Graffiti from 1st-3rd Century Rome.
The inscription in Greek reads:
Alexamenos Sebete Theon, or “Alexamenos Worshipping his God”.
The doctrine of propitiation, which emphasizes the need for some kind of sacrifice to appease a deity imagined as existing apart from the human condition, is one that still pervades cultures in one form or another worldwide. Theistic religions that hold to this doctrine tend to regard humanity as being mired in an inferior condition, one which can only be rectified by means of worshipful placation.
This widespread religious view holds its deity to be a sort of empyreal entity, separate from the material condition and wholeheartedly antipathetic to the pursuits thereof. Their so-called “supreme god”, it is imagined, exists in an idyllic “perfection” beyond the processes of nature, and repudiates those who embrace their natural satisfaction. Carnal activities are severely restricted, if not condemned outright. The worshipper must be purged of his or her “sinful” tendencies if he or she is to expect to win the acceptance of the deity to which he or she aspires.
The premise upon which such theistic dogma is based, i.e. that spiritual purity excludes animalistic pleasure, is an absurd flight of fantasy that leads to numerous social and personal ills when taken as a theological foundation. A doctrine that holds that the animal condition in which we are inextricably bound, and from which there is no escape except in the fatuous rumination of a theologian, seems harmless enough in spite of its silliness; but there are problems that arise when theory extends to actual practice.
Ideologies developed from this kind of premise often have the same undesirable consequences when adhered to assiduously. For persistent repression of natural desires tends to lead to malevolent perception and serious dysfunction. The evidence is obvious in puritanical societies, particularly in the case of individuals who tend to the fanatical end of the religious spectrum.
This kind of manichean fundamentalism, in which the natural order of things is considered evil and detrimental to spiritual and social well-being, contorts the perspective of its most dedicated adherents into a neurotic monstrosity that really is far more of a threat to others than any fun-loving hedonist could ever be. It plants the seeds of extreme enmity in the minds of many of its most impassioned followers, leading the more unstable among them to despicable acts of violence against those who behave contrary to their unnatural standards. There are numerous serial killers whose vile actions are spurred on by their hatred for women who are openly promiscuous; and there are countless cases of reprehensible violence committed against gays merely because being gay is considered an atrocity in the eyes of some god who happens to exist only in the warped minds of the perpetrators of that violence. As if love, in any form, could ever be good reason for violent persecution.
What sort of “supreme being” reviles a man for his natural expression of love? Love is a beautiful thing, not a crime against heaven. Any god condemning one for loving another is nothing less than an enemy of humanity whom we should adamantly reject, not revere and force on society — whether individually through violence and imposition of guilt or socially via restrictive legislation.
There is no state of “purity” contrary to natural happiness, except in the demented theology of men. All religion wherein some unnatural ideal is espoused — an ideal that is detrimental to the health and happiness of man — stems not from any “perfect” Supernal being but from man’s own misinterpretation of an epiphany of a greater reality at the root of his own mind which he objectfies and idealizes as something beyond those aspects of himself that he considers base. For many so desperately want themselves to be considerably more than mere animals; but the fact remains that they are animals — albeit very intelligent ones (in some cases at least) — and the divine epiphany that the more enlightened among them realize is their very own hidden reality. Their activities are sacred, however base, provided that they contribute to their joy — but only as long as they fail to do real harm to others.
Fanatical theism has been responsible for so much cruelty, suppression and genocide because humanity has failed to recognize the divinity in his own natural state of love and joy, seeking it instead in an unreal fantasy that he imagines as being superior to his own natural proclivity. It has resulted in the sacrifice of innocent humans and animals; the burning of art and books; the torture of “heretics” and the unjust persecution of “infidels”. When will it stop? It is time that we wake from the nightmare of insane superstition and put an end to the madness of any theology that posits sanctity as anything other than pure, unconditional joy without primitive ideas of a supposedly superior deity demanding propitiation in exchange for a pipe dream.
Yet in so doing — in championing the cause of liberating religious theory of archaic notions of so-called perfection — in reconciling man’s concept of divinity with his own potential for genius, we must not err as others have so often done by resorting to hatred and violence toward individuals with whom we disagree — or by outlawing their own right to worship as they do. Each has the right to do as he please, to think as he please, to worship as he please — no matter how pointless the deed, no matter how erroneous the thought, no matter how absurd the cult — so long as he interfere with none other. Despising their stupidity is fine; brutalizing them is not. The way to save man from his madness is not to club him over the head — for that merely emboldens those who would avenge him and tarnishes one’s noble cause. The best way to do that is to assimilate the religion he espouses in an overarching spiritual law that purges any doctrine of its errors; and to promulgate a new way that will win over the less fanatical of his cult so that, in time, there are no more like him.
Whether one favors the religious approach or not, there is no other way to stamp out the madness of false religion (i.e. ideology of whatever variety that denies science and forces its followers to conform to an idiotic ideal that stifles natural happiness and creates neuroses). All primitive religions contain a germ of Truth: take that, dispense with the outmoded dogma that conflicts with science and that imposes illogical restrictions on society, then reconcile man with his own inherent divinity. Make it thoroughly convincing and eventually the religious problem which currently threatens humanity with extinction will be eliminated once and for all. Then humanity can take the next step in its evolution rather than fall back into oblivion.
The Law of Thelema outlines the way, and — if well understood and properly applied to the problem at hand, with wisdom and patience — it alone holds the key to getting beyond our global dilemma. There is no quick and easy path; but if we go with certainty, work with diligence and make every effort to tap our full potential for genius, we will not fail to win over the masses of confused fanatics — with their own devices.
It is possible, no matter how difficult it may seem. “There is success.” (Liber Legis, 3:69.) We have gotten this far, conquered so many more arduous circumstances and overcome such abhorrent tendencies that this challenge pales in comparison. It just takes dedication, determination and unswerving perseverance. All great challenges are hard, but no problem is insurmountable given our infinite potential.
The error of theistic propitiation has been the cause of much unnecessary misery and madness. But religion itself is not to blame for that anymore than guns are to blame for crime. It is the way in which it is used that determines whether the effects are to our benefit or not. Religion, divorced from theistic superstition, utilized as a means by which to explore one’s unlimited potential, is an instrument whereby one may realize infinitely more than ordinarily possible. It can lead one to the most extraordinary attainment of divine realization in the genius of our talent — or to utter madness in the pointless idiocy of theistic propitiation. But all the problems associated with religion can be bypassed not by eliminating religion altogether — for that would be throwing out the baby with the bathwater — but by understanding it thoroughly and applying the mind to its method properly, in a way that is healthy for ourselves and for the planet.
Atheistic religion — wherein the objective is not to curry the favor of some ethereal tyrant but to attain the Gnosis of one’s own Holy Supernal Will — is that way. It is our task to demonstrate its value, to lead by example. For it leads to a millionfold joy in our expedition to the Augoeides, our own Hidden Genius, in the accomplishment of our true Wills. And that is the Summum Bonum, True Wisdom and Perfect Happiness.