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Tribal Versus Universal

By Carl S ~

If you should happen to be present when a church service ends and the believers are exiting, you might ask, "So how was your tribal meeting?" They might wonder, "Now, what's that all about?"

Tribal chief from Atappadi
Tribal chief from Atappadi (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Dr. Edward O. Wilson, U.S. biologist and social analyzer, in a recent interview (24 Jan. 2015, New Scientist.), spoke about our anciently-established structures. He notes that religions “have their own answers to the big questions, but these are usually bound as dogma to some kind of tribe." Later on, he talks about the theory "that humans, as a species, share a religious impulse, and that ... this transcendent searching has been hijacked by the tribal religions. So, I would say that for the sake of human progress, the best thing we could possibly do would be to diminish, to the point of eliminating, religious faiths." In pondering these words, I have come to some conclusions, starting with:

Should we allow primitive tribal systems to dictate over the human race?

Blood is thicker than water. Unfortunately, too often faith is thicker than blood.Religions are tribal. They are all extensions of ancient tribal unity and thinking. All of them practice good works among their own members. Each uses fear as a means of control. Each avoids, or engages in open or covert warfare with the "outsiders," i.e., those often perceived as threats. Too often, in order to reinforce its "truth" and expand, the tribe will seek to conquer by force of arms or law, fear, and intimidation, in order to gain and reinforce its power by adding more "converts."

Global-wide religions, being tribal, will always be a threat to humankind. Think of all the Muslim, Christian, Buddhist, Israeli conflicts and wars of the past, still ongoing even among their own tribal-sects, for a start.

Tribal church loyalties allow thousands of children throughout the world to be raped by clergy, and allow children in Africa to be branded as "witches" and thereby to be beaten and burned. Let us not forget the Christian Right or Catholic bishops waging their legal wars on our own turf, denying legal human rights, each with their own tribal leaders. Popes, priests, ministers, imams, rabbis, chiefs, voodoo practitioners, witch doctors, preachers, faith-healers of all faiths, and oracles; they all serve the same function: power over the minds of others.

Consider that every religious congregation is really a tribe, each with its own particular lingo, superstitions and folklore adapted from that of other tribal cultures, and that each church- tribe considers itself (like Native American Indian tribes), as part of a larger tribal Nation. To Christians, their church is the Universal Church. Yet, when I point out the atrocities and denials of human rights committed by Christians, the response I get is, "Not in my church." (Unlike laws in Islamic countries, there is no threat of death or other punishment for questioning or criticizing religion in theirs.) "Not in MY church." Doesn't their church share responsibility in being loyal to and non-critical of these inhumane deeds perpetuated by leading representatives of their faith? Aren't they complicit in guilt by being silent? Consider just those children who have suffered and died because of that allegiance.

Tribal loyalty is every church's absolute and primary function, tacit and unquestionable. Members share their personal experiences and concerns in formats determined by the tribal chief and the membership, but only in a way that supports the beliefs of the tribe. Each tribe has its own divinely revealed "truths," its rites of passage, and nonsensical rituals to imprint on the memories and emotions of its participants. In these ways, strong, impregnable bonds are created and maintained. Social punishment, which may entail ostracism, excommunication, etc., comes from questioning or not co-operating with tribal rules, many of which can be immoral. (Where is the "sacred" in this?)

Tribal systems punish apostates. ( In some Islamic countries, leaving the religion-tribe will get you executed. Even differing with Islamic beliefs can get you imprisoned and/or physically punished in every one of those countries.) Falling out with any tribe-religion often ensues from doctrinal differences and doubts in one's interpretation of their dogmas. Leaving is divorce. As with every divorce, the parting often comes from an accumulation of reasons to separate, usually resulting from disillusionment. As a secular humanist married to a Christian, I can attest to my prejudicial experiences in being an "outsider," at best, tolerated by her tribe. I am completely censored by its unspoken loyalties. The words of Matt. ch. 10, vs. 34-37 are self-fulfilling.

There is an old adage: Blood is thicker than water. Unfortunately, too often faith is thicker than blood.

Religions hide behind the smoke-screen claim of moral superiority. They exist as tribal organisms perpetuating the “us versus them" divisiveness in societies. Therefore, they must be confronted. They belong with the ages when the world was flat and the sky was a bowl with gods above it. We can see our entire planet now and are aware of other cultures, the feelings and sufferings of our shared humanity. We are a human family on a finite Earth with its finite resources, and it's overdue, the realizing that there isn't anybody "out there" who will save us. We have to save one another. But as long as humans still are willing to look the other way and accept primitive tribal-religion loyalties as virtuous, with their obstructions, their revenges and destruction, then their status quo will not change. We must reject and oppose them because we care about all of humanity and the only world we live in.