In Defense of Religion
It’s interesting my junior high school buddy Stuart Vyse has become the go-to-guy for shredding superstitious nonsense, while I’ve become a post-modern shaman investigating magical energies. You can read about an interesting adventure Stuart and I had in 1966 in Urbana, Illinois, in my book Magic, Religion & Cannabis (link below).
Stuart is now a columnist with the prestigious Committee of Skeptical Inquiry (CSI), and his debut column was: “Happiness, Religion, and Status Quo,” based around a study recently conducted by New York University. Stuart’s essay concludes religious people support the status quo, and that alliance provides emotional comfort.
I believe spirituality expresses in all living creatures, and state religion is an attempt to monopolize the telepathic airwaves. There are rational people who believe in science and evolution (and reject the fundamentalist doctrines of religion), but still attend services and show respect for the rituals of their ancestors because it provides a moral code as well as the necessary sense of enchantment that comes with magic. Our sense of ritual is easy to spot during birth, marriage, death and other major life events, and our behavior during these events provides a window on our soul.
There’s no difference between magic, religion and Santa Claus, and, in fact, the Santa Claus myth was invented by a Siberian shaman, who undoubtedly handed out psychedelic mushrooms before performing the myth in front of a campfire. If we didn’t believe in the importance of ritual enchantment, why hoodwink all the kids with the Santa Claus myth? Obviously, we do it because the myth provides an entertaining and powerful experience on Christmas Eve, when kids open presents for the first time believing they were dropped out of the sky by a supernatural being. And we know how powerful that experience is because we all went through it, and when this ritual is recreated for our children, we share that joy again.
Any and all attempts to attack religion will create martyrs, steel the minds of the believers, and strengthen the resolve of the congregations to keep their rituals intact because they are a lifeline to the ancestors. At the same time, it’s impossible to ignore the fact that religion has become the biggest problem, at the root of almost every war, despite their individual dogmas professing to honor peace. The only way to defeat the war octopus that dominates our global financial landscape is by entering the world of magic and religion, and helping religions evolve as they must, because nothing ever stays the same forever.
However, religion evolves slowly and the basic tools of ritual remain unchanged in 5,000 years: bell, book and candle. (I consider music and mathematics to be synonymous with the word “bell” in this situation.) In support of these three basic tools, an enlightened post-modern shaman adds a sacramental substance, such as cannabis, peyote or mushrooms, which provides an immediate sense of enchantment so necessary for a successful ceremony.
I’d like to invite Stuart to join me at the National Rainbow Family Gathering this July 1-7 since it will be held in the Northeast this year, and maybe even Vermont, where I will introduce him to a magical forest and invite him sip peyote tea while I engage in some rituals for peace. If nothing else, it might make for an interesting column in CSI.