Religion is a delicate subject. One wrong word and one makes enemies. Many are comforted by spiritual ceremonies. Others have less or no need for comfort. Each has equal right to practice more or to practice less religion. In the past, the deeply religious have been known to force their religion on others. Many horrible deeds in history were done in the cause of religion. Though it's a controversial subject, but because of its effects on people and that they are expected to base their future on religious interpretations, it should be studied and discussed.
Nothing is more insulting to man than to cast doubts on his beliefs. You insult his intelligence. Yet, what does the word "belief" mean? Dogmas and doctrines are beliefs taught as being true. Belief means to accept as true or real with or without certainty. Faith is belief without proof. To believe means to think, suppose or assume without really knowing. There are millions of agnostics in the world who are ready to accept as fact the doctrine of the virgin birth and ascension to heaven by Jesus Christ or that he really lived, if they are given proof. Agnostics are ready to accept as true the existence of hell, devils, angels, purgatory if these can be proven. As no proof has been forthcoming, they have stayed agnostics.
For example, nobody can prove the existence of hell but a lot of people believe in it. They accept it as true without knowing. In brief, one can believe in what one doesn't know. Belief is not knowledge. When one sees a fact before him or has evidence to support the existence of such a fact, then it is not necessary to believe. One knows. Many innocent men have been hanged because the judge and jury believed them to be guilty without really knowing. It's one of the reasons the death penalty was revoked in many places. Belief can get you hanged. Knowledge can save you. Belief without knowledge can cause a lot of trouble.
Many interested people in the last 300 years have tried to find evidence of an historical Jesus. There are many people still trying. It is unreasonable for preachers to expect the people to accept what they're preaching if they can't prove it. Indians are sometimes advised to demand proof for any story they are told and in the next moment they are told unprovable, mystical stories which they are expected to accept as real truth and to follow unprovable teachings to go with it. One must have faith they say. Faith is belief without proof. If one keeps this up, one grows to believe in anything, real and imaginary. That's how folks become pushovers for any con man out to fleece his fellow man.
To organize and found a reasonable religion based on real knowledge, one must study the great world religions and really observe their experiences. We see that even the great Hebrew religion underwent a schism and became two religions called "Orthodox" and "the Reformed". Later, it developed a further sub-division called "Modem". Why did this happen? The people complained about the length of the services and about the great number of rituals and ceremonies. They thought it was too much. So they rebelled. After creating the Reformed Hebrew faith, the people got tired some more and established a modem Hebrew religion which was less boring and less tiresome.
The Roman Catholic Church went through the same experiences. The people thought they were being exploited with too much unprovable doctrines, dogmas, rituals and ceremonies. They thought the holy Mass was obtained from the pagan Mithraists who practiced the Mass for over 900 years before they were wiped out by the Romans. The people thought that the holy Confessional was an infringement on their dignity and human rights. They believed that their sins were a private business between God and themselves. They did not think that a third party or a mediator was necessary to fix things for them with God. The leaders of the Church naturally refused to give up their great power and privileges over the people and certainly intended to continue burning people at the stake on charges of heresy and witchcraft. The heretics thought they were right in disbelieving so many of the dogmas and doctrines. They wanted freedom from such an oppressive system. They decided to organize their own version of Christian religion. This resulted in a hundred years of religious wars between the Church and the rebels, at the end of which time, Christianity became fragmented and the mighty Church lost its power of life and death over its membership. No more burnings at the stake and even the Holy Mother (the Church) grew to disbelieve in witches, a heresy in itself.
It should serve as a warning to ambitious makers of new religions not to have too many rituals, ceremonies, dogmas and doctrines. It's not good to have a religion with too much horsepower. The people will rebel and break away. It's not good to have long drawn out sessions of worship. Even God can get tired.
What should take the place of unprovable dogmas, doctrines, rituals and ceremonies? The substitutions would have to be based on knowledge, not beliefs, especially not those beliefs which ended so drastically and disastrously for so many believers in the past. To take the place of the Holy Mass, the confessional and other discredited practices of the past, some Protestant religions hold singing sessions which seems to work for them. Some will stand up and give a brief spiritual message. Sermons should not be long winded, self contradictory or repetitious. If quotes from the Bible are used, the ones which are unprovable and unreasonable should be avoided. The people should not be deceived into thinking that the Bible is the word of God because God did not write the book. It was written by ancient wise men who did not know the facts. There were some dumb and stupid verses which would be an insult to the Creator if one said it's the word of God.
This unmeek and unhumble heretic was once challenged by a Billy Graham type Witness of Jehovah preacher. "Show me one stupid verse in the Bible!" he roared at me. Raising my hand (like the Indians do in the movies) I replied: "Joshua raised his hand and stopped the sun..." The preacher once again roared: "That's not stupid! He had power!" I roared back: "Whether he had power or not is beside the point. Joshua wanted to hold back the night so he could finish the battle with the enemy. He was afraid that the enemy would escape in the dark and do better the next day. You don't hold back the night by stopping the sun. It's the earth turning on its axis that makes the night and day. If Joshua had to stop anything, it was the earth and not the sun. That verse shows you that the Bible cannot be the work of God and every time you say so, you are putting words in the God's mouth and you are insulting the Lore." God, how I gotta battle sometimes to prove that God is more intelligent than the Bible says.
A better system of ethics has to be devised by the makers of the new religion. The one devised in the Bible has always been a flop. It has not made the people any better than when it began. A better system is not only possible but also necessary. Suffering humanity is calling for better treatment from the leaders of nations. The leaders of nations themselves can't seem to make up their minds whether or not they know what they're doing. They need direction themselves. Let all superior minds get together and draw up a new code of ethics. Let it be simple, completely understandable and does not need interpretation. Let is not contain too many rules. Let's not continue to complicate our lives. A religion should not be a toll gate to heaven. Some religions are so fantastically rich that it makes them suspect. Makes people think religion is just a money making scheme. Let the new religion be a road paved with good acts and not just words. Indians have a good code of ethics. It's called the Great Law.
It has been said that when a child reaches the age of 15, he or she knows right from wrong. He or she reached that stage on their own. By then, they have been told, had heard and read intelligent, wise and bright things, also had seen dumb, stupid and unwise actions. In their minds, they have catalogued them in their proper categories of right and wrong. The wrong was done either on purpose or by ignorance. People can be indoctrinated to move towards certain actions. Other people can be indoctrinated to do the opposite. Such is the power of indoctrination. Religions practice indoctrination. A superior religion lays down all proper facts, good and bad, before the people. A religion should be educational, interesting and even fun. A worshipper should not leave the service feeling browbeaten and morbid from negative, sulphur and hell fire brimstone sermons. He should leave happy, inspired and fulfilled.
Indians have a big edge over white man's religion on that score. They have sacred dances which make the people happy. Feel depressed and despondent? Indian dances are the answer. In this way, the people actively participate in the proceedings. It's not left to one person to perform ceremonies. When the gifted folks finish writing the new and superior code of ethics (religion) with its fewer basic ceremonies, fewer but more meaningful rituals and shorter speeches, they should then invoke true democracy and present the work to the general public for approval. Some new ideas may emerge from this to be incorporated into the code. It cannot be said later that it's an elitist propaganda to help only the people in exalted positions. It's for all.