In the United States of America especially, we continually hear about “freedom.” It is the one value we claim to cherish, perhaps above all others, especially within our secular Western culture. It is therefore quite hypocritical that in the United States of America, which was founded by slave-holding citizens, they would have made “freedom” the primary value upon which the new country was founded. Of course, they managed to rationalize this flawed notion of “freedom” with the idea that those whom they enslaved were not fundamentally equal to themselves and were therefore justified in not considering them citizens; while women who had no voting rights were also not considered citizens, and non-Christian, non-Protestant males were considered half-citizens at best. It would be almost one-hundred years after the formation of the United States when the injustice of slavery was formally and directly addressed under the leadership of Abraham Lincoln, who recognized America’s blatant hypocrisy only too well, and had the courage to address it openly.
The abolition of slavery is perhaps Abraham Lincoln’s greatest legacy, but the fact he had to even address slavery at all should give us pause in realizing that what the United States actually did in the formation of the Union was give a select group of white, Protestant males the “freedom” to make slaves of others – specifically those who were not like them, particularly Africans who were brought to the United States to be held against their will to do the bidding of their masters without pay. These Protestant males led the way in escaping England for purposes of obtaining “religious freedom” in the New World, while hypocritically enabling them to make slaves of others at the same time. While the enslavement of others is not considered a moral “Christian” value today, many of these Christian, Protestant slaveholders of the 18th century nevertheless managed to justify the “righteousness” of slavery, as well as how they treated their slaves with Biblical scripture passages, especially those found in the Old Testament, particularly Leviticus 25:44-46, in which God allowed the Israelites to make slaves of those who were not Israelites, and Exodus 21:20-21 in which God allowed slave owners to beat slaves just short of murder since they were – as the Bible states, their property.
It was not just in the United States where slavery was once widespread. In Roman culture as well as Jewish culture among others, slavery was also widespread, and was essentially the same as American slavery – the right to “own” a group of people unlike those in power for their pleasure, service, and convenience. We could go on indefinitely about the injustices of slavery, but that has already been discussed and debated for centuries, without the real question of why we are even addicted to slavery in the first place ever being seriously addressed. All wars are essentially about control – the desire to control others or the desire to not be controlled. It is important to realize the fact that when we make slaves of others, it is because we ourselves are enslaved. For when we attempt to control others, we always do so out of fear – fear of not having our needs met, fear of not being “powerful” and “important,” fear of not being “secure,” etc. So we see the phenomenon of enslavement is one essentially rooted in fear. Without fear, there is no need to make slaves of ourselves or others, because we realize we do not have to manipulate or coerce others to do our bidding in order to be happy or to have our ego needs met.
While the formal institution of slavery no longer exists in America and most societies today, we still buy in to being slaves in many aspects of our lives – what the media tells us through advertising, what the government tells us through propaganda, what religion tells us about our origins and our place in the universe, etc. What all of these power structures have in common is the fact they cater to our deepest, most primal ego needs to feel “important,” “special,” and “powerful,” as we have explored in the past. It is perfectly natural to want to feel like we matter, that we make a difference, that our lives “mean” something, which is a need religion especially strives to fulfill. While these ego needs are perfectly natural, our means of achieving this “meaning” and “purpose” almost always involves some kind of egotistical validation in one form or another in which we see ourselves as “special” and “better” than others, rather than seeing everyone and everything as indispensable and inseparable parts of a single whole. No matter whether is it through the media, the government, or religion, they all rely on the sole technique of simply validating the ego. Period. Most of the religious would take exception to this, saying we believe in religion for “God,” and not ourselves, but this is simply not true when we honestly examine religion and what it actually does. One very simple thought experiment which will illustrate this point of the true purpose of religion and what it actually does is to ask ourselves whether or not people would be religious if the concept of the afterlife was removed from religion. If it was simply understood that when we die, we die, and do not get reincarnated, go to Heaven or Hell, or go on to “other realms of existence” for further “spiritual growth,” etc., would we really be religious? If we are honest with ourselves, most of us would have to admit we would not be religious were it not for our belief in the afterlife. And here we come to the crux of the matter – we care about ourselves and our egotistical survival, not “God” as we claim. If it was not about us and our “survival” and “fate” after death, and truly was “about God,” then the concept of the afterlife, in its myriad forms throughout the major world religions would not exist. The very existence alone of the concept of the afterlife should make us very suspicious of the true motivations of religion, especially since it so conveniently and perfectly serves our strongest, most primal ego needs for closure, not being alone, “justice,” and survival.
Religious ideas and especially Christian scripture blatantly convict religion of its true motivations by simply reading and hearing what they actually say. Even the Apostle Paul himself blatantly admitted the true motivation for religion, and especially Christianity in the famous scripture passages from 1 Corinthians 15:14, and 1 Corinthians 15:19.
“And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith… If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.”
I would respond to Paul his faith is useless because whether or not it is true is beside the point because by believing it is true, we are still enslaved to ourselves. That is the bottom line and the point virtually everyone misses, including Paul. It’s not about us. It is about realizing we are one and inseparable, and with this knowledge the understanding that since we are all in this together, it is best for everyone we be dedicated to helping each other with compassion and understanding, rather than believing we are “separate souls” who need to save ourselves – our egos by believing in the “right savior” as Christianity purports. It is amazing how few people actually grasp just how profoundly selfish and narcissistic all ego-based religions are – most especially Christianity and Islam.
I would be much less suspicious of religion if it simply stopped promoting the now scientifically debunked concept of substance dualism, or mind-body dualism as championed by Rene Descartes in the 1600s, which states mind and body are essentially “separate” and “independent” “realities,” when in truth and in fact, they are one and the same, as we have discovered before. But religion cannot do this without also giving up its claim for the existence of the “soul,” which would be bad for business since the majority of the population is attached to themselves – to their egos and their self-preservation. If religion didn’t cater to our egos, then it would virtually cease to exist as our simple thought experiment clearly illustrated. This too is another reason to question the integrity of religion. The fact religion needs to throw a bone to our egos in order to coerce us to buy in to their faith claims, automatically reveals its fraudulence. For if what they offer truly had any credibility, then they would not have to resort to making threats of Hell or promises of eternal rewards in Heaven in order to pacify our hopes and play on our fears.
So why are we slaves to the media, the government, and religion among everything else we are enslaved to? Because ultimately we are slaves to ourselves – our egos. That is the crux so many of us miss. For if we were not enslaved to ourselves, to our egos, then we would cease to be slaves to anyone and anything else. We would cease to be slaves to our fear of death, as well as our fear of life, which does not mean we would no longer feel any fear at all. Rather, we would no longer be enslaved to fear, and would therefore not have to subject ourselves to superstitious religious and spiritual beliefs, and could instead then honestly face our fears head-on with humility, courage, and integrity. To live each moment as if it were the only moment of our lives; to be grateful for what we do have without being enslaved to the idea of “living forever” is true eternal life, and is in truth, the only freedom.
Listen to the audio version of “Our Slavery Addiction”