Spiritual Philistinism as Widespread Abuse of Religious Belief

Many people troubled by the dangerous uncertainties of the world we all live in – settle in their religious belief as in a comfortable interior, as in a greenhouse amidst an ice field, or as in a castle encircled by walls. All the troubles instantly retreat outside their belief, as an alien land is outside the embassy of the country the believers belong to – eternity waiting for them after their death with opened shining wings. Earthy life continues with its pressures, worries, traumas, sins, vices and crimes. But our believers living for the sake of their salvation don’t take life too seriously. They know – this world lies in evil, but, thank God, it will not be forever, real life is ahead – above this world.

Wars destroy human flesh. Historical events like Holocaust not only murder and maim the human bodies but torture the human spirit. Nuclear blast is destructiveness on apocalyptic scale. Industrial pollutants make the human and other species physically sick. Artificial life based on survival through work and money and gluttonous consumption of natural resources, artifacts, pleasures and images makes us sick mentally and psychosomatically. But our salvationists are waiting till God’s giant palm will lift them up and take them to a better place. The problem is that this future may be in reality just our past that we blindly project into the future because this makes us feel good.

Indeed, what a nice life it was when in our infancy we could completely rely on the will, love and responsibility of our mothers and fathers. We were free to just live – to be, to exist, to give ourselves to our impulses, enjoy our physical sensations, emotional flows, impressions we store in the crumbs of our memories. It was a time when we felt ourselves in the very center of the world. As soon as we lose the mother’s womb we find cradle and love in our family. As soon as our family (and its shelter and protection) is no longer enough we find a new substitute-womb in our relationships with our beloved ones, our country, our referent group, our political leaders and parties, but first of all – our god and church, synagogue, temple or mosque. Our belief in life after death is one more psychological womb which we verify by the genius of our ability to trust our beliefs.

How nice indeed is the life of those who through their religious belief rely on the will, love and responsibility of their God who knows everything – what was, is and will be, and who also knows that nothing in this world can be changed, that Holocaust, nuclear destruction, Iraq war, financial meltdown of 2008 and premature deaths of medically uninsured people were not preventable, that all this is a part of our collective destiny and of the eternal fallen condition of the world. This their God also “knows” that the maximum of what is possible to do amidst the evil is to preach to the poor how not to steal and how not to become resentful and indignant about the inevitable injustices they suffer in this life. Complacent believers (believing in God to justify their spiritual philistinism with pious complacency) believe that the rich decision-makers (who caused the Holocaust, decided to use nuclear bombs, to go to war without reasons, to torture suspects to force false confessions, to indulge in improper financial practices that created the recent financial collapse, etc.) should not be subjected to any preaching about decent behavior and that they should not be punished for their crimes and misdemeanors. Our salvationists (people who live for the sake of their personal or group salvation), obviously, don’t know that different political systems are not all equally “evil”, that some are more evil than others, that the “whole world” is not embedded in evil to the same degree. For example, there are objective differences between totalitarian and democratic political systems. In democracies it is not only possible to change something in the world, but this is considered a necessary thing to do – democracy encourages you to participate in designing the future, and the very possibility of degradation of democratic regime into a totalitarian one emphasizes the difference between them.

Because political systems are different in their closeness to democratic (humanistic) ideals it is especially tragic when traditional religious dogmas are not able to make this distinction and continue to talk in a geographically generalized manner that comes from the times when we didn’t have the knowledge about the size of the globe and versatility of populations, and when the concept of political system was not available to the human mind. Precocious generality of the pre-scientific human speech relying more on the imaginary metaphors than on verifiable knowledge is partially responsible for the regression of democratic development in the West, reversion of the democratic style of perceiving the reality into crude conservatism that takes the contrast between rich and poor and between the decision-makers on the one hand and conformist followers or blind rebels on the other as a natural condition.

Salvationist hope-hoppers and bellyievers (believers who gluttonously consume pleasant beliefs) are unintentional enemies of democracy. Because of their fixations on being saved from life and death they never developed a real interest toward factual life, the enthusiasm and passion for living and for democracy as a political system that encourages living and education for living. For these people life and participation in creation of civilization is much less important than being delivered to Paradise and Eternal life.