Self Help vs Spirituality

I heard a radio show today which was discussing the trend towards new religions and belief systems. Ireland has been a Catholic country for many years but unfortunately our theological worldview has been anything but “Catholic”. We have traditionally been very intolerant of other faiths and we don’t even have to stretch that far to see that even those of the same faith (Judeo-Christian) but on a different branch (ie. Protestant) do not get on like a house on fire (well we do, but each side would like to see the opposing side in that house).

Was this as a result of the Church and it’s divine monopoly (and I don’t mean angels playing board games)?

Now that this power base is fading in Ireland and people realize that they can think for themselves (yea!!) they are bolting from the gates of the Catholic Church. But into the arms of what?

I personally think the Roman Catholic church was less interested in the souls of its flock and more interested in what is in their wallets. This is seen to be true, as historically, the wealthy would buy their place in heaven through “favors” (lots of cash) and continue to behave in an appalling and decadent fashion, safe in the knowledge that’s it OK to do what you want as it’s been squared with the man upstairs.

This also ties in with the ideology of forgiveness. This is the do-what-you-like, for as long as you say you are sorry, it’s cool. But is it really? Can God not see through this charade? By definition being all knowing and all powerful, I doubt that it is beyond his ability to detect a few scams going on in his name. And I wouldn’t say he’s cool with it either.

Most other non-western religions operate on different lines. In the East you find more the “as-you-sow-so-shall-you-reap” philosophy. It’s called Karma, and you can’t cheat it. So take responsibility for yourself.

This process is said to happen over an eternity of going up and down, and some souls endevour to be released from this wheel altogether. The idea being we learn along the way, so it’s not just blind retribution.

Its kinda funny using a western image to understand an eastern theological point but then maybe truth is universal after all? In the west people don’t really believe that (or pay lip service to it). They may say “as-you-sow-so-shall-you-reap” but as long as I say I’m sorry (or give tons of cash to Rome) I’m cool. Oh, and the difference is that all of this is to happen in one life.. if you go the fluffy end of the lolly pop and mess up, you are doomed, along with the heathen pagans. While the lucky few are to get a rapturous welcome in heaven where they can nip round for a quick Big Mac as soon as they get there.

Yeah right.

Ok,so where does the self help book fit into all of this? Is it a new quasi religion in itself? This is the religion of me, me, me.It’s probably disingenuous to call it a religion in the first place and if this kind of thing works for you then fine, but if religion is about service to the divine then the self help book is only a device to help you help yourself.

In the Bhagavad Gita is states that the four principles of religion are Austerity, Cleanliness, Truthfulness and Compassion. If you find these at the core of your religious belief system then maybe you won’t go far wrong, and yes, this compassion extends to animals.

Jesus did say “Thou Shalt not kill” and I don’t think he would fancy Big Mac’s being sold outside the pearly gates.

So where does that leave us? Can people discrimate between what is real and what is not? Can they tell a rope from a snake? Do they see spirituality as only a balm for a headache?

There is certainly an inner revolution going on and in any journey into the unknown, I would suggest guidance is needed. There are a lot of snake oil merchants who will tell you what you want to hear and line their pockets in the meantime. The more incomprehensible the snake oil the better.

Anyway, so not to end on a downer, I feel this exploration is a good thing. There are things that are difficult to understand and bigger than us. That’s not to say that I don’t think we should try but I feel we should get some basic core stuff sorted out.

And we have a lot to work out.

Let’s be excellent to each other and more tolerant, let’s wonder at our human diversity and then we may begin have some appreciation of the divine.


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Joshue O Connor

Musical Web Monkey with a special interest in Web Standards. For more work stuff see For more music stuff see

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