“Very often people hear about God at about the same time as they’re learning about Santa Claus. And their ideas about Santa Claus mature and change in time, but their idea of God remains infantile.”
So says Karen Armstrong, author of The Great Transformation, in a recent Salon interview. She has a pretty interesting perspective on the nature and meaning of religion and how we have gotten to the spiritually starved, ego-driven world we have today. As the author of 20 books on religion and an ex nun who left because she had trouble finding god in the convent, Armstrong provides a refreshing approach to religion and sacred text: read it as myth and poetry.
Simple enough, but religion continues to be controlled by an egotistical crowd of strivers who are clinging to the easy conformity of institutionalized religion. All around us, in the media, on the street, in the bingo halls, the dominance of the church enforces a crippling patriarchy that has lead us to a world filled with violence, war, cruelty, perversion, hunger, and pervasive unhappiness. This stew grows more and more pungent as the religious reading of sacred texts becomes more and more literal. In taking these words as direct proclamations from a humanoid god-man we are limiting our ability to be truly kind to one another. We trip over each other’s interpretations of scripture and fight over things that we have no earthly way of determining because we are too scared to face the world as not us… to leave our ego, our sense of self behind, and contemplate a world without a “me.”
The title of this post is from the song I’m Free by The Who. It comes from the rock opera Tommy in which a messianic deaf, dumb and blind kid suddenly gains his senses and reaches the highest high. As his following builds he is asked by followers how they might attain this highest high for themselves. His response is one of the greatest lines ever written in a rock and roll song:
“I’d tell you what it takes to reach the highest high, but you’d laugh and say nothings that simple. But you’ve been told many times before, messiahs pointed to the door, but no one had the guts to leave the temple.”
That’s what’s needed now… the guts to leave the temple… to stop kissing the rings of popes and start living for each other… for humanity.