evolutionary activities such as performing military service, criminal behavior, and polluting the environment.

Despite the prohibitions contained in this sub-commandment, there will always be those who sin against it: autocratic leaders, murderers, thieves, rapists, thugs, and other assorted miscreants among us.  It shall be the duty of Cartists to actively support civil law and the police forces established to enforce them.

 TWO: THOU SHALT LIVE IN A HEALTHFUL MANNER

The robustness of the community depends of the health of its individual citizens.  Within their physical limitations, Cartists, as a matter of religious obligation, are required to adhere to wellness practices such as eating a healthful diet, engaging in regular exercise, controlling their weight, and abstaining from harmful substances.

THREE: THOU SHALT LIVE WITHIN THY MEANS

Cartists are to emulate nature’s determination to accomplish her purposes in the most efficient manner possible—i.e., they are to live frugally, invent ways to economize, make provision for the future, and avoid debt.

FOUR: THOU SHALT REPRODUCE INTELLIGENTLY

It is self-evident that for a species to survive, its reproductive strategy must be efficacious.  Cartist couples must have the means to care for their intended offspring, to obtain professional prenatal care, and to be attentive to their children’s needs.  Spawning overlarge families and producing children out of wedlock are expressly prohibited.

Cartism has adapted four of the following sub-commandments from those customs that, having proven their worth over millennia of prehistory, were encapsulated into Judeo-Christian tradition (an exception offered without apology to the previous disparagement of ancient religious texts.  A couple of pages, however credible, amid thousands of discreditable ones, cannot I’m afraid redeem the rest.)

FIVE: DO ONTO OTHERS WHAT YOU WOULD HAVE THEM DO ONTO YOU

Success for humanity as a whole, and ultimately for each individual member, depends upon its cohesion and social harmony.  Cartists are therefore instructed to treat fellow Cartists with all the consideration they would have given, in past times, to members of their own clan including : trustworthiness, friendliness, coopera­tion, reciprocity, enforced equality, and altruism, tact, integrity,  mutual assistance, nonviolence, respect, generosity, humility, fairness, patience, reliability, and self-control.

SIX: CARTISM IS THINE RELIGION.  THOU SHALT HAVE NO OTHER RELIGION BEFORE IT.

Mother Nature is a jealous divinity.  Cartists are proscribed from introducing foreign ideologies that might dilute or distort their true faith.  This injunction is not to be interpreted as a means of instituting a statist culture for Cartism has a self-corrective mechanism within itself.  As in science, its principles, old and new, are always open to informed challenge.  Long held theories can be modified, or even scrapped, in the light of newer information.  Cartism, first and foremost, is a work in progress ever seeking knowledge that will bring it closer to nature’s truths.

SEVEN: THOU SHALT SANCTIFY FAMILY LIFE

The institution of marriage is a naturally-evolved cultural artifact that has proven to be a major contribution to societal health and prosperity.  Cartism thus supports strong family life in which love, respect, and harmony between family members are the hallmarks.  Moreover, strong Cartist families strengthen each of its members.  It follows that family discord is to be considered a violation of the faith.

EIGHT: THOU SHALT NOT BE DISHONEST

Cartism abhors lying.  At the governmental level, it misdirects policy; at the commercial level, it encumbers transactions; and, at the individual level, it destroys relationships.  And, at all levels it exerts a drag on society by requiring more law enforcement, more lawyers, more accountants, more prison guards, and other non-productive workers.  Under Cartist doctrine, deliberate lying is sinful and liars excommunicated.

Thus far Mother Nature has contributed four commandments of her own, our ancestors have contributed four more, but whereas these eight may have sufficed in biblical times, they cannot do so today.  Today our behavior is bound to be controlled, in part or in whole, by the organizations we subscribe to, be they governmental, commercial, and/or social.  It’s true, of course, that civilization could not have advanced without them.  But it is true as well that organizations have plunged us into wars, destitution, famine, plagues, and every other adverse situation that can be imagined.

A religion devoted exclusively to influencing individual behavior leaves a yawning gap in social mores.   What’s the point, after all, of educating a young man to respect the lives of others if he is conscripted into an army that requires him to kill every enemy he can find.  Or sensitizing a young woman to environmental issues, only to see her fall into the employ of a polluter.  In short, the attainment of a truly harmonious society is possible only if is governed by a single underlying religion that has the ability to be applied to every form of organization from bridge clubs to multinationals.  Hence the addition of four more sub-commandments to the list.

NINE: ALL ORGANIZATIONS MUST BE SUBJECT TO AN INTERNATIONAL CODE OF JUSTICE

In a Cartist society, military action by marauding armies is, by definition, a violation of Sub-commandment Nine.  Armed force must reside exclusively in the hands of an international police force and armies are forbidden.

TEN: ORGANIZATIONS MUST BE STRUCTURED ORGANICALLY

Among the most important ramifications of this sub-commandment is the requirement to copy nature’s division of animals’ nervous systems into two parts: one devoted to routine, involuntary functions such as governing respiration, blood flow, etc. and the second part left subject to voluntary action.  Cartists believe this administrative arrangement is requisite for good governance in our public and private institutions for it forces the two, nominally independent parts to interact in a separation-of-powers, semi-competitive fashion.  For example, the voluntary part, in a fit of pique, might consider going to war but would be prevented from doing so by warnings from the involuntary side that the war’s demands would exceed the country’s carrying capacity.  Similarly, situations could arise when an involuntary system, on the verge of a breakdown, would be forced to call on the voluntary side for help.

ELEVEN: ORGANIZATIONS MUST BE GOVERNED BY FEEDBACK MECHANISMS

Since all organizational planning is based on assumptions regarding future conditions and since these conditions can never be fully ascertained, the best-intentioned, best informed decisions are often wrong and the poorly-motivated, least-informed decisions are almost invariably wrong.  Hence all important decisions in both the public and private sectors must be backstopped by feedback mechanisms that note the discrepancies between the forecast and actual results and take appropriate action to bring the two into line.

For example, lawmakers must be enjoined to accompany each new piece of legislation with a vig­orous testing mechanism designed to expand the law’s scope if it proved effectual or to automatically shut it down if it did not.

The successful performance of quantitative feedback requires the accurate collection of input information, the free flow of that input, the unbiased comparison of the input with preset parameters, decision-making based on that comparison, the automatic implementation of the decisions once made, and the initiation of a new cycle that repeats the steps taken by its predecessor.

TWELVE: ORGANIZATIONS MUST INTEGRATE THEIR ACTIVITIES WITH NATURAL PROCESSES

There is more to nature than meets the eye.  Her beauty is only skin deep, so to speak.  Beneath it lies a fantastically intricate clockwork system composed, not of perfectly machined gears, but of perfectly integrated cycles.  One function of these cycles is, obviously, the restoration of balance.  Put another way, nature can be thought of as maintaining a double-entry accounting system.  Isaac Newton disclosed one of her typical entries—i.e., that every action produces an equal and opposite reaction—but countless others abound everywhere one looks.  Chemical equations must balance, matter can neither be created nor destroyed, a falling leaf trades its potential energy for a quota of dynamic energy, and so on.

To synchronize our cycles with those of nature, mankind, too, must balance its  input/output ledgers.  For example, before it can spend money on one of its manifold projects, government must take into account the impact of withdrawing the same amount of money from the economy.  The manufacturing industry cannot push its goods into the world without taking into consideration how those goods are to be recycled.  Miners can extract mineral deposits only to the extent new sources are discovered.  Fossil fuel electric power plants cannot inject pollutants into the atmosphere without compensating cleanup initiatives.  In each case, monitoring must be continuous and remedial action automatic.

Once such mechanisms are in place, they can be woven into nature’s web of life and mankind can stand proudly on a par with other animals on nature’s handsomely decorated stage.

THE POST-CARTIST ERA (to be covered in the next issue)

The religious giant arises.  Recruiting new inductees and qualifying them as registered Cartists.  The new religion’s structure and financing. Observance of its sub-commandments.  The formation of Cartist sects.  Inaugurating New Luxenben.  Religious services.

Part 3 of 3

 

 

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