15 Aug

The world population is approaching eight billion people, projected to reach that number before mid-2022. People may think the idea of a "world religion" for each person on the planet is beyond strange. But with a bit of examination, we can easily see it is not strange but inevitable.

Let's start with the simple, easily agreed terms. We know that each of the major world religions--whose names we all recognize and thus need not recite here--count many millions of followers each. Beyond the big "brands" there are innumerable "house brands" and even "off brands." These are religious principles we either may not be interested in or, in the latter case, wouldn't be caught dead following...literally.

But even this vast trove of religious outpouring is only some fraction of eight billion. From where do we account for the remainder? It is hidden within the religions mentioned above, a sort of accounting sleight of hand.

You see, every human being who is in full possession of their faculties also possesses a will, a conscience and a sense of choice. We are born into a particular culture, economic circumstances, racial group, educational milieu, and time. Each of these factors influences our choice to believe or not to believe, and if we do believe, which religious or philosophical principles most closely reflects our own. But beyond even that, we temper our collective belief with our individual belief as practices. As was written in another part of this website:

"Religious belief" is what you think you believe before you are ever tried. "Real belief" is the character you show when your circumstances make it more painful to believe than to disbelieve.

So we alter the terms of whatever religion we practice and make it our own. Even if you practice no religion, or subscribe to and practice perfectly the religious principles given you , it is YOU who has decided both to follow that set of principles as well as evincing the desire to conduct yourself within its guidance completely.

The inescapable conclusion: humans with their full faculties are the authors of their own religious and ideological beliefs. They may make traditional dogmatic religions their choice. But they may choose atheism as their belief, materialism, mythological figures, consumerism as corrupted Epicurianism, and so on. Even within the established dogmatic religions and revolutionary ideological movements there are many splinter factions and schisms of various inclinations. We choose from among those on offer, follow or alter it to suit  our tastes or ignore them altogether and profess no belief in divinity or human progress. Even that absence of belief is evidence of what we believe and so becomes our religion.

What possible value does this insight hold for us? It makes us the author of our own religious/spiritual/ideological principles. If we are going to choose, why not choose with careful consideration, incorporating those values we will cling to in the most trying of circumstances? In essence, we should construct our own beliefs based on the highest principles we are capable of sustaining. We should act in ways that are in  harmony with those principles. They may be based on the traditions and narratives handed down by established religions or they may emphasize values that are tangential, or appear not at all, in those great fountainheads of human insight. 

The important thing--at least for those who follow Establishment of Religion principles--is that our values be positive, and non-coercive in nature. They should incorporate honest dealings with all and the expectation we will be dealt with honestly in turn. And they should incorporate the ideal of support for others to discover their own truths, to the extent they do not impinge on others.

Eight billion world religions isn't a recipe for moral chaos in the world. It is a simple recognition that each of us ultimately is responsible for the ethical and religious choices we make in life. It is self-evident as fact. Will some have higher standards than others? Will some make the exploitation and abuse of others their chosen path? Of course, it has always been so. But they will not be able to claim the mischief they cause is due to following principles laid out by others. And we in turn have no moral obligation to be indifferent to the harm they cause, or to forego defensive measures.

It is time for humanity to grow up, to stop blaming God, Satan, and ideologies for the many and various human pathologies we inflict on others. It has been said, if you want to change the world, change yourself. That starts with an honest inventory of just what we believe and an unshakable determination to live according to the principles we claim to believe in.

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