Coercion in religion and the falsification of existence
Christo El Morr
Tuesday September 27, 2022
There is no true living of faith without freedom. Coercion, coercion, negates honesty in action and speech and pushes people to falsify their existence, to live in dichotomy, so that they live on the outward level in word and deed in a state imposed by coercion, and on the intellectual and emotional level in an opposite state. Coercion inevitably leads to hypocrisy.
But hypocrisy is not compatible with faith, and how can it be? A person may enter into a religion and follow all the rituals, while their personality remains far from the requirements of faith. The root of faith does not lie in following rituals or entering into a religion, but rather in a sincere relationship with God, and this relationship cannot take place in truth unless it is reflected in a sincere relationship of the person to others, and a sincere relationship to oneself, so that behaviour and internal life are compatible, without duality.
Rituals are an expression of the relationship with God and others, as well as tools to deepen that relatinoship; but it is not the root of faith. The root of faith is in a conversion, and conversion cannot be by coercion, the word conversion itself is contrary to coercion. Conversion means a discovery and personal acceptance of what a person epxriences in their being, that is, by their mind, psyche and emotions, in an atmosphere of respect for their freedom as a human being. With conversion, the relationship with God begins and continues in a many ways, including rituals, but its test is one's relationship with the other persons, and the relationship cannot be healthy if it is not sincere, and it cannot be sincere if it is not free. The relationship with God, the love of God, from which worship stems, presuppposes freedom; there is no love without freedom.
The state is a form of social life whose instruments are coercion (law, police, judiciary, etc.). The problem of the religious state is that it assumes that it has access to the realm of personal faith, and when it enters it, it can only do so with its tools, that is, with the tools of coercion. When the state uses its tools to force a person to refrain from making noise in thier house in the middle of the night, for example, it forcibly limits their freedom to do whatever they want, but it does not interfere in their relationship with God; it only curbs their narcissism and pushes them to consider the lives of others, regardless of their relationship to these others. But when it intervenes to impose on a person a way of clothing, fasting, or prayer, it interferes with that unique person’s relationship with God and in their conviction stemming from their unique existence; the religious state wants- if it can- to force them to act in a certain way according to its interpretations of religion, which are necessarily circumstancial and partial interpretations, as long as they do not represent all of time (e.g., it does not reprepsent future interpretations that may differ or go opposite to today's ones), nor do they represent all sects, nor all interpretations in a certain sect. And in the end, no matter how correct these religious interpretations are, the state with its coercive instruments interferes with a person's relationship with God: it limits one's freedom to believe or not to believe, to live their relatrionship with God in the way they want not in the way others' want, and to bear their responsibility for their own faith before God. No matter what we say and rationalize, the religious state does not acknowledge the existence of the unique individuality of every human being, and tries to crush it. If the coercion comes from the state, or from a group of people, the result is the same: a human being is forced to behave in the matter of faith according to others' views, that is, according to hypocrisy, not according to the truth. And what kind of logic is it that is satisfied with the consolidation of hypocrisy in the middle of a community that wants to be sincere to a faith, and to defend it?
With coercion, hypocrisy rains, and it is no longer possible to distinguish between what is true and what is false in behavior, feelings and relationships. Even the person loses this distinction within oneself, as the threat makes them feel weak and without dignity, which is what pushes them to escape from this feeling by using an external social mask to cover up the loss of their self-dignity. Rather, in his attempt to cover up this humiliation, they may be tempted to increase their ardour in religious mattters, in rituals, and in appearances in order to restore some sense of self-worth through conformity with the religious group, and through adoption of a frenetic fundamentalist defense of the religious appearances that the group defends. This extreme and outwardly integration with the principles of the group is an attempt to drown out the person's real feeling of defeat, fraud, fear and squandered dignity by coercion. At the same time, the integration makes the person feel protected in the midst of a powerful group. In such case, the result is the falsification of existence, as this human being becomes alienated from others: their relationship with others is forged because they are pushed to hypocrical relationship by the rule of oppression, and their relationship with God is forged because it takes place without a free personal conviction; and the end result is the loss of the self.
The state - coercive by default - as well as the coercive groups, when they interfere with a person's relationship with God, can ensure that everyone submits to outward relationships, but it certainly creates an environment that fosters hypocrisy in faith and falsification of existence, and this would spoil faith relationships between people and their Creator, relatrionships that cannot be real unless free. Compulsion in religion produces religious hypocrisy, and this undoubtedly distances people from God.
Compelling groups may be happy with the surface of appearances, and they remain unaware that they created all the circumstances to keep the hearts away from God, and what would benefit a person if they lived all appearances and lost onself in the forgery that emanates from oppression in relationships. Only freedom allows honesty and conviction in relationships, and respects the uniqueness of each person.
Christo El Morr
Tuesday September 20, 2022
Al-Mayass Dance group appeared on a television program and was followed by those who usually follow the art of dance and those who do not follow it. Perhaps the general frustration experienced in Lebanon is a strong motive to find something beautiful that shines in the psychological darkness that the country is within. The choreographers of the troupe were inspired by “oriental” cultures in their beautiful choreography. Those who watched the performances must have noticed the group's use of symbols originating from religious myths (for example, the serpent). The overwhelming majority of people were happy with the performances and success of the group. What motivates Christian religious voices (I have not read of Muslim religious voices, and this does not rule them out) to attack the group accusing its members of worshiping Satan?
Religious leaders at all levels tend to impose their own vision of what is permitted and prohibited in art. They raise the slogan of “harming” religious feelings whenever an artwork deals with a religious issue in a way that they do not like, as they feel that it harms rituals or beliefs. The Catholic Center for Media in Lebanon has the upper hand in requests to ban artistic groups that hurt the sensitive religious feeling of Father Abu Kassem (head of the center) and his companions.
But the prejudice against the Al-Mayyas group reached a great extent on the charge of dealing with the devil, and I believe that the reason lies in the fact that they are women. Through the ages the Church has been prejudiced against women; even today there is an entire mountain full of monasteries in Greece (mount Athos) where woman are banned, and among the monastic stories that some monks pass on, we find a story that describes a woman as the devil (i.e., her very existence is an temptation for the “poor” monks. But I prefer another monastic story with significance in our subject: it is said that during a fasting period a monk in one of the monasteries went hungry and secretly entered the kitchen with an egg, and began to put it over the candle in the kitchen to cook it (don't ask me how), and when the head of the monastery in the kitchen surprised him, he regretted it, and said quickly, “The devil has tried me.” Then the devil appears and says to the head of the monastery: “Don't believe him, I was learning from him.”
There is an ancient fear in men of women as relayed by psychoanalysis, a certain man’s dread and of this being capable of giving birth to a new human being in the world. An even more important issue is added, which is the fear of a man who did not know how to deal with their sexual, so they suppressed it (there is a difference between suppression and restraint) and treated sex as a frightening irritable energy, and so tried to evade it by expelling it from the field of consciousness and placing it in a dark corner of their psyche. Therefore, sexual energy is excluded and separated from their integral personality, so that it remains unmanageable energy instead of being refined with tenderness and human relationship with an other person, recognized as a distinct and free individual. And if the repressed sex drive resurfaces from the depth of consciousness in its crude state, whenever a man desires another human being (a woman in our conversation), then he sees her as merely a body, and necessarily a seductive body, since the suppressed sexual desire rises in its crude, random, consumerist state.
At this point, feelings of turmoil and fear overwhelm that man, which turns into anger and a desire to justify oneself and rationalize one’s desire, so he projects on the other his impulses, and imagines and portrays women as if she is the one who seeks to seduce and tempt men, and that she is a “demon" who tries to make the “innocent” men commit sin. He attributes to the woman, subject of his lust, a terrifying power and considers her the root of evil (in the story of Adam and Eve, for example). The more intense the desire, the more intense the reactions; the more the person evades their feelings by projecting them onto an other, the more intense the attack on that other.
These mechanisms relayed by psychoanalysis are still valid today; in the past, they led a Church led by men to prejudice women and commit atrocities against them during a campaign against those who it stigmatized as “witches.” Those who were brutally abused by the Church at the hands of sadistic monks were especially women; in fact, the Church abused and killed fifty women, for every one man. The abuse was brutal and extremely cruel, as the death sentence was carried out by strangling or burning. Thousands of innocent people were subjected to organized ecclesiastical extermination, and the organization was official, as two monks, at the request of the Pope, in 1486, developed an ecclesiastical manual showing the means of detecting alleged “witches”, the trial procedures and the necessary sentences. This is how the church killed an estimated 40,000 to 60,000 women for collaborating with Satan.
The attack on the Mayyas group is the same phenomenon, but this time it happens in an era when repressed mobs of clergy are not able to burn women, otherwise the women of the Mayas group would have seen the same fate as those women who were burned by repressed men projecting their own desires on powerless women.
Thanks God, who gave us the reason to investigate the roots of phenomena, and who provided us as human beings with what is possible of wisdom so that we can distinguish in our days between religious confusion and genuine faith, between repression in delirium and science examining facts, between the use of religion for domination and its use for human service.
On our end, we adhere to human freedom, which God - according to Christianity - willed to create and respect even if it rejects its creator. Al-Mayyas group, with the capabilities of dancers and designers, brought us beauties in charming paintings inspired by thousands of years of dread and exploration of the secret of the creation and life, and most of us rejoiced.