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An essay donated by Susan Humphreys

Goals and Objectives: Some
words of advice for the new Pope

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Shortly a new Pope will be elected, if all goes as expected. I would like to offer him a few words of advice. The advice is also, I think, good advice for the leaders of other “churches”! Though I suspect that neither the new Pope or other church leaders will appreciate (or pay any attention to) the advice offered (in good faith) by an Atheist! 

The new Pope will be in the position of being able to make some major changes in policies of the church in order for the church to put an end to the conflicts between the goals and objectives of the “church” and the goals and objectives of the “religion”. 

What’s the difference some might ask between the “church” and the “religion”? Some will grasp immediately what I am talking about. 

  • The “church” is the political, governmental, organization. All religious groups have a “church”, in this sense. For some it may be very loosely organized. Some such as the Catholic Church are very rigidly and hierarchically structured. Some church groups are independent and some are part of what we might call a confederation, part of a larger group with its own central governing body.
     
  • The “religion” on the other hand is…well it isn’t easy to define. My old high school dictionary just says “a belief in God or Gods.” I would say it is a system of beliefs about the nature of humans, the nature of the universe, the nature of God or Gods and the relationships between the three. 

The goals of “religion” are spiritual (or should be) in nature. The goals of the “church” are tempora; -- concerned with issues of governance (power and finances). Or as Karen Armstrong defines them in her book “The Battle for God, A History of Fundamentalism”, 1 “religion” is about mythos and the “church” is concerned with logos. The failure to recognize the difference between the two (religion and church, mythos and logos) has created the mess the Catholic Church, and many other churches find themselves in today. 

I wonder what the new Pope would say the goals and objectives of the “religion” are?  These I think would be similar for other church groups not just the Catholics. I would think the primary goals would be:

  1. To help people find their connection to God (or whatever it is they seek, Brahmin, the Tao, Peace, Oneness with the Universe).

  2. To help people gain their salvation.  Though I don’t think salvation implies being saved from death. I understand it to have a broader meaning, being saved from the inhibitions that hold us back and keep us from finding whatever it is we seek and keep us from reaching our highest potential as human beings. 

Over the centuries “religion” and “churches” have had many goals--served many purposes:

  • At first I think religions developed just as a way of helping people understand their place in the scheme of things. It helped explain the unexplainable, why the sun rose each morning and what they had to do to insure it kept rising on schedule.  Once science developed many of these early explanations were seen (by many) as myths—simply good stories.  Science serves a temporal purpose. These early myths originally served a spiritual purpose that has been replaced by Science, much to some people’s dismay.
     
  • A second purpose was to help people become better people by helping them learn to control their passions and by providing rules to govern their behavior. All of the world’s religions have such rules. The Ten Commandments are a prime example. This purpose originally I think, served a spiritual purpose, aimed at helping folks control or do away with their Ego’s in order to find the connection to God or whatever it is they were seeking. The problem is that some folks used and designed these rules, to gain and maintain their power and control over the people rather than helping the people gain power and control over their selves. 

  • The third purposes of religion were to help people develop a sense of community, a group to belong to and ways to hold the group together for the benefit of all in the group. Many religions developed stories that told them they were God’s favorites, his chosen ones. Then developed the rules needed to help hold the group together. People are social animals, they need to be part of a group, to feel that they belong. It is because of this that ex-communication and shunning have been such powerful weapons in the arsenal of church leaders. Some of these rules worked well for small groups of people in a limited geographical area of the 1st century. They no longer work for the huge numbers of people spread across the globe with their great diversity of cultures and customs of the 21st century.
     
  • I think the fourth purpose has been to help people find a connection to the spiritual side of their nature—to God or the Gods, to Brahman, to Tao, to Peace, or to the Oneness of the Universe.

This fourth purpose of religion is the purpose that I think has gotten lost when church leaders can’t tell the difference between the goals and objectives of the “church” and the goals and objectives of the “religion”.

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My advice to the Pope? I’d like to suggest that his first order of business should be to call for a new Vatican council to take a long and hard look at the goals and objectives and FAILURES of the “church” and of the “religion”. To identify where the policies (doctrines and dogmas) of one conflict with the goals of the other and to determine what changes the “church” needs to make to keep the “religion” from losing all relevancy in this 21st Century. 

Unlike some Atheists I realize that both “religion” and the “church” can be used for the good of mankind, not just for the detriment of mankind. Many folks need the structure and organization in their lives that a “church” and a “religion” can provide. A few folks don’t. Through strength of character and self-determination, they have risen above the doctrines and dogmas of “church” and “religion” to find their salvation in a higher level of spirituality, what Einstein called a “cosmic religious feeling.” (From his essay “The World As I See It”.) 2

Personally I think the goal of “religion” should be, to help humans rise above their own limitations to reach their full potential as human beings and to help them find whatever it is they seek—God/s, Brahmin, Tao, Peace, Oneness with the Universe. 

The Pope and the leaders of other Churches need to realize that the doctrines and dogmas created for their “church” have gotten in the way of their “religion”. The result has been to drive some people away from both the “church” and the “religion”. In other cases the result has been to bring out the worst in people, encouraging them to be more self-righteous, self-centered, judgmental, hypocritical, intransigient and less loving, caring and compassionate. 

The Catholic Church is at a crossroads. It will be interesting to see which road they choose to take.

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References used

  1. book cover image Karen Armstrong, "The Battle for God, A History of Fundamentalism," Ballantine Books (2001). Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store

  2. book cover image Albert Einstein, "The World as I See It," Philosophical Library, New York, 1949, Pages 24 - 28. Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store Online at: Internet Sacred Text Archive, at: http://www.sacred-texts.com/

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Originally posted: 2013-MAR-06
Latest update: 2013-MAR-06
Author: Susan Humphreys

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