The Guts To Leave The Temple

“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.


3 thoughts on “The Guts To Leave The Temple

  1. Karen’s opinions are uneducated.

    I understand the concept she is weaving but there is no one over the age of 10 who believes in Santa Claus…but through out generations people have testified to the hand of God and people of all ages have experienced God in ways they have and haven’t tried to escribe.

    The same can not be said about Santa Clause.

    –RC of

  2. I think her point in that quote on Santa/God is strong. So many people don’t ever get away from that concept of God being this guy up in the sky who is keeping tabs on our actions in order to judge us in the end. So many people fail to achieve a real spiritual experience while they’re alive because they’re so worried about what “the boss” will say when they die.

  3. Tommy is actually one of my favorite movies, and that’sthe way I have always interpreted this. In the film (i’ve never seen it on stage), Tommy is painted as sort of a “christ” figure, though I’ll spoil it and say that he doesn’t die in the end, but the movie is really a brilliant critique of messiah figures, and religon in general, from the “church” led by Eric Clapton, to Tommy’s own “holiday camp.”

    I think that is really a pretty insightful quote about santa claus and god, and I certainly think there is some truth to that. I myself was raised until my early teens in a churchgoing family, though I hesitate to call them truly religious. At some point the idea of a “god” in the way that it is painted in Judeo-Christian religion just began to ring false. Even after years of living as an athiest though, the god-construct that was taught to me at an early age still nags at me. It’s pretty terrible really when one gives it some thought to raise children in such an environment, where a belief n concepts like a judging god and hell serve no purpose but to stagnate and keep people from reaching beyond those “comfortable” boundaries.

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