Finding Our Religion

Finding Our Religion
Image: Damien Hirst, False Icon (Golden Calf), taxidermy in 18 carat gold and bulletproof glass vitrine, 2008.

Preamble: On God

I have been speaking a lot to the theologian Carmody Grey. She’s asking what I consider to be the most explosive question of our time:

“Why is it that we are the most advanced, knowledgeable and well-educated population in the history of humanity and yet we have utterly failed to stop the locking in of the greatest episode of human suffering and injustice in history – catastrophic climatic and ecological breakdown?”

Camody's Talk

If you are tempted to give shallow answers to this question I would encourage you to ask yourself the question several times until your answers start to make you deeply uncomfortable. Because the real answers to this question are nothing less than a devastating critique of not only our way of life but the very way we look upon our “selves” and the “world”.

I chose the title of this post in opposition to REM’s song “Losing my religion”. These three words sum up everything that is going wrong. We have assumed that religion is a personal matter (“my” religion) – it is not. And we assume it is possible to “lose it”- it is not.

The reason why we have failed to act, Carmody suggests, is that our dominant secular rationalist paradigm is obsessed with the nonsense that people change due to being given information: just giving people more facts like a computer – 30 years of them. In fact (as it were) people only engage and act when they realise their core values are being violated. Facts in themselves mean nothing. They are just numbers. What we need to start talking about is the Sacred.

She suggested another question to me last time we met. “To what do we owe our deepest loyalties?” – a seemingly straightforward enough question but it is packed full of existential dynamite if you find the courage to keep asking yourself this question. In the early days of XR, we had a go-round in a press spokesperson training session. People had to role play their response to the question (no surprise) “why are you disrupting the public”. We had several go rounds. At first, people gave superficial generalised answers. But within ten minutes people were in tears. They got to the bedrock: “it’s because I love my younger sister so much and I can’t bear to see her suffer”.

To what do you owe your deepest loyalty in a time of social breakdown? You too will be in tears once you answer this question truthfully.

The point is this. You cannot rationally or empirically justify your deepest loyalty – loyalties emerge, you sense them, and you are them. They come through you. They are - admit it – non-rational and yet they are all we have. Having them is what keeps us sane. Without them, we fall into the abyss of the destruction of ourselves/the world.

Some people suggest we need to dabble in a bit of “religion” the way bureaucrats want to dabble in a bit of “sustainability”. The days of dabbling are long gone. The Freedom Riders did not dabble. They did not stop in Virginia and get a little ticking off. No, they went into the heart of darkness – the most fascist state in the US, Alabama. They were beaten up, hospitalised, and imprisoned. Everyone hated them. They exploded into the obscenity of racism. That’s how you change history.

To save ourselves, to change history in 2022, we have to explode into the obscenity of materialist individualism – nothing less. People do not even see what this is – just as the white population of the American South did not “see” racism in 1961. You do not see something you swim in and have always swum in.

To get people to see their materialist individualism (this world is the only world, and I am real and the only important thing) you have to declare you are going to do nothing less than to create a new Religion. You have to publicly declare for God, and that those that go against the will of God will go to hell. You have to drive into the dark psychic heart of the putrid “rationalist” hubris that has us standing by while the world burns.

For 200 years or more we have all been subject to the diabolical frame behind the question “does God exist?” To decide to answer this question is by definition to accept a Godless world – a world without enchantment, mystery or awe. This is because the very presumption of this question removes the possibility of anything other than either “existence” or “non-existence”. This rigid binary is the most destructive nonsense in our culture today.

“Does our “self” exist? Yes? So show me where it is – give me the material evidence. Show me the damn thing. You stupid idiot – how can you believe in the self when is it nowhere to be seen? It cannot exist.”

“Does the past, the future exist? Yes? Where is the past – show it I damn you. It is nowhere. It does not exist.”

As soon as you separate the world into “existence” and “non-existence” you are forced to destroy everything of value, everything that gives meaning - the imagination, the emotions, the sensibilities, the sense of looking at ourselves – you destroy life itself. Where the fuck is “life”? No one can “show” you “life”. According to materialism, “in fact”, there is nothing but dead matter - the brutal world of lifelessness. This is why the most secularised “educated” populations in the world sit on their arses and don’t give a fuck – because they can’t even see any life to be saved. They can only see stuff. And stuff is dead.

God “just is” – so get off my back. Stop stressing about it. Stop asking if God exists or not – stop being such a fundamentalist literalist. Like the word “self” – it is a name for something, something which cannot be named. We “know” many “things” that cannot be named, that cannot be seen – existence or non-existence does not even come into it. We expelled God to pretend we can do away with a pluralistic sense of self. We made the self an atom and the world a world of atoms – hard, separate, dead. We are destroying the world because we are already dead. We killed our “selves” when we killed “God”.To go into the heart of darkness in 2022 is to kill the killer of God. Only once we rescue God from death can our souls breathe again – only then can the story of life re-begin. Can enchantment return? Can we return from “facts” to stories? There can be no life, no soul no conscience without God – meaning without a sense of the divine, an awareness of the sacred. All these sensibilities are a team and each element is essential for all the rest.

Once we rescue God, once God returns to the story, then can we again become whole – whole by submitting to God. God is us and we are God. This is not a fact, it’s not a debate, – it is a story, and it is no less “real” for “just” being a story. Open yourself up to this world of many dreams before you die before you have even started to live.

It’s the same with Religion. You can’t have a bit of religion – it's either/or. It’s faith or eternal darkness. Without faith, there can be no reason, no sanity, no compassion. Faith is the decision to believe, knowing that there can never be any ultimate rational foundation for either metaphysics or ethics. We do not maintain our decency by logic but by intuition. Balance is a function of collective sense-making not a series of deductions that always ends up sending us into the abyss of nihilism.

The question Carmody asks is not “do you have a religion” but rather “what religion do you have”. Not “do you love” but “what do you love”. And on the answer to that question, God will tell you who you are. You can’t serve yourself, that’s a contradiction in terms, you can only serve Good or Evil. On some things, you have no choice but to choose. And this choice is the most important choice of your life.

Once you emerge out of the fishbowl into this new way of seeing the world – armed with God, armed with a Religion of Life – the sense of freedom is immense. The world is spirit and spirit by definition is free. Materiality was just another myth like any other myth. We are here in this life to master ourselves and the world is no more (or less) than a stage on which to enact this mastery.

My chat with Carmody

The advantages of God - The Dogma. The love.

A friend of mine looked at my plans for a new religion and said it was “fun” but he did not like the “dogmas”. He thought it was fun because he thinks you can have religion without dogmas. Dogmas are as essential to social life as air is to biological life. Dogma is that you don’t rape your sister. Dogma is that you don't kill your babies. The oldest dogma is that you do not do unto others what you would not have them do to you. In modern society this dogma no longer holds. The modern dogma is you do nothing while creation burns.

Anthropologically speaking dogma is a means by which a society can maintain itself. It can allow no argument because argument opens up the possibility of contention and contention can only lead to dissolution and thus an existential threat to society.

Societies go through convulsions as a dogma which is no longer functional has to die and a new dogma that serves the new objective conditions emerges. One regime, in the widest sense of the word, has to die for another to come into existence. A society often literally has to die for a new one to emerge or take its place. Now, for the first time, there is only one society in the whole world. It has to die to give birth to another society. Or it will literally die in the flames of Nature’s revenge. In its murderous hatred for itself.

A new set of dogmas – a reinvention is necessary. The advantage of God is that it allows for transcendence – the life-transforming realisation that we are not our “selves”. Without this, we are doomed before we start.

Dogmas are metaphysical, not ethical. You do not do unto others as you would have them do unto you because it is right, but because to do otherwise is the ultimate transgression of what is it to be who you are because to do otherwise is a violation of the sacred.

You do not do the good to be good. You do the good because to do good is to enact the essence of your consciousness. You are good, creation is good, and the world is good. This is a dogma. It cannot be denied otherwise the whole edifice of humanity collapses. Some things cannot be questioned.

Resilience is rooted in this self-knowledge, not anything as impermanent as “ethics”.

In these End Times, the world can no longer be the centre of the world – people can only take much of “reality”, meaning the material world, as was TS Elliot’s assessment.

The world has to become the world of the spirit – idealism replaces materialism, “God” replaces “Man”.

Resilience is rooted in the collective, not in the candle in the wind which is the old fragile consumerist self – ever fearful because everything outside itself is separate, disconnected, and thus a threat.
This is the hell of narcissism.

The central dogma of the new religion, the new regime – is this:

Only in service to the Good can we become what we already are.

Only in Love – defined as acting to promote the well-being of the other – do we express the essence of what it is to be human.

We are not a blank slate. We are children of God. A half beast half God. In eternal suspension. The nature of this reality was the central focus of cultures for thousands of years. Only the arrogance of our sliver of time, called modernity, has led us to believe it is no longer important.

This is the reality: We are not alone. We are intricately bound together with others, and in that togetherness, we enter into communion with God. The modern lonely “self” was invented. It can be un-invented. We can return to our common purpose of attending to the well-being of others.

In other words, the deepest and eternal dogma is this: We Are All One. This is the final realisation. We were all one all along. And always will be.

Love is incompatible with standing by in the face of injustice because injustice is a violation of Love. There can be no separation here between the private and the public. Love – the essence of Love – is an act, the act to combat Evil which is the opposite of Love. Love is connection. Evil is disconnection. Love is the process of creating a connection that comes through the disruption of Evil, through the struggle with Evil. True love is manifested as disruption and struggle – it is militant and uncompromising. All forms of quietism and fatalism violate humanity because they attempt to abandon humanity. Humanity is One – it is a whole – you cannot insulate your “self” off from the rest of humanity, from the evil that is happening around you. Love is direct action. Until there is only Love there is no Rest.

The reason for Evil is for God to answer not us. The calculation on whether we win or is not for God to answer, not us. Our job is only to become who we are – that is, to step into the path of God and remain on that path. There is no separation between who we truly are and Love – and there is no separation between Love and the overcoming of Evil. Love cannot step away from looking Evil in the face– it can never live in the false comfort of temporary privilege.

Love is manifested only in the act of overcoming Evil. This is the practical program of the new dogma.

We can give all other questions to God. We are not here to reason why, we are here to love. We do not need to know why things are the way they are, or whether or not we will win. That is the path of humanism, or separation, of burnout, delusion, or despair. All these things can be given to God. God in other words sets us free.

Without God, when we look at ourselves in the mirror we see, to our horror, only ourselves. We must take on the full burden of this world. Very soon we will not be able to bear this burden any longer – our souls are not designed for such a weight. Our souls are designed to rest in the lap of the Mother. That is why without God we will be lost in suffering as this world burns. Whereas in devotion to God we return home to the way things should be, and to the way the world truly is. Our role is to Love and let go of all the rest. If our love brings about the Revolution so be it, if not so be it. Either way, the stars will still be shining in the nighttime sky. God is always with us whether we acknowledge it or not.

This then is what I mean by finding our religion. Giving up on the materialist delusion – already shattered by modern physics, echoing the lost mystical traditions. Giving up on the masochism of narcissism in a time of social collapse. Giving up on intellectualism at a time when the hubris of our plan to go it alone without God, has clearly failed those with eyes to see. God is waiting, and with God by our side, we will take down the Empire of Evil. Or die trying. This is the real meaning of “the fight for our lives”.

Transcendence and Disruption. No Regrets.

To Act is our Religion.

People say that you cannot get yourself to believe something even if you think it would be good to believe it. I used to believe this but I recently met a rich guy (very rich). He had got divorced and it had driven him into a spiritual crisis and he made a decision to give up on the material view of the world. Everything instead he decided is consciousness. We spoke about the three D’s – divorce, disease and death. All of them make a mockery of the idea of a life of meaningless work and consumption. Now he is going to give his money away to climate action.

I’m with Pascal – take yourself into the ritual of religion and you soon find yourself absorbed into the enchantment of the world of spirit. When you face death you pray to God, whether or not God “exists” becomes an irrelevance.

As the material world becomes ever more hellish due to climate collapse and its social effects, belief in it – the religion of materialism - will become ever more unsustainable. Some will turn to hedonism, others to sadism, and others to escapist quietism. These religions will not save us. To find our true religion – a religion which will save the world - we need something like what I laid out in the previous two posts. The entry point is the rediscovery of God – as part of a family of similar rediscovered sensibilities – the good, conscience, consciousness, awe, enchantment, and spirit.

And we find these sensibilities in the only place they can be found at present - in the act of social revolution.

This religion is based on acting for the Good: the pro-social intolerance of evil – the obscenity of injustice. This can only be done when we release ourselves from the ego: to find meaning through public disruption of the empire of death – and give up the old religion of stuff and deathliness.

It is proactive. It aims to take over the world.

What is laid in these posts is not a thought experiment – a fringe project. It is THE PROJECT. It requires organisation, hierarchy, money, and strategy. It is a collective material project which comes out of the rejection of the material. This paradox is at the heart of the genius of its transformative power. Instead of being a religion of the material which destroys the material (i.e., the present system), it is a religion of the spirit which saves the material. Only when you lose yourself (enter the spirit) will you find yourself (save the world). This religion will move into politics and take over the state. It will take over economics and create a steady state economy. It will take over social relations and create a culture of universal rights. It will be the salvation of this world by transcending this world. Only when you embrace this contradiction will you be able to overcome the pathological contradictions of our politics, economy and society.

The details will have to be worked out. What is written here is a draft. But the details will not be created in the academy, not the quiet retreat, but on the streets, in the sites of social struggle. There will be no monolith but neither will there be a chaos of initiatives. Success resides in a middle way – a close ecology of social formations in which half cooperate and half compete to find and then roll out the new social and psychological technologies of the post-carbon age.

This is no escape from the world – but at the same time, we are not of this world. The world's a stage and as such, we need not be attached to it, and this is how it will come to be saved. Humanity is to be invited into an adventure of the spirit. This is its Destiny, in partnership with that part of itself that is God. The Divine. The Pure Spirit.

I am working with others on launching this religion – its structures, its rituals, its transgressive agenda. It may not take off or it may create the grounds for another initiative that does, or it may go nowhere. No matter. I am not attached. We are here to enact the spirit within the material. We are already free and in this freedom, we have the best chance of releasing ourselves and the world from eternal death.

This is what it means to be truly alive at the present time.

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