While making the dog-sitting rounds today, I noticed a book at one of our patron’s homes, titled God is My CEO. Although I’m not an overtly religious or spiritual person, I find the analogy hollow, particularly on this Easter weekend..
Why is it hollow? Glad you asked.
Let’s start with a clarification: spirituality and religion are two distinct concepts. Spirituality is the belief in the metaphysical, something beyond our worldly existence. Spirituality is typical, perhaps even necessary, to human cultures throughout history. Spirituality is completely abstract, and varies as widely as can be imagined. Religion is the worldly manifestation of that spirituality, usually in form of doctrine and ritual. This is at a stroke religion’s strength, and it’s weakness: it attempts to parse spirituality into more tangible, worldly concepts. The oil which greases the wheels of religion is faith; in our hearts we know that religion is imperfect, but faith assuages fears about our imperfections and imparts a sense of piety, or strength, or righteousness, or whatever we’re in need of.
Religion (like spirituality) is a unique feature among the creatures of Earth, and it has served us sometimes to our benefit, sometimes to our detriment. Religion is neither good nor evil by nature; it is in principal only the means to grasp at our spirituality. The question of good and evil is answered in the practice of a religion, but that discussion will have to wait until another day. The issue at hand is religion’s specific role in daily life, and in the case of God is My CEO, the modern abuse of religion.
Abuse might be too strong a word. Religion is being perverted (not for the first or last time, I suspect) by defying it’s intended purpose (spiritual fulfilment). Instead of removing some part of us from our worldly existence through spiritual enlightenment, it throws the intangible mystery of spirituality into a mundane role, i.e., God as a CEO. This is a tough line to walk- I’m not suggesting that spirituality and religion have no place in daily life. Indeed, religion can be a great asset in surviving the daily grind. It’s the attitude the title of this book that I take issue with; the analogy of God as a CEO. Clearly, no analogy is perfect, or there’d be no need for it. But to bring something sacred and personal to the niveau of something so bourgeois and decidedly unspiritual seems, well, blasphemous.
The Christian Dilemma
History is full of similar perversions, and our current days show there’s been little improvement of the situation. All religions must face this issue, but I’m most familiar with Christianity, so I’ll pick on the Christians. To be a Christian is to navigate a minefield of hypocrisy. Will you follow Biblical scripture to the letter, will it be old or new testament? Or do you take a more measured approach, and try to apply general Biblical concepts?
I don’t know which path I would follow if I were newly introduced to Christianity. My personal experience is with the Roman-Catholic Church. The Catholic Church is a fascinating example of the struggle between religion and spirituality. For centuries, Catholics have been in a bit of an awkward situation. The same hands that build beautiful cathedrals and compose hymnals for the exultation of God have spilled the blood of untold numbers of men, women and children. Greedy, malicious Popes have worn the same funny hat as pious and benevolent Popes. I won’t dwell on the checkered past; sufficed to say, one could just as easily argue there are two Catholic Churches: one good, one evil. Today that legacy persists, though more subtly. The rigid hierarchy of the Church remains intact, and that’s what interests me the most.
The Catholic Church is a prime example of a hierarchical religion, which I would argue is a bit of an oxymoron. Since spirituality is a personal tenet, religion, one assumes, should be largely personal too. For Catholics, however, religion is dictated from the top-down. The Catholic Church maintains that the Pope is infallible, and is God’s messenger on Earth. So if he released a Papal Bull requiring us to wear sombreros to mass, we’d have to do it. No question.
This rigidity is an asset and a liability: on one hand, it breeds uniformity. The Catholic doctrine should be the same throughout the world, which reduces the likelihood that you’ll get radical, bigoted lunatic spewing venom every Sunday morning.
On the other hand, it takes religious freedom out of the hands of those who practice it. This is, as I stated, is contrary to the very idea of religion and spirituality.
More on this to come….