ON THE PRIESTHOOD
Fight the real enemy. Sinead O’Conner, while ripping up, on national television, a color photo of His Holiness the Pope, an as yet unprohibited splendid example of the exercise of both protected speech and symbolic speech, an act roughly analogous, in public outrage, to flag burning.
Someone (who, I can’t remember and apologize), observed that the priesthood originated when the first con artist met the first fool. Con artist, Priest, tells Fool what to do because Fool believes the world is run by gods, and Priest says he speaks to one or more gods who tell him what to communicate to Fool. All Fool has to do is obey the gods, i.e. Priest, and Fool will have better fortune, go to a pleasant immortality or indulge whatever fantasies Fool thinks can only be satisfied by Priest, acting in loco deus. Fool is happy, and Priest has the roast sheep, wine, treasure or whatever Fool offers to the gods through Priest.
When this senerio first began is uncertain, both in religion involved and location. It doesn’t really matter. All Priesthoods work roughly the same. Certain absolutist views are held by a group of people. The Priests teach, spread, and reinforce the given myth. Every religion has its priesthood, persons learned in the often highly complex system of belief and practice that, long repeated, become the creed and ritual of the faith. Priests acquire specialized knowledge in the secrets or “mysteries” of their religion, and in manipulation of the believers through cultic magic presented and accepted as coming from the gods.
Understandably, this power is enormous and the priesthood knows it. “Priesthood” means a collection of priests, the females sometimes called “priestesses.” No matter how humble a priest may be, the ability to instruct on the thoughts of gods and deliver the will of the supernatural carries a lot of clout.
In some societies, religions have been, and still are, one with the civil government of nations. That means the priesthood runs the country and controls people’s lives. The law is the religious law, revealed to, and enforced by the priesthood. Disbelief is a crime that can get one jailed or killed. Such a government is called a theocracy. That’s what some religious nuts want established in our country, and that’s why we have the First Amendment in our Bill of Rights to stop them.
It is probably comforting to many to have on their side a select group of the elite who communicate with the deity. The system is so transparently paternalistic that some practitioners of religion actually address their priest as “father” or “mother” and a priest may respond “my children,” “my son,” etc. This artificial family may be necessary to satisfy the yearnings for family of priests, many of whom are celibate, and the need of their flock for the authority of religion and for faith in something beyond the natural world. Maybe some people are born to lead and control others; maybe some are born to follow. The con artist and the fool are found in different forms in all human interaction. The inability of the sheep to be sure which shepherd to follow leads to thousands of contradictory enclaves of religious thought. Wouldn’t it be nice if any gods that be were to give a clear sign of their existence and will, like a message written on the moon, or the sky indisputably filled with angelic hosts singing hosannas. Maybe the gods enjoy watching the confusion of mortals.
At any rate, why choose any priesthood at all? What true leadership can these folks who claim to talk for gods really provide? Is there evidence of moral superiority in any priesthood that makes its members better qualified to advise on earthly and eternal matters? Actually, the behavior of many priests ranges from laughable to criminal. What claim can a religion have to any ethical high ground when its leaders are hauled off to jail for everything from fraud to rape? How can religious leaders who suppress the human search for knowledge and repress the human spirit really claim to represent the best within us?
Of course there are priests who are decent, caring human beings. But such persons are not confined to any one religion, so these individuals are not proof of the correctness of a particular belief system. Further, there are plenty of non-believers who, in their private and public lives, better exemplify the humanistic principals found in a given religion then do the acknowledged priests of that religion.
Living with uncertainty can be tough, but may be better than following a mythical system that is demonstratively absurd. Priests certainly have a legal right to do their thing, but don’t hold them up as models of correctness and virtue, and don’t give them the power to control what you do with your life and your body. There are worse things than ripping up pictures of Popes. These worse things include religious authorities ripping up lives.
Be your own person. Don’t be an “ite” following an “ism.”