Liberation of the Mind and Rejection of Religious Dogma

True liberation of the mind begins with calling into question one’s most sacred values and beliefs.

| March 2013

  • Create Your Own Religion
    In “Create Your Own Religion” author Daniele Bolelli examines how different religions have answered the key questions of human existence—from the existence of God and attitudes about sex, to beliefs about the afterlife, “moral” behavior and gender roles. Bolelli shows how one’s most deeply held beliefs must be questioned in order to achieve liberation of the mind.
    Cover Courtesy Disinfo Books
  • Buddha
    Buddha himself argued that his teachings were but a means to an end. On his deathbed, Buddha told his followers, “Do not accept what you hear by report, do not accept tradition, do not accept a statement because it is found in our books, nor because it is in accord with your belief, nor because it is the saying of your teacher...Be lamps onto yourselves...”
    Photo By Fotolia/Pixel & Création

  • Create Your Own Religion
  • Buddha

Create Your Own Religion (Disinfo Books, 2013) is a call to arms—an open invitation to question all the values, beliefs, and worldviews that humanity has so far held as sacred in order to find the answers we need to the very practical problems facing us. Writer, philosopher, and professor of comparative religion, Daniele Bolelli, leads the reader through three thousand years of mythology, misogyny, misinformation, and the flat-out lies about "revealed truth" that continue to muddle our ability to live a peaceful life, free of guilt and shame and the ultimate fear of death. The following excerpt comes from chapter 2, “A Call to Arms: The Sequel.”   

Countless peoples have an irrational fear of questioning what they hold most sacred. Because they think that certain beliefs are desir­able, they come up with contorted rationalizations to justify them against any possible attack, rather than taking an honest look at them. They are terrified by the thought that if they begin doubting their certainties or looking at them with a critical eye, the entire castle of values upon which they have based their lives will come tumbling down. For this reason, they try their hardest to avoid fac­ing any facts that would force them to revise their ideals. Taking this course of action (actually non-action) may feel safe and reassuring; however, indulging in this paranoid phobia can only hurt us in the long run. Testing our most sacred values against different options will only strengthen us. We really have nothing to lose by being open-minded. It’s a win-win situation.

Let’s look at it this way. If we test our most sacred values against all kinds of different options, two things can happen. In one case, we find out that all the other alternatives are not as effective as what we already believed in the first place. This is clearly a win, since it will increase our self-confidence by reinforcing the feeling that we are on the right track. Moreover, when we engage in discussions with oth­ers who swear by different ideas, our arguments will be stronger and more effective because we have already explored all possible counter­arguments and discovered their weaknesses.

If instead we find out that our ideals were not as good as we thought they were, and there are better alternatives available, this is just as good a result. We win again because we have a chance to cor­rect our mistakes, stop living according to flawed ideas, and discover a better path. In either scenario, we can only gain by testing and questioning. We truly have nothing to lose but our prejudices.

Untested beliefs are not a treasure to conserve but rather a cage to escape. They keep us prisoners of our opinions and prevent us from facing reality for what it is. As Nietzsche puts it, “[I am] a man who wishes nothing more than daily to lose some reassuring belief, who seeks and finds his happiness in this daily greater liberation of the mind.”

Here we reverse the traditional attitude. Instead of thinking, “It must be good because I believe it,” we can switch to “I believe it because it is good.” Whatever conclusion we end up embracing will not be born from fear of change, excessive attachment to one’s pre­conceived opinions, or a scarcity of alternate viewpoints. It will be the result of testing what works and what doesn’t, and picking the best option among many at our disposal.

Mark Horner
3/21/2013 1:32:19 AM

Jesus: "I come not to bring peace but a sword", "Those who would save their life will lose it, those who lose their life, for my sake, will save it","Render unto Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's." Et cetera. Plenty of confronting and thought-provoking record of his philosophy and teaching has survived centuries of translation and re-editing by power-hungry and scared-stiff bishops and their acolytes - you just have to ignore the modern red-neck scared-stiff-of-death bullshit that modern evangelicals trot out as justification for their mega-church money-making enterprises. That enough troll-bait for ya? ;)

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