More and more people today profess to be atheist or agnostic. Those who claim to have no religious affiliation have grown from 15 percent to 20 percent of our population in just the past five years. Today, some 6 percent, or more 13 million Americans, claim to be either atheist or agnostic, and 14 percent, or nearly 33 million people, say they have no particular religious affiliation.
The new age movement has also cut into organized religions traditional role. Wiki defines new age this way:
The New Age movement is a Western spiritual movement that developed in the second half of the 20th century. Its central precepts have been described as 'drawing on both Eastern and Western spiritual and metaphysical traditions and infusing them with influences from self-help and motivational psychology, holistic health, parapsychology, consciousness research and quantum physics.' It aims to create 'a spirituality without borders or confining dogmas' that is inclusive and pluralistic. It holds to 'a holistic worldview,' emphasizing that the Mind, Body and Spirit are interrelated and that there is a form of monism and unity throughout the universe.
The key word relevant to this article is "monism." This is the idea that everything exists in God: We are all one. This certainly is not a new idea. Where the term is relatively recent, the idea is a very old and what's more, when we examine monism we find that it comes in many forms. The relevant point here has to do with the idea that if we are all a part of god, then god's retribution is somewhat analogous to the idea of cutting off our nose to spite our face. The hell fires of Dante are obviously fictional accounts designed to strike fear in the bosom of believers convinced that god will make things right by punishing the bad and rewarding the good.
So, wait a minute, does that mean that bad goes unpunished by this god? Does that allow for the claim of so many today, that god is only love? We are all a part of god and god is only love so our core being, our higher self, our quintessential makeup is genuinely only love -- can that be true? If so, how bad can one be in this lifetime and does it matter whether they base their lives on some moral code or not?
Obviously, this is not a discussion that would be appropriate in some cultures, such as Pakistan or Iran. Why is it so relevant and even timely then in America and certain European countries?
I would like to suggest a common denominator that would provide a correlation. This common denominator comes in the brand of what has been called the cult of "self-esteem." What was once a healthy idea, build up confidence and self-esteem, may have actually become a road to self-sabotage. Why? This is what I mean. Today we pass out applause for everyone. We avoid creating losers -- everyone needs to be a winner. Many people look down on competition, viewing it as evil. No one fails; everyone wins something -- that seems to be the motto of our schools.
As many thinkers far more profound than I have already pointed out, the world of only winners is a fictional world. In the real world, people excel and people fail at various factors in their lives. Instead of admitting failure, however, it's excused as someone else's fault. When we fail to teach our children about winners and losers, we fail at teaching them self-responsibility. We further let them down in terms of preparing them for disappointments that are simply a fact of life.
Life is a journey often likened to a school. There are ups and downs that we will deal with. Our high moments may cascade into low moments without warning. If we have never learned to lose then we have never acquired the skill set to bounce back with renewed tenacity.
Now here's the lynch pin in my mind. As we become more and more important, more and more deserving, more and more entitled, there is less and less room for a god, any god, to judge us. As we recognize the god within perhaps we are refusing the highest part of what truly makes us human, our limitations. After all, what kind of school is it that teaches only what is beneath us and fails at that to grade our performance?
Thus the question, is the decline of a god that judges related to the puffed up increase in a false sense of self-esteem? If not, does it matter that what we're left with is the absence of a moral directive since punishment does not exist? Or, in the alternative, is there some rationalization, some function, that punishes us without an action by our god? For example, a Sikh friend of mine insists that there is no punishment but points out that a person such as Josef Mengele whose actions at Auschwitz are infamous, would begin again in their transmigration through 6,400,000 life forms before finally becoming human once again and therefore able to earn a place with god.
And your thoughts are?