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 Blooming Stars

This Illusory Life

            Humans engage in all sorts of crimes and try to get away with them. Accumulation of enormous wealth on the back of the ordinary workers with low pay is indeed a human tragedy. Corporations that make windfall profits, that benefit only a few executives with scandalous salaries and bonuses creating a class of filthy rich, are able to do that with very low wages for most workers. Societies that allow this kind of cancerous arrangement in the name of human rights are unenlightened to say the least. Only materialism and consumerism can create soulless, wealthy elite who are held in high esteem. Communism, that experimented with a utopian society of egalitarianism, ended in authoritarian oppression and materialism. It made the common person the slave of the state who was deprived of human freedom to direct one’s life. It finally landed on the rocks, and in one pathetic explosion blew itself up into smithereens.

            If uncontrolled capitalism takes comfort at the death of the misguided communism, there is shocking news waiting for it. The uncontrolled capitalism is digging its own grave. Millionaires and billionaires can be produced only by a society that does not have effective controls and minimum common good and social justice in its purview. To have the will to create these controls without destroying wholesome freedom and legitimate human aspirations is not at all a multi-cultural society. Humans need to be conscientized very early on to voluntarily surrender part of their freedom by putting a lid on their greed for the good of the entire humanity. We are all in one global boat. If it sinks, all humanity sinks. As uncontrolled eating and the resulting obesity are destroying individuals, the uncontrolled wealth resulting from capitalism and market economy is destroying the human spirit. In my considered opinion unrestrained capitalism and consumerism will fail as the mindless authoritarian communism failed. Uncontrolled capitalism needs to be reined in as construction is guided by building codes.

            What role religions play in creating a society that is human and humane, compassionate, empathic, and sharing? Currently religions’ role is minimal. Religions are sidelined as they preach but do not practice what nourishes the spirit life to attain the avowed goal. They fight among themselves and do not see all humans as children of the one and only God. For instance, currently Christianity, the biggest religion, has the highest number of millionaires and billionaires. Islam, the second in numbers, has a poor record in human rights, and tries to spread itself through oil wealth, human propagation, and imposing its will on others. I do not want to compare religions with regard to human rights. Because, historically they all failed miserably with regard to human rights in varying degrees.

            Freud, the great psychologist, in his application of psychology to the study of culture came up, at the age of 73, with his book on religion: The Future of an Illusion. For him there is nothing beyond reason, and everything needs to have a rational basis. Therefore religion is an illusion, a false belief system, even a neurosis, a mental disorder in which we project to God the father (security) we like to have. For the economist Marx: “Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of the heartless world, the soul of the soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.” For the existentialist Sartre, we are condemned to freedom because there is no God. For the philosopher Russell: “I am firmly convinced that religions do harm as I am that they are untrue.” At age 75, I vacillate between belief and non-belief, between religion and non-religion. Emerging from a few never-expected betrayals of trust from intimate relationships, close relatives, and friends, belief in God becomes even more difficult. I also know other persons with similar experiences believe in God all the more. I choose to trust in humans knowing that my life is meaningless without trusting. I choose to believe in God everyday because I believe it is the best thing for me to do. We can rest assured, though, that God will take care of us if we are sincere, honest, and true to our own conscience whether we believe or not. Because our God is that kind of a God.

            What I want to highlight in this article is the fact that all religions failed and still fail in the message of empathy (the putting of oneself in the other person’s shoes) that was preached by Christ as the sum and substance of the good news (Gospel). But then have I not failed in empathy from time to time? Yes. Religions are concerned about petty issues when the whole humanity is being chocked by materialism. They are like Emperor Nero playing the fiddle when Rome was burning. They turn many people off because of their over-emphasis on rituals, dogmas, and financial contributions at the expense of loving compassion. They did not monitor abusive officials who betrayed the trust reposed in them because of what they represented. They harbor persons with worldly ambitions unconcerned about truth.

            I was pleasantly surprised when Jimmy Carter, a devout evangelical Christian and a former president of the United States, voiced approval for recent Supreme Court ruling on same sex marriage on account of their true and non-exploitative love for each other. God’s test and standard for us is this: When we take care of the least human being, we take care of God. This is very consoling for me. When all is said and done empathy is all that matters; empathy will make us stop running after the wealth of this world. Empathy makes this life less illusory. It should be the hallmark of the 21st century. If we cannot be sure about anything else, we can be sure of the unconditional love expressed in empathy.


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