Religious orthodoxy is a fraud. It is constantly defeated by the variability of meaning that lies at the heart of every word, every sentence, and every holy book. Not surprising really, these books develop over time — even the moist rigorous arguments that they are the direct word of god acknowledge that god revealed his truth to many people over many years. Well, all but the most deliberately ignorant acknowledge that anyway.

Still, these words of god were written down by fallible men (do I need to say, almost always men?) So variations creep in. Contradictions abound. Inconsistencies flourish. You get my point.

This is why the orthodox try so hard to ensure, well, orthodoxy. This is the exact right interpretation of these words. Never mind that someone else’s translation puts it slightly differently. It ultimately comes down to ‘these are my words and they are the right ones. God told me so.’

But it doesn’t work. All the hours spent reading holy texts — you pick the text — do not produce a unity of thought among the adherents. It fails to accomplish that because each brain — a great jiggling mass of neurons where even specific aspects of function cannot be tied directly to a place or structure — is slightly different and the way words are recorded, understood and strung together inevitably leads to a variety of felt experiences. The Word is not the world. The world is way more complex and ultimately our understanding of the world and the word is way more fraught with variation that any textual analysis can clarify.

That’s just physics folks. We are not perfectible by the word of god(s) no matter how often we repeat them

Here’s a thought experiment. Take any congregation. Select at random 100 of them. Ask them 100 tough theological questions about their own faith, the one they worship dutifully (or not) every week or day. Do you suppose you will get 100 identical set of responses? Will there even be a common thread of what everyone believes to be true? I’ve talked to enough religious people to know that there would not. Everyone, no matter how orthodox or fundamentalist they claim to be, practices cafeteria religion — taking what they like or to put it in the best possible light, what they understand from their teaching to be true to shape their own religious worldview.

This is why the truly fundamentalist sects must use violence and threats of violence to impose the so-called Truth on the world — even on their fellow coreligionists. Because it is a fraud that only force can sustain.

But that’s ten minutes.


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