Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Traditional Beliefs Shattering

Pope Francis
What is heaven’s name is going on with religion these days?

Pope Francis kicked off the recent confusion by trying to encourage the homophobic Roman Catholic Church to be more open to gays.  That caused an uproar, as did his casual suggestion that atheists could find a welcome mat in heaven.

While backtracking, he also announced continued papal support for evolution and the Big Bang Theory, scientific-backed paradigms that undercut all Christian thinking about creation of the universe and of mankind.

While Francis was infuriating the troglodytes who comprise much of Roman Catholic hierarchy, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints decided to come clean on a portion of its sordid history.  After years of denial, Church elders recently released a report that confirmed that its founder, Joseph Smith, did indeed have multiple wives.

Rivaling some Persian harems of bygone years, Smith enjoyed up to 40 wives.  Some of the women were already married and wrested from their husbands.  One was 14 years old.  Supposedly, that marriage and some others were not consummated. Of course, the people saying that are the same ones who for years denied such marriages ever took place.  Now, they say, Smith had three revelations and was threatened with death by an angel if he didn’t create the enormous harem.

Maybe next, the Church will concede Smith initially reserved the right of plural marriage to himself and had to open that door to other male Mormons only after they vociferously protested.  That could be in the second or third announcement from the Church, which has promised such reports.

Wahhabi woman
In addition, Christian Science is rapidly vanishing.  Membership rolls have fallen so far, officials now decline to release them.  Other decaying religious sects, including Episcopalian and Lutheran, have merged with the Roman Catholic Church.  Liberal Reform Judaism, alarmed by its declining membership and intermarriage, has moved to become more rigid in its ideology.  In Saudi Arabia, the strict Wahhabi sect is now contemplating reducing its stranglehold on women’s rights by letting females drive cars.  In other Islamic sects, such controls have long since disappeared.

Other religions, too, are reporting declines in membership, financial support and use of facilities for ritualistic functions.
Ancient Roman temple

All of that is enough to make a deity scratch his/her head in bewilderment.

It’s really not that puzzling.  What we are witnessing is a demise of our traditional religions.  From an historical perspective, that’s to be expected.  The same thing happened 2,000 years ago and opened the door to Christianity.  Then, accepted pagan faiths that had sustained the Western world for millennia were starting to fade away.

In its place, came a religion which was, in the words of historians, “old wine in new wineskin.”

The aging Roman and Greek faiths died away because they lacked any real meaning, offering no guidance in the way of morals and ethics.  Judaism and its rebellious offshoot, Christianity, did.
Infallible Pius IX

While the faiths are collapsing now, their decay began some time ago.   For Roman Catholics, it can be dated to the 1869 announcement of papal infallibility.  Pius 1X was the pope then and was the first officially to claim that a pope can’t make a mistake when dealing with doctrine, which gives Francis’ comments real weight.  Of course, Cardinals some 150 years ago had no idea someone with Francis’ freewheeling approach would ever become pope. 

Now, his words, spoken by a man who cannot be in error, are eroding what’s left of a belief shredded by historical research and scientific discoveries.

For the Mormons, their faith started to fray first in 1890 when, in order for Utah to become part of the United States, they abandoned bigamy.  That’s when they began to cover up Smith’s supposed revelations on the subject.  Then, in the 1970s, Mormon elders busily bought up and hid documents they thought would bring ridicule on them.  No one recognized that the texts were forged; they were just afraid the contents could alienate followers.

Now, they have been forced to admit the embarrassing truth about their Prophet.

The information-laden internet has helped undermine such faiths.  So has the reality of science carefully delineated in every classroom.  Even a simpleton can see the university contains no “heaven above us.”  Hell has lost its meaning with the ridiculous scenario that Christians are assigned to a Muslim hell and vice versa.  And, everyone is going to a hell imagined by the Zoroastrians who developed the idea long before Christianity existed.

The realities of Ebola and other pan-epidemics, as well as the obvious randomness of life’s experiences, have continued to poke holes in the claims about a god.

We still say the prayers because, as one rabbi told me, “it’s traditional.”  They are just not meaningful.

None of this means religion will disappear.  Our existing theology will simply metamorphose into something else.  As such, we should all be on the lookout for a new prophet, who will spout acceptable tripe about God and heaven.  It will sound fresh, attract followers and create the new faith.  This prophet will likely sound revolutionary, but will actual fuse existing beliefs with some novel twist.  That's how it's done. For example, Christianity is nothing more than the mixture of Greek paganism and Judaism.

Hundreds of years from now, any humans surviving the coming storms will devoutly perform proscribed rituals on behalf of some new, “true” faith, meanwhile laughing as they recount our religious beliefs, as we do now when hearing the claims of ancient religions,

Long-time religious historian Bill Lazarus regularly writes about religion and religious history.  He also speaks at various religious organizations throughout Florida.  You can reach him at  He is the author of the famed Unauthorized Biography of Nostradamus; The Last Testament of Simon Peter; The Gospel Truth: Where Did the Gospel Writers Get Their Information; Noel: The Lore and Tradition of Christmas Carols; and Dummies Guide to Comparative Religion.  His books are available on, Kindle, bookstores and via various publishers.  He can also be followed on Twitter.

You can enroll in his on-line class, Comparative Religion for Dummies, at

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